A doors off helicopter tour of Kauai should be at the top of your must-do list whether it’s your first visit or a return visit.
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As my husband and I were planning our Kauai vacation, the #1 most suggested adventure activity was going on a helicopter tour. After researching the different companies that offer helicopter tours, we decided to go with Jack Harter Helicopters. We chose Jack Harter for two reasons: 1) They were highly rated as one of the best, if not the best, helicopter tour company on Kauai, and 2) they offered a solid one-hour doors off helicopter tour at a great price.
Why do a doors off helicopter tour?
The idea of flying through the air without anything between you and the sky can be a little nerve wracking. I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely sold on it at first, but my husband was so excited about it and the more I thought about it, the more excited I was to go. There are quite a few reasons why I would highly suggest going on a doors off helicopter tour:
- Amazing views. With the doors on, you are generally limited to what you can see through your window. The windows on helicopter doors are small and so having the doors off allows you to see so much more of Kauai.
- Motion sickness. Having the doors off means there is more air flow through the cabin of the helicopter which actually lessens the chance you’ll experience motion sickness. (My husband and I still took a Dramamine before taking off, but I don’t think we would have needed it.)
- Adrenaline rush. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, I can almost guarantee that a doors off helicopter ride will do it for you! The first few minutes especially had my stomach doing some little somersaults, but the whole experience really takes your breath away.
- Orient yourself to the island. Maps can only show you so much so going on a doors off helicopter tour can help you get a feel for the different areas of the island. It was really helpful to get a birds-eye view of Kauai as well as see some of the areas that you would never get to otherwise. One tip we got was to try and go on our tour at the beginning of our trip for this very reason.
What to Expect from Jack Harter
- Weather check. If the weather isn’t good, they will not fly. The weather had been fairly rainy for a few days prior to our arrival on Kauai and it was overcast when we arrived to check it. If they have to cancel your flight due to weather, they will do their best to reschedule you for another day/time during your trip.
- Weigh in. When you make your reservation, you have to enter the weight of every person going on the helicopter. This is all about safety and balancing the helicopter. When you check in, they will have you stand on a scale that is connected to the computer so the person checking you in will be the only one who can see your weigh.
- Leave personal belongings behind unless they are strapped to you. Loose items aren’t allowed for the doors off helicopter tour. You can take your camera, phone, and/or GoPro, but it has to have a strap on it. If you don’t have one, they have zipties at the office you can attach for the tour and then cut off when you get back.
- Safety instructions. Before leaving to the airport, you will receive a card to look at with the emergency exit information for the type of helicopter you are riding in, as well as verbal instructions. There are people there to help you into the helicopter, secure your harness and get your headset on. If you have any questions you can ask, however, they are very thorough.
- Short ride to the airport. Jack Harter shuttles you to the airport hangar where they keep their helicopters.
- A breathtaking, one of a kind experience. Even walking out to the helicopter seems like a surreal experience. Once you’ve been secured, it isn’t long before you are lifting off the ground, heading towards the coast and climbing higher in the sky to look over the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, valleys, beaches and ocean that Kauai is famous for.
What will I see on the tour?
Of the 353,000 acres on Kauai, 51,000 acres are owned by the Robinson family and another 36,000 acres are owned by Steve Case (remember AOL?). Between these two private holdings, almost 25% of Kauai is privately owned. This means that almost 1/4 of the island can only be viewed by air (or if you happen to be invited onto the land or you are a movie star shooting a film like Jurassic Park).
So basically, you’ll be seeing parts of Kauai that no one else can see unless they go on a helicopter ride. The landscape on Kauai varies so much that you’ll see private beaches, giant waterfalls like the ones on the Weeping Wall, jungles, taro fields, mountain peaks that disappear into the clouds, deep canyons and so much more. You will see as much as can be crammed into a one hour tour and then you’ll wish you had another hour or more.
Tips for a Great Experience
- Waterproof phone case with strap. It was a little bit rainy for part of our helicopter tour so I was grateful to have a case that protected my phone from the water. I was able to get some great shots as a result!
- Earlier morning reservation. We received this tip from a few people and it has to do with the weather. It rains on Kauai at least once a day, but most often during the night or in the early morning. Then it clears up and you are left with beautiful skies for your tour.
- Dramamine. If you’re even a little bit concerned about motion sickness, take a dramamine tablet before you leave for the airport. As mentioned above, you will be more likely to need it if you are doing a regular, doors on tour as opposed to the doors off tour. An early morning tour may help with this as well because you could hold off on breakfast until after you’re out of the air and go eat at one of the best places on Kauai.
- Sunglasses. We experienced all types of weather during our one hour tour: sunny, cloudy, rainy and, of course, windy. I have polarized sunglasses which helped me see so much better, especially when we were out over the ocean with the glare of the sun or when it was rainy.
- Proper clothes. You are required to wear close-toed shoes for the doors off helicopter tour. Beyond that, they recommend that you wear warmer clothes since it’s cooler up in the air. I wore leggings, a short sleeve shirt, a cardigan and a jacket and there were a couple of times I was a little colder than I would have preferred. But the views made up for it and took my mind off any discomfort I experienced.
- Hair. Wear your hair back! I had my hair in two braids and it was still very windblown. You don’t want your hair to get in your face and obstruct your views. Plus, tangles are no fun.
Overall, I would absolutely recommend going on a doors off helicopter tour with Jack Harter Helicopters. Our pilot, Chris, grew up on Kauai and was very familiar with all the areas we visited. He did a great job of turning the helicopter so people on both sides got impressive views. He also shared facts, legends and personal stories, as well as checking in with us to ask if we had any questions. The island of Kauai is beautiful and experiencing it from the air is a must-do activity!
You can contact Jack Harter Helicopters via their website or by phone with questions or to make a reservation.
Have you been on a helicopter tour before? Doors on or off? Where was it? I’d love to hear your experience!
I don’t think I am brave enough for this. lol But it looks like you had an amazing time. I love your pictures they were captured so well for memory sake.
Wow such a stunning place and what a view…even if I would have been petrified lol
That sounds so amazing Shani! I’ve never done something like this but I’m going to have to add it to my bucket list!
This is absolutely incredible! What an amazing experience, adding this to my bucket list!
I would be scared to death, but definitely looks worth it for those views!
HOLY. SMOKES. This… is intense!! I would LOVE to do it at some point. Thanks for offering some great tips.