Today was my second time in a helicopter. From a technical standpoint I knew exactly what to expect, but the sweeping views of the Kohala coast and fiery lava fields truly exceeded my wildest dreams. As if that wasn’t enough to blow my mind, the 2,000-foot waterfalls tucked away behind the lush, green valleys looked like something straight out of Jurassic Park.
I checked in to Paradise Helicopters at the Kona International Airport around 6:45am, and after a brief intro and safety presentation, our group climbed aboard. Our pilot was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, and he made sure to loop around some spots several times so everyone could get a good view. The seating is determined by weight, and I was lucky enough to get a window. (Pro tip: Wear dark colors, and wear pants if you can. This minimizes reflections and keeps all photographers on board happy.)
The first major attraction on the Circle Island Experience tour was the Kilauea crater. There were a few hot spots that had burned through the black surface, and we even got a peek at a section of trees that were about to be swallowed up by the lava. After that we cruised along the Kohala coast and ventured into one of the more famous valleys on the northeast side of the island. The gorgeous blues of the Pacific Ocean are one thing, but put that next to the verdant jungle landscape with cliffs and waterfalls and you'll feel like you're in an episode of Planet Earth.
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t even come close to saying you’ve experienced the big island until you’ve seen it from the air...