Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa is located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It was about a 30 minute drive from where we picked up our rental car, to the resort. Most of the drive was on big highways, so the drive was nice. Aulani is nestled in with a group of resorts located on Ko Olina Beach. This is on the southwest corner of Oahu and is a beautiful location. There are golf courses surround Ko Olina and great little shopping areas too.
We were amazed at the smallest details, like this picture above. Where can you find views like this, FROM THE PARKING GARAGE!! Everywhere you look, there are views like this, pretty cool, especially from some people from Indiana! We were very happy though, that there was a Target within 10 minutes, plus small shopping centers and places to grab food outside of the resort. The small shopping areas and food shops were within walking distance and a nice second option.
As you can see from the pictures above, the lines and patterns are amazing at Disney's Aulani. The main hallway drew my eye more than anything else! The quality in the woodwork and tapestry work on the ceiling was beautiful. We found the to have everything we needed. Between the restaurants, snack shops, grocery type store and amenities, we were very happy with what Aulani provided. We did go out and shopped for groceries at Target down the street. Being Disney Vacation Club members, we rented a villa, with kitchen included. This allows us to prepare a breakfast or two, snack for lunch and we had a homemade dinner one of the nights. The store at the resort had quite a few food items and drink choices, although you pay not only Disney prices, but Hawaii prices on top.
The restaurants were great! We ate at the Makahiki twice, once for a character breakfast, and once for dinner. We had a great experience both times. Breakfast was really good, with typical breakfast foods. Dinner was also good, with some quality options, along with some typical buffet kind of food. There were a couple snack shops and quick grab-and-go restaurants as well, which worked when we were out by the pool. Speaking of snacking while out by the pool. If you find yourself at Aulani, lounging by the pool, do not miss the coconut shrimp, WOW!
Everything considered, we enjoyed the resort very much. The staff was always friendly and welcoming, more than happy to help answer questions. Everywhere we went we found cleanliness.
This picture overlooking the lagoon was taken from our 14th floor balcony. The view was amazing, especially in the evening as the sun set. In the picture you can see the lazy river winding through, you can see the Vertical Volcano, the kids play area and Rainbow Reef, an artificial reef where guests can snorkel with a ton of fish! The lagoon was great. We have three kids, 8, 7 and 4, and they were entertained all day, everyday. There was always something for them to do within the lagoon. The Vertical Volcano was a blast, much more aggressive than I thought it would be, but even my 4 year old was laughing when she came out of it! The lazy river was a nice feature, which definitely came in handy when the sun got too hot.
One of the best things I love about Disney, are the small features and little moments that are great, but easy to miss. One of these moments, we happened to be present at. This the the fire pit area. On this particular day, the seating at the pool was pretty crowded, so we retreated to this area and grabbed 4 or 5 seats. Within a few minutes we noticed staff cleaning stuff up and organizing the chairs, mentioning there was going to be a story telling soon. "Uncle" soon came out and started telling us the story of Maui. Well, who better to help him, than Moana. So without anyone knowing, Moana, who was hard to find around Aulani, snuck into the fire pit area and helped tell the story. Those are the little moments that are so memorable at Disney, and they do it so well!
Ko Olina Lagoon and Beach
The beach area was great! The sand felt great on your feet, at times a little too hot for bare feet though. The water was calm and cool, great for a hot day. The lagoon is protected by the rock wall, waking for almost no waves, certainly no breaking waves. There was a shack with complimentary beach toys and umbrellas, and snorkeling gear that you could pay per day. In the distance, you can see someone trying out a paddle board, which was also rented. Having my own snorkeling gear, I went out and looked for some wildlife. The evening I went snorkeling, the water was rather cloudy. Through the water though, I noticed some rocky patches of coral and live rock. There were a few fish around that I could dive down and get a better look at. Earlier in the week, and the next morning after I snorkeled, the water was noticeable more clear, which would have made for better visibility. If you are going, go first thing in the morning. And no, there are no nets to keep fish and other wildlife out. There are two inlets where just about anything could come through. It appears there are shallows areas near the rock wall that would keep large animals out though.
Aunty's Beach House
Aunty's Beach House was a lifesaver for us. Our kids had a blast at the pools and water slides, but there were a couple days when they had enough of the water and wet swimsuits. Aunty's Beach House was a great place with a ton of things for our kids to do, and the best part?!?! We didn't have to be there! The Beach House is a super secure, well organized and very clean place for us to drop the kids off and let them be kids. There are movie rooms, craft rooms, video game rooms, and activity rooms. A kid could be there for 20 minutes or 8 hours. We used the Beach House once so that we could go grab dinner and be together. Our kids made space goo with Stitch, played kickball and tag, played some video games, and hung out with other cool kids.
We felt great about the security of Aunty's Beach House. In order for the children to go in, they were signed up and given a Magic Band, for those who have been to Disney World lately. It's an ID band they wear on their wrist, which also has location tracking. Then, anyone who would pick the children up had to be registered with a picture taken. The staff would collect your room card, check to make sure the picture matched, then as you walked the kids out, there was a pre-established password you would have to tell the staff member. Our kids had a blast and loved going the few times they did.
Slight Disappointment in the Rainbow Reef
There wasn't a whole lot of stuff we weren't happy with. The biggest feature I was unhappy with was Rainbow Reef. I didn't like the way the Reef was organized. I order to swim in the reef, you had to pay the $20/adult and $15/child in order to swim in the reef for the day. We didn't find this out until one of our last days, and it was later in the day. We assumed it was a one time fee to get into the reef for an hour or so, but at 4pm, it didn't make sense for us to pay the total amount for just an hour. We came back the next day, but just couldn't pull the trigger on the expense. The Reef also felt a little small. There were plenty of fish, but with the ages of our kids, we didn't feel like we would get our money's worth out of the experience. In hindsight, we should have planned a day earlier in the week and started early in the morning and continue to visit the Reef throughout the day.
Jack of All Trades, Master of None