Family holidays in Hawaii with kids. If you’re planning a family vacation in Hawaii, it’s pretty hard to go past the Aulani Disney Resort Hawaii. Conveniently located on Oahu island, there is everything you need to keep young kids (and their parents) entertained. As well as a pristine beach and multiple pools and water play areas, there is live entertainment as well as the all important roaming Disney characters all on the one property. For a trip to Hawaii with kids that doesn’t require you to ever leave the resort, this is the place to be.
No one knows how to make families feel more welcome than Disney. From the minute you enter the Aulani Disney Resort Hawaii, everything is catered to your convenience and making life easy so you need never worry about anything. The staff are over-the-top friendly and willing to assist and the resort makes sure to tick every Hawaiian stereotype you and your kids could dream of.
For example, your arrival is met with a lei (necklace of fresh flowers) for the mums, beaded necklace for the dads and a small figurine pendant on a string for the kids. (Don’t take these for granted – leis are not commonly handed out for free around Hawaii anymore.) If you are too early to check into your room, the resort doesn’t expect you to hang around the hotel lobby convincing tired kids to be patient. There is a dedicated changing area so that you can throw on your swimmers and head straight to the pool to start making use of the facilities immediately.
While staying at the Aulani Disney Resort in Hawaii may give you more of a tourist’s insight into the islands rather than an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience, there is no question that this is one of the most fun and memorable family holidays you can give your kids. They will love the plethora of activities, entertainment and being surrounded by other kids exactly the same age. And while you might miss some heritage and history, the sheer organisational thoughtfulness that has gone into making everything at the resort so easy for parents more than makes up for it.
The Activities for Kids at Aulani Disney Resort Hawaii
Although the resort grounds are actually quite compact compared to some properties in Hawaii, they are cleverly designed to include a large range of facilities. There are two large family swimming pools, two waterslides, a lazy river, three Jacuzzis plus two private pools for adults to enjoy without kids.
Then there’s also the water play area for toddlers (Kekei Cove), the larger water play structure complete with waterslides for pre-schoolers (Menehune Bridge) and the Rainbow Reef – a pool with a coral reef and live fish that you can swim in for an additional cost.
At the end of the property there is also the practically private beach which is perfect for younger kids 12 and under. The sand is powdery, the water is calm and clear and there are practically no waves so the little cove is very safe and easy to play in even for kids who can’t swim or walk. There are two floating pontoons to play on top of as well as sand play toys (free) and water sports equipment (kayaks and paddle boards) for hire.
Everything has been designed to make life easy for families traveling with young kids. There are free life jackets available for rent and lifeguards all over the pool areas to keep everyone safe. But it’s the other little touches that really make a difference. For instance, glass and alcohol from the resort are not allowed on to the beach for safety reasons. So instead, the resort has a bar right on the beach serving beer in plastic cups so parents can still enjoy a cheeky beverage. If your kids are too little to swim in the Rainbow Reef, there are two large underwater windows so they can still watch the fish swimming around. And you can purchase refillable resort cups that (for the cost of the cup) you can use to top up soft drinks throughout your entire stay.
There is live entertainment everywhere throughout the resort. As well as the wandering character photo opps that happen daily throughout the property, you can book for breakfast or dinner in the buffet restaurant Makahiki with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Chip, Dale and Stitch. This involves a meal where the characters roam around the restaurant carefully ensuring they stop at each table to capture as many snaps as you like. In the background there is singing, dancing and an active conga line if the kids want to be more involved.
During peak season it is worth pre booking your meals at the restaurant a couple of weeks before you arrive to ensure you get the days and times that you want, especially as the dinner only occurs certain nights of the week.
There are also free live shows such as the Starlit Hui which is definitely worth keeping the kids up late for. The live stage performance showcases a brief introduction to Hawaiian culture and music for little ones which is very useful if you plan on never actually leaving the resort. Stick around until the finale when the characters arrive for a fun dance party for the little ones.
If you prefer something more sedate, look out for the Mo’olelo Fire Pit Storytelling. Here the character of Uncle holds an intimate fireside chat telling traditional short folklore stories with interactive singing with the audience.
Even if you can’t be bothered to seek out the live entertainment, chances are that it will come to you. The regular Shake-A-Shaka pool parties and the scheduled pool games are great fun and will get your kids grooving and moving with Goofy and the gang to pop tunes and lots of splashing around.
Even in inclement weather, there are still plenty of options. If yours is not one of those families determined to stay in the pool despite the rain, seek out the Community Hall. This is essentially a games room where you can play computer games, watch a movie, hire one of the many Disney DVDs or the kids can take part in the virtual treasure hunt (called the Menehune Adventure Trail), all at no additional charge. The treasure hunt involves an interactive tablet that allows the children to move around the lobby or greater property triggering turtle caves, waterfalls and other fun hidden surprises and is certainly worth setting aside an hour for.
In fact little surprises are masked all around the resort for children to discover so keep your eyes open for them. Hanging wall pictures can suddenly move. Peep holes in pillars can reveal hidden worlds. And an image of Mickey Mouse can reveal himself suddenly in a bedspread or lamp light.
A daily schedule of events around the property and at the kids club is available from the concierge desk from 5pm the previous evening.
If you feel you need a break from all the kid-centric busy-ness, there is also the brilliant kids club, Aunty’s Beach House. Many of the activities here are free for kids aged 3 to 12 and include special interactions with the characters specifically reserved for kids club attendees. This is in high demand so if you are really keen on using the facility you need to submit the online pre-registration form at least 2 days before you arrive.
The Practicalities of Aulani Disney Resort Hawaii With Kids
Everything is family friendly so all the minor details are already taken care of for parents – unlike most other places in the world, here you rarely have to make any special requests for the kids because the resort has already anticipated them. Apart from the designed adult pool areas, children are welcome everywhere and everything is catered towards them. So the pool and most facilities open early (8am), dinner starts at 5pm and staff and entertainers always put the kids first so you don’t have to worry about other pushy adults.
Even high chairs and portacots are already in the apartment-style rooms and (while it’s best practice to bring waterproof sheets if your kids are likely to wet the bed) all beds are fitted with water resistant mattress protectors so you don’t need to worry about small spillages. When you prebook your taxi back to the airport from the concierge, they will automatically request that kids car seats be fitted for you.
At the Makahiki buffet restaurant there is a dedicated kids section with a lower bench so that the children can access their food themselves. If you are traveling with allergies or special dietary requirements, a chef will come out and talk you through the menu items that are suitable for you. They will also cater to some special requests (for instance if you prefer your kids to eat plain steamed broccoli rather than sautéed).
All around the resort there is free iced water that kids can help themselves to. And in the restaurants all the kids’ drinks are served in paper cups with lids and straws to minimise spillages.
There are enough eateries on site as well as some groceries available in the shops in the resort if you are only staying a couple of days. But if you are staying longer, it’s worth taking advantage of the resort’s location.
Disney Aulani Resort Hawaii is close to Waianae where there is a K Mart, Walmart, plus all the fast food and family chain restaurants you could need including Chilis, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s. It’s is well worth taking some time out to visit the low key Da Crawfish and Crab Shack restaurant which does delicious but simple combos of seafood served up in a huge aluminium bowl that you can put into the middle of the table to dig in and share.
If this all seems too far away there is also a supermarket and a couple of restaurants (including an ice cream shop) directly across the road from the resort.
One thing to keep in mind is that while there are scheduled activities for teens at the resort, this is a property that really is more skewed towards tweens and under – older teens might find it all too kiddy, compact and close to their parents. You will also see lots of multigenerational families – parents with grandparents, small children and aunts and uncles. Similarly, if you are planning an extended family holiday with other couples who don’t have kids, unless they are adult Disney fantatics, this may not be such an enjoyable experience for them.