Jim’s Accessibility Comments:
I’ve been on many cable car rides throughout the world but none compares to “Sugar Loaf”. It’s the largest, most wheelchair accessible, most scenic in the world and a MUST VISIT if you get to Rio. And trust me you don’t need to spend money on a tour guide to get here. Just grab a taxi, come and enjoy!
Many cable car operators provide access for wheelchair users but virtually all require you to transfer from your own wheelchair to another specially designed chair (at least during the ride up the mountain). Not at Sugar Loaf. Although the cable car attraction has been operated for over 100 years, these new cable cars are huge, holding approximately 65 people each, and they are specially designed to accommodate almost all wheelchairs and are considered among the safest in the world. You can easily roll right into and out of the cable car, and for wheelchairs they provide a solid folding, removable ramp at the door opening.
Parking at Sugar Loaf is extremely limited. Unless you bring a parking permit issued by the City of Rio, I suggest getting a taxi as the accessible buses with ramps simply don’t work in Rio. When you arrive there are no steps to the ticket window (cost is about US$22) and there are really no restrictive steps you’ll have to deal with.
Although there are many, many steps for able bodied folks and hikers (it is a mountain), they have installed 3-4 small hydraulic lifts for easy access to the cable car loading stations. I normally hate the dreaded small hydraulic lifts, but these lifts are all modern, and operated by full-time attendants who made the journey up the mountain fun and enjoyable – and a real memory.
The cable car is fast (about 3 minutes) and makes an initial stop at Urca Hill, a large viewing area where there’s a restaurant, bar, multiple retails stores, souvenir shops and many areas for pictures with spectacular scenery. You can view all of Rio and it’s many beautiful beaches. This is where you should plan most of your viewing time. You could easily spend a couple hours here or even plan a picnic. You’ll eventually get back onto the cable car (for another 3 minutes) and make a 2nd, generally much shorter stop atop Sugar Loaf Mtn which offers additional viewing areas.
And as a side note while the world famous Christ the Redeemer Statue atop Corcovado Mtn. is not wheelchair accessible, you can at least witness it here in the distance.
There are a couple large wheelchair accessible restrooms: one is located after the ticket booth and another at the initial mid-mountain Urca Hill stop.
If you don’t visit anywhere else in Rio, don’t miss Sugar Loaf Mountain. It is spectacular! It’s very wheelchair friendly and accessible, and professionally operated and maintained.