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The 7 Best Oahu Helicopter Tours – [2020 Reviews]

Of all the things I have done on my Hawaii trips, by far the most memorable and exciting was a helicopter tour. If you have never been in one before, I will tell you that its NOTHING like being in a plane. You will really feel like you are flying.

The helicopters will usually fly pretty low giving you an ideal view of the sights. You will get views that no other tourist will get and will see things that are not possible see any other way than by helicopter.

Many parts of the island are protected and restricted from access on the ground and an aerial view is the only way to see them.

Best Oahu Helicopter Tours

 Magnum P.I. Helicopter Experience From Turtle BayOahu 60-Minute Helicopter Tour: Doors On Or OffPath To Pali 30-Minute Doors On Or Off Helicopter Tour
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Oahu: Magnum P.I. Helicopter Experience from Turtle Bay Oahu 60-Minute Helicopter Tour: Doors On or Off  Oahu: Path to Pali 30-Minute Doors On or Off Helicopter Tour
Departure Point:Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, KahukuPick up from your hotel in WaikīkīPick up from your hotel in Waikīkī
Duration:60 minutes60 minutes30 minutes
Helicopter:MD500 helicopterVariesVaries
Includes:Flight in a Magnum P.I. replica helicopter over iconic settings for the TV program, Diamond Head, Sacred Falls, and Pearl HarborHelicopter flight over the main Oahu landmarks, including the Waikīkī skyline, Makapu’u Lighthouse, Lanikai Beach, Sacred Falls, and Pearl HarborHelicopter flight over the main Oahu landmarks, including the Waikīkī skyline, Makapu’u Point, Hanauma Bay, Nu’uanu Pali, and Pearl Harbor
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Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated Helicopter Tours in Oahu

  1. Magnum P.I. Helicopter Experience From Turtle Bay
  2. Oahu 60-Minute Helicopter Tour: Doors On Or Off
  3. Path To Pali 30-Minute Doors On Or Off Helicopter Tour
  4. Waikīkī 20-Minute Doors On / Doors Off Helicopter Tour
  5. Helicopter Tour of Oahu’s Valley’s and Waterfalls
  6. 45-Minute Oahu Helicopter Tour
  7. Open-Door Helicopter Tour Over Oahu

Our reviews of the top rated Oahu helicopter tours along with our guide to helicopter tours below will help you choose the right tour for you.


Oahu Helicopter Tour Reviews

#1 Magnum P.I. Helicopter Experience From Turtle Bay

Oahu: Magnum P.I. Helicopter Experience from Turtle Bay

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, Kahuku
  • Operating Times: 12:30 PM – 5:30 PM
  • Duration: 60 minutes of flight time
  • Includes: Flight in a Magnum P.I. replica helicopter over iconic settings for the TV program, Diamond Head, Sacred Falls, and Pearl Harbor

If you’re a fan of the original Magnum P.I. TV show, then this tour is a must for you.

Not only are you flown from attraction to attraction in a replica of the MD500 helicopter used in the show, but you also get to see all the iconic scene locations.

For me, the best bit is the reenactment of the opening sequence of the TV show, when you will be flown across the ocean past the shores of Waikīkī.

You’ll also visit other famous landmarks during your hour-long flight, such as Pearl Harbor and the impressive volcanic crater at Diamond Head.

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A particularly beautiful attraction is the 1,000-foot waterfall called Sacred Falls.

The state park surrounding the waterfall is permanently closed to visitors, and illegal entry attracts a hefty fine, so the only way to view this stunning landmark is by air.

All the seats are beside windows, and you’ll be provided with headsets to give you two-way communication between your pilot and you.

I hope that you’ve got a good-quality camera, because you’ll certainly want to snap lots of photos on this memorable tour.

 

For more information or check tour availability:


#2 Oahu 60-Minute Helicopter Tour: Doors On Or Off

Oahu 60-Minute Helicopter Tour: Doors On or Off

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Waikīkī
  • Operating Times: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM set off on the hour
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Includes: Helicopter flight over the main Oahu landmarks, including the Waikīkī skyline, Makapu’u Lighthouse, Lanikai Beach, Sacred Falls, and Pearl Harbor

If you want to see all the major Oahu landmarks from the air, this is the best tour for you.

And if you enjoy the adrenaline rush of no barrier between yourself and a 1,000-feet drop, you can opt to fly with the door next to your seat removed.

Your pilot will provide live commentary as you fly over the sites, telling you about the history of the island and the stories connected with each location.

You’ll soar over the Waikīkī skyline and the imposing volcanic crater at Diamond Head. Heading up the windward coastline, you’ll soon reach Makapu’u Lighthouse.

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From there, you’ll pass over Lanikai Beach with its spectacular coral reefs.

Moving inland, your helicopter will fly over lush rainforest and enter the forbidden Sacred Falls State Park. The park has been closed for safety reasons since 1999, so the only way to see the gorge and gorgeous waterfall is from the air.

The last memorable point of interest is Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

The battleship’s sunken remains—the resting place of 1,102 sailors and marines—are most clearly viewed from the sky. You will definitely be moved by this experience.

For more information or check tour availability:


#3 Path To Pali 30-Minute Doors On Or Off Helicopter Tour

 Oahu: Path to Pali 30-Minute Doors On or Off Helicopter Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Waikīkī
  • Operating Times: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM set off on the hour
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Includes: Helicopter flight over the main Oahu landmarks, including the Waikīkī skyline, Makapu’u Point, Hanauma Bay, Nu’uanu Pali, and Pearl Harbor

If you want to take in the most popular attractions of Oahu from the air, like Makapu’u Point, Mt. Olomana, and Hanauma Bay, then you’ll love this tour.

As with the previous tour, you have the option of doors on or off for your flight and will benefit from a live commentary about the sites.

Your flight begins with the renowned Waikīkī skyline and beach before rising to provide you with an eagle-eye view of the volcanic crater at Diamond Head.

Then on to tranquil Hanauma Bay, with its crystal-clear water and scenic cliffs.

Hanauma Bay is also a volcanic crater, but its height—at sea level—and position on the coast led to it becoming a bay. That’s why it has such a distinctive crescent shape, which looks stunning from the air.

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Moving east, you’ll fly over the lighthouse at Makapu’u point, famous for its 12-foot-high lens, which is the largest of any lighthouse in the US. Following the coastline northwest, you’ll be impressed by your view of Mt. Olomana from the sky.

The highlight of the tour comes with the Nu’uanu Pali windward cliffs which rise dramatically to 1,168 feet. This was the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian pre-union history when 400 warriors fell from the clifftops in 1795.

It’s perhaps fitting that the final place you’ll see on the tour is the site of an even more tragic battle—Pearl Harbor. Pay tribute to the men of the USS Arizona lost defending the nation.

 

For more information or check tour availability:


#4 Waikīkī 20-Minute Doors On / Doors Off Helicopter Tour

Oahu: Waikiki 20-Minute Doors On / Doors Off Helicopter Tour

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pick up from your hotel in Waikīkī
  • Operating Times: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM set off on the hour
  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • Includes: Helicopter flight over the main landmarks around Waikīkī, including Diamond Head, the Punchbowl Crater, the Ala Moana Center, and Pearl Harbor

If you’re looking for an exciting experience that gives you a unique perspective on in the key attractions around Waikīkī, you’ll love this 20-minute tour.

You can choose to leave your door off for an extra adrenaline rush, and your pilot will provide live commentary of the amazing landmarks you pass.

You’ll get to witness the commercial side of Honolulu, like the harbor and the famous Ala Moana Center—the most valuable shopping mall in the US.

But you’ll likely be more impressed by the pristine white sands of Waikīkī Beach. Don’t forget to wave at the surfers as you pass!

Oahu is a volcanic island, and on this tour, you fly over 2 of the island’s iconic volcanic craters—Punchbowl Crater and Diamond Head.

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Looking down from above at the vast scale of these circular depressions, you can imagine how powerful they were when they spouted out hot lava thousands of years ago.

But the most emotionally powerful moment on this tour will come when you pass over the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. From the sky above, you’ll have a clear view of this iconic sunken battleship.

Make sure you take a good-quality camera along on this tour, because you’ll pack a lot of memorable sights into those 20-minutes.

From the creative power of volcanoes to the destructive power of mankind, you’ll see it all in one unforgettable flight.

 

For more information or check tour availability:


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#5 Valleys & Waterfall Explorer: Helicopter Tour of Oahu

Tour Highlights at a Glance:

  • Departure/Return: Turtle Bay Resort Helipad
  • Departure Time: AM or PM
  • Estimated Duration: 1 hour
  • Max # on Tour: 4
  • Disability Accessible: Must Bring Own Caregiver
  • Family Friendly: Yes

When you depart the Turtle Bay Resort in this 4-passenger, open-door helicopter, you’ll be headed for Oahu’s North Shore.

With no windows or doors in your way, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful sights of some of Oahu’s most beautiful valleys and waterfalls.

As you’re flying over the beautiful landscape, you’ll be listening to your pilot through two-way headsets, learning more about the mountain ranges, valleys, bays, and waterfalls found in this area.

Depending on the season, you may be able to watch the surfing going on at Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline. You’ll also be able to view Kahana Bay and Waimea Bay.

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As you head toward Kaneohe Bay, you may find a familiar view. Coconut Island, one of the five small islands located in Kaneohe Bay, has been an on-location filming site for many TV shows and movies.

The most recognizable show filmed here was Gilligan’s Island.

If you’d like to upgrade your helicopter tour of Oahu, your helicopter pilot will land for a quick stop near Kualoa Ranch.

Here, you can spend approximately 15 minutes taking photos of the beautiful coast below, one of the most breathtaking views on the island.

Make sure you have plenty of film or memory to take pictures here, especially after taking photos from the helicopter of the coral beds and fish ponds below.

 

For more information or check tour availability:


#6 45-Oahu Helicopter Tour with Doors Off or On

Bringing your camera will not be optional with this unforgettable 45 minute helicopter tour. After a brief introduction and safety briefing you will take off from the helipad just outside of Waikiki.

From here the pilot will give you a birds eye view of Waikiki beach then head north over Magic Island.

From there you will hover over the white sand of Waimanalo Beach then to Kaeohe Bay where the water is crystal clear and you can see the coral reefs.

From there you will then head over Chinamans’s Hat then the famous water fall where the first Jurrasic Park movie was filmed.

This is the highlight of the tour in my opinion, the water fall is beautiful and the view from overhead is spectacular.

You then see one of the highest water falls in Hawaii, Sacred Falls. Very few people get to see this because it’s not easy to get to, there is no road to it. So you will get to see something few people do.

From there you will fly over one of the world’s largest pineapple plantations then head over to historic Pearl Harbor. You get a great view of the USS Arizona Memorial, this is your last stop before heading back to the airfield.

The entire flight is narrated by the knowledgeable pilot and if you are interested, a DVD of your flight is available for purchase.

For more information or check tour availability:


#7 Open-Door Helicopter Tour Over Oahu

Open-Door Helicopter Tour over Oahu

My number one recommendation is: if you do this tour, save it for your last day. I made the mistake of doing this helicopter tour on my first day on the island. BIG MISTAKE!

The “problem” is, it’s so good the rest of your time on the island feels like a letdown because there will be nothing more exciting than the helicopter tour! So save the doors off helicopter tour for your last day.

If you ever watched the show “Magnum PI” then you will recognize the helicopter.

The tour starts just outside of Honolulu  where you will fly over the famous Waikiki Beach, then head over the beautiful Hanauma Bay where you should go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters.

From overhead you won’t be able to see any fish but you will be able to see the colorful coral reef below.

Open-Door Helicopter Tour over Oahu From here you will head to white sands of Waimanalo Beach then a birds eye view of the coral reefs of Kaeohe Bay.

From here you will then hover over the water fall made famous in the movie Jurassic Park in the Ka’a’awa Valley.

From here you will fly over the Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Point and see the lighthouse, then on to the Dole pineapple plantation and see the world’s largest maze.

Then you will wrap up your tour by flying over historic Pearl Harbor and of course the USS Arizona memorial.

By the end of the tour you will most likely have taken at least a hundred photos. This helicopter tour is sure to be the highlight of your trip to Oahu.

For more information or check tour availability:


Don’t miss snorkeling in Oahu! See my reviews of Oahu snorkel tours and Maui snorkel tours.

How To Choose The Best Oahu Helicopter Tour

Oahu Sky and Sea Combo: Helicopter Tour with Sunset Dinner Cruise or Atlantis Submarine Excursion

If you have never been on a helicopter tour it will most likely one of the most exciting things you will ever do, especially if you do a “doors off” helicopter tour (I highly recommend it). In Hawaii many of the best sites can only be seen by airplane or helicopter because there is no way to get to some of the destinations because either it’s too hard to get to or the land is private and/or protected.

Before choosing a tour, do some research on the tours, they are not all the same.

Choosing a Safe Tour Operator

The safety record of the helicopter tour operators in Hawaii is excellent, the last accident was over 6 years ago. The first thing you should look at is make sure the operator has been certified as FAA Part 135 Air Carrier. This designation means the operator is being held to a higher standard than general aviation operators.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with them but why not go with the safest and best? You can also look up accidents here. Its not the easiest report to figure out but just make sure to look at the “DBA” names, so make sure you know the tour operator’s DBA business name to see if it shows up in the accident report.

You can also just flat out ask them “how many hours of flying does the pilot have” and “has he/she had any accidents”. They have to tell you!

Tips for Maximum Enjoyment of Your Tour

  1. If you get seasick/airsick make sure to take your medicine with enough time for it to take effect. Riding in a helicopter is not like flying in a big jet. You are going to see and feel a lot of motion.
  2. Don’t wear bright/neon colored clothing, It can reflect of the glass and interfere with viewing and pictures.
  3. Bring a good camera that has settings for high speed photography. Using your iPhone may work ok for hovering but much of your time is in motion and your pictures probably will not come out very good.
  4. If your flying in a helicopter with the doors on, keep the camera as close to the window as possible to minimize reflections.
  5. Don’t hesitate to ask the pilot any questions you have. Better safe than sorry.
  6. If you are prone to motion sickness it may be best to avoid drinking too much the night before and eating a big meal before your flight.
  7. Make sure you don’t spend all your time taking photos, enjoy the view!

Take the Type of Helicopter into Consideration

The type of helicopters used vary by tour operator. You may to this into consideration. The A-Star and Eco-Star type used by many tour operators seat up to six people. The problem with this is, two people are going to get stuck in the middle with a less than stellar view.

The Hughs 500D, this is a smaller helicopter that seats 4 people so there is no middle seat with a bad view. While these helicopters are smaller and you are more likely to experience motion sickness, I think you are better off because no one will feel cheated having to sit in the middle seat. Unfortunately there is no discount for this seat either.

The Hughs 500D are also the helicopters that that the “doors off” tour. This is in my opinion the way to go. It’s not any more “dangerous”, you are securely strapped in, so there is no danger of falling out.

If your party is more than 4 then I would say go with the A-Star and the Eco-Star helicopter because they can seat up to 6 people. If you care where you sit, ask ahead of time if you can sit in the front with this type of helicopter, you will have a better view. The Eco-Star helicopter tends to be a bit larger and quieter.

Not only is a more exciting tour with the doors off as you get to feel the wind in your face, but your photo and video taking will be so much better! There is no glare or reflection to contend with and you just have a more exciting time.

Ask About Seating Arrangements

Normally couples are kept together, but keep in mind that the tour operator is going to seat you where it is best for safe operation of the helicopter.

It’s not like a jumbo jet where you can sit anywhere. A helicopter is small and the weight distribution does matter. Ask when you are book the tour if you can specify where you sit. But keep in mind they have final say who sites where, balancing the aircraft is the final consideration in seating arrangements.

Insider tip: Keep in mind that most tours circle the islands clockwise, this means that the person on the RIGHT side of the helicopter will have the best view. Also the rear seat also offers the best and most unobstructed views.

Time of Day

If you have availability, the best time of day to take your tour is late morning or early afternoon. Reason being, there are limited shadows and with the sun directly overhead the colors will be more brilliant. It also is warmer and if you do a doors off tour you will appreciate this.

Listen to the Pilot

This is especially important if you have never been in a helicopter before or you are feeling anxious. The pilot will give you a safety briefing before takeoff, pay attention. If you have any questions, this is the time to ask. Don’t be shy, they have heard it all!

As you are flying, you will have headphones on, most tours the pilot will be offering his commentary on the sites you are flying over and can give you some insiders perspective.

Timing the Tour on Your Trip

People have different opinions on this. Most people say you should take the tour early in the trip to “orient” yourself with the island.  Personally I think this is a waste, you really are not going to have any better perspective of the island than you can gain from a map.

In my opinion, you should go out with a bang, take the tour your last day or second to last day to have something to really remember your trip by.

Just try and relax on the ride and enjoy it!


I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best Oahu helicopter tour to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a tour I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and enjoy your stay!

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