A guide for people in bigger and differently-abled bodies: Fat Travelers Can Go Too!
By Lacey-Jade Christie
Hawaii is the travel destination gift that just keeps on giving. From the bustling beaches of Oahu to the secluded forests and volcanoes of Big Island, there really is something for everyone, even if you live in a bigger body or are differently-abled.
Traveling in a bigger body or with extra mobility requirements is definitely achievable and should not hold you back. Everyone should be able to travel and
experience everything that the world has to offer.
Bigger Body Possibilities Endless
Hawaii is so much more than the five attractions that have been listed below. You can go shopping at Ala Moana, surfing at Waikiki, have a picnic on a black sand beach, the possibilities are endless!
Just remember to ask for a guide or booking agent about accessibility and if the activity has a weight limit because nothing will kill your holiday buzz quicker than having someone ask you to stand on a set of scales before you are able to participate.
Living in a bigger body or being wheelchair enables or enabled by mobility aids should not hold you back from seeing the world. Do the research and embrace the adventure!
So if you’re thinking about traveling to Hawaii and need an accessibility guide you’ve come to the right place!
Make sure you keep this guide on hand when planning your next trip.
Why Go To Hawaii?
Hawaii really does have something for everyone; stunning natural beauty, unique shopping experiences, marine adventures, and rich cultural history so the list of attractions is endless.
Hawaii is part of the Pacific Archipelago which is an iconic tourist destination. Hawaii features some of the world’s most stunning beaches, is home to Kilauea (the world’s most active volcano) and is a unique mix of Polynesian, American and Asian cultures. It is unlike any other place on earth. A must-do on any travel bucket list.
How to get to Hawaii?
Getting into Hawaii takes some planning. Most American airlines will fly from major American cities to a few of the Islands including; Maui, Oahu and Big Island, so make sure you pick the right island to land on. Flying from Australia is a little more problematic because most airlines require you to fly from your nearest airport to Sydney for a direct flight to Oahu although Jetstar does do direct flights from Melbourne occasionally.
Be smart, research which parts of Hawaii you want to go to, compare your airlines and get the best deal.
The most effective way to get from island to island is also via plane and Hawaiian Air has you covered. Flights are relatively cheap and there are flights from and too all of the major islands so save yourself some time and fly.
My pick for the avid fat traveler would be Hawaiian Air because the seats are a little wider and the seat belt is around twenty centimeters longer than most other airlines. Comfort is key.
Once you get on the ground you have so many options! There are buses, shuttles, taxis and hire cars located at most Hawaiian airports.
Oahu – has a very reliable and frequent bus service from the Airport to Waikiki ($5 USA for a day pass) or a Taxi will get you where you need to go for about $40. Maxi Taxis and wheelchair accessible taxi’s are available just go to the information desk and ask!
Maui – Access to Maui airport is easy enough, a shuttle bus runs every half an hour and will drop you off at your hotel door and return you to the airport for around $30 per person. That’s pretty cheap especially if you are going to the south of the island. The buses are not wheelchair accessible however but again, accessible Taxies are available on request, but like in most of the US, most people use Uber or Lyft.
While traveling around Maui buses and taxi’s are a good option to get you to most tourist hot spots on the island but in order to get off the beaten track hiring a car for the day is a must! For around $300 (including tax and insurance) you can hire a car for two days and find hidden gems, turtle beaches and reach new heights on top of Maui’s volcano Haleakala.
Big Island – Living true to its name Big Island is enormous. It takes three hours to drive from one side of the island to another and unless you are planning on staying and exploring in the vicinity of one of Big Island’s two airports (Kona or Hilo) you are going to need a car.
Renting a car not only allows to the ability to get around the island but if you’re not afraid of a bit of a drive a rental car allows you to the ability to unlock your own Hawaiian adventure.
Top 5 things to do in Hawaii
Kilauea National Park
The world’s only ‘drive-in volcano’ – driving through Kilauea is like stepping onto an alien planet. Home to two active volcanos, this national park means so much to both scientists and the Hawaiian people providing invaluable research and centuries of cultural history for the world to see.
The drive from the entrance to the national park to the sea takes around forty-five-minutes but there is plenty to stop and see along the way. Along the drive, the landscape is a hard sea of what was once molten lava. The black terrain provides a beautiful contrast to the bright blue of the sky and the deep greens of the ocean.
Steam vents – located at the top of the Kilauea volcano are active steam vents that radiate heat and steam as well as contributing to the strong smell of sulfur that hangs in the air.
The steam vents are completely accessible with a wide paved pathway through the bush and weaving into and around the steam vents.
The landscape is flat and easy to navigate for any fitness level. Pay attention to the signs and don’t wander from the path though because the steam vents can collapse.
Take your time and note the layers of the rocks around you, the colors and read the information signs for all of the historical information.
Explore the spirit of Pu’uloa and the Petroglyphs
Around halfway along the drive from the volcano to the sea, you will find a stand-alone sign on the side of the road explaining the presence of the petroglyphs and a vague direction for you to walk in order to see them.
Unfortunately, this portion of the Kilauea adventure is not accessible for people enabled by mobility aids however the 700-meter walk is easy on the body and not strenuous at all, so is achievable for people of all body sizes regardless of fitness level and it is definitely worth it.
The petroglyphs are ancient carvings that tell the stories of the Hawaiians of the past, holding importance to all Hawaiians, past, present, and future.
Take your time to spot them all because they do blend into the rock faces and appreciate their significance. Also, don’t forget to respect their important by staying on the boardwalk.
Snorkeling off Molokini
Located a few kilometers off the shore of Maui is the Molokini crater, Hawaii’s only island marine sanctuary. Accessible by boat, Molokini is an excellent day trip for the entire family.
If accessibility is something you need to consider many of the bigger boats are accessible by ramp and many larger vessels have lifts to ease you into and out of the water.
This snorkeling trip is perfect for beginner swimmers to advanced as the crater provides a calm sea with no waves or rip tides. Floatation devices and snorkel equipment are available in a variety of sizes but wet suits are not provided but you don’t need one as the water is welcomed relief from the hot Hawaiian sun.
Once you put your mask on and dive into the cool Hawaiian sea you will see why the forty-five-minute boat ride and $120 price tag were completely worth it. The vast array of fish, coral and even the odd turtle that call Molokini home a sight not to be missed.
Molokini is a marine reserve and the people of Hawaii are very passionate about conservation so remember don’t touch the marine life and make sure you wear reef-safe sunscreen.
A must for any history buff when traveling in Oahu! Pearl Harbor is home to four separate historic sites including the USS Arizona Museum and the USS Bowfin Museum and Park. Each of the museums is accessible and air-conditioned with close access to water and accessible amenities if required. Each museum contains memorabilia and videos of survivors and the children of Pearl Harbor.
Footsteps of the King
Take the time to watch the first-hand accounts and the experiences of the people through this tumultuous time in Hawaii’s history. You won’t regret it.
Admission to the vessels themselves is somewhat less accessible with access to the upper deck of the USS Arizona achievable via a narrow ramp and access to the belly of the sub is limited to a staircase and a one-way flow of traffic so once you’re in you need to travel to the back of the vessel to leave.
It’s also worth noting that various sections of the sub are divided by narrow doorways which require bending and sometimes sideways maneuvering to get through. However, if you are able, the inside of the USS Bowfin is definitely worth it, it’s like stepping back in time.
Drive to the summit of Haleakala
Standing at 3055 meters above sea level, Haleakala is the biggest volcano on Maui, you can see her from any point on the island and it is worth the long drive to her peak. Daily bus tours are available for those without a car and for those with a car make sure the driver is experienced as the drive to the top of the volcano is paved but not for the faint of heart.
The summit is completely accessible with a paved pathway to the observation center or there are stairs to the left. Once at its peak the entire world is laid out before your eyes.
The view is breathtaking, as is the altitude. This adventure is not for those with inner ear problems, cardiovascular issues or breathing conditions as the air is quite thin and that can make breathing quite difficult. Just remember to take deep breaths and breath slowly.
Snorkel with the Manta Rays on the Big Island
Manta Rays are stunning, majestic creatures that freely inhabit the waters along the coast of Big Island. Participating in a night snorkel trip will cost you around $90 and is safe for all swim abilities.
Some boats do have wheelchair access via a ramp but unfortunately, there is little ability to get people unable to use the ladder into and out of the water.
Some boats to have lifts though so do your research. Each company provides wetsuits, mask, and snorkels, fins and floatation devices if you need them.
You don’t need to be able to swim to participate, you just need to be able to float because all you do is hold onto the side of a foam surfboard and watch the manta rays dance below. It’s a magical experience.
Lacey-Jade Christie is a fiery Melbourne-based plus-size influencer and host of The Fat Collective podcast. She combines her life as a nurse with her own experience of mental illness and is a strong advocate for safe spaces for the BoPo and Queer community to come together through both the podcast and at various events she hosts throughout the year. Not one to shy away from the controversial, she is a well-known LGBTIQ+ activist, feminist and published writer, having featured in publications such as The Guardian, The Age and Archer Magazine and many more. Lacey’s passion for inclusivity and celebrating diversity shine through her much like the glitter she is constantly covered in.
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