West O'ahu Sunset
Photo by: Matt Copps (Stock Exchange)

As the weather gets colder, tropical destinations are all the more enticing, especially for those of us in the north. Hawaii is one of the United States’ greatest natural treasures, and with most folks cutting back on vacations – disabled travelers included – it’s never been a better time to visit this little slice of paradise. Of course, accessibility can suffer a little bit when there are big crowds, but I have it on good authority that beaches that used to be crowded through much of the year are all but empty lately. That’s why I’m devoting most of today’s installment to Hawaii, and all the disability travel information about it. There’s a little more in this post than usual, since there’s so much valuable stuff to cover!

When you come to Hawaii, you want to see phenomenal beaches, and the government of Honolulu is well aware of the challenges this could present for handicapped travelers. Accessibility on the beach is a major priority throughout the state of Hawaii, though naturally, some beaches are better on this score than others. According to the official website of the City of Honolulu, all-terrain wheelchairs are available at the concession stands at each end of beautiful Ala Moana beach, a public park on the island of Oahu. The same site describes wheelchair access guidelines for other major beaches on Oahu. For more on the Landeez all-terrain wheelchair, which seems to be in pretty wide use around state-operated sites in Hawaii, check out this site..

Buses throughout the county of Honolulu are designed to accommodate travel with a disability, and can lower to permit use by passengers in wheelchairs. Professional staffers can even help you practice using the bus with your mobility device ahead of your planned trip. For accessible travel, Honolulu’s bus service is top notch. Hilo International Airport, on the island of Hawaii, has its own accessibility guide, though unfortunately, Honolulu International lacks centralized information at present.

Lodging World has wheelchair accessible hotels throughout Hawaii, with a variety of handicapped facilities, including roll-in showers. Perfect Places has a listing of wheelchair accessible vacation rentals on four major Hawaiian islands. Bear in mind that this kind of listing is usually provided through businesses and user experiences, so be sure to call in advance to make sure a given option really suits your needs. Dragonfly Ranch, in Captain Cook, Hawaii, is a celebrated west Hawaiian bed and breakfast with wheelchair access and amenities, and there’s also an accessible condo available in Maui, operated by a husband and wife team. They really understand the needs of handicapped travelers, and offer a lot of disabled travel resources on their website. For those who may be traveling in Hawaii with a guide animal, the Animal Legal and Historical Center provides a useful overview of all laws pertaining to guide animal in Hawaii.

Of course, Hawaii has even more to offer besides the fantastic beaches. Sunshine Helicopters offers exciting helicopter tours of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island – all wheelchair accessible through the use of a special lift. Polynesian Adventure Tours is a tour operator with ADA-compliant buses for its excursions throughout Hawaii. The only thing missing is a good fishing boat charter for handicapped travelers, but if I find one, I’ll be sure to let you know!

So, what happens if you love Hawaii so much you never want to leave? As it happens, the state has a huge assortment of handicapped organizations that can help you make the transition from the mainland. The Hawaii Disability Rights Center can help you if you encounter any discrimination in your time in Hawaii. Hawaii Centers for Independent Living is a non-profit organization devoted to providing equal access and opportunities for the handicapped community throughout Hawaii. Hawaii even boasts the federally-funded non-profit Assistive Technologies Research Centers of Hawaii, hub for a variety of free resources, services, and programs for the disabled.

Hawaii is a fantastic destination, and thanks to its advances in accessibility guidelines and scrupulous attention to the needs of handicapped travelers, it’s also one of the best places for island adventure if you have mobility issues or other special needs. Even Hawaiian Airlines seems to be especially pro-active in its disability accommodations page. But whether your travel plans include Honolulu or Nome, never settle for less, and keep adventuring! I’ll be back soon with more great disabled traveling tips!


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Comment by Karen

Posted on December 27th, 2009

I am trying to plan a trip to Hawaii for a friend of mine who has Muscular Dystrophy. She travels by scooter the majority of the time, however she is able to transfer to a walker if necessary for a very short walk with no inclines and no stairs.
I am looking for help as to where the best place, the island and the hotel, to stay would be, with easiest access to the beach. We stayed in Maine where they said “easy access with beach wheelchairs”….WELL when we got there, you had to go up a VERY steep hill to get to the beach and a huge drop down the other side, it was a nightmare.
Suggestions, help?
Thank you very much.

Comment by Grover

Posted on January 10th, 2010

Hello, just thought my site my be a nice addition to the information you provide. thanks and have a good day.

Comment by Grover

Posted on January 10th, 2010

http://www.accessiblekauai.com is your resource for traveling to Kauai with some sort of physical disability.

Comment by jeri jakeway

Posted on February 15th, 2010

Aloha, i have lived on Maui for over 20 years. I have been in a wheelchair for over 27 years. I moved to Maui because I love to swim. The ocean is where I love to swim. Many people come to Maui because of our clear blue waters, warmth and because of all of Hawaii’s wonders.

i have found that the landeez beach chair is not made to get one into the ocean to swim. It floats on top of the water making it impossible to enter safely or get out. There other chairs that are made for swimming. I do not like the landeez chair. It is very hard to push though sand it has four air filled tires. It is better to pull two tires through sand, then push four tires. I have a name of a chair I love, e-mail me back if you would like and I will send you the name and mire information on it. I don’t sell it but we had it on Maui for many years and it worked GREAT for the beach and for those who wanted to swim. I have many more things to share about having fun on Maui in the water and out. I also have found some very difficult things that I have found living here, which have hurt me badly. It would be great to share some of them,for I would want others to be aware of them. It would be interesting to see if any one else has found some difficulty. Maybe then some changes in the right direction could be made. Making Hawaii a even better place to live and visit for ALL people!!!!! Thankyou for all the wonderful information that you shared. Do you live in Hawaii? If not where do you live? if you were visiting how long were you in Hawaii? Do you like to swim in the ocean. Are you in a wheelchair? Thanks(mahalo) for sharing. Aloha nui loa…. jeri jakeway

Comment by Si

Posted on January 28th, 2011


I’d recommend beginning your search with “Best Mobility Products” in Waikiki: http://www.hawaiimobilityscooterrental.com/

You should be able to reserve a scooter from them. Another possibility is AAA Discount Wheelchairs and Scooters (not affiliated with the “actual” AAA): http://www.aaawheelchairs.com/


Comment by Si

Posted on June 10th, 2011

Hi, Jo,

Thanks for your question. I’d love to help make sure your niece’s trip goes well. I’ll look into this and get back to you ASAP.