The search for next-level travel experiences is a lifelong journey. Whether you’re trying to find the most remote resort or purifying spa, an elevated holiday is always top-of-mind. Consider raising the stakes by adding a helicopter tour to your travel wishlist. A helicopter can take you to the doorsteps of the inaccessible in a matter of minutes—or transform an already exceptional experience into something unforgettable. For some aviation inspiration, here are eight helicopter tours you absolutely can’t miss.
Heli-paintballing in South Africa
The Leobo Private Reserve—a 20-acre, exclusive-use property three hours north of Johannesburg—is no ordinary setting for an African safari. Sure, life-changing excursions like open-vehicle game drives, horseback safaris, pre-arranged spa treatments, cave walks, clifftop hikes, and adventures on quad bikes are just some of the included-in-your-rate perks. But there’s also the opportunity to amp up your itinerary with heli-activities including fishing, rock climbing, camping, and even sundowners in hard-to-access locales. But for the kids-at-heart, there are also exciting heli-paintball sessions where your group can take off in the bush on quad bikes while two hunters equipped with paintball guns chase after you from the sky. Prices from $8,300 (for up to 10 people).
Taking in the sunset over Oahu’s North Shore
Turtle Bay Resort, a famous North Shore hotel on Oahu, offers helicopter tours for various travel palettes, the most romantic of which is their airborne sunset experience. The golden hour helicopter ride skirts the Ko’olau Mountains and provides stunning views of the famously gigantic waves crashing into the coast. The most impressive part of the experience, of course, is seeing just how much the Hawaiian scenery evolves beneath a glowing sunset. And bearing witness to the sun slipping below the seemingly endless horizon line is a sight you won’t soon forget. Prices from $289 per person.
Doors-off coptering over New York City
Flying doors off over NYC isn’t for the faint of heart. FlyNYON’s tour is fairly quick at 16 minutes, but the sight-seeing itinerary is hearty with aerial views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island. You’ll also see the city’s most famous bridges—the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Verrazano-Narrow, and Williamsburg bridges—from on high. Whether you were born and raised in NYC or are visiting for the very first time, few things compare to seeing the whole city below your feet in the open air. Prices from $274 per person.
Heli-biking in New Zealand
Adrenaline junkies can test their limits with Black Tomato’s heli-biking trek through the mountains of New Zealand. The helicopter drops you off at the start of nearly untouched, off-road paths that will not only push you physically but also astound you with the most spectacular vistas. For instance, a day of cycling begins at the remote peak of Mount Burke, before jetting off on a four-hour downhill ride surrounded by views of the azure waters of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. Prices from $7,800.
Sheldon Chalet is the only outfitter allowed to fly a helicopter inside Alaska’s Denali National Park. With that kind of access, there’s more than just one heli experience worth splurging on, especially since Denali's many natural peaks are usually reserved for expert climbers. Foodies should go for the heli-fishing excursion to a secret lake only accessible by helicopter, followed by a relaxing trip to remote hot springs. Another unique offering here is a fascinatingly macabre visit to a mastodon boneyard. Prices from $2,300.
Exploring ruins and reefs in Guatemala and Belize
A helicopter will be the primary mode of transportation as you breeze through Guatemala with Blue Parallel, a bespoke tour operator serving Latin America, South America, and the Mediterranean. The adventure includes private access to a stunning villa along Lake Atitlán. But the highlight of this package is the trip to see the world’s largest pyramid in El Mirador. Typically, you’ll need trek through the jungle for several days to reach the site, but with the heli, it’ll take just minutes. Beyond the Mayan ruins, the Belizean portion of this luxury helicopter tour will provide aerial views of the Belize Barrier Reef and the famed Great Blue Hole. Prices from $16,500.
Heli-touring the Las Vegas strip and heli-picnicking in the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas strip are truly two of the most sought-after aerial views in the United States. However, adrenaline fans who are keen on seeing the bright Vegas lights and ‘coptering into the Grand Canyon can now take a heli-tour that offers the best of both. With Papillon’s tour, you’re picked up at your Vegas hotel in a limo and dropped at McCarren Atlantic Terminal. You’ll then board a chopper with floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and the Colorado River while heading to the West Rim. Once the chopper crosses the West Rim, it takes passengers on a 4,000-foot descent to the base of the canyon for a champagne picnic within the Grand Canyon. On the way back, the chopper makes a point to tour the Las Vegas strip so guests can take in the glitz and glam from a bird’s eye view. Prices from $379.
Heli-photographing in Kauai
Mauna Loa offers a doors-off option for any of their tours. Their photography tour is limited to two passengers so that each can get the vantage point they need for their shots. It’s also one of the most open-ended heli-tours in Kauai, because as the photographer, you get to decide where you’ll go based on the sights you most want to capture. The heli-photography hour might take you to Waimea Canyon, along the Na Pali Coast, and over Manawaiopuna Falls. However, if there are other vantage points that mean more to you, you’re the boss of this tour and can go wherever you please. Prices from $693 per hour.