Imagine a family beach resort perfectly positioned on the leeward coast of Oahu. Created by Walt Disney Imagineers working hand in hand with local artisans and cultural experts, this place is beautifully inspired by the natural wonders and rich traditions of Hawaii. This place is Aulani Hawaii Disney Resort & Spa! There are no rides, but there is a special sprinking of pixie dust everywhere you go, marvelous Disney service, unparallelled attention to detail and world class entertainment. It’s like a little slice of heaven!!
Many moons ago I was awarded a wonderful trip to the Ritz in Maui for TEN nights from Coke! (I worked harder on that project than I’ve ever worked in my life.) We immediately booked our trip, as the only string attached was that it had to be in the next 12 months. Well, I turn up pregnant and we couldn’t do it any quicker, but we still had that deadline. So…. I spent 10 luxurious days in Hawaii at 7 months pregnant. Honey had the trip of a lifetime, sucking down fruity drinks by day and gorging on sushi by night. I’m not going to lie and say it was bad for me, it just wasn’t as wonderful as it could have been seeing as I worked 80 hour weeks for months on end to get it. Honey realized this and promised a do-over “one day”. We tried for our ten year anniversary and a few other times in the last 11 years, but it never was feasible. So, I made it my wish to go for my 40th birthday. We used our Disney Vacation Club points to pay for the room and positively cannot WAIT to share all the details of our wonderful week!!
The resort is so meticulously manicured and lovely that I can hardly do it justice. Everything was perfection from the architecture, to the scents and sounds of live music wafting about the resort. It is Disney Imagineering at its best.
The soaring ceilings of the open air lobby were so stunning.
I was greeted with the most beautiful lei at check-in, and Honey and the boys each received authentic style necklaces as well. I could wear leis, flowers in my hair and on my wrists for all the rest of my days and never tire of it. What a wonderful tradition!
The resort is perched on the beautiful beaches of Ko Olina. The entire property is very walkable, and every corner has been well planned and exquisitely maintained.
The various areas for water play are wonderful. There are plenty of family areas, some for smaller children, as well as adult only pool and whirlpools.
Our very favorite was Ka Maka Grotto, an infinity edge pool with sweeping views of Ko Olina Beach. We spent 90% of our pool time right here!
We even had some friends from back home overlapping part of our week!
There were only two nights that we didn’t head back to the grotto for a night swim. Not only were the sunsets just stunning from the infinity pool, but as the stars came out in the sky, so did thousands of glittering lights in the grotto.
When the littles were at Aunty’s Beach House, Honey and I bee-lined for the adult only infinity whirlpool overlooking the beach. This was a pretty awesome place!
The main pool was the Waikolohe Pool – Hawaiian for “mischievous water”. This zero entry pool had really neat cave-like areas with water falls and is home to two waterslides! Every afternoon, Mickey, Minnie and Goofy came out for fun and games! It was pretty neat to pop out of the pool for a pic with the main mouse.
Just like the grotto pool, this one was even more magical at night and offered gorgeous views of the sunset and beach.
Our little family of four logged some serious hours on the Waikolohe Stream!!! This lazy river twists and winds you through all sorts of gorgeous scenery, but watch out – you can also get sprayed and completely soaked if you aren’t paying attention :-)
The Volcanic Vertical waterslides are right at one of the entrances to the lazy river. One is a body slide an is quite exhilarating as it is completely enclosed. The second is raft ride (one or two riders) and is equally as fun! I rode a few times with Honey and he is heavy enough to make us fly!
While we didn’t spend a whole lot of time in these areas, there are two interactive splash and play zones for littler kids. The Menehune Bridge is themed for Hawaii’s legendary magical and mischievous little people.
The Keiki Cove splash area is great for even littler kids!
We had a cabana at the Ka Maka Grotto pool two days and it was a luxurious and wonderful splurge that I would highly recommend. There are three cabanas in this area and two more in the Menehune Bridge area. Each one has a sofa, two reclining chairs, a coffee table and 32″ flat screen TV inside. There is also a ceiling fan, fridge with water (Honey brought down beer), i-docking station for music and charging, and a locking drawer. A basket of snacks included local favorites and a cabana host was there to tend to every need – food, cocktails, towels, etc. Just outside of our cabana in the sun was two super comfy lounge chairs and a small table. In the mid-morning, your cabana host will bring a wonderful fresh fruit tray, and in the afternoon an equally delicious dessert tray. Since the Masters were on TV, Honey was able to start watching coverage from the pool as soon as we arrive down there at 9AM! He was in heaven!!! We absolutely LOVED our cabana days and it is probably the number one thing I would recommend doing at Aulani.
Ko Olina beach was just gorgeous, as were all of the beaches on Oahu. Positioned back in a lagoon type area, the water was so still and clear that it was near swimming pool like. The beaches are all public in Hawaii, this one included. But it was pristine and rarely crowded.
There were lots of water activities out here through the beach rentals – canoeing, paddle boards, snorkeling, etc. The boogie boards (there are no waves so they are really just for floating) and sand toys were free to check out. There were also activities like sand castle building parties, beach games, ping pong and life-sized connect 4.
The very favorite for my littles was the floating mat in the middle of the water. The climbed and jumped to their heart’s content. But, at the end of the day, the pool really captured their attention.
Sunsets on the beach were breathtaking. We made it a point to take at least a peek every single night. I miss this!
I mentioned before that we used our DVC membership for a one bedroom villa during our stay. Our room was well appointed, large and extremely comfortable.
There was a balcony off of both the living room and the bedroom overlooking the pool, gardens and ocean.
For the littles, the sofa pulled out and a murphy bed folded down. The room would easily sleep five.
We had a fully equipped kitchen, although I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking. We stopped at Super Target on the way here from the airport and stocked up on breakfast food, snacks, beer, wine and a few frozen pizzas for the week. We ate breakfast here every day but one, usually ended up taking the snacks down to the pool with us, and made the pizzas for the littles on our date nights. There was also a washer and dryer in the room.
The bedroom, and the king bed especially, was so wonderful after a week in doubles and queens!
The bedroom opened onto a bathroom with a whirlpool tub and sink.
And then that bathroom opened onto another one with a potty, sink and wonderful rain shower.
We had two balconies with great views. We had a pool view room, but I did extensive research and put in a pretty specific request. We were in the Ewa tower and had wonderful ocean and mountain views.
Aunty’s Beach House is the included kid’s club for all Aulani guests. I had really high hopes for Aunty’s after our wonderful experiences on Disney Cruise Line, but it really wasn’t as great as it could have been. While both of my boys have been more than happy on the cruise, it seemed Whit’s age was kind of the max. He had a good enough time, John was one of the oldest at 10 and didn’t really enjoy it. They let you sign up for three activities in advance for a week long stay and you are assigned to days/times that may or may not work with your schedule. We were able to move ours around a little bit. All other special activities are only available by day-of sign up. The line opens at 7:30AM, but started forming at 5:45AM. No thank you! You could definitely drop off any time during the day IF the club wasn’t already full. The only way to guarantee entry was through signing up for an activity. Like I said, Whit enjoyed it and went a few times. It all was perfectly fine, but just be warned if you are expecting cruise-like service and entertainment for the littles!
Outside of Aunty’s, there were loads of fun activities for the littles!! The Pau Hana Room has board games, movies and puzzles to check out.
The snorkel lagoon was great for John. We bought him a pass and he could go whenever he wanted! Both pool side lagoon and beach locations were available with the pass. (This is the only activity that isn’t complimentary outside of beach rentals and excursions.)
Whit especially loved the Menehune Adventure Trail. A hand held device led him to solve riddles, search for statues and discover enchantment on trails in the lobby and around the pool!
‘Ohana Movie Nights on the Halawai Lawn happened every other night. You roll out a mat, bring dinner and enjoy a wonderful evening under the stars!
On alternating nights, Disney puts on the wonderful Starlit Hui. It’s on the same Halawai Lawn and is a lovely experience. It’s like a luau without the food – which is the best way to do it for me :-) We brought Hawaiian pizzas from Pizza Corner (across the street from Aulani) and enjoyed a wonderful show! For the pre-show, there are a handful of activities like making flower bracelets and crowns. It was a special night that was a favorite for my family.
There are a handful of characters roaming about Aulani, including Mickey and Minnie, Chip and Dale, Stitch, Donald, Goofy and Duffy. They are all VERY easy to see – often times you just bump right into them or come off the lazy river and find them in the shallow end :-) For formal meet and greets, there is a number you can call each morning to find out times and locations throughout the day. Again, if you get there at the start of each one you will be done in 5-10 minutes tops.
Oh, well hello there, Goofy!
Whit adores Chip and Dale and calls them “the chales”. It was pretty magical when this happened…
We’re ready for our picture. Where’s Whit?
Hmmm…. I don’t see him over here.
Say acorns!!!!!!!!!!!! Oops, that didn’t go as planned.
Everyone in the pic now!
And then number one duck!
And at long last, after traveling to the far reaches of our country, DUFFY BEAR!!!!!
Bear hugs are the best!
Hanging with Mick at the pool…
And then both Mickey and Minnie out on the lawn. Finding these two together is a rare treat lately.
Just us girls.
How about a smooch?!
Another day, another Goofy time.
Moving right along, Aulani has numerous dining options. We found them all to be fairly priced for Hawaii and of really good quality.
Off the Hook is located down on the pool deck. Burgers, salads, sammies and such. Very good!
Ama Ama was a delicious beach front restaurant with wonderful sunset views. We dined here our last night with the littles in Aunty’s. Kids are certainly welcome here, but it was really nice to have a date night! I ate a lot of fish over the course of our sixteen days and this one was the best anywhere!
The Oleo Room was located on a patio of of the lobby and had live music nightly. It was wonderful to have it waft up to our room through open balcony doors, and just as lovely to listen in person. Kids are welcome here too – we had one at Aunty’s and the other with us.
Ulu Cafe is the quick serve restaurant, with a hot line as well as pastries and grab and go options. Our favorites were the malasadas and Mickey Musubi.
Self serve dole whips were available in the Lava Shack. This was a daily indulgence! We swore they tasted even better in Hawaii, if that is possible!
Papalua Shave Ice was a favorite for the littles. I did like the Lilikoi flavor, but it was hard to forego the Dole Whips next door!
Mama’s Snack Shop had things like fries, chicken tenders and hot dogs, but we didn’t eat here somehow! Lord knows I love a hot dog.
Makahiki is home to the character breakfast. All of the food was wonderful, with so many different things ranging from American to Hawaiian to Japanese. The characters were also fantastic here, as throughout the rest of the resort! Breakfast is hosted by Aunty and you’ll find Mickey, Minnie and Goofy here.
The same restaurant has a Menehune Mischief Dinner on select nights! The dinner is SO good – fish, crab, scallops, sushi, prime rib, cheeses and loads of other things. Dinner is hosted by Uncle and characters include Stitch, Donald, Chip and Dale.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the cocktails. Pau Hana Punch is the thing that dreams are made of – cucumber vodka, Pimms, strawberry, ginger and lemonade.
My other go-to was the Lilikoi-lada. It’s like a pina colada swirled with lilikoi (passionfruit).
In addition to on-site dining and eating in our room, we also tried Monkey Pod (meh) and Pizza Corner (pricey but good) that are both across the street and easy to walk to.
Now, the spa. Oh, the spa!!!!!!!!! I can’t say I’ve been to lots of spas and I admittedly pretty much always enjoy myself, but Aulani’s Lanawai Spa is truly a little slice of heaven. It is an absolutely must-do if you travel to Aulani. Honey and I both went at the same time (different rooms) for the signature lomi lomi massage. We spent about four hours in total enjoying the facility.
There are separate lounges for men and women, each with lockers, showers, changing areas, a sauna and a steam room. Outside is the shared Hydrotherapy Garden. It’s incredible!
There are luxurious soaking pools (cold, warm and hot), six waterfall rain showers, whirlpool jet spas, a reflexology foot path and more. Cast members come around with cold towels while soaking and lounging in the garden.
There are six different infused waters and teas and a scrumptious selection of spa snacks.
The Pulu Bar invites you to mix a complimentary Hawaiian body polish. I brought both mine and Honey’s home and have LOVED using them in the shower!
Our massages were both sensational and we could hardly bear to leave! It was such a wonderful treat!!
Now, in the spirit of full transparency, I want to say that in addition to not loving Aunty’s Beach House, the lounge chair situation at the pool was insane. The pool opens at 8AM but in order to get a chair, you must lay a towel down well before 7AM. For a pool front chair make that 5-6AM. On vacation!!!!!!!!!!!! We did most of our excursions in the morning, so this was only an issue for us one day (thank goodness for our cabanas). I found the beach to be much easier and calmer in the morning. By the time we were back at the resort around lunch, we could always find a chair. Now, not only do you have to be up insanely early for a chair, but then you have to wait in a line at 8AM for pool wrist bands. I felt like there was room for improvement in these areas and feel sure Aulani will address them. I did complain via email and my concerns were promptly addressed :-) Other than these things, Aulani is exceptional and wonderful and magical and perfect!!
Last but not least, I added three more Alex and Ani bangles to my collection!! I love these as souvenirs.
It was the most wonderful 40th birthday I could have ever imagined. It took a lot of saving and a crazy amount of planning but feel so very fortunate to have been able to take my littles on this epic trip. Adventures are forever.
I imagine it will be quite a few years before we fly across the country to visit Hawaii again, but I feel certain we will return some day to these beautiful, culture-rich islands and the magic that is Aulani!! If you have questions, post them in the comments and I will try to answer.
Over the rest of the week I’ll share all the details on the rest of our adventures on Oahu!!! Stay tuned!
aloha & xoxo