Everyone knows Disney has theme parks but did you know that Disney has 3 resort properties that stand alone from the parks? These include Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Florida, Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina and the newest property, Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa located on the island of Oahu.
One of the first differences you may notice is the name. In all the other resort names, Disney comes first. This is not true at Aulani. Here, Hawaii is first from the moment you arrive on property and read the sign welcoming you to this tropical paradise. In constructing Aulani, Disney Imagineers worked with cultural experts to ensure that the Hawaiian culture shines through in every incredible detail. You can even take a Cultural Tour of Aulani, highlighting some of these hidden treasures. While the characters are ever present at other resort properties located near parks, at Aulani, the characters are on vacation as well! You won’t find as many characters as in the parks but you will see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Stitch, Chip, Dale and Duffy often decked out in their beach attire.
Rooms – Aulani is a Vacation Club property so the rooms include standard hotel rooms as well as studios, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom villas. The 1 bedroom and larger villas include a full kitchen as well as a washer and dryer in the unit. The 3 bedroom grand villas have an extra-long balcony with an amazing ocean view. In all rooms, the beds are elevated to provide extra space to store your luggage and there is a step stool in the closet to provide children an easier way of climbing up into bed (bedrails are also available upon request).
Pools – Each morning, hotel guests must visit one of the kiosks in the pool area to receive their color coded wristband for that day. Aulani utilizes this system to prevent non-resort guests from using the incredible pool areas. The massive pool area includes two huge water slides, multiple pools and hot tubs (some overlooking the ocean), a lazy river, splash areas and a gorgeous artificial lagoon for snorkeling filled with only species of fish native to Hawaii, as well as a few hidden surprises. There is an adult only pool that is located in a very quiet, lush corner of the pool complex. The main pool plays host to dance parties and other fun activities throughout the day. The pool areas are surrounded with chairs and lounges as well as cabanas and laniwais (a secluded patio with loungers) that are available for daily rentals.
Beach –The picturesque white sand beach is a sight you won’t soon forget, especially once you see your first sunset. Complementary boogie boards and other beach gear are available to all guests wearing their wristband, and snorkeling gear is available and included as part of the artificial lagoon snorkeling package. There are also daily workouts available for people of all ages and skill levels (most are complimentary but a couple have an additional charge). As with most beaches in Hawaii, it is a public beach, but also as with most beaches in Hawaii, you won’t be disappointed. Kayaks and stand up paddle boards are also available for rent.
Kid’s Club – Aulani is home to Aunty’s Beach House, a one-of-a-kind kid’s club. Aunty’s is complimentary to resort guests’ children ages 3 to 12 and is open from 8:30 am – 9 pm. The daily activities are published in the Daily ‘Iwa, the resort newsletter that is available each night for the next day. There are a few premium activities that are an additional charge, including Surf’s Up with Chip and Dale and Fish are Friends (both experiences include a meal as well as special activities and souvenirs to take home). Some of these activities can be booked prior to your arrival, some can only be booked in the morning of the event, and most only operate on select days. Meals can be purchased if your child will be in Aunty’s during a meal time. Special activities are available during the morning open house for parents with children 3 and under.
Restaurants – The restaurants on property vary from beachside snacks to fine dining. What Disney resort would be complete without a character breakfast? Don’t miss Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at Makahiki where you’ll get to interact with Aunty, as well as Minnie, Mickey and Goofy. The buffet breakfast includes family favorites (like Mickey waffles) as well as Hawaiian and Asian favorites. The buffet is also open for dinner (without characters). For a quick bite to eat, visit Ulu Café or Mama’s Snack Shop, both located conveniently in the pool area or Little Ophihi’s, located on the beach. For drinks and appetizers, visit the ‘Ōlelo Room (located in the main building) where you can brush up on your Hawaiian pronunciation. ‘Ōlelo means “to converse” and the bartenders are all happy to help you learn Hawaiian words. Off the Hook is another fun bar, located between the pool area and ‘Ama’Ama. ‘Ama’ Ama is the resort’s signature restaurant. The restaurant uses fresh, local ingredients to provide an amazing dining experience. The restaurant is located just off the beach and offers an incredible sunset view. And don’t forget to visit the Lava Shack (to satisfy your Dole Whip craving) or Papalua Shave Ice (try it with the condensed milk topping).
Spa – The Laniwai Spa at Aulani is a destination all by itself. The spa is 18,000 square feet and includes treatment rooms as well as an outdoor hydrotherapy garden. The garden is available for guests enjoying treatments in the spa before and after their treatments. Aulani is also home to Painted Sky, the only teen spa on the island. Here teens can receive facials and other treatments as well as connect with friends and hang out. Amenities include computer stations, daily teen-only activities, as well as a DIY Mixology Bar.
Menehune and Menehune Hunt – In Hawaiian mythology, the Menehune (pronounced Min-ay-hoo-nay) are mystical, mischievous people. If you look closely as you explore the resort grounds, you’ll find them hidden everywhere – in the elevators, around the pools, even in the snorkeling lagoon. You can even participate in a Menehune Hunt. Similar to the Agent P World Showcase Adventure at Epcot, guests are can borrow an iPad loaded with the game and follow clues given by Aunty as they explore the property and unlock the hidden secrets of the Menehune to help Aunty and her friends. There are indoor and outdoor trails and all are complimentary and fun for all ages. Be sure to explore them all!
Please email me at Amy@TravelWithTheMagic.com or you can find me on Facebook so I can book your family’s Hawaiian getaway! You can also call me at 1-800-670-4312, ext 129. I can’t wait to plan your family’s MAGICAL vacation!