Friday, March 20, 2015

Hawaii Trip Report Part 3: First Day at Aulani

Trip Report so far:

Vacation Video
Part 1: Getting There
Part 2: Hiking Diamond Head Crater

Part 3: First Day at Aulani

Disney's Aulani resort opened a few years ago on Oahu, and it's the main reason I was able to convince my husband to go to Hawaii. It is part of a larger resort area called Ko Olina on the west side of the island. One of the big draws for families is Aunty's Beach House, the kids' club that is modeled after the kids' clubs on Disney cruises. It's open 12 hours a day and is included in the room price. It's not like a typical daycare has science programs, hula lessons, music lessons, movies, video games, Disney character visits, an outside playground, etc. Brian and I were able to have 4 date-night dinners during our vacation while our kids had a blast at Aunty's Beach House.

Aulani also basically has an on-site water park and sits on the beach. There was NO WAY I was going to go to Hawaii without staying at Aulani, and thankfully we were able to stay for free for 5 nights using our travel credit card strategy.

Aulani has distinctive architecture with peaks that are modeled after Hawaiian canoe houses.

We arrived at 11:00 a.m. in our swimsuits ready to hit the pools and slides. Our room would be ready around 4:00 p.m., so we planned to swim most of the day.

When we pulled up, we were offered fresh water from the Mickey fruit cooler:

And then we were given the traditional Hawaiian gifts. I received this beautiful flower lei, the kids received Menehune necklaces, and Brian got a Kukui nut necklace.

I had checked in online before we left for Hawaii, so we didn't even have to visit the resort's front desk. Our hostess pulled us aside and explained some things about the resort. Our first surprise was that our room was ready for us at 11:00 a.m.! The second surprise was that we had been upgraded from a standard view room (which generally faces the parking lot or a wall) to an oceanview room! I priced oceanview rooms when we booked, but the nicer view would have cost us $1000 more and we didn't want it that bad. We were thrilled!

Although I didn't take many pictures of it, Aulani's lobby area is spectacular. Here is a video I found on YouTube that shows the lobby and entrance to Aulani.

We decided to drop our stuff off in our villa before hitting the pools. Here are some photos of room #870 in the Ewa tower:

Upon entering the room is a full kitchen and a table. A closet also contained a washer and dryer.

There was plenty of room for all 5 of us at the kitchen table.

This is the living room that doubled as the kid's bedroom. It had a balcony.

This shows the same room made up for sleeping at night...the sofa and the chair converted to comfortable beds.
Brian and I had our own separate bedroom with a king-size bed and a separate balcony. Our room happened to be handicap accessible, so our bed was lower to the ground than most other room beds.

Notice the Mickey surfing lamp:

Our bathroom was two rooms and large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The toilet/sink room:
And a separate bathroom with another sink and bathtub/shower:

The best thing about our room was the view from both balconies! We could see the pool/water park area and the ocean to our left:

Looking straight out at the pool area:

And looking to the right at the main lobby building:
The views were even prettier at night with all the lights:

After we checked out our room, we were ready to head to the pools. And there were plenty to choose from.

This is the two-level adults-only infinity hot tub that overlooked the beach:

There was also an adults-only pool, which I never visited.

The infinity pool with a grotto area and family hot tub:

This is the main pool with a zero-entry area and a cave:

We ate lunch at Mama's Snack Stop in the main pool area, which was not as expensive as we thought it would be:
Here's the menu. Brian and I both had coconut shrimp, which was delicious!

Later in the day (and several more times during our stay), we had Hawaiian shaved ice.

There was a fish viewing area:

The viewing area was underneath this snorkeling lagoon that was stocked with colorful fish:

And the Menehune Bridge kids' play area, with bridges and smaller slides:

And a large lazy river:

The volcano in the middle was the start of 2 water slides:

One was enclosed in the dark, and the other was open and required tubes.

We spent the next 4-5 hours just enjoying all of the pools. First, we had to visit the towel check shack to get a resort wrist band and towels. And we checked out life jackets for my two youngest swimmers (even though  my 7-year-old is a decent swimmer and there were lifeguards, the pool area was just too large for my comfort level). Vacant pool chairs were hard to find in the middle of the day, but we did find one to put our stuff on.

We ran into several Disney characters that afternoon in the pool area:

Shaved ice:

The boys love hot tubs

The pools and the sun were a nice change for us, since we had been bombarded by snow and ice in Texas in the two weeks before our trip.

We headed back to our villa to change around 4 p.m. We decided to drop the kids off at Aunty's Beach House while Brian and I went grocery shopping for the week.

We found this Stitch statue on the way to Aunty's:

Aunty's Beach House was not a separate house as I expected; it was really part of one of the towers:

I filled out paperwork on the kids to get them registered. I really don't know how any of us were awake at this point since we got up so early that morning!

Brian and I drove into Kapolei to a Safeway for some groceries. Even though our room rate at Aulani included a free breakfast (which was part of a special promotion), we wanted to get stuff for sandwiches and kid meals for the week as well as dinner for that night. We found the Safeway to be very small and expensive (everything cost about twice as much as we were used to). But everything is more expensive in Hawaii due to shipping costs. We purchased some ready-made fried chicken for dinner that night.

After we returned to Aulani, we picked up the kids from Aunty's. All 3 had a great time! Alyssa tried on princess costumes and played outside, Nathan played dodge ball with older kids outside and Joshua played video games (surprise).

We ate our dinner in the villa and went to sleep early. Alyssa and Joshua were asleep by 7:30, and Nathan shortly after. We knew we would all be up super early the next morning due to the 5-hour time zone change.

I have stayed in 9 Disney resorts, and Aulani is by far my favorite one. The architecture, artwork, pools, location and customer service are outstanding!

Up next: Aunty's Activities, Surfing, Laniwai Spa, Ama Ama and Starlit Hui

No comments:

Post a Comment