Jack Harter Helicopter Tour
I’m going to say this plainly just so it’s out of the way; it was the absolute highlight of our trip for me. Patty couldn’t accompany me because of her tendency toward motion sickness. For me, nothing I did before or after that 60-minute flight could come close in terms of excitement. I don’t know how many times I could only stare and go “WOW”. I missed a ton of pictures during this because I was simply too overwhelmed by what I was seeing to operate the camera.
The flight didn’t happen easily. I was originally scheduled for a 90-minute flight, but when I called Jack Harter on Monday afternoon after we checked into our hotel, I was told that they were two people short and had serious doubts as to whether the flight would happen. They told me that they had one seat left on a 60-minute flight and guaranteed me a window seat, so obviously I jumped at the chance.
On Tuesday, the weather was very poor; a quick look up into the mountains made it clear how obscured the visibility was going to be. After checking in at the office, we got as far as the heliport before the pilot told us that we’d be wasting our time and money to fly. Despite our gratitude to him for telling it straight, we were a bit disappointed. So I rebooked for Wednesday morning. On Wednesday, conditions were
How can I easily describe what I saw on this flight? I can’t. The pictures are an attempt but fall woefully short. It’s one of those things which you just have to experience in real life to understand how incredible Kaua`i is from the air. The Waimea Canyon had waterfalls running all over the place. The wet weather had created literally hundreds of waterfalls measuring up to in excess of 1,000 feet. The razor-sharp cliffs at Na Pali were spectacular. It just went on and on.
I’ve done a helicopter tour of Maui, which was nice but didn’t come close to what I experienced during that hour. Also, Jack Harter is a class operation and fly A-Stars complete with two-way radios so you can talk to and hear the pilot while in flight. I recommend them without hesitation to anybody considering a helicopter tour while in Kaua`i. And, if you aren’t considering one, you’re missing out big-time. Rating: 10
Again, the above pictures simply couldn’t do the experience justice. Shooting through the window with reflections from light objects inside the helicopter took a toll on the quality. With better camera equipment, the results would been better.
The Waimea Canyon is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, and it’s clear (to me, at least) why this is. The views on the Waimea Canyon Road were amazing in some spots, but the best were saved for the Waimea Canyon Lookout. Nearly similarly excellent views can be had at the Pu`u Hinahina Lookout. We also checked out the Ni`ihau Viewpoint, but clouds obscured the view of that island on this particular day. If you continue up the road, the Kalalau Lookout is found at the 18 mile marker. Here you can see the Kalalau Valley on the North Shore, where the Kalalau trail ends on the Na Pali coast. A “Road closed” sign prevented us from driving to the very end of the road and the Pu`u o Kila Lookout which supposedly has even better views of Kalalau.
If you rent a car on Kaua`i (and who doesn’t?), this trip is a must and takes less than a full day. Rating: 9
Other Kaua`i Stuff
For peace and serenity, Maui and certainly O`ahu can’t come close to matching Kaua`i. However, our staying on the windward side and its associated weather “problems” affected our overall impression of this island. Would better weather have led to a better impression? Certainly it would. Would we return to Kaua`i? Certainly we would.
In terms of traffic, for some reason, it was worse in Kaua`i than on Maui. No idea why that is, considering there are less tourists and locals on Kaua`i. It was a pain to deal with at times. “Contra lanes” helped between Kapa`a and Lihue. Contra lanes are where they turn what are normally two northbound/onesouth bound lanes into one northbound/two southbound lanes during peak morning drive times, by the use of cones placed on the highway. An interesting concept which I’ve never seen used before (other than the use of “zipper lanes” on the H-1 in Honolulu).
What didn’t we get the chance to do in Kaua`i? Hiking. We wanted to hike at least the first couple miles of the Kalalau Trail, but the rains (and our lack of appropriate footwear) prevented this from happening. A second suitcase for boots (not to mention fins and snorkles) is a good idea for our next trip to Hawai`i.