Being on the ground hiking and beach-combing in Kauai is great – but nothing beats taking to the air to see this lush island in it’s entirety. I flew doors off with Jack Harter Helicopters - the originator of helicopter tours on Kauai. Based on the number of helicopters I saw taking off and landing (a steady stream on a nice day), seeing the Garden Isle by air is the most popular activity in Kauai. There are parts of the island you can only see by helicopter, and if you are a waterfall lover, then you won’t be disappointed. Kauai is one of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches. The frequent rains are what make this island spectacular and lush. The rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many, many waterfalls. At approximately $250, it is also one of the more expensive things you can do on the island. However as someone who loves photography and getting new perspectives, I felt like it was worth it for me to get the shots I wanted.
Kauai helicopter photography can be tricky, but I do have a few recommendations based on my experience. The doors off experience was great for photography eliminating any glare that you normally get shooting out of windows – choose this option if you can. If you are using a DSLR – know that you can only choose one lens/body to take along as they don’t allow you do have anything that is not strapped to you in some way and changing lenses during the doors off experience is not an option. I used my 17-55mm, shot in RAW format and simply cropped in when I needed to in post processing. One other thing to consider is to shoot in shutter priority around 1/500th. Any slower than that you you are bound to get shake from the vibration and movement of the helicopter – especially with the added effect of the doors off.
Overall the experience was louder, colder, and windier than normal so be prepared. However I was able to get a variety of photos that I was happy with showcasing the diversity of the island – from it’s rugged coast to the farmlands, canyons, and craters.
If you could take a helicopter ride anywhere in the world – where would you chose?
Read about my helicopter experience on the Big Island of Hawaii here.