Aulani: A Disney Resort and Spa with Teenagers and Adults
by Michelle Woodruff
Our immediate party of 7 departed from St. Louis, flying via Southwest Airlines, to San Diego, CA. We decided to spend the night in San Diego, each party separating to spend the day enjoying local sights. Our family drove to Hollywood for the day to take in the Walk of Fame. It made for a long day and, had we not been visiting our daughter, we should have stayed in San Diego. We spent the day locating the iconic buildings that Disney’s Hollywood Studios recreated in the theme park, identifying some of our favorite stars on the walk and eating at Musso and Frank. Musso and Frank was a step back into the Golden Age of Hollywood.
We departed the next morning via Hawaiian Airlines and arrived in Honolulu around lunch time. We rented our car from the airport, well in advance of our arrival as it was half the price of a rental from Aulani. The resort is 17 miles from the airport, an easy drive. The staff immediately took our keys (in case they had to move the car before we returned), handled our luggage and made us feel welcome. We participated in online check which allowed us to utilize the outside kiosk where we were offered infused water, obtained our room key, a resort map, the ‘Iwa (daily publication of scheduled activities and information) and our greeting leis. Our rooms were ready upon arrival, allowing us to immediately locate our rooms and begin exploring the resort.
Our rooms were at ground level, with the Island view. The Halawai lawn was outside our patio and we could sit on our patio when they presented outdoor movies, the Halloween party and the Starlit Hui (a Hawaiian inspired show followed by a typical Disney dance party). We had a deluxe studio room which had a mini refrigerator, coffee pot and microwave. The bathroom is a split bathroom allowing several family members to get ready simultaneously.
The resort’s architecture reflects the Hawaiian culture, stories and history. Those seeking an authentic Hawaiian experience will be pleased with the grounds. They offer a tour of the grounds highlighting the nature and art of the resort, fire pit storytelling by “Uncle”, local bands, lei making, hula class, and Aunty’s beach house ( for the children in the group).
The pool area is heavily landscaped and shaded. We found a secluded area alongside the lazy river where we frequently convened. The pool area has several pools, four whirlpools, two splash areas, and two slides-all beautifully landscaped with native plants and trees. There is an adult only pool and a couple of adult only whirlpools. We chose to remain on the resort a couple of days, as it had a lot to offer.
Our party had 10 travelers, as we met up with more friends at the resort. The youngest was age 12, followed by 2-16 year olds, a 19 and 20 year old. Those were our younger members. The rest of us ranged in age from 49-58. We brought snorkel equipment and snorkeled in the Aulani lagoon almost daily. They have snorkel equipment available for rental, as well as stand up paddle boards and kayaks. The beach is meticulously clean with plenty of beach chairs. There is a paved pathway along the lagoon that extends to the Ko Olina Marina and runs alongside the four lagoons in Ko Olina. I enjoyed early morning walks along the lagoons and participated in sunrise yoga one morning.
Our young people spent the majority of their time on the beach, whereas the rest of us spent the majority of our time in or near the lazy river and whirlpools. There is a fine dining restaurant, a buffet-style restaurant which doubles as the location for character breakfasts, a pool side restaurant and bar, and a counter service location. We ate at the counter service and pool side bar, the food was pricier, but not unreasonable. One of the best amenities for us was the Weber gas grill stations!! We checked out grilling utensils from the community hall and grilled several evenings as the men in the party were quite enthusiastic about their grilling. No need to wash the tools, just return them to the community hall in the trash bag and they will take care of the rest. While we are on the subject of food and beverage: A DRINK IN THE FROZEN PINEAPPLE IS WORTH IT!!! One of my most relaxing memories is sitting poolside in the evening, listening to live Hawaiian music and drinking from my pineapple drink.
I am a Disney shopper and was pleased with the shops (2) at the resort. Just a warning, if you see something purchase it. The tour buses stop by the resort for non- resort guests to shop, making it crowded at times. Photopass service is available at the resort. One morning we got up early and dressed for pictures. We took several of our own in addition to utilizing the Photopass service. Photos can be taken in the Community Hall, where you can chose additional backgrounds. Stitch actually photobombed us when taking pictures outside.
We didn’t partake in the spa services, but maybe next time when it’s just myself and my husband. The kids enjoyed working out in the gym and participating in the beach cardio rush and circuit work out. Some of the other onsite activities offered include canoe races, lei making, hula, teen scavenger hunts, Disney Character meet and greets, Supplied air snorkeling at Rainbow Reef (Aulani’s reef in the pool area), seaside stretching, pool parties, storytelling and Aulani art and culture tour. As with most Disney experiences, there are children’s clubs and activities.
This is an early morning resort; they are up before the sunrise and close shop early. The slides close at 6 and the pools at 8 (we visited in October). It is easy to get up before sunrise when there is a 5 hour time difference from the states. Speaking of sunrise, one activity I failed to mention was watching the sunset, which goes on for a long time. You won’t miss photographing it because it last for at least 45 minutes and continues to change colors until the last speck of light has faded.
We stayed 7 nights at Aulani and did venture off the resort taking in Hanauma Bay snorkeling (don’t expect a beach chair here), North Shore (Giovanni’s Shrimp truck), the Island drive, Koko Marina (Kona Brewing Company at the Marina for lunch), Waikiki, Waimea Valley and Falls, surfing at Iwa Beach (a beginning surfing lesson we booked out of Aulani), the Arizona Memorial and 2 half days at the Aloha Stadium Swap meet.
Aulani-A Disney Resort and Spa has a lot to offer onsite and is steeped in the Hawaiian culture. As always, Disney delivers something for everyone.