My kids have been asking me regularly when are we going to go to Disneyland? My kids just love Mickey Mouse, but flying over 2,000 miles back to the mainland from Hawaii just to go to a theme park is just not on the near term agenda for now. We will go to Disneyland some day, but in the meantime I decided to scratch my kids’ Mickey Mouse itch by recently taking them to Disney’s Aulani Resort located in Ko’olina on Oahu’s west side:
I have been to a few resorts here on Oahu, but I have to say that the entrance into the Aulani Resort is the most spectacular I have seen:
It is spacious and beautifully decorated with Polynesian artwork. From the foyer there is a spectacular view looking out over the resort’s waterpark:
Check in was very easy since there was a waiting area for the kids to watch Disney cartoons while I waited in line. Once I got to the counter I was pleasantly surprised to have my standard hotel room upgraded to a Disney Vacation Club room. Plus my family and I were staying in the resort at 35% discount due to our Kama’aina status here on Oahu. Without the discount this resort is very expensive where most people will be spending $500 to $1,000 a night to stay here depending on room size and time of year. After checking in we walked over to our room on the 14th floor. Like the rest of the resort the hallways to our room were tastefully decorated with Polynesian artwork:
When we walked into our room we found that it really was not a hotel room, but a one bedroom apartment. The living room had plenty of seating and a large flatscreen television.
The furniture was quite nice and of course was Polynesian themed:
The sofa also could be converted into a bed and surprisingly underneath the TV stand there was a drawer that pulled out that revealed another bed for small children to use. There was even a nice piece of Hawaiian artwork hanging on the wall for us to look at which appeared to be of a Hawaiian chief receiving an offering from his people:
The living room also had a large dining table located next to the kitchen. The kitchen was stocked with literally everything we needed for the three nights we planned to spend here. Since we were not expecting to stay in an apartment we had to make a food run, but it was great to be able to cook our own food inside of the resort:
The bedroom we found had a very comfortable bed that was stylishly decorated:
I was a bit surprised by the lack of Mickey Mouse or Disney symbols in general that I had seen in the resort. To me it appears the resort tries to focus visitors more on appreciating Polynesian culture instead of Disney culture. With that said the hotel still has little subtle hints of Disney such as the towels on the bed folded to look like Mickey Mouse:
The view we had from our balcony was just tremendous:
Here is a closer look at the main entrance of the resort that is shaped like a traditional Polynesian structure:
Here is the view looking down towards the waterpark that lies in the center of the resort:
The main attraction in the waterpark is the large volcano waterslide which unfortunately my kids aged 3 and 7 were too little to ride:
Right below our room we could see the Menehune Bridge water play area which my kids absolutely loved:
This section of the waterpark had various bridges and waterslides with water splashing every where:
My kids absolutely had a blast at the Menehune Bridge. They also had fun trying to count all the Menehunes that can be found around the resort. A Menehune is what Hawaii’s original inhabitants likely from the Marquesas Islands were called. The arrival of the Tahitians in Hawaii led to the subjugation of the Menehune who ended up retreating into deep valleys and over time became known as small forest people somewhat similar to how Europeans think of Leprechauns. On Kaua’i there is actually an irrigation system built by the Menehunes that can still be seen today. At Aulani little statues of the Menehunes can be found all around the park:
Besides the Menehune Bridge the canal that goes around the park has a number of hidden Menehunes to try and spot that my kids enjoyed doing. For example in one day we went around the canal ten consecutive times:
Another activity that visitors can partake in is to go and snorkel in the large water tank the resort has that supports a coral reef system:
We did not go snorkel because of the cost. In Hawaii we know where to go to snorkel for free. For those that don’t want to pay to snorkel, the resort does have a large glass window for visitors to look at the fish in the tank from:
Another fun event my kids took part in was when various Disney characters showed up at the pool and invited kids to sing and dance with them:
Needless to say my kids loved the waterpark so much that it almost made them forget there was a beach to checkout as well. We did go to the beach one morning when there was hardly anybody there:
Later in the day the beach does get pretty packed. My kids that morning swam in the water for a little while, but did not enjoy it much because of how dirty the water was. For whatever reason that day the water appeared to have an algae bloom of some kind going on. So they were content to play in the sand before deciding to head over to the water park again.
Besides the waterpark the other thing my kids enjoyed at the resort was the food at the resort. There are various little shacks that sell quick snack food around the resort:
However, I highly recommend that people make a reservation to attend the breakfast buffet each morning at the Makahiki Restaurant. If you have kids this is an opportunity for them to meet and take pictures with various Disney characters. For example while waiting in line to be seated families can have their pictures taken with Mickey and Minnie Mouse:
After taking pictures diners are then seated and they have a huge buffet of food they can choose from:
The buffet features typical American breakfast foods with a Hawaiian twist as well as various food for Asian diets:
When I sat down to eat I could not believe how good the food was. Everything I tried tasted great to include the Kona coffee they brewed:
While eating the various Disney characters will come by each table and interact with the kids:
The restaurant than has a character known as “Auntie” who sings music during breakfast and then leads the kids in a parade around the restaurant with the Disney characters:
My kids had so much fun during this breakfast that they still talk about it today. Due to the popularity of the character breakfast recommendations are usually needed to get a seat. The other thing to keep in mind is that the breakfast is not cheap. It is $37 for adults and $18 for kids, so for my family of four it cost me $100.
It also worth eating lunch or dinner at least once at the Ama’Ama Restaurant:
The restaurant is located adjacent to the beach which means great views of the ocean from most of the tables:
We ate during lunch and the restaurant was not that busy so we got a great table looking out over the ocean. After ordering we sat back and drank some awesome mixed drinks:
Just like the food at the breakfast buffet, the food at Ama’Ama was top notch. I ordered the pasta primavera with the catch of the day and it was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had:
My wife ordered the catch of the day meal and the fish was extremely tasty:
My two kids ordered hamburger sliders and pizza which they both enjoyed:
The food and the experience at Ama’Ama was great, but just like the character breakfast expect to pay for it because the prices are not cheap. For a family of four we dropped about $100 to eat lunch at Ama’Ama, but we felt we got our money’s worth.
After playing in the water and eating all day you would think my kids would be tired out. Not my kids they were eager to do more things at the resort after we cooked up dinner in our room and sat on the balcony and watched the sun go down:
A very popular night time activity for kids at Aulani is the Mo‘olelo Fire Pit Storytelling:
A native Hawaiian known as “Uncle” will tell Polynesian legends around a large fire. The crowd was absolutely huge so it was actually a bit difficult to hear what was being said from where we were standing. My kids quickly lost interest in the storytelling:
However, what my kids did enjoy was watching a Disney movie on a big screen outside on a lawn under the stars. Besides having the big screen, speakers were spread out around the lawn that really helped to bring the movie even more to life. My kids loved this. There is plenty of other activities to try at the resort both day and night. Aulani publishes a daily activity schedule of events for visitors to participate in.
Overall we found Aulani to be the best resort experience we have ever stayed at. This place really is a paradise for families. There is so much to do here and the customer service is just unbelievable. Plus I like the fact the resort is not located in Waikiki. Ko’olina is a much quieter part of the island and easy to walk around if you want to go outside of the resort. So I highly recommend the resort to anyone looking for a Hawaii family vacation where kids can also get a Disney experience at the same time.