Maui is one of my favorite places in the world. I have been lucky enough to live here for about seven years, and have explored the island extensively. Recently, I was given the opportunity to take a ride on an a-star helicopter and see Maui and Molokai from the air. It was completely amazing to see the areas of both islands that I had never seen before. The only way to see many of these places is by helicopter, since dense foliage and steep mountains protect them, and they were certainly some of the most beautiful areas I have experienced in Maui.
The day started early, at about 6:30 am with a trip to Bad Ass coffee for the necessary wake-up ingredients. I love the coffee there, especially the 100% Kona dark roast, which is rich in flavor and not a bit bitter. An early morning start meant I would avoid the possibility of tradewinds making my flight bumpy, and avoid heavy morning traffic on the trip from Lahaina to Kahului. The drive went well, taking about forty minutes to arrive at the heliport, and we were lucky enough to see a couple of whales along the way.
Upon arrival at the heliport, I was shown to a waiting room where a video helped prep me for some of the sights I would see and some of the security procedures to expect. After about five minutes one of the crew came in and gathered our group for a quick safety briefing. The briefing covered all of the important things to know, interspersed with a bit of humor to keep things rolling along. I was pleased to learn that we would be outfitted with headphones which reduce the helicopter noise and give us an opportunity to talk with our pilot guide.
I have to admit I was a little nervous boarding the helicopter. I have never ridden a helicopter before and did not know what to expect. Lift off was a breeze and I hardly even noticed as we left the ground just how quickly we were gaining altitude. The first sights you notice are the airport, heliport and Kahului harbor. A large cruise ship was docked at the harbor, and it was really interesting to see how big those things actually are, as it dwarfed the cars and trucks parked in the harbor area.
Passing over Wailuku Town and Waiehu golf course, we headed into the mountains and valleys behind Iao valley. I have hiked through Iao many times, and the views are amazing, but they never could have prepared me for what I was about to see. We buzzed through a narrow valley with our pilot pointing out different plants and telling us stories about the history of the area. Passing over a mountain ridge, the next valley opened up ahead of us, revealing an amazing number of small and large waterfalls as we approached an area referred to as “the Wall of Tears”. This is a 4,000 foot tall wall that is literally covered with small waterfalls of every type and height imaginable.
Flying out of the West Maui mountains, the helicopter crosses over Honokahau Valley giving a magnificent view of Honolua and the Northern West Maui resorts. Crossing the ocean, the dark outlines of humpback whales could be seen just below the weater. On this trip I was not lucky enough to see any whales breaching or right on the surface, but I am sure it is not uncommon. The first area we visited on Molokai after crossing the channel were the towering sea cliffs along the north eastern coast. The pilot informed us that these were some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world, and showed us a couple of secluded homes built in the mountains, which were mostly only accessible by helicopter, what a way to live, at least you don’t have to worry about unexpected visitors.
After viewing the sea cliffs, we moved over to Kalaupapa where Father Damien once oversaw a community taking care of the victims of leprosy. The pilot was well versed in the history of this area and offered many interesting facts and stories. Molokai is not a highly populated island, and it was nice to see the vast wide-open spaces of this area. Leaving Kalaupapa, we flew up through another area, and just as we passed over the ridge, it looked like the bottom had dropped out of the world. It took my stomach away for a second, but once I regained my balance the view was gorgeous. Right below us, there was a pack of axis deer, which we startled and were now running across a great open field. It immediately reminded me of those old Marlin Perkins’ Mutual of Omaha shows I watched when I was a kid. I felt like I should be hanging out the window talking about the migratory habits of antelope in the Serengheti or something. It was pretty neat at any rate!
With the trip almost over, we headed back over the channel for a brief look at Lahaina town, and the West Maui mountains where we saw a few mountain goats grazing along the sheer cliffs that shifted from brown to a lush green the further in we went. It was time for my nerves to take over again as we made our approach to the heliport for landing. Again, I was amazed as the landing was featherlight, and offered absolutely no drama. Overall, I would have to say, I don’t remember a really bumpy moment on this trip at all.
I would have to say, that this trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I have hiked and traveled all over Maui through my years living here, and I saw areas and sights that I had no idea existed. Some visitors may think that this is a really expensive activity, but at http://www.hawaiidiscountactivities.com I found trips starting at less than $100 per person. To pay a hundred dollars for a memory that will last a lifetime that doesn’t seem so bad at all. If you want to see the unexplored Maui that many will never have an opportunity to see, a helicopter tour is definitely the way to go.
To view specific Maui Helicopter Tours try: