I Flew Over Oahu
Aloha! One of my favorite authors is James Michener. He is well known for his dramatic and historic tales of people and cultures. Some of his works include the Chesapeake, Texas, and Hawaii. As a result, visiting our 50th state has always been on my bucket list.
After a few months of strategic accessibility planning, Erika and I had a packed itinerary despite being a high-level quadriplegic. I felt confident that we could hit all the of the “must-see” sites in a week and not be overwhelmed.
The key to traveling for anyone with a disability is preparation. One needs to be prepared for the unknown (back-up medical supplies, tools, medicine, etc.). One of my travel tricks is to pack at least two days of emergency supplies in my carry-on luggage and to always bring my wheelchair information (make, model, serial number) to facilitate repairs if necessary. For the record, I found Oahu very accessible.
It is difficult to single out the best part of the trip because each activity was simply fabulous. The people were warm and welcoming, the accessible infrastructure was excellent, wheelchair taxis were abundant, and accommodations like beach mats and beach chairs were available many places. The ocean view was spectacular. The island’s accessibility was in many ways better than my hometown’s. Below I hope to entertain you with some meaningful highlights, but know there is so much more to do.
The Queen’s Palace
I learned that the Hawaiians have America’s only recognized Palace and it had electricity before The White House. They have seven Islands and seven capitals. Each has their own colors matching the spirits and traditions of the islands.
Oahu has nearly a million residents. Accessing the palace was easy. They seamlessly added a lift to the back side of the property and did not scar the historical architecture which is often showcased in movies.
Every morning we had a breathtaking view of the emerald green ocean and shared it with hundreds of surfers. Both the balcony and hotel room were fully accessible. No trip to the splendid waters would be complete without taking a swim! Getting into the water was made much easier thanks to beach access mats.
The best way to enjoy a sunset and to simultaneously indulge in some fabulous food is to take advantage of one of the daily sunset cruises. Thanks to the 2010 accessibility standards, the dinner cruise ships are wheelchair friendly and provide access to all decks. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset and firework show. I would highly recommend purchasing the “middle” dinner package (not too pricey). This way you can enjoy prime rib, crab, and many other delights without breaking the budget!
Sunset and Hula Dancers
Everything on the island does not cost an arm and a leg. On our second evening, just across the street, we enjoyed a traditional sunset Hula dance with blowing of the Conch Shell, lighted torches, music, and great people. The following evening just outside of the hotel, the streets were closed for their music and family fun activities. Vendors of every type were out. It was fabulous people watching. And, with the accessible streets, mingling with and navigating through the crowds was not problematic.
For some people, a helicopter tour might be a better option to see the island quickly rather than a driving tour. In full disclosure, I have never been in a helicopter nor did I know how the process worked. Getting into the helicopter was a little daunting, but their “seesaw” like lift mechanism made the process manageable. Once safely in my seat, we had a smooth, yet breathtaking, tour of Oahu! While it is a bit of a king’s ransom to take this excursion, it is worth every penny. And now you know how "I flew over Oahu."
No trip to Hawaii can be complete without a stop at Pearl Harbor. There are varieties of ways to get there-choose one that works for you. One should plan for at least 3 hours to experience, appreciate, and honor this sacred place. Our tour included the intro movie, the Battleship’s Arizona, Missouri, USS Bowfin, and the Walk of Remembrance. My visit to Pearl Harbor was made even more remarkable by meeting and engaging Command Sgt. Major Sterling Cale (ret.) Pearl Harbor Survivor, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War Veteran. At 97 years young he was full of spunk and tremendous humility. His true story can be found at Pacific Historic Park. I pray on doing that well at 97! He is certainly a part of the greatest generation! Thank you for your service!
Thanks for enjoying a little bit of Oahu, Hawaii with me. I hope you plan your own adventure sometime soon because with or without disabilities, memories can be made!