Safari Helicopters Kauai Refuge Eco-Tour

Hovering over cascading waterfalls, gliding over gorgeous green valleys and soaring over canyons and needle-like cliffs are just a few of the reasons to tour Kauai by helicopter. The Garden Isle is perhaps the most gorgeous of the Hawaiian island to tour by by air. With the vast majority of Kauai being inaccessible by car, the bird”s eye view of a helicopter tour gives you visibility to some of the most pristine landscapes on Earth.

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Na Pali Coast by helicopter
Kieth Robinson surveys his preservation garden
Mr. Kieth Robinson surveys his Kauai wildlife refuge

On our recent visit to Kauai, we booked the Kauai Refuge Eco-Tour with Safari Helicopters. In addition to an outstanding scenic flight, this tour also included a remote landing on a wildlife refuge owned by Keith Robinson of the famed Robinson Ranch family.

Note that this private landing with Safari Helicopters is the only legally authorized scenic tour landing on the island of Kauai.

Mr. Robinson comes out to greet the helicopter tour visitors subject to his availability. We were honored that Mr. Robinson did come out to meet our tour group. What a fascinating fellow he is! From a tour around his preserve, I quickly gathered that this self-taught botanist has a passion for land conservation and preserving native Hawaiian plants. At this wildlife refuge, he has established a garden of rare Hawaiian plants that are dangerously on the verge of being extinct. Mr. Robinson goes to great extents to preserve these plants as he  even hand carries water to them.

Movie buffs and Jurassic Park fans might be interested in knowing that the site of the remote landing was one of the Jurassic Park filming locations. Mr. Robinson mentioned that producers from Pirates of the Caribbean had been inquiring about filming here, too. I wonder if any scenes have been shot there since our visit.

Olokele Canyon
A view of Olokele Canyon from the secluded helicopter landing site.

After the remote landing (40-60 minutes), we boarded back in the helicopter to continue the scenic flight. The afternoon light on the Na Pali Coast was fantastic. Though I’m sharing photos from the visit, I have to say that the photos do not do justice to the actual scenery.

Our barefoot pilot, Gardner, provided excellent commentary and history as we flew over Kauai. His knowledge and calming voice enhanced our tour.

Here’s an amateur video summary of our tour. We were just using a hand camera, so the scenes will appear shaky at times.

(Email subscribers, please click here to view the video.)

What to know when you go:

  • When choosing a scenic tour, safety should be one of your top considerations. Safari Helicopters has a very impressive safety record with no air tour accidents in 20 years. I certainly felt safe in their hands.
  • Safari Helicopters offers significant savings (up to $70 per person) on Kauai tours by booking online. See this link for more information.
  • You will have to be weighed when you check in their Kauai office. Don’t take offense, your weight will not be shared publicly. Your weight is needed so that the helicopter can be balanced for safety.
  • You can purchase a DVD of your exact flight. In hindsight, I wish I had purchased a copy as the commentary was so good, I’d love to hear it all over again.
  • You can’t take any bags with you on the flight, but cameras are fine. A locker is provided at the office.
  • Please review my 6 tips for choosing a Hawaii helicopter tour.
  • See all the photos we snapped from our tour here.

Have you taken a Kauai helicopter tour? How was your experience?

  1. We took a flight with another company & it was wonderful. I know you have the tips and this will be on the company website tips but everyone on the flight should wear a solid, dark shirt. It is a courtesy to all you fly with to do this so everyone’s photos and movies are good. We did this on our second trip to Kauai and it gives you a better understanding of the diversity of the island.

    1. I’m trying to choose between Blue Hawaiian $450 2 hour tour or Safaris $200 1 hour tour. Which will I enjoy more?

      1. Amanda – Compare the following about the tours you are considering:

        – What’s the seating arrangement in the helicopters? Does one have a better set up?
        – Where do each tours go? How much more will you see/experience on the longer tour?
        – If you want two way communication with the pilot, do the tours offer that?
        – Read TripAdvisor reviews for each.

        That should help you make a more informed decision to help you choose the tour that you think best fits your interests.

  2. Sounds like a pretty amazing experience, being able to land and walk around a private reserve like that.

    Regarding the DVDs, I’ve flown twice with Blue Hawaiian on Maui and picked up the DVDs for each. They are definitely fun to play back now and then, and at least for the first flight, I was able to go back and try to identify what I was looking at in my photos based on what the pilot was saving on the video. 🙂

    Heli tours are so amazing, it’s too bad that they’re not more affordable or can accomodate a larger number of people. I guess that’s part of what makes them special, too.

    1. Kris – good to know that if you get the DVD it won’t just collect dust. 🙂 Those pilots really share a ton of information.

      Every time I get to go on a helicopter tour, I feel so blessed. I know you and me are on the same page that Hawaii is gorgeous, but the bird’s-eye-view adds a whole new dimension to that beauty.

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