Have you thought about taking your family to Disney Aulani in Hawaii? My husband and I spent a few days soaking in the sun and enjoying all the amenities that the property has to offer and I cannot wait to show you all the wonderful things that are in store for you and your kids.
The Aulani Resort is like no other. Hawaii is a dream all on its own. I think we can all agree on that!! But once you add Disney to the mix, it just makes any vacation that much more special.
From incredible luaus to lazy rivers to thought-provoking contemporary art, the Aulani hotel is one destination that needs to be added on your travel bucket list.
Here are some of my favorite moments spent on the property – there’s so much more that happened! Know this! But for the sake of consolidation (OMG almost 3000 words), I had to narrow it down!!
Time Spent With Moana At Disney Aulani
While Aulani Hawaii isn’t known for an overload of Disney characters, they do have a few roaming around from time to time. Moana is one of them. This naturally makes complete sense and considering Disney is all about storytelling, no one bats an eyelash when Moana suddenly pops out of a bush and starts walking down a path.
But make no mistake, the Aulani resort is not like Disney World. There are no princess meet and greets or long lines for autographs around every corner.
Disney Aulani is more about the culture than it is about the character. But the brand knows children expect a few hugs from their favorites and so… you will be able to find a few famous faces during your stay on property.
And on Hawaii, there is no rush. They are all on island time, after all. I want to tell you a little story about this picture before we get any further into my Aulani review.
My husband and I were walking down the path and saw – way ahead – a little girl embracing her favorite princess. We noted how cute they looked as they hugged on the floor.
But as we edged closer, we realized that Moana was not letting go. She continued to hold the little girl for what felt like a good two minutes. My husband and I were able to make our way completely up the path and found ourselves right in front of the two. And I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.
The neverending hug
Time stood still for everyone around them. A crowd was gathering. People began to snap photos. I took my camera out as well. I began to cry. I didn’t know why at first, but I suppose I realized that it was because I was witnessing pure magic – right in front of my eyes.
The little girl was holding onto a princess and she didn’t want to let go. And the princess wasn’t worried about what she had to do. She was standing right in place and she wouldn’t leave until the little girl was ready.
How absolutely mesmerizing. How beautiful. What a lesson! We should all be this way for our children.
We live in such a rushed society and at that moment – time stood still for all of us. All of us on vacation rushing to our tour, to our pool seats, to dinner.
We all stopped and watched a little girl’s dreams come true and I will never forget. I was practically sobbing by the time it was over. I think it was the best part of the entire trip. And Moana did that. She really is special.
You have a second chance to catch Moana and that is during the Mo‘olelo Fire Pit Storytelling chats. Be sure to check the Daily ‘Iwa or activities guide at the resort to see when and where you can find these great, free events. But do not miss out!
Basically, your children will get to learn a little bit about the history and culture of Hawaii by a roaring fire. SWEET! This event is for everyone and is great for all ages. You do not have to have children to attend this.
I saw plenty of older couples alone participating and enjoying the tales on their own. The Fireside Mo‘olelo is held at a fire pit located between the Waikolohe Valley pool area and AMA‘AMA restaurant, overlooking the beach. You can’t miss it and I hope you don’t.
Moana doesn’t tell all the stories. She sort of pops in and takes part in a bit of the conversation. It is really led by Uncle, a master storyteller. So, be sure to tell your kids ahead of time.
Related: Moana Coloring Pages
Aulani Character Breakfast
So, here’s my confession. When I went down to the Aulani Character Breakfast at Makahiki, I wasn’t really thinking about photo opps. It was super early. I threw a t-shirt and shorts on and didn’t even think about makeup. Then, when I got down there, I was like…. oh Aulani CHARACTER BREAKFAST. Meet and greet with CHARACTERS! Photo opp! UGH. So, My pics just aren’t the best.
You have to forgive me. I literally had a suitcase of Disney Bounding outfits and I showed up in my pajamas. But whatevs. Please use this post as an official heads up. When you go to your Aulani Character Breakfast at Makahikii – know there will be pictures taken.
In fact, it’s the first thing you do before you even get seated at your table. They make you wait in line to see your character first and then you are escorted to your table.
You aren’t guaranteed Mickey. That’s just who was on call the morning I went. I was in Hawaii for a few days and saw Minnie, Goofy, and Chip and Dale. So, there is quite a variety.
The buffet at Makahiki was delicious. Truly outstanding. We really enjoyed trying some of the local favorites as well as your traditional breakfast staples.
Do I Need Reservations For The Aulani Character Breakfast?
The answer is yes. The hotel might tell you that you don’t, but you do. It’s pretty busy. At least it was busy every single time I was around the restaurant. Play it safe and make your reservation. Remember, anyone on the island can use all the restaurants and the spa at the Aulani Hotel.
What Are The Hours For The Aulani Character Breakfast?
The normal hours of service are from 7AM to 10AM, but I would check with the hotel once you check in. I also want to reiterate one more time to try to make a reservation once you book your trip.
Related: The Ultimate Disney Packing List
Kids’ Waterpark Is Amazing
I wanted to take a picture of the waterpark without any children in it which meant that I had to get up very early … which meant that it wouldn’t be turned on yet. But trust me, once this puppy gets going, it is F-U-N.
Your children will have a blast at Aulani! They really did a great job here. Canons, buckets, stairs, walkways, slides, it’s all happening and there’s plenty of it.
And don’t worry about the age range, because your older kids will love the bigger pools and the slides and the paddle boarding and your younger kids will love the lazy river and this contraption.
Related: 30 Day Disney Challenge Printable
Adults Have Options, Too
So, my husband and I didn’t go with our kids. We went alone and would it be really mean for me to say that we had so much fun? Because we totally did. There are adult-only sections – which we spent all our time in – that overlooked the beautiful beach. Aulani Hawaii was created with guests in mind.
If I had brought my kids, I would want to be near the water park, but still have a view of the beach. This is a win-win, folks. A win-WIN!
Of course, you could also just spend the day at the beach. It’s literally about 10 stairs away from the resort. Everything is super close and perfectly designed. The lagoon is calm and perfect for watersports.
Someone even told me they do yoga out there on paddleboards sometimes. WHAT?! How fun is that?! I mean – I would never be able to do it. But fit people could.
I have a full-blown write up of the Aulani luau and I would love for you to check it out. I cannot reiterate this enough. If you go to Hawaii and find your way near the Aulani hotel, you need to make sure you book the Aulani luau because it was such an amazing experience. Click here to read it.
The Aulani Spa – Laniwai
I love to run around. I recently did a write up about Adventures by Disney because it was such a blast. But I’m also a girl who loves to spa.
And BOY was the Aulani spa a treat! Give yourself ample time to enjoy the amenities – like the outdoor section with jacuzzis, showers, and lounge chairs. I didn’t have enough time to truly relax back there and I regret it.
I did a hot stone massage at Laniwai and it was glorious. There is a full-blown menu available. Be sure to check it out. As a reminder, the spa is opened to guests and residents of the island. So, if you think you want to make a reservation, do it.
I don’t know if I want to spoil all the surprises of the Aulani Spa, so I won’t. But this little rock pool kicks off your relaxation journey. You have to do something at this point and I really thought it was pretty special. I don’t want to say more. I want you to experience it yourself.
Related: Where Is Disney?
Papalua Shave Ice Snack Shack
Ok, who likes desserts? ME!!!! At Aulani Resort, you can get this one of a kind Mickey ice dessert. So much fun! The shaved ice comes in a variety of flavors. The choice is yours!
The Mickey ears cost a bit more than without – but they are so worth it. Take your picture right away because they start to melt due to that Hawaiian heat. We bought the ice, snapped the picture, and then chowed down.
Here is a look at all of the flavors you can choose for your shaved ice at the Aualni hotel. My husband opted for the condensed milk topping which he loved. I kept it simple and just stuck to the regular shaved ice. Either way works.
Aulani Disney Resort PRO TIP: If you want your ice to look like a rainbow, just tell them that you want a rainbow and they will pick the flavors for you.
Also a huge FYI – there is also Dole Whip served by the pool. So, you better believe I ordered it twice a day like a vitamin.
Related: Disney World Tips
Aulani Disney Resort Food – The Aulani Restaurants
We had the chance to eat at every restaurant that is available in the Aulani hotel and was never disappointed. Disney certainly knows how to cater to their guests and quality and service is always top of mind.
My husband could not get enough of the loco moco (House-made Hamburger on top of White Rice, Two Eggs with Onion Gravy) and ordered it several times during our stay. In fact, he made me promise to try to make it now that we are back home.
During our last meal at Aulani Hawaii, I opted for the buttermilk pancakes with macadamia nuts and Tahitian vanilla sauce. OMGSOGOOD.
I think it was my favorite meal served while enjoying Disney Hawaii. I dream about this breakfast. I wake up smacking my lips trying to taste those flavors again. It was THAT DIVINE.
But it wasn’t only about breakfast, every meal was delicious. During the middle of the day, we normally snacked by the pool. At night, we got dressed up and enjoyed a larger and more special meal. Then, typically, my husband and I would venture out once again for a late-night snack and a drink. I mean, how often do we get to go away without the kids?
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What FOOD OPTIOns Are Available At The Aulani Disney Resort?
There are several restaurants on property for you and your family to enjoy. Each offers a different type of experience. Not all of them are sit down. Some are quick serve. Others are stands. Click here for a full breakdown of each location.
- MAKAHIKI – THE BOUNTY OF THE ISLANDS
- ‘AMA‘AMA – CONTEMPORARY ISLAND COOKING
- ULU CAFE
- THE ‘ŌLELO ROOM
- WAILANA POOL BAR
- OFF THE HOOK
- MAMA’S SNACK STOP
- PĀPĀLUA SHAVE ICE
- LITTLE ‘OPIHI’S – BEACHSIDE KIOSK
As you can see, there will be plenty to choose from while on property at Disney Aulani.
What Is The Proper Way To Pronounce Disney Hawaii?
As I write up this review, I keep referencing the Aulani Disney Resort using a few different terms. I have said:
- Aulani Hotel
- Aulani Hawaii
- Disney Hawaii
- Aulani Disney Resort
- Aulani Resort
- Disney Aulani
The reason why I’ve done this is that these are the terms that people use to search out information regarding this property. I’m trying to reach people who want to learn about the Aulani Resort. But the truth is, there is an actual way that Disney wants us to refer to their Disney Hawaii property.
Every other property that Disney owns is titled a specific way – Disney first and then the property name. So, for example – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
But with the Aulani Hotel, it’s the first time that Disney wanted to put the hotel name BEFORE DISNEY. So, the REAL way to talk about Aulani Hawaii is to say, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa. Why? Because Disney wanted to make sure that the Hawaiin culture and the story of the land takes precedence OVER Disney.
That’s why you won’t see many characters, hidden Mickeys, or crazy parades running through. Aulani is more about Hawaii than anything else – and honoring Hawaii for that matter.
So, now you know! It’s actually not Disney Aulani – although that is what most people assume. It’s really Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa.
Aulani Room Walkthrough
My husband and I were offered a Disney Vacation Club villa while staying at Aulani. We had a very spacious King Bedroom and I took video of the room in case you are a DVC member and looking to plan a stay. I know I love to look at a room before I officially book one.
The Aulani Lazy River
Confession time – if an evil witch ever turned me into a body of water, I would pray that it would be a lazy river. My absolute favorite type of water in the world.
I think I went around this thing 865 times and that is an understatement. When I was older, I was all about the fast slides and the ziplines. Today, I want the water to take me where the water wants to take me. Let fate guide me by the hand. Where I end up, only time will tell.
Oh yeah, I guess the kids were having fun, too.
The lazy river is stationed in the dead center of the water park. There are several entrances throughout and you can watch your kids go around by following along using a path. But why would you do that? Get in the lazy river with them!
The Hawaiian Sunsets
We were all having dinner the last night of the island and we were sitting outdoors and I noticed the sunset happening over the lagoon. I picked up my camera and just snapped a picture.
I didn’t stand up from my seat. I didn’t angle anything. I didn’t create a shot. I just looked up and took this picture. This is Hawaii. I don’t think I need to say anything else.
It is as beautiful as you think. The postcards are not exaggerating. The rumors are real. Hawaii is truly paradise.
Hawaiian Art And Culture
I took a tour while staying at the Aulani Hotel and I was so happy to hear that the building actually holds the largest collection of contemporary Hawaiian art around the world. That’s how serious Disney is about telling this story – sharing the news – honoring history.
I encourage you to truly speak to someone and ask more about what you see because the art is everywhere – even from the moment you walk into the Aulani lobby. The hotel itself is split into two types of styles of art… if you will. One one side, more masculine feeling pieces and – on the other – more feminine appeal. And there is a reason.
You’ve heard of the concept of Ying and Yang, right? Well, the Hawaiians have a similar concept regarding energy. They believe that everyone is born with female and male energy. The softer side and the warrior. It is important to honor both parts of the being. The Aulani hotel physically represents this. Don’t you just love that?
You would never know if you don’t ask. You would never know if you didn’t read this post. But now that you do, you will look at all the art with a different lens. I was enamored with everything that I saw as I discovered new designs all around Disney Aulani. I hope you do the same.
What Island Is Aulani On?
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, is located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. There are a few different airports you can fly into – all depending on where you are coming from – but I flew into Honolulu International Airport.
Is There An All Inclusive Option At Aulani?
No. There is not a package that you can select to make your Aulani Disney Resort vacation all inclusive. But remember, with 9 great places to eat, you will have plenty of options to choose from when booking this amazing vacation.
Is There A Day Pass To Aulani If I Stay At Another Resort?
No. While you can book the spa and make reservations at other restaurants, you cannot have access to their beach or pool facilities unless you are an actual guest at the hotel.
What Does Aulani Mean?
Aulani means “messenger of a chief”.
I hope this review has given you something to think about when it comes to family vacation ideas. Aulani is an absolute dream! I am so happy that we had a chance to visit and I hope you do the same with your entire family.
*Disney offered me a stay at Aulani in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.