It has been two weeks since we reluctantly returned from Oahu and Aulani Resort and every single day we have been home our children have asked to return. Would we return to the Aulani Resort? Absolutely. However, knowing what we know now, we could have saved a couple thousand dollars.
Before leaving, I read the bad reviews of the Aulani Resort and Spa to see why guests were upset with their visit. It is Disney after all and I have always felt Disney goes above and beyond to ensure your stay is, well, magical. What I found were individuals who didn’t plan well for crowds, traveling with children or food cost. Like any vacation, this is one where signing up for activities and the Complementary Kids Club needs to be done the same day you make your hotel reservation.
Booking Our Room:
Since we were flying to Ohau via miles, we opted to upgrade our room. We have two high energy little ones who think sleep is for the dead. Plus, mom and dad liked the idea of having some of our own space for the week. Planning ahead, we knew we would be on the beach for the better part of every day, so we decided to upgrade the room, but not the view. Savings of over $1,300. We were also traveling during the ‘Value Season’. There is a calendar on the website for the entire year. I highly suggest viewing it before booking your vacation and visiting during the ‘Peak’ or ‘Holiday Season’. (http://bookwdw.reservations.disney.go.com/ibcwdw/en_US/_framework/components/processEngine)
The 1 Bedroom Villa is 756 square feet plus a balcony that runs the length of the room. What you get:
- King in master bedroom
- 1 queen sleeper sofa
- 1 twin bed in a pulldown bunk bed
- Full bathroom
- Full kitchen- well equipped!
- Washer and dryer
In addition to the usual soap, lotion and body wash, you are also provided with an unlimited amount of dishwasher soap and laundry detergent. If you are traveling with small children, as many do to Aulani, the rooms are also stocked with a Pack n’ Play and highchair.
The Villas have an hour later check in time of 4pm. All other rooms check in at the usual 3pm. No worries though because we packed our swim suits in the carry-ons and Aulani offers a lounge with a TV, showers and couches for guests checking in or checking out. This is also the perfect time to stop by the gift shop, grab a Mickey Mouse shaped Ice Cream bar and walk down to Aunty’s Beach House to complete your registration. When our Villa was ready we were sent a text message with the room number and met our bellhop at the door. He was incredibly informative and gave us some insider knowledge regarding food and taxi service. Totally worth the $5 tip.
My first complaint about the room was the extremely loud toilet. It scared the kids every time it was flushed and sounded like it was going to take off into outer space. Second, after the first night, we called the front desk to have a blanket brought up for the king bed. It was only made with sheets and a small quilt that was only for decoration. There was no way it was going to provide warmth or coverage.
Complimentary Kids Club
You don’t know this yet, but you are going to fall in love with Aunty’s Beach House.
At an amazing 5,200 sq ft, this playhouse has everything 3-12 years olds need and like! However, mom and dad need to be on the ball to make it happen. IMMEDIATELY (is that clear?) after you book your room, start the sign-up process for Aunty’s Beach House. https://resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort/activities/auntys-beach-house/online-form/
The registration process requires your confirmation number and will have you choose three complimentary activities for your children to be registered in. I highly suggest Stich’s Space Goo, The Coconut King and Queen of Comedy and Aunty’s Aloha Party. Upon registration, you are assigned dates and times of these activities. You can always cancel, there is no fee to not attend. Registration can be completed least 2 days (but no more than 90 days) prior to your arrival date. Once you arrive on site, you will need to complete your registration in person.
At Aunty’s, you will fill out another form with a secret password, take a picture of the family members and the kids will be given waterproof wrist bands which will be used for the check in and out process. There is a refundable charge for the wristbands of about $12. KEEP THE RECIEPT! (Or take a picture of it). You will need to on the last day to be refunded. Wristbands are a big item for the resort. You receive a wristband every day for use of the pool towels and facilities. The color changes every day and you end up with a rainbow down your arm. I made the mistake of cutting off the first two days’ worth of bands only to discover the kids pride themselves on the number of bands they have. More bands = cooler kid. So, lesson learned .
Now, your kids can come and go during your stay. For the first three days of our vacation it rained in the early afternoon so we dropped the kids off at Aunty’s and walked next door to the Four Seasons to have lunch and adult drinks. It does get a little busy during the rain so I suggest getting their when you see the clouds start to roll in. If Aunty’s Beach House is at capacity, they will post a sign at the door and you will need to wait until someone returns for their kid(s). The drinks at the Four Seasons were not any cheaper but they were much better than the cocktails we ordered at Aulani Resort and Spa. See Groceries/Dining for where you can grab your own booze and practice your bartending skills.
It Is Raining
We are used to the rain and this mom grew up in the Pacific Northwest so I wasn’t deterred by the 80-degree tropical rain. However, some may feel differently. I suggest hiding out in Ka Maka Grotto hot tub or taking the Menehune Adventure Trail. This is a high-tech scavenger hunt through the lobby. Our 8-year-old loved it so much he did it 3 times in a row. The device that guides you can activate waterfalls, lights, sounds and other surprises throughout the property. https://resorts.disney.go.com/#
The first day, we ate all our meals on the property. Ouch. The food was tasty but the price was hard to stomach. Thanks to our friend, the Bellhop, we knew there was an ABC store across the street from the hotel and a flat rate of $15 in a taxi to the local grocery store. There is a Costco, Safeway and Walmart within 10 miles of the resort.
Traveler Tip: sign up for Walmart’s Grocery Pickup grocery.walmart.com/ and select Walmart 91-600 Farrington HWY, Kapolei, HI 96707 as your store. They bring the groceries out to you, so even if you’re in a taxi cab from the airport, you can stop and have the groceries loaded before you hit the resort. This can save you thousands in food/alcohol costs. There are grills on the backside of the resort for a beachside BBQ!
We did treat ourselves to a breakfast out at ‘AMA’AMA. The food was really tasty and the mimosas on point. The restaurant overlooks the private lagoon and is open air. It was exceptionally beautiful one night as we lovingly left our children at Aunty’s Beach House and had a date night sipping wine and watching the sunset. A menu is available online with prices.
During the day, we packed sandwiches and snacks for the pool. For drinks, we purchased the Aulani refillable cups. Between our coffee and ice tea obsession, we could have easily racked up a $50 bill each day. Instead, we paid $19 for each cup and everyone could drink whatever they wished and as much as they wished. Our kids aren’t huge soda fans, so they loved having the pebble ice in their water or lemonade. During the week, we accidently melted a lid in the dishwasher of the room and they happily replaced it for us.
Across the street from the hotel is a little shopping center. I highly recommend happy hour at Monkeypod Kitchen. Skip Just Tacos Mexican Grill. While you are waiting for your table, you should stroll around the corner and check out a little store called Hawaiian Fire. The shop is locally owned and all proceeds go to help the firefighters of Hawaii.
KA WA’A- A Lu’au Aat Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa.
Having attended other Lu’au’s I signed us up for the midweek dining experience mostly so the kids could see the fire dancers. This Lu’au is so much more geared towards the kid’s entertainment but the parent’s taste buds. Please, do yourself a favor and sign up for the VIP tickets. They aren’t that much more and it gains you earlier access, a larger complimentary drink (1/ticket) and better seating. If you choose not to spring for the VIP or they are sold out, which is what happened to us, send someone to stand in line 30-45 minutes early. This is another time you will need to keep your receipt with you. When I booked, I requested to have my tickets left at the concierge desk for pick up and grabbed them on our way down.
There are pre-show activities for the keiki (kids) such as temporary kakau tattoos, taro pounding and lai making.
There’s buffets for adults AND children. Everything was delicious and my children ate more at the lu’au than anywhere else on the island. Don’t’ skimp on the desserts… they are the best part!
Mickey and Minnie make an appearance towards the end of the show for a special dance with the kids.
Be sure to reserve ASAP as they fill up fast!
There are several free activities to participate in at the Aulani Resort and Spa including, storytelling by a huge fire pit, pool parties, tours, movie rentals (two a day), renting boogie boards, sand toys, etc. Twice a week they host a snorkeling session in their private pool and you and your kids can try it out for $30 a person. The private pool is very clean and the fish are everywhere! You can rent snorkel gear for a one day use or for a few dollars more, you can have it for the entirety of your stay.
The walk from Aulani Resort and Spa to Ko’Olina Beach park is about 2.5 miles round-trip and makes for a beautiful morning run or walk along the paved path. I ran it a couple mornings and should say that the Marriott down the way always smelled amazing at breakfast time. Every hotel there has their own little swimming spot. I recommend walking down and checking out the other spaces as well.
Overall, I would highly recommend Aulani Resort and Spa for a family vacation. We are already planning our return and the children have asked to go back EVERY day since we returned home a couple weeks ago. Be sure to plan ahead for the season, crowds and kid’s club and you are guaranteed to have a great time!