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Maui Helicopter Rides: From West Maui to the Island of Molokai

One of the most popular helicopter rides on Maui combines the rugged mountains of its west end with a hop over an ocean channel to Molokai. This trip features so many incredible landscapes and sights that it's like watching a highlight reel for the Hawaiian Islands.

Departures run daily from the Kahului heliport in North Maui. Before boarding, make sure you've got your binoculars and fully charged digital camera and camcorder with you. Once you complete vertical lift-off, the helicopter shifts into high gear and makes a beeline over the island's main urban area to the foothills of the western mountain range.

Geologists classify Maui as a "volcanic doublet." This is where two ancient volcano mountains connect to form an isthmus between them. Mauna Kahalawai, the older volcano, has eroded and evolved into what today is called the West Maui Mountains (top elevation is 5,788 feet). The younger one is the East Maui Volcano, or more popularly know as the Haleakala Crater, the jewel of the Haleakala National Park.


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Entering the airspace above the West Mountains, you immediately find yourself in a "Lost World" of precipitous gorges, razor-edged ridges, and mist-blanketed peaks. Waterfalls randomly freefall down the sides of emerald-green valley walls. As your aircraft forges on in a northwesterly direction, the scenery unfolds into a tapestry of sugarcane fields, five-star resorts, and beaches.

The air tour now heads out over the deep-blue waters of the Pailolo Channel, a 7.5-mile wide piece of Pacific Ocean that separates Maui from Molokai. If you are here from January to March, there's a good chance you will see humpback whales. Nearly two-thirds of the 4,000 North American humpbacks winter in Hawaiian waters, including this very channel!

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Next up: Molokai, which, like Maui, originated from two extinct volcanoes. Untamed mountains and valleys define the north section of the 260-square-mile island. It's here where the largest sea cliffs in the world rise 3,300 feet above the ocean. Hawaii's tallest waterfall, Kahiwa Falls, is here, too, and cascades 1,750 feet to the ground. The return to the Maui takes you over the starkly wonderful Kalaupapa peninsula.

The West-Maui-to-Molokai helicopter tour is best done in the early morning. Visibility is better. And, in the event weather is inclement, you can reschedule for later. For sunset flights, take the one at 3 p.m. or later. I strongly recommend that you reserve this flight in advance and that you book it on the Internet. Doing this will save you time and money. For comfort and ride, consider upgrading to the EcoStar 130. These aircraft have over-sized cabins, wraparound glass windshields, and theater-style seating.

On Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island, activities abound. But the one that packs the most punch is an Hawaiian helicopter tour of this beautiful island. Especially the one that includes Molokai. From imposing mountains and volcanic craters to giant waterfalls and humpback whales, it just seems to me that nothing quite comes close to delivering big-time Maui adventure like a helicopter does.

Written by Mandy Metzger

Maui resident Mandy Metzger invites one and all to see her island by air. For low-cost flights, she recommends these Top 3 brokers of Hawaii Helicopter tours: 

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