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Travel Blog #94 - Doors Off Helicopter Flight With InterIsland Helicopters


Throughout my life I have had many opportunities to experience helicopter flights around Hawaii. I have been on helicopters on all of the major islands, so I feel that I can legitimately say that the flights on Kauai pack more into them then they do anywhere else in Hawaii. Throughout the entire flight we were constantly seeing new things around each and every corner. The excitement never stopped (or was even subdued) throughout the whole flight. The girl next to me had a look of awe on her face the whole time, and the couple that sat in the front seat was also had a great time (check out their testimonial at the end of the video). I think that the excitement levels were not only elevated by what we saw, but they were also elevated by the fact that there were no doors on the helicopter and there was nothing between us and the ground besides thousands of feet of air!

The helicopter that we flew in was Interisland Helicopters flagship MD 500. This design is also commonly referred to as the Hughes 500. This type of helicopter was originally designed in the Vietnam War era and has since been retrofitted for many different uses in the military, well as in many different civilian industries. The aircraft that we flew in was painted green camouflage and the were doors removed. The outside as well as the inside were impeccably clean. The spartan interior was simple, but comfortable.

doors of helicopter ride with inter island helicopters

You would think that having hundred plus mile an hour winds rushing by you would make for an uncomfortable ride. I was pleased to find out the MD 500 helicopter was really quite comfortable to ride in. I think the best way to simulate the winds and the ride of the helicopter would be to go for a ride in the back of a pickup truck with your back seated against the cab facing the rear bumper of the truck. You can feel the wind going by, but you're sheltered from the full force of the wind by the cab of the truck. In the helicopter the wind did come in the sides a little bit but it was mostly blocked by the wall that separated the first row and the second row of seating in the helicopters' passenger cabin.

napali coast aerial views

The sights that we saw were absolutely incredible. We saw the 5 sisters waterfalls, the Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific), the Napali Sea Cliffs (over 3000ft tall), Kalalau Beach, the Hanalei Bay... and we even managed to sneek into the "Keyhole" of the island where we could view the wettest place on earth. Throughout the flight we saw some amazing things and I was able to take some amazing pictures.

photographing the napali coast

Some advice on photography on open air helicopters: I brought along a Canon DSLR with a very wide 18-250 Sigma zoom lens on it. This is a long telescoping kind of lens. During the flight I extended the lens when zooming, and the tip of it went into the hard wind near the door of the helicopter. I only tried to zoom in on a couple of things and because of the extending nature of the lens and I think that it might have got slightly damaged from the wind. Upon landing, I could definitely feel a sticky spot in the zoom ring when extending or retracting the lens that could have easily happened because of the high wind environment the lens was exposed to on the edge of the cabin. I think next time I will bring either a fixed lens or a zoom that has purely internal motion with no extending action. I will also focus more on keeping the camera further inside the cabin. For the most part the majority of the shots that I took were at a pretty wide angle and if I had the range I would've gone even wider then my 18mm on the Canon cropped sensor would allow me to go. Unless your going with a two camera set up, I think you might prefer to use a wide angle lens throughout the flight. Changing between lenses mid flight is something that I would not recommend trying. I think that the smaller size factor of a point and shoot camera is something that makes the point and shoot option worth considering as well. Regardless of what you bring, just make sure it has a strap because inter island helicopters requires one on all passengers cameras.

the best waterfalls on kauai





Travel Blog - Articles #90 to #99

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I couldn't help but smile when I saw that it was an absolutely classic sunny Hawaiian day outside.

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Before we even got to the ranch I knew that we were in for a special experience. The ride that we had scheduled for the day was at Silver Falls Ranch, which is located deep in the jungle, on the north side of Kauai.

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Today we did something very unique, that I have never done before in the Hawaiian Islands (or anywhere else for that matter). We went fishing for Peacock Bass.

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Today we did something that I've wanted to do for a while, we went on the "Movie Tour" with Polynesian Adventure Tours. The movie tours' concept is simple, they have a TV screen in the bus that plays a movie they edited together.

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This year my girlfriend Simone and I decided that we were going to celebrate Valentines days a little bit differently then we have in the past. We decided that we were going to go up to the North Shore of Kauai and try out the zipline at the Princeville Ranch.

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Today I got to take my Mom to see something very special. In the 1400+ years that the Hawaiian Islands have been inhabited by humans, an amazingly rich culture has developed here.

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Yesterday we took advantage of the flat summer ocean conditions on the North and West sides of Kauai and scheduled a trip up the Napali Coast with Captain Chris and the Napali Riders.

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I remember for my 12th birthday, the only thing I wanted to do was get certified to go SCUBA Diving (12 is the minimum age you can be to get certified).

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Today we did one of my favorite activities in the state, a helicopter trip around Kauai. Kauai is one of the most amazing places to do a helicopter ride on the planet.

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Related Information

Helicopters are one of the most popular tours that we offer. Helicopter tours are available on all islands so if you want to see the Volcanos National Park, the waterfalls of and jungles Hana, Pearl Harbor, the famous surfing beaches of Oahu's North Shore of even the magestic Napali Coast of Kauai we can easily arrange a flight for you.

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