Since it’s less than a week now until our annual trip to Disney World, I thought I’d reminisce a bit about our very short but very sweet stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort on the island of Oahu back in 2011.
When Disney first announced their newest resort, the Aulani, in the beautiful Ko Olina area of Oahu, I was sold. Hawaii and Disney are two of my most favorite things, and now they were combined! Although it looked amazing, the Aulani was very expensive (which is on par with all deluxe Disney resorts) but pair that with one of the most expensive destinations, Hawaii, and you’ve got yourself a mighty $$$ trip. I put it away on the bucket list, but I didn’t realize I would cross it off in a short amount of time.
In 2011, Steve’s family, including myself, went on a trip to Taiwan. It was the first time I’ve been there and it was wonderful (although it rained for most of the time). Since the trip was so far for us coming from NYC, we decided to break up the return trip with a stopover in Honolulu for a few days (more like 10). I knew that we had to stay at the Aulani then, so I devised a few ways we could have our dose of Disney and Hawaii without spending mega bucks. I decided we’d do a split stay, the first week would be spent in a cozy little condo in Waikiki, and then we’d travel to Ko’Olina to experience our last 2 nights at the Aulani.
Regular prices for a standard room at the Aulani were about 350 and up for our dates. Although we were only spending 2 nights at the Aulani, I still didn’t want to pay rack rate – at least not for a standard room. I’m always looking for the most luxury for the best price, so I decided to rent DVC points to get the most bang for our buck.
DVC stands for Disney’s Vacation Club, a sort of “timeshare” for Disney properties all over the US. Owners buy a set of “points” and depending on the resort, different levels of points could get you different categories of rooms at various times of the year. On certain occasions, DVC owners aren’t able to use all their points in a year, and so before they expire, they “rent” them out to the public so that they aren’t ultimately losing any money. I perused the Dis Board’s DVC Rental Thread to find an owner willing to rent me their points for the best rate, and before long, I had ourselves booked into a 1-BR suite at the Aulani for our dates, for less than the price of a standard room! In total, I paid about 300 a night, which was cheaper than a standard hotel room, but I was getting twice the amount of space, plus a full kitchen, washer dryer, and luxurious bathroom!
Staying at the Aulani was definitely a highlight of the trip! The grounds are absolutely spectacular, and everything is finished beautifully. Disney didn’t spare any expense on this resort, and it looks like it will stand the test of time.
Our 1-BR suite was wonderful. It was new, and had everything we needed. This is a great way for families to vacation together and have all the comforts of home. I especially liked the huge bathroom with separate shower and tub, and the full kitchen.
The room was well thought-out and well-appointed. I especially love the hidden Mickeys throughout the resort. Can you spot it in the picture below?
The Aulani is all about combining the culture of Hawaii into a mega-resort/play land. Many of the restaurants and common areas used Hawaiian names. There was even a shave ice stand at their pool area:
Ko’Olina is actually a man-made resort area on the southwest side of Oahu, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The lagoons are very swimmable and pretty.
We did take part in a few meals at the Aulani. You can reserve these meals in advance before your stay and I highly recommend it if you want to eat on property. There are a few restaurants around the resort but Ko’Olina tends to be it’s own self-contained community. To get elsewhere, you’d have to drive for a bit. Most likely if you’re at the Aulani, you’re there to stay and enjoy the resort.
We also enjoyed a nice dinner at ‘Ama’Ama, the fine dining restaurant at the Aulani. I was impressed with the setting and the service, but I thought the food in both ‘Ama’Ama and Makahiki was only OK. Breakfast at Makahiki was probably the best meal out of them all, but it is hard to screw up breakfast foods. Oh and Mickey waffles make up for all shortcomings. They really do.
In the evenings they light the fire pit and tell old Hawaiian folk tales. Very cool!
We spent most of our 2 days at the Aulani enjoying the pools and jacuzzi. The Jacuzzi is two-tier and had amazing views of the lagoon.
I went to the spa on my last day for a wonderful spa pedicure, and I would say that their spa and gym area are state-of-the-art and very luxuriously-appointed as well.
The gift shop at the Aulani also didn’t disappoint. It had all the bells and whistles of a Disney Gift shop along with some high-end items, such as the limited edition Dooney and Bourke bags in an Aulani-exclusive design.
Overall, I really enjoyed our stay at the Aulani. The resort is beautiful and despite the food not being their best feature, I still highly recommend it. I think because I’ve just had some amazing food throughout my travels to Hawaii, that the food at the Aulani just wasn’t up to par, but I liked how they incorporated local cuisine into their restaurants. Things such as poke and lau lau make an appearance in their dinner buffet, and their restaurants do serve fresh local fish. You are made to feel as part of a family too, and everyone calls each other “cousin” or “aunty” – very cute!
If you love Disney and Hawaii as much as I do, I think you’d love the Aulani. I definitely would like to return with my family one day! Note that renting DVC points is not for everyone – it requires a bit of time and research but it can pay off well in the end. You are entering into a contract with an individual owner, and not Disney directly, so I would make sure to reconfirm that the owner has booked your stay for your dates in the type of room you requested. Most owners will take payments via paypal, so you are paying them directly. My experience was very straightforward and only required a few emails back and forth with the owner, but I think it would depend on a case by case basis.
The Aulani is far from the rest of Waikiki and Honolulu though, so it would be a real shame to go to Oahu and not spend some time seeing the other sites on the island. You could spend a few hours of your day driving back and forth (for example Ko Olina is about an hour away from Diamond Head). That’s why I highly encourage the split-stay if you’re interested in seeing all the rest that Oahu has to offer. Read about some of our other Oahu trips here, here and here.
For ideas on what to do in Oahu, you can head over to Funlocity’s Live Your Aloha website which has awesome information on activities and tours in Hawaii. Depending on the type of vacation you want, you can find something for everyone! Click on this link to save 10 USD off a booking!
Only 5 more days until my sister and I head back to Disney World! Yay!