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Old 12-20-2011, 04:24 PM   #1
taaren
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt
 
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An Aulani mini-TR

Went to Aulani this past weekend, stayed in a studio. Had a few things working against us but still had a fabulous time: DS5 developed a cough a few days before we flew out, and it was pretty stormy/windy all week in Hawaii. Not a lot of pictures since I didn't feel that I needed to duplicate the ones on other people's TRs ... plus they still need uploading. Apologies for the ramblings

On Friday, we flew from Maui in the morning, took the bus over to Waikiki and spent the first night at the Marriott Waikiki Beach and Resort. If you want to stay on that side of the island its a wonderful resort, the views from the rooms we had on the 17th and 22nd floor were breathtaking (and I'm not a fan of Waikiki in general). Downstairs we ate at Wolfgang Pucks Express and Teddy's Better Burgers, which are both delicious and reasonably priced at the zoo end of Waikiki. Took DS5 to the Honolulu Zoo which my mother and I enjoyed almost as much as he did, and though I thought it was very reasonable ($20 kamaaina rate for the 3 of us), last time my mom was there it was free, so she was surprised we had to pay at all. After work my DH flew in and took the bus to the Ala Moana Shopping Center, and walked over to the Enterprise on Kapiolani Blvd to pick up our rental car for the weekend ... we'd reserved a compact and they gave us a mid-size (Hyundai Sonata) which was great since we had a few more people than we expected. I'd recommend looking at neighborhood rental car locations for anybody wanting to go to Aulani as HNL options are very pricey ... we paid $42 for three days of our car including taxes, etc. Even if you factor in a taxi both ways its still cheaper than renting at the airport for $80+ per day.

Saturday we had a commencement ceremony to attend - mine, I finished my Master's, ostensibly the reason for this trip - in Manoa, which I was hoping would be done by 10:30 or 11a. Nope, we got out of there around 1p, then grabbed Leonard's malasadas & eclairs for the next couple of breakfasts, went to grab our stuff from the Marriott, put DS5 down for a nap since he was not feeling well, and finally headed for Ko'olina around 4p with a stop at our favorite ice cream place, Bubbies so we could have some ice cream pie in our freezer at our studio. Dropped my mom off at HNL on the way.

Got to Aulani at 5p, just before sunset, it was stunningly beautiful. We kept expecting to see the BTMR train rolling around the waterslide structure! We had a linked reservation since I didn't want to borrow too many points from next year for this weekend and managed to use somebody's holding points about a month ago for Saturday night, then ours for Sunday ... also wanted an extra key for one of my college buddies to be able to park/get slide wristbands. Checked in, said they'd have to re-do our reservation to add the fourth key, would run new keys up to our room so up we went. New keys (4, my friend's last name spelled "Yee" instead of "Lee") showed up with no charging priveleges about 15 minutes later but we enjoyed looking down at the characters and watching the sunset. DH went to get a 3rd set of keys with charging priveleges for all 4 of us. Pool was open til 8p but we decided to wander around the resort and get DS5 set up for the kids club, Aunty's Beach House. Did that, headed to Kapolei for dinner. En Fuego was pretty decent plate-lunch style food in Kapolei (mochiko chicken was good, katsu was okay, they were out of hamburger steak). Returned and went to the fireside storytelling at 9p. My friend is currently an entertainment technician, and I used to be one before DS was born, so we have seen a lot of shows over the years, and we thought this performer had wonderful energy and a lovely performance despite the fire pit being broken he had a lamp he dubbed magical.

Sunday we woke up early, enjoyed our malasada and eclair breakfast on the oceanview balcony, but it was very windy so we opted to watch the fish feeding and tour the other DVC units hope the wind would die down. Fish feeding was lovely, almost seems like too many fish for the aquarium but the amount was impressive and they all looked healthy. The Grand Villa tour was really impressive, but it had better be for the amount of points that costs! I prefer the VGC 2 bedroom for the 3 baths compared to the 1 bath in the AHV 1 bdr and 2 in the lockoff, or 2.5 in the dedicated. We were staying in the Ewa tower, our studio had the rectangular balcony. The preview rooms are in the Waianae tower and have the triangular balcony that gives you the feeling that you are the only ones looking at the ocean, but you lose some square footage. I think I prefer the triangular balcony and would request that next time though the Ewa tower was nice for the elevators being much less busy since there is no hotel on that side, and the hotel seemed to be very full. Wind still hadn't subsided but decided to hit the pool anyways. Since we didn't want to aggravate DS's cough by getting him wet in that weather and he'd been begging to go to the kids' club we tried to check him into the Beach House. Got there and they said they were full to capacity they already had 50 children! What? The sign on the door says capacity 170, and they explained it was a counselor/child ratio regulated by the state of Hawaii and Stich's Space Goo activity was also full (we arrived about 10 minutes prior). Then another woman walked in, registered her two children, and while we were waiting they let her children in because other children left ... I mentioned that I had been there first, had taken the time to register my child the previous night and they just looked confused and overwhelmed. Finally another child left and DS5 went in. Later when I picked him up a CM apologized, but really Disney, not having enough youth counsellors for more than 50 kids when your resort is booked full? Meanwhile DH & my friend were getting a fourth set of keys to correct my friends name and put his credit card on his key so he could charge seperately, which was great since DS5s and my 3rd set of keys did not work on the room door, just the outside doors/parking lot entrance & exit.

Finally hit the pool (11:30ish), really enjoyed both slides and the lazy river. The body slide is scary, completely in the dark and fast. Enjoyable, but I liked the tube slide better, you don't get very wet so I figured we could take DS5 on it without worsening his cold. Had been planning on venturing offsite for lunch but my friend insisted on staying on-site since he'd been wanting to try Ama Ama and there were character parties we wanted to attend poolside anyways. Ama Ama was heavenly. DH and I shared kalua pork sliders with onions and kimchee on manapua-style bread, DF had the burger, and DS5 had the mac & cheese which came with the fresh fruit and a fondue-type dessert of marshmellows, brownies and pineapple chunks to dip in chocolate sauce. We all sampled everything and agreed the mac & cheese needs to go on the adult menu since it was creamy and wonderful. I think our tab for four people was still under $50, so pretty reasonable for a resort. Dress code only that you are covered since we were in rash guards and surf shorts to protect us from the sun. Hit the character pool party and Aloha Mickey shows which were mildly entertaining, DS5 liked the infinity jacuzzi better. Lots of locals hanging around the pool, must be some good employee discount rates since some kept saying hi to the lifeguards very familiarly; talked to a few people who were SSR/AKV owners that were locals using their points there and kept trying to sell my friend on DVC. Tried snorkeling a bit in the lagoon but it was very murky, possibly because of the storm. Wind died around 5p and then we went on the slides over and over since there was no line, finally quitting close to 7p. Came back to the room to discover a trash & towel had been done to our room even though we were only staying 2 nights and had not asked for one ... yay linked reservation!
Grabbed some plate lunch for dinner from the Korean BBQ place in Kapolei and found out Roy's Koolina had had a kitchen fire earlier in the week and was closed indefinitely so no souffle for us. Went to the fireside storytelling again, different story just as entertaining. Highly recommended.

Monday woke up and the daily Iwa (Aulani's version of the Navigator) seemed much fuller, so if we go again we'll be sure to include more weekdays. Spent a couple of hours in the pool despite the wind, very few people on the slides until 10a, and it looked like a lot of the locals checked out Sunday. Showered/checked out at 11a, found the things my friend had charged had ended up on our credit card so it took them about 10 minutes to transfer them to the credit card he had linked to his key. Another minor bug. Went to Koa's Pancake House in Kapolei which was amazingly delicious, then headed back to the resort to take pictures and hang out since our flight was scheduled for late that night. If it had not been so windy/there had been a convenient place to shower/change we might have swum, but instead we went to the Pau Hana room in the Ewa tower which is a great room for families that has Xbox, Wiis, board games, movies and we happily played Wii games for a few hours (we have an Xbox at home so the Wii is a treat for DS5). Got our bags from Bell Services and drove to Waiola Shave Ice around 2:30 to try to beat the traffic and we missed most of it. Headed to Ala Moana for a bit of shopping, returned the rental car to the neighborhood location near there around 5:30, then my friend was done with work and met us for dinner and to drive us to the airport. He has exquisite taste and insisted on the Teppanyaki place at Ala Moana, which entertained DS5 and was as delicious as it was fun (DH & I had filet mignon, DS had chicken, DF had the lobster tail).

So, in summary? If you have a linked reservation you might end up with many many sets of keys, but you also might get a free extra T&T. Try to stay 2-3 full days, at least 3 nights and include some weekdays (we were sorry to have missed the Starlit Hui the night we flew out). Two was not enough to cover all of the resort that we wanted to. The staff is (mostly) very nice, but they all seem to need more training/have kinks to work out in their system. My friend had been there to work some events but was much more impressed with the resort being a guest. We won't add points there since we'll never plan an Oahu vacation 8 months in advance or over a holiday, but would not mind doing another weekend there if we could get a last minute point rental. Will try to add food pics later. Ama Ama lunch was definitely worthwhile, though there are also some very tasty place to eat within a five minute drive.
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Old 12-21-2011, 12:14 AM   #2
spleen
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Thanks for the TR, taaren! Congrats on the masters!!

Looking forward to the food pictures from 'Ama 'Ama.
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Old 12-21-2011, 12:39 AM   #3
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Thanks for the report. I would like to hear more about that ice cream pie.
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Old 12-21-2011, 01:50 AM   #4
spleen
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Bubbies ice cream cakes/pies are famous here in Hawaii!

Here's one of my favorites:
"Scrumptious Peanut Butter Ice Cream & Chocolate Ice Cream topped with Fudge and layered over an Oreo cookie crust."


i'm sure taaren will let us know which one she got!

Here's a list of some of the different types available.
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Old 02-17-2012, 01:06 AM   #5
taaren
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Argh. Didn't mean to let this languish for so long, but thought I'd add a few pics of the views I've gotten now that I got around to uploading them, then find pictures of the Ama Ama food somewhere on my comp.

Here's the view from the Marriott Resort in Waikiki:


Here's a picture of the ocean view room we had in the Ewa tower:


And a month later my friend sprang for a kama'aina rate on the hotel side, for being an island view we thought it was heavenly:


At Bubbies the Smud Pie is my favorite:

though the truly unique item that my DH always gets are the Mochi Ice Cream balls, pictured here is the Chocolate Peanut Butter:


Off to find the Ama Ama pictures!
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Old 02-17-2012, 08:45 AM   #6
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Teppanyaki

do you remember the name of the Teppanyaki place in Ala Moana?
I am looking for a good one for our upcoming trip
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next trip 2015 but can't decide where to stay!
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Jan 2012 addonitis hits - more points! OKW
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Old 02-17-2012, 01:43 PM   #7
taaren
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cropper View Post
do you remember the name of the Teppanyaki place in Ala Moana?
I am looking for a good one for our upcoming trip
It was Tanaka of Tokyo. Also some information on the Ala Moana site.
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Old 02-17-2012, 10:42 PM   #8
taaren
"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt
 
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Ama Ama Angus burger:


Kalua "sandwich":

The bread was kind of like a manapua wrapper. Pretty neat to eat something different yet familiar.

The kids mac & cheese - you have to get this!


We're not really sweet potato fries people so we opted for regular fries, but on the visit after this I opted for salad as my side and the dressing was amazing!
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Old 02-18-2012, 03:13 AM   #9
spleen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cropper View Post
do you remember the name of the Teppanyaki place in Ala Moana?
I am looking for a good one for our upcoming trip
There are three teppanyaki places in that area - as taaren said, Tanaka of Tokyo is in Ala Moana Shopping Center. Kobe Steak House is just down the road off of Ala Moana Boulevard near the entrance to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And there's also Benihana inside the Hilton Hawaiian Village as well (there are even more in Waikiki itself but in that area, it's this three). From the standpoint of ease of parking (or even more importantly, free parking), Tanaka is probably the best. Food quality to me is about the same between all 3 though admittedly I haven't been to Kobe in a long time.
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