Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

Oahu Helicopter Tour – Hawaii Bucket List Adventure

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Diamond Head Crater

Seeing Hawaii from a helicopter has been on my bucket list for years! I finally had the chance to take a tour at the beginning of this year and I can’t believe I waited this long to experience it. If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii and you’re looking for an unforgettable adrenaline rush, then I HIGHLY recommend booking a Heli tour. It will be your favorite part of the entire trip!

A helicopter tour provides incredible aerial views of Oahu’s breathtaking landscape with its lush green tropical forests, majestic Ko’olau Mountain Range, captivating offshore islets, and historic landmarks including Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. Prepare to soar over turquoise waters dotted with tiny surfers, hover next to towering hidden waterfalls, fly over volcanic craters and sweeping valleys, and form a deeper connection to the island and all it’s beauty.

In this post, I’ll cover the important details and FAQs about taking a helicopter tour in addition to describing my personal experience with Rainbow Helicopters (formerly Novictor Helicopters). You won’t believe how stunning the views are!

Table of Contents

Aerial view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head

Helicopter Tour Details


Most helicopter tours depart from Honolulu right near the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport which is about a 15-20 minute drive from Waikiki.

There are also tours that leave from western Oahu in Ko Olina and from the North Shore at Turtle Bay Resort. See below for those options!

Flight Options and Prices:

For the best deals, I recommend booking with Viator – a TripAdvisor company. I like that you can read TripAdvisor reviews, compare tours & prices and even get exclusive discounts.

Each helicopter tour company offers different packages that vary in locations covered and flight length. Most flights are between 45 minutes to an hour. Longer flights are more expensive but cover more territory. The top 10 tours are listed below, starting with the one I personally experienced!

Tip: Viator has offered a 10% off promo code for new email subscribers in the past. After you choose the perfect tour for you, look to see if this offer is still available so you can apply the code when you checkout. 

I chose to fly with Rainbow Helicopters (formerly Novictor Helicopters) because of the health and safety regulations they advertised and because they offered a tour of the locations I wanted to see most! I booked the thrilling Isle Sights Unseen Tour with doors off, which lasted 45 minutes and covered a lot of the island. I go into detail about my experience further below in this post!

Rainbow Helicopters offers longer and shorter tours (20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes) in addition to sunset tours and proposal packages! You can also add-on a video recording of your flight for an additional $70 fee.

Other popular tour companies include Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Mauna Loa Helicopters, and Magnum Helicopters. They all offer similar tours, so once you decide what you’d like to see and where you’d like to depart from, it primarily comes down to safety, availability, and price!

Depart from Ko Olina (West Oahu) or Turtle Bay (North Shore)

Blue Hawaiian offers tours that depart from Ko Olina in West Oahu which may be more convenient if you stay on the leeward side. If you’d rather depart from Oahu’s North Shore, there are a few companies that take off from Turtle Bay Resort including Magnum Helicopters and Paradise Helicopters.

Cost: $200-$400 depending on flight length and departure location.


A helicopter tour is definitely a splurge compared to the cost of other tours and activities on Oahu, but it is totally worth it!! The top rated and most trusted tours are listed above, but click here to view all options offered through Viator.

When to book your Hawaii Helicopter Tour:

Activities like Helicopter Tours can be impacted or even canceled by bad weather. I highly recommend booking your tour for the first half of your trip (within the first few days) so you have time to reschedule if needed.

Plan ahead and get your must-do activities booked ASAP since tour availability fills up quickly. Booking early also allows you to choose from the most date and time options available, so you have more flexibility.

Another great thing about Viator is you can book your spot with the option to change or cancel later since most experiences are eligible for a 100% refund if you cancel up to 24 hours before your booked date. Make sure to check the cancellation policy for the specific tour you’re interested in for more information!

Tip: I always set a reminder in my phone for the last day or time I am able to cancel a reservation and still receive a full refund just in case!

My Experience (2021)

I finally got to experience Oahu from the sky for the very first time earlier this year! My best friend was visiting Hawaii for the first time, so I was extra excited to show her all of my favorite spots on the island. We spent the first few days driving around and exploring every corner of Oahu, so by the time the day came for our Helicopter Tour we had already seen almost every place we were going to hit during the 45-minute flight. 


I was so pumped to get a different perspective of the island, but I was admittedly a bit nervous since helicopters are notoriously dangerous. I was refreshing the weather app all day, even as I was checking in at the font desk!

Checking in:

We were brought into a small room inside the office building and instructed to take a seat in one of the chairs facing a TV mounted on the wall. As we watched the safety video, I started to calm down a bit and my nervousness was replaced with excitement. 

We chose to have the doors off during the flight, so we were told to leave behind anything that could fall out of the aircraft. I had already lost a dozen pairs of Ray-ban sunglasses so I decided to leave mine behind in a locked drawer inside a metal cabinet in their office. We were each given a plastic phone case attached to a lanyard so we could safely take pictures on our phones and keep our precious devices from falling into the abyss during the flight. The only other things I brought was my Sony A600 digital camera which I kept around my neck as well.

When it was time to go, we hopped into a golf cart and were driven to the takeoff spot by one of their employees. We waited for our helicopter to return from another tour then hopped inside the smaller-than-expected aircraft after it was disinfected by the team members. The pilot went over additional safety details and showed us how the headset mics worked so we could all communicate during the flight. 

Taking off:

Before I knew it we were hovering a few inches off of the pavement and my heart started racing. We were immediately greeted by a cheery rainbow that distracted me from the fact we were ascending higher and higher as we headed towards Waikiki.

Aerial view from helicopter of rainbow over Honolulu
Waikiki & Diamond Head:

The flight started off strong as we hit Waikiki Beach, flying over tiny surfers waiting for their turn on one of Waikiki’s rolling waves. We spontaneously changed course to investigate what we thought was a whale but actually turned out to be a capsized boat. Our pilot told us that if he was working his usual full-time job, he might be out there helping with the rescue! I can’t imagine the non-stop rush of having two incredibly adventurous jobs.

Magic Island Honolulu

Magic Island, Honolulu, Hawaii

Surfers in ocean at Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii

We continued to fly over the ocean, hugging the outline of the southeast coast and taking in spectacular views of the dormant volcanic crater, Diamond Head. It was neat to see the actual crater formation with a bowl-like hollow inside.

Diamond Head Crater
Closeup of Diamond Head Crater
Blackpoint pool

Blackpoint Salt-water Infinity Pool

We then flew over popular snorkeling spot, Hanauma Bay.

Hanauma Bay
Koko Head:

Soon we were hovering above one of the most scenic stretches of highway that curves around the base of Koko Head. A road that winds through a mountain with steep cliff drops off and expansive deep blue ocean views is a sight to see through the windshield of a car, but even more incredible to see all come together in one frame from a helicopter.

Koko Head and Kamehameha Highway

The highway at the base of Koko head offers some of the most scenic driving on the island! If you’re in the area, check out Halona Beach Cove (aka Eternity Beach or Cockroach Cove)

Both Koko Head and Diamond Head have spectacular hiking trails that lead up to their crater peaks. Read more about hiking the Koko Head Stairs or even exploring the Koko Crater Botanical Garden located inside the crater.

Makapu'u & Waimanalo:

We continued on, tracing the coastline where the famous Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail and Tidepools are located. They are just as stunning from above as they are when you’re floating in them!

Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

Trail winding up to Makapu’u Lighthouse

Closeup of Makapu'u Tide Pools

Makapu’u Tidepools at the base of the mountain

We flew parallel to the stunning Ko’olau Mountains, taking in the majestic ridges that form a wall behind Waimanalo and other beaches in the area.

Ocean on windward (east) side of Oahu
Windward Oahu - Lanikai & Kailua:

Shortly after entering the Windward area of Oahu, Nā Mokulua (aka the Mokes) came into view. These are the famous twin islands located less than a mile offshore of Lanikai Beach in Kailua.

Twin islands aka The Mokes (Mokuluas)
Ocean on windward (east) side of Oahu

Kite surfers at Kailua Beach


Next, we cut across the island towards Kaneohe where the picturesque sandbar is located. It was a bit overcast in this area at the time, but I could still make out the shallow areas I had been splashing around in just a few days prior.

Kaneohe Sandbar on windward (east) side of Oahu
Kaneohe Sandbar on windward (east) side of Oahu

We flew over Chinaman’s Hat (or Mokoli’i island) which looked so tiny compared to how it appears when you’re standing on the sand at Kualoa Beach.

Chinaman's Hat near Kualoa

There’s no mistaking Kualoa Mountain, which is part of Kualoa Ranch. The ridges here are jaw-dropping, especially when you’re able to take them in all at once.

Ocean in front of Kualoa Mountain Oahu
Kualoa Ranch View from Helicopter

If you’re a Jurassic Park fan, then you’ll love Kualoa Ranch! Jurassic Park was filmed here in addition to many other movies including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Kong: Skull Island.

Giant ape bones movie prop from Kong: Skull Island at Kualoa Ranch

It was so cool to see some of the awesome movie props while flying over Kualoa Ranch like these giant ape bones left behind from the filming of Kong: Skull Island.

View from inside helicopter
Sacred Falls:

I was most excited to see Sacred Falls, a 1100 foot waterfall with two drops, hidden inside the lush green mountains of Hau’ula. Prior to it’s closing in 1999, Sacred Falls State Park attracted thousands of hikers eager to see the bottom portion of the falls, which cascades 800 feet down the mountain. Unfortunately, a devastating landslide caused several deaths and resulted in lawsuits against the state for not providing a safe environment. There are landslides and falling rocks to this day, so this hike still remains closed with no plans to reopen. The best (and quickest) way to see Sacred Falls is now by helicopter!

Ko'olau Mountains with hidden falls

It became windy and rainy as we got near the falls, and the heavy blanket of clouds over the first drop looked menacing. Even though we were unable to get that up-close shot, we were still able to catch a few glimpses from afar!

Ko'olau Mountains with hidden falls
Ko'olau Mountains with hidden falls

Just a little bit of sideways rain!!

Kona Winds provide the best conditions to get close to Sacred Falls since the waterfall is located just over the line that separates the North Shore from the windward side of east Oahu. When Kona Winds are in effect, the typical windpattern is reversed and the western, or leeward sides of Oahu, temporarily become the “windward” side.

Double Full-Circle Rainbow!!

Even though I didn’t get the Sacred Falls experience I’d hoped for, we were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to see a FULL CIRCLE RAINBOW! I forgave Mother Nature for the wind and rain after she upgraded us to a double rainbow 😉

Check out the video of the full-circle rainbow in this TikTok!


There’s no better way to see the island than from a doors-off ##helicopter! Plus you can’t beat the adrenaline rush 🤙🚁🌈 ##oahu ##hawaiitravel ##travel

♬ Moon (And It Went Like) - Kid Francescoli

I had no idea that rainbows are technically always a full circle! Apparently, when we view them from the ground we can only see the light reflected by the raindrops above the horizon, which creates the classic arch shape. I guess this means there technically is no “end” to a rainbow – someone let the leprechauns know!

Fun Fact: The only way to see a full circle rainbow is in a helicopter or occasionally from an airplane!

North Shore:

Waimea Falls was almost unrecognizable from above! The falls are located within Waimea Valley, which is a must-visit spot on the North Shore if you’re looking for a waterfall you can swim in.

Aerial view of Waimea Falls on Oahu's North Shore
Waterfall surrounded by lush, green tropical foliage

Aerial view of Waimea Falls from the helicopter

View of the falls from the swimming pond entrance at Waimea Valley

We got a super cool view of the Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze — the world’s largest maze!

World's Largest Maze at Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu's North Shore
Pearl Harbour:

The last “stop” was Pearl Harbor Memorial. Our pilot was really knowledgable and made the experience much more interesting by telling us facts about the 1941 attack and pointing out the places where certain activity took place. My friend and I had just visited Pearl Harbor a few days prior, but getting to see the USS Arizona Memorial from above was remarkable.

Aerial view of Pearl Harbor with rainbow in background
USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor
Cleared for landing:

My eyes were fixated on a rainbow that had been lingering for the past 15 minutes as we made our way back to the airport. I thought back to how nervous I had been to take off and now I didn’t want to come down! 

Rainbow above town on Oahu

We landed safely, welcomed back by that same rainbow, and hopped back into the golf cart waiting to take us back to our belongings.

Rainbow at Honolulu airport

Once we got back to the office, I collected my things and patted myself on the back for not leaving behind yet another pair of sunglasses just waiting to be lost. 


We walked back to the front desk to get the details on the flight video we purchased. There had been two cameras recording our flight – one capturing the view from the front of the plane and another facing inside the helicopter recording us. I did not know about the latter and now have a video documenting how crazy I am about capturing photos every single second. I made sure to experience some moments in real life instead of through my camera lens, but looking back at the photos shared in this blog, I am really grateful I was able to capture some of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced in my favorite place on earth – Oahu, Hawaii!

Tips & FAQs for a Fantastic Flight

Which tour to choose:

If you liked the experience described above, then Rainbow Helicopter’s Isle Sights Unseen Tour is for you! For something a little longer, try the Royal Crown of Oahu tour. The least expensive option is the City-by-the-Sea – 20 Min Helicopter Tour that covers the Waikiki and Honolulu area for under $200 per person. 


Check out the other options linked in the beginning of the post for more flight itineraries, flight lengths, departure locations, and sunset tours!

When to book your tour:

ASAP (See section on The Details for why it’s better to book sooner than later!)


Check out the other options linked in the beginning of the post for more flight itineraries, flight lengths, departure locations, and sunset tours!

Best time of year for helicopter tours:

Any time of the year is great for a tour, but summer is statistically the best time for consistently sunny weather. Rainy season occurs during winter from November-March.

As mentioned earlier, reserve a tour for the beginning of your trip so you have the rest of your time on Oahu to reschedule if weather is bad or if a conflict arises! That way you won’t miss out if your tour gets canceled at the very end of your trip.

What to wear:

If you’re going with the doors-off option, it will be windy and chilly! Make sure to bring a light jacket or sweatshirt. You’ll have to wear it the entire flight, but you’ll be happy you have it. Closed toed shoes are also required for many doors-off tours!

I wore an oversized crewneck sweatshirt with my comfiest bike shorts and my favorite white sneakers from Cariuma. I also put my hair in a braid to keep it from getting too tangled in the wind!

Lauren standing in front of rainbow over Waikiki in red sweatshirt, white sneakers and sunglasses
What to bring:

I would recommend leaving anything behind that you don’t need! My tour was at 3pm so I didn’t bring my sunglasses (I was also nervous about them falling off!) You can ask the operator employees if they think you should wear sunglasses before your tour.

Trust me, you’re going to want to take pictures! Rainbow Helicopters provided plastic phone cases with a lanyard which is totally necessary. You can ask your operator if these will be provided or play it safe and bring your own (like this one that attaches inside your phone case so your camera isn’t blocked by plastic)

If you have a digital camera with a neck strap, I’d recommend bringing that too! Just keep a good grip on it. I switched between taking photos on my Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera and videos on my iPhone.

In Summary​

Reasons to book a helicopter tour:
  • Whether it’s your first visit or your tenth, seeing Oahu from above is a completely different experience than exploring it on the ground. I highly recommend an aerial tour for those who have visited Oahu a few times since it gives you the chance to see iconic places through a new lens. It really feels like you’re seeing them for the first time again!
  • You’re looking for an adrenaline rush or an adventurous activity, especially if you’re crunched for time. There are many different tours and hikes that offer a bit of adrenaline and adventure, but helicopters by far cover the most ground for one single tour since you get to see a handful of places in an hour or less! If you only have time for 1 or 2 tours, I suggest adding this to your list.
Reasons to skip:
  • If you’re afraid of heights (this one’s a no-brainer)
  • If you have a lot of activities on your bucket list and are trying to stick to a budget, you may want to opt for 2-3 other activities (like a shark dive and whale watching tour) than spend a larger amount on one helicopter tour. I splurged on this and think it is absolutely worth the money, but I also checked off many other popular activities before biting the bullet on a heli tour.
  • If you’re going to multiple islands before or after Oahu. Take a look to see if there’s a tour available for other Hawaiian islands. There is so much to do on Oahu, so you could easily fill up your time with other activities and save the heli tour for another island. Each island has its own unique features that would be cool to see from the sky like viewing the worlds largest sea cliffs on Molokai, touring Waimea Canyon from above on Kauai, exploring Haleakalā on Maui, or even witnessing flowing lava on Big Island.

This was one of my favorite experiences of all time in Hawaii and I do highly recommend it to brave, adventurous visitors! I was absolutely shocked as we were hovering above places I’d seen countless times from the ground – it was a completely different experience and made me feel even more connected to the special landmarks we flew over. 


Have you taken a Hawaiian helicopter tour? I’d love to hear about your experience or if you’re planning to try it for the first time! Let me know in the comments 🙂

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There’s no better way to see the island than from a doors-off ##helicopter! Plus you can’t beat the adrenaline rush 🤙🚁🌈 ##oahu ##hawaiitravel ##travel

♬ Moon (And It Went Like) - Kid Francescoli


More things to do and see on Oahu:

About Laur

Aloha, I’m Lauren! One of my favorite things to do is explore the Hawaiian island of Oahu and nothing makes me happier than sharing what I’ve learned over the past 7 years with those planning their own adventures. I started Lauraloha Travel to help you enjoy every minute of your experience from planning all the way to paradise. Mahalo for exploring with me!

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