When Disney first announced Aulani, I was indifferent. This is not my way of bragging, but I’ve been to the islands at least 6 times in my life, mostly staying on Maui. The real attraction is always Hawaii itself. The hotels of Disney are great, but give me a theme park any day. But, I kept hearing that this was one of the most luxurious and beautiful resorts. It’s also said to be fun. Even with that, my interest level went from to indifferent to “I’m intrigued”. After visiting the resort, I was blown away…
The towers are noticeable from the highway, and stand out from the other hotels. These are not eye sores, but complimentary to the island habitat around it. I thought it’d be hard to find the entrance, but it was a piece of cake. One tip upon going here: if you’re visiting for a day, it does not cater to this for parking, unless you eat and get the parking validated. The driving entrance and building entrance are a bit nondescript. That surprised me, only because Disney architecture is so themed and lavish. But, it was still a nice entrance.
Entering the lobby, my first reaction was “this is like Anima Kingdom Lodge!” which makes sense since Joe Rohde designed both. It was not a complaint to the architecture and decor, as the Lodge is one of my favorite Disney resorts. It made me feel as if I were in Walt Disney World…the weather was humid enough too. I had pictured the lobby to be a massively open area, but it is welcoming and fairly intimate. Again, it keeps to the Hawaiian island feel and has guests relaxed right upon coming in. The hallways are beautiful,though mostly decorated with murals on the upper walls. I loved gazing down them.
The hotel has a very polynesian vibe to it. Thatched roofs, wood beams, and red rock work is abound. Again, the layout reminds me of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, just to give reference to those who have been there. You go through the lobby out into an open plaza. Restaurants are down below, and the pools and lazy river are in the middle, instead of an open grassland with giraffes. The towers are in a half circle from the lobby, and have some rooms facing the pool and beach area. The about fifteen story room towers look inviting, and very relaxing.
The pool area was definitely full of exploration! The lazy river looked restful and elegant, an interesting combination, but something fun to do on Oahu. A massive rock formation housed a couple paths, pools, and slides for guests to enjoy. Weaved into the area were lounges, a snack shack, and sun decks. All were beautiful, and though themed they were not over the top. Another Disney reference I would liken them to would be Typhoon Lagoon, but not as drastic a theme.
I didn’t get to do the Menehune Adventure Trail, but judging from the families participating, it looked like fun, and something I want to come back and try. The other family “adventures” included character greetings. Strangely, Chip and Dale had a longer line than Mickey Mouse. Not sure why. Goofy and Minnie were regulars at the character breakfast at Makahiki. They, and a cast member, led a musical train of kids around the tables at one point in the meal.
Speaking of meals, I had the privilege of eating at ‘Ama ‘Ama – the premier restaurant of the complex. It was a lunch meal, so it wasn’t the tip of the menu, but…oh my goodness…this was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in Hawaii! I ordered the daily plate lunch special. It changes everyday (hence the “daily” in the title), but I wish they had this every time. It was an almost blackened BBQ chicken, steak/beef, and pork with a sweet sauce on it. It was all served over nori rice (rice with dried seaweed and seasoning), and a side of noodles that were almost sweet chow mein. It was a little much in price, but so much food that I didn’t finish it all!
‘Ama ‘Ama had a great environment. It was an open restaurant with a “thatched” roof, and a gorgeous view of the beach. I kept watching out at the water as waves crashed on the shore. Having no walls makes for a great feel, where it seems like you’re eating entirely outside, but with shade to keep from getting scorched. The service was splendid. They have a great number of staff, and they are all friendly. Overall, I would return to eat here! And, I haven’t even visited the other eateries yet!
My conclusion for this hotel and resort is that this exceeded my expectations. I had a great time just walking around. Being a day visitor, I couldn’t go snorkeling or swimming or kayaking. I didn’t get to go on the Menehune Trail. But, all of that just adds to my desire to go again, and to stay there. The details around the hotel made this stand out from the usual stomping grounds I go to around Hawaii. And the beach is enough to beckon any visitor. Even if you stay anywhere else on the island, it’s worth going for an hour or two. If you can go and stay, it is well worth it. And take it from one who has been to Oahu and Maui a few times.
Well, until next time, aloha and have a marvelous day!