After two failing on the second attempt to catch the Haleakala Sunrise, we headed straight back to Lahaina. With only one more afternoon left on this trip, we knew we had to do at least a West Maui/Moloka’i Helicopter ride today. It was a must for us because we had to see some of the more remote waterfalls that you couldn’t see any other way.
It was late morning when we returned to South Lahaina and parked the car. Then, we proceeded to walk around Front Street in Lahaina since we were hungry and looking for something authentically Hawaiian. But we didn’t exactly have a helicopter vendor in mind so our choices seemed a bit overwhelming. All those ridiculously low priced tours always caught our attention, but we knew you had to sit through a timeshare presentation and put up with aggressive sales pitches in order to attain such prices. We figured time was more valuable than saving money so we passed on those.
We randomly ended up in front of an Air Maui kiosk. They were selling West Maui/Moloka’i flights, but it was only for 45 minutes instead of the recommended 60 minutes that Maui Revealed recommended. Moreover, I didn’t see anything in the sales literature guaranteeing we’d see Honokohau Falls nor the Wall of Tears on the same flight.
So as we talked to the lady at the kiosk, we asked if they’d do such a thing on a flight. After all, we were into waterfalls and we would only book if we got the ones we sought.
The lady sensed our interest and then pulled out all the stops to hook us in. I knew the lady was lying to us when she tried to convince us that the Wall of Tears was the same thing as Honokohau Falls. But despite the fact that she BS’ed us, she managed to do her job successfully because we ended up booking a helicopter flight with her company in our haste to fit a chopper flight in this afternoon.
When the transaction was finished, we continued down Front Street. At that point we saw more vendors and more options. When we saw what else was available, it became apparent that buyer’s remorse was setting in. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have been so hasty because there were other vendors down the street who had the longer flight that would’ve encompassed both waterfalls – no questions asked.
Anyhow, we worried about price, and the flight did offer a chance to give in-flight feedback to the pilot via the good ‘ol pen and paper method. I thought I could make my request then and there.
We had a couple hours to kill so we ended up walking towards the furthest north sections of Front Street, where we saw a place called Aloha Mixed Plate. That had an interesting assortment of takeaway Hawaiian food, and so we stopped by there.
After stuffing ourselves with the familiar fried dishes with rice and coleslaw as well as some sticky rice in leaves with poi all washed down with passion-fruit Lilikoi drinks, we headed back to our car at the hotel in South Lahaina and proceeded to drive to Kahului where the helipad was.
When we got there, we noticed how many helicopter vendors were all lined up in their own hangars – one after another. Air Maui was the very last one in this “helicopter’s row.”
After waiting nearly an hour for our flight to take off, we learned that the chopper would have 7 passengers (including the pilot). Unfortunately since one of the bigger passengers and I were the heaviest on the craft, we’d get the crappiest seats – the middle of the back seat. It was terrible for taking photographs unless you don’t mind having the odd leg, glare, or window frames in the photo. The lucky honeymooners who were the lightest got to sit together on the front seat and undoubtedly had the best views.
It said, “Can we see Honokohau Falls as well as the Wall of Tears?”
I think it threw the pilot off guard because it probably wasn’t the norm of his usual routine. He said Honokohau Falls was probably not flowing this time of year. I felt his claim wasn’t likely considering the volume of rain we got just a couple days ago.
Anyhow, he made us choose between the two waterfalls. But since we didn’t know which one was better nor which one was flowing, we couldn’t make the decision when prompted by the pilot. So, he eventually gave in and said that we’d see both. He did warn the ride would be a little bumpy since he was changing from the usual route. No worries, I thought…
The helicopter flight proceeded to the northeast end of Moloka’i. It was here that we saw our first waterfall of the trip – Halawa Falls. This large three-tiered waterfall was quite a sight considering we had seen mostly small rainforest waterfalls on the Hana Highway up until now. The chopper proceeded to circle around the falls, but it was difficult to take decent photos with the 3 Megapixel Sony Cybershot camera and with my poor positioning in the craft.
Next, the chopper continued over the rugged northern section of Moloka’i. Here, the very tall cliffs could be seen. As we proceeded further west, we saw the next major waterfall – Papalaua Falls. This was a monstrously tall waterfall though again it was difficult to get satisfying photos.
After seeing the falls, the chopper didn’t go much further west though we did get a chance at looking at the sea cliffs of Molokai’s North Shore diving abruptly into the sea. We could see why some consider the sea cliffs here to be the tallest in the Hawaiian Islands and possibly the world.
Next, the pilot headed past Papalaua Falls and headed straight to the center of the island, where we flew over Moloka’i’s crater. It was hard to tell we flew over a crater as it was mostly densely forested ridges with ephemeral waterfalls trickling in its grooves.
It certainly seemed like a mysterious yet very lush place. Clearly there was no sign of development in this part of the island as it was pretty much dense and green everywhere. No clearing, no buildings. Just simply uninhabited.
After hearing the pilot’s plug for Kona Coffee, which was run by his relatives, he headed straight for Honokohau Falls, which was flowing. I was surprised how thorough his commentary of the falls were considering this didn’t seem to be part of his usual flight pattern.
The approach to Maui’s tallest waterfall was dramatic. We headed along a remote valley with the two-tiered waterfall at its head. Those lucky folks in the front seat got great views. I was busy trying to unsuccessfully get clean shots of the falls from the middle of the back seat.
When the pilot circled the falls, he asked me how I knew about this waterfall.
Anyhow, the flight next headed to the Wall of Tears. When he flew over Maui’s crater and headed into the head of ‘Iao Valley, we didn’t see much where the Wall of Tears was supposed to be.
As it turned out, I was quite glad we saw the Honokohau Falls. Wall of Tears was a dud and the whole flight would’ve been a waste of money if all we saw was the mostly dry Wall of Tears.
Now that most of the attractions were out of the way, we had to ride out the last twenty minutes of the flight. I was able to tough out most of the bumpy sections during the tour, but now my headache really started to intensify.
It actually started since we had left Honokohau Falls, but given the position of my seat and how crowded the craft was, I was making a concerted effort not to hurl.
The pilot even asked, “Everyone ok back there? No one getting pale?” He probably sensed that I probably wasn’t in the greatest of shape at the time.
Finally, the chopper passed over Central Maui and landed in Kahului. My head was still aching even after we got off the craft.
I think that honeymooning couple appreciated my Honokohau Falls suggestion as they asked how I knew about the falls and what else they should do on the island…
Given my frustrating experience photographing from my crappy seat, I paid the extra $20 to get the video tape of our flight. In hindsight, it probably was a waste of money, but I had this crazy idea I could take the analog VHS tape and take a still from it as a photo – albeit a low resolution one.
Well at least I managed not to throw up, but I still had headaches the rest of the day.
Julie and I spent this time checking out South Maui and spoiled ourselves to a Deedee Reese style ice cream sandwich with Tahitian Vanilla ice cream in the windy Ma’alaea. I had read on one of the news releases posted in the shop that it was owned by the brother of Maureen McCormick of the Brady Bunch. Apparently the guy who served us the ice cream sandwich was the guy himself. Kinda funky, but this little moment was probably why this joint was so memorable.
Anyhow, I did recover from my ailments, and we did manage to see at least Honokohau Falls. But the Moloka’i waterfalls were an unexpected treat. I think we’ll try this again the next time we go to Maui, but this time with a longer and more private flight. We’d never done a chopper flight like this before, but now we kind of know what to expect.
Hopefully, the airsickness won’t kick in next time…