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Old 04-06-2013, 11:34 AM   #1
Doingitagain
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Aulani March 2013 Excursion Review

Half Day Adventure Tour Kualoa Ranch March 2013

We booked Kualoa Ranch Half Day Adventure Tour through the Disney Aulani website.

It was our second favorite activity of the week (first was Pearl Harbor)!

You need to have your own transportation for the half day tour. I believe Disney provides it for the full day tour. We had a car, so it wasn't a big deal and it was great to get there early and beat the rush of buses that arrive at about 8:00.

Target to arrive around 7:30 am. The excursion says it starts at 8:00. We left our room at Aulani at 6:15, got our car from the ramp and got to the ranch at a little after 7:00. But traffic can be busy during rush hour, especially if there is an accident, and we didn't want to feel stressed.

When you get to the ranch, you will see a building with steps that say "visitor center". We sat there at a table waiting for it to open. DH took a walk around to the back of that building, and found the booth open where you could get your wrist bands for the day. So go around to the back of the building right when you get there.

They have a cafeteria where you can get breakfast while you wait. Since the first excursions don't start until 8:45 (they have you arrive at 8:00 for sign-ups), we had plenty of time.

Behind the ticket booth by about 7:45 they set up tables with clipboards to sign up for excursions. Research what you might want before you go from Kualoa's web site, then split your party up and sign up for specific times. The big advantage of beating the 8:00 am bus rush is that you have more choice of excursion times. Looks like most excursions had 6-12 participants, so even if you are part of a larger tour group, you will have a smaller group experience at the ranch.

We started at 8:45 with the Jungle Expedition. It had a canvas roof with roll bar, open sides. It was a lot of fun, and beautiful. Not strenous, just bumpy once in a while. Hour long excursion.

Then we went to ATV ride at 10:00. What a blast! We all enjoyed it. We were in a group of six guests plus the guide. Was far more adventurous than the horseback riding that we saw, and we covered a lot more area because we could go faster. We were going 10 miles an hour most of the time. We went up, down, figure 8s, through mud puddles, very fun! Guide was wonderful. We saw areas where they filmed Dupree, Lost, Godzilla, etc. Only nervous part was when we had to get to the side of the road to let an ambulance go by, something happened with an ATV rider. Not sure what it was, I felt the ATVs and our helmets were very safe. Perhas an unrelated medical incident.

After the excursion, our half day ticket also came with a buffet lunch. Not at the cafeteria, at a separate building.


Catamaran Experience March 2013

We booked Catamaran Experience: Whale Watching (seasonal), Dolphin Spotting, Guided Snorkeling, Musical Entertainment through the Disney Aulani website.

The crew was absolutely wonderful. We saw a lot of whales (no dolphins). Only DS20 liked the snorkeling, the rest of us are not snorkeling fans. Nothing to do with the excursion, just not big snorkeling fans. They did see a turtle when snorkeling. The instructions were very thorough and the crew was very diligent. Great they they split into two groups for instructions, one in English and one in Japanese.

Note that gratuities are included in the excursion when booking through the Aulani site link.

A Disney representative went along (wonderful person!). You leave right from Aulani and get dropped off right at the pier. They had a nice lunch buffet and snacks. Two alcoholic beverages available for over 21, lots of non-alcoholic beverages. All snorkel equipment provided, as well as towels you grabbed when you left Aulani.


Manoa Valley Rainforest & Bamboo Forest Hike March 2013

We booked through the Disney Aulani website: Manoa Valley Fainforest & Bamboo Forest Hike

They switched this from the afternoon to the morning and when we got there we found out it was because they had so many people they split it into two groups. I was disappointed that we were not given a choice of morning or afternoon group. It rained the entire day. Yes, the entire day, not the spurts of showers that we expected. They provided mud boots and ponchos (as well as a fanny pack, water bottle and trail mix). The trail was muddy and difficult to navigate when slippery. We had someone on the excursion who was very slow and needed a lot of help, which really slowed things down for everyone else, and we ended up 45 minutes late getting back, which meant the next group was late getting started because they were using the same bus.

Would we do it again? Definitely. The rain was very unusual. The waterfall was beautiful, and the natural setting and bamboo forest really made me feel like I was seeing a piece of Hawaii. The guides were spectacular.

Recommendation: Use the mud boots! It is a rainforest and you will go through muddy areas and streams. Your tennis/hiking shoes will get trashed and you will spend the rest of your vacation drying them out.

Recommendation: This is not a stenous hike, but you need to be agile to go up and over things. DH had to help me several times. Also, I am claustrophobic and had difficulty in the bamboo forest where the trails were very narrow.

Recommendation: Read the information before you go. The price included gratuitities, which I didn't realize until after I gave them a healthy tip. But they did such a great job with everything, especially taking me ahead of the slower group so I could get through the bamboo forest without stopping all the time like they had to.

Recommendation: Go to the bathroom before you go. We waited 15 minutes before we started so that everyone in the group other than the guides and my family could use the portable outhouse at the start of the trail. Some men went into the woods, but it was still a long wait.


Pearl Harbor and Ford Island March 2013

We booked this on our own, using advice I picked up from these boards. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the posts people wrote, which really helped make this a great day.

We booked the One Day Passport to Pearl Harbor through the www.recreation.gov website recommended on these boards. I really agree with the recommendation to book in advance. I just talked to someone who didn't know they needed to get separate tickets, and ended up not being able to go to the Arizona Memorial.

The One Day Passport to Pearl Harbor allows you to visit all four Pearl Harbor Historic Sites and includes admission to: the USS Arizona Memorial with Audio Tour, to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. It is listed as 8:00 am to 5:30 pm passport, and you sign up for a specific time to go to the Arizona Memorial.

The front desk at Aulani has these great cards you can pick up with directions to many places you might want to visit, including Pearl Harbor. And then you flip it over and the directions for your return trip are on the back! We used several of these to visit places during our stay, I recommend you pick them up.

We left our room at Aulani at about 6:15 and got to Pearl Harbor about 7:00. Gates open at 7:00, so we got in the big line to get into gates. It moves quickly. An advantage of getting there early is that you have better choices for parking. If you have any kind of backpack, you need to put it in a locker. You mgiht be able to go past the line and go to the right to the lockers, then get back in line. I don't know for sure, we didn't have backpacks.

When you get through the gate, if you have pre-purchased tickets you can go to the windows on the right side that are marked will call. A gentleman in the big line next to us started pitching a fit that we were jumping the line, but we said we had pre-purchased tickets and that quieted him. There were no lines for will call. I had a printed copy of our email confirmation, and that made it go very quickly.

Getting there early was great. We went straight to the Bowfin submarine, and were able to get our headsets and start the tour with no wait. Later in the day, I can imagine the submarine could get very warm, and you can't move quickly if there are a lot of people moving through it. I am claustrophobic, and even in the cool morning air I couldn't go down there, so I waited on top and offered to take group pictures for other touring parties.

We then went to through the Pearl Harbor museum, using the audio headsets which came with our tickets. The headsets worked very well, and helped with understanding the history. Our timing worked almost perfectly, we got through almost all of it before our 9:00 ticket time for the Arizona Memorial. Next time, I would book a 9:30 time to make sure we could completely finish the museum tour, which ends right where you go for the start of your Arizona Memorial tour. You can go back to it later it you don't get it done. There is a 12 minute video in the museum, I probably wouldn't watch it again because you get a similar video as part of the Arizona Memorial tour. Please note that they ask you to be at the Arizona Memorial starting place 10 minutes before your ticket time, and they do start instructions then.

We appreciated the opportunity for the contemplative and quiet tour of the Arizona Memorial.

We finished our audio tour and caught the shuttle to Ford Island. The first stop was the Battleship Missouri Memorial. Before we got on, we stopped and had an early hamburger lunch at the restaurant there. We waited a few minutes for a guided tour of the upper deck (included in the ticket price). We then roamed around the inner parts of the ship for a while.

The next shuttle stop was the Pacific Aviation Museum. There are two buildings. Great if you are interested in aviation. My highlight was a veteran volunteer who came up to me at an exhibit and talked about his personal experience at the time. We paid $10 for DS20 to do the virtual flying experience. It was sitting still in a cockpit and then flying, taking off and landing, on a virtual screen in front of you. Like a video game. He was disappointed because the cockpit he sat in didn't spin like at Downtown Disney, but that might be great for others (like me) who don't like that spinning.

Ko Olina Coast Sunset Cocktail Cruise March 2013

We booked this through the Disney Aulani website link.

Transportation is provided from Aulani. Also picks up from the Marriott next door.

The crew was wonderful! I understand that they put their best team on this cruise, because of the relationship with Aulani and Marriott and the cost of the cruise.

A wide variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were available. Heavy buffet of appetizers and snacks were available.

We did see some whales, and obviously, the sunset. We got off to a 20 minute late start, so they delayed our return by that amount of time. It was getting pretty dark!

Do not need to dress up for this cruise. Needed to take shoes off and go barefoot.

Gratuitites are not included in the price, they have a tip jar and made a fun request to show appreciation. The crew did a wonderful job and really deserved a good tip.
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Last edited by Doingitagain; 02-02-2014 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 04-08-2013, 01:11 PM   #2
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Thank you for all of the excursion reviews. We will be heading to Aulani in September and this info will be very helpful for us.
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Old 04-08-2013, 01:42 PM   #3
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I'm heading to Aulani next month and although I have been to Oahu several times I have never done the Kualoa Ranch Tour so I may have to check that out. Thanks.
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Old 04-10-2013, 02:44 PM   #4
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Great review!
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Old 10-24-2013, 12:47 AM   #5
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Great info, thank you!
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Old 10-27-2013, 01:39 PM   #6
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When I can figure out airfare I definitely want to try Aulani. Thanks for the info! I'm going to bookmark it so I can reference back to it later. (Hopefully SOONER than later! Lol)
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Old 10-27-2013, 02:55 PM   #7
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Thank you for your reviews. We are heading to Aulani in August, so I'm watching for any information to help me out.

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Old 10-28-2013, 02:54 PM   #8
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Thank you for this info ,we will be going to aulani next April , and finding these reports so helpful.
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Old 11-24-2013, 03:20 PM   #9
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Jealous! Can't wait to go to Aulani next year!!
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Old 11-29-2013, 05:30 PM   #10
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Great information. We are going late June/early july. My kids realy want to do the ATV tours but wanted to know if they get to stop and take pictures of the lost sites? Thanks for sharing
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Old 12-01-2013, 01:25 PM   #11
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Yes, thank you for posting all this info. Need all the help I can get in planning for our trip next year.
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Old 12-27-2013, 09:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funhouse8 View Post
Great information. We are going late June/early july. My kids realy want to do the ATV tours but wanted to know if they get to stop and take pictures of the lost sites? Thanks for sharing
Yes, I am sure they will let you stop, just let them know. We stopped a few places for photos, and we didn't even ask.
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Old 12-28-2013, 12:39 PM   #13
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Let me add my thanks for taking the time to give such detailed reports.

Following your advice I just went ahead and reserved for our February vacation. I made the USS Arizona tour for 8 AM and THEN reread your post. I was thinking the idea was to get there as early as possible, but now I'm thinking we should get to Pearl Harbor early, but reschedule the USS Arizona tour for a little later.

Thoughts?

(Coming from New York our circadian rhythms will be all off!!!)
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Old 12-28-2013, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aboveH20 View Post
Let me add my thanks for taking the time to give such detailed reports.

Following your advice I just went ahead and reserved for our February vacation. I made the USS Arizona tour for 8 AM and THEN reread your post. I was thinking the idea was to get there as early as possible, but now I'm thinking we should get to Pearl Harbor early, but reschedule the USS Arizona tour for a little later.

Thoughts?

(Coming from New York our circadian rhythms will be all off!!!)
Yes, I was suggesting to get there as early as possible, but have the USS Arizona a little later than we did (we were short on time to finish up with the museum).
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Aulani 3/2013
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Boardwalk 12/2014
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Old 12-28-2013, 01:28 PM   #15
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Would it be appropriate to take children (ages 9 & 12) on the sunset cocktail cruise, or is it for adults only?
Thank you.
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