Handicap Accessible Vacation Ideas

Posted on Friday February 7, 2020

National Plan for Vacation Day, celebrated on Tuesday, January 28th this is year, is a day to encourage Americans to plan their vacations for the whole year at the start of the year – and inspire them to use those days to travel the USA. Why is this so important?

  • 46% of American workers admit to not planning for vacation
  • 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018, 9% more than 2017
  • 86% of Americans say they have not seen enough of their own country

Taking a vacation can provide many benefits including stress reduction, heart disease prevention, improved productivity and better sleep. Planning a handicap accessible vacation can provide its own challenges however. Click here to read our tips that will ensure a safe and enjoyable traveling experience when visiting the following places, or your favorite handicap accessible spot.

Planning an accessible vacation can take a little extra effort, here are some popular handicap accessible vacation spots and tips.

The Royal Resorts – Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico

A collection of six resorts located on the beach in Mexico, the Royal Resorts have ramps throughout their hotels, and even offer Amigo motorized carts available to rent onsite.

Planning on visiting the beach while you’re there? Wheelchair ramps are offered from the pool area to the beach under a palapa. This means no trying to maneuver through the sand to enjoy the beach!

Disney World and Disneyland

With a variety of accommodations for guests with disabilities, Disney amusement parks can prove to be the Most Magical Place on Earth for all guests. They offer disability parking lots, accessible ride passes, more than 40 wheelchair-friendly attractions with wheelchair-friendly ramps at all, as well as accessible activities both inside and out of all parks.

Guest services at both parks have an extensive list of services to help a person with disabilities, including:

  • Stroller, wheelchair and ECV rental
  • Advance ticket purchase
  • Quiet ares
  • Dietary accommodations
  • Other services to assist with: visual disabilities, hearing disabilities, light sensitivity, cognitive disabilities and autism

Accessible Beaches

San Diego, California

The City of San Diego, Port of San Diego, local residents and council members joined forces to bring the sun, surf and sand to all visitors. You’ll find endless ocean views and the opportunity to take it all in with the variety of manual, powered and floating beach chairs, plus sand access mats are available at various beaches.

Free manual or powered beach wheelchairs can be found at popular beaches throughout the city. Planning ahead will be necessary, as most are offered on a first come, first serve basis. Power wheelchairs are a comfortable, sturdy, self-propelled hybrid of a power wheelchair and dune buggy that can navigate the soft sands. Be prepared for the manual chairs, you’ll need a friend to help you navigate.

Mission Beach

  • Beach Wheelchair: Yes
  • Accessible Parking: Yes
  • Accessible Restroom: Yes
  • Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

La Jolla Shores

  • Beach Wheelchair: Yes
  • Accessible Parking: Yes
  • Accessible Restroom: Yes
  • Accessible Picnic Table: Yes

Imperial Beach

  • Beach Wheelchair: Yes
  • Accessible Parking: Yes
  • Accessible Restroom: Yes
  • Accessible Picnic Table: No

Key Largo, Florida

Florida state requires a minimum of 5% of the guest rooms in all licensed lodging facilities be handicap accessible, click here for Florida Keys accommodations. Local attractions have followed suit and worked to make themselves handicap accessible as well and offer fun for everyone. You’ll find staff to assist with your needs, and many offer wheelchair-wide entrances for ease.

A visitor favorite is Tranquil Adventures, Florida Keys fishing boats, specifically equipped for wheelchairs, have accessible restrooms, and are equipped with a lift to lower passengers with disabilities in shallow waters for snorkeling and swimming.

Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Can you imagine traveling through a dormant cone volcano crater? That’s just what you’ll get to do when you visit this Hawaiian attraction that is considered 100% handicap accessible. Visitors can take the transport shuttle to get to the beach that is accommodating of both standard and power wheelchairs, and will only cost you $1. 

For those planning ahead, there are two beach wheelchairs available to reserve at no cost. It is still recommended to take the shuttle back and forth to the beach, as power wheelchair motors have been known to struggle going up the hill.

Wheelchairs are available from the beach information kiosk from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. all year around.

Accessible National Parks

Everglades National Park – Florida

1.5 million acres of unique terrain are protected at this Florida National Park. Visitors can explore unique environments ideal for wildlife and diverse ecosystems.The park is open 365 days and encourages reservations to be made in advance for tours. Along with many of the boat tours being wheelchair accessible, the tram tour and multiple other stops in the park are.

Handicap Accessible Visitor Centers:

  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
  • Royal Palm Visitor Center
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center

Trails (all wheelchair accessible are less than ¾ of a mile in distance):

  • Anhinga Trail
  • Gumbo Limbo Trail
  • Pineland Trail
  • Pa-hay-okee Overlook
  • Mahogany Hammock Trail
  • West Lake Trail
  • Bobcat Hammock

Visitors can rent wheelchairs free of charge at the Royal Palm Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center and Shark Valley Visitor Center on a first come first serve basis.

Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona

Considered one of the seven wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a National Park we hope all tourists have the chance to visit at least once. Visitors should keep in mind that the majority of the facilities were built prior to today’s accessibility standards. That does not mean that a person with a disability can not visit.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon was designed for tourists, and has been designed to meet ADA laws. Here you’ll find handicapped parking, food options, restrooms, trail maps, and a wheelchair friendly path. Pipe Creek Vista Trail is around 1.5 miles long, and will lead you to multiple lookout points.

Sequoia National Park – California

You’ll know you made it to Sequoia National Park when you come to the four towering sequoia redwoods, known as the “Four Guardsmen.” The park has stated that they are committed to a continuing effort to improve the accessibility of their trails and facilities so they can be enjoyed by all visitors. You’ll find that all visitor centers are handicap accessible, and employees will be able to give you all the recommendations for your time there. The Lodgepole Visitor Center and Giant Forest Museum have wheelchairs available at no cost.

Accessible Trails:

  • General Sherman Tree Trail – only a few hundred feet of trail will lead you to the largest tree on Earth
  • Big Trees Trail – you’ll find yourself looping a meadow that is surrounded by giant sequoias. Keep in mind there is currently a 50-foot section that is being repaved.
  • Zumwalt Meadow Trail – a portion of this trail is accessible to wheelchairs.
  • Roaring River Falls – this short and shady trail will lead you to a powerful waterfall 
  • Muir Rock Trail – the large granite boulder at the end of this short trail was named after famed naturalist John Muir.

Zion National Park – Utah

Visitors will find themselves surrounded by one of the most fertile places in the State of Utah when they visit Zion National Park. Free in-park shuttles can get you around the park, but the permanently closed windows mean you’ll want to get out and explore one of the two handicap accessible trails for the full experience.

  • Pa’rus Trail – accessible from the Visitor Center, this paved trail is 3.5 miles long, relatively flat, paved and is full of desert landscapes and canyon views.
  • Riverside Walk – the last stop on the shuttles, this 2.2 mile trail provides more shade than the Pa’rus Trail. You’ll also experience more change in elevation, some sections do have a light layer of sand that can make gripping a challenge. 

For visitors who don’t want to explore on their own, you can book a two-hour-long-ranger-led tour on the shuttle. Reservations must be made up to three days in advance at the Visitor Center because seating is limited.

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