I’ve been dreaming of going to Kauai for over 3 years and it finally happened!
This was the best and worst trip I’ve ever taken. The best because it was everything I want it to be and I got to take my first helicopter ride with the doors off… and the worst because I got sick 3 days into the trip with a bad sinus infection. It got progressively worse so my sightseeing was a bit limited.
Of all the trips to get sick on it just had to be this one, I was ready to enjoy the clean beach with some drinks and take a real vacation. But of course that can’t happen.
Out of the multiple islands of Hawaii I’d have to recommend this one over the others if you’re going for the landscape and private helicopter ride. The Na Pali Coast is everything you’d imagine and then some, 100% did not disappoint. There’s heli rides on all the islands but this one takes the cake as it’s the “garden island”.
One really cool thing about this island is all the chickens and roosters just freely roaming around everywhere. There was a ton of them!
Waimea Canyon and all the stops and outlooks are an absolute must if you visit. It’s split up into multiple state parks so be sure to look into that before going. It’s similar looking to the Grand Canyon but all green and covered in grass with random waterfalls. It was a little interesting because one side of the canyon is great for sunrise (Waipo’o Falls) and the other is better for sunset (Pu’u O Kila Lookout).
On the way to the canyon (literally on the side of the road) is this super cool tree tunnel you can drive through, only takes 5 minutes I’d highly recommend it. It’s usually pretty busy so I’d go early morning or towards dusk to photograph it. If you go a bit further down there’s a small town that’s worth checking out, mainly for food (Koloa).
Drones are always a grey area everywhere you travel now between dealing with laws, annoying your fellow tourists, no fly zones, etc. I actually didn’t get to use my drone much because there weren’t many opportunities for it besides one waterfall and some beach stuff. If you have a DJI Phantom 4 (or bigger) it’s probably not going to see much use aside from some beaches. Most of Waimea Canyon is a no fly zone because of government facilities near by. If you have a smaller drone like the DJI Mavic Pro or Air then I’d say its worth bringing along but not worth dragging the Phantom along.
This is the part I didn’t know about until I got here. Unlike the other islands this place is cloudy all the time and rarely ever gets any sun. I got extremely lucky with my heli tour because they let me reschedule my flight because of the weather, we flew on the only sunny day of the whole trip. It might of just been the time of year I went (early march) but it was humid, cloudy and light rain most of the time. Also expect to get eaten alive by mosquito’s. The weather is always different on each side of the island, it could be a rain storm on one side while sunny on the other. The weather can also change instantly from a nice sunny day to a rain storm.
The Queens Bath
This attraction deserved it’s own section. If you know what the Queens Bath is then you’ve probably seen it on social media and want to go there. I’d say its worth the visit if you have extra time but not worth it if you’re strapped on time and are going just for some Instagram pics. It’s located right below a residential neighborhood with a small parking lot designated just for that, which is always packed. The path to get there is not fun to get through. I’d highly recommend wearing shoes and not flip flops (like I did). 80% of the trail is clay like mud and tree roots followed by wet rocks down hill then finally a short walk on lava rocks. The view is pretty epic during sunset and of course the Queens Bath is great but always expect people to be there. I do have to say though, the waters are rough and could easily drag you out to sea or potentially drown you. So swim at your own risk and don’t stand close to ledges, the swell can pick up at any moment. I didn’t even get to shoot it because it was packed with people so I walked a bit further and shot something else.
Private Helicopter Photo Tour
This was definitely the highlight of the trip and the main reason I went there. If you go to Kauai or any other island this is an absolute must, even if you’re not a photographer. This was both my first time flying in a helicopter and with the doors off. It was nothing like I expected, it was super easy, not scary at all and at no point was I ever nervous, it was just the coolest experience I’ve ever had in my life. On the tour they took me around the whole island and to a lot of remote spots you can’t access at all. The Na Poli Coast by helicopter was the most impressive and simply beautiful in all its glory with that deep sapphire blue water.
*For my photographer readers* – I had a hard time deciding on lens choice because I didn’t know what to expect. I was between the Canon 11-24 and 24-70, ultimately I went with the 11-24 and I regret that. It’s a hard call because a lot of the shots you need the ultra wide but then there’s also close up detail shots to get and the 24-70 would of been much better. In most helicopter situations in the future I’d probably prefer the 24-70, unless you’re shooting some city stuff then the 11-24 is better. Also, at 11mm you can see the rotors in a lot of the shots so most of the time I was around 14-16mm. For camera settings I was at 1/1000th shutter, ISO 400 and between F/5.6 – F/7.1 depending on the lighting. Continuous drive mode with servo focus helps a ton as well.
Another thing I’d highly recommend is using a polarizer filter when flying over water because the sun will reflect on it and ruin your shots over that beautiful blue water.
There’s a bunch of companies you can pick from for a heli tour especially if you don’t want a photo tour. I went with Mauna Loa tours, easy to work with and very professional, I can’t recomend them enough.
Check them out here – Mauna Loa
Thanks for reading! I’ll be in Japan for 2 weeks in April for Sakura season (cherry blossoms) which I’m extremely excited for! Keep a look out on my blog for that.
Most photos from this post are available to print on my website.
If you have any questions or comments leave one below.
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Phantom 4 Pro+
- Canon 11-24mm F4L
- Canon 24-70mm F/2.8L II
- Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L IS II
- Lowepro Pro Runner BP 450AW
- Formatt Hitech 100mm Aluminum Filter Holder
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm 3 Stop ND
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm 6 Stop ND
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm 10 Stop ND
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm 3 Stop Graduated ND
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm 5 Stop Graduated ND
- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 105mm Circular Polarizer
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