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.
Helicopter Photography Tips
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.
By A Montrealer Abroad (@marievallieres) April 11, 2014 - 9:42 am
What an amazing photo set, Sherry. The coastline is especially striking.
By Darlene Foster April 12, 2014 - 1:40 am
Incredible photos! I would love to view New Zealand from a helicopter. Maybe one day.
By Jen Seligmann April 12, 2014 - 11:13 pm
Just incredible shots Sherry. I think Hawaii would be my pick. I’ve seen it from above on so many TV shows and movies and it just looks so jaw dropping.
By Samantha @mytanfeet April 13, 2014 - 12:05 am
Amazing pictures! I’d love to take a helicopter ride, never done one but it looks like a lot of fun and of course gorgeous scenery.
By [email protected] April 13, 2014 - 11:10 pm
Super cool! It’s always interesting to experience something from a different perspective than normal.
By Shereen April 22, 2014 - 9:15 am
Whoa those pictures are really amazing. My favourite is the one with the waterfall because who doesn’t love a beautiful waterfall. I would love to take a helicopter ride over anywhere with incredible scenery. Thanks for sharing!
By Sherry April 23, 2014 - 9:40 pm
There were so many waterfalls that we saw from above – each better then the last! Amazing!
By Deb May 7, 2014 - 10:21 am
Fantastic photos Sherry! I’d love to do a chopper ride over any Hawaiian Island
By Sherry May 7, 2014 - 6:02 pm
Thanks Deb! Next time you get to Hawaii – do a helicopter ride…it’s really fun – especially with the doors off. However I wasn’t allowed to take my gopro since I didn’t have it strapped to my body….lots of rules with doors off.
By Dan June 4, 2014 - 9:30 pm
If you told me this was Jurassic Park, I would’ve totally believed you
By Sherry June 7, 2014 - 8:33 am
They did film parts of Jurrasic Park in Kauai!
By Ron June 13, 2014 - 12:00 pm
My wife and I have flown over Kauai! with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters twice. It is a wonderful experience. We will be flying Jack Harter Helicopters “Doors Off” on our next trip to Kauai!
By Brian Teeter July 9, 2014 - 3:16 pm
Sherry, I completely agree. I did my homework and booked an open door helicopter flight with Jack Harter Helicopters on Kauai through Mr. Aaron Martin of the excellent http://www.activitykauai.com service, a company I highly recommend. It was Aaron who introduced me to Patrick Kelley of Kauai Adventure Photography Workshops, which I commented very favorably on in response to your blog about your photo classes that you took with them. Patrick is outstanding.
While I could have booked Jack Harter Helicopters directly, I am deeply grateful to have worked with Aaron Martin and activitykauai.com for this. Aaron really knows the island, its businesses and people, and thoroughly researched the different helicopter tour companies on Kauai.
Before he gave a recommendation for Jack Harter Helicopters, Aaron carefully researched their safety records, aircraft maintenance, pilot experience, routes and other details. Knowing that I am working on a book about Kauai, Aaron recommended the open door helicopter tour from Jack Harter, something that only they offer on Kauai. It’s absolutely outstanding.
I agree with you that you need to bring just one camera and lens – nothing else, as the turbulence and open door could lead to losing valuable equipment otherwise. You’ll get buffeted by the wind, colder than you can imagine, and as you fly over the center of Kauai, wet.
It’s all worth it.
You get photos you would not by any other means. Mind you, if you’re afraid of heights or hanging over a precipice, an open door helicopter is not for you. It can be bumpy, so don’t eat much before you fly. But it’s an experience like no other. There’s simply no better way to see the remote areas and overwhelming beauty of Kauai. I highly recommend Jack Harter Helicopters.
Well done, Sherry!