Everything You Need To Know About Disney Aulani

We recently stayed at the Aulani. As you know, we are huge Disney fans in this household. We have season passes to Disneyland and we were very excited to visit the Aulani, which my kids called Hawaii Disneyland (even though there are no rides). I am here to share all the details about everything I loved, liked, and disliked. 

The hotel itself is beautiful and the employees are friendly and very helpful. From the moment you arrive you are welcomed with a smile and given a Hawaiian flower lei. My first disappointment was that there is not one character in the lobby or the entrance of the hotel waiting to greet guests as they arrive. I think a character should be in the lobby or entrance of the hotel greeting guests, kids, and posing for pictures. When I arrived at the Aulani I wanted to see a Disney character to really make our vacation different from any other time we've vacationed in Hawaii.  Otherwise, it's basically just like any other nice hotel on the islands.  Our room was ready right when we checked in, which was very nice. I asked about the view from our balcony. I really really wanted a view that faced the garden side because from your balcony you can watch the luau show and movie night (which happens two nights each week) right from your room. I was told those rooms were all taken, which I totally understood since it was the especially busy Spring break/Easter season. I also asked for a view of the beach or pool or something really nice. Instead we ended up with a partial view of a rooftop building, which was disappointing. The room was very very small (it was just a standard room). Our room had a bathroom with one sink, two beds, and a small table with two chairs. There was a mini fridge which was nice. Honestly, the room was so small that between the four of us, our luggage, double stroller, pool toys, and bags, we literally could not move in our room. I also like things really clean and expect that when I check into a hotel room it should be cleaned and dust free. This was not the case. There was some food on the carpet, which I just picked up with a tissue and threw away when we walked into our room. The lamps, coffee mugs, and plates were dusty, the hotel phone was disgusting, and the entire room did not look properly cleaned. It is not that hard to wipe down a phone, four lamps, and vacuum extra good. The wifi/internet connection was awful. This was a huge disappointment.  For someone like me who blogs, Instagrams, and relies highly on my iPhone and laptop I was seriously dying with how slow the wifi was or it would not work at all for me at times.

We loved meeting the characters daily. The same characters are not out everyday, so if you are only staying a couple days you may not see all the characters. We never saw Stitch, Chip, and Dale which was a huge disappointment, but we saw Donald, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Moana. If it rains, which it usually does in Hawaii on the daily, then they cancel the character meet and greet (even if it is a sprinkle). This is also a huge bummer. Knowing how often the forecast calls for rain in Spring, they should do them inside in the lobby or a certain indoor area of the hotel. 

To find out what activities are going on at the Aulani you need to pick up a daily 'Iwa every day at the front desk. I personally think as a guest of the Aulani and for what we paid per night the daily 'Iwa should be pushed under my door each night for the next day's activities. I found it ridiculous that each morning Blake or myself would have to walk down to the front desk and grab the daily 'Iwa for the activities for the day. Of course we wanted one each day so we could read about anything fun that might be going on around the hotel or with characters. Also, the daily 'Iwa does not tell you where and what times the characters will be greeting guests during the day. Starting at 8am each morning from your room phone you dial extension 2447 and an automated message will tell you character meet and greets for the day with the time and location. I found this also to be more work for me than necessary. I would have to call each morning and write down the character, time, and location because we wanted to see all the characters and Kennedy begged to see Moana daily. I think the character, time, and location should be on the daily 'Iwa and placed in each room. I just strongly feel for what it costs to stay at the Aulani they could cater a little more to their guests.  Also, it would be helpful around the pool if an announcement was made.  For example, "Aloha, Mickey is now taking pictures and meeting guests at the koi pond".

The pools are amazing! We all loved every single pool, jacuzzi, slide, lazy river, and splash zone.  It was just insane how many pools and water features they have for the whole entire family. You have to check out towels daily and you are given a new colored bracelet every day so they know you are a hotel guest. The only disappointment I have about the pool area is not being able to find a lounge chair. I am serious. It was insane by every single pool and every kid area. Some days I would bring the double stroller down and we would park the stroller close to the pool just to leave it with our towels, beach bag, etc and Blake and I would just swim with the kids. It was impossible to find chairs by any of the pools. I don't really have a recommendation for this except to get more chairs around all the pool areas or have security remove towels after a certain time limit if people are just reserving chairs they are not actually using. But overall, the pools are just amazing and every kid and adult would love them. Plus, there are life guards seriously on every corner of the pool which is so nice. The entire pool staff and life guards were amazing.  We were also visiting the Aulani during a very busy time (spring break/Easter), so I do take that into consideration.

One place we were able to find chairs with no problem was the beach. The Aulani has their own private beach area with chairs, umbrellas, paddle boarding, etc. We did go down to the beach daily and it was fun. I was able to find a chair and the kids could play in the water or in the sand, but we really loved it up by the pools. Like I mentioned, we brought our double stroller but if you want to lighten your load while traveling, the Aulani recommends Baby Aboard for renting a stroller. It is a company that will drop off and pick up your rental.

Now I am going to try to share all about the food! One morning we did the character breakfast at Makahiki with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. This is very similar to every character breakfast we do in Disneyland, except there are fewer characters. The food was outstanding and I am not even a huge breakfast person. There is an omelet station, bagels, sweet bread, mickey shaped waffles, pancakes, sausage, potatoes, soups, cheeses, cereal, yogurt and so much more. Basically, they have literally everything you could want for breakfast. The only disappointment is there are only 3 characters at the breakfast. You meet Mickey right when you enter before you get seated at your table. Once you are seated only Pluto and Minnie were in the restaurant and visited our table. For the price of this character breakfast you should see more characters. We did have a wonderful experience and the food was delicious. I would just love to have seen more characters. They also offer a character dinner dining experience, but the dinner is not offered every night.  Thank you to the Aulani for taking care of our character breakfast.

Papalua Shave Ice with Mickey ears is a must! We had so many of these and they were so good and worth every penny.

Mama's Snack Stop is really good for lunch if you are wanting to eat by the pool. The hotdogs are the best.

Off The Hook: This place looked so nice and amazing but we never got the chance to try it. The sandwiches, salads, and all of the appetizers looked so good. 

The Olelo Room: We never got the chance to try this one, but they have appetizers and cocktails.

Wailana Pool Bar: We ate here several times (because it was convenient by the pool) and every time the food was not great. The cocktails were delicious, but the food was just bad. We tried the nachos, onion rings, chicken strips, calamari and a couple other things and nothing was good.  These pineapple drinks were amazing and worth every single penny.

Ulu Cafe was my jam and one of my favorite places to eat. Here you can get Dole whip, delicious chicken strips that come with a cup of fresh fruit and carrots/celery cut up (which is what I had for lunch almost every day). They also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The breakfast burrito was a hit too and almost everything we tried from this cafe was so good!

Lava Shack: This is a quick place if you want to grab a snack. We never had the chance to try this one out.

Little Opihi's beach side kiosk: This is located at the beach and it was perfect for a quick snack. They even have Mickey shaped pretzels like in Disneyland!

Ama Ama is a nicer restaurant at the resort and from what I hear it's supposed to be great. We did not eat there. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is an open restaurant and over looks the ocean. It is Hawaiian cuisine with a modern twist. 

There are only a couple gift shops and for someone like me that loves to buy Disney stuff I was sure hoping to buy more! Carter picked out a Jake and The Neverland Pirates toy car. Kennedy got a Hawaiian Minnie Mouse plush doll and I found an ornament for our Christmas tree, but the merchandise was not amazing. I was hoping to see lots of Moana stuff and special Aulani/Hawaiian Disney merchandise and I just did not see it. The Disney store at the Ala Moana Shopping Center we went to had better stuff than the Aulani and of course it was more reasonably priced.

You can also drop your kids off at Aunty's Beach House (ages 3-12). It is a kids club open from 9:30am to 9pm. There are activities, Disney movies, wii and Sony Play Station, game tables, arts and crafts and more. We did not leave Carter or Kennedy at Aunty's Beach House, but in case you are into leaving your kids on vacation in Hawaii at the Aulani you have this option. 

Blake and Carter tried out the Rainbow Reef one day where you get to swim with the fish without the rough waves. It's a 3,800 salt water private snorkeling lagoon and it is the only one in O'ahu. Carter did not last long, but we are so proud of him for trying. 

There is a great viewing area of the fish and the people snorkeling below.  The kids loved watching the fish and the people.

It is a beautiful hotel, full of families, fun and we really did have a great time.  But we try to come to Hawaii at least once, or sometimes twice, a year and we both agreed that we would be just fine if  we never came back to the Aulani.  I think overall not being able to find a chair by the pool area each day was rough.  It was hard to really enjoy the pool, relax, and eat when you don't have chairs.  Also, not seeing the characters out and about all day and night was truly a disappointment.  Having to work on my vacation by picking up the daily 'Iwa for the activities and calling the extension 2447 to find out where the characters will be each day at what time and where was a lot of work too.  Overall we are so happy we experienced the Aulani.  The kids loved it and we had a great time, but we will probably never go back.  There are just so many more amazing places to stay in Hawaii that have wonderful pools, activities, and are a fraction of the price.  If I am paying a premium to stay at a Disney resort, I want to feel immersed in everything I love about Disney.  Instead, I feel like the Aulani is a very nice hotel that has only a small amount of Disney sprinkled in.  If you have any questions about our stay, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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