Hawaii: The Big Island – December 29, 2021

Steve and I took our first ever helicopter trip over Kauai in 2013. In 2016, we brought the boys along as we overflew Maui. Today we took the boys along again for a scenic flight over a fair portion of the Big Island. We started at the Kona Airport and then flew over the coffee-planted slopes of the Hualalai volcano, then between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa towards Kilauea to the crater, where we were able to glimpse some of the recently restarted lava flow. We then continued towards the windward side of the island and viewied the ocean and the steep valleys on the northwest side of the island. Then we headed back over the expansive cattle ranches towards the western side of the island with its lava beaches and resort-dotted coastline. Today’s trip included our first ever mid-flight landing on the top of a deep valley. If flying and motion sickness aren’t an issue for you and you ever have the opportunity to fly via helicopter, you should, especially if you find yourself in Hawaii. There are many parts of these islands that are only visible via helicopter, and you miss so much of the islands if you don’t fly over them. They are a spectacle from the air. A Hawaiian helicopter flight is a great item to tack onto your bucket list. It’s spendy, but worth saving for. If you come all the way out into the Pacific, don’t leave anything on the table.

Here is my photo dump from our helicopter trip, courtesy of my trusty old iPhone 11 Pro. Not the best photos, but you get the idea.

Hubby got the copilot seat since he has the best camera equipment
View of Mauna Kea (13,803′ in elevation) with her snow

In 2018, there was a huge change to Kilauea. A new eruption of the volcano changed the island. The summit area of the park was altered by tens of thousands of earthquakes, one of which dropped a portion of the ring road, which you can see in this photo. The caldera collapsed and the crater grew from 280 feet deep to about 1,600 feet deep and the diameter more than doubled. Kilauea remains one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Our pilot told us that if the lava stops moving for 5 seconds, it hardens into rock. Kind of fascinating to realize the cooling can can happen that quickly.

Closer view of Mauna Kea
Joe and Luke eyeing the view off towards Hilo on the island’s rainier, greener windward side

It was an overcast day, so I can’t even imagine how the contrasts in the greens and blues might have appeared with more sunshine.

The windows on the Bell 407 helicopter offer amazing floor to ceiling views
Helicopter landing atop cliff with an imperceptible touchdown

Photo Op 1
At the edge of this grass is a drop off, so we stayed well back because we wanted to finish our vacation
Paradise Helicopters built a nice, safe platform for viewing the coast below, though
Happy cattle on the slopes around an old cinder cone

Mauna Kea Resort and Mauna Kea (Kauna’oa) Beach

We spent the rest of our day relaxing at home before having some family portraits taken and enjoying some wonderful Thai Beef at home for dinner. So sad there are only four days left for us to enjoy this warm, peaceful life. We haven’t even left and I am already anxious to return.


  1. Thinking of you after reading today about the heartbreaking fires in Colorado. Wishing you and your family and friends in Colorado are not impacted. Looks like your Hawaii trip goes well.

    1. Thank you so much for thinking of us. The fires are truly horrific. People have lost homes and pets, and we have been reading all about it. So far, everyone we know is safe and unaffected, but it is so frightening. Our home, southwest not northwest of Denver, also lies in an area surrounded by dry brush. It certainly could be happening to us, but I am grateful it is not.

      1. You’re welcome and I’m happy that you’re safe and don’t reside in the Front Range area. I have reached out to friends there but no reply, which is not surprising, but I’m concerned about them and their ranch and horses. Take care and enjoy your well-deserved Hawaiian interlude.

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