Tales of Traveling to Hawaii With an Electric Wheelchair

A columnist explores the surprisingly accessible Aloha State with his mobility aid

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by Dwayne Wilson |

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A recent Hawaii vacation I took with my wife and friends was incredible, as I wrote in my last column. I’m enthusiastic about sharing even more about my experiences traveling while living with late-onset Pompe disease.

I consider myself to be semi-ambulatory and can walk for short periods of time. However, I suspected we’d be busy with lots of activities, including walking and sightseeing. My wife and I decided it would benefit us to take along my electric Fold&Go wheelchair.

Using the electric wheelchair allows me to conserve my energy and strength throughout the day, and it helps me be mobile. When I need to walk or participate in activities, I’m ready to go. I was able to be on the go from sunrise to sunset while in Hawaii, and knowing that I had my wheelchair with me gave me confidence.

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An electric wheelchair sits covered at an airport gate.

Dwayne’s electric Fold&Go wheelchair with a travel cover, ready to be checked onto the airplane. (Photo by Dwayne Wilson)

I’d never taken my electric wheelchair on an airplane before, so I was nervous that it might be lost, scratched, or even broken. Thankfully, everything went well. Using a travel cover helped prevent nicks and dings. We had no issues with the airline or the rental car company and made it to the hotel intact. I had my mobility device, an extension of my legs and breathing, to ensure I’d enjoy my Hawaii vacation.

And much of Hawaii was more accessible than I’d expected.

The Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club had ample amounts of handicap parking for our minivan. There were handicap-accessible restrooms and paths around the resort to the pools and lagoons.

An electric Fold&Go wheelchair with blue-green trim and black seat cushions sits in a parking lot.

“The Dolphinator.” (Photo by Dwayne Wilson)

Pineapples everywhere

Oahu is a beautiful island that offers many things to see and do. We made plans for a day trip to the Dole Plantation, a popular tourist attraction in the middle of Oahu. You’ll find it along the drive to the North Shore, which was another place for us to see later that day.

We loaded up my electric wheelchair — which I call “the Dolphinator” — into the minivan and headed off to the plantation. The drive was beautiful and featured lush green fields and majestic mountains.

Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the plantation. Frankly, I wondered what I was doing there, as I probably wouldn’t be able to do any of the tourist activities in a wheelchair. I thought I’d just wait outside while my wife and her best friend, Jennifer, had all the fun.

A goateed man with a red visor and blue and red tank top smiles and points to the main entrance of the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii.

Dwayne visits the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii. (Photo by Dwayne Wilson)

But arriving at the main building, we noticed that one of the attractions was the Pineapple Express train, which took a short journey around the plantation. Jennifer bought tickets and asked about accessibility through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

An employee said the ride had a special ADA loading area and train car, which I was shocked to hear. I drove the Dolphinator to the handicap loading area to the right of the main station.

A worker at the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii, places a ramp to allow wheelchair access to a tourist train car.

A train attendant places a ramp for Dwayne’s electric wheelchair to board the train car. (Photo by Dwayne Wilson)

The train attendants asked us to wait a minute. They went to one car, flipped up both seats, and put down a ramp. I was able to ride up the ramp in my wheelchair and stay seated in my chair facing forward for the train ride, while the women sat on the seat in front of me. We all enjoyed the ride around the plantation.

When the train ride was over, we went inside to get some Dole Whip dessert and buy some souvenirs. The friendly and helpful workers opened the doors for me to enter into the main building, and there were also buttons to open the doors automatically.

A man sits in an electric wheelchair on a tourist train car with two women seated in front of him.

Dwayne, back, Jean Gibson, left, and Jennifer Runge enjoy the Pineapple Express train ride at the Dole Plantation in Oahu, Hawaii. (Courtesy of Dwayne Wilson)

There was plenty of space in the store to maneuver my electric wheelchair. The restrooms were handicap-accessible. We went outside to a table to eat our desserts. It was a great experience to be able to enjoy the Dole Plantation while using my electric wheelchair.

Enjoying life with no reservations

It took me a few years, but I’ve realized that I’m not less of a man for using an electric wheelchair. People sometimes stare at me or make comments under their breath that I don’t look disabled. In those instances, I tell them that I have an invisible disability. Using an electric wheelchair allows me to enjoy life to the fullest. My wife is happy that I can participate in activities with her, and our friends don’t have to worry about my energy levels.

I’ve learned that using an electric wheelchair, or any type of mobility device, allows me to spend more quality time with my friends and family. It lets me use my energy when I want so I can keep my body’s battery fresh for new adventures and experiences “On the Road to Pompe.”

After our train excursion, we headed back to the minivan, loaded up the Dolphinator, and looked forward to our next Hawaii adventure: driving to the North Shore to explore the beaches.

Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


LeNa Amburn avatar

LeNa Amburn

I love your stories and all of the pictures, You, are very inspiring. Thank you for allowing us to travel with you and your wife and enjoy your vacation. Your wife and her friend are beautiful ladies and should allow more pictures, they are part of this journey!!!

Dwayne Wilson avatar

Dwayne Wilson

Hi LeNa, Thank you for the kind words, I really appreciate it. You are absolutely right, my wife is part of my journey and I would love to share more photos of us. We are always looking to make new friends and share more of our adventures on my personal Facebook page. My wife says Thanks for the compliment. I hope sharing my Hawaii Vacation experience inspires others to travel and enjoy life to the fullest.


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