TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Aulani!

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Aulani                                                                                            ©Disney

Aulani ©Disney

Imagine this – you get a call from Len asking if you would like to go to the Disney Aulani resort in Hawaii. Really? Of course, the answer is YES! Aulani, is a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, located just 17 miles from the Honolulu International airport and close to Waikiki. Unlike most of Disney’s other destinations, there are no rides at Aulani, but the resort is designed with families in mind with the intent to immerse all guests in Hawaiian culture, history and traditions.

Horseback Riding ©Disney

Horseback Riding
©Disney

There are many excursions, spas, activities, shows, and dining to choose from. I will be traveling with a friend and no children on this trip, so I am looking forward to the sightseeing and relaxation opportunities! My trip will begin at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, with a stopover in Los Angeles and then on to Honolulu. My friend will be traveling from Seattle to Honolulu. We have chosen to rent a car at the airport because we are going to spend a few days in Waikiki before driving to Aulani, but there is a shuttle available directly from the airport to Aulani. It was a challenge finding reasonable airline tickets and trying to synchronize the arrival times since we’ll be traveling from separate locations. Since my flight was the longest, I chose to fly early in the day on my way there and then fly out later in the afternoon on the return trip. I plan to sleep on the way home, but I have only managed catnaps before on planes, and I have a short layover in Los Angeles, so I hope this goes well!

We’ll go to Waikiki Beach after checking in. I can’t wait to get my feet in the sand on Waikiki beach, and maybe supper while checking out a sunset, if I last that long due to the time change. On the first full day, we plan to take the Oahu Grand Circle Island tour which includes views of Diamond Head, the Amelia Earhart Lookout site, and the Dole Plantation, to name a few. I can’t wait to try a Dole Whip at the plantation. I have heard so much about this pineapple treat. The second day will consist of a tour to visit Pearl Harbor, the USS Missouri, and Arizona Memorial. On the next day, we plan to go to Turtle Bay for horseback riding and a ride in a helicopter. The helicopter ride will be a first for both of us. This is definitely outside my comfort zone, but we are doing it. It is for a short time! How scary could it be?

Lazy River                ©Disney

Lazy River ©Disney

After Waikiki, we’ll move to the Aulani resort where we’ve decided to stay at the Disney Vacation Club Villas. We were able to pay for these with points, so that rocks! This is a great savings for those who are members of DVC. We’ll be spending our first four days of the trip in the Hawaiian Hilton on Waikiki – no DVC points for that stay! There are no tickets to the “park” because Aulani is a stand-alone resort with hotel rooms, DVC villas, restaurants, and lounges (like the DVC resorts at Vero Beach and Hilton Head). There is a spa and fitness center and activities for the kids and teens. Some of the excursions require fees, but there are free activities at Aulani, such as the Lazy River which is one of the first spots I plan to check out. We will mainly be relaxing at Aulani, but there is plenty to do. We want to see the Starlit Hui show one night, go to the beach, maybe some snorkeling. This part of the trip is going to be more impromptu. I understand they have the activities for the next day published each day. We do have reservations for the 3-star Sunset Dinner & Show cruise Saturday night, the Manoa Valley Rainforest & Bamboo Forest Hiking excursion Sunday, and dinner at the Ama Ama restaurant on Sunday night. Of course, we will enjoy the Hawaiian cuisine. I am always up to trying some new food! Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have suggestions for our trip like some special places you have experienced or would like to know about.

Many of you have interacted with Gerelyn over the years; she is better known as the knowledgeable and patience webmaster AT touringplans dot com. This is Gerelyn’s first article to run on the blog.

Ed., as a DVC member, I was able to book this trip with my own DVC points. If you’re not a member, or are short on points, we use and recommend DVCRequest.com (also known as David’s DVC Rentals) for Aulani or any other DVC Villa resort you’d like to book.

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Posted on August 5, 2014

8 Responses to “TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Aulani!”

  • I look forward to seeing your review when you get back. I don’t know what to think about Aulani. a Disney trip has certain expectations in my mind that Aulani would never be able to fulfill, so I’d love to know how they “plus it” to make Aulani a unique type of Disney vacation.

  • If you all get a chance, the Polynesian Cultural Center is absolutely fantastic, but that’s more of an all day thing. Hanauma Bay is equally wonderful, or if you get a chance to drive around the outside edge of the island, or even just up to North Shore, there’s some really beautiful scenery. Some things I would probably skip: Sea Life Park, which is nice enough, but after you’ve been to SeaWorld or Animal Kingdom, it just falls way, waaaay short. I enjoyed the Honolulu Zoo (though it’s not really any different from any other zoo), but the Honolulu Aquarium is also one of those, ‘not as good as I would have expected’. Although, also on Waikiki, if you’d like an up close look at some sea life, the Atlantis Submarine Tour is pretty amazing.

    From the sound of it, though, you’ve picked some really great things to do and see. Just a few tips— please, do NOT leave absolutely anything of value in your car in Waikiki. It is a huge hotspot for break ins. Also, take plenty of bug spray, especially when going into Manoa Valley; it’s extremely humid and full of standing water. And don’t be afraid to try local restaurants when you’re out and about! Of course, you’ll probably get mac salad and rice with everything, but a lot of the food is very good.

    Have a great time! I think you’ll love it. :)

    • Thanks Ashley
      I appreciate the tips about the site-seeing, the break-ins at Waikiki and bugs at Manoa Valley. We are considering the Polynesian Cultural Center and we want to go up along the North Shore. There is so much to do. Will let you know how it goes!

  • Look up eggs n things it is a restaurant within walking distance to the hilton and offers macademia nut pancakes I still dream about!

  • We went last March, it was amazing! My wife if already trying to get me to plan a trip back.

    We spent a week at Aulani but had a car so ran around the island quite a bit.

    As far as food offerings, Makahiki was good but I much preferred the breakfast offerings(and the characters/Auntie) to the dinner. Dinner was kind of boring(as far as stuff you see at any typical buffet) and there was better options nearby Aulani.

    With Ama Ama try to get a reservation before sunset and ask for a “window” seat(no windows it is open air, but overlooking the beach). It has an amazing view of the beach and sunset.

    I would recommend a massage at Laniwai spa. They are expensive but worth it for the whole experience. Arrive early(about 1hr) for your appointment to experience the hydrotherapy spa it was amazing. I wish they offered packages with just that.

    I would also second doing the Poly. Cultural center. It is run by the Mormon church so no mai tai’s but, it was a fun experience.