My Thoughts on Aulani - A Disney Resort and Spa
It has taken me a whole TWO months to write this because of the holidays and then because of flu and sickness that ran through our home not just once, but twice! I mean come on. But I didn't want to rush this post, because I wanted to make sure it included all my thoughts and tips for an amazing vacation at Aulani.
If you are as big a Disney fan as I am, then already you are going to love Aulani. If you love Hawaii, you are going to love Aulani and if you love Disney AND Hawaii like ME, you are really going to love it.
This was my first time to Hawaii and my first time to Aulani and neither was a disappointment. Let me break it down for you in detail...
My first thought upon arriving at Aulani is that it is not just a hotel. Like most things Disney, it is an experience, one you will not soon forget. One of the things I love about Disney is their ability to make something simple feel special. They especially do this as you arrive at the resort for the first time. They have fresh flower leis for the women, kukui nut necklaces for the men and a special necklace just for the kids. They have a whole staff ready to great you and point you in the right direction. At this point, you already feel like you are in paradise and then you enter the lobby and see the intricate paintings and architectural details and the view of the resort, pools and oceans just beyond the lobby. The experience is in the details and they have covered them all.
But wait, as you go to check in at the front desk, there is a whole area dedicated to keeping kids entertained while you get the room situation taken care of. Now, you really feel like this must be paradise because you don't have kids asking 50 questions and wanting to make sure you know they are bored, because oh wait, they are not bored, they are busy, busy checking out the kids area, and you want to cry because you are so happy they have thought of all the things. And right about now you are feeling hashtag blessed.
You may feel like crying again when you go to your room and see how nice it is. The kids were seriously gushing over it and someone did point out that it was just a hotel room and they were acting like we've never stayed in a nice hotel room before, which we totally have. It was hilarious.
Today I'm sharing my top 10 favorite features of Disney Aulani... enjoy:
1) Aunty's Beach House might as well be at the top of my list because well kids club. Enough said. But it's not just someplace for the kids to go play, but they have awesome, fun activities the kids can sign up to attend. NOTE: You sign up on a first come, first serve basis, so my hubby was awesome enough to get up in the morning around 7am and go sign the kids up. Also, some activities are free and some have additional fees associated with them. The kids loved it. They have a super safe system for checking kids in and out and the kids had wristbands (you can see the wristband on my daughters right wrist) that they wore during their stay to get them in and out of the kids club, secret passwords, it's all very well managed and secured. Your kids are in good hands. It made their stay so fun and it allowed my hubby and I to get a few minutes of fun without the kiddos which is nice too.
2) The refillable mugs. I know this seems like a silly thing but when you are in the sun with kids you can go through LOTS of liquids, so it is so nice that you can purchase refillable mugs and keep going back for drinks throughout your stay. They have drink stations in several locations throughout the resort to make refills nice and convenient.
[Insert picture here of the snorkeling tank that I didn't take pictures of, because I don't snorkel. I still have naïve hopes that one day it will just come naturally to me. Still waiting...]
3) The snorkeling reef. Okay, so I am lame, I know. I am not a huge snorkeler. Ok, like not really at all. I try, but I feel so claustrophobic when my head goes under the water I just can't. But for the 90% of other people that enjoy it, I can see the appeal of the snorkeling reef they have. The cool part is you are guaranteed to see some cool stuff and you can even buy a pass to go as much as you want during your stay. Also, bonus is you don't have to worry about surprises like shark attacks and stuff that isn't likely but that I unnecessarily worry about anyway. Plus, like Moana herself points out, fish pee in you (you being the ocean of course), so clean water for the win. And you can view others which is fun for those of us that are observers.
4) The private beach and beach activities are awesome. They have a private beach in front (or in back I guess depending on what way you look at it) of the resort and it has tons of beach chairs, umbrellas, lots of sandy beach, beach activities like paddle boarding, kayaks, catamarans, etc. and it is beautiful and picturesque and everything you want from beachfront views. With showers just feet away and waiters taking drink and food orders right on the beach, you really can't ask for more.
5) The family lounge is a fun surprise. There are board games, activities for families to participate in, movies available to check out, coloring pages for kiddos to take. They also have a small business center in the lounge with computers connected to a printer, which is perfect if you need to check e-mail or print boarding passes or something of that nature.
6) The food and snacks we had were delicious. We had a food package that came with our stay that included credits that we could use to purchase breakfast and lunch items. We almost always got the flatbreads because they were so delicious and filling and perfect for our crew. (That's right I just upgraded us from a family to a crew.) There is also a small shopping area across the street from the resort within walking distance that features an ABC Store and several restaurants and shops. We also drove to the store to get snacks and food since the hotel room had a full kitchen area. We ate at BIC Tacos in Kapolei which was Ahhhh-mazing and is now on my list of favorite places to eat on Oahu! Yum.
7) The shave ice. Yes, I wrote that correctly, apparently it is Shave Ice and not Shaved Ice. You learn things when you go places. They have a Shave Ice shack right in the middle of the resort and it is a must have, I mean you can get it shaped like Mickey! They have fun flavors and options and our stay just wouldn't be complete without it. In fact, in the middle of a downpour on our last day we had to order this so we wouldn't miss out and could check it off our Aulani bucket list. That's dedication.
8) The characters. Let it be noted that we did not do any character dining during our stay, but we also didn't need to. We saw plenty of characters throughout the resort and we were only there for 4 days. The kids also saw some characters in Aunty's Beach House and with different activities they signed up for. Characters equal awesome picture opportunities.
9) The pools/hot tubs/kids play area are plentiful. There are many pools, hot tubs, a lazy river, waterslides, adult only areas, and a kids water play area (pictured above, with my cute kids posing on the bridge). There are lots of chairs, but there are also lots of chair hogs, so be courteous and take only what you actually need and note that lots of people go down early, grab lots of beach towels and start reserving enough seats for their next family reunion and there is an official towel system for marking whether chairs are actually in use. Leave your chair unattended for too long and it will become up for grabs and rightfully so, chairs are for people and not stuff. So, you have been warned, there is a system, use it properly and no one gets unnecessary eye rolls.
10) The spa. Okay, another disclaimer. We signed up the kids for the kids makeovers at the spa and then ended up cancelling them. The reason we did this is because we had flights leaving late at night (gotta love that red eye flight that I didn't sleep a wink on) and we didn't want to pay a lot of money for the kids to get makeovers and then take them out to the pool area 5 minutes later and ruin the makeovers that we just spent a lot of money on while we were killing time before we had to head to the airport. So, go ahead and do the makeovers but plan them before a nice night of dining or before the luau or something where you can get some great photos and you can enjoy it before it gets ruined at the pool or beach. And the spa did look divine if you are a fan of relaxing and getting some pampering in.
*BONUS: 11) Because of our late flight, we had time to waste before needing to head to the airport but we obviously had to check out of the hotel room so we didn't get charged for a whole extra day, so they take such good care of you and hold your bags for you AND have a special lounge that you can shower and get ready in, so that you can still enjoy the resort amenities for the FULL day after you check out!
There is so much that is great about Aulani, so leave me your questions, I'm always happy to answer and make sure to leave me any gems of helpful hints you found when staying at Aulani.