Full Review of Disney’s Aulani Resort in Oahu, Hawaii

Full Review of Disney's Aulani Resort in Oahu, Hawaii

Picture this:  a gentle sea breeze, beautiful palm trees dotting the Hawaiian landscape, and a calm ocean in front of a massive, beautifully designed resort.  This is Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina,  Oahu, Hawaii.  We had the pleasure of staying here when we visited Oahu.  Read on for our full review.

Where is Aulani?

The Aulani resort is located on the western side of Oahu, in the town of Ko Olina.  Located approximately 20 miles from the Honolulu airport (HNL), this area of Oahu is quiet and peaceful, quite different from the hustle and bustle of the city of Honolulu.  

An Overview of the Resort

The Aulani Resort & Spa is an all encompassing resort with a variety of room options ranging from standard rooms to 3-bedroom villas, several dining venues, and plenty of things to do for the entire family.

The resort is set on beautifully manicured grounds with palm trees and all sorts of incredible Hawaiian flowers and plants throughout.

The beautiful plants and flowers of Aulani

Aulani’s beach has a man-made cove, keeping swimmers safe from big waves and even sharks!  Its calm waters are especially perfect for children.

The beautiful beach of Aulani

There is a walking path that runs right in front of the resort, heading south towards Ko Olina Beach Park and north along the front of the Four Seasons.  It’s great for walking or running, especially in the early morning hours before the sun’s intensity ramps up.

The path, which runs in front of Aulani

Our Experience

We stayed at Aulani Resort & Spa for five nights.  We loved every minute here!

The Main Lobby

Our Room

We had a one-bedroom villa, which included a bedroom with a king bed and a living room with a queen sized pull out sofa bed and a Murphy bed.  The villa also features a full bathroom, full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a large balcony.  This space was perfect for the five of us.

Our one-bedroom villa

There are larger villas available, which is great if staying with larger groups.  Standard rooms are also available.  You do pay a premium to stay here, so the cost will be much more than a “typical” room of the same size at another hotel or resort.  We share our opinion at the end if we think the cost of staying here is worth it.

Dining at Aulani

Here are our experiences dining at Aulani:

Ulu Cafe

We dined here most mornings, getting grab-and-go breakfast and coffee.  We also stopped in for snacks periodically and this is where we bought reusable cups at the beginning of the trip to refill with water and soda.  9/10 for variety and quality of food.

Off the Hook

We had a great lunch here, sitting outside.  My salad was plentiful and delicious! 

Dining at Off the Hook

This is a very convenient restaurant as it is located right by the pool area and lazy river.  10/10 for great service and yummy food and drinks.

Cheers at Off the Hook

Mama’s Snack Stop

Serving up fare such as chicken tenders and fries, this is a great quick option if you can’t pull yourself away from the lounge chair!  8/10.

Mama’s Snack Shack & Papalua’s Shave Ice

Papalua Shave Ice

The kids got shave ice beachside daily.  Be sure to snap your pic before the Mickey Ears melt!  7/10, the kids said other shaved ice places elsewhere on the island were much better.

Little Opihi’s Beachside Kiosk

This was another almost daily stop.  Serving up the famous Dole Whips, we indulged frequently.  Little Opihi’s also serves alcoholic drinks, perfect for a drink while at the beach or pool.  10/10, the Dole whips are amazing!

We enjoyed many Dole Whips!

The Pools and Lazy River

Aulani feature three main pools:  The Ka Maka Grotto, an infinity pool that overlooks the beach and ocean.  This is a popular spot to watch the sunset.  The Waikolohe Pool is the biggest one at Aulani, with the water slide, Volcanic Vertical, plunging into it.  The Wailana Pool is another awesome pool, close to the bar area.

Waikolohe Stream, the lazy river

A must while at Aulani is to sit back and relax…on an inner tube!  Aulani’s lazy river, Waikolohe Stream, has a gentle current that slowly carries you along.  For a fun “twist” on the lazy river, try Tubestone Curl, another water slide that ends in the lazy river!

View of Waikolohe Stream from a bridge

There are four whirlpools located around Aulani resort.  The one located at ‘Alohi Point is for guests 18 and older.

Rainbow Reef

There couldn’t be a safer place to snorkel in all of Hawaii!  A 3,800 gallon saltwater lagoon is teeming with tropical fish.  This is the perfect place for little ones to snorkel, or even those new to snorkeling.  

Rainbow Reef

Underwater Explorers

Aulani offers a program for non-certified scuba divers to try their hand at scuba diving.  Guests will swim alongside fish while learning scuba diving skills.  Here is the link with current hours and cost.

The Beach

The beach in front of Aulani is wonderful.  A wide, arching stretch of sand with plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas makes for a great day at the beach.  The best part is that there is a breakwall which keeps the cove safe – no sharks in these waters!  And no wild waves.  This is the perfect place for young children.  We all had a great time swimming here.  

The beach at sunrise

The beach at sunset

 

The Ka Wa’a Lū’au

Aulani hosts the Ka Wa’a Luau on the Halawai Lawn, which focuses on traditional Hawaiian storytelling with a little bit of Disney mixed in.  The luau is family-friendly and entertaining to all ages.

You will need to purchase your tickets ahead of time online, which you can do here

To start, we lined up at our designated time.  Guests have the option of preferred seating vs. regular seating.  We opted for regular seating because I was fine with sitting further back from the stage for $29 less per ticket.  From where we were seated, we still had a great view and were closer to the buffet anyway!

Tables set up at the luau

Before the show began, we had time to wander the lawn, checking out games, having our photo taken, and getting a drink of choice.  Once guests were all seated, the buffet line began.  The food was plentiful and delicious.  I especially appreciated the ingredient cards they had out in front of each item, great if one has dietary restrictions.

Delicious buffet meal | Ingredient cards

The luau was fantastic.  Yes Mickey Mouse made an appearance but the focus remained on the story of aboriginal peoples coming to Ko Olina’s shores, via canoe (Wa’a).  The dancing, storytelling, music, and fire dancers were so entertaining!  I was unsure if this would be too “Disneyfied”, as I really wanted an authentic experience.  However, we all agreed it was fantastic.  The positive Disney touches were the quality of service and how well run everything was.  The luau itself was very respectful and educational.  We highly recommend the Ka Wa’a Luau!

A well-rounded and entertaining luau

Other Amenities

The Aulani Resort has a very nice fitness center complete with free weights and cardio machines. 

The fitness center

Next door to the fitness center is the Lanawai Spa, located in the same building, the Waianae Tower.

The Lanawai Spa

The on site shop, Kapela’s, features Disney merchandise, sundries, and more.  It is located just off the lobby.  

Aunty’s Beach House is the kids club on site for kids ages 4-12.  While most activities are complimentary, some experiences cost extra.  Click here to be taken to the site to register and for more information.  

In the evening, once the sun sets, sit back by the fire and listen to Uncle tell stories at the Mo’olelo Fire Pit.

There are several other activities on site, including an adventure trail, crafts, and stargazing.  Be sure to check the daily ‘Iwa for times and costs of activities each day.

The on-site car rental facility is another great amenity.  I rented a vehicle here and it was a very easy process.  I reserved the vehicle ahead of time and then got in line to pick up my rental at 7:40 am (the office opens at 8).  I was already fifth in line, so if you need your car early, be in line very early!  Other than the wait, it was easy to get my paperwork done and get our wheels to explore the island for a couple of days.  

Nearby

We go into this in more detail in our full Oahu itinerary and guide, however I want to mention it here as well as it is part of the wonderful experience of staying at Aulani.  Across the street from Aulani resort is the Ko Olina Center, which includes a few shops and restaurants. 

The convenient Ko Olina Center, across the street from Aulani

We dined at Monkeypod – which we love!  We also grabbed some provisions at Island Market which has a great selection of items such as fresh fruit, cheeses, alcohol, drinks, and souvenirs.

What did we not like?

A proper review should also include things that we would change or things we did not like.  I had to think hard on this one and I actually don’t have anything to add to this!  Aulani is an absolutely beautiful resort with plenty to do for the entire family.  We found all of our meals to be great and properly priced for the quality.  Our room was spacious and with awesome amenities.  The beach was perfect for small children and families.  The area of Ko Olina is beautiful and peaceful.  The only drawback is the cost.  Yes Aulani is expensive.  However, I believe the cost is justified.  You get Disney level service in a beautiful Hawaiian setting.  Aulani is absolutely wonderful!

Read more!

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