There were only two things on my “must do” list on my first trip to Hawaii, other than the gorgeous shoots I was there for of course. The first was snorkeling, which involved me getting over my fear of fish (accomplished that on my last day on the island by snorkeling with sea turtles). The other was a doors-off helicopter tour.

A sea turtle comes up for air before diving back down further below the surface.

I had been on a helicopter only once before, in Alaska for a glacier adventure. That was amazing, but I was excited to have a doors-off tour so I could take even clearer photos. 

And let me tell you, O’ahu did not disappoint.

I got to ride up front next to the pilot, so I could see all the controls.

We started at the Honolulu International Airport, where I met the couple I would be flying with (they were from North Dakota and it was their first time in Hawaii and in a helicopter) and watched the mandatory safety videos. It was also there that I fought for the ability to bring both of my cameras on board so I wouldn’t have to switch between lenses. After that victory, we boarded the helicopter and took flight. 

Our path first took us over Honolulu, the most populated part of Hawaii. From there, the sights were endless. 

Diamond Head Crater juts out of the ground where the land meets the sea.

Surfers enjoy the sun on the east side of the island.

A parasailor glides over the teal sea.

It was crazy to see how quickly weather changes on the island. The west side (where I came from before the tour) was a sun-baked dream, but the Ko’olau Mountain Range condensed the moisture in the air into fog that traveled to soak the North Shore in rain. 

Mist creeps into the populated mountains.

The Rainbow Helicopter that took us on our flight.

This view offers a new perspective of the island, and how the mountains and volcanoes, coral reefs and sea  currents, rivers and valleys that have been shaped over millions of years all work together to create this land. It’s truly a beautiful way to see this part of the world, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an appreciation for the planet we call home.