August 8, 2012

Disney’s Aulani Resort – I Tried Not to Like It

I know this sounds bad coming from a family travel specialist, but I have to confess that spending a week at Disney’s Aulani Resort on Oahu was not my idea of the perfect Hawaiian vacation. I do love Disney, I think have fantastic cruises and resorts. But having been to most of the Hawaiian islands, I have become a bit of snob about this destination, and had trouble wrapping my brain around a Disney-themed resort in my beloved tropical paradise.
So when our in-laws suggested we vacation there together, I had mixed feelings. But I quietly reprimanded myself as I would one of my children, saying I should be very thankful that we even get to vacation in Hawaii.

Disney must put something in the lemon & lime-infused water that they hand you on arrival, because I wasn’t in the lobby more than 10 minutes before I knew I was going to love the place. The décor was stunning, an elegant nod to Hawaiian culture. And the service was one would expect at a luxury hotel. When the greeter noticed the front desk was busy, he commandeered a concierge desk so that we did not have to wait to check in, then apologized that he was not as fast & efficient on the computer as the regular front desk staff.

Disney excels at attention to detail. Every single day I discovered something new, and it’s impressive that many of the details are not there to wow the guests, but to pay tribute to Hawaiian culture. I highly recommend every guest take one of the hotel tours so they can also appreciate these details, from the clever use of coconuts in the Makahiki dining room, to the symbolism of the artwork in the lobby.

I could write pages about all the fun things at Aulani, but since blogs are supposed to be short & concise (not my specialty), I will summarize my favorite things:

The lazy river - It was reasonably long & interesting with caves, fountains, and a fun waterslide. The pool area is undergoing expansion this fall, so there will be even more places to play next year.
The room – Nice details including under bed storage for suitcases and loose items, good shelf space in the bathroom, a balcony with 2 chairs & side table, and beautiful Hawaiian décor (with tasteful Disney touches including a vintage Mickey Mouse lamp).

The beach – Complimentary umbrellas and boogie boards, and a pretty & safe lagoon.

The activities – Each evening a resort guide was placed in our room, much like the activity guide you find on a cruise. There were a variety activities for all ages (most complimentary), including arts & crafts, cultural tours, and evening storytelling & movies. My daughter got to make a woven bracelet, a feather flower and turtle necklace.

The food – Every venue, from poolside dining to the signature oceanfront restaurant, was very good. A nice souvenir is an insulated travel mug, which can be refilled with soda or coffee at stations around the property.

Menehune Adventure Trail – Kids and adults can enjoy a high tech scavenger hunt with a specially programmed iPod that interacts with various features at the resort. There are multiple “trails” so there’s always something new to try. We made fire shoot out of a rock, sunk an island in the koi pond, and made musical instruments play on their own.

An oceanfront, two level, infinity hot tub – Need I say more?

And one other feature I have to mention, though my kids were too old for it, is Aunty’s Beach House. This is the complimentary kids' club for ages 3-12, and I have never seen anything like it. It is actually a full size house (over 5000 sq ft), with kitchen, playroom, computers, movie room, backyard, even a garage with workshop!

There is so much more I could tell about Disney’s Aulani Resort, and the island of Oahu. If you’d like more information or assistance with planning your own family vacation to Hawaii, just send a note to suzette@family-treks.com.

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