If you're planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands, you might be wondering where to go. Sure, you could spend your days lounging on the beach and drinking Mai Tais or watching the sunset from your own private cabana, but if you want to be truly immersed in the spirit of Hawaii or are looking for an adventure, there are a few spots that will give you a much more authentic experience.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best wheelchair-accessible vacation spots in Hawaii. From ancient waterfalls deep in the heart of nature to hidden lagoons that only locals know about, these destinations have it all.
Outdoor Wheelchair-accessible Destinations In Hawaii
For those who want to get out and explore the beautiful Hawaiian countryside, there are a host of outdoor wheelchair-accessible destinations that are sure to delight you. Some of the most famous ones are mentioned below:
Waimea Canyon, Kauai
It's true that Kauai has a lot of accessible beaches (including Salt Pond Beach Park and Lydgate, which are both accessible), but there's no denying that Waimea Canyon is worth the visit.
With their red and orange colors contrasting against the blue sky, the cliffs at the Waimea Canyon offer a spectacular sight. You can drive through the canyon in a mobility van or hike it if you're feeling adventurous. And the best part is that the whole trail is paved and there’s a wheelchair ramp up to the lookout.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Oozing with molten lava, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is home to Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. This park includes several stops where you'll learn about Hawaiian history and culture — but it also offers magnificent views of bubbling lava flows in Halema'uma'u Crater, Mauna Loa Crater, steam vents, and Kilauea Caldera from multiple vantage points.
With wheelchair-accessible restrooms, vault toilets, and rental wheelchairs available at Kīlauea Visitor Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is fully accessible. There are several trails for hikers, but the only trail that’s fully wheelchair accessible is Devastation Trail. From the parking area to the trailhead, there’s an asphalt path that’s easy for wheelchair users to traverse.
Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, Big Island
The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo, located in Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island, is a place you don't want to miss. Unlike other zoos, this one is open-air and wheelchair-accessible, meaning you can get up close with a wide variety of animals.
Stretched across 12 acres, the zoo houses over 80 species indigenous to Hawaii, including several endangered animals like the nene (Hawaii's state bird) and the two-toed sloth. You can also see species that are representative of other parts of the world, including anteaters, colobus monkeys, and Bengal tigers.
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Indoor Wheelchair-accessible Destinations in Hawaii
If you're not a big fan of the outdoors, don't worry. There are plenty of indoor wheelchair-accessible destinations in Hawaii that can help you get your nature fix without having to worry about any pesky bugs or mud.
Pearl Harbor Historic Site, Honolulu
Located on Ford Island and home to the USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial, this historic site is a must-see while visiting Honolulu. This visitor center has accessible parking spots as well as a fully accessible restroom. The site’s movie theater, exhibit galleries, bookstores, Navy Shuttle boats, and the memorial itself are also accessible, so you won’t have any issues while navigating around.
Pacific Aviation Museum
The Pacific Aviation Museum is a museum dedicated to preserving aviation history. Located at the historic Ford Land, it has an impressive collection of exhibits and artifacts that were used in World War II and during the Pearl Harbor attack. The museum is accessible via shuttle, and all the exhibits at Hangar 37 and 79 are fully accessible.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Hailed as Hawaii's best-kept secret, this center is home to different live shows and attractions that showcase Polynesian culture. All the major areas of the Polynesian Cultural Center including the villages, dining venues, Hukilau Marketplace, and the Laie Temple Visitors Center tours are wheelchair friendly.
What’s more, the upper and lower areas of the theater have reserved seats for wheelchair users, and the same goes for the dining venues. Although to watch the scheduled village presentation you might have to come early to secure a good seat. At this center, visitors can even take part in interactive activities like cooking classes, lei making, carving, dancing, and drumming — all while enjoying great food!
Sunshine Helicopter Tours, Kahului
If you're looking for an exhilarating way to explore Hawaii's famous coastlines and beaches, look no further than Sunshine Helicopter Tours! There are many tour companies that offer tours over Oahu by helicopter or airplane that can be accessed by wheelchair users. The tours range from 30 minutes to one hour long, but they all provide breathtaking views of the majestic Makana Mountains, Na Poli Coast, Ke’e Beach, Waimea Canyon, Twin Wailua Falls, and more.
Built in 1882 by King David Kalakaua, Iolani Palace is one of Hawaii's most famous landmarks. All the public areas of the museum are wheelchair accessible but electric and motorized wheelchairs are not permitted in the palace itself, so you might have to use a standardized wheelchair. Once inside, you can learn about Hawaiian culture through art galleries and historical displays.
Different Ways To Get Around Hawaii
Getting around in Hawaii is less like a jaunt and more like a journey. The islands are big, and it can be hard to get from point A to point B without spending hours on the road. You can either book a taxi or take the shuttle, or you can simply book a ride via Uber or Lyft. However, this can be quite costly.
If you’re looking for an affordable option, consider booking a wheelchair-accessible rental van in Hawaii with Wheelchair Getaway’s member, Soderholm Mobility. We offer rental services, and some vehicles can be equipped with hand controls, ramps and lifts, and other features, allowing you to ride in comfort and style.
Let’s Get Rolling to Hawaii
Whether you seek thrill or tranquility, Hawaii is the perfect destination for you. With over a dozen islands to choose from, each with its own unique personality and activities, there's no way you could get bored on this island-hopping voyage. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to explore paradise!
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