This is not necessarily a park post, but I am a lover of all things Disney. So I want to share with you my experience at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii (on the west side of the island of Oahu).
As we arrived, we were greeted with beautiful smelling leis and delicious citrus water. (I wore my Te Fiti t-shirt from One Golden Sun to celebrate the first day).
The lobby was filled with lovely and intricate details, one of Disney’s well-known strengths.
Like other Disney hotels, Aulani has a kid’s movie room for children to enjoy while adults are checking in.
The beds in the rooms were adorned with cute little Mickey-shaped towels accompanied by a flower.
In the lobby, as you wait for a ride or your rental car, find Hidden Mickeys in the citrus water available.
The Manta Rays on the ceiling in the hallway reminded me of the ones from Moana that her grandmother loved.
Catch Stitch outside by the Lazy River!
If you like to snorkel, you can visit Rainbow Reef. Day passes are $20 and length-of-stay passes are $40. You can catch some Hidden Mickeys in here too!
Aulani has several meet and greets available. Every day between 8am and 8pm you can dial extension 2447 (CHIP) to hear a recorded message of the times and locations of character meet and greets. I was clearly excited to meet Moana, wearing my Moana dress from KawaiianPizzaApparel and my ears from UniqueEarsbyili.
Check the Daily Iwa (schedule) for special events like the Shake a Shaka pool party where Mickey and Minnie join for lots of fun pictures and games with the kids.
Aulani has a lazy river where you will definitely get wet under the scattered water jets. You can take your tube down a slide too and then drop it off to ride another slide that doesn’t require a tube.
You can find Moana again telling stories with Uncle (an endearing Hawaiian term for an elder man) as they tell her story at the Mo’Olelo Firepit. It was difficult to find out exactly which story times she attends. However, after asking enough questions I finally squeezed out of a cast member that she usually attends the earlier times (4:45 or 5:45).
Join Uncle without Moana after the sun goes down. He sings songs and tells Aulani tales. His favorite story topic is the Menehune, a mischievous tribe of creatures that love to be fed and to build things. You can find Menehune statues all over the resort, including the elevators, the lobby and Rainbow Reef.
Although the beach area seems small, there were always plenty of chairs available. The “Disneyfied” rockless and waveless lagoon made swimming relaxing and enjoyable.
One of my favorite parts about Aulani was the pool situation. There were family pools and then there were age 18 and up pools. One adult pool was even equipped with a coffee bar turned alcohol bar in the afternoon! Here you see an infinity pool with a hot tub temperature for guests age 18 and up. Don’t worry… there was a family infinity pool too.
If you are a morning person and into fitness, Aulani has great classes available. This photo is from the 6am Sunrise Yoga class. It is an extra charge of $20 per person and requires advance reservations with a 24 hour cancellation policy.
Yoga will never be the same after my 7am Ocean Yoga class. It is limited to 4 guests per class and the instructor is amazing and so kind. She also taught our Sunrise Yoga class and our Ocean Fitness class. Ocean Fitness (7:30am) is also out in the lagoon on paddle boards, but is much more intense, involving pushups, planks, burpees, and sit-ups. Both Ocean classes also require advance reservations, cost $20 per person and have 24-hour cancellation policies. Aulani also offers complimentary classes like Boot Camp, Body Circuit and Tai Chi.
My absolute favorite activity in Aulani was just relaxing. The rooms have comfortable Aulani robes and room service menus for those nights you just want to spend inside.
Aulani’s fine dining table service restaurant is called ‘AMA ‘AMA and requires advance reservations. The food, staff and view were all delightful.
Especially when the sun set! The bar at ‘AMA ‘AMA also has a casual dining area called Off the Hook, no reservations needed and the food was delicious! I especially loved the tuna melt.
Makahiki is a buffet style restaurant which requires reservations. We came for a character breakfast.
After checking in at Makahiki, we waited on a short line to meet Mickey, and then headed inside for breakfast.
Here are just a few of the breakfast options offered at Makahiki. There was an omelette station too!
As Disney always does, they celebrated with some free desserts and singing for the guests in my party celebrating birthdays.
There were only 2 other characters circulating the tables. Minnie often had to stop circulating to attend parades with Aunty (an endearing Hawaiian term for an elder woman) and the children. Pluto was pretty far away from our table and he never made it over. We did wait around an extra 15 minutes for Minnie and she was able to greet us.
KA WA’A Luau
The KA WA’A Luau at Aulani featured a pig roast, a buffet style dinner and one free drink per guest. Afterwards, guests had to purchase drink tickets. The Luau area had tattoo art, lei making and a shopping kiosk with Moana souvenirs.
Moana joined to greet everyone when the Luau officially begun.
Mickey and Minnie stopped by to do the Hula with the keiki (children).
The keiki buffet had the cutest Moana cupcakes!
Maui made an appearance during the show as the narrator told the story about a pre-Moana time when he lassoed the sun. Remember when he mentioned that in his song?! The performers came out after the show to take pictures with the guests, so I naturally ran right to Maui.
At the Ulu Cafe you can find Mickey Spam Musubi. I thought it was delicious. It’s usually ready around 11am and sells out very quickly.
They also serve Mickey themed desserts, like the brownies and cupcakes seen in this photo.
And Mickey shaped PB and Js!
Papalua Shave Ice
At Papalua Shave Ice, ask for shave ice with a Mickey ears. It is $1 extra but worth it for the picture! You can pick different flavors and even add ons like condensed milk. My ice had green tea, vanilla and mango flavors.
Laniwai Day Spa
I was thoroughly impressed with my experience at Laniwai Day Spa at Aulani. We were greeted and asked to pick a stone from a basket with our eyes closed. I picked a stone that said “balance” on one side and “pono” the Hawaiian word for balance on the other side. My greeter told me that would be my focus for the day. We were instructed to make a wish and toss our stones into the wishing well seen in this picture. At the end of my spa day, I was given a complimentary body scrub with the words “balance” and “pono” written on a card attached.
After we made our wishes, we walked down the rainwater hallway. There were sounds of different rain patterns coming from the ceiling. It almost felt like we were on a queue for an attraction like The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot.
Our greeter brought us to the Women’s Pulu Bar, a mixing station.
We were given the choice between two types of body scrubs seen in the picture.
Prior to our spa treatments, we were left to enjoy the Kula Wai Hydrotherapy Garden. Access to this garden is complimentary with purchase of any spa treatment. There were plenty of comfortable chairs like these to lounge on.
The garden had baths at 90 and 100 degree temperatures with beautiful views to enjoy. There were private baths available with different scents and oils for an extra price. Private baths require advance reservations.
My favorite part was the free foot massage I got while walking the reflexology path.
We used our scrubs from the Pulu Bar in the rainwater showers. The showers had different type jets, some with cold water and some with warm water. The one seen straight ahead in the picture had warm water and was my favorite!
Towards the back of the garden we relaxed in a hot tub for a while.
The lights were so fun to look at while hanging out in the garden. About 10 minutes before our service we were brought back inside to change out of our bathing suits and lay in the relaxation room until we were called for our massages.
I was even able to get a taste of what a wedding at Aulani would be like! My dad decided to surprise my mom with a vow renewal while we were at Aulani. We surprised her by laying out a white dress on her bed surrounded by wedding gifts from Aulani. Usually they send these gifts monthly in advance of the wedding. Since it was a surprise, they gave us the gifts the day before the ceremony.
The ceremony was beautiful. The wedding officiant had my parents whisper loving words to one another and then invited the children up so that the family could share words of love together. All the while a private musician played their wedding song and lots of Disney songs. It’s safe to say I cried the while time. At the end of the ceremony the officiant blew a conch shell horn for as long as they kissed.
We had plenty of options for cake fillings and designs. Of course we chose the Mickey themed cake and a strawberry creme filling.
That night more gifts were brought to the room. Aulani made sure to make this experience as magical as possible!
Hale Manu is my favorite store at Aulani! It sells all types of Disney Aulani Dooney and Bourke purses. I bought the purse in the picture for $138. There were items from the Kate Spade Minnie Collection too.
I also bought this Moana wrap dress from Hale Manu. It’s perfect to wear over a bathing suit or for a casual day out. It was priced at $68 down from $98. I bought the pineapple drink at the pool bar. It was $9 extra to put the drink in the pineapple, but then refills were only the cost of the actual drink. Non-alcoholic drinks can also be put in pineapples.
Kālepa’s Store in Aulani resembled most Disney hotel gift shops, with stuffed characters, clothing, and souvenirs. I purchased my Aulani Alex and Ani there.
In a half hour drive north, you can get a taste of the original Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation. There are many other treats, coffee and lunch options available as well. You can buy tickets for a plantation tour on the Pineapple Express train (be prepared to spend about 30 minutes waiting for a train). You can also buy tickets to stroll through the Plantation Garden.
Another 40 minutes passed the Dole Plantation you can visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. This park reminded me of a combination of Animal Kingdom due to its luscious environment and Epcot because of the opportunity to walk around different Polynesian Villages and experience cultural activities and foods. In addition to the villages and scenery, you can take a boat tour around the center, watch an IMAX movie called the Hawai’in Journey, see a canoe show and even ride in your own canoe! There are general admission tickets for the activities listed. You can also purchase combination tickets for an evening show, buffet, or Luau.
Another 20 minutes passed the Poylnesian Cultural Center you can find Kualoa Ranch. It is famous for the multiple movies filmed there. You can tour the ranch on ATVs, multipassenger Raptors, horses, or just take a bus ride. Movies filmed at the ranch included Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Pearl Harbor. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Godzilla, and 50 First Dates.
In a 30 minute drive south from Aulani you can visit Pearl Harbor.
The experience is extremely moving and sobering. I highly recommend going and getting tickets off the official website in advance. They are free with the exception of a reservation fee. If tickets are sold out, they release some more at 7am the day before.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my Aulani experience! It was a great way to get my Disney fix while vacationing elsewhere. Overall, for the price of staying at Aulani you are given access to their pools, slides, non-dining character experiences, beach, wifi, fitness center and complimentary fitness classes. Pricing per night is high and as I said there are many other amenities that cost extra. However, I do recommend staying here, at least for a short part of your Hawaiian vacation if you are a Disney fan like me! You can see more Aulani pictures on my Instagram @hereyouleavetoday_
My name is Danielle and I am a Disney lover and frequent visitor. I am from New York and have been lucky enough to go to Walt Disney World every year since I was 1 year old. Along with my obsession, my number of trips per year have increased, and I am so excited to share my experiences with other theme park folk. In addition to Disney World, I also take occasional trips to Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Disneyland California. My upcoming trips include Aulani, a Disney resort in Hawaii in August, Walt Disney World in September and a possible trip to Disneyland Paris next year is now a lovely little thought beginning to blossom. I look forward to sharing all these experiences with you. You can find more of my pictures at @hereyouleavetoday_ on Instagram.