Air Activities

Exploring Maui & Molokai with Sunshine Helicopters

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We recently had the opportunity to take to the skies and explore Maui and Molokai with Sunshine Helicopters. Our day started at Sunshine’s office at the heliport, Kahului.

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Just like a doctor’s office, it’s always reassuring to see certificates and awards adorning the walls! Sunshine Helicopters have an impressive collection …

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After registration and weigh in (don’t lie when you book, the truth will come out!) it’s not long before we’re escorted to our helicopter. The rotor blades are safe and high, but yeah, we didn’t jump.

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The revs come up, the nose drops, and we’re off … After leaving the heliport we make our way out towards the West Maui Mountains, hugging the northern Maui coast above Kahului.

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We quickly leave the city behind and head further down the coast.

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The WhisperStar helicopters that Sunshine Helicopters use offer great visibility, especially from the 2 front seats. Large windows afford unobstructed views.

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After a few minutes we turn in to Waihe’e Valley.

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The Waihe’e Valley ridge trail is clearly seen from the helicopter as we buzz into the valley. This is a fun 3 1/2 mile hike, through varying terrain, with some great look out points.

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As we explore deeper into the valley we come across waterfalls further up the river. We caught Maui on a rainy day, which is actually no bad thing for helicopter flights. Quite often helicopters can buzz under the cloud cover, and rain means that otherwise quiet waterfalls and rivers are alive and thundering.

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At the head of the valley we’re treated to some stunning waterfall views, otherwise completely inaccessible to visitors.

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Passing through the valleys we explore more of the Maui coast, watching cars navigating the twisty roads below.

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On a big-surf day the waves crash into foam as they surge against the shore. The power of the ocean is clearly observed from above.

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In larger swells blow holes put on high-pressured shows, with water spurting high above the sea through these small cracks in the rock.

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We then began the crossing to Molokai. As we skim across the Pailolo Channel (one of the roughest stretches of water in all Hawaii) we begin our approach to Moku Ho’oniki Rock, which looks like a giant sea turtle relaxing in the ocean.

Moku Ho’oniki Rock is one of Hawaii’s premier diving locations, famed for attracting many Hammerhead Sharks.

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After buzzing around Moku Ho’oniki we make landfall on the coast of Molokai. We look down on a stunning private residence overlooking a secluded bay that is immediately appealing.

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We fly to Halawa bay on the northeast tip of Molokai, where today waves are surging in! On quieter days the bay looks straight out of a movie, where you might imagine a tall ship laying at anchor.

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Halawa Valley is thought to be the oldest inhabited part of all Hawaii. Hawaiians have lived in this valley for hundreds and hundreds of years. With a good water supply, and fertile grounds for growing taro, Halawa is a source of abundance.

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We continue on to the north shore of Molokai, and to our first big Molokai waterfall of the day. Papalaua Falls has water cascading down its 1,250 feet almost all year round. With the recent rain, the spectacle is even more impressive.

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We hug the coast line, in the shadow of Molokai’s giant sea cliffs that can stretch to over 3,000 feet hight – the tallest in the world.

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Looking back we can see more waterfalls. We were spoilt for choice on the day we went up …

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After gazing on waterfalls and cliffs for what felt like a timeless moment, we leave the north shore, crossing the island and looking down on the rugged terrain of Molokai.

The island of Molokai is home to many deer, and if you look closely you can spot them from the helicopter as they roam the remote, uninhabited stretches of land below.

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We then spend some time exploring the southern shores of Molokai.

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The impressive coral reef below us – the largest in the USA – stretches for 30 miles. Ancient fish ponds can be seen below in the emerald waters, much calmer than the north shore, being in the lee of the island.

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We cross the channel on our return flight, zooming over the upper west side of Maui, looking down on Kapalua.

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Just up from Kapalua is Honolua Bay. The Bay is a world-class surf spot with the right swell, and today we see surfers in the water, lining up to catch a ride in.

On quieter days Honolua Bay is a fabulous snorkelling destination. Accessible by land and by boat, the marine life here is rich and diverse.

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As we move back over Maui’s coast, the valleys and the ridges of the northern most part of the island flow beneath us.

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We visit Kahakuloa Bay, home to some amazing banana bread!

It’s said that Kahekili II would jump from a 200 foot high ridge (on the left of the photo) into the bay every morning … just for a taste of that banana bread 🙂

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The rugged beauty of Maui, battered by fierce waves from the north over many ways, never gets old. They more we look, the more we see.

In season, whales can be seen around the waters of Maui, with helicopters often able to spot them with greater ease thanks to their unique vantage points.

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As the cliffs subside they give way to suburban views, leading us back to Kahului.

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We pass the harbor, where you can spot cruise ships as well as the container vessels that supply the island with next to everything that we need.

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Kahului is the industrial heart of the island, and home to many businesses (including ours!), a couple of malls, and some fun places to eat out.

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In the background, behind the city, the entrance to Iao Valley can be seen. If you’re visiting this side of the island to take a helicopter tour, it’s worth the drive up to Iao Valley.

The walks and the views in Iao Valley are very special, and exploring the valley on foot after skimming over so many in a helicopter is a nice way to round off your morning.

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Touch down. The Sunshine Helicopters pilots truly do an amazing job, telling us about this and that throughout the ride. They love what they do, and it shows!

We grab our in-flight video (optional, but recommended!), share our thanks with the crew, and leave grinning from ear to ear.

We were stoked with our Sunshine Helicopters trip. From start to finish it was a grand adventure. Sunshine Helicopters offer several flights, each one with their own appeal. They come highly recommended!

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5 thoughts on “Exploring Maui & Molokai with Sunshine Helicopters

  1. Kerry Mitchell says:

    I have always wanted to do this when I’m in Maui. But I wonder, is there a seat in the middle where you don’t get a window seat? I would not want to pay what it costs and not be able to take photos.

    1. Jonathan says:

      Hey Kerry – good question. Yes, there is a middle seat (in the front). You can actually see it in the last photo, next to the pilot. In reality this seat has the best front-facing view.

      In addition, the helicopter is constantly moving, offering good views from all angles. And it’s entirely possible to take photos out of the sides too, without leaning too much over your fellow passenger!

  2. Kerry Mitchell says:

    I forgot!!!!! Fabulous photos.

    1. Jonathan says:

      Thanks!

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