Photo courtesy of Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
A Hawaiian fantasyland on Oahu’s more remote leeward coast, about 40 minutes from Waikiki, Aulani is so seductive—for all ages—that many guests are loath to leave the property at all. And who can blame them? The beach is an idyllic cove (albeit a man-made one) stocked with kayaks, boogie boards, and everything else little beach bums could want. Then there are the three pools, including one for adults only and one filled with tropical fish for snorkelers-in-training, two impressive waterslides, and the biggest crowd-pleaser of them all, a 900-foot-long lazy river where guests, big and small, splash around on inner tubes as they meander around a faux-rock grotto. Goofy, Minnie, Mickey, and the rest—all in their vacation outfits—make occasional cameos at the breakfast buffet or by (sometimes, in) the pool. But while Aulani is most assuredly every kid’s dream, it is not every parent’s nightmare. The resort decor is more traditionally Hawaiian than obnoxiously Magic Kingdom; the lobby is built to recall an old canoe house, on a grand scale, and is covered in murals, painted by local artists, depicting island life. Hawaiian storytellers gather around a fire pit at night, and rooms have warm woods, with a single subtle reference to the Mouse King—a wooden carving of Mickey with a surfboard and ukulele that doubles as a desk lamp. Perhaps best of all, the Aulani has an outstanding, supervised kids’ club that’s free to guests ages 3 to 12. Babysitters are available for kids as young as six weeks old.
By Deborah Dunn, AFAR Contributor
Aulani Disney Resort Is Not Just For Kids
I will admit that I was a little apprehensive to stay at what I thought was a kids-centric property. After all it is a Disney Resort. But finally the "kid" curiosity in me won out and I was off to Oahu. If you are not familiar with this ocean-front property in the Ko Olina resort area; it is on the west side of the island not in Waikiki. And the west side is sunny, very sunny; when I was there the temp hovered around 89 degrees F. A swim in the Wailana Pool, a float down the Waikolohe Stream or a snorkel at the Rainbow Reef were just the thing to cool down. There is a lot offered here. And yes there are kids here. They have "Aunty's Beach House" a kids-only day program housed in a place that feels like you stepped back to your tutu's (grandparent) house if you were lucky enough to grow up in Hawaii like I did. There are also plenty of quiet spots where adults can relax. I loved the Olelo Room patio featuring live Hawaiian music by local luminaries in Hawaiian music like Jerry Santos and Tony Conjugacion. This is the real deal folks. And the Mai Tai is really great. The word "olelo" means language and here the servers and bartenders will teach you Hawaiian words for anything you ask. My room had a peaceful ocean view to the west of the coastline towards Nanakuli. I could have remained on the lanai all day looking out but there are restaurants, cultural programs, docent tours, artwork everywhere, a beach to walk, and a spa to explore. Mickey and I have come a long way together from the days of the Mickey Mouse Club on the TV. . Come to Aulani, to relax and re-discover your inner child, adults will love it too.
Laniwai Spa Is Heavenly
There are spas and then there are SPAS. Laniwai is a bit of a dream world within the dream world of Aulani a Disney Resort and Spa, in the dream world of a Hawaiian vacation. Still following me? Good. When your mind and body get wrapped a bit too tight it's best to go somewhere to be restored. My hands-down favorite spa for 2016 is Lanaiwai. I had a Signature Laniwai LomiLomi massage. The spa space is beautiful and the rooms emanate from a central waterscape. Another superb feature is the Spa's outdoor garden called Kula Wai Hydro Therapy Garden with all sorts of water features.There is a system of showers you walk through, and ice and warm pools too, all under the blue sky within this lovely tropical garden. Wes was my therapist and when asked, he kindly shared the philosophy and certainly the healing qualities of the massage. I left renewed and headed for the ocean to dive in and leave my worries there as is a Hawaiian cultural practice. I felt happy and grateful. Highly recommended.
Aulani's 'AMA'AMA Restaurant Shines
I am very jaded when it comes to local food in Hawaii. After all I grew up here eating in the kitchens of my family and friends. I love the modern cuisine in Hawaii post-plantation. The plantations were where people from different countries lived and worked together. They might share a meal or ingredients they grew from seeds brought with them. Soon the Hawaiian islands had a unique mix of Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Puerto Rican food. Subsequently immigrants from other countries came and enlivened the mix of flavor fusion.When a restaurant gets this wrong, it is not good. But 'AMA'AMA gets it so right. Disney Aulani's Executive Chef Jeff Wind is the man who makes the magic happen at all of the restaurants and food outlets on the property. But for me 'AMA'AMA was special. I can admit that I had breakfast there, lunch there twice and a fabulous dinner too. You must try the Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Vanilla Sauce for breakfast, Seafood Poke Bowl at lunch, and the astounding Aulani Seafood Platter.
The Infinity Pool at Aulani
Perfect spot for swimmers to enjoy a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii.
Early morning pool time!!!
We visit Aulani each year around Thanksgiving... it is the perfect time to go. Why? Less crowds, beautiful weather, cheaper flights, cheaper rooms and they make an awesome buffet Thanksgiving Dinner at Makahiki. We meet family there and its one of my favorite trips!!!
By Amber Mamian
92-1185 Ali'inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707, USA