My younger gal at Sunset Point at the edge of Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
Well, it’s been 30 days already and I’m not back in Hawai’i. Full disclosure: I think it has taken me so long to write these reviews because every time I think about the beauty, sights, sounds, food and fun in Oahu, I am overwhelmed. Literally, I miss a place I visited for 6 days. Like, deep in my soul Miss. It. But today, I’m giving it a go and sharing our experience at Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa.
When considering taking my family to an island in the middle of the Pacific, I knew they needed a “known entity”. Yes, Hawai’i is a state, so there’s Target, Chipotle, and WalMart. But also, we’re basically a 5 hour flight from the lower 48. I wasn’t sure how we would feel about that perceived “isolation”. Spoiler alert: we LOVED IT and my younger gal and I have come now we finally “get” the Island Life. More about that later.
To get to Aulani was easier – and more cost effective – for us as Disney Vacation Club Members. (If you are thinking of visiting Aulani and are NOT DVC, I highly recommend researching renting DVC points. Here’s a website to start: http://www.dvcrequest.com It would save you hundreds of dollars!) It took us a little longer than normal to nail down our dates, so instead of the two bedroom for our group of five, we ended up with a combo of an ocean view one bedroom villa and an island view deluxe studio. (Full disclosure: we slept all five comfortably in the one bedroom for two nights; it’s the one bathroom that’s prompted us to an additional studio. #welovepoopourri
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.
Here’s our view from the 12th floor – ocean to the left; mountains to the right. Since a one bedroom has TWO balconies, I could easily slide out of bed and open the balcony doors to greet the cotton candy rainbow sunrise every morning. It was a glorious way to start the day!
With a full kitchen, we did 3/5 breakfasts and lunches in the room plus afternoon snacks (when we weren’t eating shaved ice or Dole whip). There’s a Target in Kapolei – an exit before Aulani – and we stopped there to stock up on breakfast and lunch foods – bread, PB & J, frozen pizzas and chicken, cheese, and black bean quesadillas – as well as reef safe sunscreen, wine, beer, water and Gatorade. Note: Hawai’i doesn’t use or charges for single-use plastic bags. So, either bring your own OR buy the reusable ones as a souvenir. We now have red Target bags that say “Mahalo” which make me smile every time I use them!
Hydration is an absolute MUST in Hawai’i and sometimes you want more than water, so when we arrived at the resort, we also purchased two of the refillable mugs at about $20 each. Totally worth it. We shared between us and it was fine.
Pro tip #1: If your kids are ages 8-18, get everyone their own. They can work the machines by themselves and you can relax!
Pro tip #2: The machines for ice and water are separate from the Coke machines and don’t require the cup (read: FREE), so if your littles are primarily water drinkers and don’t want the cups, just bring/buy refillable water bottles. Done and done.
Okay, let’s be honest, we went to Hawaii go to the beach and it did not disappoint! There are four main lagoons in Ko Olina and Aulani shares Lagoon 1 with the Four Seasons Resort and … a wedding chapel! (There were easily three or four weddings a day and I still have a LOT of questions about how those brides got the sand out of their dresses after the photo shoots…) Lagoon life is fabulous and literally across a walkway from the pools. The ocean water is crystal clear and cool; I could just float out there for hours! And the lava flow sand is so…granular. We’re used to the superfine sand of Florida and this was a welcome change!
Midday at Lagoon #1 – I realized that I have no close up pictures because I was too busy enjoying the water. I’m calling that a win.
Boogie board rental from Makiki Joe’s at the edge of the lagoon is free to resort guests and is one way to float in paradise. We also rented a paddle board ($45/hour with 10% discount for DVC) one afternoon and took turns paddling around the lagoon. With a hurricane coming across the Pacific, the waves out toward the entrance to the lagoon did get whipped up a bit. This only became concerning to me when I remembered that there are NO lifeguards at the lagoons. So. If you or your loved ones aren’t strong swimmers, you *may* want to consider borrowing (free) the life jackets from Aulani. To be clear, there were tons of kids in and at the edge of the lagoon and we saw NO emergencies of any kind the whole time we were there, so no fear. Just planning! Also, if you choose to hang out at the lounge chairs on the beach there are cast member servers who will take your order for drinks and snacks. Ah, that resort island life!
As for the pools – WOW! On your way to the pools or the beach, you’ll need stop at the TOWEL PLACE and show your room keys to get towels and daily wristbands for everyone. The kids have to be in line with you to get their wristbands directly from the cast members and cast members do ask for the names of the people present in your party and how many towels. If you are DVC, have your blue membership card with you and you can get fancy, shiny bands. Check ours out:
There are seven (7!) pools on property including the lazy river through the Waikolohe Valley, which the two water slides flow into, the Keiki Cove Splash Zone (keiki is the Hawaiian Word for kids), and our personal favorite, the Ka Maka Grotto – an infinity edge pool overlooking Ko Olina beach and Lagoon #1 with a side grotto area to get out of the sun. There is even an adults only pool with a nearby pool bar tucked away near the Wainae Tower if you want a little “grown up time”. Stunning. Fun. Relaxing. Invigorating. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in one of these pools!
Notes on the water slides: The single rider water slide, Volcanic Vertical, is fast and fun AND it runs through a pitch black tube. Be prepared for complete darkness. The single or double rider tube slide also begins at the top of Pu’u Kilo, but is mostly open and a blast. Pro tip from the lifeguard- Lean back as you exit the slide to not get dumped off! And no, we did not learn that the first – or second – ride down!
The other water feature in the Waikolohe Valley is the snorkeling experience known as Rainbow Reef. Unlike all the other pool activities, this is NOT free. For $25 you can get a day-long pass to quietly snorkel in the (chilly) saltwater with thousands of beautiful, colorful tropical fish as well as spot some hidden underwater Menehune. (Menehune are *mythological* dwarf people from Hawaiian folklore who can be helpful, but also mischievous! ) My husband loved it; my Florida girl was chilly and did not appreciate swimming THAT CLOSE TO ALL THOSE FISH! If you and yours really enjoy the experience, it’s only $20ish more to get the whole week pass.
When you get tired of the water – or more likely you need a break from the gorgeous, but hot Hawaiian sun – there are a variety of activities for all ages at Aulani. The daily list of available activities- the Daily ‘Iwa – is online: https://www.disneyaulani.com/about-aulani/iwa/ or at the concierge desk. You must sign up for activities at the Pau Hana Room – Aulani’s Community Hall. Some activities cost extra money and fill up quickly – like make your own mouse ears or T-shirt stamping – while others are free and can be walk in. We chose two free ones: Ukulele Lessons – say it with me “Oo-koo-leh-leh” – and to learn the Aulani Hula. It was great to do a couple “low key” things as a family (especially after a very delicious and carb heavy breakfast at AMA AMA!) and have some good old fashioned fun!
After five days at Aulani, we were convinced that we could come back on a regular basis for a full week at a time and not be bored. At all. For more information on ALL of the things click here: https://www.disneyaulani.com/
If you are planning to go, I do recommend joining the Facebook page Disney Aulani Trip Planning. Sometimes it can be a *bit* much, BUT guests post before, during and after their visits so you can get lots of insider tips “in real time” and I felt much more prepared when we actually got there.
Ok, that’s all for now. Breakfast at AMA AMA, dinner at Ulu Cafe, Papalua Shaved Ice, the Luau, and why you should walk down to the Marriott are all coming up next! Mahalo, friends!
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