Showing posts with label Aulani. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aulani. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2013

Featured Foto Friday - Aulani Recreation

Recreational activities abound at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii. Lounge chairs and kayaks in the morning hours await guests to come and enjoy them on the resort's shared lagoon at Ko Olina.  Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, guests have the opportunity to kayak out into open waters and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Trivia - Aulani

At its' core, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa located on the leeward coast of Oahu is found Hawaiian artistry and tradition.  A big part of what makes Aulani so special is the rich musical score that can be heard all throughout the common areas of the resort composed by Kealil'i Reichel. The score itself pushes the boundaries of Hawaiian music, while remaining grounded in Hawaiian tradition, specifically featuring the pahu, or the drum, the ipu, or the double gourd and other specifically Hawaiian percussive instruments. The score includes sections or themes which are integral to Hawaiian culture:  relationships between people, the land, and the elements. 

Here is just a small sample taken from the Makaala, or lobby.  I wish it were longer, because the best part of the score is after what is recorded here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa


Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® first opened August 29, 2011 in the Ko Olina resort area on the leeward coast of Oahu, Hawaii.  Inspired by the natural beauty, culture and traditions of Hawai’i, this beautiful resort was designed with families in mind.  Sharing a secluded lagoon with the JW Marriott resort, and another future-resort that is still to be developed, Aulani is situated on 21 acres of oceanfront property, with spectacular views.

The resort is comprised of both traditional hotel accommodations and Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas. There are 359 hotel rooms, including 16 suites, and 460 villas comprised of deluxe studios, one and two bedroom villas, and 21 three bedroom Grand Villas (18 of which directly overlook the ocean).

The resort towers surround the Waikalohe Valley, which comprises the various water and recreational amenities.  These amenities include:
  • Waikalohe Stream – an exhilarating yet refreshing waterway meandering throughout the Waikalohe Valley.
  • Menehune Bridge – an interactive water play area which features interactive water elements, 3 slides and a climbing structure
  • Two sparkling pools & four unique hot tubs
  • Two waterslides, Tubestone Curl – an inner tube slide for 1 or 2 guests at a time, and Volcanic Vertical – a single rider body slide
  • Rainbow Reef – a snorkeling experience at the largest inland snorkeling reef on the island (this is a fee-based activity)
  • Makai Preserve – a conservation lagoon where guests can interact with stingrays and other marine life (this is a fee-based  activity)
  • Pau Hana Room – video gaming, foosball, board games, storytelling, TV viewing area and arts & crafts (some but not all activities are fee-based)
  • Aunty’s Beach House – this fun-filled destination for the kids is a place of discovery, magic and exploration where kids can learn about the Hawaiian culture while they play.  Supervised playtime at Aunty’s Beach House allows mom and dad the opportunity to spend some adult time on the beach, at a romantic dinner or any other excursions of their choice.
  • Located directly across the street from the resort, is the Ko Olina Golf Club, and discounted greens fees are available for resort guests.

 The resort features several unique places to wine and dine.  These include: 
  • ’Ama ‘Ama, a table-service restaurant offers spectacular ocean-front views for breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Seafood is plentiful on the menu, along with traditional Hawaiian specialities.
  • Makahiki, offers an all-you-care-to enjoy breakfast and dinner buffet, and features a character breakfast, Aunty’s Character Breakfast at the Makahiki, currently offered on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.  The food selection includes a generous mix of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese fare.
  • One Paddle, Two Paddle, is a counter-service location with a variety of delightful Hawaiian dishes, fresh made sandwiches and wraps.
  • Off the Hook is a colorful, pool and beachside lounge designed after a Hawaiian fisherman’s seaside shack, and features libations and appetizers.
  • The ‘Olelo Room is a pub-like gathering place where visitors can learn a variety of Hawaiian words while enjoying favorite cocktails.
  • The Lava Shack is located in the heart of the Waikalohe Valley, and features cold fried chicken, cured meats & cheeses and other grab & go snacks.


For the adventurist looking to augment their beach vacation with some really neat, self-guided Hawaiian “local color” -  Aulani is not far from many fun, exciting, and enjoyable destinations around Oahu. In the mood for a Dole Whip?  The Dole Plantation is just 30 minutes away.  Want to catch some waves or go surfing on some of the best beaches in the world, the North Shore, home of famed surfing competitions is just 45 minutes away.  Looking for the stereotypical Hawaiian tour? The famed beaches and experiences at Waikiki are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Hiking to the top of Diamond Head, or through a rainforest?  Both are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Of course the island is also home to numerous historic sites, significant in how the world changed so dramatically one December morning in 1941. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is only about 20 minutes from Aulani, and is a must-see for so many different reasons.  This very moving site includes the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin, the USS Missouri, the USS Oklahoma Memorial and the USS Utah Memorial – plus a handful of Exhibit Galleries, Museums, artifacts and a 23-minute film discussing the attacks on Pearl Harbor that December morning.

For those guests looking to enjoy different aspects of Hawaii but choose to do so on guided excursions,  you won’t be disappointed!  Just as cruise ships offer a plethora of land excursions on “port days” – Aulani provides similar opportunities for its’ guests as well.  The range of offerings can change from time to time, but currently there are about 14 different excursions. Each day there are 1 or 2 different guided tours and experiences for guests to select from. Costs range from about $50 per adult up to about $400 per adult. These excursions can be reserved in advance on Aulani’s website, or in person at the Holoholo Desk just to the left of the Lobby.  Excursion possibilities include learning to surf, riding horseback through lush valleys, hiking in the rainforest, setting sail on a catamaran or kayak along protected islets, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, island hopping to explore volcanoes and so much more. 

Were Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® to be located at the Walt Disney World® Resort, it would be considered a Deluxe level.  Transportation to and from the resort is not provided.  Guests can arrange for their choice of rental car, shuttle, taxi or limo service.  Rental Cars are highly recommended for a variety of self-guided excursions, grocery shopping (for villas guests) and other local visits away from the resort.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Today in Disney Parks and Resorts History - Aulani Opens


August 29, 2011 – Oahu, Hawaii

At approximately 6:30 a.m., Hawai'i time, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa opens its' doors and the first guests enter. Disney's first resort in Hawaii, is located on the leeward, or west coast, of the island of Oahu, in the Ko Olina resort area.  It is about 10 minutes from Pearl Harbor, and about 20 miles west of downtown Honolulu.  The resort is comprised of a unique mix of "mouse-inspired" imagineering and Native Hawaiian culture on the approximate 21 acre ocean-front parcel it occupies.  It is a blend of traditional hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas.  



Friday, August 17, 2012

Featured Foto Friday - 'Ama 'Ama; Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa

This is the view from 'Ama 'Ama, one of two table service restaurants at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii. It's a wonderful place to enjoy any meal, but here I took this shot while enjoying a delicious breakfast.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

One Year Ago Today...

It's hard to believe that it's already been a full year since my first, inauspicious (read that - lame) post (and just to prove it, here's a link to that very first post).  

A lot can, and often does, change during a year's time.  Since then, I've posted more than 300 entries - some still lame, some not-so-lame, and others somewhat ok. Along the way I had major technical issues with the website host forcing me to change venues for the blog, I've had fun experimenting with formats and looks to the blog, and several features have been introduced, and /or retired based on changing thoughts and ideas about what I'd like to present or talk about. Some things I'd like to bring back, while others I would like to introduce in the coming weeks and months. 

Certainly during that time changes happened both personally and professionally.  Personally we said good-bye to a beloved family member, as my wife's father succumbed in October to his battle with cancer.  Professional, just about a month after that first post was made, I was laid off from my full-time job of 11 years, and made the decision to pursue my then part-time passion in a more full-time manner.  Thus what began as something to earn some extra on the side became a full-time gig, as we launched our business full-time.  We also switched the host agency that I was working with for a Franchise that we acquired with a national name-brand provider of cruises and vacation packages.  

During the year I went to the Caribbean on a cruise and to Hawaii to explore and check out Disney's new resort there - Aulani (for newer readers, check out the labels to the right on the home page, and search for Aulani to read various entries about the resort and check out photos I took while there.  It is a GREAT resort, and definitely one you should consider visiting).  Trips to California and Florida rounded out the past year, while more cruises and trips are in the works for the coming year.  

I've had fun sharing the variety of Disney trivia, facts and photos with those of you who have chosen to follow along.  I appreciate the readership, and the comments along the way.  I look forward to spending another year sharing and posting - and working to interject more personal anecdotes and information into the blog.  I hope you'll continue to follow along, and perhaps, even bring some friends along with you.  Because really - Disney parks are meant to be shared by family and friends.  In the next year I'm hoping to have some additional entries by guests, who will also share their own love of the parks with  9you - and perhaps their photos and memories of days gone by too.  

So - thanks again for following along and sharing my adventures.  Just as Peter Pan never wanted to grow up - neither do I.  He's always been one of my favorite characters, and Peter Pan's Flight has always been a favorite theme park attraction... which is a big reason why I chose to use Neverland Adventures in the name for my travel business.  

Until next time,


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Trivia - Aulani

Aulani is situated on 21 acres of oceanfront property, on the leeward coast of the island of Oahu.  Imagineers used landscaping designed to replicate the traditional Hawaiian ahupua'a, or land divisions that allowed the inhabitants of the area to partake in all they needed to sustain themselves from the forests of the uplands to the fish and plants at sea level.  Throughout the resort, astute visitors will notice that the landscaping foliage goes from dry land varieties to more wet and lush plantings as you move from the Makaala to the ocean.  Referencing traditional Polynesian structures, or hale, two 15-story towers flank the main lobby building, called Makaala, which means "the beginning of a path." 






Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Spotlight - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® first opened August 29, 2011 in the Ko Olina resort area on the leeward coast of Oahu, Hawaii.  Inspired by the natural beauty, culture and traditions of Hawai’i, this beautiful resort was designed with families in mind.  Sharing a secluded lagoon with the JW Marriott resort, and another future-resort that is still to be developed, Aulani is situated on 21 acres of oceanfront property, with spectacular views.
The Lobby, with Makahiki & the 'Olelo Room below

The resort is comprised of both traditional hotel accommodations and Disney Vacation Club timeshare villas. There are 359 hotel rooms, including 16 suites, and 460 villas comprised of deluxe studios, one and two bedroom villas, and 21 three bedroom Grand Villas (18 of which directly overlook the ocean).

From the 10th Floor, looking out to the ocean
The resort towers surround the Waikalohe Valley, which comprises the various water and recreational amenities.  These amenities include:
 Waikalohe Stream – an exhilarating yet refreshing waterway meandering throughout the Waikalohe Valley.
  • Menehune Bridge – an interactive water play area which features interactive water elements, 3 slides and a climbing structure
  • Two sparkling pools & four unique hot tubs
  • Two waterslides, Tubestone Curl – an inner tube slide for 1 or 2 guests at a time, and Volcanic Vertical – a single rider body slide
  • Rainbow Reef – a snorkeling experience at the largest inland snorkeling reef on the island (this is a fee-based activity)
  • Makai Preserve – a conservation lagoon where guests can interact with stingrays and other marine life (this is a fee-based  activity)
  • Pau Hana Room – video gaming, foosball, board games, storytelling, TV viewing area and arts & crafts (some but not all activities are fee-based)
  • Aunty’s Beach House – this fun-filled destination for the kids is a place of discovery, magic and exploration where kids can learn about the Hawaiian culture while they play.  Supervised playtime at Aunty’s Beach House allows mom and dad the opportunity to spend some adult time on the beach, at a romantic dinner or any other excursions of their choice.
  • Located directly across the street from the resort, is the Ko Olina Golf Club, and discounted greens fees are available for resort guests.

Riding the Waikalohe Stream

Menehune Bridge


One of four distinctive hot tubs
The resort features several unique places to wine and dine.  These include: 

  • ’Ama ‘Ama, a table-service restaurant offers spectacular ocean-front views for breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Seafood is plentiful on the menu, along with traditional Hawaiian specialities.
  • Makahiki, offers an all-you-care-to enjoy breakfast and dinner buffet, and features a character breakfast, Aunty’s Character Breakfast at the Makahiki, currently offered on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.  The food selection includes a generous mix of Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese fare.
  • One Paddle, Two Paddle, is a counter-service location with a variety of delightful Hawaiian dishes, fresh made sandwiches and wraps.
  • Off the Hook is a colorful, pool and beachside lounge designed after a Hawaiian fisherman’s seaside shack, and features libations and appetizers.
  • The ‘Olelo Room is a pub-like gathering place where visitors can learn a variety of Hawaiian words while enjoying favorite cocktails.
  • The Lava Shack is located in the heart of the Waikalohe Valley, and features cold fried chicken, cured meats & cheeses and other grab & go snacks.

The view from 'Ama 'Ama
The parade during Aunty's Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki


For guests looking for relaxing spa treatments - no worries, the Laniwai Spa offers unique, blissful, customized treatments, and includes the only outdoor hydrotherapy garden in Hawaii. Additionally, for the teens, Aulani offers the only Teen Spa in Hawaii - Painted Sky - which offers special treatments and options just for teens.


For the adventurist looking to augment their beach vacation with some really neat, self-guided Hawaiian “local color” -  Aulani is not far from many fun, exciting, and enjoyable destinations around Oahu. In the mood for a Dole Whip?  The Dole Plantation is just 30 minutes away.  Want to catch some waves or go surfing on some of the best beaches in the world, the North Shore, home of famed surfing competitions is just 45 minutes away.  Looking for the stereotypical Hawaiian tour? The famed beaches and experiences at Waikiki are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Hiking to the top of Diamond Head, or through a rainforest?  Both are just about an hour’s drive from the resort.  Of course the island is also home to numerous historic sites, significant in how the world changed so dramatically one December morning in 1941. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is only about 20 minutes from Aulani, and is a must-see for so many different reasons.  This very moving site includes the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin, the USS Missouri, the USS Oklahoma Memorial and the USS Utah Memorial – plus a handful of Exhibit Galleries, Museums, artifacts and a 23-minute film discussing the attacks on Pearl Harbor that December morning.

For those guests looking to enjoy different aspects of Hawaii but choose to do so on guided excursions,  you won’t be disappointed!  Just as cruise ships offer a plethora of land excursions on “port days” – Aulani provides similar opportunities for its’ guests as well.  The range of offerings can change from time to time, but currently there are about 14 different excursions. Each day there are 1 or 2 different guided tours and experiences for guests to select from. Costs range from about $50 per adult up to about $400 per adult. These excursions can be reserved in advance on Aulani’s website, or in person at the Holoholo Desk just to the left of the Lobby.  Excursion possibilities include learning to surf, riding horseback through lush valleys, hiking in the rainforest, setting sail on a catamaran or kayak along protected islets, cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, island hopping to explore volcanoes and so much more. 

Were Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa® to be located at the Walt Disney World® Resort, it would be considered a Deluxe level.  Transportation to and from the resort is not provided.  Guests can arrange for their choice of rental car, shuttle, taxi or limo service.  Rental Cars are highly recommended for a variety of self-guided excursions, grocery shopping (for villas guests) and other local visits away from the resort.  

Looking at the resort from the ocean side of the Lagoon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Character Interactions at Aulani

Character interactions are as much a part of the "Disney Experience" as rides and attractions at the various theme parks around the globe.  Here at Aulani, the total number of interactions is lower than at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, and the character selection is certainly smaller - but those characters who are here on vacation at Aulani - are such a huge part of what makes Aulani a Disney resort.  While I've been at Aulani I have personally interacted with several characters as seen here:





My brother, who lives in Honolulu, came over to Aulani for a visit and tour yesterday.  It was cool to hang with him, and show him around the resort.  He came over and saw some of the construction progress for me, but hasn't been over here since it opened.  We enjoyed lunch together at 'Ama 'Ama, and then, even though he was embarrassed, I made sure we got our picture with the Goof!  He said repeatedly he was "too old for that kind of thing", but I didn't care, because I'm NOT too old, and neither is he. (We haven't had a picture taken together with a character since we were around 9 & 12 respectively!  Being the "pesky younger brother", it was cool to embarrass him once again like I did many years ago!)



Other characters are here, but I didn't get the opportunity to interact with them.  Mainly Chip & Dale, Donald Duck (I did see him, just from a distance), and I'm told Lilo makes appearances as well.  No princesses or other characters - but that's okay, since they wouldn't really fit in within the environment of Aulani anyway.  

Aulani - More Images

Here are a few more images from Aulani.  This stand-alone Disney resort is filled with beautiful vistas.  The resort itself has some positives and negatives, but overall is a very nice resort that can provide memorable vacations for all types of families. 

These fun lamps are available for purchase in Kalepa's Store down in the Lobby.  They're "only" $200 - and shipping is available.  I wish I had $200 to spare for one, because it sure would look nice in my home office.  Hopefully the next time I come to Aulani they'll still be selling them.


This is the view from 'Ama 'Ama, one of three restaurants on property - this one specifically is the table service restaurant that is not a buffet. 



Aulani features two waterslides in Waikalohe Valley.  My favorite is Tubestone Curl - I think I rode it seven times today. 



The DVC side of Aulani, as seen from within the Waikalohe Stream.



Minnie is one of several characters to meet & greet their adoring fans at Aulani.  Today I saw Mickey, Donald & Goofy, in addition to Minnie. 


The Lobby area, as seen from the Waikalohe Stream.



Inside the cave along Waikalohe Stream. 


The Porte Cachere, very similar to those found at Walt Disney World resorts.  To the far left, where Magical Express buses pick up & drop off guests at Walt Disney World - here at Aulani buses & shuttles come and pick up & drop off guests from the various off-site excursions.  I enjoyed a wonderful excursion to the Kualoa Ranch yesterday, for a day filled with water sports & horseback riding through a beautiful ranch & valley - which is home to many, many movie & television shoots as the ranch is one of the busiest movie production sites in the state of Hawaii.


The view from the upper level of the "waterfall" hot tub. 



The Menehune Bridge is a fun-filled water play area good for kids and adults alike. 


Just after sunset, while standing on the promontory by the edge of the lagoon.  


Just before dinner at Makahiki, located below the Lobby, I snapped this shot of the Lobby building.  Makahiki is a buffet restaurant, serving a delectable selection of Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese dishes.   






Friday, January 27, 2012

Aulani – How “Disney” Is It?

Much has been said and written online over the years about Disney’s “off-site” resorts in Vero Beach and Hilton Head Island, and how they aren’t “Disney enough”; especially considering the fact that neither are close to any Disney theme park – at least not close when you compare them to the resorts at Walt Disney World or DisneylandDisney’s Vero Beach Resort is two hours +/- from Walt Disney World, and of course Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is two states away from Walt Disney World.  Though both resorts do have rooms for rent to anyone who’d like to pay to stay, both were built as Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties, with the majority of the resorts held for use by DVC members. Given the length of time they took to “sell out” to DVC members, many in the online Disney community (especially on a certain DVC related board that I read and frequent often), consider both Vero Beach and Hilton Head to be virtual failures.  It’s no wonder it took Disney nearly 12 years to first announce another off-site resort.

When Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa was first announced, the blogosphere began lighting up with questions about the viability of such a resort – especially being in Hawaii, a mere ocean away from any Disney theme park.  Would the fact that it would be a combined traditional hotel / DVC resort give it better chances than the original two off-site resorts? What kinds of things would need to be done in order to provide guests with an authentic “Disney” experience, given the nearest Disney theme park is roughly 4,000 miles away – across an ocean, not just mere states this time. 

Among the many questions that I would often read online – questions such as:

  • “Oahu is not our favorite island in Hawaii… is there enough to do to support a week’s stay at Aulani?”
  • “How can Disney NOT repeat past mistakes made at Vero Beach & Hilton Head?”
  • “How ‘Disney’ will it really be?”
  • “Ko Olina is so far from Waikiki – will people really want to stay so far away?”


As the grand opening got closer last summer, the PR machine of Disney got into overdrive in order to make sure people would be aware of answers to each of these questions, or at least give enough of a teaser-type response that would encourage further research for the potential guest to figure it out for themselves, ensuring that they would indeed want to make a trek to the leeward side of the island of Oahu – and stay for a while.

In preparation for my own stay at Aulani this week, I reviewed a lot of information both online, and in the various travel resources that are available to me directly from Disney.  I was both excited and curious to see the “Disney touches” for myself.   And after having been here for a couple of days already, I will happily report that the resort is “Disney” enough.  It is not overbearing to the point of basically hitting you over the head with its’ “Disney-ness”, but it is filled with charming details like you will find at any other Disney resort at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  Over the next few days / week, I plan to take each of the questions listed above and provide some straight forward, honest replies.  I will of course sprinkle opinions in here as well, but hopefully the information given will provide you the reader, the opportunity to make a better informed decision as to not IF you would like to visit Aulani – but WHEN. 

Just what kind of details, you ask, I’m sure… well, here are but a few that I both a) had previous knowledge to, and b) discovered for myself as a guest. These are in no particular order, and are both a and b responses intermingled together:

  • Character Dining – yes, there is a character Breakfast at Makahiki on the first floor of the resort.  It is currently offered Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday mornings.  Whether or not it is expanded to additional mornings remains to be seen, but so far, this has been a popular offering at Aulani.
  • Character Meet & Greets – they are available here.  I’ve personally seen Mickey, Minnie, & Goofy, and have been told that Chip & Dale, and even Lilo & Stitch are here.  Others may make appearances from time to time as well, according to various Cast Members with whom I spoke during my stay.
  • Disney’s PhotoPass – yep, it’s available here for those guests wishing to capture their favorite memories, and of course they are at the ready during those character interactions.
  • Hidden Mickeys – like any other resort, these abound throughout Aulani, though many of them have a bit of a stylized, Hawaiian flare to them.  There are many of the traditional 3 circle heads to be found, but many others as well that say Mickey in a more subdued manner.
  • Mickey Premium Bars – yep, you can get your Premium Bar fix while here.  These delicious treats are available at Kalepa’s Store on the third floor (Lobby level). My personal favorite - Itzakadoozie - is available at Aulani too!  Yummy! 
  • Refillable Resort Mugs – yep, they have those here as well, with three different refill stations.
  • Pool-side fun – for those of you who love to spend time at the pools at Walt Disney World, and are very accustomed to the games, dance contests and the like that the lifeguards put on – those are here too!
  • Music – like so many Disney attractions, movies, theme parks and yes, resorts – Aulani is filled with distinctive music to help set the tone for the entire experience.  In the lobby, hallways, restaurants, and even outside in the Waikolohe Valley water play complex – music plays an integral part of the story unfolding before the guest throughout the resort.  Whether it is simply background enhancements, or live performances on various stages throughout the resort, music comes alive throughout the day and night at Aulani, helping to fully immerse the guests into the environment of the resort.
  • Night-time Movies – these aren’t shown poolside here at Aulani – but they do have them, at least 3 times per week.
  • Night-time Storytelling & Campfires – just like you might find at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and other resorts – they have those here as well.
  • Theming – Disney is very well known for its immersive environments and thematic elements in both theme parks and resorts.  Each successive resort designed and built in the past couple of decades have really underscored this reality, as the imagineers continue to surround guests with a near total immersive quality.  Personally I believe that Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland accomplish this feat in remarkable ways.  Aulani takes the lessons learned from those resorts and goes even further.  The imagineers delivered a resort hotel that is rich in thematic elements that not only play tribute to the Hawaiian culture, but rather completely embrace it.  Aulani is not just another sterile, white, box-like hotel lining the beaches of Waikiki – but rather plays tribute to so many aspects of native Hawaiian culture. 
  • Hidden Details – one of the really fun details that I discovered while here, are some of the many hidden details.  I’d heard a lot about all of the hidden Menehune scattered around the resort, which play to the Hawaiian folklore, but I didn’t know that just as there are carved animals all over the “Tree of Life” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – there are hidden carved animals all throughout the Waikolohe Stream (the lazy river).   Creatures great and small common to the Hawaiian Islands and Pacific Ocean can be found in the rockwork all around the stream.  You’ll definitely want to search them out while enjoying the quiet, relaxing, fun of this lazy river, which in my mind, is nearly as fun and enjoyable as the lazy rivers at both Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach water parks.
  • Excellent Children’s Programming – available through Aunty’s Beach House, there is just a plethora of activities for the little ones to the bigger ones, and not just via the paid childcare program either.  From scavenger hunts, to animal husbandry activities to parties with Chip & Dale – Disney has once again placed great emphasis on making sure the younger set has exciting, fun-filled things to do while mom & dad enjoy some couple time – or things to do with mom & dad as a family. 
  • Activities for Tweens & Teens – Disney also provides an abundance of activities, events, and fun for the older kids as well. 
  • Excurisions – since there are no theme parks to hop on a bus and visit – Disney has teamed up with Adventures by Disney to create some very enjoyable, unique and fun-filled day excursions (just as if you were on a cruise vacation stopping in port for the day) to other parts of Oahu, or even to other islands within Hawaii.  Each week there are day-specific excursions, such as horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch, or the Manoa Valley Rainforest Hike, or the Honolulu Academy of Arts/Bishop Museum experience.  These are but a few of the numerous offerings available.   Or you could simply create your own excursions – to places like Diamond Head, or the Dole Plantation (and get a Dole Whip!), the North Shore, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, and so many more – the opportunities abound.

So, in a nutshell, is Aulani “Disney” enough?  My response to that question is a resounding YES.  There are plenty of Disney touches throughout the resort, giving each guest that Disney “fix”.  For a beach vacation that gives guests both the opportunity to simply relax and enjoy the beach – while still providing ample opportunities to get out, explore and play - I would recommend Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in a heartbeat.  It's Disney "enough" for me!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Aulani - Images

Aloha!  I spent some time wandering the resort yesterday before heading off to explore the island.  I'll write about the excursions themselves soon.  For now, here are a few images from around the resort.


In Waikolohe Valley, this volcanic uprising is home to two waterslides.  One a regular, "sit down" kind, and the other an inner tube kind.
  

Like any other Disney resort, Mickey can be found in various places throughout the resort.  Though he is not the dominant presence at Aulani, he is definitely all over in different ways.



Throughout the resort, the distintive Aulani logo can be found.  Here is is part of a carpet in the lobby.


The Lobby level is actually the 3rd floor of the resort.  This staircase takes guests down to the 1st floor and Makahiki, which is one of three restaurants located on-site.  Makahiki is a buffet-style restaurant located right at the bottom of these stairs, and currently features  a character breakfast Wednesdays, Saturdays & Sundays.  It includes a nice patio seating area at the beginning of Waikolohe Valley. Just to the left of Makahiki's entrance is The O'lelo Room, which is a very attractively designed bar, filled with ways to learn Hawaiian.  I'll be sure to post pictures of it later.

 

Other mischieveous sorts can be found scattered around the resort!



This view is looking from the check-in desk at 'Ama'Ama, another table service restaurant at the resort.  It is beach-side, and the view from the dining room is fantastic.  Like other indoor public spaces in the resort, 'Ama'Ama features movable glass walls that can be opened or closed as weather dictates. 



Here we see the access point to the beach.  Disney does not have exclusive use of the lagoon's beach, it is shared with the neighboring JW Marriott Ko Olina on the north, and an as-yet-to-be-determined neighbor to the south.  Like is found at Disney's Vero Beach Resort in Florida, your room key will secure access back in to the resort when finished using the beach facilities.  Lounge chairs abound on the white sandy beach. 



There are 5 different hot tubs on the grounds, at least that's what I've seen so far, if there's another one, I'll find it soon enough.  This is my favorite though.  It is down very close to the beach access, and has two levels to it.  Both have an "infinity edge", whereby it appears that the water creates a horizon and just disappears.  These two are some of the largest hot tubs of any within the Disney Resort family.



Just another day out on the beach.  Here I was standing down near the beach.



Here we see part of the Menehune Bridge water play area. It is very much like Uwanja Camp at Kidani Village, there at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida - lots of fun, lots of interactivity... and a few surprises thrown in here and there. Currently, it is open from 8am-6pm, though I'm guessing in the summer it might stay open longer?  I'm not sure.  



A nice feature for all first floor rooms is that they are numbered on the outside, as well as the inside.  Plus they have direct access from the lanai to the Waikolohe Valley via stepping stone paths.



A stylized hidden Mickey in the hallway carpeting. 



Well that's it for now.  I have hundreds of pictures to go through and I will be writing up a report of this visit, including impressions, thoughts, tips and other information. It's coming - really it is.  But for now I must run and get ready to head out for breakfast, and then an excursion to the Kualoa Ranch today for some horseback riding & swimming on a private beach.  Kualoa Ranch was used to film Jurassic Park, LOST and other things.  It is one of the numerous excursions available through the Holoholo Desk at the resort.  


So for now, I'll say a hui hou - til we meet again.