Aerial Tours

Taking an aerial tour of the Islands opens up a world of perspective. Look down from the sky at the outline of the USS Arizona, where it lies in its final resting place below the waters of Pearl Harbor, or get a glimpse of the vast carved expanse of a volcanic crater—here are views only seen by an "eye in the sky." Don't forget your camera.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. This company stakes its claim as Hawaii's largest helicopter company, with tours on all the major Islands and more than two-dozen choppers in its fleet. The 45-minute Oahu tour seats up to six passengers and includes narration from your friendly pilot along with sweeping views of Waikiki, the beautiful Windward Coast, and the North Shore. If you like to see the world from above or are just pinched for time and want to get a quick overview of the whole island without renting a car, this is the way to go. Discounts are available if you book online in advance. 99 Kaulele Pl., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96819. 808/831–8800; 800/745–2583; From $259.

Island Seaplane Service. Harking back to the days of the earliest air visitors to Hawaii, the seaplane has always had a special spot in island lore. The only seaplane service still operating in Hawaii takes off from Keehi Lagoon. (It was featured in the film 50 First Dates.) Flight options are either a twenty-minute or half-hour southern and eastern Oahu shoreline tour or an hour-long island circle tour. Groups can opt for a catered dinner on a floating dock in the lagoon. The Pan Am Clipper may be gone, but you can revisit the experience with this company. 85 Lagoon Dr., Airport Area, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96819. 808/836–6273; From $99.

Makani Kai Helicopters. This may be the best—if not the only—way to see the beautiful Sacred Falls on the windward side of the island, as the park around the falls was closed to hikers after a deadly 1999 rock slide. Makani Kai flies the helicopter over the pristine waterfall to show you the once-favorite trail that leads to it. Tours can last either a half hour, 45 minutes, or a full hour. Or the more adventurous can book the 50-minute Doors Off tour in the MD-500, the iconic helicopter from the Magnum PI TV series. Customized private charters are available for up to six passengers. 130 Iolana Pl., Honolulu, Hawaii, 96819. 808/834–5813; 877/255–8532; From $170.

The Original Glider Rides. "Mr. Bill" has been offering piloted glider (sailplane) rides over the northwest end of Oahu's North Shore since 1970. Choose from piloted scenic rides for one or two passengers in sleek, bubble-top, motorless aircraft with aerial views of mountains, shoreline, coral pools, windsurfing sails, and, in winter, humpback whales. Seeking more thrills? You can also take a more acrobatic ride or take control yourself in a mini lesson. Flights run 15–60 minutes long and depart continuously, daily 10–5. Reservations are requested. Dillingham Airfield, 69-132 Farrington Hwy., Waialua, Hawaii, 96791. 808/637–0207; From $85.

Paradise Helicopters. A certified Hawaii Ecotourism Association operator, Paradise offers tours on several islands. On Oahu, the tours depart from two helipads: Kalaeloa (at the Ko Olina resorts on the west side) and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Kalaeloa options range from a one-hour scenic tour over Diamond Head to a two-hour island circle (daytime and sunset) to specialized trips that focus on WW II history. Turtle Bay choices include several one- to one-and-a half-hour North Shore adventures. Hawaii. 808/969–7392; From $189.