How many places are on your bucket list to visit? And how many times have you researched actually traveling there to find that your “dream” vacation isn’t in your budget? That’s what I thought for the longest time with Hawai’i!
I have always wanted to go to Hawai’i. My husband and I discussed it many times, but when we factored in airfare for four, hotel, food, and activities, it started to get pretty expensive. We are very budget-conscious people, but we also like to vacation a certain way. That was the main reason we joined Disney Vacation Club. We wanted to stay at the deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World every year, but the deals were getting harder and harder to come by.
So, imagine my thrill when DVC announced they were building Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu! We did our research and decided we wanted to wait until most of the construction was done prior to going. We figured it would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so we wanted it to be perfect. That got us to May 2014 when we were able to book a 10 day stay in an oceanview studio using our DVC points!
Aulani is located on the west, or leeward, side of Oahu in the Ko Olina resort area. I’ll admit, it’s a bit of a drive from the airport and there is no Disney transportation available. We chose to rent a car while we were on Oahu, but you could definitely take a taxi. If you decided to rent a car for a day or so, there is an Alamo counter at Aulani.
Driving from the airport, we were so excited to catch our first glimpse of Aulani from the road:
I had done online check-in, so when we pulled up to the front door, a Cast Member met us with our check-in documents, offered us some lightly flavored ice water, and gave us a short tour of the lobby area with an overview of the resort.
We were also all given leis while my two daughters were given Menehune necklaces to help them connect with the little people hiding around the resort.
The lobby at Aulani is open-air and, while it may not be as impressive as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it is a beautiful space that opens at the back to the pool area called the Waikolohe Valley.
As I said before, we booked an oceanview studio villa. It is to be noted that Aulani has only a few villas that look completely to the ocean and those are all Grand Villas. Of course, I wouldn’t complain about our view at all.
We did not book any excursions through Disney, but they are definitely available. We decided to do our own, but we did have to do quite a bit of research to find the ones we chose. There are a lot of companies that do different excursions and you really need to research to find what will work for you and your family. If you’d rather be hassle-free, then the excursions contracted by Disney are perfect.
And we spent a few days just hanging out at the resort. There is so much to see and do there!
First up, the pool area has something for everyone. There are three different pools: two that are open to everyone and one is an adults-only pool. The Lazy River can be both relaxing and fun. We spent many loops as a family trying to bump each other into the waterfalls that are located throughout the river. Of course, we also spent a lot of time just floating along.
The highlight for our youngest was Menehune Bridge. This area is for children under 48” and they were pretty strict with that when we were there. There are two water slides, interactive water features, and a huge canoe that fills up with water and dumps out every few minutes.
There are two water slides in the main pool area as well. One uses either single or double rafts that exit into the Lazy River and the other is a body slide that dumps you into the pool. I think we found 5 different hot tubs while we were wandering around. Some of them are hidden very well! Three are open to all guests while two of them are for those guests who are 18 and over.
There has been a lot of discussion about the pool area at Aulani in regards to having enough chairs for everyone. While we were there, we only had one or two times that we had to walk around a bit to find at least one chair but that was really only because I like to have shade to sit in. The Cast Members that work in the pool area are very good about watching chairs to make sure nobody is saving chairs without using them. Also, security around the pool is strict. We had to show our Key to the World card every day that we wanted to use the pool in order to get a wristband in that day’s color, sort of like Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.
We attended the storytelling at the Mo’olelo Fire Pit with Uncle. We enjoyed it a lot with the story of the hero Maui and singing with Uncle. It’s very short and it’s a tight area … we had to climb up on some rocks to sit, but completely worth it. We missed the Starlit Hui, but plan to catch it soon!
There is so much else to cover with Aulani! Disney has really created a resort that you can spend 10 days at and not get bored! I haven’t even covered Aunty’s Beach House for the kids or Painted Sky Teen Spa for 13 to 17 year olds. And who can forget another part of Aulani that I plan to “research” soon: the Laniwai Salon & Spa for adults!
We can’t forget the food, either! We attended Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at Makahiki on our last morning at Aulani and we got to see Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. The kids also got to do a lot of activities with Aunty throughout the meal. We all said that it was one of our favorite meals at any Disney property!
Our amazing “once in a lifetime” trip ended with a portion of our family catching a flight back to Georgia while my husband stayed for 5 more days to interview for a position on the island. Once-in-a-lifetime became our life officially on December 23rd when we finally all made it home to Honolulu! I already made a point of visiting Aulani the day after we arrived to see the holiday decorations.
I know that, while I am thousands of miles away from the closest Disney Park, if I ever feel like I need a dose of Disney magic, I can drive to the other side of the island and soak some up! Aloha from Hawai’i!