Oahu, Hawaii: Scenes from the Aulani Disney Resort

Somehow, perhaps because the holidays are flying at us faster than ever, our summer vacation already feels like far too long ago! And yet I’m just getting around to editing the photos. There are worse things, of course, than rehashing memories of tropical islands in the middle of October, but I apologize if this does feel a little out of order.

We were fortunate to find ourselves with another chance to return to the Aulani this past August—Aron’s family have a timeshare there, and so we joined his parents, his sister and her family (visiting from Germany) for four nights after our stay on Kauai. The resort is on the western side of the island, set in one of a series of four small lagoons that make up an area called Ko’Olina—near the town of Kapolei.

I’ve written two past travelogues (our first stay and an update) with all of my impressions as well as some of the tips I gleaned for a stay at the Disney resort, should you be planning a stay, so rather than repeat too much here I thought I’d mostly share some photos and highlights…

The kids were absolutely thrilled to come back to “the best hotel in the world,” and to reunite with cousins and grandparents. They also especially love the little necklaces and leis and all of the alohas that come with that.

We all dropped our bags while the room was readied and went straight for the pools. Aron and I also discovered how much we like MaiTais when the balance of orgeat and dark rum is just right.

On our first day, we joined the whole family for a character breakfast and buffet. As I’d noted last time, the Disney factor of the resort is, for the most part, subtle—characters occasionally passing by on their way to a meet-and-greet, but you have to seek them out if you want to be near them. This is a really nice way to do that. All of the kids—even our 14-year-old nephew—still really enjoy the characters, and Hudson and Skyler were hugging and hi-fiving to their heart’s content.

After breakfast, the kids went off to Aunty’s Beach House—the kids’ club at the Aulani—and Aron and I walked over to the Four Seasons next door to sample their mai tais and shop in their gift shops.

I didn’t buy anything, but they had some really fun and tempting options.

Even though it’s just next door to the Aulani, it felt like a special midday getaway. We decided to do exactly the same thing the following day when the kids went back to Aunty’s again.

When we rejoined with the kids, they were ready to head straight to the pool—and to Rainbow Reef, a swimmable aquarium (filled with real fish). But at 77 degrees, it is definitely a bit chilly, and no one lasted very long, so we’ll try not to think in terms of cost-per-minute. Making memories, damnit!

Their cousins had day trips planned (to Waikiki and to the North Shore), but we’d usually rejoin in the afternoon for some beach play and lazy river rafting. Well, we were lazy—the kids would race and swim and lap us like the wild animals they are.

Skyler has become a good swimmer and was tall enough to stand almost anywhere, so she loved how much more independent she got to be in the pools. In fact, she really surprised us when she volunteered to go in the tallest (and darkest) tube slide by herself! Aron and I looked at each other after she shot off like, “was that our daughter?!”

She was always in sight, of course, but I also really appreciated all of the lifeguards everywhere. Hudson was allowed a lot more free range when he was with his cousins (ages 10 and 14), and it’s not the easiest place to coordinate with everyone, so their presence is really valued.

We tended to have breakfasts in our room, lunches by the pool, and dinners with the whole family. We were really happy to see that the menu had extended to include açai bowls and poke bowls since our last visit–something I’d specifically complained that I thought was missing before, as they’re often a highlight of eating on the islands. But we must say that we were really disappointed by how much single-use plastic was still used. If you go, I encourage you to add your complaints and let them know that recycling isn’t enough. The resort prides themselves on many of their environmental practices, so I’m not sure how this fits in and I was often distracted by the sight of how many single-use plastic items our one family was served at each meal.

On one night, we crossed the street to eat at Monkeypod—it’s a favorite of everyone’s.

On another we met for the Aulani luau. It was the first time we’d attended this one and they put on such a wonderful show! There were so many activities for everyone beforehand, which really made it especially fun. Both Hudson and Skyler had really hoped to get to make a lei, and loved the flower bracelets.

And the tattoos.

And mashing taro to make poi, and trying their hand at the ukulele.

The food was delicious, and the show itself was wonderful. Of course the fire dancing was the favorite. It was definitely a highlight of the stay.

We spent our last day doing more of the same. Pools and beach-time, as well as a few of the other activities—like the scavenger hunt for kids and listening to the storyteller at the fire pit—and then gathered for a last meal at ‘Ama’Ama, the resort’s beachside restaurant. It’s especially nice to watch the sun set from its tables.

And it’s an especially nice place to celebrate family. What a treat to get to share this together—a wonderful end to our week on these beautiful islands!

Have you been? What did I miss?

Previously on this trip: Kauai 

Previously on Oahu: Island travelogue, a weekend in Waikiki, the North Shore, and a more detailed stay at the Aulani

Also: Maui! 

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