Monthly Archives: April 2017

Everyone can explore a more accessible Caribbean

Imagine dipping your feet into crystal clear waters along miles of golden sands, hearing your own breathing as you scuba dive, and seeing the sparkle of gold, silver, and gems in quaint shops. These alluring Caribbean travel experiences have historically not been accessible to wheelchair users, but fortunately that is changing.

Traveling internationally has always posed huge challenges for people with mobility impairments, and the nature of most Caribbean destinations – old buildings, cobblestone streets, and deep sand – has kept many seniors and wheelchair users away. However, more and more islands are now filled with experiences accessible to everyone.

 

The larger islands: Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Barbados

The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas is an enormous Caribbean playground that provides excellent access for wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments. The resort provides guests with disabilities a detailed access guide with information about accessible rooms, attractions, and more. Atlantis is one of the many Caribbean resorts where people with impaired mobility can enjoy many refreshing zero-entry (sloped) pools. All that being said, the property covers an area a mile long, and the resort shuttles are not accessible. Manual wheelchair users would be wise to seek assistance, or rent an electric scooter for their stay.

Many of the major sights in Puerto Rico are at least partly accessible, like the majestic El Morro fortress and the Bacardí distillery in San Juan. Luquillo Beach, about 45 minutes outside of San Juan, has an accessible area for mobility-impaired visitors. Puerto Rico also offers some options for wheelchair-friendly tours using vans with lifts, like Rico Sun Tours. This is often the best way to see Old San Juan, which is riddled with cobblestones and very steep streets. It’s bad enough to spill your rum; you don’t want to spill out of your wheelchair.

The island country of Barbados can be circumnavigated by car in just four hours, but offers numerous accessible attractions. Visitors can hire local transportation company Blessed Rentals for a visit to Harrison’s Cave, which takes guests through stunning caverns in a tram—with a wheelchair accessible car. Beware the hair! The caverns are a full-frizz zone; it “rains” inside.

Enjoyed city delights in Waikiki

You’ve enjoyed city delights in Waikiki and Honolulu – now it’s time to escape to Oʻahu’s North Shore. From sunrise yoga salutations and sips of Hawaiian coffee in charming Haleʻiwa to experiencing a sunset at a sacred heiau (ancient stone temple), a day trip to this laid-back surf haven will have you throwing your worries to the wind.

 

Morning: sunrise salutations, sharks, and a coastal trek

Hit the road early, cruising into the North Shore just in time for a sunrise yoga session at Turtle Bay Resort. Here, amid the warm tropical breezes, channel your inner yogi and allow the island’s aloha spirit to infuse every breath. Strike your best yoga pose, and sense all stress ebbing away with the tide.

Fully glowing and emanating inner bliss, head down the Kamehameha Hwy to charming Haleʻiwa Town. A tiny enclave that’s home to surfers and friendly laid-back locals, Haleʻiwa features a main street dotted with eclectic cafes, shops, art galleries and boutiques. Stop at the North Shore Marketplace (northshoremarketplacehawaii.com) where, nestled in the corner of this cluster of plantation-style storefronts, is the Coffee Gallery. Order from a menu of scratch-made pastries featuring local fruits, like lilikoi (passion fruit) and mango muffins or banana chocolate chip bread, as well as the extensive coffee options, beans for which are harvested from all over Hawaii and roasted onsite.

Head west down the main street of Kamehameha Hwy to reach Farrington Hwy, where a right turn will deliver you to coast-hugging Ka‘ena Point Trail. More of a hearty (and flat) nature walk than a grueling mountain trek, this trail’s scenic, ocean-swept views and unique wildlife offer ample eye candy en route – keep your eyes out for nesting Laysan Albatrosses and wedge-tailed Shearwaters, as well as Hawaiian monk seals.

Head out early, as the trail’s name speaks for itself: in Hawaiian, kaʻenameans ‘the heat.’ The often sizzling temperatures and no-shade nature of this 5-mile roundtrip trek will definitely make you sweat. The pinnacle of the trail – Ka‘ena Point – is said to be named after a brother of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, and ancient lore speaks of this sacred spot as the leina a ka uhane (jumping-off place), where departing souls came to leap into the spirit world. Standing here, amid the volcanic crags and coastal beauty, you can almost hear the ancestral whispers wafting across the waters.

After such a jam-packed morning, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Whether you are jonesing for a world-famous poke bowl (cubed raw fish, seasoned with sauces), a refreshing acai smoothie or a classic mixed plate lunch, grabbing your ono grinds (good food) to go from any of the area’s myriad food trucks will make for a perfect picnic. Try The Elephant Truck (808elephant.com), a local vendor offering taste-bud-thrilling Thai delights like panang curry and Ganesha pad Thai. And for dessert? A generous slab of something sweet from Ted’s Bakery, a North Shore institution since 1956 – good luck choosing among the house-made flavors including chocolate macadamia nut cream, strawberry guava and coconut haupia.

Once you’ve grabbed your grub, take your edible treasures to enjoy under the sun at Waimea Bay. Spend a moment to recoup from the busy morning. Swim in the sparkling blue waters, jump off iconic Waimea Rock, or, for climbing enthusiasts, try your hand at scrambling up the cluster of onsite crags.