Disney's Aulani Resort has a prime location, in the Ko Olina area on Oahu's leeward west coast, about 20 minutes from the airport, and 45 minutes from Waikiiki. Ko Olina is also just a short drive from the less developed North Shore of Oahu.
Ko Olina also has the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa ( adjacent to the Aulani Resort) plus residential areas, a series of lagoons, a championship golf course, and a small commercial area. The Aulani looks out on a beautiful lagoon with a shallow gentle shore that's perfect for little kids.
"Aulani" means "messenger of a chief", and the Aulani aims to bring its visitors messages about Hawaiian culture, and to provide layers of cultural details on the property.
The Aulani resort has two main 15-story buildings that offer regular hotel rooms and suites plus Disney Vacation Club suites. The Aulani aims for high standards of sustainability, with feature such as "cool roofs" and "green roofs" and a resort-wide recycling program.
Waikolohe Valley Overview
The Waikolohe Valley is the center of the resort, with its Puʻu Kilo volcano, and a lazy river, pool, and other features (-- see photos in following pages.)
Reflecting Hawaiian traditions, the resort has "masculine" and "feminine" sides. The feminine side, for instance, has calmer water; the masculine side has more active water features. Even the balcony railings in the rooms have different designs on the feminine or masculine side of the resort. (Which side is which? Facing the sea, "feminine" is on the left.)
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Aunty's Beach House Kids' Club
Another important zone for families is the Aulani's giant kids' club, designed in the style of a welcoming beach house, the home of Aunty and Uncle. Kids age 3 to 7 go to Aunty's side of the house, which has an enchanted fireplace, dress-up clothes, a kitchen, and more.
Uncle's side is for older kids and has computers, board games, an adventurer's room, and a workshop for hands-on activities. Outside is a large area with play structures and a spacious lawn for games and running around.
- See More Photos of Multi-Room Aunty's Beach House
The open-air lobby of the Aulani resort soars like a great hall and is called "Makahala", meaning "Open up your eyes and look, Be aware, See what you are seeing."
In Hawaiian, "mauka" means "toward the mountains", and "makai" means "toward the sea". The Aulani's lobby is open to the mountains at one side (which creates a lovely breeze,) and also looks out westward to the sea.
In the lobby is an amazing collection of commissioned works by Hawaiian artists. Disney's aim was to incorporate "finger-sized details" in the resort's art and architecture: subtleties that guests needn't notice at first but that will reward those who want to delve deeper. The Aulani also has original music created by a well-known composer and performer Keali'i Reichel.
Much of the creative design and devotion to authentic Hawaiian details at the Aulani Resort came from Joe Rohde, (Senior Vice President and Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering), who was a creative force behind the wonderful Animal Kingdom theme park at Disney World.
- continue to Makahala Lobby, Mural Detail
Makahala Lobby, Mural Detail
Above is a corner detail of the 200-foot mural, by ls by artist Martin Charlot, that runs like a ribbon at the base of the vaulted ceiling in the lobby of the Aulani Resort. The mural is rich with details about Hawaiian life. Above the mural are kapa bands designed by Dalani Tanahy, representing land, sea and sky.
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Waikolohe Valley, Zero-Entry Pool
Between the resort's superb lobby and the sea is the Waikolohe Valley with pools and waterslides. Above is the Waikolohe Pool, a lifeguarded zero-entry pool. Click the above image for a larger view, and a better look at the Puʻu Kilo volcano at the far end of the pool.
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Puʻu Kilo Volcano
At one side of the large volcano that dominates the Waikolohe Valley is the start of the lazy river that winds through the Waikolohe Valley. Above, you can also see -- where the white water foams-- the end of the tunnel for one of the waterslides. The Waikolohe Valley has two great giant waterslides that start from the top of the volcano: the Tubestone Curl tube slide, and the Volcano Vertical body slide which is entirely in the dark.
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Lazy River, Lush Landscaping
The lazy river winds its way through much of the Waikolohe Valley.
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Menehune Bridge Waterplay Area
This fun play zone has waterslides, water showers, and more, and is named for the menehuni, mischievous "little people" which are part of Hawaiian lore. Figures of menehuni can be found throughout the Aulani resort.
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Rainbow Reef Snorkeling Pool
This specialty pool is a great place for little kids to try snorkelling; parents can have a go too, or take photos throw these below-ground windows. The fee to use the pool includes snorkelling gear, and a length-of-stay price is available.
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The Lanawei Spa offers signature treatments such as a traditional Hawaiian lomi-lomi massage, and guests at this spa get an interesting bonus: guests create their own sugar-based body scrub using aromatic oils made from orchids, pineapples, and other Hawaiian fruits and flowers.
Anyone using the Lanawei Spa should allow several hours -- yes, hours-- to enjoy the outdoor "hydrotherapy garden". Soak in the two heated herbal pools (visible above) and try out the outdoor showers that have different types of water flows; relax on a lounger and be served fresh muffins... Read details about the Laniwai Spa.
- continue to Painted Sky Spa and Teen Lounge
Painted Sky Teen Spa and Lounge
The Painted Sky Spa does double duty as a high-style lounge for teens, with daily activities such as ukulele lessons or movie night, and a frozen yogurt bar.*
- continue to Giant Wall Mural
*Always check destination websites for updates!
Giant Wall Mural
Above is one of the amazing giant murals created by artist Harinani Orme. Each panel highlights Hawaiian heritage, and all parts of the panel have meaning. In the artist's words, the Mäui Panel "Portrays a kneeling Mäui holding a rope that joins symbols of his well-known super hero feats", suchas snaring the sun and using a magical adze. (Mäui is a demigod whose name should not be confused with the island Maui.)
- continue to Beautiful Pond, Outside Makahiki Restaurant
Beautiful Pond, Outside Makahiki Restaurant
This lovely area is part of the lush landscape in the 7-acre The Waikolohe Valley, just in front of the outdoor eating areas of the Makahiki Restaurant and the 'Olelo Room lounge.
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Aulani's Rich Display of Hawaiian Art
So much original art was commissioned for the Aulani Resort that it can claim to have the largest collection of works by living Hawaiian artists. Above, renowned sculptor Rocky Jensen created two striking wood carvings that stand on either side of the open entrance to the Makahala Lobby (which also has the 200-foot mural around its the vaulted ceiling.)
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Starlit Hui, Complimentary Evening Show
Part of the complimentary fun at the Aulani resort: on select nights, families can head to an outdoor theater space and watch the Starlit Hui show. These high-quality performances also have some chances for participation by enthusiastic guests.
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This buffet restaurant at Disney's Aulani Resort is on the same level as the gardens and pools, beneath the lobby level, and its theme is Makahiki, a seasonal celebration in Hawaii. Character breakfasts take place in the Makahiki Restaurant. The mural is by artist Solomon RN Enos.
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Rooms, Suites, Disney Vacation Club
The Aulani Resort offer regular guestrooms and suites and also Disney Vacation Club Villas (suites) that can be booked by regular guests when available.
Configurations range from studios to 2300 sq. ft. Grand Villas that can sleep up to 12. Read more about Disney Vacation Club.)
Rooms in the Aulani are rich with Hawaiian details, using fine wood, and echoing textures and designs from traditions such as Hawaiian kapa art. Guests will find "authentic Disney" touches too, such as a lamp base that's a Mickey playing a ukelele.
The rooms also have clever designs for families, such as storage space inside an ottoman, and a hidden child-sized bed tucked into a chest.
- continue to Disney's Aulani Resort, Exterior View
Disney's Aulani Resort, Exterior View
Finally: above is the view of the Aulani from it's non-beach side. This is the view visitors see when driving to the resort (or when returning from possible forays to the ABC store and several fast-food options in a small shopping complex across the road.)
Outside the resort, taro has been planted: taro is a staple food in Hawaii and also an important part of the culture. The word for family, "ohana", so important in Hawaii, has its root in "oha", a part of the taro plant.
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