“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,” sang Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
If you are planning a trip with your family you have to check out Aulani, the incredible resort by Disney in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. We just returned from an incredible week-long stay, and we all started crying as we were packing up to leave. It’s that special. My husband, who was not able to join us, was so enthralled with our stories and pictures, that he wants to return for our December family trip.
Now I know what you are thinking, is Aulani a mini Disneyland in Hawaii? The answer is no, it is very much a tropical resort destination, with the magic, wonder and attention to detail that also makes the Magic Kingdom so incredible.
The Aulani Resort was not only created for kids. Much like Disney adds in jokes for parents in all of their movies, Aulani has adults-only swimming pools, fine dining overlooking the the lagoon, incredible food, bars, activities and adventures with parents and other adults in mind.
My favorite part of the resort is that special feeling you get just walking around the property, much like you feel when walking around Disneyland. There is pixie dust around each corner, and new adventures awaiting you.
And just in time for Mother’s Day, there are incredible specials called Mahalo Mama Month that you will NOT WANT TO MISS! More below!
The room accommodations are one of the most important elements when traveling with kids. Things like a full kitchen, washer and dryer and bathtub can make or break your trip. Sure enough, Harper decided to pee in her clothes while on the plane, and kids get messy on vacation. I love being able to wash their clothes, have drinks and snacks in the room, and of course, a place to bathe little kids.
The Aulani room standouts include:
The room had a playard in the closet, just as all Disney hotels do, which is such a nice added feature. Often times we are exhausted when we get to the room, and it saves you the step of having to call room service and hope they have one available.
Food can be ordered to your room, and I highly suggest the Mahalo Mama specials like stuffed french toast and omelettes with tons of veggies!
The pools are the most important element for me when choosing a hotel in Hawaii. The Aulani pools were AMAZING! Each one was guarded by several lifeguards who stood right on the edge of the water and were constantly scanning the water. As a former lifeguard and swimmer, this is something I always look for, as drowning is silent and can happen very quickly.
Life vests are available to borrow at every towel station, which are plentiful around the resort. While I always bring my own, as my daughter really loves her puddle jumper, it’s nice to be able to skip packing that bulky item!
As you can see, Aulani has the water safety element down exceptionally well.
The Lazy River meanders around the property, in and out of a cave, moving fast enough to be exciting but slow enough for kids to be able to easily swim it. The elements I particularly liked were no wait to get rafts, a very long course so it never felt crowded, and not a lot of elements spraying water. Young kids in particular often do not like to be sprayed. The entrances were easy to access, with wide areas to get in and out. The main entrance is a graduated incline, one of the easiest ways for little kids to enter a pool. As you can tell, I am kind of a lazy river expert, and this may be my favorite one, ever.
The other pools include graduated inclines for little kids (or an area to just chill while only part of your body is submerged under water), an infinity pool, a large kid’s water park with slides and other fun features, a large raft water slide and a large splash pad area, great for the younger kids.
The food at Aulani is incredible. I was really blown away by how thought-out the food is, especially for anyone with a food allergy. As is the case at any Disney property, you can tell your server or the cashier that you have a food allergy, and the chef will come out to speak with you.
The chefs are trained to go out of their way to accommodate allergies, and the chef at breakfast made me gluten-free pancakes, waffles, gluten-free eggs benedict with no dairy.
Kid’s Club / Auntie’s Beach House
Aulani has the most famous hotel kid’s club on the planet, for a very good reason. It’s AMAZING!
You sign your kids up, and each child receives special electronic wristbands to track them while at the club. The club is completely secure, pick ups require an adult who has been previously authorized and entered into their system, and they must also provide the special “code word” your family makes up. Ours was “pancakes.”
Once inside, there are a variety of rooms from dress up and play, crafts, video games, toys, interactive games, movies, a huge covered play yard, and more. Snacks are provided and kids can even take naps there. Kids need to be over 3 and potty trained. Harper literally looked at us one morning as we went into the pool and said, I want to go to the kid’s club. And so she went.
When we went going to pick her up, she was dressed as Ariel and had everyone addressing her as Princess Ariel!
No trip to a resort is complete without a visit to the spa. And this May, Aulani has some specials just for the mamas! For Mahalo Mama Month, you get a super special offer: 25 minute massage, 25 minute facial and pedicure. It’s basically the best of everything, but who has time to disappear to the spa for 5 hours?!
Now if you are like me, you know what you want for Mother’s Day, and your husband wants to make you happy, but he is very busy. So there’s nothing wrong with sending him a list of things (like your kids do for Santa, my husband and I do it for each occasion to make things easier and ensure we get what we want!). Or slip a few calendar reminders in “book mahalo mama month at Aulani” or maybe a text or email?!
The spa area has an amazing private outdoor terrace with dipping pools, private cabanas to relax and lay out, a special spa menu and outdoor showers. I highly recommend getting there 1.5 hours before your treatment to really enjoy this ultra relaxing area before you go back to your kids, who just may be a little extra excited to see you after you got some “me” time!
Aulani is situated on a private lagoon, that is protected from surf and large waves. Beach chairs and cabanas are available, as are boogie boards, snorkeling, and activities like paddle-boarding (for a small rental fee). Grayson and I went paddle-boarding for the first time and has the BEST TIME EVER!
It’s not that hard, I got right up on my first try and LOVED it!
It wouldn’t be a Disney trip without some character meet and greets! While you might just see Mickey Mouse or Pluto walking by, be sure to book a character breakfast one morning. The food is incredible, and the characters come right up to your table, no waiting in line!
Also new at Aulani is Moana, the incredible new Disney heroine you cannot miss!
A few more insider secrets to know:
Get a Mickey Ears Shave Ice. They are SO good and totally Instagram-worthy!
Drinks can come in a pineapple for a $9 upcharge. You need to get at least one on your trip.
The best Luau on Oahu is right at Aulani! With showtimes on Thursdays and Saturdays, your entire family will be entertained and the food is divine!
DVDs and games are available to borrow anytime during your stay. Virtually the full Disney library is available.
There are two scavenger hunts around the property. Simply pick up a pre-loaded iPad for a fun adventure that my 5.5 year old was able to complete on his own. He did both of them in under 20 minutes and we had SO much fun doing it!
Snorkeling is available on the property in a man-made lagoon to see real fish! It’s a blast, but the water is a little cold and kids need to wear gear. I would recommend this for ages 5 and up, depending on your child.
Activities take place every day, like lei-making, ukulele lessons and more.
Other Local Attractions
Across the street from the resort is an amazing coffee place called Island Vintage Coffee that serves the most delicious Acai bowls. Go there for an iced vanilla latte with almond milk and an acai bowl and think of me! Also in the same shopping center is a small grocery store that also makes fresh food, smoothies, poke bowls, pancakes and more.
An adorable kid’s store called Pineapple Kids is across the street and sells mermaid bathing suits. Go get one! Located nearby are pizza, taco and sushi eateries, and a locally sourced restaurant called Monkey Pod (closed when we were there due to a fire).
I hope you enjoyed these insider secrets about Aulani to make your next trip or Mahalo Mama Month extra magical! And if you have more tips, share them below!