My good friend Richard, stops by with his review of his stay at Disney's Aulani resort in beautiful Hawaii. Richard is a "local boy" and a retired Fire Captain, and so his review has some great insight into Disney's attention to detail, safety and the authentic touches used to create Aulani. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!
A Disney Resort & Spa
Ko Olina, Hawai’i
First of all a little background information, I am a retired Fire Captain, Honolulu Fire Department, HFD’s first full-time Public Information Officer with 27 years of firefighting experience under my “helmet.” Time with my family is always a cherished event because many family occasions were missed while on duty.
The weekend spent at Aulani was a celebration of my daughter’s, Marissa Soo Faleolo, birthday so it was planned and booked three months in advance. Marissa and her husband, Okesene, their daughter, Leina, and their sons, Oakley and Ailama along with my two sons, Davit and Blaise and I were about to embark on a “staycation” traveling by car about 45 minutes from our respective homes in East Honolulu.
Disney’s Aulani magic began three weeks prior to our stay with the arrival of the “Aloha Soo Family” to Aulani information booklet. It contained sections to assist you in planning your stay both on and off property. The information and the pictures built up the excitement of the weekend and it eased the check in process by allowing you to check in online up to 10 days prior to arrival. Mahalo for this advance sharing of information.
The first night at Aulani Hawaii by Disney was of course magical. The grandsons spent the evening at Aunty’s Beachhouse, an on-site day care, that is filled with activities, a caring staff and most importantly FREE. Us adults ate at 'Ama 'Ama's an open air hale overlooking the lagoons. It is situated so that you feel like you are in a grass hale. The food was great & so was the bottle of cabernet. Olelo winery a California’s Central Coast vintner, and then a bottle of Moet Chandon-a birthday celebration that Marissa will always remember. The staff served a Mickey Mouse birthday cake with a lite sparkler and the young Kane (male) strolling musicians sang Happy Birthday plus a song about Papakolea, the area where we reside in Honolulu. After, Marissa fetched my grandsons from Aunty’s Beachhouse and we walked the grounds, then turned in for the night. In the morning we were scheduled for the character brunch at Makahike with 28 family members...BOY THANK GOD FOR PLASTIC...I might go into a second card....NOT!!! Almost forgot, the room accommodations are like no other - the beds are so comfortable, I passed out typing on the computer. The amenities leave nothing to want. Across the street is an ABC store (a local market chain) which is huge and stocked with everything you forgot to bring. The grounds & buildings are done so that you, your kids, your grandkids-whatever can just stop and enjoy Hawaiian artworks and culture in a Disney setting plus the staff is everywhere but not in your face, if you know what I mean. Local staff and very discreet but attentive...Disney got IT!
Day 2, I'm in my "papa" role so I get up at 4:30 am (it’s a fire thing), make coffee and venture out to Costco (5 minute drive) for gas and McDonald's for early breakfast to bring back for the family, mind you we have 10:30 am reservations for Makahiki character brunch, but everything is good. Pit stops at Longs for gold fish crackers and blistex (Marissa texts me and asks if I can get these items - do I ever say, No!) Makahiki (a buffet type restaurant) was great! My daughter was touched that the chef came out and discussed with her on what he would prepare in light of my grandson’s, Oakley, food allergies something that we have never encountered at other resorts. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were all dressed in aloha attire posing for pictures & group interaction. 20 + family members attended and a good time was had by all. Back to the room and change for the pool. Okay-it’s the pool that makes this place-water slides, water features, lazy rivers plus the service and here’s a hint-order from the 9 and under menu (the staff considers everyone 9 and under at the pool). It is like appetizers the whole day or a tapa type menu at half the cost of the regular menu. The macaroni and cheese with peas, the mini Angus Burgers with cheese, plus the sweet potato fries are to die for. At the end of the day we lingered around the fire pit (this is a great spot to pick for a landing zone-great access to both the pool and the ocean plus couches, chairs and tables which can be arranged to seat your family members saving the cost of a pool cabana) for story telling-the legend of the Menehune (a tribe of little people that inhabited Hawaii) by Uncle Aito. He is great and he interacts with everyone. The grandsons were in awe of his stories, I just wish I didn’t fall asleep halfway thru his story, but I enjoyed a few wine coolers earlier that day ;) Now what to do for dinner!!! That evening everyone is doing the interaction thing with IPods or Ipads-something about strolling through the grounds and rocks communicate with you, kind of a Disney “Hide and Seek”, but I stayed in the room watching the news - too high tech for me. We ended up ordering pizza delivery from Papa John Pizza. They delivered to Aulani and it was perfect. Ailama almost fell asleep with a slice of pizza in his mouth lol.
Day 3, and our last one at Aulani, but I wanted to share and recap a few tips. Even though they do not provide roll away beds-they do provide air mattress beds at no charge, you can order a microwave for the room-no charge. Be sure to walk the pathway connecting all the four lagoons at Ko Olina it is a very comfortable walk with spectacular views of the ocean and the vistas of Honolulu. Take along a camera. And don’t worry-there are well-kept restrooms at each lagoon-what more can a “senior” need during a walk? When you get to the pool even though there are many areas to sit, I recommend the area below 'Ama 'Ama near the fire pit it is less crowded plus there are full-on couches and chairs with cushions and coffee tables in addition to the lounge chairs which you can rearrange plus at that level you can go to the ocean or the pool as well as see the ocean and the pool. Again, remember order from the "9 and under" portion of the menu. It’s just like a tapas menu. And finally, the most reasonable wine is Olelo (not Hawaiian) but from Central Coast California-the cab had a really refined but a slight fruity taste. Finally one last comment, with 30+ years in the safety field, it is my opinion that Aulani places safety first and its shows. The pool is the main feature of this resort and there must be over 20 lifeguards standing-not sitting-and walking the whole time. They each have floats and water proof walkie-talkies plus there are supervisors who work it as a team. Obviously they work well together and communicate constantly. But parents, remember, your job is still to watch your kids at all times. I saw more than one occasion when the parent obviously lost track of their kids and were frantic until they found them.
My final word is we love Aulani and the Soos and the Faleolos will definitely be back!!!