Maui Helicopter Tours to Hana and Halekala Crater

The adventurous traveler has a variety of Maui helicopter tours from which to choose. One of my favorites is the East Maui trip. In under an hour, this flight gets you as close to the spirit of this Hawaiian Island as possible. If you are looking for things to do on Maui, add this chopper ride to your list.

This tour leaves daily from the heliport at Kahului. Minutes into the flight, you’ll find yourself above a region that locals refer to as the Upcountry, a beautiful area comprised of meadows, rolling hills, and ranches that abut the slopes of Haleakala National Park, home of the famous Haleakala Crater.

A geological wonder, Haleakala Crater is an extinct volcano that’s 7.5 miles wide, 2.5 miles long, and 3,000 feet deep! Based on these dimensions, the crater could engulf Manhattan Island. The Park’s bleak landscape is pocked with lifeless cinder cones. Fly above this barren environment and you’ll be convinced your looking down on the surface of the moon.

The trip now heads for historic Hana town. En route, you fly over Koolau Forest Reserve, the Keanae Valley, Kuhiwa Gulch, and the Hana Forest Reserve, the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Hana town is considered one of the most Hawaiian communities in the state. Many of its 1,900 residents are of Hawaiian blood and exude “ohana,” or the uniquely indigenous concept of the extended family. This sense of tradition and timelessness has led many to characterize Hana as “Old Hawaii.”

The area surrounding Hana is rich with natural sights, including lush green pastures, jagged black coastlines, Kaihalulu “Red Sand” Beach, and Oheo Gulch’s Seven Sacred Pools (there’s actually 24 pools that start from 400-foot Waimoku Falls and feed into each other until the stream meets the ocean.).

This Maui helicopter tour wraps up with a quick sample of East Maui’s rugged, isolated shoreline, old sugar plantations, and more volcanic moonscapes before making a final pass over the Upcountry area and landing at Kahului.

There are two types of helicopters that fly this trip: The AStar and the EcoStar 130. On many occasions, I’ve flow aboard an AStar. They are great aircraft. However, if you are looking for comfort and style, upgrade to an EcoStar. These helis have 25% more cabin space and feature theater-style seating and 180-degree wraparound windows, making them the ultimate sightseeing helicopter.

I strongly recommend that you take an early morning flight. This is when visibility and weather conditions are best. Take the last flight out for sunsets. These two times are the most popular so book in advance. Expect to pay a premium, too, unless you purchase your seats on the Internet. Seems to me that more and more tour companies are posting their best deals on the Web.

Hawaiian helicopter tours to Maui’s East Island are a remarkable experience. On a map, Maui looks like a blip. Fly above it and everything changes. From steamy rain forests and monster craters to Eden-like beaches and cascading waterfalls, Maui is diverse and captivating. And it can all be seen in an hour. Helicopter tours are the perfect day trip: Try not to leave the “Valley Isle” without taking one.

By Suzana