The Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Done: My Helicopter Ride in Hawaii

Riley standing in front of waves crashing onto lava fields in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Standing in front of waves crashing onto lava fields in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

In October 2017, I finally visited Hawaii. This wasn’t necessarily a top destination for me, but it was the only U.S. state I had never been to, and I was dying to cross it off the list. Hawaii exceeded my expectations with its beauty and unique experiences, and I was very pleased. One of those experiences is now what I consider to be the coolest thing I’ve ever done: a helicopter ride in Hawaii.

My Helicopter Ride on Hawaii’s Big Island

This was my first time on a helicopter. If you’ve read my post about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you know I get queasy very easily. This includes air travel, so I was pretty nervous about being in a helicopter. Would it shake the entire time? Would I have a panic attack and feel like we were going to fall from the sky? Or, worst of all, would I get sick in front of the other passengers in this confined space?

My travel buddy and I debated the ride for a long time. We wanted to see active lava but weren’t sure what the best way of going about it would be. Hiking was an option, but we hadn’t really prepared for an 8-mile trek. Plus, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see lava once you get to the end. Hawaii is also hot, even in October, and there’s no shade on a lava field, causing risks for sunburns and dehydration. We looked into boat tours, but the seas were too rough that day and no boats would leave the port. The helicopter trip wasn’t exactly within the budget we had hoped to stick to, but we decided we couldn’t pass up on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were in Hawaii, after all! Go big or go home. I have absolutely no regrets and recommend a helicopter ride in Hawaii, especially for anyone visiting the Big Island.

Viewing Lava from the Air

Lava boiling deep inside the crater of the Lava boils inside of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on Kilauea
Lava boils inside of the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on Kilauea

After boarding, my fears washed away. I was so calm once we were among the clouds and I was treated to the exceptional views. Our pilot had clearly been flying for a long time, skillfully maneuvering in rainy and windy conditions. Thankfully the weather quickly lightened up.

We flew over the town of Hilo and over to Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano at the time of this post. Our pilot gave us some history into the town and how Kilauea has changed the island and its largest city. Next, we flew over the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent to see the bright orange lava boiling on the inside and over some active lava flows further down the mountain as well.

Lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean
Lava flowing into the Pacific Ocean

Then we flew over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where some of Kilauea’s lava is currently flowing into the Pacific Ocean. It was incredible to fly over the island and think that I was watching it grow as we soared. The video above highlights this part of my journey.

My Advice: Go on a Helicopter Ride in Hawaii ASAP!

A photo of Riley inside a helicopter as it flies over black lava fields
Flying over a lava field during my first helicopter ride



















Despite all of my nerves and budget concerns, this is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t hike in or take a boat so I can’t say that this is the best way to see lava. However, I am confident that the other two options don’t provide a view as amazing as what I saw from the air. The pilot hovered over the lava for as long as we could. He also flew over multiple times from various angles so that everyone on the tour had a good view, no matter where they were seated. I was beaming when we landed back in Hilo, thrilled that I conquered my fear and had such an incredible time. If you’re thinking about going on a helicopter ride in Hawaii, think no more – go for it! You won’t regret it.



  1. love this post on your helicopter ride on the big island! Must’ve been amazing to see lava up that close. Was it pretty expensive? Any other recommendations for the national parks in Hawaii?

    1. I actually have an entire article about my trip to the big island scheduled to publish today. Check back in an hour or so!

      As for the helicopter ride, it was around $200 which I think is a steal for everything you get to see!