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Maui, Hawaii’s second-largest island, is a place of legendary beauty — towering volcanic mountains, rolling green valleys, and brilliant sandy beaches. Because of its unique topography, viewing it from the air is particularly awe-inspiring, so much so that aerial shots of Maui have been key for setting the scene in a number of Hollywood productions, from Jurassic Park to Lost. If you’d like to see this famously lush landscape for yourself, aerial-style, consider splurging on a helicopter tour. There are a number of excellent companies on the island that offer this luxurious and educational treat, and these tours are the best of the best.
Best Full-Coast Tour: Maui Circle-Island Helicopter Tour
Looking to get the full lay of the land? Look no further. This hour-long tour, which departs from Kahalui, takes passengers on a complete coastal tour of the island. From above, you’ll see the towns and resort areas of Lahaina, Kapalua, Kaanapali, Wailea, and Hana (odds are excellent that you’ll be able to spot your own hotel or resort). Your pilot will narrate passes over the Haleakala National Park and the West Maui Mountains, giving you up-close-and-personal glimpses of the famous volcanic crater and hidden mountain waterfalls, plus so much more. While at the edge of Maui’s gorgeous beaches, you’ll be able to spot surfers and swimmers in the water, and perhaps even see whales, dolphins, and giant sea turtles splashing through the waves.
Best West Maui Tour: West Maui and Molokai Helicopter Tour with Oceanfront Landing
This narrated 75-minute tour takes passengers from the Kahalui Heliport up and over the stunning coastline of West Maui and over the Pailolo Channel for a quick swoop over the less-populated neighboring island of Molokai, where you’ll see pristine waterfalls, lush rainforests, and dramatic seaside cliffs. After your Molokai swing, you’ll return to Maui and head toward a private landing area along the island’s northern coast, where you’ll touch down and have a few minutes to get a whole new perspective.
A final pass over the West Maui Mountains finishes the tour, which will then touch back down at Kahului. For those who love taking home unique souvenirs, good news: the entire tour is videotaped and available for purchase on a USB drive so you can relive it again and again when you return home.
Best East Maui Tour: East Maui 45-Minute Helicopter Tour over Haleakala Crater
The Haleakala Crater is one of Maui’s — and the world’s — most striking geographic features. This long-dormant volcano created 75 percent of Maui’s landmass over millions of years of volcanic eruptions, and its highest crater, Pu’u ‘Ula’ula, is simply massive — seven miles across, two miles wide, and nearly 2,600 feet deep. The desert-like landscape within the crater stands in stark contrast to the rainforest that surrounds it, huge stretches of which are only really accessible by air and remain undeveloped and untouched. You’ll see pristine pools, magnificent waterfalls and, of course, the inside of the enormous crater in this 45-minute tour which begins and ends at Kahului Heliport. The tour is conducted in a six-seater helicopter, so every seat is a good one, offering 180-degree views. At the end of the tour, you’ll have an option to buy a USB stick containing a video of your trip set to traditional Hawaiian music.
Best North Maui Tour: Hana Rainforest Helicopter Flight with Landing from Maui
This 75-minute tour focuses on the lush, unspoiled Hana Rainforest and Maui’s beautiful northern coast. It departs from Kahului in an ECO-130 helicopter, the most environmentally-friendly helicopter currently operating in Maui, offering panoramic views and spacious theater-style seating. The tour begins along the coast, with views of Paia, Hookipa, Haiku, and Pe’ahi, and along the scenic “Road to Hana” toward Keopuka Rock, famous for its appearance in the opening credits of the original Jurassic Park.
From there, the helicopter heads inland into the Wailua Valley, where it’ll touch down on a former taro farm. Here, passengers can disembark and spend a half-hour exploring the surrounding rainforest, pristine and abundant with plant and bird life. Your pilot offers insight on the history and ecology of the island throughout the flight as well as during your time on the ground.
Best Open-Door Tour: Doors-Off West Maui and Molokai Helicopter Tour
If simply soaring over the islands of Maui and Molokai isn’t quite enough to fulfill your inner thrill-seeker, consider this tour, which lets you feel the ocean breeze and mountain mist blowing through your hair as you soar high above the island. The doors are simply taken off the helicopter and you’re strapped in tightly for the ride of a lifetime. You’ll see waterfalls, untouched stretches of jungle, pristine natural pools, and plenty of coastline, as well as the ocean itself, which means there’s always a good chance of spotting dolphins and other sea animals.
The rules for this tour, which lasts 45 minutes and takes off from the Kahului Helipad, are very strict, to prevent accidentally dropping items out of the open-door chopper: no cameras other than your cell phone (you’ll be issued a lanyard to keep it safe), no hats, no bags, no loose shoes (including flip-flops or “rubber slippers,” as the locals call them), and long hair must be tied back tightly. As far as daredevil/bucket-list activities go, it’s a very safe one with maximum thrills, so why not give it a shot?
Best Sunset Flight: Sunset Helicopter Flight: Maui, Molokai, and Lanai
Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most spectacular sunsets. Watching the sun slip below the horizon as the tropical sky fills with color is simply extraordinary, and this helicopter tour gives you the most beautiful possible view. You’ll take off from the Kahului Airport just as the sun begins to set and the sky’s magnificent display begins. You’ll head over the Pailolo Channel to the island of Molokai, watching its famous ancient fishing ponds twinkle in the fast-fading sunlight.
From there, you’ll fly over Elephant Rock, a miniature island that gets its name from its shape, and then onto tiny Lanai, where you’ll see everything from beaches and rainforests to the wrecked hull of a WWII-era naval ship. You’ll also pass over the Molokini Crater, the partially-submerged rim of an ancient volcano. As dusk begins to come to an end, you’ll swoop back over the southern coast of Maui, seeing the resort towns of Makena, Kihei, and Wailea on your way back to the airport to bid your pilot farewell.
Best Combo Tour: Small-Group Road to Hana Luxury Tour and Helicopter Flight
The winding coastal Hana Highway, known as the Road to Hana, is one of the world’s most gorgeous driving routes. The downside? Whoever does the driving can’t gaze out the window. This luxury tour solves that by seating you in leather-lined comfort in a luxurious limo-van, where everyone in your group can sit back, relax, and watch the gorgeous scenery pass by. Your guide and driver will make several stops along the way: you’ll visit the charming town of Ke’anae, stunning Wai’anapanapa State Park, and the remarkable Waikani Falls, before finally making it to tiny Hana.
You’ll have time to shop and wander the village as well as enjoy a guided tour of Hana Tropical Gardens, and you can even take a swim in an ancient pool. You’ll also enjoy a beachside gourmet lunch, made of fresh local ingredients and served on linens. Believe it or not, the best is yet to come: instead of driving the road back to Kahului, you’ll go by helicopter, taking a 36-minute scenic flight over the gorgeous coastline, lush rainforest, and striking Haleakala Crater. Every element of this tour is curated with luxury in mind, so if you want to see a whole lot of the island in true comfort, this is the tour for you.
Our writers spent 2 hours researching the most popular helicopter tours of Maui on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different tours overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers and read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.