A visit to Disney’s Hawaiian Oasis
Aloha, babes! Mark and I just got back from the most amazing spring break trip to Aulani, Disney’s Resort & Spa on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This was our fourth visit in just as many years (hashtag blessed) and this was probably my favorite stay yet. You can easily see why in the above video above. ❤
If you’re not familiar with Aulani, it’s located in Ko Olina, a vacation and residential community on the southwest shore of Oahu — about a 30 minute drive from Honolulu. The surrounding area is upscale, clean, picturesque, and somewhat remote; it’s obviously geared towards vacationers, but it doesn’t quite have the same overtly touristy feel as Waikiki.
If you’re a Disney fan, Aulani is for you. If you’re not really a Disney fan, Aulani is still for you (the Mickey Mouse additions aren’t in-your-face at all). There is so much to do here, and there’s truly something for everyone: kids, adults, Disney-lovers, luxury seekers, beach bums who just wanna drink Mai Tais and float along the lazy river all day…
We were there for five nights, in a one bedroom suite (room tour to come!) overlooking the pools and the ocean. If you’re going to be in Hawaii for an extended period, you may feel the need to plan a bunch of excursions. In my opinion, though, you could spend all your time at the Aulani resort and be perfectly content.
This was the view from our room. Talk about dreamy. We had two balconies, one off the bedroom and another off the living room, and we usually kept both doors open to let in the refreshing ocean breeze. I wish we could’ve bottled up the aloha vibes and brought it back to the mainland with us.
The Aulani pools, water slides, and hot tubs
After checking in, we did what any respectable Aulani guest would do: we dropped our bags and hit the pools. One of the most impressive aspects of the resort is its many, many water areas. In addition to the beautiful seaside lagoon (more on that later), Aulani has infinity pools, hot tubs, two water slides, a lazy river, and the Rainbow Reef, a private man-made lagoon where guests can rent snorkels and swim with little Dories and Nemos.
As this was our fourth visit, we consider ourselves at least semi-pro in the Aulani Pool Goin’ category. We’ve paid for a swim in Rainbow Reef (a great one time experience, but not necessarily worth a repeat), done the water slides (SO fun, but the lines can get pretty long in peak season), and tried out every pool.
Our personal favorites have always been the adult-only hot tub that overlooks the beach, and the lazy river, which winds around the resort.
The Kohola Lagoon
Aulani’s pools are stunning, and when you add in the Kohola Lagoon, the resort really goes over the top. The lagoon is manmade, and it’s shared with the Four Seasons next door. It’s actually considered a public beach, so everyone’s free to use it, regardless of where you’re staying on the island. (The pools are, understandably, for Aulani guests only.)
The water in the lagoon is baby blue and crystal clear. The hotel rents kayaks and stand up paddle boards, which you can enjoy just off the shore. We’ve never actually rented anything at the lagoon, as it can get crowded and cramped, but we’ve had tons of fun building sandcastles on the beach and swimming in the naturally warm water.
The Aulani also does a morning yoga on stand up paddle boards in the lagoons. We watched some impressive yogi ladies balancing in downward dog on the boards at sunrise on one of our first mornings at the resort. Crazy stuff. But they also do regular on-dry-land sunrise yoga, too, for those of you less balance inclined.
There are rock jetties at the end of the lagoon, which narrow into a small opening that lets water (and various sea life) in and out from the ocean. It was tranquil out there, with the sound of the waves crashing into the breakwater and the general lack of people.
We woke up around 5:45am every morning (which is not that impressive when you realize that’s 8:45am, Los Angeles time) and watched the sunrise over Aulani from way out here.
It’s not a vacation without excessive food (and drink!)
Ok, enough about the pools. Enough about the lagoon. The most important part of any vacation is the food, am I right? Hawaii is known for their island eats: fresh fish, pineapple, shave ice, spam (!), macadamia nuts, kalua pork… Sprinkle in that Mickey shaped Disney touch, and well — it’s a match made in HEAVEN.
For as big of a resort Aulani is, it actually doesn’t have as many restaurant options as you might expect. Still, that’s not to say there isn’t enough to keep you satisfied. There are also a few restaurants less than a five minute walk from Aulani where you can get acai bowls, pizza, sushi, fish tacos, and the island’s best (!!) Mai Tai.
This colorful arrangement was from Off the Hook, a pool-adjacent bar and lounge area where you can grab quick bites and cocktails — no shirts or shoes necessary! You can literally hop right out of the pool, dripping wet, and walk on over for a piña colada-filled pineapple if that’s your thing. (It’s certainly our thing.) Of course, being the 12-year-olds-at-heart that we are, we also gravitated towards the chicken tenders and french fries.
Ulu Cafe is a quick bites & hot food eatery next to Rainbow Reef where you can grab leisure breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Lest you think that sounds boring, they also have some pretty iconic Disney treats…
Such as Mickey Mouse brownies…
Mickey shaped spam musubi..
And, of course, the illustrious Dole Whip. They used to offer this as a self serve dessert, and you could pile as much into your cup as you wanted for one flat fee. They make it for you now, but it’s still a pretty impressive serving size!
These iconic little Mickey waffles are from the Makahiki Character Breakfast, a buffet offering both continental, Hawaiian, and more traditionally Japanese dishes. Fun fact: all menus, signs, etc. at the resort are actually written in both English and Japanese (sigh, my heart, I miss Tokyo) because Aulani is incredibly popular with Japanese tourists.
Guests booked to dine at the breakfast buffet get to take pictures with Mickey before they’re seated, and various characters (Goofy, Chip ‘n Dale, Minnie Mouse, Pluto) interact with you at your table after you’ve gotten your food.
If you’ve ever done a character dining experience at Disneyland or WDW, it’s pretty the same concept. A really great option if you have kids. Or, if like us, you’re just kids at heart.
Obviously I can’t talk about the Aulani food experience without pausing to SPAZZ OUT over this Mickey shaped shave ice. They’ve always offered shave ice, but the Mickey ears are a brand new offering. It’s only $1 extra, and SO WORTH IT for the photos alone.
Be warned that it makes a massive mess, though. We tried to take a bite, the ear sloshed off, and we spilled sugar juice everywhere. Hah.
Finally, we have ‘Ama ‘Ama, Aulani’s upscale restaurant overlooking the lagoon.
We had two wonderful sunset dinners here, listening to live music, drinking the island’s worst cocktails (sorry, Aulani, it’s your one tiny, failing point) eating tuna poke, and watching the sun dip below the horizon. The ambiance can’t be beat.
Oh, the glorious merchandise
Last but not least on this grand tour of All-My-Favorite-Aulani-Things, we have the merchandise! As I mentioned before, this resort is very popular amongst Japanese tourists. In keeping with that theme, the merchandise at the Aulani is FANTASTIC. Honestly, the Japanese know what’s up, and it’s very clear that Disney Aulani is catering to that.
Which reminds me — I still owe you all an in-depth look at the Tokyo Disney merch, as well as a Tokyo Disney merch haul. Soon, I promise!
Mark and I have only been back on the mainland for about a week and a half, but we’re already concocting ways to go back. It’s hard to grasp just how magical Disney Aulani is without experiencing it yourself — but I promise you, once you’ve been, you’ll never ever want to leave. Aulani tops my list of absolute favorite places on earth; it’s full on tied with Tokyo Disney, which is lofty praise in and of itself!
There’s no secret that the Aulani is pricey, but if you are ever debating whether or not it’s worth the splurge, let me shout it from the rooftops for you: yes, YES, A MILLION TIMES YES.
Hope you’ve enjoyed me gushin’ about all the love I have for this place. Mahalo for reading — I know it was a long one. Next up: a room tour of our one-bedroom suite!