Thursday, April 28, 2016

Our Hawaiian Holiday 2016 - Part Three - Disney Aulani Resort

We left the North Shore of Oahu and drove 45 minutes south towards Ko Olina and the Disney Aulani Resort.

On the way we stopped at the Waikele Factory Outlets for a browse and picked up some great bargains (t-shirts, shoes)  Again we stopped here as it was on our way but I don't know if I would make a specific trip out here from Waikiki, as it was similar products at similar prices to Ala Moana shopping centre. (maybe a smidge cheaper)

This is our second time visiting Aulani and we knew the boys would love the Disney characters roaming around, the kids club and everything the resort had to offer. Simon and I were looking forward to it too as we fully planned on utilising the kids club and having a break ourselves!

This resort was our first experience of the "Disney" brand and we were amazed with how well run and organised everything was. We were asked why we chose this resort instead of a Disney cruise or a trip to Disneyland and our reasons were this -

1 - We're not sure if we are "cruise" people. As we're not sure we like the idea of being locked into one location (eg the ship) But as we have heard so many great things it is something we will continue to consider. Also a lot of the Disney cruises start in other destinations that are a little too far away at the moment. At the moment 9.5 hours flying to Hawaii suits us.

2 - I've thought the boys were a little too young before this year to appreciate Disneyland and all it has to offer. Due to the large age gaps between the boys, I really had to consider everyone. Although Finn is well and truly ready, I know he will still enjoy it as a teen or adult. Also the flying time to L.A  has put me off for the time being.

3 - I don't know if I would have made a specific trip to Hawaii just for the Aulani Disney resort but it was such a bonus and added a wonderful dimension to the trip. Waikiki, the North Shore and Aulani were all so different and we all really enjoyed the changes between them. Plus I loved staying at Aulani at the end of our stay, to slow the pace down a bit, everything we needed was in the resort and we had the kids club available for a little time out. (both kids + parents)

Our Accommodation
We had a 1 Bedroom Villa Standard View. Disney Vacation Club villas are fully self contained apartments (1 bedroom, kitchen, lounge, dining, bathroom, laundry) and are the most suitable for families. It was great to have the space to stretch out, do some washing and have the kitchen to use for breakfasts/snacks.

On arrival we were greeted by someone from the concierge desk who gave us leis (for me) and beads (for the boys) and information on the hotel, activity timetable and a quick layout of everything.

Every member of the family is given a personalised room card which acts as ID for the kids club and other resort facilities (pool, slide etc) It also acts as a charge card which enables you to charge food, drinks and services to the room. (You can choose who you would like to have charge privileges, we let Jasper + Finn have them so they could buy a drink or shave ice when wanted but Noah obviously didn't need it)

We unpacked in our room and as it was still only early afternoon we changed into our swim gear and headed straight out to the pools and lazy river. Each day every guest at the hotel must get a coloured wrist band (colour changes daily) as this ensures only hotel guests are using the facilities.
You can also pick up fresh towels there  too.

There are quite a few restaurants in the resort to choose from. Some ala carte, a buffet restaurant, more casual pool side dining, a cafe where you can pick up food to take back to your room and also kiosks for snacks and drinks during the day when the pools are open.

The most important thing is to book in advance as everything books out quite quickly, especially around the 7pm time slot. We booked things like the Character breakfasts in a few weeks out from our arrival and we made dinner reservations in the morning to ensure we had a choice of time slots.
You can do this online or just call the restaurant direct.

We mixed it up for our breakfasts, we did the Character breakfast a couple of times ( the boys sure do love a breakfast buffet. The mickey mouse shaped waffles are too cute!) other times we just had toast, cereal or yoghurt + granola in our room before heading out for the day. You can pick up supplies from the shop in the lobby or the Ulu Cafe in the resort.

Character Breakfast
You really must do a Character Breakfast during your stay. So much fun for both the adults and children.  The price includes a photo with Mickey Mouse on arrival, (you don't feel rushed at all, the hotel has their own photographer taking photos but they are happy for you to take your own as well.)  The breakfast has so many options - an omlette station, fruit and yoghurts, cereals, pancakes, waffles, toats and pastries, anything you could think of! During your breakfast Minnie Mouse and Goofy wander to each table for a chat and a photo. It's all very organised and orderly and again nothing is rushed. They are happy to stay for as many photos as you like. At other times during the breakfast, there are songs and dances that the kids can join in with, a conga line, waving your napkins around and having a good time. Lots of fun and a great start to the day. Everyone is so happy and in that Disney spirit. The looks on the boys faces were just beautiful when they got a hug from Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. It was so worth it! Again remember to book ahead for this so you are guaranteed to get the day and time you want.

We usually had lunch around the pool area when we took a break from swimming. 
One day a hotdog and fries, another day a chicken salad or a sandwich. You can either go and sit in a cafe or grab something from a kiosk or there is waiter service so you don't have to move a muscle. They will bring everything to you!

Usually for afternoon tea we would grab a shave ice or ice block. I also bought a few apples to snack on too. You can buy a Disney refillable cup (about $18) which gives you free soda refills throughout your stay. (we didn't do this as I didn't want to encourage the boys to drink more soft drink!) You can also buy drinks served in pineapples which seemed to be a holiday in Hawaii thing to do. They can fill the pineapple with whatever you like. One day we had a smoothie, another day we chose a pina colada. Something fun and a great photo op ;)

We did the buffet dinner a few times as it was best for the kids as you didn't have to wait and there was sooo much choice. It is essential to make a reservation for the buffet dinner as it books out fast and without a booking only later times are available.

 Depending on what you feel like, there is a restaurant to suit. 

One night we had room service when the kids were exhausted after a big day swimming. We also saw that you could order a pizza from the Ulu Cafe to take away. A couple of nights the boys just felt like toast, so it was great to have the facilities in the room to make this.

If you tire of the resort food there is a little shopping complex about 5 minutes walk away. There is a restaurant called the Monkeypod Kitchen that was kid friendly and very popular. There is also an ABC store if you need to pick up supplies, plus a coffee shop, icecream shop, some clothing and homewares boutiques if you need a shopping fix.

The Character Breakfast

Pools, slides + lagoon
There are 3 pools (1 is specifically for the over 18's who need a little peace + quiet)
There are lots of sun loungers + umbrellas around, fresh towels on hand and waiter service if you want food and drinks delivered to your sun lounger. On some days there is a "pool party" where the Disney characters sing and dance around the pool. Remember to get your new wrist band for the pools and slide each day.

2 slides - 1 open one that slides directly into the lazy river and 1 that is a little more adventurous. It is covered and dark  80% of the way and a bit steeper. 


Splash pad 

Water park - water covered bridges + buckets dumping water

Lazy river - float along on a inflatable tube or just drift in the water

Lagoon/man made beach at the back of the resort - calm water perfect for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, using a SUP or swimming out to the pontoon to just relax. You can hire beach toys for free from the Makiki Joe's beach hire down there. You can also hire snorkel, goggles and flippers for $39 and use them for your whole stay. (you can also use these to snorkel with the fish in the Rainbow reef, a saltwater tank with live coral reef in the resort) 

There are beach chairs and umbrellas set up down on the beach for hotel guests to use. We loved to come here as it was never that busy and Noah loved to sit on the sand building sandcastles while the older boys snorkelled and did backflips off the pontoon. There is also a ping pong table set up and a giant connect 4 game to play when you're tired of the beach. You can pick up drinks and snacks from the kiosk down there so you don't have to walk back into the resort. Simon loved the soft serve swirl from here, a mix of pineapple + vanilla ice cream. This area is just for hotel guests so never gets overly busy.

We loved the variety and moving around the different areas. Once I packed up our beach bag for the day we found we never went back to the room until late afternoon. I always packed dry clothes for the boys in case they wanted to go directly to kids club from the pool.

Kids Club
Aunty's Beach House is the kids club in the resort and takes children aged 3 - 12 (must be toilet trained) You can go anytime through out the day without booking for free play but there are also extra scheduled activities that you must book for. We booked a couple of activities for the boys a few weeks before our arrival as these activities do book out fast. One was Stitch's Space Goo - Stitch came in and taught them how to make green slime. It was very cute as they dressed up in lab coats and glasses and made their goo. A Disney photographer takes photos so you can see them later and purchase if you like. The second activity was an Aloha Beach Party where they got to sing, dance and dress up in costumes plus do craft activities and make their own leis.

There were so many things to do play in their garden with equipment, a games room, movie room, craft area the boys just loved it. It offered another dimension to our stay besides all the swimming and water activities. We kind of got into a little routine where we would do breakfast, hang by the pool and lagoon for a few hours and then the boys would take a break and go to Kid's Club at around 3pm for an hour or two. We would then go and have dinner and then they would go back to kids club for a play for an hour before bed. Other days they would want to go straight to Kid's Club after breakfast so we would pick them up after a 2 hours then we would spend the rest of the day swimming etc. 

Aunty's Beach House was so well run and the security levels were so high we felt comfortable leaving the boys there. All the kids are given security wrist bands to wear through their stay with a GPS locator which enables the carers to know where every child is within the Kid's Club at all times.
The kids had to log in and out with their wrist bands on each visit, parents had to present their room cards and give a password to pick the children up. Also no adults were allowed to just wander in and hang out with the kids. Although you were allowed to take them in and get them settled. 

It was so great for Simon and I to have that time to just chill out together, take a break and maybe sneak in an afternoon cocktail by the pool.  There was also a teen club as well which Finn went to a couple of times and enjoyed. Other times he was happy to just roam around the resort or catch up with some other teens he had met. The resort felt really safe so we were comfortable with this.

Of course Simon and Finn had to fit in a few surfs during this leg of the trip and the surf break of Makaha was just a 20 minute drive north of the Disney Aulani. They got up early and surfed before the rest of us woke up. They drove one day and then after we had returned the car they caught a cab.

Things to do
We really found the resort filled our needs of things to do during our stay. 
Besides all of the water activities you could take a walk on the pathway at the rear of the resort alongside the lagoon. It was very pretty with lots of palm trees and a wonderful ocean view. 
Also the sweetest little wedding chapel.

The older boys also enjoyed doing the Menehune Adventure Trail.
To get started, you check out a special ipad at the Pau Hana community center, located on the first floor of the Ewa Tower. Then, set forth on your adventure! The ipad will play videos and display interactive clues as you walk along the trail. At certain spots, you'll see scenery come to life when you answer a clue correctly.  Along the way, you'll learn about the Menehune—the legendary "little people" of Hawai‘i, known for their magical powers and mischief. This might be a little difficult for the littles to do without an adult to help as some of the riddles are a little tricky. Luckily Jasper had his big brother to help. It probably took them about 1 hour to finish the trail.

Snorkel in the Rainbow Reef and see the thousands of tropical fish. 
You can choose to snorkel or stay dry and look through the glass. Witnessing the wonders of the 3,800-square-foot reef and its inhabitants is free of charge; a viewing window and observation deck let you watch—and take pictures if you wish—as friends and family snorkel. Kids under 11 have to be accompanied by an adult.

As mentioned above you could have a browse at the Waikele Factory Outlets about 20 minutes away.  There is also another shopping centre with Target, Sports Authority and other shops about 10 minutes away.

There is also a Day Spa at the resort but we ran out of time to check this out.

So I think that wraps up our wonderful Hawaiian holiday. 

I hope I've given you a picture of each place we stayed in and the activities available there.
If you have any questions please let me know!

We flew Jetstar as we found they had the most competitive rates at the time of our booking.
All of our accommodation was booked by us via the hotel's website. We emailed them direct if we had any requests or questions. 

Have you been to Hawaii? I'd love to hear about your favourite place in Hawaii if you've been before.

You can read my post on Waikiki here and my post on the North Shore here


Thanks for leaving a comment :) You just made my day xx

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