Posts Tagged ‘Big Island’

Exploring Hawaii: Big Island Helicopter Tour of Volcanoes and Waterfalls



View from the office of a Big Island Helicopter Pilot

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I highly recommend taking a helicopter tour. To truly appreciate the Big Island’s active volcanic landscape, you have to see it from above.

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Zan taking in the view

I booked a doors off waterfalls and volcanoes tour of the Big Island with Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours and it was the highlight of my trip to the Big Island. Based at the Commuter Air Terminal of Hilo International Airport, I could not have gotten more value for money than I did for this scenic flight ($378 for two people for a tour of approximately 35-40 minutes).


Aerial view of a macadamia nut farm on the Big Island of Hawaii

After spending a few days exploring the Big Island of Hawaii and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the helicopter tour helped me better get the lay of the land. It also brought into sharp focus what is so unique about the Big Island– it’s home to Kilaeua, an active volcano.


Aerial view of Hilo Bay, Hawaii


Hilo from above

Once you take off from the Hilo airport, you fly over macadamia nut farms,the Boiling Pots of Peepee Falls and Rainbow Falls and head toward the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. The tour was a great time to geek out over geography and mother nature.

Helicopter Ride over lava flow of  Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii

While conditions change daily, this summer has been an incredible time to see the volcano. The lava flow just reached the ocean for the first time in three years.


Sulfer smells and hot air filled the helicopter as we flew over Kilauea’s steam vents and active lava flow

Overall, the helicopter tour was  smooth. It gets a bit bumpy when you are directly over the lava flow and steam vents, where hot air and cross currents add to the atmosphere.


 Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world

Our pilot, Luka Dayton-Smith, stayed cool and let us know what to expect before the helicopter changed directions or hit a turbulent patch. I felt safe and secure during the entire flight.


Window seat view as you fly over Kilauea

Helicopters are such a fun way to experience the landscape. With the doors off, there is very little between you and nature. If you are looking for things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, take a helicopter tour!


A tree burns as the lava flow overtakes it

Seeing trees fall as an active lava flow sets them on fire is mind blowing. It puts things in perspective and give you great respect for mother nature and the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. By the end of the tour I understood the difference between the two kinds of lava flows in Hawaii, the pahoehoe and a’a.


Approaching Kilauea in a helicopter

Our pilot even let us pick what to listen to during our flight. We went with adrenaline-pumped Foo Fighters. It paired nicely! We got to fly over the gardens of downtown Hilo as well, but honestly, after flying over an active volcano and seeing mother earth do her thing, you’re a bit dazzled. The experience is truly awesome and inspiring. A few tips: If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up. It’s windy up in the helicopter, especially if you go with the doors off option. If you’re serious about photography, doors off is the way to go and you won’t be spending your days trying to eliminate window glare when editing your photos.


Shaka symbols + helicopter = win 

If you’ve never taking a helicopter tour, let the Big Island be your first. It’s unforgettable. Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopters made the experience pleasant and easy.


After an awesome flight with helicopter pilot Luka Dayton-Smith (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

 Be sure to book ahead.

Hawaii Volcanoes Helicopter Tours
1347 Kekuanaoa St.
Hilo, Hawaii
Phone : (808) 557-0084
Email :

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Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: Sunsets at the Fairmont Orchid


Kohala Coast Sunset on the Big Island of Hawaii

Gorgeous tropical sunsets are the stuff Hawaiian post cards are made of. The Kona and Kohala Coast of the Big Island offer some spectacular spots to watch the sun dip below the horizon and enjoy the last rays of the day. The lagoon at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel  was my favorite sunset spot on my recent trip to the Aloha State.

Big Island Sunset Time-Lapse

I shot the sunset time lapse above using the Time-Lapse function on my iPhone 6s on the lagoon beach at the Fairmont Orchid, which is a popular gathering spot around sunset.


Last light off the Kohala Coast of the Big Island

After sunset, the Fairmont Orchid hotel offers stargazing opportunities for guests a few nights a week, with giant telescopes set up right on the property and an on-site astronomer.


Big Island sunset at the Fairmont Orchid


Sunset at the Coconut Grove 

The Fairmont Orchid’s Coconut Grove is a popular choice for destination weddings on the Big Island. The scenery is pretty spectacular.

Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

1 North Kaniku Drive
Kohala Coast, Hawaii  96743
TEL + 1 808 885 2000
FAX + 808 885 5778




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Exploring the Big Island of Hawaii: a Photo Essay Using the Boomerang App


Shaka symbol shadow puppets on the Big Island

I just got back from  a girls trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I decided to document our trip using the Boomerang App from Instagram on my iPhone 6s (Boomerang is also available for Android users). The Boomerang app creates short videos from bursts of still photos. Below are some of my favorite Boomerangs from the trip to the Aloha state.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 21, 2016 at 5:56pm PDT

Sunset Zen on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii excels at sunsets. I took this Boomerang on the beach at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel on the Kohala Coast.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:54pm PDT


Hang Loose Shadow Puppets

The Hulihee Palace in Kona was once a vacation home used by the Hawaiian royal family. Built in 1838, it is now a cool Victorian era museum with a great collection of Hawaiian artifacts and pictures. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the palace, so I made this boomerang of the “hang loose” shaka symbol. The shaka symbol is used as greeting in Hawaiian culture.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 22, 2016 at 5:42am PDT

Rush Hour on the Kona-Kohala Coast

The waters off the beach at the Fairmont Orchid are perfect for swimming, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s a great snorkeling spot as well. The local fish and giant turtles (known as honu) happily share this portion of paradise.


A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 20, 2016 at 6:27am PDT

Hula Dancing on Hilo Bay

My friend, Zan Aufderheide, learned a few hula dancing basics during a tour of the Big Island. Here she is showing her mad hula skills on Hilo Bay.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:08pm PDT

Yummy Tuna Crudo

The Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at the Four Seasons Hualalai is one of best spots on the Kailua-Kona Coast to take in the sunset and enjoy a meal with a view. The tuna crudo (ahi sashimi) with spicy aioli was both satisfying and light and paired perfectly with the tropical cocktails. I recommend trying The Green Flash made with Patrol Silver Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, cream of coconut, Genovese basil, and fresh jalapeno.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:24pm PDT


Yellow Flags at the Fairmont Orchid

I stayed at the Fairmont Orchid. The hotel has a lovely beach and bay which is a great place to snorkel with the giant turtles, known locally as Honu. These yellow flags amongst the palm trees gave a real sense of being on vacation.

A video posted by Jen Pollack Bianco (@lax2nrt) on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:02pm PDT


Handsome Furry Local

Much of the Big Island of Hawaii used for ranching, complete with cattle and cowboys. I met this furry local, a dog known for guarding cattle up in Waimea. If you’re in the area, try one of the locally sourced burgers at Village Burger. Located in an laid back strip mall, locals and visitors flock to Village Burger for their cooked to order Hawaii Big Island Beef Burger. I wasn’t even hungry and I could not resist the delicious smell wafting in the Hawaiian breeze.

For best results, Boomerangs are best viewed using the Instagram app. If you’re not yet following my Instagram, here’s a link.

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