Where on earth can you see a shark, freshly fallen snow in summer and an active volcano in the span of three hours? Hawai’i, baby.
I sell helicopter tours of Hawai’i for a living… and I’ve never been on one. If you’re a former guest of mine and I convinced you that I’d been on all of them a dozen times, I’m sorry. What I have done is asked a lot of questions and watched a lot of you tube videos. One of my bff’s texts me on the regular, “Have you taken a helicopter tour yet!?!” And I’m full of excuses. The truth? Ah, the truth.. Well I’m scared. There is a 250 pound weight limit on the flights, and yes, anyone of any weight can fly on a helicopter in Hawai’i, they just have to buy a ‘comfort seat’ if they’re over that 250 weight limit as I am. A comfort seat with most companies means you pay 150% for the flight. It’s actually pretty fair, considering they could ask for 200%.
One of the sweetest moments I’ve ever had while doing my job was when a group of 5 girls wanted to take a helicopter flight and came to see me. One of the ladies was super tall and a bit fluffy and thus over the weight limit. When I explained to her that she’d have to buy a comfort seat, her face sunk and her eyes darkened. She was quite devastated, but didn’t want her girlfriends to miss out, so she politely said that it was too much money and she really wanted her friends to go anyway. She was super cheerful about it. But one of her friends said, “That is bullshit. Book all 5 of us with a comfort seat and divide it by 5”. The three other ladies were nodding in agreement but our fluffy girl just shook her head and said ‘no’. Then another of her friends said, “I’m not going without you. Either we all go, or none of us goes. I’m willing to split the cost.” Well, our fluffy gal burst into immediate tears of gratitude and joy and that was it. They all went and split the overage. Again, pretty fair thing since the overage meant more room for everyone and it turned the flight into a private flight.
That is kind of what it’s like sometimes – sometimes you say no or give up on something due to these hurdles. I bet that lady could have afforded the extra cost of the comfort seat, no problem. But it made her feel different than the other girls and put a negative spotlight on her. So she shied away from that and decided not to go. I saw the reserve in her eyes, she wasn’t paying that fee. All of us fluffies have done it at one time or another. Instead of dealing with the consequences of our fluff, we throw in the towel. And I am myself still getting over doing this. Hence, never taking a free ride on a helicopter. What if the seat belt doesn’t fit? What if the company is annoyed or disgusted with me for even asking for not only a comp ticket on the helicopter but a comp comfort seat, too! I’m getting anxiety just thinking about it!
Well, all was changed last week when a rep from Mokulele Airlines came to my desk to talk to me about their new plane tours. The weight limit was at 350 and he said that they’re even able to be a bit flexible with notice. That is HUGE for fluffy visitors to Maui. And they’re opening up even more tours to other islands like Moloka’i. Super excited, I booked the tour right away and he even let me bring my Mom along!
We met at OGG airport and when we saw the 10 seater plane, my Mom made her favorite joke from her favorite movie, Six Days, Seven Nights, and asked, “Where’s it’s Mommy?”. Indeed it was a small plane, but super easy to get in and out of and the seats thankfully didn’t have arms so totally comfortable as well. I did need a seat belt extender, which was easily provided and all was well. We took off and immediately the most amazing thing happened. My whole flying life, literally every time I get in a plane I stare deeply into the ocean praying to see some marine life… a whale or a shark specifically. (And yes, all 4 major cities I’ve lived have had airports right on the ocean I guess) So, we take off and within 3 minutes there she was – a big beautiful shark about 500 yards off of shore just chilling near the surface. I have no clue what kind of shark it was, I didn’t see any tiger stripes, but I could have cried I was so excited. The rep who was on the flight mentioned that during whale season it’s even cooler to fly between islands over hundreds of Humpback whales and their babies… and I may officially now be hooked on flight tours!
Anywho, we flew into Kapalua Airport and picked up the rest of the folks and started our tour. We first flew along the North Shore of Maui along the infamous road to Hana. It was so freaking gorgeous and lush and green and we could see a ton of waterfalls gushing into the sea. We then pulled up and saw the first of our volcanos of the day, the dormant crater of Maui’s Haleakala. It was eclipse day, so it was extra special to see the observatory sparkle in the morning sun. It was kind of cold at that altitude which suited me perfectly, however, if you’re prone to chill bring a sweater on flights like this.
Once over the Big Island, Hawai’i, we flew between two of the states biggest volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa – and we got an extra special treat as it had snowed in summer the evening before and the summit of Mauna Kea was pure white with snow. It was so gorgeous I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Eventually we made it to Volcanoes National Park and to the only active volcano currently in Hawai’i, Kilauea. We crossed over a very quiet Iki Crater, barely steaming, before flying over the area where the lava was flowing into the sea. Unfortunately, the was too much steam and vog and we couldn’t see any actual red lava flowing into the sea. The pilot did a ton of fly bys trying to get closer and see, but it was a no-go. Afterwards, though, we flew through Pahoa, where my brother lives, and over Hilo town just before taking the Hamakua Coastline back towards Maui. This side of the Big Island is so beautiful and we again, saw a ton of gorgeous waterfalls including the tallest in Hawai’i, Akaka Falls.
Once back over Maui we took the south shore back to Kapalua, which meant flying over my beloved Molokini Crater and along all of my favorite south shore beaches. The water was so clear and beautiful along the shoreline, and I could make out some of my favorite snorkel boats headed back into the harbor from a day out at sea. So blissful. The tour goes daily out of either Kapalua or Kahului airport and was a blast.
The fact that I didn’t have to stress about my weight and fitting and all of that just made the tour a thousand times better!! So, while I’m still going to work up my nerve to take a dang Helicopter tour (yes, I promise) – at least I was able to have this amazing experience. I doubt a helicopter tour could have been as amazing as this trip had been, anyway!
So, as always, I want you to be aware that all of us fluffy folk are in this together and that is why I’m here. To provide you with a bit of light at the end of what may feel like a dark tunnel. There are always ways to make your travel dreams come true. Always wanted to fly over an active volcano – but were too fluffy? Worry no more. Where there is a will, there is a way.
PSG Rating: 2-3