Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa
I was lucky enough to cross one more item off my Disney bucket list (http://www.wdwfamilytips.com/disney-bucket-list/) by spending 8 nights at Aulani a Disney Property. This resort was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Upon arrival, we were greeted at the door with a cool glass of “Hawaii Water” consisting of pineapple, oranges, limes and lemons, and received our Hawaiian Lei. My daughter and her friend loved this water so much, we had to make a stop every time we passed the lobby (see the hidden Mickey?)! We were extremely lucky as our room on the 12th floor was ready to go! We saved some time by using the on-line check-in system, I would recommend doing this at all the Disney resorts.
After we unpacked and checked out our 2 bedroom DVC villa, we headed off to get some groceries. This is always a great debate when going to any of the Disney resorts. We always rent a car (even in Orlando instead of taking the magical express) so we can buy some food, liquor and other essentials that we decided not to pack. The nice thing is there is a Costco and Target a few exits up from the resort. So after filling up the car, we headed back to the resort.
The first night we just walked around the resort and took in an amazing sunset. Turn after turn in and around the pool and beach area there are just amazing views. The next morning I had secured a private tour and this is where I learned so much. It’s no surprise that Disney goes all out with their resorts, however keeping with the Hawaiian culture was extremely important to Disney and the local residents. Keeping with the Hawaiian culture, there is actually a masculine and feminine side to the resort. It is very subtle, but keeps with the culture. You can see it in the artwork as well as little things like rocks. On the feminine side the rocks are smooth, on the masculine side they are rough. Aulani reminds me a lot of the Polynesian from Disney World. I don’t think that would shock anyone as a lot of the imagineers are the same. For example, the rock formation that makes up the pool slides, has creatures embedded into the rocks. It reminds me of the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom. Well come to find out it was the same imagineer who worked on Animal Kingdom, Joe Rohde!
There were so many things pointed out on this tour that I would have never known. For example, as soon as you arrive at the check-in desk, you will see hundreds of pictures behind the desk. Well this was actually a Disney sponsored contest, and those pictures were taken by students! Disney asked local students from grade 1 through high school, to take pictures using the colors of the rainbow that would help describe Hawaii. The students responded and delivered hundreds of pictures. The best of the best are behind the check-in desk.
Since my kids are now grown-ups, I was curious how adults can relax. This is when we received a tour of Aunties’ House (keeping with the Hawaiian family theme). Aunties’ House is a fun center where parents can check their kids in and feel confident they are having fun. During our tour, I wanted to play with some of the games and in the different areas. After 9:00am, the children wear wristbands that contain GPS tracking so Disney always knows where they are. We happened to stumble upon one of my favorite characters there while we were inside, Stitch had just come in to have a dance party with the children. They have a lot of interactive games and plenty of events to keep the kids busy all day while mom and dad relax poolside or in the adult only infinity hot tub! Outside of Aunties’ House there is an interactive scavenger hunt. Kids are giving clues and a tracker to find items around the pool area. When found, the items come to life letting the children know they have the right place.
There is a room just a few doors down from Aunties’ House where you can relax while you wait for your room to be ready. The official check-in time is 4:00pm, so I would recommend having a carry-on with your swim gear as there is a place to change so you can stay busy while you wait for your room. Based on some of the families waiting in the lobby, this is a little hidden gem.
Other cool little items that were pointed out was the Menehune. The old Hawaiian legend states they do all the work around the resort while everyone is sleeping. There are over 300 of them around the resort. So many people enjoy finding hidden mickeys (which there are plenty to be found as well), every time I saw one there was a child right there pointing it out to their parents.
When it comes to the pool, you have plenty of choices. There is a lazy river to slowly float you around the pool area, in addition to all the other pools. Like most Disney resorts, Aulani has adult only locations, and plenty of places to take the kids. There are two different water slides, offering very different rides. One is a faster paced, dark tube slide and if you are a little less adventuring, there is a tube slide where you can ride a single or double tube. As a side note here, if your wife is in front of the double tube, make sure she leans back when you get to the end or you could end up flipping right over her. There is a small water park area for younger kids featuring fountains and other water attractions geared toward younger kids.
If a beach is more to your liking, Aulani has a man made cove just for you. There are plenty of chairs and umbrellas on the beach, but if you want one, you better get there early. Within the cove, you can rent a kayak, paddle board, snorkel, and swim or just relax. There are plenty of fish swimming if you chose to snorkel, you should see a lot! The area is a little small to kayak, but you get a great workout on a paddle board. Waves are not really an issue as this is a man made cove so it is designed to control the flow of water. If you want to scuba, but not in the open cove, Aulani also features a more controlled environment and for $20 for the length of stay, you can snorkel in their own area.
One interesting fact that I learned was at most resorts, 30% of guest stay on-site during the day and the other 70% venture away from the resort. At Aulani, they found that 70% of the guest stay at the resort. Obviously with that high of a number there has to be plenty of activities to keep parents and children entertained. In true Disney fashion, there was plenty that we just never had the time to do. One of those thing was visiting Laniwai Spa. They have amazing packages for everyone including family massages. I thought 8 nights would be enough, however I just couldn’t find the time to take in everything Aulani has to offer. I guess that only means 1 thing, I have to plan another trip!
Some recommendations if you are going to Aulani:
- Invest in a high quality camera, you will be glad you did
- Bring your own snorkel gear. You can rent gear, but I like having my own
- Rent a car. It maybe a little pricey, but Oahu has so much to offer
- Make a reservation at Ama Ama! Check the local weather websites to ensure you are there to see the incredible sun set.
- Watch the Aulani Starlit Hui show. If you have young children, they can be involved in the show and a few of your favorite characters may make an appearance.
- Although this is a Disney resort, it doesn’t scream Disney. You have to search for the characters. I would recommend the character breakfast to ensure you see Mickey!
- Buy a refillable mug for the duration of your stay. Even though there is a cool breeze most days it still gets hot and you want to stay hydrated.
- Get to the beach or pool early if you want an umbrella seat.
- Take time to explore the grounds, walk around the path near the beach to see other lagoons.
- One exit away from Aulani is Costco and Target. We shopped there so we had several meals in our room.
- Talk to cast members to ensure you are getting the most from Aulani
This was truly an amazing place to visit. I would highly recommend a trip to Aulani. Just for the record, we saved for 5 years to make this trip happen, it was worth every penny! I did invest in a Digital SLR and took over 2500 pictures of my entire trip (which included Seattle, Hawaii, San Diego and a quick trip to Disneyland) to see all these pictures, visit the wdwfamilytips facebook page https://www.facebook.com/wdwfamilytips
I have edited this post to add several great locations around Oahu if you have a car and are looking for the best tourist locations:
|King Kamehameha Statue||417 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA|
|ByodoIn Temple||47200 Kahekili Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA|
|Pearl Harbor USS Arizona||1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818, USA|
|Duke Kahanamoku Statue||Kahanamoku Beach, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA|
|Diamond Head||Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI 96815,
|Duke’s Canoe Club||2335 Kalakaua Avenue #116, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA|
|Hanauma Bay State Park||7455 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA|
|Banzai Pipeline||Haleiwa, HI, USA|
|Matsumoto Shave Ice||66087 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA|
|Giovanni Shrimp Truck||66472 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA|
|Hilton Hawaiian Village||2005 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA|
|Kualoa Regional Park (Chinaman’s Hat)||49479 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA|
|Halona Blow Hole||8699 Hawaii 72, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA|
|Kualoa Ranch||49560 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA|
|La’ai Point||Laie Point State Wayside, Laie, HI 96762, USA|
|Waimea Bay Beach Park (Waimea Jumping
|6131 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA|
|Manoa Falls||Manoa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA|
|H2O Sports||377 Keahole Street, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA|
|‘lolani Palace||364 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA|
|Ala Moana Center (Outdoor Shopping Center)||1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA|
|Aulani||921185 Ali’inui Drive, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA|
|Costco||4589 Kapolei Parkway, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA|
|Germaine’s Luau||91119 Olai Street, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA|
|Makapuu Lighthouse Trail||Makapuu Lighthouse Road, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA|
|Puu Ualakaa Park / Tantalus Drive||2760 Round Top Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA|