As Costa Rica becomes more accessible, disabled travelers are discovering the country’s scenic beauty. An assortment of diverse destinations and activities – paved hiking paths, aerial trams, and beautiful botanical gardens – all cater to travelers in wheelchairs. A trip to Costa Rica will be the vacation you always dreamed of with a bit of advanced planning and careful choices.
Tips for Accessible Travel:
- Air Travel: When it comes to wheelchair travel, not all airlines are created equal. Most major airlines offer flights to Costa Rica, so call around and make sure you’re getting the best services. Ask about airline lifting, extra legroom, pre-flight boarding procedures, wheelchair policies (make sure your battery type is approved for air travel), and any other aspect important to your comfort on a long-distance flight.
- Wheelchair Necessities: Costa Rica uses 110-volt electricity, the same as in the United States. It’s best to travel with fresh, fully charged batteries, as it may be difficult to find a supplier with your required type on short notice. Take along any extra gear you can think of, such as pushing glove (they can wear out quickly on long trails) and a puncture kit (or foam-filled drive wheels).
- Medications: Pack a full supply of all medications, and take along a comprehensive list of your prescriptions. If your doctor has approved refills, take a copy of your prescription receipt, as well. Many of your medications may be available over-the-counter in Costa Rica, but it’s best to be safe and have as much documentation as possible.
- Destinations: Your most important decision should be where you want to go, and not where you think you can go. No matter your desired destination, you’ll find activities that cater to accessible travel – try a rainforest aerial tram in the Central Valley, a paved walking trail in Tortuguero, or a tourist train in Monteverde. Lankester Botanical Garden has paved trails and Poas Volcano National Park is wheelchair-friendly, and Costa Rica's only park that is entirely handicapped accessible.
- Transportation: Once in Costa Rica, there are several forms of transportation that cater to disabled and wheelchair travelers. If you’re partially mobile and able to maneuver yourself, shared shuttles and rental cars may be the best option. If not, you’ll want to consider traveling with private transfer services, some of which are completely wheelchair accessible. Some public buses are also wheelchair accessible, but it can be hard to find a bus with a working lift, so it’s best not to depend on this as your only mode of transportation.
- Lodging: Always call hotels in advance to inquire about accessible rooms and hotel facilities. Don’t hesitate to explain your needs, as some hotels are more accessible than others. Ask about door widths, shower facilities, the location of their dining room, and whether paths between key locations are wide and paved. Larger resorts will often have an abundance of accessible facilities, while smaller hotels and lodges may present more of a challenge. But take heart: no matter where your travels take you, you’re sure to find an accessible hotel.
- Tours: Almost every destination is packed with accessible activities, but make sure your travel agent verifies accessibility before booking a tour. Costa Rica is your oyster: take a trip to a botanical garden; bask in restorative hot springs; take a hot air balloon ride; or tease your taste buds on a chocolate or coffee tour. Even birdwatching or hiking activities are possible! You may want to consider hiring an accessible travel specialist; these companies supply wheelchair-accessible transportation and have the knowledge to fine-tune their itineraries to address your specific needs.