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Aloha! We love Aulani! It is truly heaven on earth. At Aulani you get the Hawaiian lifestyle mixed with the Disney magic. Total relationship goals!
When we joined the Disney Vacation Club we had the option and points to use them anywhere. Since Aulani was our "home base" and the fact that we've wanted to visit it since it was dreamed up in 2007, there really was no need for discussion. The trip was booked and in 2015 we made the journey to paradise!
OK, so a little Aulani history first. The resort is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in the Ko Olina Resort in Kapolei, so roughly about 20-30 minutes from the airport.
The Disney team put in a lot of research on Hawaiian customs, culture and traditions in designing the resort. It totally shows! They even worked in the Hawaiian culture to the arts and crafts, music, dance, and even have history tours! We felt like we learned just as much as we relaxed.
We boarded a plane from sunny, drought ridden California (Oakland Airport) and landed in Hawaii. We expected the picture perfect weather, but of course we landed in the tail end of a torrential downpour with flash flood warning. Honestly we just laughed and wondered if there was a fee to send the rain back home for the duration of our stay. Let's just make the best of a bad situation.
Nicole, Xander and I had all been to Hawaii before...but only to Waikiki and certainly never to a resort so we had no clue what to expect. We grabbed our bags, braved the rain, rented a Jeep and were on our way. Of course you don't have to rent a car, especially if all you want to do is stay at the Aulani, and there are shuttles running from the Airport. Even if you want to make one trip out you can rent a car on the Aulani property to save money. We knew we had a few things planned off property so the Jeep was perfect for us. On our way we stopped at the local Target and grabbed a weeks worth of groceries. Our room was a Suite with kitchen so we imagined cooking meals to save money. Surprisingly enough we ate out quite a bit as the Ko Olina area and the Aulani resort have some top notch dining!
Pulling into the Ko Olina Resort area we felt the excitement build! It was drizzling still but we didn't care. We were giddy with excitement! We see the Aulani sign, pull into the drive way and into the self-parking garage. I wanted to valet park so bad just to get the whole experience, but we figured lets spend the extra cash on Aulani Merch! Walking to the front entrance we were instantly welcomed with a Lei for Nicole and Kukui Nut necklaces for Xander and Me. Check in was easy and we were off to our suite with luggage and food in tow. On the way up to the room we found one of our favorite things that almost kept us in the elevator the whole trip...Ukulele versions of Disney songs! Unfortunately there is no CD or music download of these version, and it almost made us buy a Ukulele just to learn them. Keep your ears open for them!
Can we just say...our room was AWESOME! We booked the Villa and it was perfect! It had a kitchen, washer/dryer, living room and an amazing view! The Villa was an Ocean View which means it has a partial view of the Ocean...although we lucked out and got an awesome view. There is also Standard View, which has a view of the conference center, parking lot or garage. The Island View is a partial view of mountains, spa or Ko Olina resort and golf course. And the Pool view which is a view of the pool, courtyards, water fun, or landscaping from the balcony. If the view is not important then just book the cheapest option!
After we checked every cabinet in the room and jumped on the bed we decided it was time to explore! We made our way back down to the lobby and of course snapped a million pictures, snap chats and selfies! After all if you didn't selfie it, did it really happen?
The first thing we went for is their daily news letter or the DAILY'IWA located at the front desk. The news letter has all the special daily activities for the day. The activities are everything from lei making to beach activities to yoga to movie nights! Like serious non stop fun! Our advice, if you see something on the 'IWA you want to do...DO IT! It might be a once a week activity! The IWA also has all the Character Photo spots for the day. They also have a recorded character hotline that you can call from your room to plan who you will visit and where for the day! Just like Disneyland, some are actual photospots and others are to take pics while they walk.
We then went to check in at the DVC desk to find out what fun events they were hosting that week and signed up for a Member's evening luau happening later in the week. From there we scoped the gym and the Laniwai (or the spa). Before heading outside we went the other direction and found the gift shop. Here you can by some basics and tons of Aulani Merchandise! They had toys, food, shirts, jewelry, coffee mugs and collectables like pins, ornaments and Tsums Tsums. There was just too much good stuff! There is also a higher end clothing and jewelry shop right around the corner from the gift shop named Hale Manu. We didn't get all the goodies we wanted to, but also probably didn't have the bag space coming home.
In wandering the Aulani keep an eye out for the Menehune. What's a Menehune? They are dwarf sized people in Hawaiian Mythology who are said to be superb magical craftspeople that have statues hidden around the resort. Look for them, try to find them all. It's fun!
We headed outside drawn by the lazy river, swimming pools, water slides and the pull of the ocean. We followed the path along the Waikolohe Stream (lazy river) looking at the various pools and restaurants. There is also a Waikolohe Pool to swim in. There are two waterslides which you can do one by your self or the other with you can use a single or double rider raft. We found the Ka Maka Grotto, an unbelievable infinity pool, and the Menehune Bridge, an interactive play structure for the kids with 2 slides and water dumping everywhere!
The Keiki Cove Splash Zone is a water squirting fun zone for the the little ones. There are two whirlpool spas for the adults as well as the Wailana Pool which is reserved for guests 18 and older. We also witnessed one of the Aulani Pool Parties where Goofy got in the water and did water games and dancing with the kids.
Of course it all connects to Aulani's private beach and lagoon. Of course you can swim in the lagoon and play on the beach instead of the Aulani's pool and water slides and we did a mixture of both over our visit. They also have Makiki Joe's Beach and Equipment Rentals so if you want to rent paddle boards or snorkel gear, or get complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas, sand toys and boogie boards. The sand toys are worth it alone because they are free and we usually spend a ton on vacation and then have to leave them on the beach.
By the time we were done exploring we headed back up to the room to get some rest and figure out the plan for the week. Once a plan was made we turned in for the night.
The characters even have fun games and interaction with the kids. Xander got pulled into a conga line and was soon laughing and singing along. Of course we ate more than we should of which meant we should probably wait longer than a half hour before swimming. So we headed over to the Pau Hana room, or community room. We loved this room because they had books, movies, and board games to check out...ALL FREE! A few of the nights we caught up on movies after a full day of sun and sand.
The Pau Hana room is also where you can check out a interactive iPad/cell phone and start on an interactive high-tech scavenger hunt called the Menehune Adventure Trail. The cell phone gives you clues to follow and interacts with all sorts of things along the pathways. There are three or four different paths and it's nothing short of an adventure! We learned, searched, interacted and wandered around. It's totally worth doing.
We also visited Aunties Beach House. It's a kids club where parents can check in their kids to a cool activities club. The club is good for guests ages 3-12. Xander loved the science with Stitch and the fact that we got our first Magic Band. We aren't as familiar with the Magic Bands since Disneyland still uses fast passes but he wore it the rest of the trip and we can see how they have a coolness factor. Aunties had video games, arts and crafts, movies, a play structure outside and all sorts of other interactive activities and Disney magic. While Xander experimented with Stitch we snuck over for a quick drink at Off the Hook.
We loved Off the Hook. Honestly I thought is was a Captain Hook reference, but its just a reference to how fresh the food is. This poolside lounge was great for tropical drinks and appetizers. They also have big screen TVs which makes it a great place to catch a game!
Once we checked Xander out of Aunties, we headed over to Mama's Snack Stop, Papalua Shaved Ice and the Lava Shack. The shaved ice is a must to keep cool and so many flavors to choose from! At Mama's we got a macadamia nut-pineapple cupcake with Mickey sprinkles. And at the Lava shack we had pineapple Dole-whip that was so amazing that we couldn't stop singing the tiki tiki room while eating it. Now we didn't eat all this at once, the cupcake and Dole-whip were a few days later, but for the sake of where they are located...you get the point.
The other place that's worth mentioning is the Ulu cafe'. The Ulu cafe has hot meals, snacks and is great for grab and go meals. It's a great place in the morning to grab muffins, donuts, coffee and various other goodies! It's also the place where you can purchase a refillable mug for about $20 and use it for the duration of the stay. It's great for unlimited coffee in the mornings, or soda and juices throughout the day. We still use ours everyday. If you are only staying for a couple of days or not a coffee or soda drinker then we would not advise getting this, save the money for souvenirs. But the Mickey Mouse brownies however...
There were two restaurants we never tried but hopefully next visit. 'Ama'Ama which is a little higher end dining experience. The menu looks like a mix of Hawaiian cuisine with a modern flair. It's beachfront dining with a gorgeous view, and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The other place we didn't try was the Olelo Room which is a cool upscale lounge which serves beautiful cocktails and traditional island appetizers. In the evenings it was the place to be.
There are also many places in the Ko Olina Resort area to enjoy as well. There is a Roys (great pineapple martinis), a pizza place, a Mexican restaurant and ABC store for all your goodies (don't forget to save your receipts for free souvenir, we got coffee mugs!). Monkeypod Kitchen across the street from the Aulani is the business! Hands down one of the best meals we've ever had in our lives! We split Ahi Tuna and Jalapeño Mashed Potatoes with a soy sesame maui onion sauce and a order of fish & chips. The drinks are mighty delicious as well, we suggest trying the pineapple cider and the Monkeypod Mai Tai!
Overall, the Aulani is epic! I have to say we are planning to go back as soon as humanly possible. We not only fell in love with the Aulani, we got engaged there and added a whole new love for the resort. We cannot wait to go back! Mahalo and Aloha!
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