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The Secrets of Disney Aulani

Disney Aulani Ocean View

Aloha!

Now that we’re back from our spring break trip to Hawaii, I wanted to share with you everything you need to know about vacationing at Aulani. There is so much to know. First time we went, we tried to soak up as much as possible, only to realize how much we actually missed the second time around. Aulani is the perfect Hawaiian getaway for the whole family no matter how old your children are. There is so much to do and see for every age. Sure, you may not get to experience everything, but with this list, you’ll be able to pick and choose what you are most interested in and go from there.

Disney Aulani Hidden Mickey

Consider waiting to book your stay at Aulani until you’ve read all my hints, tips and tricks to make your family vacation the best possible. 

How many nights should we book at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa?

Not including travel time, I would recommend no less than three (3) nights. The hotel is very popular with the locals. I’ve been there when it was not crowded, and I’ve been there when it was at 98% occupancy. For a small hotel, 3,600 people it feels like a city – so expect lots of sell-outs, long lines and plenty of sold out shows and reservations if you don’t act early. When you are ready to book, ask what the occupancy is at and book at a lower percentage. Also, find out when Spring Break / school vacation is for the local Hawaii schools. 

Disney Aulani flower

What type of room should we request? Which tower should we stay in?

In the past, we’ve stayed in a one-bedroom villa in the ‘EWA Tower and a dedicated two-bedroom villa in the Waianae Tower. Both had unobstructed ocean views; however I much rather preferred the ‘EWA Tower for a few reasons. 1. It was much easier to get from your hotel room to well, everywhere. The Waianae Tower was a much longer walk and a pain to quickly get from your room to Aunty’s, the Makaloa Lawn, the beach and ‘Ama ‘Ama. See, there is a walkway along ‘EWA Tower and you need to fight the pool crowds to get anywhere when you are in Makaloa Tower. 2. Makaloa Tower gets the uneventful sunrise blazing in your room from underneath the blackout curtains, but the ‘EWA Tower gets the most amazing sunsets that you will ever see every night. It’s truly one of the best parts of your trip. So make the request at the time of reservation. 

Is the Disney Vacation Club member worth the investment?

The answer to this question depends on your personal needs and financial commitment. We’ve been members for eight years and our initial investment and annuals dues have paid for itself twice over. I can honestly say that we would not have been able to afford such extravagant vacations in villas at these beautiful resorts had we not been members. Being a member of DVC has given us travel freedom and flexibility at a fraction of the cost. 

Disney Aulani Sunset Hawaii

What to do and see while visiting Disney Aulani

1. ‘Ama ‘Ama – Tip: Be sure to make a 6:15pm reservation at ‘Ama ‘Ama for a sunset dinner, and order the Mickey Tart with Shake from the dessert menu. YUM!

2. ‘Ohana Beach Games – This is a great opportunity for you and the family to sign up and have some fun at the beach lagoon. The Disney team is the best around and it’s always so much fun in the sun. 

3. ‘Ohana Disney Movie Night – Located on the Halowai Lawn, Aulani will show different motion pictures on the big screen under the stars. It’s a nice alternative to the usual bedtime story. 

4. “All Day Grab ‘n Go” at Ula Cafe – The flatbreads are delish and you can even order full-size family pizzas to go and bring back to the room. 

5. “Aloha Fun with Disney Friends” – This is a great way to meet and greet all of the characters at one time and place. Check The daily ‘IWA for times. 

6. Artisan Corner – There is always something to do thanks to the Pau Hana Room. Local Hawaiian artisans are on hand daily to teach hands-on activities such as lei making, kukui nut bracelets and key rings, feather work and more. 

7. Aunty’s Beach House – For the younger kids and tweens, you are going to have to pry your child(ren) away from this place. With secure check-in and check-out procedures, make sure to line up early (as in 6:30am) the first day of your trip. This will get them all registered, and allow you the opportunity to sign-up for special activities lunch and dinner. Lunches and dinner are served family style all for a whopping $8.55 (approx.) per seating. 

8. Beach Obstacle Body Bootcamp – So I’m not one for bootcamp, but man did everyone look like they were having a blast! All ages were participating and the music was jamming. Every person had a grin ear-to-ear.

9. Catamaran Experience – Imagine hitting the high seas in search of whales and dolphins followed by snorkeling – it doesn’t get much better than that. 

10. Celebration Buttons – Happy birthday, Happy Anniversary, etc. are available at the Front Desk upon check-in. 

11. Constellations – Sure the stars at night are visible to the naked eye, but so are the constellations that light up at the bottom of the pool. The best place to spot them is your balcony at night!

12. Disney Animation Fun – Paint an exclusive Disney Animation Cel with your family under the guidance of Disney artisans.

13. Which Disney Characters at Aulani? – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Stitch and Duffy. Check with the front desk or The daily ‘IWA for when and where they are scheduled to appear next. 

14. Disney Coloring Sheets – Are available upon request at the front desk and check-in. They are great for the plane flight home!

15. Disney Movie Rentals – Looking to stay in one night? Make it your very own family movie night and head over to Pau Hana Room (Community Hall) and check-out one of the many movies available for rental. Each room comes equipped with a Blu-ray.

16. Disney Photo Pass – Leave your cameras in the room and arrange for a sunrise family portrait with a sitting with one of Disney’s professional photographers. They are also located all around the property to snap photos in front of photo-ops and with characters. Be sure to ask about any specials they may be running. 

17. Disney Pin Trading Sessions – Just like they do at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, exchange souvenir pins or start a whole new collection inside the Pau Hana Room (Community Hall.)

18. DVC Stickers – There are two sets! One set is in English and the other set in Japanese. These are complimentary, so ask one of the DVC experts if you can have get a strip “the length of your arm!” 

19. Dole Whips – Just like Disneyland, the The Lava Shack now serves cups of creamy delicious pineapple Dole Whip which is the perfect poolside snack. 

20. Eruption Disruption Volcanic Experience – “During hands-on science experiments with The Professor from the Disney animated film Lilo & Stitch, kids learn about the formation of the Islands and how they’re affected by tides, the ocean and volcanoes.” Complimentary 

21. Explore the Stars: ‘Imi Loa Na Hoku provides an in-depth look at the stars with a local astronomy expert and a must-not miss. 

22. Family Golf Clinics – Golf clinics are offered across the way at the Ko Olina Golf Club for Aulani guests. 

23. F’real shakes – The shakes at Ulu Cafe are saying it with me: L-E-G-E-N-D-A-R-Y. 

24. Group Spin Class – This high-energy cycling class is designed to clear your mind and get your blood pumping. 

25. Hawaiian morning chants – Every morning at 7 am, wake up and open your balcony door listen for the sounds of Aulani Music of the Maka’ala being played on speakers throughout the resort. 

26. Hawaiian Ocean Adventures  – Get ready to sail on a hand built Hawaiian canoe and see the beauty of O’ahu the way the Polynesians have done for thousands of years. 

27. Hidden Menehunes – There are hundreds. Even if you counted everyone you see, there would still be a ton more you missed. So who are Menehunes? Everywhere you look, you will see tiny mischievous Hawaiian wooden “little people hiding throughout the resort. During our visits we see if we can find 100 Menehunes before our departure. 

28. Hidden Mickeys – (Clue: Check the water stations and the rugs!)

29. Hike Diamond Head – Warning: there are a lot of stairs. LOTS. But, it’s so worth it when you get to the top of the crater. Guided tours are available upon request. 

30. Hula Lessons: Learn the Ami Hip Roll along with other interpretive dance moves.

31. Koi Pond – Visit The Olelo Room patio and help feed the fish. Check The daily ‘IWA for times. 

32. Kualoa Ranch – Experience includes: horseback riding, catamaran experience and beach time where kings live and a training ground for royalty. Kualoa is considered one of the most sacred grounds on all of O’ahu. 

33. Lauhala Plaiting: Try your hand at the traditional Hawaiian art of ‘plaiting pandanus leaves’.

34. Waikolohe Stream – Nothing screams vacation more than a relaxing tube ride down the 900′ lazy river in late afternoon. Guest in need of zero-entry access to the water can enter near Kawele Korner. 

35. Learn the Language – The most used words at Aulani: Aloha! Mahalo and ‘Ohana. Ask a Cast Member what each mean and use them yourself. 

36. Lei Making – There are a few different classes available; however if you miss one, you can always ask the valet for a beautiful fresh one. 

37. Little ‘Opihi’s – Has Shrimp Spring Rolls with Thai Peanut Sauce made fresh daily direct from a local and they are YUMmazing. 

38. Maka’ika’i: The Art and Culture of Aulani. Explore one of the largest collections of contemporary Native Hawaiian art in the world on this walking tour as Imagineers tell the store of Hawaiian culture specific pieces.

39. Maka’ika’i: The Nature and Wildlife of Aulani walking tour explores the resorts landscape and natural beauty that the Walt Disney Imagineers created. Aulani has tours for families as well as adults only. 

40. Makiki Joe’s. Take your pick of beach rentals such as umbrellas, cabanas, kayaks, snorkels, sand toys, paddle boards and boogie boards.

41. Mama’s Snack Shack – The Coconut Shrimp are sinfully good. It’s impossible to eat just one. 

42. Menehune Musical Mix-up – “Using clues, Guests ages 3 to 12 team up for a scavenger hunt at Aunty’s Beach House. They’ll find musical instruments—and then learn to play them.”

43. Monday Mingle – Are you a DVC Member? Grab a ticket to the weekly Monday Mingle to find out what’s new in the Disney Vacation Club world, as well as chances to win prizes. Last time I went home with a $50 Gift Card! 

44. Mo’olelo Fire Pit Storytelling – Listen to Uncle, the master storytellers, share tales at The Circle of ‘Alae ‘Ula each night under the stars complete with puppetry, music, props and magic.

45. Nightswimming – Just like the R.E.M. song, at Aulani it deserves a quiet night. Your eyes won’t believe how beautiful the resort looks at nighttime from the Ko Olina lagoon. 

46. Off The Hook: Have a tropical Mai Tai served inside a pineapple! At Aulani, almost every drink (including non-alcoholic ones,) ordered at one of the many bars can be served inside a freshly carved pineapple upon request.

47. ‘Ohana Ho’okani Pila: Set some time aside and learn to play the ukulele. We learned how to play Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” the last time we went.

48. Paddle Board Yoga – Check with the fitness center for more information on how to test your balance with a warrior pose on the crystal clear waters of Ko’Olina lagoon. 

49. Painted Sky Teen Spa – “Exclusive to teens ages 13 to 17, this 1,500-square-foot retreat offers age-specific spa treatments, activities and more. Through the private entrance discover a fun hangout where teens can relax and make new friends.”

50. Papalua Shave Ice – Not only can you pick 3 flavors, but some have ice cream and creamy toppings! 

51. Pearl Harbor – Revisit history on this tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Missouri Battleship, and Pacific Aviation Museum. 

52. Point at Sunset – One of the most magical spots on the island are the rocks passed the lagoon. Take a walk over at sunset and snap some great pictures. They make the best souvenir. 

53. Rainbow Reef: Snorkel in Waikolohe Valley’s self-contained 3,800 square foot saltwater lagoon to see fish up close and personal. Ask to help feed the fish. Feeding times can be found in the daily ‘IWA. The lagoon is home to fish native to Hawaii like the Tan, Triggerfish and the popular Butterflyfish. 

54. Room Service – The Family Style Dinners are fantastic for those staying in one of the many villas on property; however if you aren’t I still suggest treating yourself to some amazing Mickey Waffles during sunset. Make sure to eat them on your balcony!

55. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion – at Ko Olina Golf Club serves innovative sushi dishes. A favorite is The Dragon Roll or Ohana Roll. 

56. S.A.S. – Those interested, can go even deeper underwater with supplied air snorkeling sessions at Rainbow Reef. 

57. Menehune Adventure Trail – Make a visit to the Pau Hana Room and ask for one of the special cell phones that will connect you to Aunty! Get ready as she helps guide you through Waikolohe Valley in search of special surprises and great photo-ops over the next hour. 

58. Shake-A-Shaka Pool Party – Splash around with Cast Members and characters while playing pool games at the Waikolohe Pool. 

59. Starlit Hui on the Halawai Lawn: Plan to go early. Get in line at 6:15 for 7:30 show to secure the best seating which is the 1st or 2nd row on the aisle. 

60. Sunrise Yoga / Sunrise Stretch – I love this so much. It’s such a wonderful way to begin your day at Aulani with the professionals of Mikimiki Yoga & Fitness Center. A great way to stay balanced in “mind, body and spirit.”

61. Stitch’s Space Goo – “Stitch and The Professor are here to visit—and they have fun scientific experiments for the kids! Together, they’ll show young Guests how to make the Professor’s secret Space Goo.”

62. Surf’s Up with Chip and Dale – Disney’s favorite duo is having a surf-themed party where kids will decorate their own miniature surf board, chill with Chip and Dales, enjoy dinner and get some swag. 

63. The daily ‘IWA – Stay in the know daily. This awesome newsletter can be found for the following day every night after 6pm at the front desk. 

64. The Hawaiian Craft Series –  Located in the Pau Hana Room with local artisan, Lorna Pacheco. 

65. The Makahiki – Breakfast (or dinner) with the stars at Aunty’s Character Breakfast Celebration for a buffet feast!

66. The Olelo Room – Enjoy live Hawaiian music during Happy Hour every night while shooting fresh oysters. 

67. Tide Pools – Continue walking on the rocks beyond the lagoon and about halfway through there are collections of natural, undisturbed. tide pools you won’t want to miss.

68. Toddler Time: Splash and Play! “Build sand castles, participate in races and watch the kids dig for treasure!”

69. Tour of Laniwai – Many guests don’t know that tours are available at this Disney Spa. You will want to book a signature treatment immediately. 

70. Pu’u Kilo Slides – Grab a tube and fly-solo or with a buddy, because the Tubestone Curl is one of the coolest waterslides as it drops you directly into the Lazy River. Next up is the Volcanic Vertical body slide, or “The Black Hole” as my daughter lovingly refers to it. Get ready because it pitch black in there and goes very fast. Sliders like to compete against each other to see who can scream the loudest and make the biggest splash. 

71.  Ko Olina Station & Center – Another great spot for Happy Hour is across the street at Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Ko Olina. Just a short walk from the hotel, you can also grab some dinner, ice cream and shop. 

72. The Towel Challenge: There are designated pool attendants walking around the deck making sure you are actually using pool chairs and not just saving them for later or for friends. If you leave your seat, they will come and mark your seat by placing a folded beach towel on the chair. If the same folded towel is there for more than an hour, you automatically forfeit your chair and they will remove your belongings and place them in a secure location. 

73. Sea Turtles – What would a Disney beach vacation be without a Crush the Sea Turtle sighting in the wild? They are not always easy to spot, but they are there! Right after sunrise, head up to the rocks past the lagoon and watch as Crush plays with friends in the water. 

74. Rainbow Reef Observation Deck: Stay dry and visit the underwater viewing section of the Rainbow Reef where you can spot marine life while watching friends and family snorkel. 

75. Wailana Pool Bar – Serves delicious tropical drinks. Must-try: a Pina Colada with mango puree and mango foam with a slice of fresh pineapple. 

76. Waimea Valley Adventure North Shore Experience – Hike a waterfall, enjoy storytelling by elders, lei making and Hawaiian games while soaking up the beautiful sights of O’ahu. 

77. Fish Are Friends – Little ones get up-close and personal with the colorful tropical fish at Aulani. They will assist an animal specialist train, feed and care for the marine life, prepare fish food, have lunch and get a Disneynature Oceans DVD and logo’d beach bag. 

78. Sunset Mele for Teens – “Teens are invited to gather on the beach at sunset for a complimentary celebration of music and Hawaiian culture.”

79. Disney Vacation Club – Stop by Disney Vacation Club services and take a tour of the two bedroom villa ocean view. You will see first hand the benefits of becoming a member, have a chance to ask some questions and decide yourself if it’s worth the investment for your family.

80. BBQ Area for Guests – For those with a car on property, head to a local grocery store because there is a fantastic BBQ pit behind Aunty’s for guests to use at their leisure. The spot also has picnic benches to enjoy your freshly prepared BBQ al fresco, or have it in the privacy of your own room. 

81. Rip Swirl Yogurt – Open to everyone, head over to the Painted Sky Teen Spa and enjoy a stop at the yogurt bar where you can “design” your own snack by choosing your favorite flavor and different toppings. 

82. Collectable Disney Travel Mugs: For $18.99, guests can purchase refillable commemorative travel mugs to use for the duration of their stay. This is a wise investment for families who enjoy coffee and soft drinks. These cups can be purchased and refilled at the following locations: Kalepa’s Store (near main lobby,) Lava Shack and One Paddle Two Paddle. 

83. Pool Wristbands – The Waikolohe Valley pool area is designed exclusively for the enjoyment of Aulani guests. Guests must visit the Kawele Korner and have their room keys swiped to receive a new pool wristband. Each day the colors change, so guests proudly display the different color bracelets throughout their stay. 

84. Ka Maka Grotto– Speaking of pools, this pool overlooking the lagoon is only 3′ 6″ at it’s deepest point and provides zero-entry access. It also has a misty grotto. 

85. Menehune Bridge – This interactive water play area is strictly for kids 48″ and under. This village is a place kids can climb and slide while getting buckets of water dumped all over them. Just use caution, while the actual play area is safe, the pavement surrounding the play area is EXTREMELY slippery. There are falls every few minutes. However, I did notice – the only people I did not see fall were those wearing Crocs on their feet. It made even more sense when I saw that all of the lifeguards were made to wear Crocs as well. 

86. Wailana Pool – Welcome to the “quiet” pool. Way beyond the Waianae Tower sits another zero entry pool for adults only. Chaise lounges are available as well.

87. Spa Time – Unwind in one of four spas throughout Waikolohe Valley. My favorite being the Sunset Upper and Sunset Lower infinity type spa overlooking the lagoon. It’s beautiful at sunset and even later under the stars as the lights or “rainbow jets” change colors in the bubbling water. The Caldera Spa is hidden above the Waikolohe Stream and the Waikolohe Spa is next to the main pool with a unique hot waterfall flowing into it. 

88. Makai Preserve – I’ve had many inquiries about the Makai Preserve stingray opportunity and I’m sad to say it has since closed. Guest were given the opportunity to interact with brown stingrays kept inside a Mickey Mouse shaped pool. Guest would remain dry; however were able to touch and feel these amazing creatures. 

89. Po’la’ila’i Sunset Gathering – Do not miss Uncle Kahaki and friends welcome the night with a very special Hawaiian chant to dismiss the sun and welcome the stars.

90. Keiki Cove Splash Zone – This special interactive water spot for kids age 5 and under is inspired by the tidal pools around Ko Olina, Hawai’i. 

91. Magical Makeovers for Kids – Little ones will transform into modern hula dancers at the salon right before your eyes. The Keiki Wahine experience includes: Minnie Me manicure and pedicure, styled hair sprinkled with pixie dust, shimmering makeup and Keiki aloha wear. 

92. Manoa Valley Rainforest & Bamboo Forest Hike – Embark on an adventure with your own private guide on a hike through the lush rainforests of Hawaii to a 200-foot waterfall. 

93. Dole Pineapple Plantation – Welcome to the real Pineapple Express! Take a tour on this 20-minute train ride and learn about the this popular fruit. Upon completion, you can visit the Dole Garden’s 8 mini gardens or try the 3-acre Dole Maze. It’s the world’s largest outdoor botanical labyrinth complete with 8 hidden “station” leading you to it’s secret center. 

94. Disney Junior Aloha! – “Start the day at Aunty’s Beach House with Disney Junior Aloha! Designed for toddlers and their parents, this program is complimentary and includes dancing, crafts and cartoons.”

95. Keiki Hula – “Kids are invited to come learn fun hula moves—like the ami hip roll—as they learn about a famous Hawaiian tradition during the Keiki Hula.”

96. Splash & Dash – Get your family fitness on with this fun interval training session right on the lagoons of Ko Olina!

97. NSBZ – The North Shore Beach Zone is “designed to evoke the essence of a “North Shore” experience, NSBZ welcomes teens to a complimentary, fun-filled afternoon on the beach.”

98. Ki’i One Sand Sculpture Class – Learn sand sculpture techniques on the beach during this complimentary activity. Then form teams and compete against others.”

99. Pulu Bar: Spa Mixology Station – Blend your very own body polish at an outdoor mixology station using Hawaiian fragrances, cane sugar or sea salt, moisturizing base oils like macadamia, kukun or jojoba and herbs. 

Photo credits: Nicole Standley

Written by Nicole Standley

Nicole Standley

Founder + Creative Officer, Nicole Standley, shares her favorite trends in travel, food + wine, fashion, health, and fun on The JetSet Family and is a long time travel + lifestyle contributor for CBS Los Angeles, Huffington Post, and Hilton Hotels. She is a brand ambassador for Netflix and O, The Oprah Magazine, and has been named Top Family Travel Blogger by Trip Advisor and Red Tricycle. Follow her on Instagram at: nicoleDstandley

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17 COMMENTS
  • Ashley S April 27, 2015

    Thanks for the info and list! I didn’t’ realize Disney had a resort out there. I definitely want to go sometime 🙂

  • Terri Ramsey Beavers April 27, 2015

    Thanks so much for sharing, I’ve never been to hawaii but after seeing your photos I’d love to. You’d find me at the shaka shaka pool party, lol.

  • Jeanette April 27, 2015

    I WANT to go to that place SO bad! It is a goal of our family to get there. Disney always knows how to do it right! Thank you for sharing! Now I want to go even more!

  • Chrysa April 27, 2015

    Is it weird that I got super excited about that fruit water in the lobby? It looks amazing!! I really would LOVE to visit here! (and not just for the water)

  • Raijean April 27, 2015

    Those images are so beautiful. It makes me want to go for a visit.

  • Ann Bacciaglia April 28, 2015

    This is such a great post about Disney in Hawaii. I will be adding this to my bucket list for sure. There are so many amazing things to do.

  • Coco May 8, 2015

    I had a great time there!😀 Thank you, mama for taking me!

  • Cathy Jarolin May 31, 2015

    Aulani Hawaii Looks so Beautiful. This is the first I have heard of a Disney themed Island of Hawaii! Sounds awesome! So much to do there you would never get Bored! When we were in Hawaii 20 years ago it was so beautiful! Everyone should go at least once in their life. I Really Love Hawaii..

  • Layne June 24, 2015

    This is an amazing list! Wow, sounds like our Family will be going here someday. I love your tip about asking the percentage occupancy while making reservations!

  • Sarah Ebner July 5, 2015

    Such a wonderful, comprehensive list – would love to experience this, and in such a beautiful location too. It really looks stunning.

  • Jody Robbins July 5, 2015

    Had no idea there was so much to do at Aulani! We stayed next door, but I was jealous the whole time of the splash park. Now I know there’s a whole lot more to explore!

  • It all looks and sounds so beautiful. Question, though: is it necessary to be a Disney Vacation Club member to stay there? Or does membership simply afford some perks?

  • katja - globetotting July 6, 2015

    It sounds like you need 3 weeks not 3 days to experience all that the Aulani has to offer – what an incredible range of activities! A great list, thanks!

  • Jeanette Barajas April 16, 2016

    This is by far the best quick easy but yet very informative post I’ve seen on Aulani! We will be going in June and are DVC members as well. Thank you.

    Can you provide more information on the splash and dash?

  • Michelle April 19, 2016

    Great post. We are visiting for the first time soon & are so excited! Just recommended the EWA tower, thanks for all the great info!!

  • Mitch August 28, 2016

    I am headed to look at prices right now. Your post had all the information I could possibly want. Especially which tower to request!
    Mitch

  • Donna Gelinas September 3, 2016

    Thank you so much for your very informative post!! Great!!
    We are headed to Aulani next June and are taking our family with us. We will need 2 separate rooms. However, I am finding little information for booking non DVC rooms (not villas)? We are looking for a 1-bedroom hotel room for our son, daughter in law & 2 grandchildren. And a regular room for us (the grandparents).
    After much investigating, I would like to reserve rooms over the Hawaiian lawn in the Ewa building.
    Could you give me any information on how to do this for nicer rooms or instruct me of a website that might?
    Thanks so much for any info!!!

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