Aulani: A Disney Resort & Spa – All You Need to Know! (Part 1)

We were very fortunate to surprise our kids with a visit to Aulani A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii (Oahu)  for the first half of Thanksgiving break.  While I had toured the property before and have sent many friends and clients there, it was my family’s first time and they had a blast! It truly is a magical family vacation experience. Here some ins/outs, thoughts, and more about Aulani!

Getting There:
Many packages include round trip transportation on the Hele Hele Shuttle.  The friendly staff meet you at baggage claim in Hawaiian shirts and are carrying iPads. They spotted us right away, took us to a waiting shuttle, and we were on our way to Aulani!  Return service was also timely and easy at the hotel.  Our drivers both ways were very friendly and native to the islands, with lots of good information about the island history and beyond. We were very pleased with the service!


The awesome greeters from Hele Hele shuttle!

Checking In/Room Types:

If you don’t have any pressing issues, I recommend doing Online Check In before you arrive. They will have your keys and such at the Bell Desk ready to go. In our case, we had a split reservation so went to the Front Desk with the beautiful backdrop – featuring photos from elementary children around the island about “What Hawaii Means to them” – to get our keys, which have just this month gone to the new CFID system. In fact, we were using Walt Disney World key cards!  We expect Magic Bands are on their way for this Resort, which would make hotel and room charging easy and handy.  All adult men get a traditional kakui nut lei, while women get orchid and tuberose,  and kids get a special keepsake necklace with a small menehune on it.  We also all got celebration buttons in Hawaiian and I got a special birthday button as well. 🙂 Be sure to ask for these! 

  Kids were thrilled with their necklaces! The front desk photos are gorgeous, and you get lots of great information and buttons! 

When it comes to Room Types, you have the choice of a standard hotel room – which can sleep up to 4 adults (or a 5th only if it is an infant 2 or under) in 2 Queen Beds or 1 King Bed. There are also beautiful parlor suites.  Alternatively, you can choose  a studio, 1 bed, 2 bed or 3 bedroom villa.  The studio has a kitchenette and one king bed plus sofa sleeper, while the one bedroom and higher villas have a washer/dryer in unit, full kitchen, and lots of space! They are gorgeous! You can choose from a standard view (lower floor, parking lot type views), island garden (back side but upper floor, very nice views), pool/garden views (hard to get bc these rooms are closest to the main action), partial ocean (ours was more like full ocean), and full ocean views (upper floors with views of pools/resort and the ocean depending where you are).  All the rooms are gorgeous with full bathtubs, rainfall showers, separate toilets, ample seating/furniture including full balconies, and subtle Disney touches – a Mickey is on the lamp and there are some hidden Mickeys, but Mickey is also “on vacation” at Aulani, not a resident, so the focus is truly on Hawaiian culture not Mickey or characters.  We found our hotel room spacious and luxurious, especially the Keurig coffee maker, comfortable bath robes and slippers!  It was plenty of space for our family of 4, but the villas are also gorgeous and we hope to stay in one on our next visit! 🙂  

Gorgeous room options and view options at Aulani! Tribute to Hawaii with subtle Mickey overtones!  Standard rooms are gorgeous and villas are spacious and beautiful! 

The Lobby:

The Maka’ala (eyes wide open in Hawaiian) lobby itself is gorgeous , and plays tribute to the Hawaiian story. If you stand in the center, you’ll see a beautiful mural around the upper border of the room, with a baby symbolizing “birth” at the hotel entrance and a whale and “the future” on the opposite side looking out towards the pool and Resort.  On either side is the Ewa (female) tower and the Wai’anae (male) tower, and the mural represents these with stories of Hawaiian cultural roles for male and female, with the more high energy hunting role to the men and the tender, creative role to the women.  The symbolism doesn’t stop there, as even the different water pools and designs on either side of the lobby have subtle differences for “male” and “female”, which join together in a unified waterfall toward the future, all about the balance and importance of each role. If you look at the architecture and balconies of either tower, you’ll continue to see differences – a sharper more angular balcony for the males, and softer curves on the Iwa side.  It’s quite stunning!  If you look out from the lobby at the pools, you’ll see many of the hidden animals in the rockwork, and depending how the sunlight hits, you’ll see different ones! (hence: eyes wide open, ever changing ) – my kids found new ones each day of our visit, and I know we have many more to find!   There’s also a short 20 minute scavenger hunt you can do in the lobby area (check out at the Pau Hana Community Center after 11 am ) that’ll teach you all about the Hawaiian history and Ko Olina area, with great interaction and magic about the lobby and design that’ll blow your mind away!  

The lobby is incredible! We also loved seeing Christmas decorations! 

Menehune: All throughout the lobby and the entire hotel are hundreds of Menehune – they’re hidden in the elevators, the pools, everywhere! THese mystical creatures of Hawaii are known for tricks and it’s super fun to seek them out. A second scavenger hunt that lasts several hours throughout the pool area is available after 3 pm each day at the Pau Hana Community Center, and involves discovering some of the tricks and works of these guys on the Menehune Trail. Allegedly at Christmas, some even get Santa hats!  

The Menehune are everywhere – kids loved the scavenger hunt! So fun! 

Contact me to plan your own visit at Aulani! And Stay tuned for Part 2.  The Wonder of the Resort: Dining, Luau, Spa and Activities!  

3 thoughts on “Aulani: A Disney Resort & Spa – All You Need to Know! (Part 1)

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