Our First Accessible Adventure was a Trip to Hawaii!

Hi, I'm Dawn! Last year, my husband Josh was in a bad automobile accident that left him paralyzed at the level of T7. After a VERY LONG AND HARD year of recovery and rehab, we finally got settled into our new life and comfortable enough to decide what we wanted to do with our futures. The answer, other than concentrating on our children's activities, was to travel.

Our first handicapped travel experience was to Oahu, Hawaii. A natural caretaker, I thought ahead about our needs, read, studied and scoured the internet for ideas of wheelchair accessible things to do in Oahu.

Dawn & Josh Albert on a wheelchair accessible vacation in Hawaii.
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Dawn & Josh Albert on a wheelchair accessible vacation in Hawaii.

We decided to purchase several package tours from Toms Barefoot Tours of Hawaii, and had an awesome experience. The Toms Barefoot Tours website has a special filter that can give you access to disabled friendly tours and events. It even goes into detail and will let you know if the tour or event is suitable for disabled people with limited mobility or if it is wheelchair friendly. Tom even called me himself to make sure he got all the reservations correct and called all the vendors to make sure they could accommodate us.

Our trip started with a long flight, but Delta Air Lines was helpful with the transfers to the aisle chairs and helping us get settled into our seats. We learned that carrying a small memory foam pillow in our carry on would be a good idea, to help equalize or reduce the pressure on Josh's bum. Wheelchair users would also benefit from the extra room in premium economy or first class seating, so that you can shift your weight more easily.

Happy couple Josh & Dawn Albert enjoying their Hawaii vacation!
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Happy couple Joshua & Dawn Albert enjoying their Hawaii vacation!

Parking is terrible in Waikiki, but luckily most tour companies send out transportation buses to come pick you up at your hotel. We learned the hard way that you must call the vendor the day before to REMIND them to send a bus with a wheelchair lift. We had buses during two different tours/events that were not configured to accommodate us. The staff at the helicopter tour of "Hidden Oahu" was very helpful and promptly sent out another bus for us and held the helicopter until we got there. They had many trained members of staff and a special lift to get him on board the helicopter so that we were able to view the entire island from the sky (and wow, it's gorgeous).

Another time we had a bus come to get us for "Jermaine's Luau." Again, we didn't think to call them the day before and when the bus got there, it did not have a lift. Jermaine's was not as accommodating as the helicopter tour company. We ended up getting an Uber to drive us to the luau, where we then had to push the wheelchair through thick sand to get to our table. It kind of put a damper on the evening, but... the food was good and the entertainment was amazing so we soon got over it.

The USS Missouri anchored in Pearl Harbor. Japan signed its surrender on this ship to end World War II.
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The USS Missouri anchored in Pearl Harbor. Japan signed its surrender on this ship to end World War II.

The next day we went out on the water. We took a "glass bottom" boat tour that took us along the Waikiki and Diamondhead shoreline. From the boat, we took in spectacular views, watched surfers and encountered some sea turtles! The staff was very helpful getting my husband on and off the boat safely. That afternoon, we traveled to Honolulu and visited Pearl Harbor. We had seen Pearl Harbor the day before from the air, which was incredible. Seeing the USS Arizona completely submerged from the helicopter was amazing. But, visiting Pearl Harbor directly exposes you to the history behind that "day which will live in infamy." It was sad and intriguing at the same time.he tour was very wheelchair accessible.

The Pearl Harbor tour was very wheelchair accessible and included a ferry ride through the harbor. We passed by the USS Arizona Memorial (closed that day due to a wind advisory), the USS Missouri and a World War II submarine that is now a museum. That submarine and the USS Missouri are not wheelchair accessible, so we were unable to board them. That said, the tour was still enjoyable, moving and very educational.

Our last day in Oahu, we went on a bus tour of the island and ended the day with a sunset dinner cruise. We had learned our lesson from the previous bus tours and called ahead to make sure the bus would have a wheelchair lift. It did, and the tour operator was very accommodating in helping Josh board and disembark at each stop. We got off the bus at many lookout sites including Waimea Bay and the Nu'uanu Pali Overlook. The tour guide took us by Queen Liliuokalani's palace and did a wonderful job explaining the history behind it all.

A beautiful sunset captured from the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
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A beautiful sunset captured from the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

The crew on our Sunset dinner cruise was very professional. The steak and crab legs made for a wonderful meal and the Macadamia nut ice cream finished it off. We enjoyed the view and the music and even got a nice look at a rainbow over the Waikiki shoreline.

Our first wheelchair accessible trip was a great learning experience for us and the destination made for a breathtakingly beautiful vacation. Next time we visit Hawaii, we plan on visiting the Big Island so that we can see a live volcano in action!

  • Diana

    Hawaii is amazingly beautiful! My hubs and I (He’s also in a wheelchair) just took a 15 day cruise from San Francisco and visited 4 islands. We are looking to go back for extended visitation. Glad to know some tips! Thanks for sharing! If you ever want information about taking a cruise with a wheel chair I also put a blog on here. It’s great to know so many people have a place to share the world from a different view!

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