Disney, but with a difference
Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa
I am a huge Disney fan and I absolutely love visiting Walt Disney World, but I must admit that it is not a relaxing holiday in the slightest! Having visited Walt Disney World six times, we decided that we wanted to have a more laid back holiday. We wanted to visit somewhere that had plenty of things to do, both in the resort and outside of it but with a laid back feeling and Disney's Aulani Resort ticked all the boxes.
Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, is in on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is situated on a little bay in Ko Olina, approximately an hour from Honolulu. After a whopping 19 hours of travelling, including a two hour layover in Vancouver, we arrived at Honolulu airport. There was a rush of heat as we stepped off the plane even though it was 9pm at night, I love this as it really makes me feel like I'm on holiday!
I had booked Speedy Shuttle to take us to the hotel and they were very easy to locate with their bright red Hawaiian shirts. Sam was our driver and he was great, he gave us tips on places to visit on Oahu and told us a bit about the history of Hawaii.
As we approached Ko Olina the towers of Aulani came in to view, twinkling in the night. On arrival the check-in process was quick and easy. Myself and Abby were given fresh flower leis, Mark was given a kukui nut lei and Harry was given a bead necklace with a little Menehune figure on it.
Our room was in the Ewa Tower overlooking the Halawai Lawn. For the first week we had booked a studio room, this had a queen size bed, a pull-out sofa bed for the kids to share, a table and chairs, tv, balcony, small kitchen area with a microwave, fridge and coffee maker, and a bathroom with a shower over the bath and separate toilet room. For the second week we had a one-bedroom apartment, also over looking the lawn. This room was much bigger. It had a full kitchen with oven, microwave, dishwasher, fridge freezer, washing machine and tumble dryer and a dining area. The lounge had a pull-out sofa bed, a separate pull-down bed under the tv, a cupboard with hanging space and a patio (we were on the ground floor for the second week). There was a separate bedroom with a tv, desk area, another patio and the biggest bed I have ever seen! The en-suite bathroom had sliding doors next to the whirlpool bath that could be pushed back so that you could watch tv whilst soaking. There was also a sink area and a large wardrobe. Adjoining the bathroom was another slightly smaller bathroom with a toilet, sink area and a huge shower.
The following morning we went out to explore the resort - oh my goodness it was as if we had stepped into paradise. In between the two towers of the hotel there was a lazy river, a water play area with slides and splash zone for younger children, two water slides, three pools (including an adult only pool) and four hot tubs (including two adult only tubs), plus Rainbow Reef - a salt water snorkelling lagoon that's full of tropical fish and a variety of booths selling food and beverages. Disney characters came out for photo opportunities during the day and Goofy hosted a pool party several times a week. There was direct access onto the beach where there were numerous activities available, including paddle boarding, boogie boarding and kayaking.
As well as all of the above activities, there was also a dedicated area for children aged 3 - 12 called Aunty's Beach House. There were numerous activities for younger children and they offered a few tween activities too, such as games night and Hawaiian crafts, however there weren't very many of these and we did feel that the tweens were slightly overlooked. For the teenagers there were several afternoon and evening activities including lei making on the beach, a party night, scavenger hunt and beach games. Abby attended a lot of these events and really enjoyed them. The Pau Hana Room offered lots of family activities including ukulele lessons and animation classes.
We found the food options at Aulani to be a bit limited - especially at night. During the day there was food such as hot dogs, fries, salads and sandwiches available at Ulu Cafe, a couple of quick service places around the pool and Off The Hook that brought food to your lounger. Ice cream and shave ice were also available during the day. There are two restaurants - Makahiki offers a buffet and Ama Ama that serves Hawaiian cuisine. We found the buffet at Makahiki to be nice and varied, but very expensive. The meal for four of us, including two alchoholic drinks and a tip cost $250. Our meal at Ama Ama was delicious and slightly less expensive. Other than room service, all of the other food outlets were closed by 9.30pm so we found that we ate off-site several times.
The evenings were very relaxed at Aulani and most guests seemed to retire to their rooms once the sun went down. There were some evening activities, including live music on the terrace which was lovely to sit and listen to while enjoying a cocktail. We enjoyed watching the movies under the stars on the Halawei Lawn, we saw The Good Dinosaur and Zootropolis both of which were very good. We also enjoyed the luau - it was a really lovely show - our favourite part was the ukulele players playing behind their heads!
Mark and I were able to spend a few hours in the spa one morning and it was absolute bliss. We were able to enjoy the outdoor showers and plunge pools before we had our couples massage, which was out of this world, I have never felt so relaxed in all my life! Afterwards we were able to use the steam room and have some quiet time in the relaxation room, where we were given warm neck pillows to relax our muscles further. There were large showers with shampoo, conditioner and body wash available and huge fluffy towels to wrap up in. A seated area provided hairdryers, brushes, cotton wool pads and cotton buds. If we didn't have the kids with us we could have happily spent all day in the spa.
We loved our stay at Aulani and we adapted to 'island time' very easily! The days we spent at the resort were a mix of lounging by the pool, playing on the beach and messing around on the lazy river. We had so much fun and made the most amazing memories that will stay with us for a lifetime.