Looking for some insight into Disney Aulani? I'm sharing our full family guide: what to book, where to eat, MUST do activities, and how to get the MOST out of the Disney Vacation Club resort!
Thanks to Disney Vacation Club for providing this vacation to my family. All opinions are my own.
We just returned from our first (and definitely not our last) trip to Disney Aulani. This amazing Hawaiian resort was probably the most relaxing trip we've ever experienced, is IDEAL for families, and has a TON of fun options for activities and some of the BEST food I've had in years. This full family guide will help you plan your own Aulani trip!
Disney Aulani: A Full Family Guide
We left Los Angeles EARLY on a Sunday morning (we decided on a 7 am flight). I'm not going to lie, when our alarms went off that morning at about 4 am…..I questioned my decision. But then, we landed in Oahu at 9:45 am. We took a short ride from the airport to Ko'Olina and we arrived at Disney Aulani in time for lunch. If you're flying to Hawaii from the West Coast, my first tip? Take that early flight! Our early arrival gave us a WHOLE extra day to explore.
From beginning to end, our trip to Aulani was magical. We stepped out of our car, and were greeted with leis, a beautiful lobby, and AMAZING ocean views. Yes, you can see the ocean from the lobby! As we checked in, the focus of Aulani was clear……celebrating Hawaiian Culture. The resort houses an amazing collection of native Hawaiian Art (the LARGEST collection in the world in fact). And behind the check in desk? Is a mural created from photos taken by local children who were asked to represent what Hawaii means to them.
Check out this article about resorts (including Aulani) reflecting the local Hawaiian culture……it's an amazing trend in family travel!
Disney Aulani Villas: Tips On What to Book
There are a variety of room options at Aulani…….but after our experience, my preference will ALWAYS be one of the Aulani Villas. We stayed for four nights in a one bedroom villa, and it was perfect for our family. We had a TON of room, and there is plenty of space for a family with two or three children. Our master bedroom had a huge bed, plus there are two sleeping options in the living room area (a murphy bed under the television and a pull out couch). I love that Lydia had her own sleeping space. We also had a full kitchen (stocked with pots, pans, cookie sheets, a coffee pot…..even a rice cooker), AND A WASHER AND DRYER! We had all the ease of staying in a house with the luxury of a hotel. It was easy to wash clothes as needed, and I loved the option of preparing food or saving our leftovers in a full sized fridge.
< image c/o Aulani >
TIP: There are separate towers for the Aulani hotel rooms and the Disney Vacation Club Villas and Deluxe Studios….the entire resort is AMAZING, but the villas are perfection for a family trip! All of the Villas have a full kitchen and washer and dryer, and the studios have a kitchenette. (Plus, who doesn't want to book an amazing vacation with your family each year…..something you can easily do with DVC)! Disney Vacation Club has a ton of options for members including trips to Aulani and the amazing Disney Cruise we did this summer.
Where to Eat: Aulani Restaurants
Prepare yourself Aulani restaurants are some of the best I've eaten at anywhere in the WORLD. There are a variety of options, and if you followed us on Instagram Stories during our trip, then you know we tried them all (you can still watch the highlights of our trip to see all our taste testing).
Ulu Cafe: The Ulu Cafe is located next to the main pool area, and is PERFECT for quick and easy meal options. They've got a ton of pre-prepared meal options, hot entrees, fun speciality items, and are open ALL day. A few of our favorites at Ulu Cafe: the acai bowls for breakfast (they're HUGE and can easily feed two people), the poke bowls for lunch (I'm a little embarrassed to admit I ate one EVERY day we were there — they're SO GOOD), the famous Mickey Spam Masubi, kids' meals are GREAT (Lydia loved the Mickey PB+J….it's a great price), flatbread pizzas for lunch, and for dinner? Each night you can order full sized pizzas. They're prepared to order, and cost under $30. We grabbed one on the night we decided to relax and eat on our balcony. You can't beat dinner for all three of us for that price!
‘Ama ‘Ama: ‘Ama ‘Ama is a must try at least once during any stay at Aulani. This sit down restaurant is stunning (it's designed to pay homage to Hawaiian homes), and looks out over the beach. There is live Hawaiian music most evenings, and the food is PHENOMENAL. Our favorites? The macadamia nut horchata we sampled at the start of our dinner, the crab cakes (the best I've had anywhere) and the filet mignon (this coming from a non-steak person….it was THAT good).
Papalua Shave Ice: This was literally our first stop after we checked in. I'd seen it on Instagram and knew we HAD to try the rainbow, Mickey Shaped Shave Ice. There's something extra magical about waiting in line straight out of the pool, drying off in the warm Hawaiian sun, and enjoying a brightly colored, icy treat. Beware, this Shave Ice is addictive and you'll want to go back every day for more (our favorite flavor combo was strawberry, watermelon, and banana).
Makahiki Character Breakfast: The Makakhiki character breakfast is a perfect blend of Hawaiian culture and Disney magic. The breakfast is hosted by Aunty (the same amazing woman who owns Aunty's Beach House — the kids club). Throughout the meal Aunty walks around greeting the children, she sings songs, gives hula lessons, and leads a parade. We got to meet a variety of characters (in their vacation garb), and the food is delicious. The red velvet Mickey waffles were a favorite, along with watermelon and guava bread and some of the best fresh fruit I've had anywhere.
< Check out all the Aulani dining options HERE >
Must Do Activities
There are so many amazing activities at Aulani…….that we found it easiest to come up with a few must do items each day. That way, we still got to have a relaxed schedule……but we got everything done we REALLY wanted to accomplish.
Laniwai Spa: The Laniwai Spa is a must try experience for grown ups. It's a unique, and amazingly relaxing. Upon entering the spa, you select a word carved on a stone that reflects your needs (mine was harmony). After a short walk, you return your rock to the most beautiful fountain and are escorted into the spa. From relaxing rooms to O‘ahu's only outdoor hydrotherapy garden……Laniwai is guaranteed to bring you to a zen state. There's even a reflexology path to walk on for tired feet. I experienced the Lomilomi Massage, and this traditional Hawaiian massage was pure bliss.
Lazy River and Water Slides: From the relaxing lazy river to the exciting water slides……the pools at Aulani have something for everyone. Be SURE to snag an inner tube and to float down the lazy river…..it's the perfect way to see the whole resort at a slow pace. And the water slides? SO MUCH FUN (I'd suggest them for ages five or six and up……)!
Rainbow Reef: Rainbow Reef is the perfect starter location for young snorkelers. This protected lagoon is in the center of the pool area, and is calm as can be! Lydia loved seeing thousands of tropical fish and on a warm day, the slightly cooler water in the reef (it's about 77 degrees) is refreshing!
Characters in Vacation Garb: From Moana to Mickey and Minnie in their vacation gear…..the characters at Aulani are a blast to see. You can check the Daily ‘Iwa for information or call the resort hotline to find out who will be appearing and when.
Search for Menehune: The Menehune are shy, mischievous people from Hawaiian Legends…….and one of the best parts of Aulani. There are over 300 Menehune statues hiding around the resort. Lydia LOVED searching for them everywhere we went (there are even some hiding inside of Rainbow Reef)!
Painted Sky: One of the most magical parts of our Aulani trip? Was Lydia's visit to the new Painted Sky studio. From a mermaid package to a Moana makeover to getting Luau ready in outfits designed exclusively for Aulani by Tori Richards…….Painted Sky makes dreams come true.
The ‘Olelo Room: The ‘Olelo Room is a great spot for appetizers, drinks, and the perfect place to listen to Hawaiian music. This lounge is created to pay homage to the Hawaiian language…..every who works there speaks Hawaiian, and the furniture is even labelled with the name for each item (plus the food is AMAZING)!
KA WA‘A Luau: It's not a trip to Hawaii without a luau, RIGHT? And like everything Disney does……Aulani's luau is the best of the best. THE FOOD is amazing and they had great kids' options for little ones who may or may not be picky.
Aunty's Beach House: Want a little adult time? Aunty's Beach House is the kids' club that is INCLUDED in your stay at the resort. Children ages 3-12 can join Aunty inside her house. The club has TONS of different indoor areas (a movie room, activity rooms, a dress up area) and a HUGE outdoor play space. Lydia LOVED it, and kept begging to go back!
Disney Aulani: Insider Tips
Get a Refillable Cup: Buy a refillable beverage cup upon arrival. You can use it for juice, soda, and COFFEE. There are stations around the resort, and trust me…..you'll use it everyday (we bought ours at Ulu Cafe and it was worth every penny (we used it 3-4 times EACH day).
Book Aunty's Beach House in Advance: You can register online for Aunty's Beach House before you arrive using your reservation number. While it's not a requirement, it does make your first day easier and smoother.
Pau Hana Community Room: The Pau Hana Community Room was one of our favorite hidden spots at Aulani. They have TONS of board games, a sitting area that plays Disney movies, they check out DVDs to watch in your room, and they have activities you can sign up for. This is also where you can check out IPADS to use for a virtual cultural tour or Menehune hunt clues! My suggestion? Stop by the first day and check out two DVDs to have on hand in your room. They're perfect for downtime in the late afternoon!
Luana Lounge: Have an early flight upon arrival or leaving late in the day? The Luana Lounge will be your new favorite spot. This lounge has showers, lockers, and a sitting area that can be used by resort guests the day they check in or check out. So, you can check out…..spend the day at the pool, shower, and take a late flight out. It's a perfect way to get a WHOLE extra day on property!
Interested in more Disney Vacation Club travel options? Check out:
Have YOU visited Disney Aulani? What are your favorite parts of the resort and Disney Vacation Club?
Planning a trip to Aulani? Now is the time to book! During Aulani Mahalo Season, summer extends to December, for a whole lot less……book a 3-night stay and add a 4th night for free. Or stay longer and save more with 30% savings on stays of 5 or more consecutive nights! Book now–October 24, 2018, for consecutive stays Aug. 20–Dec. 21, 2018 (excludes travel November 19–23, 2018).