Disney Aulani: A Family Paradise in Hawaii

For the past few weeks, I’ve been giving you a rundown on our January trip to Disney Aulani, an amazing resort on Oahu. It was our decision to go to Aulani primarily because it’s such a family-friendly resort, with so many activities and amenities that you don’t have to ever leave the resort. And, aside from a couple of walks and one dinner, we didn’t! We stayed at Aulani for 7 nights, enjoying everything the hotel had to offer. It was simply one of the most stunning resorts we’ve ever stayed at. 

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From the natural landscaping to the introducing of menehune, which are an integral part of the storytelling at Aulani, you would never think “Disney” while at the resort. The touches are subtle, hidden in some food items or in the gift store; more than anything, Aulani is “Disney” because it was built, from the ground up, with families in mind. The layers of detail put into making the resort an “experience” are astounding. 

Right from the get go, you are welcomed to Aulani with warmth. Kids are given a menehune necklace, adults either a lei or a bead necklace. All employees at Aulani, from the front staff to the servers to the army of people keeping the resort pristine, are very much “Disney” – smiling, outgoing, helpful and polite. We always felt welcome. We always felt spoiled. And that’s what you want from a vacation.  

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Our Rooms

We stayed in a Standard Room with one bed and one pull-out couch. We thought our travel agent had booked two queen beds (which do appear as an option on the website), but were told when we got there that it was not an option. No idea what happened there, so we just let it go. The sleeping arrangements were mostly the same anyway – the kids in one bed, us in another. We felt like the jump in price from the Standard Room to the Suites or Villas was not worth it.

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Our Standard Room came with a small kitchen area – mini fridge, sink, microwave and basic dishes. Even though the restaurants at Aulani are expensive (see all dining options reviewed here), it was still cheaper than a room upgrade that included a kitchen.

The beds were comfortable, though slightly on the firm side, and the room was kept quite tidy. We never experienced towel figurines as I hear sometimes happen, but we found the rooms to be a good quality. I have only two complaints: one, our glassware was very dirty (see photo here), making me wary of just how “clean” our tidy room was. Second, they really need a makeup mirror!! The vanity mirror is so far away on the large sink that it was difficult to apply make-up. 

A note on view options: the garden view is cheaper, but the landscaping is amazing, so don’t consider this a bad view. Our room had an ocean view, but from the back of a building, so our view was interrupted by a big parking garage. I think the garden view would have been nicer!

Beaches, Pools & Other Water Features

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This is where Aulani shines above every other resort in Hawaii and, I would say, many other tropical destinations as well. It’s like the Disneyland of tropical resorts. There are many pools, from the zero entry Waikolohe Pool to the adult only options, there are 2 spray park / splash zones (one for really small tots, one for older kids with 2 watersides at the Menehune Bridge), a lazy river, plus two larger watersides. And don’t forget the (extra cost) Rainbow Reef where you can swim with the fish!

I talk about all the water features in my What to Do at Disney Aulani post, but I do have to say this was the most impressive part of Aulani. All the pools are beautifully landscaped, very large, and so much fun! There are so many options that you can go from one area to another and really feel like you’re doing a lot of things in one day – in a very small space!

The beach at Aulani is a man-made lagoon, as is common with many Hawaii hotels. There are beach toys and water toys available to use or rent, so if you’re beach people, there’s a lot to do! We spent some time playing in the sand and water… but we’re mostly pool people!  

Before you go: print off my Aulani Lazy River Scavenger Hunt!

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Aunty’s Beach House – Free Play Centre for Age 3+

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When the topic of Aulani comes up, most people rave for the free childcare available at Aunty’s Beach House. Just like you would expect from resorts like Club Med, your visit to Aulani includes access to Aunty’s Beach House. During the day, you can leave your children to participate in open-ended play or scheduled activities (some of which require sign-up). Aunty’s Beach House is open to families early in the morning (so we paid a visit together), but only open to kids age 3+ (no parents) for the rest of the day. 

Aiden wasn’t super interested in staying alone at the beach house, though who can blame him when the other option is playing in the pool! That said, on our next visit (and we will be back), I expect having his brother there will make it more fun for him!

The beach house, though it does boast its own playground and lots of rooms to play in, does seem to be heavy on electronic stuff – tvs, games, computers. For older kids, there is a teen club as well. 

Disney Aulani Activities

Again, this is where Disney far outpaces all the other resorts out there. Every day, you’re given your Daily ‘Iwa, a schedule of free activities you can participate in as a family or for kids only. From movies under the stars to the Starlit Hui, from Hawaiian arts and crafts to ukulele classes, to character meet & greets and the menehune adventure trail, you can fill your day with a lot of exciting things. Some activities do repeat during the week, so there wasn’t quite as much variety as I was expecting, but we never lacked for things to do on property.

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Read What to Do at Disney Aulani for my 12 suggested ways to get the most out of your Disney Aulani adventure!

Since you are essentially paying for all these “free” perks (activitieskids club, the starlit hui), you definitely get the most bang for your buck if you consider Aulani a destination vacation, not a base camp for island exploration. 

Amenities Near the Disney Aulani Resort

Just across the street from Aulani are a number of restaurants, gift stores, and an Island Country Market, a full service ABC Store all a part of the Ko Olina Station and Ko Olina Center. We went for ice cream at Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor and had dinner at Monkeypod. Nearby dining options also include Roy’s, which is a famous restaurant. Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit this time. Next trip!

Close by to Aulani is the Ko Olina Golf Club and the Paradise Cove luau. If you want a neat experience, the Paradise Cove beach (accessible from a public trail near their parking lot) is home to some very friendly turtles! It’s a stunning little beach and swimming with the turtles was a highlight of our trip. 

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For more ideas for your visit to Oahu, visit the excursions or concierge desks or read my past posts on our Oahu adventures

Since we had such a great time at Disney Aulani, I’ve created a series of reviews of our experience, including some tips on how to make the most of your stay with your family. For the full series of reviews, check here. You can see all our Aulani photos here.

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  1. […] we went to Hawaii in January, I spent a while loading up our iPads with apps geared toward each child. Since we have two iPads, […]

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