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Photos of a Papillon Helicopter Ride Over The Big Island of Hawaii, Including the Kilauea Volcano

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Aerial view of Puʻu ʻŌʻō volcanic cone of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, USA.

Aerial view of Puʻu ʻŌʻō volcanic cone of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, USA.

Papillon Helicopter Ride

Many years ago, my husband won a trip to Hawaii for the two of us as a company based reward. On this particular day, we elected to take our first ever helicopter ride as a special treat. We had this day (up until evening) to relax and enjoy any number of offerings. Some things from which to choose were the following: relaxing beach or poolside soaking up some sun, playing tennis or golf, or exploring the island by various means.

Some people chose to hop on commuter airplanes and check out other islands for the day. We decided to take a Papillon helicopter ride and see the Big Island from that perspective. The Papillon Hawaiian Helicopters were "jet-powered AStar"...supposedly the ultimate at that time in aviation technology. Here is what the brochure offered by way of trips:

  • "The Kohala Coast Adventure journeys to the inaccessible Waipi'o Valley with its untouched waterfalls and forests. Fly over ancient Hawaiian ruins and the panoramic Parker Ranch.
  • Pele's Spectacular visits Kilauea Volcano with its geysers of fire and flowing rivers and glowing lakes of lava.
  • The Volcano/Kohala Deluxe is a two-hour tour that combines the Kohala Coast Adventure and Pele's Spectacular for a comprehensive overview of the Big Island's wonders."

We chose to take the deluxe tour so that we could see it all. And we were in for a treat!

Kilauea Volcano

If memory serves me accurately, I believe the helicopter held 4 to 6 people plus the pilot. She had us take specific seats to best distribute the weight evenly in the aircraft.

We were each given headsets to block out some of the noise of the helicopter rooters and also be able to hear our pilot's description of things that we would be viewing while flying over specific areas.

The first part of our trip took us over the Kilauea Volcano. Our pilot told us that lava had been flowing from the Pu'u'o'o vent of the volcano for the last ten years plus four months (at that time). Kilauea covers 540 square miles. She also told us that walking on what appears to be solid lava can be a bit dicey as looks can be deceiving. I was able to take a photo of some red flowing lava that had broken through its tube going to the sea just the day before we took that flight.

Most of the molten lava flows to the sea unseen except when it hits the water. Billows of white steam appear as the 2,000-degree lava hits the seawater. The land is continually growing on that part of the island from the flow of lava.

I took all of my photos through the windows of the helicopter as we flew over these areas.

Amazing closeup video of lava from Kilauea hitting the Pacific Ocean

Hilo, Hawaii

Stopping in Hilo to refuel the helicopter was necessary before continuing with our journey. This side of the island is lush and green, and there is much farming.

Much macadamia nut tree farming occurs around Hilo. We found out from our pilot that sugar cane farming has pretty much come to an end as it cannot be produced competitively in the world market any longer.

Kahala Coastline

We were to fly over the rain forest, and once we got to the northern Kahala coastline, we were amazed at the stark contrast to the southern parts of the island impacted by the volcano and lava. This side of the island is more mountainous and has an abundance of cascading waterfalls.

One of the biggest thrills for both of us was when our helicopter pilot flew to the end of a valley, and she guided the helicopter down to the base of several hundreds of feet high waterfall and hovered there just above the fern treetops. It was so beautiful and an experience we would not soon forget.

Parker Ranch

We also flew over the Parker Ranch, which is the largest privately-owned ranch in the United States, with about 135,000 acres. We saw grazing and resting cattle that seemed endless in number. We found out that more exported beef comes from Hawaii than almost anything else. That was a revelation.

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My husband and I were happy that we had elected this activity for this day's activity. The helicopter ride was a little scary but exhilarating at the same time. And seeing the island from above gave us such a unique perspective.

After being returned to our lodging at the Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani, we relaxed and discussed what we would choose to do in the next couple of days. This day had turned out to be a memorable one!

We would follow it with an all-day tour of the Big Island. Combining our aerial view of the island with a land tour truly gave us a fantastic overview of what there is to do and see while visiting the largest island of Hawaii.

Would I recommend a helicopter ride over the Big Island? In a word, yes!

Arial view of the Parker Ranch with cattle below on Big Island of Hawaii

Arial view of the Parker Ranch with cattle below on Big Island of Hawaii

The helicopter is probably the most versatile instrument ever invented by man. It approaches closer than any other to fulfillment of mankind's ancient dreams of the flying horse and the magic carpet.

— Igor Sikorsky


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 15, 2013:

Hi Sheila,

That must have been some helicopter ride you endured! Ha! The one we took in Hawaii was thrilling to say the least and quite a great way to see the volcano and lava hitting the ocean sending up the steam that looked like clouds. Also loved seeing the waterfall that way. Thanks for your comment and votes.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on January 15, 2013:

What a wonderful trip you must have had. Your descriptions are wonderful and your photos are awesome! This is such a beautiful place! I did take a helicopter ride years ago. It was just three of us, and they thought it would be really funny to scare me. Well it was funny until I almost "upchucked" in the pilots lap! I'm sure I would enjoy a "professional" ride! Great hub, voted up and awesome! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 16, 2012:

Hello tobusiness,

That helicopter ride over the active volcano in Hawaii was spectacular to say the least. Seeing the effects of the lava hitting the ocean was also amazing. One truly gets a bird's eye perspective when flying over a place and being able to at the base of a compared to seeing the sites in other ways. So glad to hear that you enjoyed this hub.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on September 15, 2012:

Thank you for sharing your wonderful holiday, the images are incredible beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 04, 2011:

Hi Happyboomernurse,

Getting to fly over the active volcano was one thing but seeing new land being created by the lava hitting the ocean was a real thrill. Also the waterfalls! Flying from the top to the bottom of one and hovering was a fantastic experience. Glad that you liked this. Thanks for coming back and viewing more of our Hawaiian vacation. There's more! :))

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 03, 2011:

Stunning photos and the helicopter ride sounds thrilling. I also loved the photo of your breakfast "guests". Thanks so much for sharing this trip in a hub.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 18, 2010:

Hello Rose West,

I don't think that I would make a regular practice of riding in helicopters, but it was certainly a great way to see the volcano and other sites on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hovering at the bottom of a waterfall and looking back up is a memory that I will carry with me always. Thanks for the comment.

Rose West from Michigan on September 18, 2010:

I've always said I wouldn't fly on a helicopter, but maybe I would if I could see the volcano! I didn't realize they did that on the Big Island! The Kahala Coast and that gorgeous waterfall must have been incredible as well.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 10, 2010:

Greetings Hawaii Pictures,

I agree with you whole-heartedly. Hawaii is a great place for a vacation!

Hawaii Pictures on July 10, 2010:

Hawaii island great place for vacation with its beautiful exotic beaches and impressive volcanoe.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 30, 2009:

Greetings hinckles koma,

I don't know that I would make a regular habit of it either. But it surely was a great way to see the Island of Hawaii from this unique perspective of being flown in a helicopter. We then followed that up with a land tour on another day. Glad you liked the pictures. Thanks for commenting.

hinckles koma from nyc on September 29, 2009:

Wow!!! Wow, iam so afraid to go on a helicopter but now i see why people get over fear. Pictures are amazing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2009:

Thanks James for the lovely compliment. Yes, sugar cane is no longer the big industry that it used to be.

James A Watkins from Chicago on July 07, 2009:

I loved the tour! I haven't been on a helicopter. It sounds like it was great fun. I think corn syrup has hurt the sugar business. Nice pics and fine Hub. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 04, 2009:

Hi Ethel,

Not sure about the filming location for Jurassic Park, but that was a lush area also wherever it was filmed. My hubby is not the cowboy type...and this hat confirms it! LOL Thanks for your comment.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on July 04, 2009:

Lol at Hubby's hat. The photos from the helicopter are super Peggy. Is it near here where Jurassic Park was filmed?

I want to go to Hawaii, more than ever now

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2009:

Hi Kiran, Happy to be able to share these travel destinations with you. The world is such a marvelous place! I have enjoyed reading about your travels as well...........and your renditions of books you read. We certainly have similar tastes in what we choose to read! Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2009:

Hi Candie, It is a great place to visit as you know. Great that you have personal photos of the helicopter ride. It is really something to experience! Thanks for the comment.

kiran8 from Mangalore, India on July 02, 2009:

Peggy, I cant wait to visit these places that you write about, thank you so much for all these wonderful write ups, they are so informative and useful :) The pics are awesome esp of the waterfall taken from the helicopter ..

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on July 02, 2009:

I've been to the Big Island!! It's incredible and my dad took my (ex) hubby and my sisters (ex) hubby in this helicopter tour and got it all on film!! Great hub!!

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