Ni`ihau's monicker of Hawaii's "Forbidden Island" is a bit misleading. Although the island is reserved for current residents only to live on, it's not entirely forbidden for visitors from the outside world. Accessible by helicopter tour with Ni`ihau Helicopters, visitors can roam the secluded beaches and get an aerial tour of the rest of the island. Just a short fight from Kaua`i after boarding the helicopter on the west side right below Hanapepe, you'll fly over the 4,000 foot deep channel between the islands.
Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
For about 45 minutes, the pilot flies you over the interior of the islands. During this segment you'll fly over the state's first and second largest lakes. You can see various game animals such as horses and the elusive and rare tall horned oryx. While tracing the coast of the island, you'll get great views and photo opportunities off vast cliffs, white sand beaches and possibly pods of dolphins playing below you in the ocean.
Dolphin view from the helicopter — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Eventually you'll touch down on the beach on the western coast, where you'll most likely see monk seals and rams hanging out together on the beach. From here you're allowed to wander alone for a couple of hours and pick up any shells or beach glass you find to bring home. After snorkeling and a sandwich lunch provided by the tour company, you'll take the flight back to Kaua`i, with memories, photos and natural souvenirs that are some of the most unique possible.