My favorite things to do at Aulani
We’re coming out of the tail end of a cold and rainy week here in Los Angeles, so seems like no better time to reflect on some of my favorite activities at the always warm, sunny and magical Aulani Resort. Five years and five visits in, it feels like there are very few things we haven’t done at the resort.
Grab a sunset dinner at ‘Ama ‘Ama? Check. Snorkel at Rainbow Reef? Check. Laze around the lazy river all afternoon? Check. Rent stand-up paddle boards in the lagoon? Check. Snap pics with board-shorts-wearin’ Goofy? Check. Cozy up in the adults-only infinity hot tub? Check. Spend more money than we should at the gift shop. Check. Get married? CHECK.
What else is there to do, you say? Well, lots. We crossed off quite a few Aulani firsts on our last trip — getting married was the big one, obviously, but our day-after couples massages at the Laniwai Spa was a pretty memorable second.
From breakfast at Makahiki to the new KA WA’A luau, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite things to do at Aulani.
[ View my comprehensive Aulani guide ]
Eat at Makahiki
The Makahiki character breakfast is a GEM. We tried this place on our very first visit to Aulani, and we’ve made it a point to eat here at least once every time we’ve come back. It reminds me of Storyteller’s Cafe at the Grand Californian Hotel, but upped a notch. It’s the same concept: all-you-can eat buffet with Disney characters who will come to your table to be silly and snap photos while you enjoy your breakfast. The atmosphere is very Hawaii; it’s an inside-outside concept where the tables overlook the hotel’s massive koi pond. The food itself is something to write home about, too, with a ton of choices to appease both Western and Japanese palates.
Make sure you plan ahead and make reservations! We’ve never dined here as walk-in guests, and I’m not actually sure they can accomodate parties without reservations. Best not chance it.
A nice touch: everyone gets to take a picture with Mickey before being seated, and a cast member will bring the photos out to your table before your meal is up with the option to purchase physical or digital copies. It’s a great little souvenir, especially if you have a big party.
Worry not, Mickey waffle loves. Makahiki has you covered.
Rent a cabana
The pools at Aulani are stunning, and they offer something for everyone. Two slides for the thrill seekers, a lazy river for the “floaty & chill” folks, a water play area for the kiddos, an adults-only infinity hot tub for the grown ups, and three massive pools for everyone else.
During our recent trip, we upped the ante and rented a cabana instead of going for the usual lounge chairs. And I swear it was a poolside game changer! Anyone can rent these for a daily flat rate, which includes a covered lounge couch, mini fridge, TV, and safe for any special items you want to lock down while you frolic in the water. You also get a dedicated server, who will bring you fruit and dessert (included in the flat fee) as well as any food and drink you want to order from the poolside menu.
It’s the perfect option for larger groups who want to designate a home base down by the pools, or for couples who want a little more privacy.
Order room service
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of resort room service (I mean, is there anything better than Mickey waffles on speed dial??) so it’s a no-brainer that the Aulani room service would earn a space on our list of Favorite Things. The room service at Aulani is in a league of its own, mostly cause you can dig into your food with a killer view of the Pacific Ocean. Also, they have fried rice on the menu. Case closed.
Sunset at ‘Ama ‘Ama
‘Ama ‘Ama is Aulani’s premier dining experience, and another MUST DO for anyone visiting the resort. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, but dinner is where it’s really at — especially if you line up your reservation with sunset. The quality of the food is fantastic, on par with Napa Rose back on the mainland but with more of an emphasis on fresh seafood. We’ve literally never had a bad dish here, or anything less than stellar service. High praise, only.
Do the KA WA’A Luau
The luau at Aulani is held on select nights at the Halawai Lawn (where Mark and I had our first look, cue *googly eyes*). We attended with a bunch of family on our very last night at the resort, and it was the best way to round out our wedding trip. I didn’t do much research and didn’t really know what to expect, but was blown away by the production quality — and food! We ended up paying a little extra for “VIP” tickets, which got you early seating, preferred table location, as well as unlimited drinks throughout the evening (all in addition to the epic buffet).
Before the luau starts, guests can get temporary tattoos, make leis, take ukulele lessons, or grab a signature cocktail from the bar. Then there’s a little pre-show, where “Auntie” introduces herself and Moana makes a surprise appearance, before tables are released to get food from the fabulous spread of dishes.
The show itself was a wonderful display of Hawaiian culture, with stories, songs, and a bit of fire dancing to round it all out. Mickey and Minnie made an appearance at one point, but other than that it was very Disney-lite, leaving the spotlight on Hawaiian traditions instead. Amazing stuff — highly recommend!
Hopefully this post gives you a flavor of all the wonder that Aulani has to offer. Can’t wait to dig into our favorite Aulani activity of all time: our wedding! I’m working on a blog post to cover the FAQs I’ve received about our Disney Weddings experience. And, once I get all the photos back from our photographer, you best believe there will be a ton of posts on the wedding day itself.