Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu
Are you planning a trip to Oahu and wondering if you should make a side trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa? You can get the full Aulani Resort experience in just 2 nights. My mom lives on Kauai, which makes her eligible for Aulani kamaaina rates. We spent 7 days on Oahu and split our time between Waikiki and Disney Aulani Resort. My mom and I (along with my 4 year old and 16 month old) took advantage of her deal February 28-March 2, 2018. I’ve created my top Aulani tips for maximizing 2 nights at the Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu.
Arrival at Aulani Resort in Hawaii
FIRST MORNING AT AULANI
Since we were already on Oahu, we woke up early and checked out of the Waikiki Courtyard Marriott. We did a quick stop at Leonard’s Bakery to pick up their famous malasadas and hit the road. We arrived at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa at 9:30am. Disney cast members greeted us and told us valet parking was the same price as self-park. We planned to not leave the Aulani Resort, so we grabbed all our stuff and had them valet our minivan. Bell Services grabbed our bags and presented us with fresh orchid leis and little menehune necklaces for the boys.
Then, we headed to check in where we received our room keys and a pass for the Luana Lounge. We also picked up a copy of the Daily Iwa, Aulani’s activities guide. Since we had a bit of time, we walked around the resort to get the lay of the land.
DISNEY AULANI CHARACTER BREAKFAST
We had a 10:15am reservation for Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at Makahiki restaurant. After we checked in with the host, we headed to get our photo with Mickey Mouse. We were first in line and didn’t feel rushed as we took photos of our 4 year old and Mickey before we all joined in the fun.
This Aulani Character Breakfast is my favorite Disney Character Breakfast so far! Not only was there tons and tons of food (including fried rice, an omelet bar, grits and the famous Mickey waffles) but Aunty’s programming was outstanding! As we walked to our table, my 4 year old joined a parade around the restaurant. Throughout our time at breakfast, Aunty walked around singing and playing the ukulele. She also encouraged kids to follow her to learn to hula dance, play with fish puppets, and tap coconut shells to the music. Plus, Minnie Mouse and Pluto came by our table a few times to play with the boys!
DISNEY AULANI POOLS
What’s really awesome about Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is that they give you access to the Luana Lounge when you check in. I learned about this Aulani tip through a Facebook group. This is a place where you can change out of your clothes into your swimsuit to start enjoying the pools at the Aulani Resort. We packed a bag specifically to use here and we changed into our swimsuits.
The Aulani Resort on Oahu features several pool areas:
- Ka Maka Grotto is an infinity edge pool overlooking Ko Olina beach. At night, they have twinkling lights!
- Keiki Cove Splash Zone is an interactive splash pad designed for younger children and it’s designed to look like a tidal pool.
- Menehune Bridge is a play structure featuring 2 slides and is a hot spot for kids under 48 inches tall.
- Waikolohe Pool is the largest pool at Aulani Resort and has a tunnel slide for the adventurous, a zero entry for families and is the location for Disney character pool parties.
- Waikolohe Stream offer two different tubing adventures: extreme rapids and a lazy river.
- Wailana Pool is the adults only pool and is hidden away a bit.
- Whirlpool Spas are found in 4 locations around the pool area, 2 of which have spectacular sunset views.
We walked around all the pool areas and decided to hang out at the Menehune bridge to play. My 4 year old couldn’t get enough of the slide. My 16 month old loved that he could crawl around in the water.
FIRST AFTERNOON AT AULANI RESORT
Around 2pm, we got a text that our room was ready. We headed up to see our room and called Bell Services to send up our bags. When Bell Services came, he offered to bring us up bed rails and a diaper genie. This was so helpful! We changed out of our wet swimsuits into regular clothes.
After we settled in a bit, we decided to continue exploring Disney Aulani. As we were walking around the grounds, we noticed Pluto hanging out by the cast member area. I think Pluto might have been on break, but he waved over my 4 year old and spent a lot of time playing with him! It was the highlight of my preschooler’s day! It’s moments like these that really set Disney Resorts apart from others.
HULA AT DISNEY AULANI
I’ve been a professional hula dancer for the past 20 years. I’d say I’m a bit critical when I see hula shows, especially at resorts. Seeing hula at Disney Aulani Resort was a high priority for me.
So, we made a point to see the A Hula For You performance at the Waikolohe Pool. It was a short performance and they danced to a Kealii Reichel song written for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. When they brought out the bird puppets, I seriously gasped. I loved that they elevated the hula to incorporate a touch of Disney magic!
AULANI PHOTOPASS SUNSET PHOTOS
I did a ton of research about our visit to Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu. One of the things that I saw is that Disney Aulani PhotoPass photographers will head to Ko Olina beach and do family photos at sunset. Getting photos of our time at Aulani Resort was important to me, so we headed down around 4pm.
We didn’t even need to wait in line. Our photographer was so friendly! My 16 month old was asleep in my Tula, but we still got some cute shots. The photo shoot lasted about 10 minutes and we could have visited the other 2 photographers on the beach. But, since my toddler was asleep, we planned to come back the next night.
MO`OLELO FIRE PIT STORYTELLING
One of the free Aulani activities that I knew we wanted to do was attend the Mo`olelo Fire Pit Storytelling near the beach. We headed to the 4:45pm show. Uncle came out and enthusiastically talked about Laka, his canoe and the tricky menehune. The story was 15 minutes and the crowd was engaged the whole time. We loved it!
We opted for an easy grab and go dinner at Ulu Cafe. While we could have ordered hot options, we decided to get a fresh roll, turkey sandwich, yogurt parfait, cheese/fruit/nut plate and lots of bottled water. My Mom ran to Kalepa’s Store for milk. We ate in our room and went to bed early so we’d be rested for our first full day at Aulani Resort.
Full Day at Aulani Resort
MORNING AT AULANI RESORT
To save time, we ate breakfast in our hotel room. Our Leonard’s malasadas were excellent! At 8am sharp, I called to get the Disney character meet & greet times and locations. I jotted them down in my phone.
We headed to the Pau Hana room to try to sign up for the Toddler Splash and Play, but they were already full (45 minutes prior to the activity.) Aulani Insider tip: head straight to the Pau Han Room and Aunty’s Beach House in the morning to sign up for activities.
DISNEY CHARACTER MEET & GREETS
We picked up Daily Iwa and headed to our first photo op with Goofy near the Waikolohe Stream. Goofy wore water shoes! I tried to get a selfie with Goofy, but my arms weren’t long enough to get his whole head in the frame!
Then, we spent the next hour enjoying the lazy river at Waikolohe Stream over and over again. The lazy river is much longer than we anticipated and it was our favorite pool area. Even my 16 month old liked it once we figured out a comfortable place for him to sit.
Since meeting Moana in Hawaii was a priority for us, we hopped out of the lazy river to jump in line. Our meet & greet with Moana was the best Disney character meeting we’ve experienced. She spent a full 2-3 minutes chatting with my 4 year old before posing for lots of photos. She’s such a sought-after character that we really appreciated all the attention she gave my son. She instructed him to help her search for Hei Hei and he took that very seriously all day long.
After that amazing Disney character experience, we headed up to our room to change clothes and eat lunch. We had brought leftover dim sum from Ala Moana. Plus, we still had leftovers from dinner at Ulu Cafe.
AFTERNOON AT AULANI RESORT & SPA
I’m glad that I pre-registered my 4 year old for Aunty’s Beach House because I still needed to fill out a supplemental form. I was also able to sign him up for Stitch’s Space Goo online a couple months prior to our stay at Aulani Resort. Even though Stitch’s Space Goo was at 3pm, I dropped him at 1pm so he’d be able to play and meet friends.
Since my mom was watching my toddler in our room, I had my first kid-free time! I strolled through the gift shops and found out they were having a big clearance sale. I scored a Maui shirt for my preschooler.
Then, I headed back to the room so my toddler could nap. Once he was asleep, I started jotting down notes for this blog post and just relaxed a bit. Our room at Aulani Resort was so beautiful and it was nice to take a few moments to enjoy being there.
When my toddler woke up, we decided to continue to explore the resort. There was an Aulani PhotoPass photographer next to the Stitch statue, so we had him take our photo. Then, we headed back to the Mo`olelo Fire Pit Storytelling at 4:45pm where Uncle told us the story of Moana. As he told us the story, Moana herself came to correct him and help him tell her story! The crowd went nuts and it was such a cool performance!
After the Mo`olelo Fire Pit Storytelling, we headed to Aunty’s Beach House to pick up my 4 year old. He had the most amazing time and eagerly showed me his Stitch’s space goo. The Aulani PhotoPass photographer was still outside the Stitch statue, so we made sure to get some photos of my 4 year old showing his space goo to Stitch!
EVENING AT DISNEY AULANI
Since the Mo`olelo Fire Pit Storytelling was so good, we went back at 5:45pm. We were stoked that it was the Moana story again so that my preschooler could experience it. He went nuts when he got to see Moana again!
Then, we headed to Ko Olina beach to do formal sunset photos with the Aulani PhotoPass photographers. We took photos with 2 different photographers. They each had their own style. I especially loved how they took lots of photos of my 4 year old just running around and playing in the sand. I mean, playing at the beach is the epitome of a fantastic Hawaiian vacation!
After our photos, we grabbed pizza from Ulu Cafe to eat in our room. We had planned to attend the outdoor movie featuring Coco, but it was rained out. So, we headed back to our room to pack up a bit and go to bed.
Departure Day from Aulani Resort
LAST MORNING AT AULANI, A DISNEY RESORT & SPA
We ate up the rest of our malasadas for breakfast. I called to get the character meet & greets. Since we hadn’t met Donald Duck yet, I took my boys there at 9:30am and gave my mom some quiet time to get ready for the day. We got in line early and only waited a few minutes to take photos!
Then, I dropped my preschooler off at Aunty’s Beach House for a couple of hours. As I was walking near the pool, I saw Disney PhotoPass photographer. I asked her to take some photos of my toddler and me and they were great! Then I ordered a latte from the coffee shop and went back up to our room to pack.
Eeking out every minute in our lovely room, we sent our bags to Bell Services right at 11am and asked them to hold until we departed. Then, we leisurely shopped and walked around the grounds, soaking up every moment before heading to Aunty’s Beach House to pick up my preschooler.
LAST AFTERNOON AT DISNEY AULANI RESORT ON OAHU
Thinking ahead, we packed our leftover pizza to eat at the pool. Then, we got in line 15 minutes early for photos with Mickey and Minnie at 12:30pm. This was really cool because they are rarely available for photos together at any other Disney Resort. Then, we immediately got in line for Stitch and we were first in line for his 1pm character appearance.
Now that we got our character photos at Aulani out of the way, we spent the rest of our afternoon at the pool. My 4 year old decided he wanted to put on his Puddle Jumper and swim the entire Lazy River…twice. I highly recommend that if you are trying to exhaust your kids before heading out!
And the one treat I was dying to get at Aulani was the Mickey Shave Ice. My family LOVES shave ice and we were excited to upgrade to the one with Mickey Mouse ears. It was a delicious way to end our trip to Aulani Resort on Oahu.
We left the pool area around 4pm and went straight to the Luana Lounge. Our key didn’t work and just as we were about to give up, Moana walked by and our key magically worked! That’s Disney pixie dust for you! We changed into our clothes and got fully ready to leave. It was a whirlwind trip to Aulani Resort and we are eager to return soon!
Aulani Tips to Maximize 2 Nights at Aulani Resort on Oahu
PRE-REGISTER FOR AUNTY’S BEACH HOUSE
If you are traveling with kids ages 3-12, you can take advantage of Aunty’s Beach House. It’s a complimentary kids club. Go online and fill out this form at least 48 hours prior to your arrival at Aulani Resort. You will also be able to register your child for free kids activities or premium paid activities. By filling out the form before arriving, you will save precious time. You’ll still need to fill out a bit of paperwork the first time you drop off your child, but this will cut that time down drastically.
Insider Tip: Send your kids there the morning you check out so you can finish packing and get your luggage to Bell Service.
LOOK AT THE DAILY IWA ONLINE BEFORE YOUR GO
The Daily Iwa is the Aulani Resort daily activities calendar. You can find it online here. Start checking it about a week before your visit to get an idea of what activities are available during your stay at Aulani Resort. It’s a great way to plan out your day.
Then, pick up a hard copy every morning at the resort. The hard copy has the phone number for the Disney character meet & greet locations and times. You must call from an Aulani Resort phone. You can call from the lobby the morning you arrive.
ARRIVE IN THE MORNING
Disney is known for their amazing customer service. Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is no exception. Arrive as soon as you can and drop your bags with Bell Service. When you check in, you’ll get your room keys. While they won’t unlock your room (until it’s ready) they will allow you to take advantage of Aunty’s Beach House, character meet & greets, the pools, and everything else at Aulani Resort! You’ll get a text when your room is ready.
DO THE DISNEY CHARACTER BREAKFAST
I recommend making a reservation for the Disney Aulani Character Breakfast at Makahiki restaurant for the morning you arrive, especially if you have young children. It’s a great opportunity to ensure a photo with Mickey Mouse. Plus, you’ll be able to fill everyone’s bellies before heading out to enjoy the amazing pools!
PURCHASE THE PHOTOPASS
You might be wondering how purchasing the Disney Aulani PhotoPass will help you maximize your trip to Aulani Resort. You know how if you pay for something, you’ll try to get your money’s worth? Same goes for the Aulani PhotoPass. While it’s free to take advantage, tell yourself you will be purchasing it at the end of your trip. That way, you’ll make sure to do lots of character photos, sunset photos at Ko Olina beach, and all the photo stops in between!
STAY AS LATE AS YOU CAN
Just as you can arrive early, you can also stay late. Your room key will allow you to use all the facilities the day you check out. Bell Services will hold your bags until you are ready to depart. Just make sure you have all your essentials with you. The key to doing this effectively is to utilize the Luana Lounge at Aulani Resort.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE LUANA LOUNGE
The Luana Lounge is basically an upscale locker room. There is a large waiting area with couches and TVs. But, there’s also a men’s changing area and a women’s changing area. These feature lockers, showers, toilets, and a large sink area. When you check in, you will get a key that is good for your arrival date and departure date. I’d recommend packing a separate bag just to use at the Luana Lounge.
Arrival Bag for Luana Lounge:
- Flip flops
Departure Bag for Luana Lounge:
- Toiletries bag
- Clothes for airplane (if you are immediately heading to the airport)
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