Exploring Maui In A Wheelchair

Content via WheelchairTraveling.com


man in adapted beach wheelchair on the beach

Maui can very well be touted a paradise island – warm summers, beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and non-stop fun and activities – what more can you ask for? In addition, where better to flaunt off your striking Hawaiian-printed shirts? If you are thinking of heading down to this tropical island, Justin has some information and recommendations about Maui for you! 

Justin, who uses both a power and manual wheelchair, has been to Maui 7 times, and has chalked up many unforgettable memories at this wonderful island.

“Each time the island offers up its own unique experience. As a wheelchair user, I can wholeheartedly say that the Hawaiian Islands can and will embrace you.”

About the Island

Maui is not a big island, and has 5 separate regions: West Maui, South Maui, Central Maui, upcountry Maui, and East Maui. The Western areas, such as West and South Maui, are usually drier, and you can find most touristic attractions there, while the Eastern areas are typically wetter.

If you are driving, make sure to grab a free map either at the airport or from your rental company. “You can easily navigate around by following road signs and town names,” says Justin. You can also ask the friendly locals for directions, too! “I’ve personally found most islanders are willing to help if you ask kindly,” Justin shares.

Accessible Transportation

“Getting to Maui depends on what type of flight you booked, but all of the times that I have been there has either been directly or via Honolulu (Oahu),” Justin shares. He also advises to be prepared for crowds if you have a stopover at Honolulu as it is a busy airport.

The main airport in Maui is in a northern central town called Kahului. It is a small airport, hence it is easy to navigate around. Exit to the right of the baggage claim area and you will find a hub for the major car rental companies. There are also free car shuttles that will take you to their respective drop-off points, but do take note that most of them are not wheelchair accessible.

There are two main options to get around the island: renting a vehicle or taking public transportation, like shuttles or taxis. If you plan to explore different regions of the island, Justin recommends the former option. It is less of a hassle than taking public transportation, and also offers you more freedom to travel at your own pace. In addition, “if you are renting a wheelchair accessible van, they will meet you at the airport right outside the baggage claim area,” says Justin. “Just coordinate ahead of time with them on your arrival time and they should be waiting for you.”

Accessible Accommodations

According to Justin, most of the major hotel chains in Maui offer accessible accommodations, or provide accessible amenities. Simply call or write in to the hotel to communicate your needs to get a clear idea of how they can accommodate you.

Another form of accommodation you can consider is to rent a condo, which generally offers accessible amenities and a more private space. As for Justin, he usually stays at the Worldmark by Wyndham, which offers several wheelchair accessible rooms. Most of their resort pools have lifts as well!

A great tip to also consider is staying close to the areas you’d most frequent during your vacation. For instance, if you are planning to spend most of your time in West Maui, it would be a good idea to stay there.

Accessible Restaurants

Maui, or the Hawaiian Islands in general, is a food paradise – especially with regard to their seafood! Some of Justin’s recommendations for casual dining are Plate Lunches and Kihei Caffe. Alternatively, you can consider Mama’s Fish House, a wheelchair accessible seafood restaurant. While it is accessible, do take note of the steep slope leading down to the restaurant.

Accessible Activities

Here are a few accessible activities that Justin recommends:

1) Beaches

What’s a trip down to Maui without visiting any of its beaches? Maui is home to some amazing beaches, and while many of them can be tricky to access due to their location or terrain, you can still find some which are easier to access! Justin has 3 such beaches to recommend:

  • Kaanapali Beach – The beach has a boardwalk that stretches along its entire length which is ideal for strolling. Alternatively, “you can rent a beach wheelchair for the day (or week) and have it delivered to you there,” Justin suggests. Resorts also reserve spots for beachgoers, but are highly popular. Do also take note that parking is at a premium.

  • Kamaole I (”Kam I”) Beach – To Justin’s knowledge, this is the only beach in Maui that has a free beach wheelchair, and it is available at a first-come-first-serve basis. It is located at the lifeguard tower, and lifeguards will take it for you.

  • Wailea Beach – The Wailea Beach was once named “America’s Best Beach.” It also has a paved walkway, and offers equipment rentals and swimming facilities.

2) Sea Kayaking

If you are a lover or water sports, why not consider sea kayaking? Justin has heard that Ron Bass’ Maui Sea Kayaking offers kayaking for people with disabilities in a three-man kayak. This means that you and a friend can go at the same time!

3) Aquarium

The Maui Ocean Center is a top-rated aquarium in Maui which is both wheelchair accessible and kid-friendly.

4) Helicopter Tours

While helicopter tours may be expensive, they offer you a picturesque bird’s-eye view of the island. Companies like the Sunshine Helicopters also provide wheelchair lifts to board the helicopter.

5) Shopping

Maui has a few major shopping centers that are wheelchair accessible as well, including the Whalers Village in Lahaina and The Shops at Wailea. The former is an outdoor area which is almost completely accessible, while the latter has free handicap parking and the mall is flat and accessible.

You can also consider the Old Town Lahaina at the historic downtown of Lahaina. “Since this is in old part of town, you may bump into shops and restaurants that have steps at the entrance. This has never deterred me so, if you find yourself in a spot where you’d like to gain access, simply ask for help and they may have a back entrance for you,” Justin advises.

With all these wheelchair accessible information and tips in mind, you are set to be on your way to basking in the sun in this tropical island. 

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