The roads on Kauai do not make it all the way around the island. For the most part the highways are on the edges of the island near the ocean and there is very little infrastructure in the interior of the island. This leaves a 17 mile long stretch of coastline (known as the Napali Coast) on the north west side of the island inaccessible with a car. The only way to view this side of the island is to take a boat, hike a rigorous 11 mile trail, or take an air tour.
I checked in at the Safari Helicopters Office in the middle of Lihue Town. It had been raining in Lihue for most of the morning so I had a pretty good feeling that it would be a good day to see some waterfalls. As soon as the rest of the passengers showed up we watched a quick safety video, then boarded a van to go meet our helicopter.
As soon as we got to the helipad the Safari Helicopters aircraft came in for a landing and the passengers from the previous tour got off. The smiles that stretched across their faces were evidence of what we were about to experience. Each one of them had ear to ear smiles, and one of them even told me:
That was the best helicopter ride ever!
As they passed. Within a few minutes the attendant had us boarded onto the helicopter, seated, and properly strapped into our safety harnesses. As soon as we were all in and ready the captain eased back on the control stick and we were off.
We began our flight by passing through the valley that leads from Lihue towards Kalaheo. We skirted the ridge that stood between our position and the famous Kipu Kai Beach. As we passed over the land the pilot explained what we were passing over, he also told some stories to help illustrate the history of what we were seeing underneath us.
After we passed the Hanapepe Valley the Waimea Canyon came into view. This geologic feature is impressive to say the least. The colors, scale, depth and sheer size of this canyon make it one of the most impressive sights in all of the Hawaiian Islands. While this site is viewable from the road, you can only see one side of it. From the air, we could see the other side, as well as all the tributary canyons that lead into the Waimea Canyon.
After passing the Waimea Canyon we finally made it to what many consider the highlight of the tour, the Napali Coast. This stretch of coast is hidden from the view of most visitors and to be able to see it from the air was spectacular. We roamed up into most of the large valleys that line the coast before we continued north towards Hanalei Bay.
Once we got to Kee Beach the beaches of the north shore came into view. Between Kee and Hanalei Bay we passed over many beaches and Taro fields. Once we got to Hanalei Bay we made our way up the valley towards the center of the island where we journeyed to the keyhole of the island.
At the back of the most central valley of Kauai exists a place known as the keyhole this is because it was created from the neck of the largest volcano that existed on the island, that blew out on one side creating a massive natural amp theater with walls stretching thousands of feet into the sky. This area collects more rainfall each year then anywhere else on the planet which has given it the reputation of being the wettest spot on the planet. Seeing this area was the last highlight we saw before we made our way across the highlands of Lihue back towards the helipad. As we landed I looked around, and all of the other passengers had the same sized grins as I saw on the faces of the members of the previous group.