Travel + Leisure magazine rated Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, the Best Family Hotel in the United States. From our family’s experience there, we can see why. Aulani is located in Ko Olina, Hawaii on the island of Oahu. Our family visited Aulani around Christmas 2013. We had a wonderful time and could not have been more impressed. This article is an overview of Aulani. There is too much to do to give an adequate review in one blog. More detailed articles on Aulani specifics are coming later. This is Disneys Aulani Resort and Spa Review.
First, Aulani is definitely a Disney resort, but like the Walt Disney World deluxe resorts and the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland, the Disney presence is somewhat subtle, not in your face. The decor is native Hawaiian and is beautiful. There are hidden Mickeys. The song rotation includes Hawaiian versions of Disney songs like ‘Bare Necessities.’ Disney characters (including Hawaii’s own Stitch) appear around the pools for meet and greets. There is a character breakfast. The most Disney aspect, though, is how friendly and welcoming the cast (staff) are. The Hawaiian people are some of the most friendly that I have ever met. Mix this with Disney hospitality and the service is not to be beat. If you are a Disney fan, then you will love these touches; if not, it still should not detract from your experience.
The centerpiece of Aulani is the Waikolohe Valley, a pool area in the middle of the resort. The area is designed with landscaping, hardscape, and plants that represent the island mountains at the lobby area and transition to the seaside as it flows down to the beach. Water fun includes a children’s water play area, an adult pool, 2 family pools, hot tubs, 2 water slides, a lazy river, and a salt water snorkeling lagoon. You can do a scavenger hunt or look for hidden Menehune (mythical Hawaiian little people). A surf shop, Papalua Shave Ice, Mama’s Snack Stop, and The Lava Shack are here to keep your tummy full and add to the ambience.
The white sand beach at the rear of the resort is along a man-made bay with calm waters. You can swim, canoe, paddle board, sunbathe, and/or build sand castles. Anything that you need can be found at Makiki Joe’s Beach Rentals. Special beach side activities are available all during the day. Little ‘Opihi’s quick service shack has drinks, sandwiches, salads, ice cream, and fruit that allow you to not have to leave the beach.
Dining options are plentiful. In addition to the above options, the Ulu Cafe’ offer three meals. It is one of, if not the best quick service Disney restaurants, in my opinion. Table service options abound: ‘Ama ‘Ama Beach Restaurant (local favorites), Makahiki Buffet (international foods), The ‘Olelo Room (lounge), and Off the Hook (sports lounge).
There is still more! Laniwai Spa is a full service spa with massage and facials. Kula Wai is large outdoor hydrotherapy garden. The Mikimiki Fitness Center is a health club with weights, fitness equipment, yoga, tai chi, sauna, and steam room. There is a youth spa, Painted Sky, with the Rip Swirl Yogurt Bar. The Pau Hana Room offers crafts, drawing classes, ukulele lessons, books and movies. You can golf at the Ko Olina Resort Golf course. Aunty’s Beach House offers activities for kids from 3-12 throughout the day. The Starlit Hui is a music and dance show on the Halwai lawn on Monday and Thursday evenings that is not to be missed (we were so impressed that we watched it twice!).
There is so much to do here! The Daily Iwa is your guide to times and locations of all daily activities and is indispensable. It is available daily at the front desk. The cast members at the concierge desks will help arrange any off site activities like tours, whale watching voyages, or surf lessons (Hawaiian Fire Surf School).
I agree with Travel + Leisure. Aulani is the best family hotel in which I have ever stayed. It is beautiful; the staff is fabulous; and, there is so much to do! I whole heartedly recommend Aulani for a family travel destination. Check out the photos in the photoessay post! Also, check out our post on the island of Oahu.
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