Hawaii, and especially the main island Oahu, is one of my favourite places to visit in the world. Granted, I haven’t yet been to Kauai, the Garden Isle, or to Big Island, which are a lot more quaint than Oahu. That could be great, but I once spent a few weeks on Maui and as beautiful as the Valley Isle is, as a city girl I did get a bit bored after a while. Not on Oahu, which offers a unique mix of nature, beaches and city life.
To get the full overview of Oahu, what could be better than a helicopter tour around the entire island? We spent a few hours in the sky with Paradise Helicopters, who gave us the grand tour, called The Circle Island Experience. And as a total experience, I rank it right up there with the helicopter tour I took over the Grand Canyon, because that is how impressive this flight was.
We took a tour with four other people, plus obviously the pilot, and there would have actually been room on board for a few other passengers. I really appreciated having enough space and the clear, unobstructed views through the large windows. We flew counter clockwise around Oahu, starting near Pearl Harbor, over Waikiki, Diamond Head and snorkel paradise Hanauma Bay, then up the beautiful windward side to the North Shore, finally returning along the west, dry coast.
It was truly amazing to see the difference in nature and vegetation on such a small island: from extremely lush, green, like a rain forest, to almost desert like on the west side. There is no way that I could have seen most of these places any other way, than by helicopter. My favourite moments were seeing Waimanolo Beach, Kailua Bay, the Kaneohe Bay Sandbar and towering waterfalls on the windward side of the island. The most impressive moment, however, was flying over the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, where almost 1200 crewmen died during the attack and realising all those people are still buried there.
Our pilot, Eric ‘Jimmy’ Olsen, spent more than two decades as a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, so we were in very safe hands. Eric really took his time to show us the best spots, often flying over a special spot twice so the passengers on both sides of the helicopter could get a great view. His joy of flying and his pride to show his island to us, were evident at all times and I really enjoyed his information and back stories about everything we were seeing.
If you visit Oahu, I highly recommend taking this tour, because this is the kind of experience you will remember the rest of your life. And isn’t that why you go to Hawaii in the first place, to make memories that last a lifetime? 🙂
In collaboration with:
Paradise Helicopters, The Circle Island Experience