Aloha (/ɑːˈloʊhɑː/; Hawaiian: [əˈloːˌha]) is the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy, that is commonly used as a simple greeting but has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians.
Ahhh Hawaii, island life. Hands down my favorite place to visit. Kauai is rich in adventure, has lush and tropical forests, and is filled with island spirits surrounding you (get ready for my story of “the little red bird”). According to legend, Kauai’s name originated from the Polynesian founders of the Hawaiian Islands, it means a favorite place around one’s neck, this was, the universal place to carry one’s most beloved child. And since I am my grandma’s favorite beloved grandson, I frequently visit this lovely place (p.s. Let’s hope my brother and sister do not read this. LOL).
Now let’s get to talking about accessibility and traveling to Hawaii. I recommend flying with Hawaiian Airlines. They have big luxurious and comfortable seats, wide aisles, and a delightful staff. Flight is direct and appears quick from takeoff to landing.
Plane Travel in General: Getting on any airplane is never easy for me, no matter the airline. I have a special airplane seat that I transfer into when it’s time to board the plane. One of my assistants goes and puts the chair into the airline seat while the other waits back with me off of the plane. Once the chair is secured and in, they run back to help transfer me into my seat. Now I should note here, the airline staff does not help with this transfer; I need to have adults with me that are able to transfer me to my airplane seat. This is true for all airlines I fly with. The airline staff does take my wheelchair and place it under the plane once I have found my seat. It is out and ready when we arrive at our final destination (and sometimes we have to wait a loooong time). Also, just a heads up, airlines always let me on first and we are always the last off. The hardest part of this whole process is getting all set up for the flight. The staff are usually always polite and helpful. During the flight, my favorite pastime is watching movies.
Now, once you get to Kauai, I can’t give you first hand experience with accessible public transportation but below are the links I have found.
I am one lucky guy because my grandmother lives there and always rents a wheelchair accessible van beforehand. Red carpet treatment from plane to VACATION thanks to my grandma.
Below are some other helpful links for wheelchair accessibility and Hawaiian Airlines:
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa: Upscale Oceanside Resort
The Grand Hyatt Kauai, what can I say, it sure was spectacular. Located by Poipu beach, the grounds were covered in lush green tropical plants and beautiful flowers. Upon arrival, as my assistant pulled in, the view was this huge open welcoming lobby area. A nice lady put a lei around each of our necks as we were escorted into the resort. Ah, I’m dreaming of it right now, take me back!!
A bellman helped us take our stuff up to our suite. The room was wonderfully big and bright. I had no trouble getting around it. There was plenty of room for myself and my family to sit back, kick off the shoes, and enjoy. The room even had a balcony which was sized perfectly for my wheels. I could roll outside and enjoy, breathing, meditating, taking it all in, alone in peace. Everything the light touched was in my view. I had the most beautiful views of all seven pools, the peaceful ocean, and swaying palm trees. With the warm sun upon my face, it just felt like my own oasis. The room and balcony felt very private, room service was prompt, and it was the perfect tropical escape for me and my wheels.
Now onto my favorite part of resort stays, the pool. I am not quite 18, but my Grandma, of course, surprised me and rented a poolside cabana in the adults only section. I rolled on into it and fit perfectly in between the two lounge beds. A nice lady came and hung out with us. Okay, okay, so she really was the waitress for our section, but she treated us like we were her only clients and friend. She didn’t have a giant leaf to fan me but she did come every hour to check in on us. She brought us cold beverages and food (delicious sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and endless french fries). She brought all the ice cream bars a boy could dream of. I was on cloud nine! Every time we needed a new dry towel, “tah-dah” it was there! There was a mini fridge in our cabana and a flat screen TV. We didn’t watch it though. I was too busy watching the girls at the pool. Grand Hyatt, let me say, top notch service. I felt like a king for an afternoon.
There are several restaurants around the property, but we frequented the Seaview Terrace. It was an outdoor indoor restaurant with a round stage. We entered through the handicap elevator which was right in front of a massive buffet. Not smart, Grand Hyatt! A total traffic jam of people and me in my wheels. We were stuck between the hungry guests. Once we got to our table, everything was calm once again. We had a view of the sun but not so much of the sunset. A great view of the stage and nightly Hawaiian performances.
I would recommend staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai the next time you come rolling through Kauai. One, it is perfect for wheelchair users, and, two, it is beautiful.
Air BnB: “Grandma Style”
An alternative option to staying at a resort in Hawaii would be renting an accessible Air BnB. I have visited Kauai several times and have enjoyed staying in my own private place. The Air BnB I rented was fantastic. It was a house which was fully wheelchair accessible. They had ramps throughout when I got there. Which made it easy to access the entire house, even the living room. My bedroom was equipped with a bed with rails and a bathroom with grab bars in the shower and at the toilet. A lot of heart and thought was put into this home, making it a safe, mobile and a lovely home for an individual in a wheelchair. There was a little patio on the back that gave me an amazing view of the ocean. I could watch the whales breach the ocean waters and rainbows emerge after a summer rain. I would highly recommend looking into renting an Air BnB while vacationing in Hawaii, it gives you the freedom of making it your own home and allows for relaxation and privacy.
To the Streets–
Note to all my followers that enjoy using Lyft and Uber, Kauai is not a rideshare friendly island, let’s just say Uber is on “island time.”. There are very few and could take hours to be picked up. A car rental or taxi are the best options for transportation. I am going to tell you a fun fact, there are no yellow cabs. Their transportation there is more like tour companies you can hire.
So I rented a little mini van with a pull out ramp. It was easy to get in and out of. It had a total of 7 seats including the spot for me. There was a very small trunk, which if you are visiting with a small group, this might not be an issue, but it was way too small for our luggage. Everyone had to hold their suitcases on their laps. Did I mention that this is the only wheelchair accessible car available for rent on the island? Travelers tip: Make sure to reserve way in advance so you have a set of wheels. But, you better check with me first, because if I am going to Hawaii, you cannot have it. LOL.
Now, let’s hit the road. Getting around the island was a breeze. You can hardly find any traffic and parking was a breeze. The van has large windows along the sides of the car so I get spectacular views of the ocean and island. Plus, I am always in charge of the CD player. Jams for hours! Tell me your favorite song and I’ve got you covered. Casey’s jams for your island drives, playlists upon your requests.
Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden
Wow, the Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, what can I say, the garden makes for the perfect day out. They have done a fabulous job for individuals in wheelchairs, I could go almost everywhere in the garden. There are paved paths all along. There are about six different tropical areas you can walk through and observe the plants and wildlife. I am always on the lookout for birds, especially red birds in Hawaii. The first area you come through is the children’s garden. Great if you have little ones. This area is targeted for children two to six. It has a very big splash pad with Jack and the Beanstalk right in the middle of it. Be prepared to GET WET! If you don’t want your wheels to get a wash, don’t “park” your wheels here. Next, you come to a huge grassy area. Perfect for picnics, relaxing, reading a book, listening to your favorite music (mine… musical from musical), and just take in the beauty around you. Then you head further into the park and it starts to really become full of plant life and more interesting. There is a walking trail that leads you on a 10 mile beautiful tropical adventure. The path is wheelchair accessible and makes this garden for a wonderful day out in Hawaii! It leads you through the lush tropical plants and trees of Hawaii. Yup, you could say I was in paradise. Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens are a must do “main attraction” when you are in Kauai!
A Must Do–
Michael Keale and The Smith’s Garden Luau
Alright get ready for ONE SPECTACULAR EVENING out in Kauai. While on vacation, we went to the Smith’s Family Luau, located in Wailua. I must say if you’re on the island, you have to come to this spectacular event! The accessibility was great! It was really easy to getting around once in the outdoor pavilion. However, getting into the actual event requires a huge process. You probably know that process (it’s the same as getting into your favorite show or concert). The handicap parking is right in front of the restautheatre! (lol… restaurant and theatre combined) Once you are all checked in, you get into a medium-sized tram which has a nice sized wheelchair car. The tram has speakers that tell you about the grounds, while you enjoy your ride. The tram takes you to the main dining hall which holds the dinner and pre-show. There are wheelchair accessible tables, but heads up, you will be right in the middle of a “toddler race”. The tables have good views of the whole stage. The dinner is served buffet style. The reason why it is a “toddler race” is because toddlers run past the tables to dance at the stage. If you are not into that make sure to sit farther back. After dinner, you head to your seats in the amphitheater which is where the main show is. FYI, the venue is sloped and the wheelchair section is all the way at the top. Obviously there aren’t Jumbotrons, so at times the view is a little hard to see. The show is about people using dance to tell the story of Hawaii.
They dance with hula and fire. Overall the experience is one fabulous night to remember. I couldn’t recommend it enough!!
Till next time, Kauai!