As many of you know, we just came back from an amazing trip at Aulani: A Disney Resort located in Ko ‘Olina, Oahu, Hawaii. It was our first time there to not only the resort, but Hawaii as a whole. It was a completely foreign place to us, but we had the best time and we plan to go back in a few years.
We were lucky enough to be able to stay for 11 nights, so we really got to explore, try plenty of things, and take our time. I know this isn’t something everyone has the luxury of doing – most people only go for a few nights – so I wanted to make a post of things that you won’t want to miss on your trip, both at Aulani and nearby. Plus, I’ll offer some other tips and even mention a few things you may want to skip, depending on your family and budget.
Take Advantage of Included Activities
This may seem like a no brainer, but in reality you could totally come here for a week, never leave property, and not be bored (in my opinion). I will say, if you aren’t a pool/beach person, I wouldn’t even spend the money to come here. But assuming you are, the beach is absolutely beautiful and I typically don’t prefer the beach over the pool, but at Aulani I did! It’s the perfect temperature, no waves, nothing touching your feet, and you can basically see the whole way down. Plus you can rent boogie boards and sand toys completely free of charge, which is great.
As for the pool areas, there are tons of options – waterslides, splash pads for the kids, a lazy river, multiple pools (including a saltwater pool), plus hot tubs – one even being adults only and a great place to watch the sunset. Some other included activities include drawing classes, character meet and greets, Ukelele lessons, movie nights, Hawaiian storytelling with Uncle, Aunty’s Beach House for the kids, and so much more. Check the app for the calendar of events during your stay – some activities may require registration. There also also a variety of free scavenger hunts. I recommend doing the photo scavenger hunt as we were given a menehune statue to take home as a prize! Learn more about this free scavenger hunt at the Pau Hana Room.
Consider Paid Activities at Aulani
There are also numerous paid activities at Aulani, like special events at Aunty’s Beach House for kids (typically $65 for a 3 hour child-only event), stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, stargazing, and more! Many of these you can register for via the app prior to arrival, so look into those during your planning. I also got the chance to visit the Aulani spa, Laniwai Spa, for a massage. It was a very nice spa – and they had great amenities. If you’re looking to splurge on something during your travels, this may be a good option! I’d give yourself 3 hours total between your treatment and using the amenities before/after.
Ka Wa’a is a luau offered at Aulani and I highly recommend it! You’ll definitely want to get tickets ahead of time, and while it isn’t the most affordable experience, it is worth the splurge – and I recommend spending the extra $30 a head for the VIP tickets. VIP will get you early entry, better seating, and first priority for food. This is a show that is great for all ages and it really explores Hawaiian culture. This isn’t your kitschy luau like the one previously at Polynesian Resort at Disney World. While they do add some Disney touches, it’s truly a celebration of Aloha. Be sure to arrive when seating opens to take advantage of all of the activities beforehand that are included, like lei making, Ukulele lessons, stamp tattoos, and taro making. Plus, alcohol is included for those who wish to indulge. This is about a 3 hour event start to finish, so a great full evening activity.
Who doesn’t love good food? Aulani itself has some great dining options. Our favorite was Off The Hook, a more casual sit down experience. But if you’re looking for something a bit fancier, consider ‘Ama’Ama, which offers a prefix dining experience, Makahiki, which is also a bit nicer; we didn’t try either of those and have heard mixed reviews. You can easily head next door to The Four Seasons to explore some of their dining options – Aulani shares a cove with Four Seasons so you can be there in minutes. I’d definitely recommend walking across the street to Monkeypod for dinner and Eggs N’ Things for breakfast (be sure to hop in their waiting list online). My top 3 choices for dining for the trip were Monkeypod, Eggs N’ Things, and Off The Hook. But don’t forget to get some Mickey-shaped treats from Aulani like shaved ice, which is surprisingly only $6 and totally shareable. Additionally, the coveted Mickey-shaped musubi is available daily beginning at 11am at Disney’s walkup dining location, Ulu Cafe.
Outside of Aulani
Since we were in town so long, we got to explore other parts of the island, which was really nice. I will say one thing, if you’re anticipating going anywhere outside of the Ko ‘Olina neighborhood – RENT A CAR. Ubers can be extremely expensive on Oahu – and even the airport is about 45 minutes away with traffic. Plus, any “touristy” things you may want to do is going to be at least 30 minutes away.
While most days we just stayed at the resort, we did go out a few days for other activities around the island. I may or may not do more in-depth reviews of these experiences depending on what you all are curious about, but for now I’ll just give tidbits on what we did and if I’d recommend them.
Kualoa Ranch is a beautiful property that is the filming spot to dozens of your Hollywood favorites, such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Lost, and so much more. Even the drive out there is amazing. We did their bus and boat tours and I would definitely go again, just do a different tour. They have tours appropriate for all ages, which is a bonus!
The Dole Pineapple Plantation is a popular tourist spot and great for families with kids as it has a train ride, a garden, and a maze area. It was nice but I don’t feel the need to go again – I’d recommend Kualoa over the Dole Plantation. Diamond Head is an old volcano you can hike near Waikiki – I’m super happy we did the hike and the views were gorgeous. It’s not a super long hike (less than 2 miles round trip), but it is strenuous as it’s all uphill going up. A lot of it is stairs and uneven paths, and it’s not shaded at all. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend it if you have mobility issues or have small kids (unless you’ll baby-wear them). Wear sneakers, apply sunscreen, and bring water. There are bathrooms before the path starts, and I recommend buying a parking pass for $5 ahead of time so you can park close to the trail.
I hope you all enjoyed this small recap of the highlights of our Hawaii trip! Hopefully this may help you with planning your own travels to Oahu. Thanks for your patience with me after my most recent travels. A lot has been going on in life and I’m trying my hardest to find a new rhythm in this season of life.
Thanks for reading!