Hawaii. Our happy place.
Holden is only nineteen months old and he’s been to Hawaii four times. That’s more than most people visit the islands in a lifetime. And the crazy part is that he has no idea just how lucky he is.
The first time we took Holden to Hawaii he was only six months old. It was our first trip to the islands with a baby and honestly, it sucked. We foolishly thought that we could continue with the same routine that we had in the past. We would sleep in (ha. hahahaha.), go get coffee at Arvo, then head off to the North Shore where we would swim, snorkel and surf. We’d return to our hotel with sunned cheeks and sand in our hair.
Holden obviously had other plans. Due to the time change, he would wake up no later than 5AM. His nap time routines were completely off. Oh, and he absolutely hated the beach. Everything about it. He detested the sand, was terrified of the water, and the sound of the waves sent him into uncontrollable sobs. Chris, the seafaring water worshipper, thought that we created a child terrified of all things aquatic. It was a sad time for us all. I was also that anxious new mom that refused to put her baby in the sun- even for a second. And since he was too young for sunscreen, we spent most of our time under the safety of the shady palm tress. Couple all of that with the fact that it was also election season (which, regardless of party lines, is a trying time for everyone) and I had yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. It was a recipe for disaster.
The best thing we got from that first trip was this sequence of Holden maniacally laughing as he tried to eat sand.
I’m happy to report that the subsequent trips that followed only got better and better. We have since fallen back into our groove. We’ve tweaked our itinerary to accommodate a toddler and have found our trips to Oahu to be much more enjoyable.
I know that doing something four times doesn’t necessarily make one an expert, but we’ve spent enough time on Hawaii that I feel comfortable sharing our tips and tricks to traveling to Oahu with a baby.
Best Oahu beaches for babies and toddlers
Ko Olina Lagoons
I always enjoyed the lagoons at Ko Olina before we had kids but now they are even more special. There are four lagoons in all and our favorite can be found at the very end. The lagoons offer protection from the surf and even the littlest of babes can enjoy the serenity of the water. Parking is on a first-come first-serve basis and be warned that there are no lifeguards on duty. We make the most of our trip by always packing a picnic lunch (or picking something up at the nearby ABC Store or Island Vintage coffee house). If you find yourself peckish, treat yourself to any of the resorts that line the lagoons.
Pro Tip: The Papalua Shave Ice shack at Disney’s Aulani resort is a great place to grab a bite.
Arguably one of the prettiest beaches on Oahu, Lanikai has always been a family favorite. Powdery white sand with crystal clear water is what you’ll find just outside of the town of Kailua. We’ll either pick up a plate lunch or stop by the local Whole Foods for beach snacks. The surf is perfect for kick boarders and SUPers and kayakers can even paddle out to nearby Nā Mokulua islands. I have to honestly say that due to the surf, Lanikai is better for older children. Infants and toddlers will still enjoy the soft sand between their toes and a little dip if the water is calm enough. On our last trip, we brought a pop up tent and both of the kiddos (an 18-month old and a 9-month old) absolutely loved it.
It would be remiss if i didn’t at least mention Waikiki beach. Not only is it extremely accessible to all that stay in Waikiki, but the surf is gentle and forgiving. It’s also typically shallow enough for kiddos of all ages. That being said, it’s often over populated and the water easily becomes cloudy and polluted with sunscreen and various other ambiguous fluids.
Totally unrelated: check out those chubby baby thighs! I can’t believe he used to be such a little chunk. #rollsonrollsonrolls
Best places to stay on Oahu with a toddler
I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a Disney resort. I had my eye on Aulani for years and we finally had the opportunity to stay right around Holden’s first birthday. We were there for a work trip but were able to explore nearly every inch of the resort. I particularly enjoyed how Disney truly catered to the kids. We barely had to baby proof our hotel room. The most we did was hide the pens. And our room even came with a pack ‘n play.
All three of us enjoyed the Waikolohe Valley pool area, in particular the lazy river. I also spent way too much time at the Ka Maka Grotto. I would head down right as the pools opened and spent a few quiet minutes to myself before everyone else arrived. As for Chris, we had a hard time pulling him away from the two different water slides. He’s a water baby through and through.
I might have fan-girled at the character breakfast. Goofy came right up to our table and spent a little one-on-one time with us. Holden was less impressed but he went to town on the Mickey waffles.
While Holden might have been too young to enjoy all that Aulani has to offer, Chris and I soaked up all the Disney magic that we could. For those that want extra time with Mickey and his crew, be sure to book tickets to the Ka Wa’a Luau. Not only was the food so ono, but luau guests are treated to extra time with the Disney crew.
True to its name, The Laylow is where one can go to truly escape. Situated in the heart of Waikiki and only blocks from the beach, guests to The Laylow are treated to privacy and quiet. Plus, the hotel is ridiculously cute. I wanted to copy our room and paste it to our bedroom back home. Just look at that wallpaper!
Our room at The Laylow was so inviting and comfortable that we had to drag ourselves out for dinner. Holden is a little maestro and loves any and all instruments so the in-room ukulele was a huge hit. I was able to enchant him with all five songs that I can play.
The Laylow receives extra bonus points for The Hideout espresso bar located in the lobby. The baristas were full of aloha and our lattes were amazing.
To be completely honest, the Sheraton Waikiki didn’t really look like much from the outside but I was completely blown away by our suite. We had two balconies to ourselves and a giant living room and kitchen area. Honestly, there was probably more square footage in our suite than in our apartment back home. And even though The Sheraton Waikiki is a huge resort, once we reached our room, we felt like we were at home. The Sheraton Waikiki will always hold a special place in our hearts and its where Holden first crawled. He scooted himself all over that living room and was oh-so proud of himself.
Another perk of the Sheraton is the pools. There’s a separate pool for kiddos and one reserved for adults only. Holden was only eight months at the time of our stay and was still a little iffy on water adventures. That being said, we managed to get a few smiles out of him while swimming with Chris.
More to come!
We have another post in the shoot featuring all the fun things to do on Oahu with young kids. There will be a little something for everyone. Stay tuned and please send any questions you have our way. We’re happy to answer them!