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Exploring Accessible Wonders of Hawaii’s Big Island

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A view in the Waipio Valley of the island of Hawaii, with a waterfall in the distance Big Island Getty Images

I had the opportunity to visit the Big Island of Hawaii this year and it was spectacular! I was there for only two days and it was much too short.  The Big Island has so much to see and do and much of it is accessible!  Just be ready to explore and enjoy and be amazed.  Everything from its very diverse landscapes, to its rich cultural heritage, to the stunning beaches, the Big Island is a traveler’s paradise.

Access to The Big Island

I rented an accessible van through Wheeler’s.  They met us at the airport on pick up and drop off and their team is very friendly and accommodating.  You’ll have lots of options for accessible hotels and resorts.  I stayed at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and we had an amazing time. The resort had accessible rooms, pathways, access to the beach, but it was pretty much isolated from other resorts.

My entire trip to the Big Island was topped off with an amazing helicopter tour of the island made possible by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters!  I have a more thorough article about Blue Hawaiian on this site. I can’t wait to get back to the Big Island of Hawaii soon.  Here are some of my recommendations for you to have a fun, relaxing, and accessible trip to this magical island.


A really interesting place to visit is the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, an educational facility dedicated to combining Hawaiian culture with world-class astronomy. The center, which is entirely wheelchair-accessible, offers interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and beautiful native gardens.

Parks and Gardens

Next on your itinerary should be the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the home of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes. The visitor center, the Jaggar Museum, and several lookout points are accessible and the park is making efforts to become more accessible.  I can tell you, when you are in the park it feels and looks like you are on another planet.  It is simply beautiful.

For nature enthusiasts, don’t miss the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. This fully accessible 12-acre zoo is the only one in the United States located in a rainforest. Besides the fascinating collection of more than 80 animal species, it also has a botanical garden with lots of  orchids, bamboos, and tropical palms.

Explore the beauty of Akaka Falls State Park, home to the Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a gorge below. While the full loop trail might be challenging for anyone with mobility disabilities, there’s an accessible pathway leading to a fantastic viewpoint where you can see this amazing waterfall.

For coffee lovers, and no coffee better than Kona coffee, you must check out the Greenwell Farms coffee plantation. The farm offers accessible guided tours that take you through the coffee-making process, from the tree to your cup.  Be sure to contact them ahead of time to ensure your accessibility needs are met.

For a touch of history, visit Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, also known as the Place of Refuge. The Royal Grounds and the Great Wall are wheelchair-accessible, with accessible ramps, pathways, restrooms and accessible parking.  The park gives an incredible  insight into ancient Hawaiian culture and history.


The iconic black sand beach of Punalu’u is a must-see. The beach offers a wheelchair-accessible platform where you can see the black sand and maybe spot green sea turtles basking in the sun.  Other accessible beaches include Spencer Beach Park, Hapuna Beach Park, Kua Bay State Park, Kaloko National Park, Kahonaiki Beach Park, and Honokohau National Park. Many of these beaches offer beach wheelchairs.


You can’t escape a true island experience without going to a traditional luau!  A traditional luau can last for a few hours, usually includes a huge buffet of Polynesian foods, traditional arts and crafts, and Polynesian dancers.  The Island Breeze Luau, located on the historic grounds of the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, provides a wheelchair-accessible venue. 

Whale watching and water sports

You’ve made the trip all the way to Hawaii and you must experience the amazing Pacific ocean in one way or another.  If you’re not a swimmer, how about an accessible whale watching cruise?  Check out Body Glove Cruises for an up close experience with whales in their natural habitat.  Or, maybe you’d like to try adaptive kayaking?  Contact Kona Boys for more information.

Hawaii’s Big Island has something for just about everyone. It’s a beautiful and friendly island that will fascinate you the moment you arrive.  So, contact a knowledgeable and reputable travel agent, such as Travel for All, plan your accessible itinerary based on your needs, and take an unforgettable trip to the Big Island of Hawaii soon! 

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