Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy a trip to the beach without worry. Lack of accessibility, however, can put a serious damper on things. Beach wheelchairs are the ticket to smooth and simple transport across the sand, and in some cases, even the surf! Spending time outdoors has innumerable health benefits, and a fun day at the beach creates memories that will last a lifetime. I’m here to help you find the best beach wheelchair for you, tailored to your needs and preferences. Let’s get started!
Beach Wheelchair Options
Motorized Beach Wheelchairs
Motorized beach wheelchairs are very convenient, comfortable, and perfect for traversing sand, pebbles, and relatively bumpy terrain. These are commonly-found around many beaches all over the country, offering complete independence as they can be self-operated with a joystick, just like a powered wheelchair.
Many motorized beach wheelchairs are fully-adjustable with reclining seatbacks, folding armrests, adjustable headrests, and seat belts. Some also come with velcro chest straps to provide additional stability and peace of mind. They allow users to travel very close to the water, but the motor cannot get wet, of course. Motorized models come with huge, smooth tires similar to the manual beach wheelchairs. However, these tend to look more high-quality with sleek rims and anti-tip wheels. They do not come with a grip like the all-terrain wheels do, however.
The motorized beach wheelchairs can usually travel up to 4 MPH, which is about the pace of a fast walker, and can be adjusted with the convenient, responsive speed knob. The frame is almost always made of aircraft aluminum, with a corrosion-resistant powder coating so the sea breeze won’t risk damaging it. Many come with sealed marine-grade batteries, perfect for the beach!
There are many companies around the U.S. that rent motorized beach wheelchairs, but I’ve even seen them available at many beaches on a complimentary first-come, first-served basis. I’ve seen them in Miami, Clearwater, and on some accessible California beaches to name a few.
Manual Beach Wheelchairs
If you’re looking for a sand wheelchair, there are plenty of manual options available. They start from being more “basic” with PVC frames to more advanced aluminum frame designs. All of them come with large, inflatable, high-flotation wheels that make traveling over the sand more easy.
These tend to be the most affordable type of wheelchair for the beach. They almost always come with 4 tires and are very easy to maintain thanks to the durable PVC frame and polyurethane wheels that won’t puncture. They move quite nicely over not only sand, but dirt, rocks, and shallow water, as well.
What’s nice about the PVC is that it’s warm to the touch, rather than the aluminum that can get hot in the sun (or cold, depending on the weather). The PVC has rounded corners, is super easy to clean and disinfect, and is also resistant to stains and odors. As most disassemble into just 3 pieces, transport is very convenient.
In terms of comfort, they do vary widely. Some come with a sliding footrest, a reclining seatback, and ergonomic padding that make a big difference when you want to spend the whole day out in the sun and sand.
Others are really not adjustable at all, and have a very basic mesh seat that can become quite uncomfortable as there isn’t much “give” to it. The upside to mesh is that it’s more breathable, which is quite nice when it’s hot out.
Most will come with a mesh bag for storing towels, sunscreen, and other beach necessities, brake, and an umbrella/umbrella holder. These are actually the kind I’ve seen offered for free rental at many accessible beaches around the country. However, there are plenty available on Amazon if you’re looking to purchase one, as well.
Perhaps the biggest downside for manual beach wheelchairs is the fact that you cannot operate it yourself – someone has to be pushing you.
Amphibious beach wheelchairs
Amphibious beach wheelchairs make transitions from boardwalks to the beach, from the beach to the water, a breeze. They’re so convenient, and I didn’t even know they existed until several years ago when I used one in Aruba.
While any kind of beach wheelchair can enhance the experience, I believe everyone should be able to enjoy both the sand and surf. After all, there’s nothing better than feeling that cool water on your skin after a hot day on the sand!
This sand wheelchair is typically made with an aluminum frame, high-flotation armrests and wheels, which are designed to support up to around 250 pounds on dry land and water. The integrated armrest handles make for a stable, more enjoyable ride.
The amphibious beach wheelchairs typically have 3 wheels: 2 in the back and one smaller one in the front on a front fork for easy maneuvering. The rubber pneumatic tires absorb shock very well, making travel over sand and rocks much smoother.
As they’re a bit more cumbersome and consist of 6+ different parts, they’re not quite as convenient in terms of transportation inside vehicles and the like. These are also available on Amazon if you’d like to get one, but many beach destinations offer them complimentary. I’ve seen amphibious beach wheelchairs in Panama City Beach, Hawaii, and at many beaches in Europe.
All-terrain wheelchairs are some of the most convenient, combining features of some of the other types of wheelchairs we’ve covered here. There are really two main all-terrain wheelchairs widely available that I really love: the Action Trackchair and the Magic Mobility Extreme X8.
The Action Trackchair is quite possibly the most recognizable of its kind, known for its incredible off-roading abilities. With its 2-track tread system, it’s fantastic on all kinds of terrain – no matter how bumpy.
The Magic Mobility Extreme X8 is the ultimate “extreme” wheelchair, with a top speed of 6 MPH (like speed-walking). With its knobby tires, impressive suspension, and powerful motors, it can traverse anything from city curbs to mountainous terrain without jolts or bumping around. I have an Extreme X8 and I have tremendously enjoyed rolling on all kinds of beaches with it!
It does have full raise and tilt ability, similar to the Action Trackchair. However, the X8 comes with exclusive 4WD powertrain that makes climbing a breeze. It’s super maneuverable with an ultra-tight turning radius, ideal for those adventurers at heart.
Comfort is supreme in these beach wheelchairs, with highly adjustable settings and thickly padded seating. It’s important to note that while it’s perfect on the sand and pebbles, boardwalk, etcetera, it should never be driven through the water – not even puddles or little streams.
FAQs About Beach Wheelchairs
Are beach wheelchairs hard to push? Pushing a wheelchair on the sand can definitely be more difficult than on regular surfaces like asphalt, due to the soft, uneven ground. However, the large, inflatable wheels of a beach wheelchair can make this task much easier.
Can beach wheelchairs go in the water? Many beach wheelchairs can go in the water, yes! It all depends on the type and specific model of sand wheelchair, as I’ve mentioned above.
How much are beach wheelchairs? Price will vary depending on the type and features, but they usually sit somewhere between $1,300 to $4,000. However, if you’re wanting something motorized like an all-terrain chair, they can be much more.
Are beach wheelchairs self-propelled? Some beach wheelchairs are self-propelled, while others require another person to push the rider. Manual wheelchairs and amphibious wheelchairs are not typically self-propelled, while motorized and all-terrain wheelchairs are.
If you’re looking for a beach wheelchair for sand, there are plenty of fantastic options available. There’s something for all kinds of budgets, comfort preferences, environments, and style. It all comes down to your particular needs, but what really matters is you getting to experience the beach in all its glory, free of worry.