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Old 10-09-2012, 04:18 PM   #1
DIS Veteran
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,793

Aulani 10/4 to 10/8

This is more of a review than a trip report. We're selling our DVC points, so this was the last hurrah. In the past few years, we've done full weeks at BLT (home), had a theme park view villa at Disney World, and been on 2 cruises. I think we're a bit ready for a disney break, but we wanted to check out Aulani before closing our deal.

We booked only a couple of months out, so to get all 5 days, we had to split our stay between an OV studio and a Standard View 1 BR. The studio really seemed cramped to me -- more so than a BLT studio, even with the crummy kitchen set up at BLT. The kitchenette seemed virtually unusable. The cabinets were so low, it was tough to use the coffee maker and the sink. The fold out bed was comfortable, but when it's out and the cushions and pillows are in the room, there is virtually no space at all to navigate around. The bathroom, though, seemed downright huge -- wish some of the space from the bathroom was used for the room.

The view made up for it, though. Room 1204:

Moving to a 1 BR was like night and day in terms of space. The unit was outstanding. I liked it better than BLT -- stuff was top notch. Everything was extremely well constructed and there was plenty of space. Unfortunately, our gain in space was lost in view -- we had zero view.

Room 363:

Otherwise, I'm not sure I have much to add that hasn't already been said about Aulani. In no particular order, here are the things we really liked about it: First, it's very compact and easy to navigate. Beach to pool to lobby to bar, to hot tub, etc., is simple. This makes it very relaxing -- it's a great and easy day. Second, the kid's club and community hall are outstanding. The game you can play navigating the property with an itouch and making various things happen is a nice touch (like Kimpossible or Midship Detective Agency). The slides were a highlight too -- better than most hotel slides, as good as a few at the Maui mega-pool resorts. Fourth, it was extremely multi-cultural when we were there -- many visitors from Asia, and other people who come locally, which made for a nice experience. After a couple of WDW trips and cruises, it was sort of nice to be with a broader mix of interesting folks from interesting places. Fifth, the two-tiered hot tub looking over the beach is simply spectacular. Dramatic and amazing. Last, parking is very convenient and there are a good range of stores nearby (within a 10 minute drive) to stock up or grab a quick Subway type meal.

All that said, there were a few downsides. Having been there the better part of 5 days, I don't feel any pressing need to go back. We definitely felt, after a couple of days, as though we'd done all there was to do, and were kind of bored with the resort. Part of that may have been that we had a tween in our group, and there's not a ton there for tweens. Interestingly, I really didn't see too many others -- just a handful. Mostly little ones and older teens (17 and up), but that may be partly because of the time of year and not wanting to take kids out of school. (It was our fall break weekend.) Fortunately, there is plenty of stuff to do "off campus," but the reality is that of the islands, Oahu is probably not our top choice as tourists. If I'm not going to stay at the resort, I'd rather be on Maui. We talked to people who were there for 8 or 10 days, which I don't think I could possibly do. Different strokes, I guess -- they loved it.

Other negatives include the lack of variety of food options -- as plenty have noted. That said, the food and drinks were reasonably priced. "Reasonable" being relative, of course, but a little better than other captive audience resorts. We didn't feel nickle and dimed. The pool was nothing to write home about -- as good as the slides and little kids water play area are, the main pool is boring and too shallow. Definitely not commensurate with some offerings at other resorts that cater to kids and families.

A few minor points -- the welcoming at the resort by the staff is over the top. They do a great job -- from the citrus water to a nice description of the lobby. It's extremely well done. Personally, we don't really love that kind of stuff -- but I know for many people it really makes the trip, and it was as well done there as anywhere. They really do put an emphasis on making you feel special and like it's vacation. Bell services dealt with our room change, with cold stuff, like real pros. Top notch.

The bottom line, for us, it was a great way to finish up on DVC membership, and perfect for a 4.5 day trip. There is a ton about Aulani that we loved, and it was extremely memorable. I don't think we'll be in a rush to return, though. If we're going to fly to Hawaii, there are many other places we want to see.

Edit: Oops forgot. We did a day at wet and wild. It was pretty fun -- good slides, decent food. We did it last minute on impulse, so paid full rate (nearly $50 per person). I think there are ways to get discounts. I definitely wouldn't pay that much again. It was only open from 10:30 to 4:00, but that was perfect. Good locker situation. Fairly compact park. Only problem is there are a number of rides where you can only go with double or triple riders, and it's not always easy to find people to slide with if you don't have the right number. Wouldn't do it again for $50, but with a discount, it was actually pretty good.
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