Monday, September 10, 2012

My 10 Favorite Things About Aulani!

The 10 Things I Love About Aulani

Aloha, cousins!  Some of you lovely blog followers might recall that I (Agent Heather, that is!), was so lucky to have traveled to Disney’s newest resort, Aulani, this summer.  If I had to sum Aulani up in one word, I think it would most likely be this: Perfection.  But, one word doesn’t really do it justice, since I could talk for days and days about how amazing this place is, so I’ll be a bit more eloquent (and I’ll try to refrain from writing a mini-novella).  Also, since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll throw in a bunch of them, too!

We spent 7 nights and 8 days in paradise.  If you are thinking of a trip here, and you can swing the length of time, I’d absolutely recommend a trip of equal length - if not longer!  I live on the East Coast so the flight was quite the haul, and you need a nice long stay in Hawaii to recover from jet-lag and enjoy your time there.  While we were there I knew I’d be blogging about Aulani, and I was already trying to think of which direction I’d take my blog.  It quickly became a problem, because I was so head-over-heels for everything Aulani!  I decided on trying to condense it all into a “Top 10 Favorite Things”.  I am pretty sure that even this will not encompass everything that I so loved, but since you don’t have days on end to hear (read?) my Aulani love letter, here goes!  In no particular order....

10.  Location, location, location! - We flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines.  The flight was easy, the airport was easy to navigate, and grabbing our rental car was super quick.  Driving from Honolulu International over to Aulani is a straight shoot down the H1 Interstate, and within 20-25 minutes we were entering the gated Ko’Olina Resort area where Aulani is. The southwest coast of Oahu is absolutely stunning; nothing but blue skies, turquoise water, white beaches, majestic  mountains, and palm trees up and down the coast.  Anybody who said they didn’t really care for Oahu clearly never left the built-up, touristy area of Waikiki.  Oahu is full of so much natural beauty.
Who wouldn't want to see this every single day??

9.  Shave Ice, Fresh Fruit, and Cocktails, oh my! - You go to Japan, you eat sushi and drink sake.  You go to Italy, you eat pasta and drink wine.  You go to Hawaii, you eat Shave Ice and drink Mai Tais.  Often.  If you have not had Shave Ice, let me tell you a bit about it - it’s like a snow cone, but a gazillion times better.  The ice is shaved down so fine, and topped with your choices of flavored syrups.  And we are not talking “blue raspberry”, we are talking lilikoi (a popular flavor based on the passion fruit-orange-guava juice) or hauipa (hello, coconut!!).  There is a Shave Ice stand located right smack in the middle of Waikolohe Valley at the resort, and it’s the perfect treat right smack in the middle of a sunny Hawaiian day.  If you are trying to be healthier, there’s no place better for the freshest fruits.

And yes, the Mai Tai’s.  Aulani boasts a carefully concocted cocktail menu with classic favorites like the Mai Tai and Blue Hawaiian, and some original creations like the Hibiscus Kiss.  You’ll find plenty of familiar foods here, like hot dogs or turkey wraps; there’s also plenty of local delicacies like the Moco Loco (hamburger, rice, egg, and gravy all stacked up? Sure!) or purple sweet potatoes with macadamia nuts.  You’ll find these and more at the Makahiki restaurant which offers a buffet or a-la carte menu for breakfast and lunch.  Aulani’s signature dining at ‘Ama ‘Ama offers breakfast and dinner menus that are as pleasing to the eyes as the view from the open air restaurant is.  This might also be a great time for me to throw in that Aulani is AMAZING when it comes to dining with allergies.  We have 3 family members that are gluten free, and we were offered choices we never even expected to be accommodated (Peanut butter and banana stuffed french toast?  Gluten free tempura?  Woohoo!).  The attention to our allergy needs was absolutely top notch, and the food was some of the best I’ve had!

8.  Waikolohe Valley - In the center of the resort rests Waikolohe Valley, the home of Aulani’s pools, hot tubs, waterslides, lazy river, snorkeling reef, restaurants, bars, and some of the most beautiful native foliage you’ll see.  Palm trees loom overhead as you wander the paths of the Valley, and dozens and dozens of different types of flora create a feast of beauty for your eyes, not to mention the smells!  Heavenly!  I could have (and did) wander the paths for hours just taking it all in with all my senses.

The pools were a perfect temperature to cool off from the warm Hawaiian sun, and the infinity hot tub offers the most breathtaking views of the lagoon, especially at sunset!

Sunset from the Infinity hot tub - so serene
7.  Menehune - Most of you know of the Hidden Mickeys that are all over the Disney Parks and resorts.  Everything at Aulani was created to be true to the Hawaiian culture and spirit, and in keeping with that, the resort is full of hidden (and some not so hidden) Menehune.  What’s a Menehune?  They are a mythical little person who are believed to be the builders and creaters of all sorts of buildings, ponds, etc.  They live far away from human eyes and create their magic (or mischief!) at night.  Kids, and kids at heart, love to search the resort looking for as many Menehune as they can find - we were on a mission to photograph every one we came across in our hunt.   

Kids can also take part in the Menehune Adventure Trail, where they take an electronic game device and follow the clues from Aunty to find menehune and make magic along the way!  We were told by a cast member there are over 300 Menehune at the resort.  We didn’t find all 300, so I guess we will have to go back to find the rest!

6.  Laniwai Spa - Every vacation deserves a little R&R, and at Aulani there is no better place for this than Laniwai Spa.  We sent our two little Menehune to Aunty’s Beach House while the hubby and I went for a very much needed spa morning.  Laniwai Spa has officially ruined all other spa experiences for me, as I am pretty sure no other spa will live up to the expectations I now have of a spa.  This place is just WOW.  Laniwai offers an array of treatments.  I can’t speak for all of them, but I can tell you that our couples massage was out of this world.

Apart from the treatments, the facility is top-notch; from the beautiful and serene dressing rooms, relaxations rooms, saunas, steam rooms, and treatment rooms, there’s little that can compare to the Kula Wai - the outdoor hydrotherapy garden with spas, mineral baths, and the most amazing rain showers ever.  Let me tell you, we love our children very very much, but boy was it hard to peel ourselves away from the private mineral bath the staff reserved for us to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

5.  The Lagoon - Aulani does not just sit on the ocean, it sits on a perfectly (and naturally) carved out lagoon.  The large beach leads you down to the most crystal clear water, which is perfectly calm thanks to the shape of the lagoon.  It is the perfect area for a little gentle boogie boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, or paddle boarding (which are all provided for free or a nominal fee at Makiki Joe’s hut down at the beach).

There are plenty of chairs and Cast Members will set up an umbrella at your location of choice.  Just sitting back in a chair and taking in the ocean breeze, looking out at the turquoise water where it touches the clearest blue sky.....I’m telling you, I sat down there every day and asked my husband to help me figure out exactly why we didn’t live there all the time!

Aloha, Mickey!
4.  Characters greetings and other fun - Let’s not forget, this is a Disney resort after all!  One of the things that Aulani did a great job of was keeping the resort authentically Hawaiian with just the right amount of Disney touches.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Chip and Dale, Goofy, and Stitch all take their vacation here at Aulani and love to visit with you!  In the Daily Iwa (that’s the daily planner of events) you’ll learn what time you can meet the characters for greetings and photos, play with them at poolside for some Aloha fun, or splash away at the pool parties on select days.

The quality of the character interactions here is fabulous - the kids really get to spend a lot of time visiting their favorite Disney friends.  And of course, there are PhotoPass photographers on hand to capture it all on film!

3.  Aunty and her Beach House - Aunty’s Beach House is the kids club at Aulani.  The Beach House is for kids ages 3-12 (but I’m pretty sure my husband would have liked to lie about his age to stay and play!).

There is just SO much to do at Aunty’s - from dress up to video games to finding Menehune in the backyard.  Our kids had a blast here.  Perhaps my favorite part about the Beach House was Aunty herself.  The first day we met Aunty, I felt like I met the long-lost Aunt I never knew I had but always wanted.  She is just the warmest, kindest woman that really welcomed us into her ‘ohana (that’s “family”!).  Aunty and I talked for quite some length at different times during the week, really getting to know all of us.  She went above and beyond to really make us feel like family, and it worked!

Saying goodbye to her on the last day was quite sad, but she made us promise to come see her again and that’s a promise we really intend to keep!

2.  Starlit Hui - If you take a trip to Hawaii, one of the things likely on your list of things to do there is a luau.  While Aulani does not offer a full luau, twice a week you have the opportunity to head over to the garden for the Starlit Hui.  I like to refer to the Hui as a luau, just without the food.  We personally have been to a few different luaus, and I can easily say the Hui has the best show of all that we’ve seen.  Disney fans know that if anyone can put on a good show, it’s Disney, and they did not disappoint!  The Hui is hosted by Uncle, and the singing and dancing talent of his supporting ‘ohana was just amazing.  The music was so captivating for me; there is one particular song that was written by a very well known Hawaiian artist, Keali’i Reichel, just for the Starlit Hui.  The song was often played in the lobby and the shop, and every time I heard it I would just stop and smile.  You could say it’s Aulani’s “theme song”, and it is just so perfect.  Check out this little video clip from the Starlit Hui featuring this song.  ***Disclaimer - this video was very unprofessionally taken on a smartphone by a very amateur smartphone videographer (namely, my 7 year old child).

1.  The Aloha Spirit - Yes, I said my #1 favorite thing about Aulani is the Aloha Spirit.  Corny?  Maybe.  But once you have been there, you will know exactly what I’m referring to.  There is just a “feeling” you have when you are here.  It begins the moment you arrive, as you step out of your car and a Cast Member greets you at the door saying “Aloha Keller ‘Ohana”!  It is continued every minute of every day as each and every member of the Aulani family greets you with an “Aloha!” and a smile.

Even the TV greeted us personally (check out the bottom corner of the screen!), how’s that for feeling like family!  Your entire body and soul just soaks it in and embraces it.  It is like a deep breath of the freshest, happiest air.  The spirit here is one of relaxation.  Fun.  Excitement.  Adventure.  Serenity.  Peace.  Nature.  ‘Ohana.  Aloha.  Perfection.

Well, so much for not a mini-novella!  I told you I could talk for days about how much I love Aulani, and I still don’t feel like I even hit the tip of the island!  If you are already planning your own trip to Aulani, I hope this helped get you even more excited than you probably already are.  If you aren’t planning a trip yet, I hope this helps entice you to get there.  As I shed a tear (or maybe quite a few tears) as we drove away from our beloved Aulani on our last evening, I wiped them away and smiled as I thought about the memories we made there from our “best vacation ever” that will last a lifetime.  And I also made my hubby promise we could leave saying “see ya real soon!”.

So cousins, I hope you enjoyed a peek at Aulani.  Are you planning to visit this bit of Disney in paradise?  What part are you most looking forward to?

Aloha!  Heather

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I'm ready now! I'll be calling Pam soon- sounds AMAZING!


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