Hilo, Hawaii: What You Need To Know About Helicopter Tours

A one-word summary about our helicopter excursion from Hilo: rain.

We booked our excursion well in advance: an open door helicopter tour with premium seats for the best possible view. We bought a great new camera to take pictures of volcanoes and waterfalls. We rented a car in Kona: a beautiful convertible Camaro for the hour and half drive to Hilo from the western side of the Big Island.

The weather was beautiful, and we were primed to have a great day. We arrived at the Hilo airport, put our bags in the tour company’s storage bins, and then did the safety training where I learned how to secure my special seatbelt since I was going to be hanging on the edge of the helicopter hundreds of feet in the air with no door to protect me. We made our way onto the air field where the first helicopter loaded passengers and took off. Then a few minutes later, that’s when our day started to trend downhill. The rain started to fall slowly, and the helicopter that was already in the air returned back to the safety of the ground. The rain kept getting heavier and eventually, our helicopter tour was cancelled. They did give us the opportunity to try to a tour scheduled a couple of hours later. We waited an hour, but the rain only got worse and the winds got up to 70 miles an hour, which led to all the rest of the tours being cancelled for the day. We were very disappointed with our bad luck, but happy that we didn’t get caught in the air with torrential rains and strong winds.

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So, we didn’t actually fly in the air in the helicopter, but we definitely learned a few important things that we wish someone had told us. Here are 3 tips that you need to know when booking a helicopter tour on the Big Island:

  • In Hilo, it rains almost every day. Chances are that your tour might be cancelled.
  • Helicopter tours on the western side near Kona don’t have rain problems. There are so many different climate zones on the Big Island, that they have all but two of world’s climates on the island. For the best chance at going on a tour, book one from the western side of the island.
  • Take an EARLY tour if you really want to take a tour from Hilo because you want to get on the special door-less helicopters, or get close to active volcanoes. The rain usually begins around noon and morning tours don’t get cancelled nearly as often.

I wish that someone had told us this before we rented the car and made the trip to Hilo. The drive back was also quite hazardous because of extreme rain and winds. We couldn’t even drive back the same route we came. So, keep these tips in mind and good luck on your flight!

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