There are so many things to do at Aulani, Disney's resort on Oahu's Leeward Coast, that it's doubtful any family can do them all during one stay. Luckily, however, with more than half the accommodations being part of Disney's Vacation Club -- many guests are likely to return to the resort.
Here are 10 great things to do at Aulani. Some activities are chosen for adults and some are specifically designed for kids. With all these options, it's no wonder that Condé Nast Traveler named Aulani a top hotel.
Have Breakfast With a Disney Character
Have Breakfast With a Disney Character
Disney character dining is available on select mornings at Makahiki, the resort's buffet-style restaurant named after the Hawaiian harvest festival season. The restaurant showcases beautiful works by local artists, from paintings to glass art, that depicts the story of the Makahiki season.
Favorite Disney characters celebrate with diners at "Aunty's Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki" on select days. As everyone enjoys the breakfast buffet with omelets, pancakes, waffles, French toast, island fruits, carving stations, traditional Asian offerings, house-baked pastries, and daily specialties, Aunty is often joined for fun and games by favorites such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Stitch, and others -- all in their Hawaiian attire. The characters make their way through the restaurant to greet and take photos with guests.
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Tube Down the Waikolohe Stream
The Waikohole Valley is the heart of the Aulani Resort nestled between Aulani's two towers and flowing from the lobby to the beachfront. It's home to the resort's pools, whirlpool spas, and interactive water play areas including the Waikolohe Stream.
Hawaiian for "mischievous water," the meandering stream can be accessed by one of the valley's water slides from the large lava outcropping named Pu'u Kilo or, for the less adventurous, directly into the gently flowing stream near the base.
A ride down the Waikolohe stream is the perfect way for guests of all ages to cool off on a warm Oahu afternoon. No worries, however, because every area of the stream is overseen by one of Aulani's lifeguard cast members.
Young visitors will surely want to stop by the nearby interactive water play area known as the Menehune Bridge. If you're hungry after a ride along the stream, stop by the Papalua Shave Ice station or the Lava Shack for a quick snack.
Take a Walk
Whether it's an early morning jog or a relaxing afternoon walk with the family, there are fewer better shorefront walks than on the 1.5-mile beach walk at the beautiful Ko Olina Resort.
The walk begins at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu located next to Aulani and continues south past all four of the major manmade lagoons at the resort and all of the other hotels and resorts. It ends at the 43-acre world-class Ko Olina Marina where you can stop by the Ko Olina Marina Beach Shop for some refreshments, check out ocean tours or fishing charters, or hop the resort shuttle back to Aulani.
Spend Time at Aunty's Beach House
Aunty's Beach House is a 5,200-square-foot kids' club that offers a full program of fun for younger children (ages 3-12). Most activities here are included in the cost of your stay at Aulani.
Disney-trained counselors inspire and entertain with dance contests, games that explore the mysteries of Hawaii, science experiments, Hawaiian storytelling, dress-up, movies, snacks, and many other activities. Special surprises await at Uncle's workshop and Aunty's magical fireplace. Registration is required and must be completed at least two days before you arrive.
Enjoy a Sumptuous Dinner
Fine dining is not the first thing that comes to mind when booking a Disney vacation, but experienced Disney travelers know that Disney knows how to offer great high-end dining experiences.
The resort's beachside 'AMA'AMA restaurant showcases the abundant produce, fresh seafood, and classic tastes of Hawaii. Named after the local mullet fish, AMA'AMA' also features more than a dozen specialty cocktails and a huge selection of wines by the glass or bottle.
At dinner, sustainable fish roasted in the wood-burning oven is a signature entrée, as well as a whole, salt-crusted catch for two that is cracked open table-side. A daily, four-course, prix fixe showcases cuisines from around the globe that include Polynesian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Latin influences.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations recommended.
Take in a Show
A trip to Hawaii wouldn't be complete without attending a traditional luau. The resort's KA WA‘A luau is a three-hour journey through Hawaiian history that includes song, dance, storytelling, and, of course, a Hawaiian feast.
Pre-show activities include arts such as flower arranging, temporary tattoos, kapa printing, and taro pounding. The show begins with an oli welcome chant and includes stories that explain Hawaiian lore and legends.
The buffet feast features a carving station with pig and prime beef, seafood, traditional island fare, and dessert. Offerings are family-friendly so kids will surely find something that pleases them.
The luau takes place on the Hālāwai Lawn on select evenings. Tickets are required.
Escape to the Spa
With 18,000 square feet of indoor space, Aulani's Laniwai "freshwater heaven" Spa is one of Hawaii's largest and has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler. The 5,000-square-foot outdoor Kula Wai Hydrotherapy Garden is unique to Oahu and is the perfect place for mom or dad to spend some pre-treatment time away from the kids, relaxing in one of the herbal pools, cold and hot whirlpools, and rain showers, or walking across the reflexology path.
Then there's the spa treatment itself of which Laniwai offers more than 150 treatments in 15 treatment rooms. There are treatment rooms for both couples and families and special treatments for men and expecting mothers.
For teens, the Painted Sky youth spa features treatments created especially for them, plus a yogurt bar; do-it-yourself mixology bar to blend personalized Hawaiian body polishes, perfume, and face masques; and evening programs. There is also a fitness center and a full-service salon for hair, makeup, and nail services.
See More of Oahu on an Aulani Excursion
Oahu is a beautiful island and, although it's tempting never to leave Aulani, guests should take at least one day of their vacation to explore beyond the property.
Fortunately, Disney offers Aulani excursions and there's sure to be one (or more) that will appeal to guests of all ages. Many of these excursions have been specially designed for Aulani guests by Adventures by Disney and feature knowledgeable and friendly adventure guides who weave stories and magic into the experiences as only Disney can do.
Aulani also offers special excursions such as a catamaran voyage, including dolphin spotting and, in season, whale watching; kayaking on Kailua Bay and a storytelling hike on a nearby island and bird sanctuary; surfing lessons; a sightseeing and storytelling adventure through the beautiful Kualoa Ranch, with its private beach and movie and television locations; a visit to the North Shore of Oahu and Waimea Falls; and many more.
Swim With the Fishes
Don't worry -- there's no danger here and you'll be safe under the eye of members of Aulani's lifeguard cast members. The Aulani's Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon provides guests with one of the best opportunities to experience up close and personal many of the fish that inhabit the waters off Hawaii. This 3,800-square-foot artificial lagoon is home to thousands of fish including angelfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, yellow tangs, and even reef triggerfish known by its Hawaiian name, the humuhumunukunukuāpua'a.
This Oahu lagoon varies from three to eight feet deep and allows for easy entry in a shallow area with good footing. Because of the relatively shallow nature of the lagoon, it's a great place to take underwater photos of these fish.
The good news is that the fish are there in droves and you never have to worry about the current or any potential predators in the water -- other than another one of your fellow snorkelers grabbing you to make sure you don't miss something that they're seeing!
Relax in Your Room
In an effort to see and do as much as possible while on vacation, many folks miss the obvious -- relaxing in the room. A resort can offer the best activities, friendliest staff, great outdoor areas, and great dining, but if the rooms are subpar or even just average, it's easy to feel that you haven't gotten your money's worth. Such is not the case at Aulani on Oahu.
The room décor blends Hawaiian tradition and Disney whimsy. Working with local Hawaiian artisans, Disney Imagineers have created a charming and relaxing environment inspired by the fine arts and crafts traditions of ancient Hawaiians. Earthtone print fabrics in the rooms take their cue from traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth. Retro Hawaiian floral print fabrics, locally known as “bark cloth” and popular in the 1930s and '40s, provide touches of colorful vibrancy on accent pillows.
The homage to Hawaiian culture in the room décor is accented by Disney touches -- the distinctive “hidden Mickeys” that guests may discover only on a Hawaii family vacation at Aulani. In the corridors outside the rooms, wall coverings are embedded with a host of native cultural references -- from poi pounders to fish traps to sea urchins -- and more “hidden Mickeys” camouflaged within the richly patterned surfaces.
All Aulani rooms have lanai balconies or porches. Standard hotel rooms sleep up to four guests and feature flat-screen televisions, DVD players, small refrigerators, coffee makers and tea service, ceiling fans, free wireless internet service, phone chargers, and an in-room safe. The bathrooms are spacious with deep soaking tubs, robes, and premium bath products.