Disney Aulani Resort: An Honest Review, Experience Guide, and More!

The Disney Aulani Resort is a Disney owned resort located in Hawaii. The resort aims to immerse you in Hawaiian traditions in a breathtaking setting removed from the crowds of Waikiki. The Resort and Spa offers luxury pools, spas, plenty of activities for children and Disney character experiences.

Disney’s Aulani Resort BasicsActivities | Aulani Hawaii Resort & Spa

Disney’s Aulani Resort is a great getaway experience to the tropical beauty of Hawaii with the touch of Disney magic making it a popular experience. Here’s some basics of the resort to help give you an idea of why this vacation option is so loved!

  • Disney’s Aulani Resort is located on the island of Oahu which is also home to the capital of Hawaii, Honolulu.
  • The size of the resort is considerable at about 21 acres.
  • The resort opened in 2011 and has about 359 hotel rooms and 460 villas with most of the rooms overlooking the island, pools, and ocean.
  • The resort was designed by Joe Rohde who grew up in Waikiki and worked to create an authentic design for the resort. Disney also created an advisory board of experts from Hawaii to ensure they weren’t misinterpreting Hawaiian culture.
  • There are nine restaurants on site including table service and counter service options.
  • The resort includes an abundance of recreation options like pools, spa treatments, character experiences, snorkeling at Disney’s private lagoon, and more.

The average stay at Disney’s Aulani resort for a standard room is about $520 per night with rates varying throughout the year depending on seasonal discounts or peak travel times.

COVID-19 Response at Aulani

Aulani Resort is working toward a phased reopening to begin on November 1, 2020. Here are some of the health and safety measures in place to help you prepare for your next visit.

  • Pre-arrival steps for Guests:
    • There are specific instructions and requirements for all visitors to Hawaii, which may include mandated quarantine or pre-travel testing. View information about these requirements on the Hawaii Tourism Authority website. State requirements are subject to change. Please continue to stay updated on the latest travel alerts leading up to your planned stay.
    • To promote physical distancing, we strongly recommend that Members and Guests use our Online Check-in service.
  • Housekeeping, cleanliness and sanitization:
    • Before arrival, every room will be given an enhanced cleaning.
    • Extra attention will be given to high traffic areas such as public elevator buttons, handrails, benches, tables, handles, restrooms, and more. Additionally, hand sanitizers will be located throughout the resort.
    • New training and reinforcement will be provided to further emphasize our enhanced health and safety measures among Cast Members.
  • Physical distancing and capacity measures:
    • Services will be adjusted within stores, restaurants, pools, the fitness center, and other public areas to allow for physical distancing, including reducing capacity where appropriate and implementing enhanced cleaning measures.
    • Technology will be used to aid in these efforts, with limited-contact services being implemented in shopping and dining locations.
  • Temporary modifications to our amenities:
    • Food and beverage offerings, menus and operating hours may be adjusted.
    • Pools and recreation offerings may operate differently during this time.

You can stay updated on these new measures along with other reopening changes on their website.

Disney’s Aulani Resort Review

A beautiful sunrise over the resort.

It was truly a magical experience.  We felt the Disney magic from the moment we arrived… from the luxurious rooms, the beautiful pools and beach, to the amazing restaurants and amenities.

Arriving at the ResortIndoor lobby of the hotel in Disney Aulani

The Aulani Resort is located at the Ko Olina Resort & Marina in Kapolei on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The resort is across the street from a world-class golf resort, the Ko Olina Golf Club. The Aulani is approximately a 30-minute drive from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Guests can purchase shuttle service from Hele Transportation, Inc. for around $24 per person. We took Uber from Waikiki and it cost us approximately $100 for the four of us and our luggage.

Aulani Lei Greeting

When we arrived, we were greeted at the curb by the bellman who checked our luggage. We were then greeted by women dressed in festive Hawaiian dresses who offered us all fruit-infused water and leis. My two daughters and I received fragrant, fresh floral leis and my husband a more masculine beaded lei. Since we arrived at 10:30 am, I fully expected to wait for our room to be ready. Upon check in, we were pleasantly surprised to find our room ready for us.  We received a map and overview of the property and a daily calendar of events. We absolutely felt the Disney brand of customer service throughout our stay.

The lobby and rest of the resort remind me of a tropical Grand Californian as they have the same architect.  The lobby is on the third floor of the resort and overlooks the pools area.  There is a large balcony with chairs and couches and an ocean view.

AccommodationsAulani Mickey Lamp

We booked a standard room with two queen beds. The television in the room had the resort information menu and “’Welcome, Smalling Ohana. Aloha” on the screen.Nice touch!

There was also a Mickey-shaped towel with a flower hair pin.

Mickey shaped towel with flower hair pin

Mickey shaped towel

The room was beautifully decorated with floral prints and yellow and green tones. You feel the Disney touch everywhere in the room, even the lamp stands!

We toured the Disney Vacation Club units, which were luxurious and included a full kitchen and washer and dryer.  There are deluxe studios as well as 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom villas. We decided when we come back that we would rent one of these units. We are seriously considered becoming Disney Vacation Club members.  We attended a tour. The Disney employees were upfront with the costs, courteous, and not pushy at all. It was an informative and enjoyable experience with no pressure to purchase.

The Pool Areas at the Disney Aulani Resort and SpaDisney Aulani pool area with lush greenery

The Aulani boasts several pools and whirlpool spas. Each day guests need to check in with the Disney employees by the pool to receive a wristband for pool privileges and to obtain towels.

The largest pool, the Waikolohe Pool, is 8,200 square feet. Waikolohe means “mischievous water” in the Hawaiian language. The Waikolohe Stream is a lazy river that features stunning rock formations, caverns and fountain springs.

This pool also includes two fun slides: the Tubestone Curl, and the Volcanic Vertical, which is a thrilling tunnel body slide. Our daughters loved these slides and spent the better part of our pool time sliding. My husband I felt completely comfortable letting them go off by themselves in the pool are. There are life guards everywhere and the pool area has that Disney, family-friendly atmosphere.

Two kids splashing in a pool

Menehune Bridge is a 2,100square foot play area for younger children. This area includes two waterslides, interactive water elements, and a climbing play structure. Little ones will also learn about Hawaiian culture as they encounter the Menehune, the legendary “little people” responsible for mysterious happenings on the islands. Keiki Cove is an interactive splash zone for kids five and younger and is inspired by the tidal pools surrounding Aulani.

Goofy and cast members splashing in the water

Ka Maka Landing includes Ka Maka Grotto which is a family pool at Aulani that features an infinity edge overlooking Ko Olina Beach.  At nights guests are treated to an after-dark experience with thousands of glittering lights.

Infinity pool overlooking the Hawaii beach

Guests ages 18 and up can relax in Wailana Pool which is separate from the main pool area. The beautiful pool features a water wall that empties into the deep end of the pool. There are also four whirlpool spas by the Waikolohe Pool, Waikolohe Stream, Ka Maka Grotto, and one for guests 18 and older at ‘Alohi Point. The adult-only whirlpool spa has two levels with infinity edges that overlook the ocean. My husband and I loved it! Guests can also rent a poolside cabana for up to six guests for $425 for a full day.

Restaurants at the Disney Aulani ResortRestaurant at the Disney Aulani Resort at dusk

There are two higher-end restaurants at the resort. The ‘AMA‘AMA is an open-air restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch or dinner in an oceanfront setting. Lunch prices start at $19, and dinner entrees start at $33. There is a bar called Off the Hook where guests can grab a quick lunch or an evening bite. We had appetizers here late one night it was delicious.  We were there close to the bar closing, and our server surprised us with a complimentary dessert plate to bring back to our room.

The Makahiki restaurant, means the Bounty of the Islands, is a character dining experience. This restaurant overlooks a shimmering koi pond.  Think of Goofy’s Kitchen with a tropical theme! We ate breakfast here and it was delicious.  Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy were available for photos. The buffet had a great selection of traditional breakfast food with some island-themed items as well.

Outdoor of the dimly lit restaurant

There is an upscale bar called the ‘Ōlelo Room which is next to the Makahiki restaurant on the first floor of the main building. Guests can enjoy signature cocktails with a beautiful view of the koi pond beside the Waikolohe Valley pool area. We enjoyed listening to the live music one evening as were sitting on the balcony above the bar.

Inside of the snack shop

We at the Ulu Café multiple times. This quick-service stop offers self-serve items or cooked-to-order specialties. We purchased a resort-refillable mug for around $19, which allowed us to get unlimited fountain drinks, iced tea and coffee throughout our stay. It is a cute cup that I will use at home as well! There are a few other quick-service stops by the pool called Mama’s Snack Stop, Lava Shack and One Paddle Two Paddle. You can refill the resort-refillable mug at these stops as well.

Close up of Mickey shaped slushie treat

Mickey shaped treats!

Our daughters liked the Pāpālua Shave Ice in the pool area.  For an extra dollar you can add Mickey Ears made of ice to your shaved ice dessert with flavors such as mango, pineapple, coconut, lilikoi, orange, guava and more.

The Wailana Pool Bar serves pizza, wraps, burgers and salad and adult beverages. They also have a coffee bar in the morning.  My older daughter tried a blended chocolate coffee drink that was delicious!  You can fill up the resort-refillable mug with coffee at this coffee bar.

There is also a quick-service stop by the beach called Little ‘Opihi’s – Beachside Kiosk that sells salads, wraps, rolls, fresh fruit and other snacks.

Beach Activities at the Disney Aulani ResortDad walking through the sand with child on his back

The Beach at Aulani Resort has the breathtaking Ko Olina Lagoon. The stunning cove allows guests to swim, paddleboard, and snorkel.  Hotel guests can rent snorkel equipment and stand up paddleboards from Makiki Joe’s. Boogie boards, sand toys, and life jackets are complimentary for Aulani Resort Guests. Guests can also rent a beachside casabella, which is a 2-seat lounger with awning, for $75 per day. We visited the beach at night and saw guests on paddleboards with LED lights. We are definitely trying that next time!

Photography Services at Disney Aulani Resort

Professional pictures taken at Aulani are a great way to remember your trip.

I have always wanted to have family pictures taken on a beach. Before we arrived, I booked a private portrait session through the Aulani. We could choose between a garden or beach setting, and we selected the beach. The sessions last between 20 and 40 minutes and cost $225. The next day we were given a CD with over 100 photos from our session. The photographer was great to work with and our pictures turned out beautifully!

Spa and Fitness Center at the Disney Aulani ResorWoman getting a massage at the spa

The resort has a magnificent spa called the Laniwai. The spa is very elegant and offers facials, massages, herbal body remedies, manicures, pedicures, and other treatments. There is even a menu for family treatments and services for kids and teens. Guests can also create a personalized body polish at Pulu Bar, the outdoor hydrotherapy garden located within Laniwai.

Guests doing yoga on the beach

There is also the Mikimiki Fitness Center which has exercise equipment and daily fitness and yoga classes.  The 2,000 square feet fitness center is open 24 hours a day. Many classes are complimentary and some charge a fee.  Classes include cardio rush, beach boot camp, group spinning, sunrise Tai Chi, and total body circuit. We walked through the facility and were impressed!

Golf at the Disney Aulani ResortThree men playing golf at the Disney Aulani Resort

My husband is an avid golfer and played the Ko Olina Golf Club, which has hosted the LPGA Lotte Championship. This championship 18-hole golf course is magnificent, and my husband said it was one of the nicest courses he has played. This picturesque course is challenging but not overly difficult. The fairways are wide open and a couple holes have water.

Disney Characters at the Disney Aulani ResortStitch doing a dance with small children at the resort

We met Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy at the character breakfast at the Makahiki restaurant.  There is a resort phone number you can call which lists the characters and where they will be.  We met Donald Duck at one of these photo opportunities. We also saw Moana and Goofy by the pools. My younger daughter really wanted to meet Duffy, Shellie May, and Stitch. My daughter and husband asked an Aulani concierge if he knew where we could find them. The concierge pulled out a map of the property, wrote down every character by their photo opportunity place and the time they would be there. He was so helpful!

Kids and Teen Activities at Disney Aulani ResortTwo kids playing a scavenger hunt game

There are children and teen activities every day. Each day the hotel provides a one-page calendar of events for that day.  Aunty’s Beach House offers supervised activities for kids ages 3 through 12. Our daughters attended a free teen art event one night and had a wonderful time drawing Disney characters.  There was also an evening at the beach and a scavenger hunt they want to do next time. The resort also offers free ‘Ukulele lessons, ‘Ohana movie night, and storytelling by a firepit throughout the week.

Live Entertainment at the Disney Aulani ResortSeveral families seated on a lawn watch enthralled as a male dancer wields a lit torch

The resort offers complimentary live performances by some of Hawai‘i’s most renowned musicians and performers. One of my favorite evenings was when our family sat on a huge couch on the balcony above the live music and watched the sky.

Shopping at Disney Aulani ResortSouvenir shop with tshirts and hats

My daughters and I saved up our money for our Aulani visit!  Kālepa’s Store sells a wide range of merchandise, including apparel, stuffed toys, trading pins, Tsum Tsums, as well as other keepsakes and postcards.  This store also sells groceries and sundries along with the Resort-refillable mugs. I found a really cute pink spirit jersey with the Aulani logo.  My daughter found Shellie May’s friend, Gelatoni, which is a super cute stuffed cat.

Women and girl smiling at merchandise

The Hale Manu is more of an upscale store that sells jewelry, clothing from Tommy Bahama®, Tori Richard®, Quiksilver® and Santiki®, and Dooney & Bourke handbags.  I purchased a really cute brown leather Dooney with the Aulani print.

We had high expectations of the Aulani Resort, and Disney exceeded every one of them.  This resort is truly amazing.  We decided as a family that a few days wasn’t enough time, and our next visit will be for an entire week. We are already planning for our next visit.

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About Monique Smalling

Monique and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento, California with their two daughters, Sydney (14) and Reagan (13). Sydney's first trip to Disneyland was at one year old, and the family has been hooked ever since. The family has been annual pass holders for several years and visit the Happiest Place on Earth every couple of months. Each visit includes 3 to 4 days in the parks before heading to the beach. Monique and her daughters consider themselves huge Disney fans, and love sharing their knowledge and tips on the parks.

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