Iguazu Falls helicopter on the cheap & the best way to see Iguazu Falls


For the last stop on the Party of 5 challenge, Team San Francisco brought the Frequent Miler team to Iguazu Falls, which lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina. We saw the falls by helicopter, boat and walkway. We got a great deal on the helicopter tour, but was it our favorite way to see the falls? Read on for how we did it and what we thought.

Note that Tim covered the information included in this post in the summary of our half of the trip, but we thought it was worth expanding a bit on the details and having a dedicated post for anyone who may be thinking about visiting Iguazu Falls.

a waterfall with trees and fog

Snagging a great deal on the Iguazu Falls helicopter tour

a man taking a selfie with a helicopter in the background

If you didn’t follow the trip on Instagram, you should really check out this reel that shows our helicopter tour of Iguazu Falls. We arrived at Iguazu Falls late at night on the next-to-last day of the trip and we started our final morning by pulling our rental car into Helisul, a Brazilian helicopter tour company specializing in flights over Iguazu Falls. Excitement was high as we boarded the chopper and flew out to get our first look at Iguazu Falls.


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Frankly, it felt as cool as it looks — I feel like the footage really captures the excitement and fun of flying over the falls and snaking figure 8’s to see them from a variety of angles.

If you assumed that this would be obscenely expensive, you’re not necessarily wrong, especially if you consider the cost per minute. On the flip side, we stacked a great deal by stacking a shopping portal and a coupon code to get around 40% off the list price.

That’s because Helisul offers these helicopter tours on Viator. The list cost on Viator.com was $153.54 per passenger at the time when we booked. That would be $767.70 for five passengers (note that it appears that the cost has increased by about $14 per passenger today – I’m not sure if that’s due to currency fluctuation or the time of year or some other factor).

However, I have had a targeted Capital One Shopping offer for months that is good for 30% back on Viator. As a reminder, Capital One Shopping is a public shopping portal — you do not need a Capital One card to use it. Stacking further, Capital One Shopping listed a coupon code for 10% off. That coupon code (CAPITALONESPECIAL) is no longer working, but at the time it was listed right in my targeted offers on Capital One Shopping. And you can see in the post linked above that some people also have a Citi Merchant Offer good for $10 or $20 back on $150 or more and there was also a SimplyMiles offer. If we had multiple Citi offers and booked everyone separately, the price could have dropped even more.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Capital One code and Capital One Shopping stacked: the coupon code brought the total down to $690.93. The 30% back tracked as expected, leading to $207.27 in rewards pending.

a screenshot of a computer

When those rewards become payable, they will need to be redeemed for gift cards. I’m pretty happy with the gift card options available via Capital One Shopping, but you should probably not quite value them at full face since you may redeem them for cards that you could otherwise get at a discount.

Still, accounting for it at face value, that’s a net $483.66 — or $96.73 per passenger. That’s still not at all cheap when you consider the fact that the helicopter ride is only about 10-12 minutes long, but on the flip side we essentially got a private helicopter tour over Iguazu Falls (since there wasn’t enough space for any other passengers in our chopper) for less than a hundred bucks each. That seemed like a pretty slammin’ deal to me.

I think this tour would be particularly cool for anyone who has never been in a helicopter before, but even having flown in a couple of helicopters before, it seemed pretty awesome to me. And the view from above gives you a good sense of the breadth of the falls.

a large waterfall surrounded by trees

But the truth is that while everyone agreed it was awesome, not a single member of the Frequent Miler team called it their favorite way to see the falls. That’s notable to me. I think it was totally worth a hundred bucks per person, and I’d probably do it again at that price, but I wouldn’t do it at the expense of not seeing the falls via one of the other two ways we saw them.

Iguazu Falls by boat

Shortly after landing from our brief helicopter tour, we made our way into the the national park on the Brazilian side and we went straight for the water. That is to say that we went for the Iguazu Falls Macuco Safari boat tour, which launches from the national park on the Brazilian side and puts you in a speedboat ride up-stream past some of the falls on the Argentinian side and directly under a waterfall if you so wish. You get to choose from the “wet” boat and the “dry” boat (n.b. it’s really the “less wet boat”). I think we all wanted to be adventurous and choose the wet boat, but it was about 50 degrees outside and rainy, which made it downright chilly. We were all freezing and didn’t think we wanted to get completely soaked. As it turned out, I think we were all pretty much soaked by the end of the day anyway and we still pulled up quite close to a waterfall. See the highlights here:


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The boat ride itself was tons of fun. I think we all agreed that the bumpy ride over the rapids en route to the watetrfalls was the best part of the boat ride (and it really made me wish we had gotten to do our intended whitewater rafting trip in the Andes Mountains in Chile as I imagine it would have been a hit based on the responses to this!).

You don’t actually get a great view of the falls this way as the boat doesn’t get very close to the largest falls, though you do get close to a relatively thin fall (or ride under it). See the boat at the bottom of this photo for reference.

a large waterfall with trees and a boat in the water

We even had a capybara sighting on the way back to the launch point.

two animals on a sandy beach

At about $79 per person, this wasn’t much less expensive than the helicopter tour (we had to book this direct and did it in-person at the park), but the fun factor was nonetheless quite high. In nice weather, I imagine it is even more fun. If you’re picturing the Maid of the Mist from Niagara Falls, this ride falls a bit short since you don’t get nearly as close to the largest falls, but I would nonetheless do it again if I traveled all the way to Iguazu Falls (and I expect that I indeed will within the next few years).

Iguazu Falls by walkway (Which side has the better view of Igauzu Falls?)

There are walkways to vantage points to see Iguazu Falls on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the falls. Which side has the better view of Igauzu Falls? Bottom line: I wouldn’t miss either side. If you’re only going to see the falls one way, it should be devoting two days to seeing them by land. Not only is this the cheapest option, this is the thing you can’t miss if you travel to Iguazu Falls. And with four of the five of us taking the morning after the challenge ended to see the Argentinian side of the falls also, I think all four of us who did both would argue that picking one side or the other shouldn’t be a problem you allow yourself to face: plan enough time to devote a day to each.

Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls walkways

a waterfall with rocks and bushes

We stayed at the Wyndham Golden Suites on the Brazilian side of the falls (in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil). We considered signing up for a tour that would take us to both sides of the falls in one day, but I’m really glad we didn’t rush things.

The national park on the Brazilian side essentially has one walkway to the falls. You get progressively more interesting views of waterfalls and the sound builds until you reach the centerpiece: a walkway that takes you right out into the midst of the falls, standing directly in front of a set of falls reminiscent of the size of Niagara Falls — and directly above an approximately equal-height second drop. It is loud and wet and absolutely wonderful. It is hard to describe the way you feel like you’re in the midst of the falls, but I could have gotten lost there and stayed all night.

I will admit that I am a lover of waterfalls, so take that for what it’s worth, but I also want to admit that when Tim initially floated the idea of Iguazu Falls, I wasn’t sold. Growing up in New York State, I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times and I didn’t initially see the draw in seeing another big waterfall. I was so very wrong. It is awesome and absolutely something that belongs on bucket lists.

This reel sums up what it looked like from the Brazilian side, but I have got to say that it is hard for any picture or video to capture what it feels like. The falls are very impressive, and standing on a platform in the middle of it all and directly above a steep drop is wild.


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The “drawback” on the Brazilian side is that there are more limited vantage points. You do get a few views on the way to the main platform, and there are a couple of levels you can climb up for more of a bird’s eye view, but you only get one really close vantage point. Still, I could have stayed on that platform for a good long time. It didn’t get old to me.

Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls walkways

a waterfall with trees and plants
This is a still from one of the many videos I took on this side of the falls. The lush vegetation made this side feel especially untamed. 

On the morning of our departure from Brazil, four of us traveled to the Argentinian side of Igauzu Falls to see the walkways on that side. Stephen was unfortunately not feeling great and stuck around the hotel. Also unfortunate is that we had a limited amount of time before our flights out from the Brazilian side of the falls, so we did not have time to visit all of the vantage points on the Argentinian side. This side of the falls has a much longer walkway with multiple platforms out near the edge of the falls.

This side of the falls looked more jungle-like and was lush with vegetation. Like the Brazilian side, the falls were two-tiered, which provided a sense of serenity in between these massive rushes of water on the “platform” of land between the drops. I really wish we had gotten the time to make the full length of the hike here, which would have been about a mile and a half in one direction I believe.

There is a train that runs the length of the walkways, which we initially figured we would take to the furthest point and then rush our way back along the walkways, but unfortunately the train didn’t start running until 10:30am and we really needed to leave the park by about 11am to allow time to go through the immigration checkpoint on either side of the falls en route to the airport on the Brazilian side. Still, with just over an hour, we saw what you see in this reel:


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The short time we had on this side wasn’t enough. When I get back to the falls someday, I will plan enough time to devote a full day to just walking the length of the walkways on both sides and really taking in the multiple vantage points of the falls.

One thing that stood out to me here was that the guardrails in some areas felt short to me. I imagined my kids running ahead of me and felt like one would have to exercise some caution if traveling with youngsters. Still, I think the awesome power of the falls is probably clear enough to keep everyone in line. You do have to be cautious — quite a few people reminded us not to grab the handrails more than necessary since they sometimes host various bugs / spiders / snakes, so you have to keep your eyes out.

Bottom line

We saw Igauzu Falls from above (by helicopter), from below (by boat), and from within (from the walkways on both sides of the falls). I asked everyone on the team and we all agreed that if we had to pick one way to see the falls, it would be the cheapest: via the walkways. This gives you the truest sense of the magnitude and power of this incredibly impressive force of nature. But everyone followed that sentiment with “But I wouldn’t want to miss . . . ” — and at the end of the day, if you’re traveling all the way to Igauzu Falls, and particularly if you’re leveraging the power of miles and points to fly there for, say, 45,000 miles and $40 in business class, then I think it is absolutely worth every penny to splurge on all three of the above. Any way you slice it, this is a bucket list destination for good reason. The Frequent Miler team has collectively visited a large chunk of the planet and I think all five of us walked away very impressed and would readily recommend it to anyone who thinks they might be interested.

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Tim A

Was just in Iguazu in March. The Argentine side is best for the experience, the Brazilian for the view.

I’m not a fan of the helicopters. Not because I’ve done one, but when you’re in an ecological reserve like that, helicopters are massively disruptive. And annoying to the other tourists.

I understand it’s all about the money on the Brazilian side, but even so, this seems entirely out of place in such a setting.

Liam Ran

If you love waterfalls, wait until you see the Victoria Falls and swim in Devil’s pool!


I will quote one opinion from tripadvisor.

Please, do NOT take the helicopter tour.
The Iguazú is a natural reserve, many birds live in the falls and the activity of helicopters disturb their live.
Argentina has intended to forbid the flights on the falls due to that reason; but they are allowed in Brazilian side. But the prohibition is not enough: what Nature really needs is that people doesn´t wish to fligh on the falls. Each ticket any tourist buys is a punch agaist the efforts to preserve the area.


You left out the crowds. The Brazilian side was quite packed when we were there, at least on the platform by the falls at the end. Not a problem for us but could be an issue for others.

We stayed at the Belmond hotel which was FANTASTIC but not available with normal points. I used FHR and a bunch of MR points. It’s in the park on the Brazilian side, steps from the path to the falls.


Hey Nick, great review of Iguazu Falls. I spent 2 days at the hotel on the Argentina side and think the Argentina side has way more trails, lookouts, animals, and falls to see, compared to the Brazilian side, which only took about 2 hours to see everything. I hope you can return soon, preferably with warmer weather and your family 🙂


Very helpful post. Plans to go there in October. Do you recommend to rent a car to cross the border from Brazil to Argentina? Is there a taxi or Uber or shuttle. Is immigration process complicated and time consuming by driving yourself? Many thanks.


Thank you so much for such detailed information.


Our driver, arranged thru our hotel, suggested that earlier is better to avoid potentially long lines entering Argentina. Be prepared to get going early.