If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth and Disney World is the most magical than Aulani is the most peaceful. Aulani is a Disney resort and spa located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Aulani is a Disney Vacation Club property, which is Disney’s version of a time share, however all room styles are also available for typical hotel rental.
I visited Aulani in July of 2019 as a portion of a larger Hawaiian trip. Aulani was the highlight of a fabulous trip. I am going to share my reviews and experiences at Aulani as well as all the details you need for you own trip.
Aulani is located in the Ko Olina area of Oahu. Ko Olina is a suburban residential and resort area of the island about 30 minutes outside of the city of Honolulu.
Within 15 minutes there are plenty of recognizable stores and restaurants. There are several local restaurants, shops, a golf corse, a luau and other hotels within a 10 -15 minute walk.
Upon landing at Honolulu Airport your trip to Ko Olina is about a 25 minute drive, though there can be traffic even in paradise. My recommendation is to rent a car for your stay so that you can explore the island during your stay but Aulani does offer the purchase of airport transfers.
Aulani offers a self-parking deck and a valet option be sure to add this cost into your budget.
Upon check-in bell services will help you unload your car at the main entrance and then provide you self-park instructions if needed.
When you arrive you will be offered flowers or kukui nut leis. Once you check-in you are able to utilize the entire resort, even if you check-in prior to official check-in time and your room is not yet ready. Have bell services hold onto your bags and enjoy the resort. If this is your plan make sure to have a backpack or small bag to cary with you with your essentials for the day.
We had a standard 1 king room with ocean view that included sleeper sofa as well. The room was moderate in size, very clean, with lovely decor. The view was fantastic we could see the ocean and the whole resort. The balcony was a great feature.
Aulani offers a wide variety of rooms from our standard room to multiple bedroom suites with kitchens available. The views also vary and you book your room based on view. If view is not important to you this can be a great way to save some money and you can enjoy the views from around the resort.
Once you are ready to enjoy the resort there are so many things to do.
- The entire middle of the resort is essentially a low key water park.
- Everyday you will go to the towel counter with you room key to get a wristband that shows you are allowed to utilize the pools.
- There are several pools including a zero entry pool and an adults only infinity pool.
- A lazy river flows all around this area.
- There is a water jungle gym and splash area of the kids.
- One pool is full of fish and for additional cost you can rent snorkel gear and swim among them. For free you can watch them through Aquarium panels on the side.
- Plus a water slide!
- The resort is right off of the beach for easy access.
- The beach is a lagoon so the water is very family friendly with small waves and little current.
- Surfing lessons and other activities are available at additional cost.
- There is also a paved walking path along the beach that takes you through the Ko Olina ocean side.
- The Aulani spa, Laniwai, is a full service spa that offers many treatments which you can book before or during your stay.
- Even the little ones can participate with a selection of kids only services.
- There is even an outdoor hydro therapy garden.
- A large fitness center is available for all guests use.
Aunty’s Beach House:
- Included with you stay kids 3 – 12 can be dropped off and play at Aunty’s Beach House where they can craft, play games, watch Disney movies and more in a fun and safe environment.
- Be careful they might be having so much fun they not want to leave!
- This is a game changing addition for families and allows parents to take some alone time during a family vacation.
- You can meet and greet Disney characters throughout the resort.
- Call the character phone line every morning to find out who will be out and where they will be. Make sure to arrive 5 – 10 minutes early to make sure you get a place in line as characters only appear for about 20 minutes at a time.
- Character include Mickey, Minnie and friends in their Hawaiian vacation wear. Of course Moana and Stitch are hanging around. Plus Duffy and Shellie Mea the Disney bears (who are huge in Disney’s Asian parks).
* Check the events calendar online or provided in print in your room. *
- Menehune Adventure Trail – Play along with a high-tech interactive scavenger hunt through the property.
- Arts and Crafts – The community hall has classes daily such a ukulele lessons or t-shirt stamping. Some classes have a small fee. Make sure you sign up in advance if possible as these can book up.
- Live Entertainment – Fire pit stories with Uncle will share Hawaiian tales with you in a fun setting. There are also musical performances throughout the resort.
– There are two gift shops on property with tons of Aulani exclusive merchandise.
– If you are a Duffy fan you will find lots of items featuring him and his friends that can be hard to find outside of the Asian parks.
– Duffy’s friend Olu, a sea turtle, lives at Aulani so he has lots of merchandise available as well.
You will see Disney photographers around the resort, especially with the characters. They capture a lot of magical moments and in the gift shop you are able to view and purchase these photos.
This was the highlight of our stay, the Ka Wa’a Luau was amazing.
Before dinner you can participate in actives like making lei bracelets or get temporary Polynesian tattoos.
Seating is family style at long tables throughout the lawn in front to the stage in three sections. We were seated at the front of the third section and I had no issues with my view. However, you can upgrade to the VIP package for closer seating.
Moana stopped by the stage to welcome us all and then dinner is served buffet style. The food included roasted pork as well as other classic Hawaiian dishes. There was also chicken and some “kid friendly” options, something for all pallets. It was all very tasty and all you could eat. Though the buffet was packed up before the show started. While non-alcoholic drinks were included there was also a bar where you could purchase alcoholic drinks. The VIP package also includes the cost of alcoholic drinks.
I don’t eat dairy, which can sometime be challenging in a buffet setting. I had flagged my reservation as having a special dietary need when I made it. So once we were seated a manager walked me around the buffet pointing out what I could and couldn’t have. There were plenty of options for me. I saw he doing this with several other guests with special dietary needs as well. This the is Disney difference at work and a huge plus for me.
As dinner wound down before the main show started Minnie and Mickey arrived to give us all a hula lesson.
The show itself was outstanding. With authentic traditional hula, dance, and costume, led by a narrator taking us through the stories of Hawaii. I throughly enjoyed it and the talent of the performers was evident. It was even educational about Hawaiian lore.
I think Ka Wa’a is not to be missed during your stay at Aulani
It is important to note that Aulani is not all inclusive nor do they offer any kind of dining plan. The cost of food and drinks can be a major expense, this is Hawaii and this is a resort and prices reflect that. Make sure to plan ahead for food in your budget.
Some ways to cut down on this expense:
- Go Shopping – If you plan to stay with a full kitchen or can consider upgrading to one I suggest you make a stop at Costco, Target, etc. once you arrive. Stock up and prepare your own meals.
- Make use of that coffee maker – Save the cost of breakfast by packing instant oatmeal packets and any additions you want to add like raisins or nuts. Don’t forget some bowls and spoons. You can make them with the hot water from the coffee maker.
- Pack snacks – You can fly with fully packaged snacks so grab some granola bars at home and save the cost of a $5 quick snack everyday when you are hungry in the middle of the afternoon.
Makahiki – This buffet style dining is available for breakfast and dinner and both include characters meet and greets. If you love characters this is a must do during your stay. We experienced breakfast here and really enjoyed the character interactions as well as the food. The buffet had all the classics, even Mickey waffles, plus some Hawaiian additions. Again I was taken around the buffet by the chef due to my dietary restrictions and told what was safe for me to eat. The difference here was that he offered to make me a dairy free version of something in the back if I would like. I took him up on his offer and got some dairy free Mickey waffles. This service felt just like the Disney parks for me. Advanced reservation suggested.
‘Ama ‘Ama – This is the most elegant dinging option at the resort with outside beach view seating. Check the dress code before dinning no swim suits here. Advanced reservation suggested.
Ulu Cafe – A grab and go stop with lots of classic options. Make sure you try the poke bowls, acai bowls, and of course a Dole Whip.
Pool Side – There are several bars and snack shops around the pool deck. Make sure you visit the shave ice stand to get a shave ice with mickey ears.
You can have a fabulous time just staying at Aulani but you don’t want to come to Hawaii and not explore a little. If you rented a car you can take yourself on excursions around the island very easily. Nothing is more than an hour or so away
Aulani can arrange several excursions for you but they are far more expensive that way. Especially is you have a group of more than 2 people.
Some of the highlights of the island are:
- Waikiki: For a city meets beach town atmosphere, you will find the beach, high-end shopping malls to ABC Stores, and tons of good food.
- Pearl Harbor – You can visit this historic site and take a boat out to the USS Arizona Memorial, book your tickets in advance. There is also an aviation museum, submarine and battleship all available to tour.
- Dole Plantation – Visit this pineapple plantation to see how the iconic Hawaiian fruit grows. In additional to the train tour of the planation there are several other tourist activities. Make sure you enjoy a Dole Whip while there!
- Diamond Head – Hike to the top of this popular mountain for a great view of the island and Honolulu. Arrive early to beat the crowds and get parking.
- Hanauma Bay – A fantastic and popular snorkeling site, parking here can be very limited arrive early or make other arrangements.
- Kualoa Ranch – With many different tours and activities available the ranch is a popular filming location for movies, most famously Jurassic Park.
- North Shore – Drive the North Shore a surfers paradise and visit beaches and small beach towns. Make sure to stop for shave ice.
- Polynesian Culture Center – Think Colonial Williamsburg for Hawaii. The center features a lot of live and family friendly entertainment.
Overall our stay at Aulani was amazing, the service was stupendous and the resort was beautiful and full of culture. I highly recommend a stay to any Disney fan or any family that wants to travel to Hawaii.
If you are interested in pricing a visit contact me for a free no obligation quote. I would love to act as your travel agent, firstname.lastname@example.org .
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