Best Beaches for Wheelchair Users

From free, motorized chair rentals to boardwalks insanely close to the water, here are some of the best accessible beaches.

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Jeanne Allen

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Jeanne Allen

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Cory Lee

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Jeanne Allen

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Jeanne Allen

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Tranquil Adventures

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Hanauma Bay

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Cory Lee

Photo By: Photo Courtesy of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism

Photo By: mikulas1

Know Before You Go: Access

Just because a beach website says accessible doesn’t mean it is. When looking for an accessible beach, make sure you contact the city’s visitor bureau or parks and recreation office to get more info. Always ask how far the parking lot is to the beach, how far wheelchair rentals are from the beach and if the beach has a boardwalk or rubber Mobi mat, which makes rolling much easier. These factors can make or break a day at the beach. And above all else, make sure the beach you want to visit provides beach wheelchairs or if there is a business close by that rents chairs.

Know Before You Go: Chairs

Not every beach offers the same type of beach wheelchair so it’s important to ask before you go and make reservations in advance as inventory is usually limited. There are pros and cons to each type of chair. Some manual chairs have special wheels and floats that allow users to go into the water but manuals have their setbacks as the user is dependent on someone to push. “If my husband has to push me, I can’t see him,” said travel blogger Jeanne Allen of IncredibleAccessible.com. “I’m not with my husband. But when I’m in a motorized chair it’s exhilarating. I can go fast. And my husband loves it because he doesn’t have to push. We can go side by side down the beach like the old days.” While motorized chairs give more independence, they can’t go in the water. Think about what you like to do at the beach and choose a spot that has the wheelchairs you like the most.

Know Before You Go: Must-Pack

Travel blogger Cory Lee of CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com suggests bringing a cushion to make beach wheelchairs more comfortable. “The cushion from my wheelchair is specifically made for me so it’s a lot more comfortable.” He also suggests bringing a velcro strap. “Beaches can be kind of bumpy and anyone like me with Muscular Dystrophy might have trouble staying in place in a bumpy wheelchair. A strap helps. You can buy one at any home improvement store. It’s usually 4ft long and cut to fit you.” And Lee added a hack to minimize sun exposure, “Bring an umbrella to attach to beach wheelchairs.”

San Diego, California

San Diego is one of the best cities in America for accessible beaches. You can find both manual and power wheelchairs throughout San Diego County, including popular Mission Beach, Coronado Beach and Ocean Beach. And the best part? Chairs are free. “You go to the lifeguard station and present your Driver’s License or ID,” said Allen. “And the life guard helps you get into the chair.” Reservations are on a first come, first serve basis so call ahead.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

While not a seaside destination, Lake Tahoe gives any tropical beach a run for its money. The beach on the Nevada side of the lake in Sand Harbor State Park features a long Mobi rubber mat making it a lot easier to roll to the water’s edge.

Key Largo, Florida

Located in Key Largo, the Tranquil Adventures charter tour group caters specifically to travelers with disabilities. Captain Mick Nealey, a Keys captain and tour guide, offers excursions for wheelchair users, from deep-sea fishing to snorkeling and diving. And Nealey said the group offers free trips for disabled veterans.

Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Hawaii has some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet and Hanauma Bay State Park believes everyone should be able to enjoy this paradise. The park uses a Mobi manual chair with floats so users can take a dip into the gorgeous aqua blue water.

Panama City Beach, Florida

While resources are limited, Panama City Beach business Beach Powered Mobility rents motorized chairs per day and by the week. At more than $300, it’s expensive but the company will deliver the chair right to your door which gives wheelchair users more time to just enjoy the vacation. The company also services the 30A area of Florida including Destin and Ft. Walton.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area is becoming one of the most accessible beach destinations in the southeast with rental services like Beach Power Rentals and Ike’s Beach Service. Plus hotels and condos in the area are offering rooms with roll-in showers. While rooms that say accessible have extra handles and larger tubs, to be completely accessible for wheelchair users, a roll-in shower is crucial. The beachfront Hilton Garden Inn in Orange Beach has roll-in showers, chair lifts for the pools and chairlifts for the hot tubs.

Accessible Beaches Around the World

One of the best international beach destinations for wheelchair users is Manly Beach, Australia, just a short ferry ride from Sydney. “There’s a paved path right along the water,” said Lee. “It goes at least a few miles. There were a lot of restaurants and shops along the way. Plus they have free manual wheelchairs if you want to sit on the sand.” Check out more international beaches for wheelchair users on CurbLeeWithCoryLee.com.