Flying above Volcanoes National Park

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Let me start by saying one thing—Kilauea Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and it’s definitely a must-see & must-do for anyone visiting Hawaii (and if you aren’t visiting Hawaii, you really should).

I think everyone should take the time to explore the Volcanoes National Park as much as they can, since the park has a lot to offer.

Since I’ve hiked hiked the most popular sights before, this time I decided to get a bird’s eye view of Kilauea.

 

My helicopter flight was with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, a company that operates helicopter tours on every major Hawaiian island.

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One of Blue Hawaiian’s helicopters at Hilo Airport

The tour I was doing—called the “Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls” flight—was around an hour, and departed from Hilo to circle around the volcano and the tropical forests of Hilo before returning.

After the check-in we watched a video about safety and what to expect on the tour. Due to the weather conditions my original flight was cancelled, however I was able to reschedule to a later time. It was worth the wait!

After lifting off from Hilo, we headed straight for the volcano, seeing the volcanic smoke and steam rising into the air ahead of us long before we reached the crater.

 

Just flying there, viewing the volcanic landscape from the air was a treat, since I was able to see the “currents” and flow patterns of the lava as it crept downhill and slowly hardened into rock.

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A small patch of life surrounded by a lava wasteland

It’s definitely much easier to appreciate the beauty of lava when you aren’t struggling to keep your footing!

My helicopter pilot was excellent and very experienced. He not only made us feel safe, but also shared a lot of interesting facts about Hawaiian geology and history.

As we flew over the most recent lava flows, it was crazy to see how close the lava got to some houses just a couple of years ago.

 

The two biggest highlights of the flight, for me, were looking inside the crater and watching lava meet the ocean.

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Kilauea Crater from the sky. The volcanic gases are toxic if you get too close.

Flying allowed me to get much closer to the caldera of Pu’u ‘O’o than I could on the ground tour, and even let me peek inside to see the famous “smiley face” in the lava lake.

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She’s smiling at me!

This is a one-of-a-kind view that can only be seen via helicopter!

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More of the lava lake in Pu’u ‘O’o

 

We also flew by the southern coast to see where the lava flows reached the ocean.

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Steam rising from where lava meets the ocean.

At a distance, all I could see was a pillar of steam, but as we got closer I could see the faint glow of lava spilling.

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This is a much different perspective than from the ground

Just as I witnessed on my hike yesterday, the creation of new land is a violent spectacle and I’m glad I was able to get an aerial view of it happening.

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There are hikers in this picture, but they’re too small to make out. It really gives you a sense of how large the pillar of steam is.

 

Heading back to Hilo, we flew over dozens of waterfalls.

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Just two or three miles east of Kilauea is a lush rainforest

Compared to the rough volcanic wasteland we had just flew over, the lush forests of Hilo was a drastic change of scenery.

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Hilo has a lot of waterfalls and pools like this one.

Flying over, we could even spot a few people taking a dip in the fresh water.

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Can you spot the people in this picture?

 

We soon got back to Hilo, arriving with a new perspective on the volcano.

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Returning to Hilo

Even if you’re just visiting the island for a day, make sure to include a helicopter flight on your wish list—it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience!

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