Our very first trip to Hawai'i saw us at our Hilton timeshare in Honolulu at the Grand Waikikian at Hilton's Hawaiian Village for two glorious weeks. A beautiful, vast resort with a ton of amenities, a mere five minute trolley ride to the bustling shopping and dining in downtown Honolulu, which even had a Cheesecake Factory!
I still thought about Aulani. I was still planning a day trip over to Aulani, on the west side of the island in a beautiful area called Ko Olina. Yes, I was thinking about Aulani. We had rented a car because my husband loves exploring and there's lots to do in Hawai'i and a lot of natural beauty to explore. Aulani was always on my mind.
The first thing I had to do was to take care of our dining, so on to the Aulani website I went and discovered that we could easily have two meals there, so it was breakfast at Makahiki and dinner, well a light, sort of snackish one at the casual beachside lounge called Off the Hook. I have to admit, we were going to back into Honolulu to eat at the Cheesecake Factory for a late dinner, so dinner number one had to be light.
The drive from Honolulu on the freeway took about thirty minutes, door to door. As we approached the area we saw a beautiful upper middle class neighbourhood to the North and a roadway leading to the Ko Olina Golf Club to our left, the South, which also lead to the resort area. Aulani is flanked on both sides by two Marriott resorts, which seemed nice, but paled by comparison. Yes, I'm always comparing and nothing measures with anything that has to do with Disney.
Aulani in the foreground, and you can see one of the Mariott's at the top edge of the lagoon.
As we pulled up to Aulani you can't help but become captivated by the lush shrubs and flowers that flanked the resort, that looked as if they've been there for years.
Photos unless otherwise noted: JackiePsarianos
We parked our car in the covered parking area, took our ticket so that we could have it validated where we ate, and walked excitedly along the pathway to the main entrance.
Disney Imagineers replicated the feeling of being at any Walt Disney World resort by formatting parking and footpaths in a similar manner making it easy for anyone to find their way around. For seasoned Disney guests, it makes you feel at home because the familiarity is there. It's a very comforting feeling that they evoke, making one feel right at home from the very first minute. Everything seems familiar, and somehow....it is!
The welcoming begins even before you enter the lobby, be it as a resort guest or as a visitor. You are greeted warmly and women are offered a floral, fragrant lei, while the men receive the nut type called Kui Kui Leis. Guests are offered a refreshing drink of ice-cold lemon/lime infused water that you can enjoy while sitting in the vast, open air lobby.
Walking through the main doors, your breath is literally taken away as you are greeted by this sight.
Greeted by a massive, towering foyer with pointed,arched vaulting made of local woods, tweeds and thatchings leading the eye upwards towards the Heavens, also carrying your interest to the hand painted frieze depicting the Story of Hawai'i.
One of the wings leading to one side of the resort.
What is commonly known as the "Aulani Arch" is designed to resemble traditional hale wa'a (canoe house) and hale (homes), bringing even more authenticity alive.
Photo: Disney Parks Blog/ The Walt Disney Company
A closeup of the frieze depicting the Story of Hawai'i through painted imagery of daily life, celebrations and ceremony of the local people. The panel above the frieze highlighting common patterns of decoration and colors. All in horizontal, hierarchical succession leading the eye upwards towards the Heavens, the ultimate destination.
Disney Imagineers worked closely with local historians and artists to represent and celebrate Hawaiian culture and history. Disney 's focus was to immerse guests in the legends of Hawai'i. Disney Imagineers, in my opinion, succeeded in doing so.
Aulani boasts 359 standard hotel type rooms and 16 suites as well as 481 Disney Vacation Club Villas and 21 Grand Villas. The resort offers four restaurants and two lounges, the Laniwai Spa, a Fitness Centre, a Kids Club called Aunty's Beach House located near the pool, a Teen Spa called Painted Sky, pools, lazy rivers, waterslides, a pristine beach all with beach activities and a beautiful great lawn for celebrations and special events.
Another hallway leading to another section of resort rooms. One passes the main lobby Guest Services on the right as well as Concierge Services. On the left is the 'Keiki' room where children can relax, watch movies, and color, while parents fulfill their needs at Guest Services or Concierge.
The Guest Services counter at Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa.
The adorable 'Keiki' room.
As you enter the main lobby, the Guest Services counter and Concierge services are to your right and the Gift Shop is on your left. A quaint gift shop offering Aulani merchandise as well as sundries, medications and snacks. Disney has replicated this style of gift shop and maintained a level of consistency with all other Disney resorts in Florida and California, allowing seasoned guests the feeling of knowing what to expect, thus evoking a feeling of being at home.
One of the many comfortable sitting areas in the open air, main lobby, with balmy, comforting cross-breezes. It's very easy to spend many hours here, people watching, relaxing and reading. I could easily hang here for a good chunk of time, snacking on something of course.
The Aulani Gift Shop with its' abundance of goodies for those basking in Disney souvenirs.
A glorious Mickey Mouse lamp.
The flooring in the gift shop adorned with inlaid woods creating this flip flop pattern!
Everyone's favorite Dooney and Bourke handbags a la Aulani.
More Dooney and Bourke, Aulani designed handbags.
On our way to our buffet breakfast at Makahiki, a restroom break was in order. I wasn't surprised to find that the Imagineers carried through on detailing even there.
We were now famished and ready for our culinary adventure at Makahiki. You could take the staircase downstairs or an elevator, whatever pleases you.
The lovely wall on our way down the staircase.
If you keep walking down this corridor, you are led to the Excursions Desk. Here you can plan outings to Honolulu for shopping, Pearl Harbor, The Polynesian Cultural Center and the Dole Plantation. You can also book on property excursions offered at Aulani here too. You can kayak, surf and ride on horseback at Aulani.
At the base of the staircase, on your way to Makahiki, you are greeted by smiling Cast Members welcoming you to the elegant Makahiki and emphasizing the beautiful locally made artwork.
The beautiful handcarved, Acacia Koa wood panels depicting ceremonial and daily life representations.
The impressive entrance to Makahiki, the buffet restaurant serving breakfast and dinner as well as a Character meals over the weekend. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast here that offered a variety of delicious foods to please every dietary choice and palette.
The buffet area food stations.
Captivated by this wall made entirely of coconut shell, on our way to our table at Makahiki.
Beautiful Murano glass lighting fixtures at Makahiki with the coconut shell, squared ceiling tiles above.
When breakfast was over, we just had to walk the grounds. It was early morning, the breezes were in full action and the footpaths welcoming. So off we went.
The Lazy River emanating from the Waikolohe Stream where guests have the option of selecting a water slide adventure from atop at Pu 'U Kilo: an extreme ride down or a serene ride down.
The refreshing Waikolohe pool with a zero depth entry and a tunnel body slide called Volcanic Vertical seen below.
The zero depth entry of the Waikolohe Pool.
The pathways surrounding Waikolohe pool were flanked by rich flowers and succulent shrubs and you'd find the little Menehune (little people who are responsible for mysterious events) scattered here and there, adding interactive fun. The Menehune are crafty little musicians too!
Lovely Koi ponds throughout and look for turtles too.
The interactive, water play Menehune Bridge, with three water-slides, within the Waikolohe Pool.
Our little friend.
The little Menehune.
Our walk took us through a myriad of little spots and we quickly found the adult pool called the Wailana Pool, serenity abounds here.
The Wailana Pool, an adult retreat.
Along the western side of the Waikolohe Pool are the posh Cabanas which are ultra luxurious and available on a reserve basis for a fee and offer flat screen T.V.'s, a ceiling fan, a fridge, complementary water, and WiFi, accommodating six people and you can even order your meals to be eaten here. Luxury at its' best.
Further down you'll find the beautiful Great Lawn, with its' pretty arbor overlooking Ko Olina Beach. Here they do special events, such as the Hawaiian Starlit Hui, weddings, and movie nights for starters.
Our walk took us to the tiered, rest and sunbathing areas complete with loungers and umbrellas. It was very inviting.
The beach itself was beautiful, with crystal clear water and golden sand, offering a multitude of beach related activities, loungers and chairs. You could rent equipment from Makiki Joe's. Boogie Boards, chairs and umbrellas are complimentary for resort guests.
My son was delighted to find Minnie Mouse and we even had a chance to greet her and pose for a photo. Aulani utilizes the Photopass system.
I ♥ Minnie ♥
Some more sweet memories...
Waking up TinkerBell is a favorite past-time at this spot above.
The beautiful Ama Ama.
Beautiful Hawai'ian Mural.
Our light, light appetizer dinner spot, Off the Hook.
Yummy shaved ice, at Shaved Ice.
We will return soon in the future as guests at this delightful Disney resort and I'll bask all I can and enjoy all that I can.
Walt Disney made his hopes a definite reality when he said,
"The most important aim of any of the fine arts, is to get a purely emotional response from the beholder."