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Old 04-27-2014, 10:43 PM   #1
calweasel
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Join Date: Apr 2014
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HAWAII! Disney Aulani trip report - 4/20 - 4/25/14

Observations from aulani trip, april 20-25 2014.

Made reservations through Disney. Definitely recommend buying transfers thru Disney before you leave. Disney contracts with speedi shuttle. They are great. They found us at baggage claim before bags came off. Very easy. Got bags, and they took care of the rest. We walked maybe 50-100 feet, waited about 5 minutes, and then got on board. Naturally it started raining and then stopped after five minutes. Welcome to hawaii!

Our flight got in around 4 pm local. Oahu is mostly 2-lane roads from the airport to aulani so be prepared for traffic. Naturally, who cares. Your vacation just started. Expect about a 30-40 min drive. 20 without traffic.

Now a big disclaimer here. During late April, Aulani was only 60 percent full. A great time to go! We had no long lines to check in. Cast members were incredibly nice. Room was ready. Checked in quickly and away we go!

The Room: we were on 4th floor, Wai'anae tower. We had the "we are just happy to be here" room. In other words, the standard room, no view of note. At least for us, the room was GREAT. They have a pack n play, the expandable infant beds, in the room. No need to call! And a step stool for the toddlers to climb into the bed. All in the room. Room safe too. Refrigerator too.

Bags were brought in quickly. Again, great attitude by cast members.

The resort was, in my opinion, a perfect balance between Hawaii and Disney. Heavy H and little D. This place is more Grand Californian than Disneyland Hotel. A lot of research was done on how to make aulani look and feel Hawaiian. This is not a cheap nod to local culture. Very well thought out.

I can't stress enough how well thought out this place is for kids. If you want to get to know aulani well, do the menehune trail. You get a mini iPad like device and you and your kid can walk around and complete 10 levels. Each takes about an hour and is very interactive. My son and I soaked a few people during the process!

Water, water, water. Lots of pools and water slides, all accessible with your wristband, which can be obtained at a central station in the middle of the water area. Towels there too. As many as you need.

The Lazy River is not to be missed. Single and double rafts are available. Lots of jets ensure that the river flows. You will go downstream even if you do nothing. I HIGHLY recommend the lazy float. Get a double raft. Climb in, get on your back, and RELAX. Look up and enjoy the stars! And get soaked by the Menehune. Or your family!

Watersides. There are two. Volcanic vertical and tubestone curl. The latter requires an inner tube. The former does not. Both can have long lines, so I would recommend going at the early part or end part of the day for small lines. Again, 60pct occupancy, so the lines are not long relatively speaking. At least not this week.

Hot tubs. Three I believe. An occasional closure, but my daughter and I just found another one. No problems.

Keiki cove is great. Whimsical six inch deep pool with jumping bits of water in various places to keep the little ones cool.

For the adults, there is an adult only pool. Nice and relaxing if you need a change of pace. Also an adult only hot tube an an infinity pool.

The beach. Again, remember 60 pct occupancy. Never a problem to get chairs. Nice beach area, clean, and you can learn to use a canoe too. Cast members even come to take drink and food orders too!

Sunburns. Yeah. Be careful. I saw several lobsters out there. Hawaiian sun burns quicker!

The Alamo Target/dinner offsite/pearl harbor/dole plantation plan. I thought this worked really well. Alamo rental car is ON SITE at aulani. Be lazy! Get a car at 3 pm on the second day of your stay. Go to Target, about a 15 min drive, and get any essentials you need for the room and fridge. Afterwards, go to dinner by yourselves or as a family. Next morning, go to Pearl harbor. Leave by 515. Get there by 6. Get there before the tour buses do. Get free passes at 7. First boat leaves at 8. The Arizona is a sight to behold. If you are between 6 and 96 years old you must go. Takes 75 mins.

If you love pineapple or dole whip, the dole plantation is a must. 30 mins drive. Cool train ride and don't get lost in the maze. Ship pineapple to people you like! Then drive back to aulani. Note you can return the car simply by going to the valet and dropping it off. Don't forget to say aulani car rental return! Note you gotta pay $35 to keep the car overnight. A great use of 23 hours during your stay.

Auntys beach house. Want time away from the kiddos? Send them here. Good news: TONS of kid appropriate programs, from 3-12 hrs old and other programs for 13-17 yr old teens too! Dressing up, play structures out back, movie watching area, wii games too. Stitch goo, volcanic eruption, comedy class, auntys beach party, hula classes, etc. You can order lunch and dinner too, and those are only $8.55 each.

CAUTION. If you want to sign up for "free play," where the kids can run around the enclosed beach house and play wii or watch movies, noooooooooo problem. Bring them by anytime between 930 am and 9 pm. Drop them off and you are fine. Pick up whenever you wane.

BAD NEWS. If you want the kiddos to participate in a program on site, you have to sign them up. EARLY. The front desk has been known to say show up by 8 am. Wrong wrong wrong. I asked a few at the front desk and asked for the real story. They said walk by during the 6 o'clock hour. I got some hot chocolate and breakfast at ulu cafe at 645 am and walked over to Auntys and saw 5-7 people in line. Your mileage will vary. Remember 60 percent occupancy this week right? They only have about 30 spots per program. I remember someone showing up at 730 for the 745 am distribution of tickets and he was SHUT OUT. About 50 people in line by 745.

My advice? I showed up at 645-700 each day and was no worse than 8th in line. Bring a phone or iPad. Get food. Get a chair from nearby 'ama 'ama restaurant or get an ottoman from the beach chairs area not 20 yards away. On your first morning, show up at 630 and gauge the lines during high occupancy season. If nobody shows up until 630, or 645, or 7, then plan accordingly.

Does this arrangement suck? Yeah, a bit. They should distribute tickets at 700. Nobody waits long then. But good plan or not, YOU need a plan. 645 was safe when I was there. Calibrate accordingly. You will be up anyway bc your kids will. If you are on pacific time like us, you are 3 hrs ahead. So your kids will be up by 430 or 5 AM latest anyhow.

The refillable mug. Gotta do this. $18.99. Refill your mug all you want free for the rest of your stay. Disney drinks are at least $3 anyhow. 7 drinks during your stay and you are golden. Imagine if you got 1 mug for the family. Even bigger savings (we did one per person and still penciled out well).

Food. Ulu cafe is open at 6 am and is GREAT for refillable drinks, hot coco (free in the mug), coffee and tea (same). Eggs/potatoes and French toast is great. FRESH FRUIT!!!! muffins, sandwiches, etc. Gotta pay for non refillable mug stuff but is good value by disney standards.

Hot dogs and shrimp and fries and shaved ice are available between pools in the middle of the water area.

If you want to get your Disney on, do the character breakfast in the main restaurant. Goofy and Minnie were there, as well as aunty for a Hawaiian flavor. Food was great and Pog was divine!

Dinner at the main restaurant was buffet and was fantastic. The sashimi was fresh and the keiki station was fabulous.

My wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage so we went to 'AMA 'AMA on the big day. Great ocean side view, front of the restaurant closest to the ocean, and the food was great. Get the fish special of the day and the snapper. It rocked!

Get the disney photo pass. Go at night or early in the morning when lines are shortest to choose photos. Don't forget sunset photos on the beach!

Luau! You gotta luau! Paradise Cove is a 10-15 min walk from the resort and is by far the best one. Huge area. Spear throwing, parrot holding, canoe riding, arts and crafts, dinner and a show. Get there at 430 before the tour buses show up, get in front of the line and get the best seats in your section.

Massages! Laniwai Spa was beautiful. The outdoor area has six tropical showers. There are sitting pools, a hot tub, and a cold water tub. Bloody well freezing it was. Steam room and sauna too. The pineapple water was fantastic. I got two massages there due to an injury carrying around my son's pitching machine. Definitely Aloha themed and that is a compliment. Go get a treatment. You are on vacation!

Leave time for Disney swag purchases. Pack the night before you leave.

Do one more swimming run the morning you leave!

About 2 days before you leave, you might realize that leaving will be really really hard to do. You will be right. Aulani is a really special place. At least at 60 pct occupancy bc that is all I know.

Note: double-check with front desk or concierge about speedi shuttle and when they will pick you up before you go to the airport. Call bell desk 30 minutes before shuttle arrives to come get your bags.

All in all, if you like Disney, Hawaii or both, you MUST come to Aulani. Don't be intimidated by the larger rooms or the view. The cheapest room is wonderful. You will be treated very well. Spend all of that extra room money on pictures, food, or luau. Or pineapple! Or Hawaiian shirts. Or massages. Or or or or.

Or save the extra money for the second trip. Because you are gonna want to come back!
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Old 05-04-2014, 12:55 AM   #2
stephmarty
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Thank you for the great report and tips. We leave in 4 weeks!
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Old 05-04-2014, 11:06 AM   #3
funhouse8
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Join Date: Jan 2001
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Great post. Thanks we are going to be there in June and can't wait. I have a question about the photopass. What do you mean by "Get the disney photo pass. Go at night or early in the morning when lines are shortest to choose photos. Don't forget sunset photos on the beach!" I thought the photopass people just walked around like the parks. Can you book them to take family photo's on beach? Do you need to pick out photos if you purchase the package. Thanks again for the great tips.
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