Aulani Trip Review 3/10/12-3/19/12

Discussion in 'DVC Resorts' started by fsufan53, Mar 31, 2012.

  1. fsufan53

    fsufan53 Earning My Ears

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    Hi Everyone,

    As promised, the following is my attempt at a trip review. My wife and I recently stayed at Aulani from 3/10-3/16 then on to Disneyland for two days to break the trip up and avoid jetlag, as we live in TN (Thanks Kevin). If I miss anything I will post again and if you have any questions feel free to ask!

    Saturday March 10th

    The wife and I flew out of Nashville around 11am. We had an insanely long flight, as we went up to Minneapolis, over to Seattle, and down to Honolulu. While this was an instense 14-15 hours of traveling, it was good to be able to break up the long flight, stretch our legs, and get some food. This was also good due to us arriving in Honolulu at 930 PM and being able to go straight to bed. This allows you to go ahead and get on Hawaii time with your sleep schedule.

    We flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Honolulu and they are a good airline. They offered a small digital player for $14 that you could watch moves/tv/etc. which really helped shorten the flight. Overall we recommend the airline.

    Arriving in Hawaii we were tired but excited to be there. As soon as we got our luggage we walked outside and met our shuttle. I cant say enough good things about Hawaii 123 shuttle and our driver Mark. His number is 808-224-3704. Besides being an outstanding shuttle service, they are also the most economical, costing me $58 for both of us each way. This seems a whole lot cheaper than Disney's transportation or a taxi. Call him, use him, and thank me later!

    We arrived and they presented us with leis, which is a great touch. Check-in was a breeze and we were floored with the beauty of the resort. I am not going to spoil it but words cannot describe. We walked around for a little bit then went to bed. We had a Studio Room with a std. view. This room is wonderful and spacious and we were very happy. Our room was also handicap accessible and it seemed to have all the features that would entail.

    Sunday March 11

    So we wake up at 5:30 since we weren't used to the time difference, however this was better than 3 or 4 AM that some folks told us they woke up at. We walked around the resort in awe. After getting somewhat acclimated, we go workout. The workout room is a good one and has a good amount of treadmills, elipticals, bikes, and a good assortment of weights. After our workout (and me seeing my Seminoles win the ACC, yea!) we chilled out in some of the common area waiting for our breakfast RSVP at Makahiki. They had local experts out talking about the resort and Hawaii, so we had a nice convo with one.


    Then we ate breakfast.....
    The best breakfast buffet we have ever had!
    I can't describe how good the character buffet at Makahiki is, my wife LOVES The Kitchen at Hard Rock in Universal, but this place outdoes it. After your photo with Mickey, the feast begins. Not only is the diversity of the buffet great (Loco Moco, Dim Sum, etc.) but the quality is outstanding. My wife still craves the Eggs Benedict. I am a very thrifty (tightwad) person. I have to be given the amount of trips we go on. With tip this meal was $75 and I didn't mind at all. I cant say enough good things.

    After breakfast we rehabilitated then got ready for our first excursion, the Manoa Valley rainforest hike. This was a great trip as all the exotic plants were neat to see and the waterfall was beautiful. The company provided boots, snacks, and sunblock/bug spray. The guides were really nice and informative. The start of the hike was near downtown Honolulu, so they drove us downtown and showed us some sights there (state capitol, the palace, etc.) That tour was great in itself. Overall we reccomend that excursion.

    So we get back to the hotel and walk across the street to the ABC store for dinner (Thanks Kevin). Our plan for this trip (and most of them) is to eat one expensive meal and one cheap meal per day. The ABC store offered hot items, sandwiches, salads,etc. all at very good prices for B,L,D. They also had great prices on groceries, accessories, souveniers, and alcohol. If you are a beer drinker, go to ABC and buy a 6 pack for $9 which is the price of one beer at Aulani. You will save a bunch of $$ and thank me later! I tried the local Kona beer that was brewed with coconut. Also, make sure and buy a bottle opener there as well as i felt like a jerk asking the bartender at Aulani to keep opening my beer. Anyhow, having this store right across the street is wonderful and very conveinent.

    We got back to the resort that night exhausted. We went and listened to storytelling that night which was pretty entertaining. We ended up crashing around 9PM.

    Okay folks my hands and brain are cramping so I will continue this review tomorrow. Sorry about being so long winded, but I want to have all the details. Hit me with questions.
     
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  3. Cinderpamela

    Cinderpamela DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for writing a review, we are heading there the end of July, and any info/pointers is much appreciated!

    You're not the first to say that Makahiki is some good food. We will for sure have to check that one out.

    Looking forward to more!:thumbsup2
     
  4. wdrl

    wdrl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for posting your trip report.

    Two questions: Do you think reservations are needed to eat at the the buffet or Ama Ama?

    Do you remember your room number?
     
  5. moredisneyplease

    moredisneyplease Working towards more DVC!

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    thanks for the post! We'll be there in 30 days!
     
  6. Grace&Carolinesmom

    Grace&Carolinesmom DIS Veteran

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    Love the review :goodvibes Looking forward to hear more.
     
  7. Disnut4925

    Disnut4925 Mouseketeer

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    Also would love to hear more. Great trip report so far, thank you for sharing! Would love to see pictures too!
     
  8. Carrie in AZ

    Carrie in AZ DIS Veteran

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    EXCELLENT trip report so far!!! Big thanks!! I know I'm not the only one here who GREATLY appreciates all the details. Thanks a million for taking the time to write. Can't wait to read more!:thumbsup2
     
  9. living20057

    living20057 DIS Veteran

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    Long winded is perfect! Thank you for mentioning the workout room. I was wondering what they offered.
     
  10. mdsd8700

    mdsd8700 It's kind of fun to do the impossible

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    Agree :thumbsup2 We are going in June and I am trying to absorb every bit of information :)

    Definately thanks for this info. I run 4 miles everyday at home on a treadmill and will also run pretty much everyday on vacation so this was great to read.

    Can't wait for your next installment. :goodvibes
     
  11. fsufan53

    fsufan53 Earning My Ears

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    Thanks so much for the positive feedback, I am so glad you guys are getting something out of this. Sorry it took me a couple of days to write again, as I have been slammed. I will address a couple questions/comments then (hopefully) finish my review tonight.


    Yes I would get reservations. We had to move one and added another and had no problems. However I am a planner and I would have reservations for two reasons:

    1. I have heard from this podcast and other travelers that both restaurants have turned away walk-ups.

    2. Both restaturants have large outdoor eating areas. Therefore when it storms they have to completely redo their floorplan and loose alot of seating capacity. They called me the Friday before our Sunday morning Makahiki RSVP and informed me that if it was still storming (the entire week before we got there was the bad weather week) be ready to wait 1.5 hours plus to be seated. Therefore if you really want to eat at the restaurants, which I reccomend you do, I would get a RSVP.

    I think we were room number 7557, had a decent view of a couple of mtns but nothing too special. We still enjoyed it.

    You will be very happy with the workout facility here, as there are probably 5-6 treads. Also, you will hear about a bootcamp class that my wife and I did on the beach which was intense but awesome. They also have Yoga classes and other fitness classes for people to do. I really loved this about Aulani.

    Monday March 12th

    So our next day in paradise begins with a workout. My wife, reading the Iwa, finds a bootcamp class at 9:00 on the beach. This class involved alot of agility and strength drills on the beach. I played high school sports and some in college, and I promise you I have never ran a harder suicide or sprint drill than on the beach. My lungs are still mad. They have other fitness classes such as Beach Yoga, a water aerobics (running against current in lazy river), and other strength classes. This is a great way to excersise on vacation.

    So the rest of the morning up until lunch we chilled by the pool and on the beach. I will tell you now that we didnt rent anything or do the snorkel reef this time. We really had the intention to snorkle but never found time and didnt want to rush through something I had to pay for. Anyhow, it was neat laying on the beach, having a beer, reading, and then swimming in the Pacific.

    Our lunch was at Ama Ama, and I have to say we were pleased. I will tell you that after hearing all the negative reviews I originally hadn't planned to eat there. However my thinking was we could go eat at lunch, spend half of what I would for dinner and still experience the restaurant. We are happy we did as the restaurant is themed great and has a wonderful atmosphere. I had the Hawaiian plate lunch which was a Hawaiian Club Sandwich, sweet potato fries, and Clam Chowder soup, all for $20. My wife had the Kuloea pulled pork sandwich with a salad on the side. We got a dessert but it wasnt memorable and way overpriced at $10. However we were very happy with our meals and overall we were out at $57. I definitely recommend checking out the lunch menu and trying Ama Ama for lunch.

    After a nap, we went to the Pau Hana room, which had daily activities, video games for kids to play, DVDs to rent, and a video postcard recorder. That day we made Hawaiian wristbands, which was really interesting. This is basically a community room.

    After arts and crafts, we decided to walk down to a lagoon we had heard alot about. It was on the other side of the Marriott and is a community beach where many folks were snorkeling and relaxing. As we were walking along the coral we spotted SEA TURTLES! I am a country boy from TN and have been around alot of animals, so I didnt realize how I would act or how awesome it is to sea turtles coming up for breath near a beach. Next trip we plan to go down there and spend some more time, maybe even snorkel. (Tip you can buy snorkel gear at the ABC shop at a good deal) (Thanks Kevin)

    Speaking of ABC, we stopped there on the way back for dinner. I ended up buying some Spam sushi and ate it along with our leftover sandwich (the sandwiches are huge) for dinner and the wife got another salad. Spam sushi is neat and I recommend trying it for sushi lovers.

    That night we did the Starlit Hui. We decided not to do a traditional luau due to this show and our booked excursion at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We were very happy we did this show. I dont want to ruin it so I will just say it is entertaining and has alot to do with Hawaiian culture.

    After the show we chilled in the awesome hot tubs that overlook the beach and crashed. Long day tomorrow.

    Tuesday March 13th

    This is Pearl Harbor day! I am a WW2 buff as my granddad was in the war and I picked it up from him. This was the day I was most looking forward to.

    We decided to rent a car and go ourselves due to the time allotment of the Aulani excursions. Since we are history nerds we knew we would be there all day. The car rental kiosk opens at Aulani at 7 AM. You can go to Alamo.com and reserve your car and I hear that it is cheaper than doing it all at the desk. We decided to splurge and get the convertible, which was awesome. With insurance, I think we paid $153 for the car for a day.

    We left the hotel around 7:30 and got there a little after 8:00. This was apparantly a miracle due to how bad traffic is going into Honolulu in the morning. Not sure what happened, but we were pleased because we booked the 8:00 tour. To be safe, I would reccomend the 9:00 tour. Anyhow, they have just added the ability to pre-book your tours online, just go to Recreation.gov. There are several ticket options. We went with the pass port to Pearl Harbor. This included the USS Arizona Memorial with audio guide (you want this), all the Pearl Harbor museums there onsite that come with the Arizona tour, admission to the USS Bowfin Submarine, admission to the USS Missouri, and admission to the Pacific Aviation Museum. All this for $55, which is a break on all of them combined.

    That morning we did the Arizona tour and the museums. You most definitely want the audio component with these. Being at that memorial was so surreal for me, as I have been studying, reading, and watching it for so many years. We literally spent 2 hours in the museums and walking around.

    For lunch, we decided to drive over to Anna Millers (Thanks Kevin). It was a little hard to get to, however it was good food. I got the b'fast that included the spam, eggs, and pancackes with coconut syrup. (Yum!) Wifey got the Loco Moco, which is a dish that she fell in love with at Makahiki. Overall all it was a very good place to eat.

    There is a shuttle there at the main Pearl Harbor site that takes you over to Ford Island, where we spent the afternoon touring the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Mueum. The "Mighty Mo' is the ship the Japanese surrendered on and is an awe inspiring experience as well. The Pacific Aviation museum is a newer facility is a video and two hangars full of historic planes, helicopters, etc. One of the hangars still has bullet holes where it was shot up by the Japanese, talk about eerie.

    So we jump on the shuttle and make it back over to the main site just in time to get a souvenir and leave. We didnt make it on the Bowfin this time but will next. With the passport they allow you to pay $10 to come back the next day, which we easily could have done.

    On the way back to Aulani, we decided to stop by and see the Queen Anne's Revenge from Pirates 4, which is docked their in Oahu. Im not sure how we got there, but they can give you instructions at the front desk. We also stopped by the local Target (Thanks Kevin) which was neat as we bought some local chocolate.

    We got back to the resort, turned in the car, and walked up to Roy's for our dinner RSVP. I know this is a chain, but we had a wonderful dinner. Their menu is a little different in Hawaii and it was great food. We both got the price fixed menu, which came with assorted appetizers, both of us got a pecan crusted swordfish, and both of us got the chocolate cake (dangerous!) I ordered the plantation tea "pineapple juice mixed with tea" (Thanks Kevin) which was a neat drink. We got out of there right at $100 and it was worth it.

    That night at the hotel was hot tub and crash, what a long and rewarding day.

    Speaking of long, I am gonna have to cut the review short again. I havent wrote this much since college. I will try and post again tomorrow. Hit me with any questions guys.
     
  12. wdrl

    wdrl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for answering my questions!
     
  13. Cinderpamela

    Cinderpamela DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much for the write up on Pearl Harbor! I was just on the gov website contemplating which tickets to get, but now thanks to your confirmation I am going for the passport to Pearl Harbor, for sure with the head phones.

    Also, love the water aerobics going against the current.... and the sea turtles sound amazing!

    So many great pointers, thank you, thank you!
     
  14. brewcrew

    brewcrew Mouseketeer

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    Could you please tell me more about the Manoa Valley hike? Did you book this through Aulani or a private vendor? If it was a private vendor, they picked you up at Aulani? Thanks for the help! I am really enjoying your report!
     
  15. Carrie in AZ

    Carrie in AZ DIS Veteran

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    I was very touched reading about your appreciation of the Pearl Harbor tour. Thank you for sharing all your info with us about it and more on your time at Aulani. I hope you can write more soon!
     
  16. Cheltenham

    Cheltenham Mouseketeer

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    Great report. Were you satisfied with the standard view room? Do you think it would be worth it to pay for a better view?
     
  17. fsufan53

    fsufan53 Earning My Ears

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    Again, so sorry I havent followed up on this quickly. My 30th birthday, work, two football games, having a Wrestlemania bday party, and now Easter have swamped me this week. I will answer a couple of questions tonight and try to finish review tomorrow.

    I highly recommend that you do that at Pearl Harbor, you wont be dissapointed. Also, they do have some food options at Pearl Harbor (hot dogs) and the Pacific Aviation Museum (neat little themed reastaurant). We liked Anna Millers, but would probably do these next time to save time.

    We didnt do the water aerobics but it sounded great. All the instructors for those classes were so nice and encouraging.

    Yes, we booked it through the Aulani excursions website. http://aulaniexcursions.resorts.disney.go.com/ Disney used an outside vendor but they also had an ABD guide to represent Disney. And yes they picked us up at Aulani. Since we only planned to rent a car one day we wanted to pick excursions that picked us up at the resort. Keep that in mind in booking the excursions as to where the pickup is.

    I will say we were satisfied, however we usually dont care about the views from the room since on most vacations we dont spend alot of time in the room (insert joke here, lol). We take the mindset that we want the cheapest room and if we want a particular view we will go find it ourselves at the resort. I will say if you do enjoy a good view from the room, Hawaii is the most gorgeous place we have ever seen so it would probably be worth it.

    Hows that for and indirect answer? ;)

    Write more tomorrow, Happy Easter everyone!
     
  18. mesabravo

    mesabravo Elliot Lover

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    Thanks for the report. Going in July for 14 days. Can't wait.
     
  19. fsufan53

    fsufan53 Earning My Ears

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    This should be my last post. I hope some of you have gotten something out of this review. Feel free to ask more questions.

    Wednesday March 14th

    This was the day of our excursion to the Polynesian Cultural Center (known hereafter as the PCC). We were really excited as we had read and heard alot of good things about this place.

    We woke up and immediately headed for the gym and then our boot camp class. The instructors even remembered our names from Monday. Anyhow it was another grueling workout!

    Our pickup to go to the PCC was at 10 so we rushed back to the room and got ready. I booked this excursion along with the others at Aulani's excursion website: http://aulaniexcursions.resorts.disney.go.com/ . This wasnt done through Disney, as a bus from the PCC came and picked up in Ko Olina. Our bus driver was a great guy, really funny and knowledgeable. The PCC is located on the North Shore, so we had quite a drive to get there, however he made it feel short with all the information and history he was given us on the way. We also made two stops:

    The first stop was at the Dole Pineapple Plantation. He gave us about 15-20 minutes to try the pineapple ice cream, walk around some of the plantation, and buy souveniers/food. I was so glad we got to stop here and the time for me was perfect. We got a good overview of the place and got to shop a little. The store will amaze you as to how many products have pineapple in them!

    The second stop was at a very pretty beach on the north shore. Not much to say here, other than it was gorgeous and it was a good picture opportunity.

    We arrived at the PCC around lunch. BTW, we didnt have an actual time to eat lunch, so we had to grab a quick hot dog at the PCC. I would recommend eating a big breakfast before you go if you dont want to feel rushed.

    The best way for me to describe the PCC is its like the World Showcase at Epcot but for the Polynesian Islands. Each island has its own area that showcases that island's customs, traditions, entertainment, games, etc. The PCC is owned by The Mormon Church, as Joseph Smith bought alot of land in Hawaii a long time ago. The majority of the workers at the PCC are on scholarship at BYU Hawaii as they work there. It seems like a system that is working well. Go here for more info: http://www.polynesia.com/

    With this excursion, you get what is called an ambassador tour. This means you are a kind of "VIP" for the day. You are put in a group of around 15-20 and you have your own tour guide who takes you to each land and shows you the best attractions/shows. This works well because we heard there was enough to do there at the PCC to last 2-3 days, so having a guide show you a "best of" is really helpful. The highlight for us was the how at Samoa. That was interesting and hilarious all in one!

    After a good 5 hours of touring, you get to eat at an enourmous buffet that has a great mix of American/Hawaiian/Polynesian food. The food was fantastic as I always love trying new things. Its amazing some of the dishes they make out of coconut.

    After dinner we walked around some of the shops there and decided to take their tram tour of BYU Hawaii and go see the Mormon temple. Its a beautiful campus and so is the temple. At the temple's visitor center we watched a video and looked around a bit. They talked about their faith and what they believe, however we never felt like they were being intrusive as they were all very polite and courteous.

    The day at the PCC concludes every night with a show at 7:00 called: Ha: Breath of Life. You get VIP seats (excellent) and a free ice cream at intermission. The show was put on very well and our seats made it that much better.

    The ride back to the hotel was very long but most everyone was asleep. However if you cant sleep on a bus make sure you have some juice left on your phone! Overall we had a great day at the PCC and would highly recommend this excursion. Considering you were entertained for 11 + hours and had a fantastic meal included, $113/person didnt seem so bad.

    That night, we crashed!

    Thursday March 15th

    So this is our last full day and night at Aulani, and I had planned another day to relax and have fun at the resort.

    Again we start the day off with workout and bootcamp. Afterwards we thanked the instructors and told them we hoped to see them again soon.

    After this we changed and my wife wanted to do some laundry. As with other DVC resorts, you can do laundry for free if you are a DVC member. (My wife loves this!) Again, go to the ABC Store across the street for a better deal travel sized laundry detergents.

    For lunch we decided to walk across the street to the Just Tacos Mexican Restaurant, which is in the same complex as the ABC store. The food was ok, but the prices are way cheaper than Aulani, so its a good alternative. We stopped at ABC Store for a few more items (one more beer!) and souveniers then went back to hotel.

    After lunch, we spent some time laying out and swimming in the pool. The lazy river is really fun. The slides are kinda underwhelming, but most resort slides are.

    After playing at the pool for a few hours, they were having ukelele lessons at the Pau Hana Room and we decided to go. This was really fun as you got to make up a song about a disney character. We did this and decided to send some more videos home at the booth in this room.

    Then it was time for our farewell meal at the Makahiki buffett. Again, WOW! I think I had seven plates, all of them primarily meat. The selection of this buffet is amazing but it doesn't affect the quality of the food. The seafood was so fresh it was amazing. I ordered a plantation tea (pineapple juice/tea) and they were happy to make it. I dont recall ever paying that much for a meal ($108) and being as satisfied.

    Afterwards we went and shopped for souveniers, and ended up dropping $200 as I got a shirt, got my dad a shirt, and she bought a few things for her and the house. All the items were overpriced but I guess that's Disney and there's obviously no where else to get this stuff!

    After all this, we packed up and got ready for bed, as we had a 5:30 AM pickup the next morning for our 8AM flight. All packed up, I decided to have one more dip in the hot tubs. I couldnt believe my Hawaii trip was almost over but was so thankful for having been there. I listened to some live music they had there and went to bed.

    Friday March 16th-Monday March 19th

    That morning, Mark from 123 picked us up right on time and got us to the airport. I am sure we looked like sad puppy dogs staring at Aulani as we were leaving! We flew Hawaiian Airlines back to LA. They are also a great airline that has a nice option to rent movies/TV/music, etc that really helped speed up the flight.

    We stayed three nights in Disneyland after Hawaii. A few people told us this was worth it due to us living on the east coast and it helping to break up the jetlag. Katie Dezak from Dreams Unlimited got us a great deal on 3 nights/2days in Disneyland for right under $1,000. Katie was so great to work with, please use her! We stayed in the Carousel Inn, which was serviceable but remarkably underwhelming coming from Aulani. I wont do a Disneyland review but I will say the World of Color dinner package at Ariels was worth it and we got great seats for WOC! Goofy's Kitchen was fantastic as always.

    We flew back to Monday on the 19th and although Peyton Manning didnt sign with my beloved Titans ( I think I set the record the checking Twitter on this trip) we had a wonderful trip. We both joked that we kept seeing Hawaii for two weeks after the trip! We are now considering buying more DVC points to have the option to go back to Aulani. Hawaii truly is paradise!
     
  20. kcllns7

    kcllns7 Earning My Ears

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    Thank you for the trip report! I love your idea about one expensive meal and one inexpensive meal per a day. I think we also do that naturally but have never thought of it that way!
     
  21. mouseaider

    mouseaider DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much for sharing your Aulani experience with us. :worship:

    What made it even more special is that my DW and I leave Rochester, NY one week from today to live that dream for ourselves. We have a Pool View Studio booked for seven nights and we will use your report to help guide us along.

    I've already done a pre-trip report on another site (Mouse-aid) and we are getting so excited. :yay:

    We plan on doing a lot of the things you mentioned but we might add a few to our trip after reading this trip report. :flower3:
     

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