What to do on the big island
Many times I get asked the question, “Phyllis, what activity would you recommend on our visit to the Big Island?” Of course, that is a loaded question because we all have different interests and tastes, so I never quite know how to respond. Besides snorkeling, hiking, swimming, eating at some of the best restaurants, scuba diving, experiencing a lūʻau, watching whales during whale season, etc., my recent answer has been,” Have you considered a helicopter ride over an active volcano?”
I’m not known for celebrating my birthday, but in 2021 I decided to do something out of the norm. I’m not sure why, but perhaps being cooped up from the pandemic gave me an extra incentive to fly. I have to quantify this experience a bit, because this was “way” out of my comfort zone. A helicopter ride over an erupting Volcano!!! What was I thinking? My husband wondered too, but he was onboard for the ride.
All of my friends and neighbors were traveling down to see the Volcano. They were all coming back with incredible stories and photos. I figured by the time I took time off work, drove down/drove back, I’d be rushed to fully experience Pele in all her glory. The Volcano has been erupting off and on since 1983 and sets the Island of Hawai’i apart from all the others. To see an active volcano from a helicopter was a thrill I was willing to take.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
We chose Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for our tour because 1) they were conveniently located 12 minutes down Waikoloa Road from where I live and 2) they had gotten great reviews. Check out their website for more information. The Waikoloa Heliport is located at 68-690 Waikoloa Road, Waikoloa HI 96738.
Even though the cost is not comparable to free activities like hiking, swimming or sunbathing, if you have limited time, an unlimited budget and want to see the majority of the island in one afternoon, this is certainly a unique way to do so. For local residents, ask for the kamaʻāina rate. Every discount helps.
If you are considering this leap into the air, I would advise choosing your flight day wisely. We kept watching the weather apps. because we didn’t want to go on a cloudy, rainy day. Nor did we want to be in a helicopter on a windy day for obvious reasons. We chose an early morning flight, which was absolutely perfect and clear.
The Blue Hawaiian crew were amazing. Everything from booking, checking in, safety protocol and meeting the pilot were excellent. Our pilot, Greg, had so much knowledge about the Island along with a calming humor that made us all so comfortable to fly. I believe he mentioned that he’s been flying for this company for 13 years. His information and passion for flying just added to our incredible adventure.
The path we followed was first southeast over the Pōhakuloa Military Base, which sits in between Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and the Hualālai Mountains. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Kīlauea were next on our journey with the pilot circling and dipping for each of the occupants to view the volcano and vents nearby. The good news is, I didn’t get sick. I was mesmerized. We then continued up to Hilo and followed the Hamakua coast with breathtaking views of the ocean and cliffs. We tucked into the spectacular Waipi’o Valley and saw Hi’ilawe Falls, the tallest waterfall in Hawaii.
We made it safely home and all in one piece. From expansive lava flows, to an active volcano, we all agreed that this was a chance of a lifetime. Even though we live here, flying in a helicopter gave us the opportunity to explore places that were off the beaten path; like the falls in Waipi’o Valley, the Hāmākua Rainforests and the Coastal Cliffs. The tour was approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes and if given the opportunity I would do it again in a heartbeat. Seeing all of the different eco systems made me fall more in love with the Big Island of Hawai’i.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend seeing the Big island from this vantage point. If you have any further questions about Waikoloa, the surrounding areas or Volcano, please reach out to me.