We’ve lived in Hawaii for close to three years, and one of our favorite things to do with the kids is walk through Aulani, which is the Disney Resort in Hawaii. It’s close to our home and often our evening walks will end up with us viewing the tropical fish in the aquarium there or with us buying Dole Whip (pineapple soft serve) at Little Opihi’s along the walkway. We’ve always wanted to use the pools and all of the guest amenities, but because we live so close and have no need for a room (and because of the steep price) we have never stayed at the resort before.
Our Visit to Aulani, Disney’s Resort and Spa in Hawaii
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Recently one of Tom’s professional acquaintances stayed with his family in a 12 person suite with only 5 people…meaning they had 7 openings and were able to add us to their reservation! They allowed us to use their suite whenever we needed to (for naps for the kids) and we were able to get guest wristbands so that we could use the pools. For 6 whole days! Wristbands change daily and are required in order to ensure that only registered guests use the amenities. We visited the pools after school twice and then spent all weekend at the resort, and I must say it’s a pretty magical place. Here are some photos from our time there (though truthfully I didn’t have my phone with me most of the time so I didn’t capture much, so I’m including so additional pics from previous walks) as well as my candid thoughts on the hotel.
First of all, Aulani is located in Ko Olina, which is about a 30 minute drive west of Waikiki (if there is no traffic). Ko Olina is a gorgeous resort area where the Four Seasons, Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach club, and one building of beach front condos are located. There are 4 lagoons and minimal parking for non-guests, so it’s a much less busy place compared to Waikiki. There are also 5 residential neighborhoods and there are many vacation rentals inside those neighborhoods. There is a walking path that takes you along all 4 lagoons, and it’s where we end up most evenings. It never gets old! Ko Olina is also the location of Monkeypod restaurant, which is one of our favorites on the island. Island Vintage Coffee is in Ko Olina too, and the island latte is my favorite coffee drink ever and they make my very favorite acai bowls too (try the cacao moana or haupia moana bowls). There is an ABC Country Market (where I get affordable and delicious poke bowls), an Eggs n Things (great brunch place), a pizza restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a Starbucks, and some cute retail shops. And Roy’s is at the golf club and they make my very favorite fish dish ever: marinated butterfish. It is sooooooo good. You basically never have to leave Ko Olina unless you need to grab groceries in Kapolei. We LOVE living here and even if you visit Oahu and stay in Waikiki I’d say that Ko Olina is definitely worth a visit! The lagoons are great for kids because they are protected and don”t get very big waves, and it’s such a family friendly place. The Four Seasons has some fantastic restaurants too (Fish House is a favorite of ours and the lobster rolls at Waterman Bar are to die for).
The resort has numerous pools (2 of which are adults only), 2 large waterslides, a giant water play structure for kids under 48 inches, a lazy river, an aquarium that you can pay to snorkel in, countless restaurants, a luau, many Disney character’s walking around (Moana is a favorite of ours…the photo below is from a while ago), a free kid’s club called Auntie’s Beach House (only for kids 3-12 who are potty trained, and because Caroline is only 2 we didn’t use it), and a really fun interactive scavenger hunt called the Menehune Adventure Trail. The rooms and the resort grounds are beautiful, and I think they’ve done a great job of merging Hawaiian culture with the Disney experience.
Our kids were 4 years old, 2 years old, and 6 weeks old when we visited…and I must say, it was exhausting. Fun but exhausting. Jack is extremely energetic and was up to do it all, but Caroline is a bit more cautious and didn’t like anything that splashed or shot water.
Jack was a huge fan of the water slides (they’re adult sized and I was shocked he decided to go down them!) and I had a blast riding them with him too. One was a long dark tunnel that you had to ride all by yourself on your back, and the other is one that you ride on either a one or two person inner-tube. I loved the inner-tube one and actually thought the tunnel one was a little bit scary because it was pitch black the entire ride. Jack liked both of them though! I was really proud of him.
The lazy river was fun for Jack and Caroline enjoyed it a bit too. Both of the kids are too small to ride in the resort provided inner-tubes, so this part was actually a bit stressful for me. Jack would swim ahead and sometimes come up for air under a person on a tube or an empty tube (always makes me nervous because I know kids can drown that way if they can’t figure out where to come up for air), and Caroline would just float slowly in her Puddle Jumper (though life jackets are provided if you need them for your visit) and didn’t want to go near any of the splashing waterfalls. It would have been much easier if Tom and I had been able to tackle it together, but because we had a newborn in a bassinet we had to tag-team the whole visit.
There are lounge chairs everywhere and you can easily get pool-side service because attendants walk around taking orders. I definitely enjoyed a drink or 2 as well as fish tacos from Off the Hook. One night we ordered a whole pizza at Ulu Cafe and everyone loved it. I also enjoyed their build your own poke bowl.
The shave ice at Papalua Shave Ice is delicious (get it with ice cream on the bottom and add Mickey ears!), though we didn’t get it on this trip.
There is also a character breakfast at Makahiki and it’s an absolute must. (Caroline clearly loved it in the photo below, haha.) We did this last spring when my family visited and they put on a fun interactive show and the breakfast buffet was impressive. Make your reservations early though because it fills up quickly!
Finally, if you want an incredible upscale meal overlooking the ocean then ‘Ama’Ama is the place for you. Tom and I did a date night there a year ago and I can still remember how delicious the scallops were. I’ve also taken Caroline there for breakfast (acai bowls) there.
One of the things we were really excited to do was the Menehune Adventure Trail. After 5PM you can check out an iPad and it leads you on an adventure. Once you get to certain places in the resort you’re able to activate different things: make stones move, light a torch, activate the blowing of a conch shell (or honk shell as Jack calls it), make a waterfall turn on, make the volcano at the center of the resort erupt…it’s lots of fun. The actual screen part was a little advanced for the kids and you had to listen to Auntie talk for a while before you could activate the different things, but they really enjoyed carrying (fighting over) the iPad and turning on all of the interactive sites. Apparently there is an indoor one as well but we didn’t have a chance to try that out.
Aulani is an incredible place if you’re looking for a Hawaiian getaway away from the craziness of Waikiki then I’d totally recommend it. There is something for everyone, kids and adults alike. It was challenging with my children simply because of their ages and different interests, but I think that it would be a dream vacation with kids 3 and over! If you have questions I’d love to hear them in the comments!
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