Written by – Liz Weimann
I am a planner. I make lists, schedules, and reservations. I take special care in making sure my girls have the “right” outfit for whatever we are doing that day. Vacations are my favorite things to plan. I love the detailed planning of a Disney World vacation. Let me tell you, when I got the chance to plan a family trip to Hawaii, I was in my element!
The first thing I did was get a book on Hawaii to make a list of all the things we would want to do and see. We had a list of restaurants that we might want to try. We made reservations. I put together a packet with our reservations and our schedules. I had everything ready to go. What I didn’t count on was the way our family would fall in love with Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa.
We arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, May 21st. We had caught our first flight at 5:40am Atlanta time and we finally made it to Hawaii around 1:30pm Hawaii time which was not too far off our girls’ normal bedtime at home. We were in our rental Jeep and off to Aulani by 3pm. I expected some meltdowns, but I think we were all caught up in the wonder of finally being in Hawaii that it didn’t matter that we were all tired. I checked in online before leaving home, so when we arrived at Aulani, we were greeted with glasses of fruit-infused water, leis, and our resort packet.
Online check-in was great because we never had to go to the front desk. We were greeted outside the main door and escorted into the lobby while the Cast Member explained a few things about the resort lobby and the activities available.
Our room was ready upon arrival, so we headed up to our ocean view studio. I had contacted DVC Member Services prior to our trip to request an upper floor overlooking Waikelohe Valley, which is the main pool area. Both requests were fulfilled and we ended up with this fabulous view.
One thing about Aulani is that there are only a few rooms that have full ocean views. These are all Grand Villas on the ends of each tower, but I think our view was just fine. We had no complaints.
Aulani is comprised of a central building with two towers leading off to each side. The lobby, the stores, the ‘Olelo Room and Makahiki restaurant are all located in the central building. ‘Ama ‘Ama, the community hall, and Auntie’s Beach House are located in the ‘Ewa Tower, while the Ulu Café is located in the Wai’Anae Tower. Our villa was in the Wai’Anae Tower.
The Waikelohe Valley has something for everyone. There are two pools, two water slides, a lazy river, and multiple hot tubs. We found three of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more. A couple of them are hidden pretty well. The whole area has a lovely tropical feeling and there seemed to be plenty of chairs…sometimes they were harder to find than others and maybe not where we wanted to be exactly, but we were always able to find one or two chairs in the shade.
We didn’t experience the food as much as we could have. We attended the character breakfast at Makahiki and it was one of the best buffets and character experiences we’ve ever had at any Disney resort or park. The characters came around multiple times and there were plenty of activities that the kids could do with Auntie throughout the meal. We really enjoyed ourselves!
As I think back on our trip, I realize that we never made it to the Dole Plantation or to Haunauma Bay. We hiked up Diamond Head, ate shave ice at Matsumoto on the North Shore, had Leonard’s famous malasadas, walked around Waikiki, drove to the windward side of the island to check things out, and enjoyed the luau at the Royal Hawaiian, so we did plenty on our 10-day trip, but the one thing that we did more than anything was spend time at Aulani. I realized that sometimes all the planning in the world doesn’t make for a great vacation, but dropping everything to sit back, relax, enjoy the breeze, and a shave ice is the best vacation ever!