When you think “luxury beach vacation” Hawaii often comes to mind. The Polynesian paradise offers beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and a laid back atmosphere for young and old. But, do you think “Disney” when you are considering Hawaii?
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is perfectly positioned on the beautiful beaches of Ko Olina on the leeward coast of O‘ahu. The Resort sits on 21 oceanfront acres, nestled between verdant mountains and serene ocean waters. Here, you’ll be removed from the crowds of Waikiki, yet close enough to enjoy the wonders of the island. Aulani Resort is also part of the Ko Olina Resort Community & Marina, which features:
- Spectacular beaches and serene lagoons
- A championship golf course
- Shopping and dining venues
- Water sports, like snorkeling, sports fishing, and more
Why should you consider booking a vacation to Aulani, Disney’s resort on the island of Oahu in Hawaii? Perhaps the most obvious reason is that it is located at one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet. But, did you know exactly what’s included in the “Disney” experience Aulani offers? We are about to fill you in!
*This article is a representation of offerings at the resort that may or may not be currently provided due to COVID-19.
The following amenities and experiences will not be available during the initial reopening period:
• Laniwai Spa
• Painted Sky: HI Style Studio
• Aunty’s Beach House
• Luana Lounge
• Ho`okanipila (Ukulele Lessons)
• ‘Ohana Hula
1- The Extra Mile
Disney is known the world over for its unparalleled hospitality, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is no different. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with a cup of refreshing botanical water and a lei for everyone in the family. The cast members welcome you as ‘Ohana.
One of the most compelling reasons to visit Aulani is Disney’s legendary attention to detail. It’s more than just some theming or specialty soaps in your room. It’s the incredible care and the Imagineers’ devotion to and gift for storytelling that help make the famous “Disney magic.”
Nearly everything at Aulani has an added layer of meaning, and it all weaves together to form a cohesive whole. Instead of the fanciful, mythical lands that Disney conjures at its parks, the stories it has created at its Oahu resort are all about the people, places, and culture of Hawaii.
2- The Water Park Rides and Pools
“Waikohole Valley” is where the water park attractions and pools are located. (Waikohole means “mischievous water” in Hawaiian.) It begins from the resort and extends all the way to the ocean bay.
A lazy river, called the Waikohole Stream, flows through the valley. There are also two water slides, which are embedded in a volcanic mountain, more incredible Disney theming!
The resort also offers the Menehune Bridge, an interactive water play area with geysers, water cannons, a huge dump bucket, and other gotchas. Other ways to get wet at Aulani include a large activity pool, whirlpool spas, an adults-only pool, a water play area for toddlers and two lovely infinity pools that overlook the ocean.
3- The Food & Drinks
The following amenities and experiences will not be available during the initial reopening period:
Available dining locations:
• Makahiki Bounty of the Islands* – Open for Dinner Wednesdays – Sundays 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Closed Mondays & Tuesdays)
• Ulu Cafe
• Off The Hook*
• Poolside Service
• Wailana Coffee and Pool Bar
• Pāpālua Shave Ice
• The ‘Ōlelo Room
• Mama’s Snack Stop – Open January 8-9, January 15-16, January 22-23, January 29-30
*Limited seating available for Resort Guests only
• ‘AMA’AMA Restaurant
• Character dining
• KA WA‘A Lū‘au
• Mama’s Snack Stop – unavailable Monday – Thursday
• Little ‘Opihi’s
• Private Dining
There are several eateries throughout the resort offering delicious food featuring locally sourced Hawaiian ingredients and features regional island cuisine. But, one of the best things about vacationing in this tropical location, the fresh fruit! Whether it’s an all-you-can-eat fruit at the Makahiki buffet, or the Açai Bowl with berries and banana that is served for breakfast at the signature ‘Ama’Ama restaurant, or the fresh pineapple and papaya available at the quick-service Ulu Cafe, you just can’t go wrong with any of the fruit offered at Aulani.
For breakfast, you could head to Makahiki for its character meal. (**Character meals may be paused or modified due to current guidelines.) This casual, family-friendly restaurant is named for the Makahiki season, the traditional Hawaiian celebration of the harvest. Here, the spirit of Makahiki is celebrated through delectable cuisine and local artwork. Throughout the restaurant, you’ll find elegant glass designs and jewel-toned murals that depict the story of the Makahiki season. And as day turns to night, the restaurant’s lighting gradually turns from rose to indigo with the setting of the sun.
Many places are offering fine dining as well as snack options at the resort. One thing you have to try before you leave(or have many times during your visit) is the shaved ice! There’s a variety of ways you can have yours prepared. Some like it drizzled with condensed milk. Some want an extra scoop of ice cream. But the classic shave ice is simple: shaved ice in a cup, topped with your choice of flavored syrups ranging from familiar (cherry, lemon) to tropical (lychee, guava, mango, and more!) And of course, this being a Disney resort, the shave ice comes shaped like – you guessed it – Mickey Mouse! Of course, you can’t forget a Disney staple, Dole Whip!
- ‘AMA ‘AMA – Contemporary Island Cooking in an oceanfront setting
- Disney Character Breakfast at Makahiki
- Makahiki – The Bounty of the Islands
- One Paddle, Two Paddle
- Mama’s Snack Stop
- Ulu Café
- Little ‘Opihi’s
- The ‘Ōlelo Room
- Off the Hook
4- The Beach & Excursions
The man-made bay and sandy beach beckon at Aulani. Rimmed by picture-perfect palm trees, the gentle waters are ideal for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or snorkeling (the gear for all of these activities can be rented at the beach), swimming, or just plain lazing. Boogie boards are also available for free.
For an anxiety-free snorkeling experience, check out the Rainbow Reef, where you and your kids can swim with more than 1,300 brightly colored fish in Aulani’s private and totally contained reef.
Excursions, many of which include transportation and guides, can be booked through Aulani. Options include helicopter tours, dolphin-watching cruises, and Pearl Harbor visits. According to Elliot Mills, the most popular excursion is surf school which offers surfboard lessons for beginners. Another popular choice is a guided walking tour of Waimea Valley on the island’s North Shore. It includes visits to a botanical garden and a waterfall.
5- The Kids Clubs
Be prepared for your kids to never want to leave… Teens have their own dedicated area at the resort, Painted Sky, that offers computer stations, a lounge, and organized activities. In addition to the supervised clubhouse, the resort offers several other things to do that children could enjoy with their families such as nightly storytelling around a fire pit, pool parties with trivia contests and other activities, sand sculpturing, musical entertainment, and outdoor Disney movies.
Also, included in your stay is Aunty’s Beach House, a world-class kids club with free play, activities galore, and all sorts of Hawaiian-themed things to do. They’re open from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and most kids do not want to leave! Aunty’s Beach House is designed for potty-trained kids ages three and up, but younger kids can get in on the fun during the open house in the mornings from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Lunch and dinner are available too, on a first-come, first-served basis.
All of the paintings and artwork in Aunty’s Beach House are authentic Hawaiian, and all of the games are Hawaii-based. Kids can learn the hula, sing a Hawaiian version of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, and participate in Hawaiian crafts. Get your kids pumped for the day and sign up for whichever sounds coolest to them – all of the day’s activities can be found in the Daily ‘Iwa. Mickey and his friends occasionally bop into the clubhouse to interact with the children. A few optional experiences do cost extra, but nearly all of Aunty’s Beach House activities are complimentary.
6- The Culture
Disney Imagineers went to great lengths to tell the story of Hawaii at Aulani. The lobby, for example, is filled with artifacts, including a wraparound mural and tiki totems. They are one-of-a-kind items that portray Hawaiian culture as expressed by its people. Unlike a museum, this decor is apart of your surroundings and is very pleasing to the eye.
Aulani offers complimentary guided tours of the lobby and grounds. On the tour, you could learn that there is a male and female side of the resort’s main building. On the masculine side of the lobby, for example, the tiki statue, which is a sacred Hawaiian object, is the God of war, while the God of new life graces the feminine side.
7- The Included Extras
The activities and amenities are included at no additional charge, many of which are things that are distinctly Disney, are extensive. Aulani is much like cruising with Disney, without leaving land…
Disney’s iconic characters, including Goofy, Chip, Dale, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse, are all present and accounted for at Aulani. Stitch, Disney’s Hawaiian native, as well as Moana*** Due to social distancing guidelines, these may be altered or changed. Getting quality face time with Mickey and his pals is considerably easier at Aulani as compared to the character chaos at the theme parks. Especially during slower seasons, guests should be able to nab plenty of photos and autographs with the popular posse.
The characters are stationed at posted times near the front of the “Waikolohe Valley” in the center of the resort. Photographers are there to capture the meet-ups (and, of course, to sell the photos to guests). The Makahiki Buffet offers character breakfasts and dinners, which include table-to-table personal greetings from the Disney buddies as well as group activities that involve the characters and a singer/storyteller. Dressed in their finest Hawaiian duds, Mickey and his buds also participate in the KA WA‘A luau and pop up in other places throughout the resort.
Guests of all ages could enjoy the resort’s community room, which offers both supervised and DIY activities. There are video games, board games, books, and DVDs available as well as crafts making, ukelele playing, and other opportunities presided over by Disney staffers.
Perhaps the most intriguing only-at-a-Disney-resort thing to do is the Menehune Adventure Trail. Using nifty interactive devices (essentially souped-up smartphones), families are led on a hunt around the resort for the mythical Hawaiian imps. By correctly deciphering clues, things embedded in the environment mysteriously spring to life.
8- The Luau
You can’t visit Hawaii without attending a Luau and you can’t visit the Aulani without attending the Ka Wa’a Luau. Before the luau, guests enjoy special pre-show entertainment and family activities. Make a beautiful lei, pound taro, and receive a (temporary) tattoo, applied using a traditional method. The kiddos will jump at the chance to learn the Aulani Hula and perform along with their favorite Disney friends.
The food is a plentiful island buffet featuring fresh salads and seasonally-sourced vegetables, local seafood, braised imu-style pork, teriyaki chicken, and carving stations with whole roasted Hawaii-raised suckling pig and slow-roasted prime rib. There’s plenty to please the younger crowd, including shaka macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, Mickey-shaped pasta, and more. The show itself is everything you’d expect from Disney, with incredibly dramatic costumes, music, and dance. The performance tells stories of Oahu and legends of the demigod Maui. Traditional Hawaiian hula dances bring the stories to life.
You’ll be wowed by the lovely outdoor hydrotherapy garden with its collection of rain showers (each featuring a different spray arrangement) and its soaking tubs, among other highlights). An indoor waterfall, a wishing pond, and other touches contribute to the unique and inspired ambiance.
Conforming to the Disney formula, even the spa joins in the storytelling. In addition to providing massages and treatments, the therapists explain the spa’s connection to Hawaiian culture. The water elements celebrate the gift of rain, which is vital to the islands. The therapists also encourage guests to make a wish and cast a stone on its behalf (hence the wishing pond).
Laniwai is the first Disney spa to be designed by Imagineers. In addition to treatments for adults and couples, the spa caters to the resort’s family audience with a space designated exclusively for teens, “Minnie Me” experiences for children under 12 (which are similar to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques at the parks and cruise ships), and family treatments that accommodate parents and their kids at the same time. There is even a treatment for parents and babies that demonstrates massage techniques mom and dad can try when they return home.
10- The Accommodations
There are many types of room options at Aulani, the best way to decide which works the best for you is to work with a travel agent. They can break down the options and find what will work the best for your needs.
Room types include Studios, One- and Two-Bedroom Villas, Three-Bedroom Grand Villas, standard hotel rooms and suites. The available views are ocean and partial ocean views, poolside garden, island garden, and standard.
Studio – Sleeps up to four, 1 queen-size bed, and 1 queen-size sleeper sofa, Flat-panel TV and DVD player, wet bar, small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. Private balcony. Approximately 356 square feet.
One-Bedroom Villa – Sleeps five, Master bedroom with king-size bed, living room with queen-size sleeper sofa and single pull-down bunk bed (suitable for a child). One full bathroom with dual-sink vanity and whirlpool tub, and separate walk-in shower and toilet room. Flat-panel TV and DVD player in the living room, and flat-panel TV in the master bedroom. The full kitchen includes a coffee maker, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, cookware, microwave, rice cooker, toaster, stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. The laundry area contains a stacked washer and dryer. The private balcony is accessible from the living room and bedroom. Approximately 756 square feet.
Two-Bedroom Lock-Off Villa – a combination of a one-bedroom villa and a studio, with a connecting door. Sleeps 9. Approximately 1,112 square feet.
Dedicated Two-Bedroom Villa – Like the one-bedroom villa with an additional bedroom with a full bathroom and two queen-size beds. Instead of a single bunk bed in the living room, there is a sleeper chair. There is also an additional half bathroom. The two-bedroom villas accommodate nine adults plus one child under age three in a crib. Approximately 1,125 square feet.
3-Bedroom Grand Villa – Three bedrooms, sleeps up to twelve guests. Master bedroom suite with king-size bed, two additional bedrooms, each with two queen-size beds, living room with queen-size sleeper sofa and a sleeper chair. Three full bathrooms: Master bathroom with whirlpool tub, dual sink vanity, and walk-in shower, separate toilet room. One bedroom has a private bathroom with a walk-in shower, dual-sink vanity, and a separate toilet room. The third bathroom is off the hallway, with a combination tub/shower, dual sink vanity, and separate toilet room. with whirlpool tub. There are flat-panel TVs in all three bedrooms, with an additional TV screen that is part of the mirror in the master bathroom. The living room has a flat-panel TV and DVD player. The full kitchen includes a coffee maker, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, pots and pans, microwave, toaster, rice cooker, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher. Dining room with dining table and chairs (seats 8), with additional seating at the bar. The laundry area contains a stacked washer and dryer. The balcony is accessible from each of the bedrooms plus the living room and dining room. Approximately 2,174 square feet.
Standard Hotel Room – Sleeps up to four, with either 2 queen-size beds or 1 king-size bed and a queen-size sleeper sofa. Includes flat-panel TV and DVD player, small refrigerator, and coffee maker. One full bathroom with oversized bathtub and shower, dual-sink vanity, and separate toilet room. Approximately 382 square feet.
Aulani is an incredible resort you don’t want to overlook. It is a once in a lifetime experience you will never forget. To make sure your vacation is perfect, we suggest you book with a travel agent. They don’t charge anything for a quote or to plan your vacation.
Are you considering a trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa? This is a great time to plan your perfect vacation! Having a travel advisor means someone there to have your back in any occurrence. There is no additional cost to you and you have peace of mind knowing that your vacation is in good hands. Contact our friends at Key to the World Travel® for a free, no-obligation quote for your next trip. Click here.
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