The combination of Hawaii’s enticing culture and Disney’s magic can be tempting. Located at Ko Olina, Hawaii, Aulani Resort and Spa exemplifies what Disney does best; bringing magic to the most authentic places!
Staying at Aulani is known to be costly, though, which begs the question, is Aulani worth it?
It’s definitely a different type of trip than going to Walt Disney World or going on a Disney Cruise Line vacation. This Disney resort is great for family travel though, which we’ll get into later in this post.
Pros – Why Is Disney Aulani Worth It?
The opportunity to enjoy a Disney experience while being immersed in Hawaiian culture is not to be missed and here’s why.
Aulani’s pool area, Waikalohe Valley, is one of the major attractions of the place. It’s an intricate waterpark complex with activities for every age group.
Waikalohe means mischievous waters in Hawaiian, and the name couldn’t be truer!
There’s the main Waikalohe pool itself, an infinity pool, adults-only pools, a snorkeling pool, a splash pad, water slides, a ‘dark’ tube slide, and the famous Lazy River that runs around the main pool.
Floating down the stream, you’ll come across a gurgling water cavern and some fountain springs. The zero-entry pool alongside the water slides provides kids with a perfect water park setting.
Aulani’s pristine ocean isn’t an actual ocean but rather a clear turquoise ocean lagoon shared between Aulani, the Four Seasons resort, and the Marriott vacation club.
The Kahola Lagoon is ideal for kayaking and paddle boarding. Yet, it’s inconvenient for more adventurous activities like surfing. This is when you start to think of Aulani as a place designed with kids in mind.
The water is so calm and beautiful. It’s a great place for relaxing!
Aunty’s Beach House
If you’d like to take some time off and leave your kids in a safe and entertaining place while staying at Aulani, Aunty’s Beach House is what you’re looking for.
The beach house extends over 5,200 square feet with indoor and outdoor areas. It’s free and open to potty-trained kids ages three to twelve. It features a backyard playground, dress-up closets with Disney characters, and a movie room.
There are also some premium activities for a small fee like Kakamora Chaos with Moana and a dancing party.
You’ll get a chance to indulge in some Hawaiian dishes during your stay at Aulani, and you shouldn’t waste it!
For breakfast, check out Makahiki, Aulani’s sit-down restaurant, which offers an all-you-can-get buffet for breakfast and dinner.
If you fancy a deluxe dining experience, we’d recommend visiting AMAʻAMA restaurant. It overlooks the ocean, is open all day, and serves regional Hawaiian cuisine. Their signature offering is their seafood platter with oysters, crabs, shrimp, and ceviche.
When it comes to grab-and-go food options, pass by the Ulu Cafe– generous portions. You’ll find a wide variety of sandwiches at reasonable prices.
One of Aulani’s food staples that you must try is Papalua’s Shave Ice. It’s a base of shaved ice, ice cream, or frozen condensed milk with endless flavor options; mango, pineapple, coconut, guava, orange, etc. Your kids will obsess over this one!
The Disney / Hawaii Mix
While Aulani relies on being a ‘Disney’ theme park, it also honors Hawaiin heritage—perhaps, a little more than you’d expect.
Some people say they won’t go to Hawaii for Disney. We get it, but that’s not what Aulani is.
Aulani is way more Hawaii than Disney when it comes to the vibes, culture, and hosting experience. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by Hawaiian islanders with a welcoming aloha spirit, not by Mickey Mouse.
Yet, there are plenty of Disney characters seeings in Aulani. Goofy, Mickey Mouse, and their Gang show up for the kids at a daily pool party. Following the Disney tradition, characters join the breakfast at Makahiki, where they visit occupied tables to hug and take photographs with the kids.
You’ll probably come across Hawaiian Disney characters like Moana and Stitch across the Lazy River bridge or on the Halawai Lawn.
Cons – Why Aulani Might Not Be the Place for You
Everything comes at a price, and when it comes to Aulani, the price is steep. Here’s what we don’t like about Aulani.
It’s Really Expensive
We’re stating the obvious here; getting to Hawaii and staying at the Aulani resort is a bit over the odds.
While standard hotel rooms will cost you somewhere between $570 – $770 a night, prices of parlor suites and a bedroom villa can reach $1500 per night. Aulani is not an all inclusive resort, so this doesn’t include food, which costs a tad too much, given you’re in Disney.
The problem is that the price you pay for staying in Aulani doesn’t cover all the things. Apart from the oceanfront and pool facilities access, there’s a fee for every other activity.
Limited Night Activities
If your primary purpose of visiting Aulani is a getaway for your kids, this shouldn’t impact you.
However, Aulani markets itself as a resort for all age groups, which doesn’t make much sense given that most facilities close by eight pm.
Off the Hook, the poolside bar, and The Olelo Room close at ten at night.
The only facility that’s available 24/7 is the beach, which is shared among Disney Aulani and a couple of other hotels in the area.
Getting There Isn’t Easy
Getting to Aulani is half the battle. Flights to Hawaii are expensive, especially if you’re flying from the East coast. Besides, Aulani is half an hour away from the airport in Honolulu. This might take up to an hour in case of heavy traffic.
Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t provide shuttles to and from the airport. You have to use an airport transfer or a car rental.
Also, Aulani is far from all tourist attractions in Oahu. You would need a rental car though to be able to drive it to visit other landmarks like North Shore, Honolulu, or Dole Pineapple Farm.
So, Is Aulani Worth It?
It depends on what you expect. I personally think it’s worth it if you love Disney.
If you’re looking for a Hawaiian resort with a touch of Disney for your kids to enjoy, then it’s worth it. The Hawaii / Disney blend offers a multitude of entertaining experiences that justify the price.
However, if you’re looking for a resort to relax and blow off some steam, then you might find some more affordable options with similar Hawaiian vibes.
We hope these travel tips help you plan your next Disney vacation whether it’s with the Disney Vacation Club or not.
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