Papillon Helicopter Ride over Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii with Pictures
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.
Helicopter ride over Kilauea
The Papillon Hawaiian Helicopters were "jet-powered AStar"...supposedly the ultimate at that time in aviation technology.
Here is what the brochure stated:
- 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!
If memory serves me accurately I believe the helicopter held 4 to 6 people plus the pilot. She had us take specific seats so as to best distribute the weight evenly in the helicopter.
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 10 years plus 4 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. At that time billows of white steam appear as the 2,000 degree lava starts being cooled by the sea water. Of course land is continually being added to that part of the island from the continuing flow of lava.
All of my photos were taken through the windows of the helicopter as we flew over these areas.
Amazing closeup video of lava from Kilauea hitting the Pacific Ocean
Stopping in Hilo to refuel the helicopter was necessary before continuing on with our journey. This side of the island is lush and green and there is much farming.
Much macadamia nut tree farming is done 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.
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 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 a 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.
Seeing Parker Ranch From The Air
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 beef is exported from Hawaii than almost anything else. That was a revelation.
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.
Hale Kai Ranch
That evening we were driven to the Hale Kai Ranch (Parker ranch area) to be treated to a Hawaiian cowboy barbecue dinner. We all met in the lobby at 6:15 PM and after being transported to the ranch we were each given a bandanna and straw cowboy hat to wear. My poor husband got a hat a tad bit on the small side but he was a good sport and wore it anyway. Ha ha!
Games such as playing horseshoes and trying to learn how to swirl a rope to ensnare an object such as the real cowboys would do in roping a cow were offered amidst drinks and appetizers.
Guitar playing folks strummed tunes while we ate dinner that night seated at red checkered tablecloths.
After being returned to our lodging at the Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani resort we relaxed and discussed what we would choose to do the next couple of days. This day had certainly 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 great 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? Yes!
Have you ever had a ride in a helicopter?
© 2009 Peggy Woods