Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Aulani--A Disney Resort and Spa

Blog Post by DreamFinder agent Kim Merrill

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’ve at least heard of Aulani, Disney’s newest resort.  This is not their first off-theme park resort: Hilton Head in South Carolina and Vero Beach in Florida have been around for years, but 5 years ago Disney debuted their newest off-site Disney Vacation Club offering in Ko Olina, on Oahu, Hawaii. 

So, what is Aulani?  Aulani is a free-standing resort not affiliated in any way with any sort of theme park offering.  It’s located about 25 miles away from the Honolulu International Airport, and depending on traffic can take a mere 30 minutes to more than an hour to reach.  It’s located on the windward side of the island (on the western coast of Oahu), and is drier than the middle or eastern side of the island.  The landscape is also a lot different than what you may think of when you think “Hawaii” as it looks almost desert-like as you drive to the resort.  Never fear, though!  That beautiful ocean and all those palm trees are right there when you arrive.

So, what isn’t Aulani?  Well, Aulani is not in the center of all the tourist attractions.  Being outside of Honolulu, you have the opportunity to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city center.  Depending on how you like to vacation, this may be a plus or a minus.  Personally, after experiencing the traffic and crowding of Waikiki, I came to appreciate the fact that Aulani was a “getaway”.  While I could seek out tourist experiences in town, we were able to relax while at the resort. Aulani is also not out there isolated on it’s own.  Aulani is surrounded by other Ko Olina resorts, including a Marriott, the soon-to-open renovated Four Seasons, as well as a shopping center, Paradise Cove (where a luau is held), and a recently announced new Atlantis location.

Studio Kitchenette
Aulani is a mixture of DVC villas and hotel rooms.  So if you have a larger family or are traveling in a larger group, Villas are available for reservations for non-DVC guests. There are Studios, 1, 2, and 3 bedroom villas, all of which have at least a kitchenette (studios) and/or a full kitchen so that you can save a bit of money cooking some meals in your room.  Hawaii is notorious for expensive food, so whether you eat at the resort or outside of Aulani you are still going to have theme-park food prices no matter where you are. While Aulani does have a quick-service grab-and-go option as well as sit-down meal options, they have yet to institute any sort of “dining plan” like what you would see at Walt Disney World. 

3-Bedroom Villa Kitchen

I’ll cover dining options at the resort at another time, but suffice it to say here that the food is tasty Aulani is not over-the-top with characters. While Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy, and Stitch are all vacationing at Aulani with you, there has to be effort made to interact with the characters.  There is a phone line that you can call to see where your favorite character may be located that day, or you can opt to have a character breakfast or dinner at Maki Maki during your stay.  Otherwise your visit is character-limited.  

There is something for all ages at Aulani.  Stay tuned for a post on recreation offerings at the resort coming soon!