July 5th, 2009 by lewbrentano
Those of us in wheelchairs like vacations in Hawaii just like anyone else. But finding a place to stay can be difficult, especially if you want to have an oceanfront spot. From personal experience I can say that most hotels in Kona side are accessible at least on the ground floor units, but almost all rental condos and homes are not. I know of two ocean front rental condos that are – my unit 2002 at Kanaloa at Kona and one at Kona Surf and Racquet. When we purchased unit 2002 , we had to renovate it to be accessible — new flooring, wider doors, the right door knobs, new ADA bathroom with grab rails and retractable shower bench and a wheel chair lift at the entry way to get you into the place. When we are not there, Aloha Condos manages the rental details.
But once you have a place to stay, then what? At the airport the rental car agencies can get you hand controls (free, but order in advance by phone) or Wheelchair Getaways rents wheelchair vans (pricey at about a $100 a day plus pick up charges of $100, but worth it is that is what you need). Also Big Island Medical rents scooters for very reasonable rates, if you want to give your arms a rest.
Although a number of sites, stores and restaurants are still not accessible on the Kona side, I have found the community support for wheelchair users is amazing on the Big Island – mostly due to the true spirit of Aloha that is part of the Big Island’s proud heritage. And if you want to be active and exercise, the spirit of support for Ironman helps you there too. On a personal coaching level I have worked with Eric Nielsen (a physical therapist, triathelete and swim-run-bike coach) and quadrupled my swimming endurance. And in general – just ask and there is help and ideas like getting into snorkeling areas (a big Mahalo to Kona Boys diving on that), or onto a catamaran to see dolphins and snorkel – with strong arms availble to get you into and out of the water (a big Mahalo to Sunlight On Water cruises and Captn. Mike).
Well this seems like a good start. In future blogs I’ll share some ideas on places to eat, parks, and other activities.