Family trip to Aulani - 6/25 to 7/2

Discussion in 'DVC Trip Reports' started by Iceman13, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    Our family (myself, DW & DD [11]) arrived at the magnificent Aulani Resort this afternoon for a one week stay. I told myself I would take the time to submit a trip report to share our experiences. The six hour time difference has made for a long day today, but I think I can make it through this first day's report without nodding off at the computer.

    First off, you need to understand that this is not our families' first time to Hawaii, but it is our first visit to Aulani. Also, our family kind of plays things by ear when it comes to vacation, we don't usually make a lot of advanced reservation, unless we feel we have too. We went into this trip with a list of possible activities, but not much scheduled in advance.

    We drove to Chicago yesterday to catch the flight this morning. We had a delay loading the plane at O'hare, but we made up some time and arrived in Honolulu only 30 minutes late (2:30pm local time). We grabbed our rental car and hit the road to the resort. The drive is an easy one. When you leave the airport, you take "Interstate" H1 west until you hit the Ko Olina exit. Then you follow that road into the resort area and it takes you right by Aulani. We ran into a little traffic that slowed us down slightly, but we still made it in around 30 minutes.

    As many have said before, the resort is beautiful. Disney has done a wonderful job building a resort that is wonderfully themed and comfortable. The first thing that we noticed was just how friendly and helpful every person was that we met. Every cast member we saw as we entered the building greeted us with a smile. The valet, host and our bellman all took the
    time to make sure we were introduced to the resort an answered all of our questions. They do make one feel at home.

    Our room is on the 16th floor with an ocean view. When we first got there, none of our three keys would unlock the door. I made a call down to the front desk and within a couple of minutes they brought up three replacement keys and made sure all of them worked before they left us. They handled the whole thing well. We have a 1 bedroom suite and it was everything we expected it would be. The view is fantastic! At some point I will post a picture.

    After I self-parked our car, we took some time to walk around the resort. When we went to the pool area the first thing we saw was Mickey taking pictures with the guests. We got in a short line and had our picture taken with Mickey. They gave us our PhotoPass card and mentioned that Donald would be at the same spot within the hour. We found all the pools/hot tubs, the restaurants, the snorkeling and stingray areas, Aunties' Beach house, etc., then went back to get our picture taken with Donald. At that point it was time for dinner and we were all starved.

    The one dinner reservation that I made prior to our trip was today at Roy's, which is near Aulani. Many people have talked about the place and had lots of good things to say, but seeing (and tasting) is believing. Our meals were wonderful. My wife had a Macadamia crusted swordfish and I had a "sampler" platter (I can't remember the name) that had a shrimp, lobster and fish dish. The thing that impressed me the most was that they knew our DD was hungry and made a point to get her food to her right away. Believe me, minimizing the time having a hungry cranky daughter, made the folks at Roy's my heroes.

    Before dinner we walked from Aulani to Roy's. We were not sure the best way to get their, and ended up taking a rather non-direct route. During dinner we learned that there is a shuttle that makes stops at the area resorts and at places like Roy's. It stops at Roy's twice per hour and we took advantage of it for our trip back.

    When we got back to Aulani, the rest of the family went to the room and sent me for the grocery run. I had some gift cards for Safeway, so that was where I needed to go. I wasn't sure the best way to get there, so I asked the valet. They gave me a card with turn by turn directions to the Safeway, and it looked like they had other places as well. With my card, I made it to the store with no problem. I mainly purchased breakfast, snack and drink items and some lunch meat for sandwiches. When I checked-out the total came out to be around $180. They then offered me the Safeway shoppers card, which I accepted, and the bill after they scanned my card was $133. Even if I never use it again it was worth the time it took to fill out the form that came with the card. If you go to Safeway, make sure you ask for a card if you don't have one.

    That is it for the day. Tomorrow we plan to stay at the resort and hit the pool and some of the other activities offered at Aulani.
     
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  3. Robin"D"

    Robin"D" DIS Veteran

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    Was it hard to get a reservation for Aulani on the dates you wanted?
    I know that some DVC resorts are a hit a miss when it comes to getting reservations if it isn't your home resort/ espacilly Grand Califorina

    Just wondering....plaining a trip soon we hope

    Robin & Angel "D" :thumbsup2
     
  4. raftislander

    raftislander Mouseketeer

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    So excited about your trip report as my DD(18) and her best friend just checked in late last night for a weeks' stay as a graduation present. I got a couple of texts with photos but you are bound to be more informative! Glad to hear bout the shuttle to area resorts as they could not rent a car due to their age. I will suggest that they take a look around the nearby resorts. Enjoy the Sun!
     
  5. honeylove

    honeylove Mouseketeer

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    Welcome to Hawaii! :) Hope you have a great trip here!!
     
  6. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    It took a little work to get a 7 night stay reserved. We tried for the second week of June, but could not get anything. When we looked at the last week of June, the only thing available was the ocean view (we wanted the pool view). I have gone through worse times to get a reservation.
     
  7. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    We decided that today was a good day to stay at the resort and see some of the things it had to offer.

    After shopping for a few souvenirs, we went down to the pool for a few hours and experienced the lazy river, hot tub, etc. Our DD enjoyed the two slides and even got my DW and I to go on them too. There were a lot of people at the pool, but it did not keep up from doing anything we wanted to do. The resort has plenty of chairs and space. During our pool time we had several small bouts of light rain, which they said was unusual. It did not dampen our fun.

    Our DD wanted to try the rainbow reef snorkeling pool, so she and I tried it. We decided to purchase the "length of stay" pass as it only cost a few dollars more than a single session pass and I thought we might do this a couple of times. We also got a 10% DVC discount. Our DD has never snorkeled, and I had only done it two times before. Our DD had a great time. When we were in the reef, they started to feed the fish, which made the area very active. I have to admit that I had a better time than I expected. This is something we will do at least one or two more times while we are hear.

    We had lunch at Off The Hook. We were really hungry at the time so we wanted something close by. The food is okay and a little high in price, but you pay for the convenience of eating near the pool.

    Later in the afternoon, our daughter went to the teen/tween area and joined a group making hawaiian bracelets. She hung out for about and hour and then wanted to try the Menehune Trail.

    The Menehune trail (similar to Epcot's Kim Possible) seems to be a pretty popular activity for kids of all ages (and some adults). We picked up our game device at the tween/teen area and started out to see what this was all about. I have to admit that this is a really impressive "adventure". It is very similar to the things that you do with Kim Possible, but with a Hawaiian theme. I asked my daughter which she liked better and she said she liked them both the same. I would say if you have kids that liked Kim Possible, they will enjoy this as well (I personally like the Menehune adventure better). We completed two of the five adventures and it took a little less than one hour. We will do the other three adventure later this week. I imagine our DD will also repeat some of the adventures she did today as well.

    We had dinner at Assagio's in Kapolei (Italian). Without going into details, we had a good meal with an appetizer, three adult meals (all with plenty of food), two glasses of wine (and one soft drink) and one dessert and got out of the restaurant just under $100. No complaints here. It is also easy to get to (15 min. drive maximum).

    After dinner we got back to the resort at 8:45, so we decided to call it an evening.

    Tomorrow's plan: Spa in the morning and island touring in the afternoon.
     
  8. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    I hope your DD has a wonderful time. I know we are.
     
  9. Disney_Mama

    Disney_Mama DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for sharing. :goodvibes
     
  10. Robin"D"

    Robin"D" DIS Veteran

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    Thank you for the input and have a GREAT TRIP!!!

    Robin & Angel "D" :thumbsup2
     
  11. wdrl

    wdrl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for taking the time to post your trip report! I love reading about Aulani.

    My sister just returned from Aulani and last night we went over to her house to look at her photos. It looks like a beautiful resort. My nieces collected the pool wrist bands Aulani gives out and were very proud that they had 7 different colors. A CM said they actually have 13 different colors and that they have already retired at least one color.

    If you get a chance, please post a photo of your view to the thread on Aulani Villas and Views (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2907389). I'd appreciate it!
     
  12. saintstickets

    saintstickets DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to your TR. DW and I are going to Aulani the week after Labor Day. You've already helped us by posting that there is a shuttle that stops at Roy's. We have reservations there one night. Thanks and keep the info coming! :thumbsup2
     
  13. podsnel

    podsnel <font color=blue>just skippin' around, amusing mys

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    Already have your ressies for Roy's?! Uh-oh- you made me call Hawaii tonight to book for our August trip. :goodvibes Thanks- always fun to call Hawaii!

    Glad you are having fun Iceman- enjoying reading about your adventures-:thumbsup2
     
  14. musical2

    musical2 Mouseketeer

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    Hey! We are here right now too!:cool1:
     
  15. LisaT91403

    LisaT91403 DIS Veteran

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    Great report so far, and I can't wait to read the rest. Is it too early for me to be excited about our Aulani trip coming the first week of November? :yay:
     
  16. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    On Tuesday we made some reservations for the Laniwai spa on Wednesday morning. I went for the Lomilomi massage and my wife (who is not into massages) booked a manicure/pedicure package with our DD [11]. I am not a massage expert as I seem to get one about every 4 to 5 years, so I was a little apprehensive that I would not know what to do. Talk about being pampered. The staff took very good care of me and made sure I understood each area of the spa and how each area worked. They were patient with me as I asked questions. They ease my concern from the very start. I arrived an hour before my massage appointment and spent the time in the steam room and in the relaxation room. I then had the 50 minute Lomilomi massage with a specialist with magic hands. After the massage I went back to the relaxation room for a while and then out to the Kula Wai, outdoor hydrotherapy garden. I tried everything in the area (vitality pools, the 6 rain showers, the whirlpool and cold bath). I spent about 50 minutes in the this area and then to the Pulu bar for my custom made body polish. All this was part of my Lomilomi package, so I took advantage. This is not a cheap activity, but I will admit that the way I felt afterwards made was worth it.

    My DW and DD spent about 2 hours in the spa doing the manicure/pedicure package. This included a massage chair, and a hand/leg/foot massage. They both had a very good time. Overall it was a good morning.

    For lunch we went to the ABC store across the street from Aulani to get some sandwiches. We had heard the DIS unplugged podcast crew talk about these sandwiches. My DD had a custom made roast beef sandwich, my DW had a toasted roast beef and brie, and I had a toasted rueben. This was an impressive lunch and each of these large sandwiches were between $7 and $10 each. This is something we will probably do again.

    We decided to wander off the Resort for a few hours so we decided to go the the Dole Plantation. The valet desk gave us the direction card and we where on our way. We knew that the Dole plantation is a heavy tourist area, but it is something that we thought our DD would enjoy (and of course my DW and I wanted a Dole Whip). The place we pretty crowded, but we managed to take their train ride and walk around the gardens, which was nice. We ate our Dole whips ad decided to head back for our Dinner reservation at the resort. We spent about two hours at the plantation.

    We called Wednesday morning (before the spa) and got dinner reservations for 6:30 at Makahiki. This is the buffet restaurant on the resort. It has a good variety of food to choose from and my DW and I tried many of the selections. Some of them we liked others we didn't. The food was okay and I ate quite a bit. My biggest issue with this restaurant is the fact that two out of three people in our family did not get their money's worth. The cost for three of us (all considered adults) was $135 before gratuity. Unlike me, my wife probably did not eat enough to justify the money for her meal and DD definitely did not. I am not sure we would do this again only because of this.

    We also booked an experience for Wednesday night at the resort ( booked in the morning). It was called " 'Imi Loa Na Hoku Explore the Stars" experience. This consisted of viewing planets and stars through a high powered telescope with the help of a local expert. The cost was $39 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and under. The expert also discussed how stars were used in ancient Polynesian navigation. The experience started at 8pm and ended about 9:20pm. We looked at some planets, stars and nebula. Our DD had a great time, I enjoyed myself and my DW struggled a bit seeing many of the things that the expert was trying to show us. My DW said the experience was not worth the money for her, but it was worth doing just based on the enjoyment our DD got out of it. There were about 10 kids in our group and they also seemed to really enjoy themselves. I enjoyed myself and got to see the Southern Cross and the "planet" Pluto for the first time in my life, so I guess it was worth it.

    I said on day one that the cast members at Aulani are really great. I talked about how they quickly resolved our key issue, and I have a couple of other examples to illustrate my point. We bought some of the signature products from the spa. When we brought the products to counter, the lady at the desk looked at one of the bottled and noticed it was slightly less full than another bottle we purchased. We didn't even notice. She took this "less full" bottled and replaced it with one that was "more full". Also when we were at rainbow reef yesterday the folks that were in the reef with the guests seemed to spend a little extra time with my DD making sure that she saw all that the reef had to offer. I appreciated them working to make our DD had an enjoyable experience.

    I realize that I have not said much about our room. We have been to BLT twice and now Aulani once. The biggest difference we noticed is that the 1 bedroom suite in BLT has two separate bathroom while the Aulani 1 bedroom suite has one bathroom. For us this is not a big issue, but it could more of an issue if there were 5 in the room. The rooms are very comfortable and I have slept really well both nights. We have not been disturbed by any outside or neighboring noises. My wife and I are obviously in the King size bed and our daughter is sleeping in the murphy bed that is part of the TV entertainment center. I will publish a photo of this later. My DD says that it is comfortable as well. We have not tried the pull-out sofa bed, so we can't speak to that.

    I think the concierge and valet area have direction cards for every key destination on Oahu. I have asked for directions three times (Safeway, Dole and now Pearl Harbor) and they have met the challenge each time.

    Tomorrow: Pearl Harbor in the morning and afternoon is up in the air. It's getting late, so if anyone has asked me questions, I will try to answer them tomorrow.
     
  17. Neraj

    Neraj Mouseketeer

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    I believe there is an a la carte option at the Makahiki restaurant... if that helps.
     
  18. Iceman13

    Iceman13 Mouseketeer

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    When we have talked to people about going to Pearl Harbor we have always been told to get there early to make sure you get a ticket for the video/ride to the Arizona monument. For those of you that are not familiar with how it works, if you want to visit the Arizona memorial, your get a ticket (its free) from the ticket desk at the front of the park. The ticket has a time on it. This is the time that you meet to view the video that you must see before your boat ride to the memorial. We arrived at the ticket stand at 7:55am and got a ticket for the 11:15 showing. If I had my choice, I would have wanted something a little earlier, but overall it was not a bad time. Even though my DW and I have been to Pearl Harbor a couple of times before, we wanted to do the walking tour of the rest of the exhibits that describe the timeline leading up to to an during the attack on Pearl Harbor. We wanted to make sure our DD really understood what she was about to see at the memorial. The tour has a audible headset that you can rent that talks about certain points in the tour. The cost of this is $7.50, which we thought was worth the money. Since we had three hours we were able to go through everything at a leisurely pace. When our time came, we watched the video, took our boat to the memorial stayed for about 30 minutes and then returned. I am always moved when we visit the Arizona Memorial and today was no exception. I was glad to see that our DD really seemed to understand what she was see at the memorial. When we got back to dry land we looked at couple of things at the park and visited the gift shop. All in all we were there for just over 5 hours. I was interested in seeing the battleship Missouri, but by the time we were done at the Arizona, my DD was ready for something different. Pearl Harbor was the priority, so I wash;t going to push it. I think that Pearl Harbor/ Arizona Memorial is a absolute must do at least once if you are on Oahu.

    After Pearl Harbor, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and decided to do a little shopping in Honolulu. We drove down to Waikiki and parked our car to walk around the area. Parking was a little toughto find, but we found a parking garage that charged $4 per hour p arking. I don't know if there was something better, I decided I would park rather than spend a lot of time comparing rates. We walked around the area and visited the International Market Place, which for us is something we feel we have to visit when we are in Waikiki. We found a couple of things to buy and decided to head back to the resort for our 6:15 dinner reservations that we made at 'Ama 'Ama (we made these on Tuesday) we left Waikiki at 4:45 thinking that 90 minutes was plenty of time even with traffic. Wrong! We got caught up in stop and go traffic between Waikiki and the airport and arrived back at the resort at 6:45 (Two hours!) Needless to say, I was a little stressed and concerned about what would happen at 'Ama 'Ama. When we got to the restaurant, I explained what happened and they were very understanding, and seated us right away. I have seen some mixed reviews of the food at 'Ama 'Ama, but I will say that we were very pleased with our dinner. My wife had the fish-of-the-day and I had the New York strip. My DD had a small Steak of the children's menu. My DW and I also both had the Maui Onion Soup Au Gratin. Our food came out hot, prepared as we order, and tasted very good. Even though the cost of this restaurant is higher than Makahiki, we considered this the better value for us.

    After dinner, we decided to head back to the room and relax for the rest of the evening. Our DD wants to do some more things at the resort, so we will probably stick close tomorrow.
     
  19. oktracy

    oktracy Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the wonderful trip report. We will be traveling in September. Sounds like a nice vacation is being had by all. Enjoy your trip and family time.

    :yay:
     
  20. aprincesswannabe

    aprincesswannabe Mouseketeer

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    Good to hear that you are having a wonderful vacation! Great job on the trip report.
     
  21. hjgaus

    hjgaus DIS Veteran

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    We called Wednesday morning (before the spa) and got dinner reservations for 6:30 at Makahiki. This is the buffet restaurant on the resort. It has a good variety of food to choose from and my DW and I tried many of the selections. Some of them we liked others we didn't. The food was okay and I ate quite a bit. My biggest issue with this restaurant is the fact that two out of three people in our family did not get their money's worth. The cost for three of us (all considered adults) was $135 before gratuity. Unlike me, my wife probably did not eat enough to justify the money for her meal and DD definitely did not. I am not sure we would do this again only because of this.

    We were there last week & had the dinner buffet @ Makahiki. I have read all the previous reports of the food & went in with an open mind & LOVED IT!!!! I am Filipino,my husband Caucasian & obviously my teen boys both soo...... most of the dishes to us were like my MOM's cooking (I DO NOT cook Filipino dishes @ my house) & ANYTHING that goes WITH RICE is a given for us. So maybe if your looking for something that looks or tastes like HOMETOWN BUFFET- this wasn't for you. I can't say it was the best gourmet I've ever had or that the price matched the food but it is Disney in Hawaii (almost anything in Hawaii is expensive anyway) but the food was fine there. Later in the week went to a little hole in the wall type local restaurant called HIGHWAY INN as suggested by one of the beach attendant CM Jordan " if you are looking for local (like your grandma made) dishes stop by there."
    We did & loved it! The beef dish (can't pronounce it) was awesome so I had to order 2 servings to take back with us! We ate it with sauteed veggies I picked up at ABC's across from the hotel & of course rice! I love that there was a rice cooker in the villas! Only in Hawaii!! My husband & I celebrated or 21st wedding anniversary @ AMA AMA & the food was good there as well. (yes quite $$$ but that's why it was only for the 2 of us!)
     

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