Some of you already know that I (Emily) visited Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii earlier this year – such an incredible trip! Julie and her family weren’t able to make it this time, but we’ll for SURE be planning a future Aulani adventure with the whole MKM crew! 🙂
We didn’t have a website when we went to Aulani a couple months back, so I overgrammed the heck out of the trip! Ha! Now that we have our site and blog, I thought it’d be a good idea to share our experience here so we can get into more detail and post a few more photos.
Aulani is truly something special! I am so happy to have been able to experience the magic everyone raves about! I’m no expert on this place, but my family and I did everything we wanted to do during the 3 days we were there, so I’ve got lots to share! One question we received quite a few times is how much Disney is at Aulani. We felt like there was the perfect balance of Disney and Hawaiian culture. Whether you’re a Disney fanatic or not, the resort has something for everyone – not too overpowering in the Disney department (although we would never complain if there was too much Disney)!
Booking your trip
Before you book a trip to Aulani, we recommend checking their site for special offers and vacation packages! It’s no question that Disney vacations aren’t cheap (we are fully aware of this and had to save and save to be able to make this trip happen), so we are always looking for the discounts! We were lucky enough to take advantage of an Annual Pass holder deal the resort was running for a limited time.
Aulani offers SO many activities for all ages! The best way to find out what will be happening while you’re visiting (activities change daily) is to pick up a “Daily ‘Iwa” (pictured below) at the front desk everyday of your stay OR check out the Daily ‘Iwa here on Aulani’s site. If you see activities that require pre-registration at the Pau Hana Community Center, we recommend doing so first thing in the morning!
The Daily ‘Iwa
Photos from right when we walked in the main entrance to the resort. BEAUTIFUL!
We received the warmest welcome with fresh orange water and leis!
The lobby offers this fun seating area for the littles (just like they do at most Disney Resort Hotels)! Such a great distraction for kids while parents get checked in, discuss plans with concierge, etc!
Loved the in-room Hawaiian/Disney details!
Strollers, Cribs and Packing
We chose not to bring a stroller with us just because it was one less thing to manage while traveling. We honestly never felt like we really needed one while we were there! If you did want to have a stroller with you, we recommend renting one from Baby Aboard! They will drop-off and pick-up your stroller rental, just like City Stroller Rentals in Anaheim! You can contact Baby Aboard at (808) 393-7612 or check out their website for more information. A carrier is a good item to bring if you have a babe or toddler who likes to be carried. I brought an Ergo for Reagan, but he’s gigantic (haha), so I didn’t use it much.
All of Aulani’s rooms come with a complimentary Pack ‘N Play – ours was totally clean and perfect for Reagan!
We packed light! We were primarily in swim suits, so we didn’t feel the need to overpack clothes (a couple shorts, dresses, tanks and 2 pairs of sandals for me). I was able to fit everything of mine AND Reagan’s in one carry-on suitcase! I felt proud of myself for that. HA! I also brought one backpack for myself and one for Reagan’s treasures (toys, etc). We always had a backpack with us at our lounge chair filled with the pool essentials (sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, etc).
One thing we’ve done a few times before when traveling is purchased diapers/swim diapers at a local grocery store instead of bringing a bunch with us. We were able to fit all the diapers in our bags this time since we only stayed 3 days, but if you plan to stay longer, purchasing at a store might be a good option. You can purchase ALL beach essentials at Aulani if needed!
Our Favorite Aulani Fun & Entertainment
1. Fireside stories with Uncle and Moana!
2. Toddler Time Splash & Play at the beach – 30 minutes of toddler activities! We dug for treasure buried by the Menehune (each child gets to take home their treasure AKA fish squirt toys), tossed a soccer ball and built sand castles. Pre-registration is required at Pau Hana Community Center.
3. Fish Feeding at Rainbow Reef – Reagan was OBSESSED with Rainbow Reef – we would stop every time we passed the reef window so he could say Hi to Dory and Nemo!
4. Aloha with Disney Friends at Lanawai Lawn – kids learn about surfboards & how to surf with Chip ‘n Dale!
5. Character Breakfast at Makahiki (lunch & dinner character dining also available)
Character Breakfast price for adults is $37.00 and $18.00 for kids ages 3-9.
Character Dining for Dinner on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings – “Menehune Mischief” with Uncle. Price for adults is $49.00 and $24.00 for kids ages 3-9. The dinner show is from 5:15 to 6:00 PM. Seating starts at 4:30 PM and photos start at 4:45 PM.
You can make reservations for these experiences online or by calling (808) 674-6200.
Aunty strolls around to each table at breakfast and sings, then invites kiddos up to help make music with an instrument while dancing in a line around the restaurant with Minnie!
The food was delish! Check out that Iron Man red velvet waffle! This plate doesn’t do the buffet justice. The selection of foods is impressive!
Loved these banana dolphins!
5. Shake-A-Shaka Pool Party at Waikolohe Pool – visits from Disney characters, dancing, & games.
6. Pau Hana Community Hall – board games, video games crafts, & movies! You can even rent DVD’s to take back to your room! Adult supervision required for guests ages 11 & under.
7. Ohana movie nights at the Hālāwai Lawn – we were lucky enough to watch The Jungle Book from our balcony! Pre-show activities include Hawaiian games & Disney movie trivia!
This is not the greatest photo, but I wanted to show how we could see the movie screen from our “garden view” room balcony! It was awesome.
8. Ka W’aa – A Lūau at the Hālāwai Lawn – We were also able to watch this from our balcony! This doesn’t happen every night, so be sure to check the Daily ‘Iwa. Price is $119 per person and includes 3 hours of entertainment, an amazing spread of food (we saw it all) & pre-show activities. Seats are assigned when you arrive, so arrive early for the best spots. Non-resort guests can join with 4 hours of validated self-parking! Call 808-674-6320 for reservations.
The Lūau from our “garden view” room balcony! It was pretty amazing to experience this and not have to pay $119. Sure, we missed out on the incredible spread of food, but we were able to sit in the comfort of our Aulani robes and put Reagan to bed while we enjoyed the show! Ha!
9. The Lagoon – Complimentary boogie boards, sand toys and umbrellas are available at Makiki Joe’s located along the beach walkway.
Favorite straw hat from Brixton. Shop it here!
10. Pools and water play areas we loved:
Before you enjoy one of the pools or water play areas, be sure to pick up a wrist band (required) everyday of your stay at any Waikolohe Pool Valley towel station. Kāwele Korner and all other towel stations also offer complimentary life vests!
- Waikolohe Stream AKA the Lazy River – AMAZING.
- Keiki Cove – splash pad – the perfect place for toddlers and babes to splash around.
- Menehune Bridge – kiddo water play area with bridges, slides, and more.
- Waikolohe Pool -family pool for all ages.
- Ka Maka Grotto – family infinity pool overlooking Ko Olina Beach! Definitely stop by after dark to see all the twinkling lights!
Wristbands are required to swim in Aulani pools and water play areas. These were also more than just a wristband…HA! It’s kind of a “thing” when you’re at Aulani to let your wristbands pile up (no clue…we just went with it)! It was fun to see what color we were going to get each day!
11. Character Meet and Greets
We felt like we were missing something walking up to characters with bare feet and in our swim suits! Haha! Definitely not the Disneyland way, but we loved it! You can find out about daily character appearances by calling the Toonfinder at Ext 2447 or 2427 from 8 AM – 8 PM daily from your hotel room phone! You can also head to the front desk for assistance & information on when and where to find characters.
12. The path to Paradise Cove
We thoroughly enjoyed our stroll down the walking path from Aulani to Paradise Cove! Everyone kept telling us to go, so we made sure to fit it in on our last morning at the resort. Paradise Cove is where the sea turtles are, but unfortunately, we didn’t catch any. 🙁 Either way, it’s definitely worth checking out! The walk is about 15 minutes down a paved pathway – easy peasy & so beautiful! Also, we loved the big grassy areas along the way for Reagan to get all his 2 year old energy out!
Food is the most exciting part for me when I’m on vacation! We made sure to sample all of the food items that people recommended we try!
Mama’s Snack Stop
Coconut Shrimp with Fries and a Kalūa Pork Hot Dog with Pineapple Relish from Mama’s Snack Stop. WOW and WOW. This was one of our favorite meals! Mama’s Snack Stop is a quick-service spot and the best part is, you can just stroll up to the order window with your swim suit on and take it back to your lounge chair to enjoy. YES PLEASE.
Papalua Shave Ice
MICKEY SHAVE ICE FROM PAPALUA SHAVE ICE STAND (all caps is necessary here because this treat made my whole vacation)! SO GOOD. The flavors pictured are mango, strawberry and guava (topped with sweetened condensed milk, of course), but the flavor list was EXTENSIVE which made it hard to choose! Don’t worry though, we definitely had this every day of our stay, so we were able to try out different combos!
Papalua Shave Ice Prices & Options:
- ‘ekahi – shave ice with 3 flavors – $4.00
- ‘elua shave ice with 3 flavors – Sweetened Condensed Milk Topping – $4.50
- ‘ekolu – shave ice with 3 flavors plus 1 scoop of ice cream – $5.00
- ‘ehã – shave ice with 3 flavors plus one scoop of ice cream and sweetened condensed milk topping – $5.50
- Add Mickey ears for $1.00 (worth every penny haha!)
It wouldn’t be Hawaii or Disney without DOLE WHIP! This was a HUGE portion from Ulu Cafe (also at Little Opihi’s on the beach) for around $5.00. It’s definitely a bigger portion than what they’re serving up at Disneyland! Also, you can get your pineapple soft serve swirled with vanilla soft serve, but they were out of vanilla the day we ordered this, so we didn’t get to try it! And for those who have been to Aulani, Dole Whip is NO longer self-serve at the Lava Shack! So sad!
Breakfast from Ulu Cafe. When we booked our trip, we were lucky enough to take advantage of an Annual Passholder deal the resort was running, which included a meal EACH day of our stay at the Ulu Cafe! We have NO complaints about this restaurant! We had heard mixed reviews, but all of our food was good! We thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the patio or taking our food to our lounge chairs to eat.
One of our dinners from Ulu Cafe – very good!
Mickey cranberry scone from the pastry display at Ulu Cafe. THE CUTEST!
Another gem from Ulu Cafe – Mickey Musubi ($4.00)! This was such a delicious snack!
Poolside snacks (nachos and shrimp spring rolls) from Little Opihi’s on the beach – a great quick snack or meal stop.
On the last night of our stay, we enjoyed a meal at ‘Ama ‘Ama. This was most definitely a treat! The food was so, so good and the view of the lagoon from our table was breath-taking!
The faces of two people who are so excited to eat…again (haha all we did was eat)!
View from our table at the restaurant. AMAZING.
Pictured above is our starter salad and french onion soup (look at that blanket of cheese)!
Our main courses! On the left is the Braised Kurobuta Short rib – butter whipped potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Carmelized Baby Carrots and Parsnips & Pork Reduction. On the right is the Keyhole Lobster, Maitake Mushrooms, Fontina-Parmesan Cheese, and Herb-Garlic Crust.
Aulani Refillable Mug
One of our FAVORITE things about Aulani was the Refillable Mug! If you purchase one of the refillable mugs (there are a variety to choose from) for $19.99, you get to enjoy unlimited sodas, tea, coffee and hot chocolate during your entire stay! Say whaaaat?! Yes. It was the BEST. We wish Disneyland had this option!
You can purchase a refillable mug at Ulu Cafe, Kālepa’s Store and Lava Shack. Once you have your mug, all you have to do is walk up to a refill station and fill that baby up!
Refill stations can be found at the following locations:
- Ulu Cafe – Fountain beverages, coffee, tea and cocoa from 6:30 AM to 8:30 PM
- Lava Shack – Fountain beverages from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- One Paddle Two Paddle – Fountain beverages from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
MORE FOOD OPTIONS
We didn’t snap many photos of the ‘Olelo Room, but we really enjoyed sitting on the patio for happy hour and live music! It was so peaceful and the perfect spot for a drink or appetizer.
We had a microwave, refrigerator & sink in our room, which was awesome! There is a grocery store called “Island Country Market” at Ko Olina Resort (really close to Aulani – free shuttle service offered). If we were staying more days, we would have taken advantage of the store, but we wanted to thoroughly enjoy the food offered at Aulani. We did bring a few microwavable macaroni and cheese cups for Reagan which came in handy! Kālepa’s Store at Aulani also has a few basic grocery items.
More Aulani Activities
(we didn’t get to enjoy these, but recommend trying them out)!
Aunty’s Beach House – My son is 2, so we weren’t able to utilize Aunty’s Beach House, but if you have potty trained kids ages 3-12, you can drop them off at this special “kids club” (open 9:30-9:00 PM) and enjoy some quality alone time or a little date/spa time! Aunty’s Beach House offers Counselor lead activities, Disney movies, wii & Sony Play Station, game tables, Hawaiian arts & crafts, a costume closet for kids to play dress-up, an enclosed backyard with a play structure and even visits from Disney characters! You must pre-register your child to participate. Pre-registration forms are on Aulani’s website and can be filled out no more than 90 days in advance, but must be completed at least 2 days before your trip. When you arrive to Aulani, stop by Aunty’s Beach House to complete registration. Lunch & dinner provided for a fee.
There are also 3-hour long Premium Experiences (for a fee) for kids to enjoy! These experiences include “Fish Are Friends” and “Surf’s Up With Chip and Dale!”
Fish are Friends includes lunch and an up-close look at tropical Hawaiian fish at Aulani! Kiddos will get to learn how animal specialists train, feed and care for the marine life at Aulani, prepare fish food and feed the fish. Each child will also receive a souvenir DVD of Disney Nature’s “Oceans” and a “Fish Are Friends” cinch bag.
Surf’s Up With Chip and Dale includes a surf-themed party where kiddos will get to decorate their own wooden mini-surfboard, dine with friends at a themed dinner, dance with Chip and Dale and receive a souvenir cinch bag!
To book these premium experiences at Aunty’s Beach House, just call 808-674-6200.
The Menehune Adventure Trail is a complimentary treasure hunt for all ages! To start, guests must check out an iPad at the Pau Hana community center on the first floor of the Ewa Tower. The iPad will play videos and show clues along the trail. At certain spots, you’ll see scenery come to life when you answer a clue correctly!
Moana Makeover – a costume, hairstyle, manicure/pedicure, and makeup at Laniwai Spa for kids ages 3-10! The spa also offers 3 other makeover options for girls and 2 for boys (for ages 12 and under). Call 808-674-6300 for a reservation.
Baby Sitting Services from Kama‘aina Kids Sitters – if you have a kiddo under 3, and can’t enjoy the benefits of Aunty’s Beach House, you can utilize the Baby Sitting Service from 6:00 AM to midnight everyday for your kids ages 6 weeks to 14 years! Reservations are required and should be made at least 24 hours in advance by calling (808) 372-5992 between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM daily. Be sure to complete the waiver/payment form and fax it to (808) 261-0268 or email it to email@example.com before your visit!
Baby Sitter Rates
Reagan LOVED the Koi pond!
The worst part is always leaving! The good news is, once you checkout, you can leave your bags at the bell service and enjoy the resort for a little longer if you’d like! Once you pick up your bags, you will receive one time access to a room to freshen up/take a shower post-pool! So awesome!
The last photo we snapped before we left. WAH! I sported Reagan’s Dory backpack proudly wherever we went. HA!
I couldn’t leave without getting some treasures at Kālepa’s Store (near the lobby) for my fam! I spent way too much time in this store (so many fun, unique items!), but settled on these cute souvenirs pictured! I got the ears for my niece, the baseball tee for Reagan, the mug for Julie, Donald keychain for my nephew (kids love keychains! Why?! Haha!), the other keychain for our other sister Shelly and the buttons just for fun!
I found these keychains at the Lava Shack! The best part is, engraving is FREE! Character Bracelets are $13, Generic Bracelets are $11, Bag Tags are $13 and Keychains are $13. They have similar bracelets & keychains as the ones at Pioneer Mercantile in Frontierland at Disneyland!
Flying with a Toddler
A display of my flying with a 2 year old life savers! Ha! I am no expert on flying with toddlers, but I did some searching on my best friend, Amazon Prime, and found some great items (with good reviews) that actually worked to keep Reagan happy (for the most part)! I made sure to bring enough items to switch up activities every 15-20 minutes (just like we do when waiting for parades at Disneyland)! That said, see below for the golden items.
- Toy Story Magnetic Fun
- Melissa & Doug Magicoloring Pad with 18 pages & 4 markers (we lost one during our travels) – no marker messes! I brought a few crayons, too.
- Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book – 4 rolls of tape & 20 reusable scenes. There’s something about tape that keeps my son happy & entertained for quite awhile! Even if he wasn’t putting the tape ON the activity book, he was happy peeling it off and sticking it on himself or me!
TARGET PURCHASE – Dory sticker pad from our favorite spot – THE DOLLAR SECTION AT TARGET (felt like that needed to be in all caps because it’s the greatest place ever)!
OTHER – Mickey ear headphones from Cotton On Kids. Unfortunately, they sold out of these on the US site, but hopefully they’ll bring them back! Really any headphones will do! We downloaded a couple favorite movies (including his current favorite Pixar short films, Toy Story of Terror & Tangled Ever After), Pixar shorts (these are awesome for 2 year olds – favorites are Piper, Lava, & Partly Cloudy) TV shows (Disney Junior anything for our kids) & Apps Fruit Ninja, Lego Duplo Train & Lego Duplo Food
We also brought some easily packable & thin paperback books.
A few extra happy photos from our Aulani adventure