Doors Off Helicopter Tour in Kauai: Everything You Need to Know [2024]

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Kauai has a few unmissable activities—-hiking the Kalalau Trail, peering over the rim of Waimea Canyon, and, of course, seeing the island’s spectacular landscape on a helicopter tour. If you want to kick the level of adventure up a notch, though, you should definitely consider booking a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai, with nothing between you and and the jaw-dropping landscapes of the Napali Coast or the Wai’ale’ale Crater, a thousand feet below, other than your seat belt.

Here’s everything you need to know about booking a Kauai doors off helicopter tour, including exactly which one to book and what to expect.

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View of the Napali Coast from a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai
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I’ve been to all of the Hawaiian Islands multiple times and, in my opinion, Kauai is by far the most beautiful, with jagged mountains covered with lush greenery and deep canyons. Because of its dramatic landscape, more than 70% of Kauai is totally inaccessible by car, so to really appreciate the scale and grandeur of its epic landscape, the best way to see this island paradise is by air.

There are a couple options for seeing Kauai from above. 

Aerial view of cliffs of the Napali Coast during a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

For example, there are several companies that offer scenic flights in small airplanes, like this tour or this tour, which tend to be cheaper than a helicopter. However, unlike a helicopter, you won’t be able to weave as close to the green cliffs and mountain peaks or hover in place in a particularly stunning spot. 

And, of course, there are “normal” helicopter tours, like this one or this one, with the doors on, which usually are a tiny bit more affordable than a doors off tour. 

On the other hand, you’ll have more limited views and a harder time getting stellar photos and videos, as compared to a doors off helicopter tour. Plus, let’s be real. There’s something that’s a lot more thrilling—and, for lack of a better word, WAY cooler—with a doors off one.

Aerial view of lush mountains from a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

Due to the hefty price tag, I went back and forth for a while about whether a door off helicopter tour was worth it—in fact, I initially canceled our tour booking.

Ultimately, though, going on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai seemed like such a bucket list item that I thought I’d regret it if we didn’t include it in our Kauai itinerary—and I’m happy to report that the jaw-dropping panoramic views were absolutely worth every penny in my opinion (it seriously is one of the COOLEST things I’ve ever done!).

Which Doors Off Helicopter Tour in Kauai Should I Book?

There are several companies that offer door off helicopter tours in Kauai, so it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out which one to book.

After doing some research, I wound up picking Air Kauai, due to their flawless safety record and rave reviews from other customers. And I have no regrets–my husband, Justin’s and my experience with them was beyond incredible, from start to finish!  

View of couple's legs with the Napali Coast in the bavkgroudn on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

Air Kauai operates doors off tours every day of the week, 8 AM to 4 PM, with tours leaving every hour.  

When you’re originally booking your tour, you’ll either sign up for a slot between 8 AM to 12 PM or 12 PM to 4 PM. Given that the flights themselves last between 45-50 minutes, you’ll either get assigned a departure time within your designated slot, which Air Kauai will communicate to you the day before your tour, or if you’d prefer a specific time slot, you can call or email the company ahead of time to request it.

Additionally, if you’re going on a doors off helicopter tour as a group, you should definitely make your reservations together, as you’ll be booked on the same flight. If, for whatever reason, your group’s reservations are made separately, you’ll need to contact the tour company and request that your group goes on the same tour.

What to Expect on a Doors Off Helicopter Tour in Kauai

So you’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a helicopter tour—what should you expect on the big day?

I can only share my experience with Air Kauai, but, from speaking with several other travelers, the experience sounds fairly consistent across other doors off helicopter companies.

We were instructed to show up at the Air Kauai office at the Lihue Airport about 45 minutes before our scheduled departure. If you choose a different tour company to go with, please double check where your flight is departing from–there’s a few tour companies that leave from the Princeville Airport on the north side of the island. 

Woman checking in at Air Kauai office for a doors off helicopter tour

Once we were checked in, we watched a short safety video and the attendants assisted us in preparing for the flight—for example, you’re only allowed your cell phone (more on that below!) and are not allowed to have anything in your pockets for the duration of the flight, so they’ll keep your keys or wallets safely secured at the office. 

There’s also a couple of nice, clean bathrooms if nature calls before your flight–unsurprisingly, the helicopter doesn’t have an onboard restroom!

After we were all flight-ready, we hopped on a golf cart and were shuttled to the helicopter pads a short distance away. We were again prepped for the flight—you’ll be given an Air Kauai windbreaker, safety goggles, and headphones—and then seated in the helicopter, per our assigned seats. 

Door off helicopter pre-flight in Kauai
Note: If you're flying as a party of two, only one person is guaranteed to sit on the outside of the helicopter. Justin is a gentleman and a scholar and, after we each tried to give each other the “window” seat multiple times, I eventually agreed to sit on the outside of the helicopter, with him in the middle seat, next to the pilot. 

He assured me after the flight that the middle seat still has an absolutely incredible view the entire time (based on the way he was hooting and hollering throughout the ride, I suspect he’s telling the truth).

Once everyone on your tour is safely strapped in and ready to go, your pilot will introduce themselves and then you’ll be off! Tours generally last between 45 and 50 minutes.

Couple smiling during a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

Common Destinations in a Doors Off Helicopter Tour in Kauai

Each helicopter tour, even with the same company, will vary a bit, depending on the wind and weather for that day. But below, I’ve listed some of the main highlights that almost every tour hits. 

During your helicopter tour, your pilot will tell you historical and cultural facts about the landmarks that you’re flying over, which you’ll be able to easily hear, thanks to the provided headphones. They’ll also do a good job of turning the helicopter 180 degrees at points of interest so, regardless of what side you’re on, you’ll get an awesome view of the landscape below.

Helicopter pilot with green mountains in the background in Kauai

Napali Coast State Park

The Napali Coast is one of the most stunning coastlines in the world, with untouched beaches, towering waterfalls, and incredibly jagged cliffs, covered in lush greenery and towering up to 4,000 feet in the air. I’ve really never seen any kind of landscape that looks quite like it! 

Because of its extreme topography, there are no roads that access this coast, so the only way that you can get here is via hiking trails (either the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail or Kalalau Trail), a Napali Coast boat tour, or air.

Seeing the dramatic Napali Coast is the reason most travelers book a helicopter tour (I know it’s why I did!)- and even why they come to Kauai in the first place. It is ABSOLUTELY stunning and in our experience, totally lives up to the hype!

Waimea Canyon State Park

Commonly known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon has been carved both by the rushing Waimea River and the collapse of the massive volcano that once formed Kauai. 

The canyon stretches for 10 miles long, with walls towering up to 3,600 feet high. “Waimea” actually means “reddish waters”, from the canyon’s vibrant red walls that turns the water flowing through its gorge a deep red. I LOVED zooming past the canyon’s vibrant red ridges and cliffs, which stand in stark contrast to the rest of Kauai’s endlessly green landscape. 

Aerial view of Waimea Canyon State Park from a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

Manawaiopuna Falls

You know that scene in Jurassic Park where they’re landing in the helicopter for the first time in front of that massive waterfall? Yeah, that’s this one, and it’s only accessible via helicopter! Some people even call this beauty “Jurassic Falls”!

Located in the luscious Hanapepe Valley, the waterfall dramatically cascades 400 feet over a cliffside. Given that the land is privately owned, most helicopter tours just fly above the falls, but if you’re a HUGE Jurassic Park buff, you could consider booking with the only tour company that has been authorized to land by the falls for a photo opp, Island Helicopters (note that they only offer a doors on tour option for Manawaiopuna Falls).

Aerial view of Manawaiopuna Falls in Kauai
Image courtesy of Deposit Photos

Mount Wai’ale’ale Crater

Mount Wai’ale’ale is actually a shield volcano that originally created the island of Kauai, which is the oldest Hawaiian Island. This mighty mountain also famously holds the title of one of the wettest places on the planet, receiving more than 450 inches of rain per year. The volcano has long been dormant and now, instead, of flowing with lava, its almost vertical 5,000-foot tall slopes are covered with verdant greenery and countless waterfalls.

While you can theoretically reach Mount Wai’ale’ale by a hiking trail, the trek to get here is extremely challenging and technical—and made more difficult with the almost guaranteed presence of rain. So, in practice, you can really only reach this incredibly special place by air. I didn’t really know anything about it before our helicopter tour, but its jaw dropping views easily made this one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Waterfalls in Mount Wai’ale’ale crater during a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai

Frequently Asked Questions About a Doors Off Helicopter Tour

What can I bring on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai?

In short, basically nothing, besides your cell phone! 

While tour companies’ policies vary slightly, many, including Air Kauai, do not allow you to bring any cameras other than your cell phone on board. When you arrive at their office before your tour, you’ll be provided an elastic harness for your cell phone that’s attached to a lanyard for the duration of your tour.

Pilot steering doors off helicopter tour on north shore of Kauai

If I’m being honest, I initially thought it was ridiculous that you couldn’t bring other cameras onboard—a HUGE reason that I wanted to go on a doors off helicopter tour in the first place was to get awesome photos and videos to share with y’all, and how on earth were we supposed to do that without our mirrorless camera and fancy lenses? 

After actually going on a tour, though, I TOTALLY get it—even my cell phone, which was quite literally strapped to my body, frequently felt like it was going to get ripped right out of my hands, due to how windy it got in the helicopter. There’s a zero percent chance that Justin and I would have been swapping out lenses on the tour—or that either of us would have even felt comfortable holding our cameras in that environment. Plus our cell phones allowed us to get awesome photos without farting around with a bunch of gear (or possibly injuring others below by dropping expensive cameras on them!).

Additionally, you’re not allowed to have anything in your pockets or wear any kind of loose jewelry that will fly around.

When is the best time of year to go on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai?

Because of the trade winds, Kauai tends to get the most clouds and rain of any of the Hawaiian Islands. However, it’s especially rainy from about November through April. 

May through October is considered the island’s dry season, but if you want the best chance of good weather, I’d try to schedule your trip from June through August, which is historically the driest months. We visited in May and got pretty unlucky with several rainy days all over the island (although the day of our helicopter tour happened to be beautiful!). 

For safety reasons, helicopter pilots can’t fly through clouds or heavy rain, so if you happen to be visiting during poor weather, your tour will likely be canceled. Accordingly, I’d strongly recommend scheduling your trip at the beginning of your time in Kauai so you can reschedule for later in the week if it gets canceled! 

When is the best time of the day to go on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai?

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer to this question. 

If you go in the morning, you’ll often have harsh lighting along the Napali Coast and other places, like Manawaiopuna Falls, will still be in the shadows. That being said, clouds and storms tend to roll in during the afternoon, so you’re risking missing some of the sights or even having your tour canceled entirely if you go that route. 

Aerial view of the Napali Coast from a doors off helicopter tour

We wound up going with the morning option, as I’d rather go on a helicopter tour with slightly less than ideal lighting conditions than risk it being canceled due to potential rain. I have no regrets-and actually, after our tour, the weather got nasty that afternoon, so it very likely would have been canceled if we chose the later option!

How much is a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai?

Tours usually range from about $350 to over $400 per person. 

For our tour with Air Kauai, we paid around $370 per person. As mentioned above, I totally cringed when I saw this number—but if you’ve got any wiggle room in the budget, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s totally worth it, in my book.

Couple smiling in front of a helicopter in Kauai

What should I wear for a doors off helicopter tour of Kauai?

The theme of going on a doors off helicopter tour is that you shouldn’t have or be wearing anything that can possibly fly off and injure others in the helicopter or those below you. So that includes guidelines like:

  • No hats
  • No flip flops. You can only wear closed toed shoes or sandals with a strap around the heel.
  • No sunglasses. Prescription glasses are okay, but you’ll need to wear them underneath your safety goggles, so contacts are recommended if you have them.
  • Your hair should be tied up tightly. 
  • Any kind of purses, fanny packs, light sabers… whatever other kind of gear you happen to have on you will have to be left back at the office or in your vehicle.

Not a requirement, but I’d also recommend wearing something on the warmer side. As mentioned above, Air Kauai provided us with windbreakers and I was still surprised by how cold I was during the tour, due to the constantly rushing wind inside the helicopter.

Are there any restrictions on who can go on a doors off helicopter tour in Kauai?

All passengers must be 10 years of age or older and if you weigh over 230 pounds or are part of a couple that collectively weighs over 400 pounds, you’ll need to purchase an extra seat (note that the limit is slightly higher for a doors on helicopter tour).

Travelers in wheelchairs are welcome aboard—just be sure to call Air Kauai ahead of time to let them know and they’ll take care of the rest!

Are doors off helicopter tours in Kauai safe?

More than one hundred helicopter tours take off in Kauai each day and 99.9999% of them go off without a hitch. 

Like anything else, though, there is a tiny amount of risk with aviation and there have been a few accidents during helicopter flights in Kauai, which, over the decades, have resulted in minor injuries all the way up to fatalities. 

Again, one of the reasons that I chose Air Kauai is that it has a flawless safety record, so if you’re considering booking with another tour, I’d highly recommend doing your research and ensuring that you’re choosing one with a pristine record.

Are you supposed to tip your pilot?

If your pilot goes above and beyond, tips are, of course, always welcome! Consider giving around $10-$20—our tour company had a tip jar and our pilot’s Venmo displayed at the end of our tour, if you happened to not have cash on you.

Aerial view of Hanalei Bay from doors off helicopter tour

Are there souvenirs you can get for your doors off helicopter tour?

Yes, before you hop on the helicopter, Air Kauai snaps a photo of your group and they also record the duration of your flight (both inside and outside the helicopter if you want footage of you actually in the helicopter) and splice a video together by the time you get back to the office from the helipad. The photos were around $20 and a package including the video was around $90. 


So, seriously, what are you waiting for?! Book that doors off helicopter tour already! Let me know if you have any questions about the experience in the comments below!

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