Disney is a land of magic, fun and adventure for children, but most of the fun is geared towards children over the age of three. This can be frustrating for parents who love Disney, or want to bring their older children to a Disney resort, but also have babies and toddlers to entertain.
Aulani, a Disney resort on Oahu, is no exception. Many of the activities and the kids’ club are geared towards children age three and up. This means no quiet time for mom and dad, unless they want to pay for a pricey sitter.
The staff and creative brains behind Aulani are slowly adding baby-friendly spots to the resort, but there is no guide to help you figure out what may work for your baby and toddler, and what won’t. That’s where we come in. My 21-month-old son Ty and I scoured Aulani looking for things to do together. We came up with several options you can enjoy with your own tiny person when you visit.
A highlight of the resort is their private snorkel pool, Rainbow Reef. No, your baby probably will not go snorkeling with you. I have a hard time with the mask and snorkel; I can’t imagine getting my baby to wear one too. There are viewing windows behind the towel station that your baby and toddler can sit at for hours though. My son Ty was ecstatic every time we passed by, yelling and signing “fishy” whenever we got close. Babies as young as 4 months old may enjoy this area as well; fish are so much easier to see than sleeping lions at a zoo. Give it a try and see your baby’s eyes light up as brightly colored fish swim by.
Pools and life vests
There are two zero entry pools that are just the right size for infants and babies to sit down and play with their parents. Toddlers will love testing their “swimming” skills, splashing their siblings, and even taking a float down the lazy river.
Menehune Bridge is also a great place to set up camp. Babies can splash around the edges, while more daring toddlers can explore this water playgrounds. Only children 48 inches or smaller are allowed in this area, which means the big kids won’t knock over little ones in their rush to hit the toddler-sized slides. Even parents are discouraged from entering!
Disney does not mess around with a child’s safety near water. Every single pool (there are five for kids) has several lifeguards, and you can borrow a life vest for babies, toddlers and children free of charge. This is a must if you want to take your baby on the lazy river and not worry about him or her falling in. It will also give piece of mind to parents whose children, no matter what age, want to go down the slides.
Families wanted a safe place away from the crowded pools for their babies to splash and play. The Aulani answered with Keiki Cove. This mini-spray area has water spouting up from the surface in different patterns and intervals. My son Ty was not a big fan because he was shocked by a bit of water popping out of the ground the first time we visit, but plenty of babies were having the time of their lives. This was also a great place for me to set up for the day. I could nibble my lunch at my lounge chair while I watched Ty and his big brother Dek play in (or in Ty’s case near) the water without worrying they would drown too easily. I just wish there was a bit more shade in this area to protect a baby’s sensitive new skin.
No parent wants to go to the beach and worry about his or her child being swept away by a wave. The beach in front of Aulani is what many would call a Baby Beach. Its calm waters stay serene throughout the day thanks to the protection of a rocky barrier cutting the cove off from the harsher waters off shore. This is a great intro beach for your baby to dig, swim and taste a little salt water before you hit the bigger beaches around the island.
Search for Menehune
Menehune are little mythical beings in Hawaiian folklore who come out at night to build bridges and create many of the natural wonders across the islands. Please no one tell my 4-year-old that little men run around making stuff at night. He will have nightmares for weeks! However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t go on a hunt for these mischievous men all across the resort with my 21-month-old. We found them in ceiling corners, sneaking around in gardens and a big guy in the hotel lobby. Just like the hidden Mickey’s found throughout Disney resorts (and even at Aulani) you can find Menehune sneaking around the property.
Baby spa treatments at Laniwai
Yes it’s true. You can get a spa treatment with your baby. Both parents will need to be there, but it can be done! While one parent gets a treatment, the other will learn the art of baby massage from a certified practitioner. Baby keeping you up at night? This may be just the thing you all need; a soothing massage for mom and a little hands therapy tutorial to help you get your little one to settle down each night. It’s a win-win for all!
Count Koi fish in the pond
My boys love fish. If I’m honest, I do too. Koi are incredibly graceful, and just a little bit creepy because I always imagine they want to take a nibble out of my kids or me. The koi at Aulani come in a stunning array of colors from yellow and orange to speckled black and even white. Count the fish as they swim by. See how many come to say hello.
Character Breakfast at Makahiki
French toast, Mickey waffles, bacon, yogurt, eggs and fried rice- what more could a baby ask for? This over-the-top breakfast buffet was a family favorite. Ty wasn’t quite sure what all the fuss was about, but he didn’t mind waving at Goofy, Chip and Dale. He loved when “Auntie” strummed her ukulele and created a dance craze among the guests. Ty’s big brother Dek is afraid of people in costumes (more on this later), so the breakfast was a bit different for him. The staff was very understanding of his fears, and we were able to ask the characters not to stop at our table, but baby Ty could still enjoy the festivities from afar.
Most parents don’t think of bringing the youngest members of their family to a live show, but when it is Disney you can bet it will entertain, get your kids participating, and of course, out of their seats and dancing. The show isn’t too loud to upset the under one crowd, although mom and dad stay towards the back, so they aren’t too close to the speakers.
One through three year olds will love the danceable beats, torches carried by dancing men, coconuts being banged together (they can do it too!) and soaring bird puppets. The only thing to keep in mind before you head to the show is that it starts at 7:30pm and wraps up around 9pm. The actual show is only about a half-hour long but there are activities and crafts on the lawn before the show begins, and a dance party with Disney characters afterwards. This will be past bedtime for most young visitors.
In-house Nanny Services (and local options)
The Aulani does offer a nanny service that they contract out to a third party. This will set you back at least $30 an hour, but if you plan well, you could get some time at the spa alone, or have a romantic dinner with your spouse.
There are out-of-house options as well. I found Happy Kids Oahu via the Internet and was very happy with the sitter’s professionalism, and the fact that I didn’t have to pay a registration fee. The price was $20 an hour, plus I had to pay for her to park, but it still saved me a bundle when I needed a sitter for the day.
Hear from the expert
Want to hear a little more about what Aulani has to offer? Check out this quick interview I did with Todd Apo, director of public affairs at Aulani, and a father who knows the ins and outs of the resort.
Ty and I had a magical time together. This was his first pool/beach focused trip that he was actually excited about. Every morning he woke up asking to swim. He still does in fact, even though we are back home. Sometimes you just can’t take a baby fish out of water.
Many thanks to the Aulani for hosting me on this trip. I paid for my children to enjoy our Hawaiian adventure with my own money. As always, my opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.