My Aulani Review

My husband and I were fortunate enough to spend 6 full days at Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa in early November, here is our review.

“Aulani”, means, the place that speaks with deep messages. Disney has made it very clear that this resort is first focusing on Hawaiian culture, Big “H”, and little “d” for Disney. The Disney touches are subtle but still present. You will find hidden Mickey’s in the bedspreads, carpet, etc., but they want you to learn a bit about Hawaiian traditions and history. The lobby properly named, Maka’ala, means, open up your eyes and take a second look. You can actually learn their history by studying the murals. There are tours at various times which can give you detailed information on the reasoning behind the art and items at the resort.

The rooms are well-appointed. Even the standard room is beautiful and comfortable. Due to the lack of storage size allotted on word press, to see pictures of a “standard room” follow this link. (Nothing creepy will happen to your computer.)

We were upgraded (as a travel agent we are able to book certain rooms under certain codes, and thus an upgrade occasionally occurs) and were able to stay in a Partial Ocean View Parlor Suite. BEAUTIFUL! The view was great. There is a caveat – our room was facing -north-ish (the side overlooking the parking lots of Aulani and the Marriott), and we never had direct sunlight. Some people would love this, but I am a lover of the sun, and would have loved some direct sunlight at some point during the day. When booking/checking in keep that in mind when obtaining your room.  Some people complained about seeing the parking lot below your room from the balcony – in my opinion, those people will complain about anything. We were on the 15th floor, the parking lot could be seen, but it was fine. The advantage was the views of the ocean were great, the views of the mountains were great, and we saw a rainbow nearly every day! Click the link to see a picture of the view. To see pictures of the Partial Ocean View Parlor Suite, click the link.

The property is STUNNING! Just gorgeous. The attention to detail is out of this world. The sunsets were also amazing. There are plenty of comfortable seating (in addition to poolside) throughout the resort for lounging, relaxing, and sunset viewing. Click the link for general property pictures.

The pools were very well thought out. Obviously there are plenty of areas for the children to play. As a note, children that are not potty trained are required to wear swimmers. If you have a child in that group, bring enough for your stay – obviously those items cost more in Hawaii than at home. The Wailana Pool is supposed to be the “quiet pool”. There are no lifeguards on duty. Disney is still trying to figure out what to do there to make it known that it should be the quieter pool. 4 of the 6 days we were there there was at least one set of parents that brought their non-quiet child to the pool. Actually a couple of times the parents/grandparents were the loud disruptive ones. I know it’s a Disney resort, and we were not anti-children, but it did not make sense to us. There was a pool designed for kids, why not play with the kids there? Also, while we were there we never saw that the main pool was over-crowded, without lounge chairs, etc. There was ample space. It made no sense. So, if you want to ensure that you have a quiet place to read, bring some ear plugs.

The Lagoon and ocean area was beautiful! Right outside the resort gate there is Makiki Joe’s Beach Rentals run by Disney. Here you can rent umbrellas for the beach chairs, snorkel equipment, etc. The lagoon provides good snorkeling, and if you bring your own gear, its free!  We saw a turtle on our snorkeling trip! In front of Makiki Joe’s is also where you meet the trainers for daily workouts provided by the resort. I highly recommend participating in a group exercise. You may find that you are the only party working out in the session. One of the daily workouts is often done on a bluff, it’s pretty picturesque. There is also a stamped concrete path that extends all 4 lagoons in the resort area for daily runs, or walks.  The loop is approximately 2.5 miles.

The daily ‘Iwa provides the schedule each day for the resort. During our stay they began placing the following day’s Iwa in our room during the nightly turn down service.  As to the turn down service, we also received a flower and bookmark each night. Back to the Iwa, here you will find out the character meet and greet times, and schedule for the resort. They have “a day full of Aulani experiences” for the whole family, including events designed for the adults. The Iwa indicates clearly whether an item is a premium experience resulting in a charge, but most items are included in your resort stay.

The resort provides nightly entertain that you should plan for accordingly. The Starlit Hui is their version of a luau and should not be missed. It is typically offered Monday and Thursday evenings in the Makaloa Garden. It is only moved to a different night when a party privately books that garden for a wedding or dinner.  Those occasions are rare. The Starlit Hui is for resort guests only (be prepared to show your key when entering the garden.) The Iwa lists the start time as 7, and that is when you can begin making crafts and learning some Hawaiian traditions, but the on stage entertainment begins around 7:30. It is highly entertaining. For the adult only groups- there is a set of tables in Wailana Pool Bar that make for very comfortable seating. Get there early for your comfy seat! Otherwise, there are mats, lauhala mats, provided for you to sit on in the garden.

Tuesday and Saturday evenings the resort shows “Movies Under the Stars.” The movies begin at 6:45. “Finding Nemo” was showing one of the nights we were there.

Another clever well thought out area at the resort is the Luana Lounge which is on the first floor and is provided for those with early or late flights. It has locker rooms and showers. Guests can use this area to clean up before a late flight while enjoying the property their last day. If this is an area of the property that you intend to use, be prepared to check your main luggage, and use a little carry-on in the lockers for last day necessities. This lounge  is also where you can print off your boarding passes before your flights without an additional charge. No other sites are accessible from those computers. They also have a tv monitor with all the flight information for that day’s flights, flight numbers, etc.

On to the food. Well, just as others have posted, this is an area where Aulani needs some work. For details on the hours of operation, general pricing and the choices, check out my previous blog, Preparing for your Trip to Aulani. All the information was updated after the visit. The signature restaurant Ama Ama has beautiful views. We also found that the food tasted good – but it was definitely lacking something. I had the goat cheese ravioli, and I was not full/satisfied at the end of my meal. For $22 ish dollars per entree for lunch, I would like to be content, feel satisfied. They also did not serve a bread basket with lunch, and we both ordered entrees. When I asked about it when my ravioli arrived, I was told it would take about 20 minutes for the bread to be prepared. My husband had the steak. He was served an average piece of steak with a pile of fries. No veggie, and no option for mashed or baked potato. It was just steak and fries.  The waiter waited until we were finished with our meals with empty drink glasses to bring more pop/water.  Our lunch was about $65 and it was just so so.

The other sit down restaurant is the Makahiki Buffet,“The Bounty of the Islands.” In our opinion, for a buffet, the food here was VERY good. We at here for breakfast twice, and for dinner twice.  The second dinner meal was a slight disappointment.  The food choices were essentially the same with the one variation being at the carved meat selection. It lacked an enjoyable starch to enjoy with the meal. They had Asian white rice, and jalapeno potatoes. The potatoes were awful, and the sticky rice was just that- plain white rice. Not a lot of fun there. For vegetarians, they had a tofu dish, as well as other vegetarian meal options. But the grilled vegetables were awesome. If you are a seafood eater, there are quite a lot of choices. Breakfast was GREAT. We do not have children, but still enjoyed the character meal.

As it relates to both sit down restaurants make a reservation. Make several in advance if you are not sure when you will want to go, and then cancel the unnecessary ones.  (And in the interest of others that cannot get in to eat where they want, please cancel the reservation if you do not intend to use it.)Consider yourself warned, it will be hard to get into the restaurants without advance reservations. You can make them easily online.

We also ate at the quick service locations and enjoyed those meals. At the Wailana pool bar you can order just a plate of fries, or fruit as a snack. I thoroughly enjoyed my fries one afternoon! Review my blog, Preparing for your Trip to Aulani to read about other local dining options such as the ABC Country Market, and Roy’s. Both had REALLY good food.

I agree with other reviewers that there is a lack of options for dining. But that is the case with any resort. I think some people want this Disney property to be akin to a giant amusement park- it is not, it is a RESORT in Hawaii. As such, you will find Hawaiian Resort prices for the items sold. We experienced the same thing in the local Target – the prices are more expensive, because they need to ship things to Hawaii.

So, overall I LOVED THIS RESORT! I cannot wait to return. If I could teleport myself, I would go more often.

I hope you enjoyed this information, if you have any questions, feel free to post them in a comment.

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Aulani’s Quick Service Dining Options

Aulani Offers Quick-Dining Locations for All Tastes

Whether you are searching for a fast mid-afternoon snack, a cozy breakfast or lunchtime fare, everyone can find the perfect meal for their vacation at an Aulani Quick Dining Location.

One Paddle, Two Paddle – Located adjacent to ‘AMA‘AMA, the signature restaurant at Aulani, One Paddle, Two Paddle is open daily and serves a variety of quick-service favorites. From freshly-made sandwiches, tasty wraps and house-made desserts to a tasty keiki (children’s) menu, this casual dining location offers good food fast … at reasonable resort prices. You will have a choice between sweet potato, or regular fries, or coleslaw. Adult meals are between $12 and $15.

The Lava Shack – Located near the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon, The Lava Shack is the perfect place to pick up a Hawaii-inspired plate lunch, that generally consists of a main entrée, rice and a side. Here you can choose from complete meals featuring entrees like Cold Fried Chicken, Cured Meats, Cheeses, and Chilled Miso-glazed Salmon, as well as grab and go snacks.

Pāpālua Shave Ice – Conveniently located next to the pool deck, Pāpālua Shave Ice offers the chance for your Clients to cool off with fruity and refreshing shave ice.  Choose from a variety of tropical flavors. And at $3.75 is very reasonably priced.
Shave Ice
Rip Swirl – This yogurt bar, located in Painted Sky (teen spa, next to the main spa), provides yummy, healthy treats: tangy yogurt with fresh fruit and toppings. These run about $6, and are not very large.

For those looking for a full, hearty breakfast each morning you can also purchase a breakfast add-on package at Makahiki, Bounty of the Island, buffet-style restaurant. This NEW package includes breakfast each day of their stay, including a full buffet and one non-specialty beverage for each member of their travelling party.

Enjoy. Aloha ~ Happy Travels!

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Preparing for your trip to Aulani

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawai`i

Aloha! Like any good travel addict, I have been spending countless hours browsing the internet looking for information about Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa that has recently opened in Hawaii. This post will share the information that I have gathered during my extensive internet research as I prepare for an upcoming trip to the resort. [After the trip I returned to edit this post as well!]

First things first, getting to the resort, please check out my previous post with Tips and Information about getting to and from the resort from the airport.

Aluani is not yet completed, but on August 29, 2011 it  had a soft opening welcoming the public. The completion is occurring in phases. Phase 2 will be complete around November 15, 2011. The final phase is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2013, but for all intents and purposes the resort is open and ready for travelers.

Disney designed this resort for families. In reading the reviews of Auntie’s House, I can see why. There is a huge children only area, where your child can be supervised during the day by Disney Cast Members without paying an additional charge. My husband and I are traveling without kids, so this preparation blog will be geared towards those traveling sans children.

So, what can we expect? An amazing resort with comparable Hawaiian resort prices and, of course, some Disney characters. The characters are “on vacation” just like the guests. They interact with the children in the pool and have regular visits throughout the day at the resort. So far the characters that have been sighted are: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy,Donald, Stitch, Chip and Dale. Apparently Lilo is not likely to make an appearance, as Disney did not want to insult any natives with the idea that Lilo is Hawaiian.

Dining. This resort is just that: a “resort”.  Being a resort in Hawaii, it has comparable resort prices. There are 2 sit down restaurants on the property, and reservations are a must at both.

‘Ama ‘Ama Beach restaurant – its signature restaurant (think California Grill pricing). Currently it offers lunch and dinner dining, with breakfast dining beginning in Phase 2. Men are requested to wear collared shirts for dinner. The hours of operation are: Breakfast – 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (beginning in mid-November), Lunch – 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Dinner – 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. A money saving tip is to have a late lunch, thus enjoying the benefits and ambiance of the restaurant at less expensive prices.  Lunch entrees are generally in the $20’s, while dinner entrees are in the $40-$50 range. Desserts range around $10 and are apparently quiet small. Click for the ‘Ama ‘Ama dinner menu and lunch menu.

Makahiki Buffet, which stands for “The Bounty of the Islands” – as the name suggests it is a buffet, serving lunch and dinner. The hours of operation are: Breakfast – 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Dinner – 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Makahiki has character dining 3 days a week (currently Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday) for breakfast.  Adults $32.00, Keiki’s (Ages 9 and Under) $18.00. The remaining days of the week, the prices are as follows, Adults $27.00, Keiki’s (Ages and Under) $14.00. The prices for dinner are as follows: Adults $43.00, Keiki (Ages 9 and Under) $21.00. Tax and tip are additional. As of now you can request an a la Carte menu for the breakfast service only- I can tell you I am highly looking forward to trying the Chocolate Milk-dipped Haupia Bread French Toast stuffed with Bananas and Peanut Butter off the a la carte menu during my visit. [Post trip comment- I did try the French Toast, and it was AMAZING!! Very worth it!]

Additional dining options include:

The ‘Olelo Room- serving Continental breakfast, drinks all day, and appetizers in the evening. Breakfast 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.;  Lounge 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. In the evening, this bar has singers and other entertainment.

Off the Hook- an open air bar, with some table service, behind Ama Ama. 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight.

The Quick Service options are: One Paddle Two Paddle, Lava Shack, and Rip Swirl. One Paddle Two Paddle offers the same menu as pool side dining, but charge $8 less per item. For a sandwich meal the prices are approximately $14. However, those inclined to have someone else bring their food to them can do so at the pool from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lava Shack offers grab and go food such as cold lunch box meals, novelty ice cream, etc. Rip Swirl is located within the teen portion of the spa and offers frozen yogurt.

For those interested in other dining options, there are several in the Ko’Olina resort area. There is a free shuttle service that runs between the Ko’Olina resorts. Busses arrive at Aulani about every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Roy’s Restaurant is highly rated and recommended.

Directly across the street (from the parking garage) at the Ko’Olina Center & Station, there are several dining choices: Just Tacos Mexican Grill & Cantina serving Mexican Cuisine for lunch and dinner. Hawaiian Bar-b-que serving contemporary, seafood cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Two Scoops serving ice cream and frozen yogurt all day. There is also a terrific Deli at the Island Country Market. It is full service island deli and market offering the usual souvenirs, Hawaiian Sun drinks & Kauai-made rum. Hours: Mon-Sun 6:30 am – 11 pm. They have a beef and brie grilled sandwich that is supposed to be phenomenal, it even tastes good cold as leftovers the next day. They also have fresh omelettes each morning at a reasonable price. There are a handful of tables outside at the front of the store to eat your meals, or you can bring them back to the hotel, and eat either in your room, or on a bluff ocean side.

On to the Spa. The spa, Laniwai, meaning “freshwater heaven” is apparently that, akin to spending the day in an earth version of heaven- relaxing and exquisite. The prices are similar to those offered on the Disney Cruise and other high-end resorts.  For $45 a day, complimentary with any full-service spa treatment, guests can access the fabulous Laniwai Spa complex, including the outdoor Kula Wai hydrotherapy garden with private vitality pools, co-ed mineral baths, a reflexology path, six different “rain” showers, whirlpool jet spas and more. You must be 18 or older (14 and older with an accompanying adult) to use the Kula Wai facility. Teens (ages 13-17) can enjoy the Painted Sky facility. There is also a private family suite where the whole family can enjoy treatments.

Other random information. Parking is $35 a night for guests staying at the hotel, but is free for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members. If you are just visiting the resort for the day- the rate is assessed differently.  If you spend at least $35 in the resort, 4 hours of parking will be free. There is a daily paper, Iwa (Aulani’s daily activities schedule and newsletter) available at the reception desk, and delivered to the rooms during turn down service,  find out about “Disney Friends Meet and Greets,” shows, and other free and charged for activities that are happening during your visit. The nighttime Starlight Hui is a must for guests of any age. They also offer evening showings of Disney movies under the stars.

Mahalo ~ thanks for reading this edition. If you do not already have your fabulous trip to Aulani booked, contact me and I can let you know some pricing. Disney is offering a special-  stay 4 nights in paradise, and the 5th night is FREE! Book before Dec. 16, 2011, for stays most nights Nov. 27 – Dec. 16, 2011; Jan. 4-12, 2012 and Jan. 16-25, 2012.

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Originally published Oct. 2011 with some edits that followed.

Getting to and from Aulani!

Checking out Aulani – Disney’s new hotel and spa in Ko’Olina, Hawaii? Read on for details to make the transportation portion of the vacation a little easier.

So, are you booked and ready to go?  If not get details on booking below.  If you are all set, prepare to go on a vacation of a lifetime. Read below on some tips to be more prepared for the journey.

Aulani is not on the public transportation route in Waikiki. You will have to take either a private car, taxi or rent a car. The private car through Cloud 9 Limo will run you $239.90 round-trip to and from the property (as of the date of this writing.)  The taxi is approximately $75 each way. The final option is the car rental. Something to consider however, you will have to pay $35 a day for parking if you are not a Disney Vacation Club member.

If you were planning on needing a car for part of your trip, there’s a way to minimize part of the expense. Utilize a one-way rental from Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to the hotel. As of the date of publishing, Alamo, the rental car company with a location at Aulani, is not offering the one-way rental. However, Hertz, does allow a one way rental. The drop off location is at the Marriott (JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa) next door to Aulani.

A creative way to get to the hotel and be cost effective at the same time- get a one way rental from HNL to the Marriott. In route to the Marriott stop at Target on Rogers Blvd., and purchase the essentials for your room for the week- pop, bottled water, peanut butter, bread, bagels, cream cheese, other snacks, etc. If you did not check your luggage, buy your sun block from here as well. Then drop off your luggage at your hotel, and head on back and return the rental to the Marriott, thereby not incurring a parking charge at Aulani. They have late night returns up to 10 p.m. at this location. With some discounts, you can get a rental for about $95.00. And the savings you will have acquired by buying some items ahead of time, far exceeds the difference between the taxi and the rental.

Use a similar idea for the return trip to the airport. Most flights to the U.S. are in the evening, so, make the most of your day in Oahu. Again, obtain a rental from the Marriott (the price is a bit more going in this direction, with discounts it’s about $125.00.) The price will be worth it because you can use your car to do your sight-seeing. Pick up the car in the morning, swing over to Aulani and check out, then go see Pearl Harbor. It could take a good portion of the day.  See whatever other sights on the island that are of interest to you- get some dinner, and then head off to the airport for your late evening flight. Obviously this tip works if you are staying at the Marriott as well.

If you want assistance, contact Christy at to assist you with making a reservation. It does not cost you any additional money to book with a travel agent and many times it can save you money. Happy Travels!

(Obviously, this tip works with travel to any location, apply it where you see fit.)

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