Our first staycation at the amazing Disney Aulani Resort, out in Ko’olina, was unforgettable! Upon arrival, we got Lei-d! They greeted us with aloha and offered free infused lemon water as we waited for our bags to be unloaded. The children also received a small necklace with a Tiki man at its center along with chocolates.
The entire layout of the resort was designed based off Heiau‘s. The entrance has many features of the Hawaiian culture plastered on it’s walls, roof, and floor. A few examples of the culture were in the form of paintings which displayed the activities of fishing, surfing, craftsmanship of basekts and tools, hula, wrestling, and other various activities. The rising walls were covered in Tapa Mat design which added an authentic feel of Ancient Hawaii.
After checking in early (8AM), we ate a small breakfast we brought from home then headed to the pool; The room wasn’t available until the afternoon (4PM).
The main entrance! In this picture, you can see the Tapa designs on the roof area as well as artistic renditions of the Hawaiian culture.
Along the outside, even more exhibitions of Hawaiian culture are engraved on the structures. The pointed tips in the center of the structures pay homage to the way a Heiau was crafted.
The “Pool” area was more than enough to keep us occupied as we waited for our room to be ready. In reality, the pool was a mini water park! There were slides, infinity-edged pools, multiple Jacuzzis (infinity-edged as well), dancing entertainment by well known Disney characters, bars for drinks, food stops for lunch, plenty of shade, and A LAZY RIVER which was our favorite feature! The water area stayed open as late as 10PM for some pools while other sections closed at 9Pm – Still a considerable amount of time to enjoy all the pools!
The above picture is the Ka Maka Grotto which was an infinity-edge pool and contained an infinity-edge Jacuzzi inside a cove area. The little cove gave the illusion of being under water, looking at beautifully matured coral without the hassle of holding your breath or experiences the blurry, burning vision salt water has to offer.
Menehune Bridge: This is a designated children’s area who MUST BE 4 feet/1.2 meters or shorter, if you are taller the lifeguards/supervisors working will tell you to get off. They are very strict about this as we discovered first hand.
Waikolohe Stream: AKA a Lazy River! This river allows you to drift along in a single or double tube-floaty. Having a tube is not required but allows for a much more relaxing time. We also free swam to enjoy the manmade waterfalls for as long as we wanted instead of the current take us through quickly. You can spend as long as you want here and go for as many rounds as possible. We saw people sleeping in their floaties, gently gliding along, sunburnt, red as a crab.
There are slides! The architecture was really neat in the sense that the slides looks like it was built in real lava tubes infused in actual rock. Every age is welcome to enjoy these slides. There are multiple ones – One slide was pitch black while other slides were tube slides (meaning you need a single or double floaty). The slides also lead into the Waikohole Stream or into the Waikohole main pool. I believe we counted 3 slides – from what we remember; very impressive as this was all still on Resort grounds.
Rainbow Reef: If the Ocean frightens you, then a perfect place to experience aquatic life in the safety of a pool is this. Colorful fish are in abundance here…and harmless! We did not do this activity – it is a paid attraction – we prefer doing this in the Ocean.
Wailana Pool: As mentioned before of a “children only” area, the Wailana Pool is a designated 21 and older pool. We arrived at the pool area around 9AM and stayed approximately till 5PM. The picture above was taken around 10AM – displaying how much fun goes down here! (maybe it was a slow day) During our short stay the pool did fill up with a few seniors however, rules were not as restricted as in the children’s epic play area, as we did see groups of children playing in this pool later in the day. The best part of this area being 21 and older was the bar located right next to the entrance of the pool with a TV to watch your favorite sport as you sip down a cold one.
Waikolohe Pool – the main pool area where disney characters come to dance with tourists!
Ko’olina Beach – The beach has many activities you can participate in. Stand up paddle boards, kayaks, snorkel equipment, and sand toys are all available to rent at a shack as you enter the beach area. There is plenty of seating available. Apart from enjoying the cool Pacific waters, we adored the floating platform (just imagine a giant floating square) about 15 feet/4.5 meters off shore. We had a great time jumping off of it as well as using it as a “King of the Hill” base – the kids and surrounding families LOVED this floating island! Best part of it was the lifeguards didn’t say anything to about our rowdy play!
Alas, after a full day at the beach and pool, it was time to enter our room…more like suite! It had amazing accommodations and facilities. A full kitchen was in place where we cooked our breakfast and dinner. The dining table was able to sit seven people comfortably.
The guest bedroom had two beds, a full shower and sink, toilet, television, and a walkout balcony that linked into the living room.
The view from our balcony was simple. All we could really see is the restricted kid zone and the slide volcano.
The master bedroom was marvelous with a king size bed. A fun feature in all hotel rooms is that Mickey Mouse’s head is spread through the artwork on the walls, bed sheets, pillows, lamps, and floor. It’s easy to see the shape on the red quilt. The quilt also resembled Hawaiian culture in the way the pattern is made.
To the left of the master bedrooms bed is an open closet tub and can be turned into a personalized jacuzzi!
A very unique twist: A Spam Musubi shaped like Mickey Mouse’s face. A Spam Musubi is a local island favorite. We eat it all the time! (Rice, Seaweed, and Spam)
Overall, our experience was amazing and we would love to enjoy the Resort for longer if we could. It was a home away from home but living here (on Oahu), a weekend was more than enough time to experience the water valley. One thing I was looking forward to was star gazing with genuine astronomy telescopes. Unfortunately, the night we stayed was not the event. It’s held every Tuesday and each night is filled with a different activity located at different locations throughout the Resort – such as story time by Disney Characters, movie night, hula night, etc.
Aulani Resort Tips:
There is a towel/seat limit. If you leave for more than an hour, expect your things to be gone and a new tourist in your place. With thousands of visitors coming and going, seating is tight, so it is understandable why Disney Aulani has the rule highly enforced. Your things (if taken away) are not guaranteed to be at the towel hut either, I’ve read terrible experiences where peoples things actually have gone missing – don’t be that person.
Valet parking for day Guests is $35 per day. – What we chose to do.
Self-parking for day Guests is $10 per hour—or a maximum of $35 per day.
Finally, the only negative thing I have to say about the Aulani: No GoPoles/No selfie sticks/No major attachments/No extenders of any sort is allowed. The worst part of it was there were no signs (at the time of writing this) online or physically there that said they were not allowed. You were not allowed to bring them into the pool. We did use it at the beach and riding down the slides. However, this really had me furious, partly because the staff I spoke to had an attitude problem and would not even look me into the eye as I simply asked “why aren’t they allowed?”. The only answer I received from two employees was that “It’s a corporate rule now and is highly enforced.” I didn’t want to cause any trouble since I wanted to enjoy myself so I left it at that and said “If it’s really a rule you should post it so people are aware” but I want the world to know that we find this rule incredibly outrageous. Many tourist come here to take pictures for memories and when you restrict even that usage, you are messing with peoples patience, time, and money. I was really bothered by this but luckily it happened in the beginning as the rest of the day made up for it.
Aulani [Ow-Lani]: “Messenger of the Chief”
Lei [lay]: Necklaces made of real flowers
Aloha [ah-low-ha]: Compassion/Love
Heiau [hey-ow]: Ancient Hawaiian Temples
Hula [hoo-la]: Dance
Menehune [men-eh-hoon-eh]: Little people/similar to fabled pixies, leprechauns, or trolls
Waikolohe [why-ko-low-hey]: Mischievous water.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be optimistic. It keeps you healthy and it keeps you resilient.”
– Daniel Kahneman