Big Island Snorkeling for People With Disabilities
I wanted to share some information about snorkeling the Big Island of Hawaii for people with disabilities. We have just returned from our first trip there.
I am a cripple since childhood. One of my hips is nonexistent; it has no bend. I walk with a crutch and have troubles with balance when walking. I can do normal household stairs, but with difficulty.
However I am a relatively decent swimmer. All spots below were accessed with the help of my husband, who held my hand for balance, took my crutch ashore once I was in the water, and brought me mask and fins once I was in the water.
TWO STEPS - If you face the ocean at actual "two steps", to the left of you there is a boat ramp with a tiny sand beach. The area is easy to enter, but very shallow. Two hours before the high tide you can enter, lie in the water, put on your snorkeling gear and swim out and to the right between and over rocks to a place where everyone else is snorkeling.
CAPTAIN COOK - Take Fair Wind afternoon snorkeling tour. It cost around $70 after an online discount. Their folding stairs to the water have a railing and after being unfolded, the steps go deep in the water. I could even enter with my fins on. Ask for pre-boarding when booking and sit on the lower deck. When the boat is moving going up/down the stairs to the upper deck are challenging even for healthy people. The water, restroom, and snacks are all at the lower deck.
They let us snorkel for 1.5 hours all around the bay No one chased us down when we swam further away from the boat. Most other passengers kept closer to the boat and were having fun with water slides, etc.
KAPOHO TIDE POOLS - At the intersection of Waiopae Road and Kapoho Kai Drive, there is a short trail to the relatively easy entry next to a yellow house. The trail is even marked on Google maps. The access is public.
We also saw surprising amount and variety of fish right off the boat ramp in nearby Isaak Hale Park. There is a "no entry" sign, but many locals were entering there (some with small kids) and they welcomed us to join them.
We made a video of some of the fish species we saw snorkeling the Big Island. See it on YouTube.
Non-snorkeling: Hilo Tropical Botanical Gardens are fully accessible and are the most magical place. They will even drive you from the parking lot to the gardens on a golf cart for $5.