Aulani Trip Report- October 2018

Discussion in 'Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa' started by pharmama, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    I've never done an actual trip report before but really enjoy reading them on this board as it both helped me prepare for our trip and got me even more excited to go (if that was possible). So I thought I'd try my hand at "paying it back" and do a TR for our Aulani adventure last week.

    Background & Planning
    I am a huge Disney fan. I grew up about 30 min from Disneyland and went frequently, especially as a teen with friends. I particularly enjoy the magnificent detail Disney puts into everything they do, in the true spirit of Walt. I don't know for sure but I have probably been to DLR over 100 times, am an Annual Passholder (even though I no longer live nearby) etc. We did a Disney Cruise on the Dream in 2012 which was fantastic. Except for an opportunistic last minute visit to a Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party when I was at conference in Orlando last year, I have never been to WDW.

    Now, DH is not at all the Disney fan I am but does appreciate that Disney goes out of their way to do everything "right" and ensure their guests have, for the most part, fantastic experiences so he goes along with Disney things like the cruise and occasional DLR visits. Usually I visit DLR with just me and one or more of our three daughters. My girls, ages 13, 9 and 7 are proper Disney fans like me ;)

    When I turned 39 last December, I told DH that for my 40th I didn't want a big party or anything like I had thrown him for his 40th. Instead I wanted to go to WDW or Aulani and he could pick which he'd prefer. Unsurprisingly, he picked Aulani rather than full on Disney immersion at WDW. :rotfl2:

    After some research, it became apparent that it would be quite a bit more economical to do Aulani during my kids 2 week fall break in October vs. over the Christmas holidays which are closer to my actual mid December birthday so with our date range selected the planning commenced.

    We often travel with family- namely my MIL and FIL as well as sometimes SIL and another family friend. I am always the primary vacation planner/coordinator for the whole group though I try to arrange destinations, places and activities more centered around what others want to do. This time, I invited everyone but told them I was inviting them on my birthday vacation and I was going to mostly plan around things I wanted to do, though certainly not forcing anyone to come or join on parts they weren't interested in. MIL and FIL decided to join us for the whole trip (and stay an extra week exploring more of Oahu out of Waikiki as well as traveling to the Big Island). SIL and friend decided to join us midweek and stay the following week doing their own thing in Waikiki. Overall this worked out pretty well.

    Several members of our party have food allergies (one Celiac + corn allergy, two gluten-free non-Celiac, one dairy free). This can make traveling difficult as eating out frequently is hard and lots of small exposures can really build up. The option to have a full kitchen in a villa was a huge boon so we decided to rent DVC points through David's for the stay. Although our immediate family of 5 was really better suited to a 2bed after research we decided we could make a 1bd villa work using the sofa bed and twin murphy bed in the living room. In-Laws also booked a 1bd for the first half of the stay converting to a 2bd lockoff part way through (so basically adding the adjacent studio when SIL and friend arrived). We decided on Island/Garden view for the blend of budget friendly and still some view with hopes of a possible room on the outside of Ewa tower where you can still see the ocean.

    The process with David's was pretty painless. I panicked a little initially as I submitted our request at 7 months and they responded that our dates and room choices were available but they didn't have enough points available for rent. Whilst I stressed out for a bit and started to look at other options, less than 36hrs later I got another email saying that points and our reservations had been secured. Woohoo! We were going to Aulani!

    Over the ensuing several months I poured over these boards and other resources looking for tips, advice and suggestions to make our trip amazing and learned so much- thank you DISBoards!

    Next up: Departure Day!
     
  2. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

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    Joining in! Sounds like a fun family trip to celebrate your birthday (Happy Early Birthday!! :bday: ) Great idea on choosing the Island Garden view (hope you did get the outside of Ewa tower but guess I'll have to wait to find out!)
     
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  4. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Departure Day & Waikiki-Saturday
    It's time to go! We are all beyond excited and no one has trouble getting up at 6am to get to the airport. We booked our airfare on miles with United so our trip down has a connection in Kona on Hawaiian since that option required fewer miles. When I check us in, I am only given actual seats for 2 of our 5 family members (IL's traveled separately) for the KOA-HNL flight and those two are not next to each other. United people can't really do anything since its a partner airline and just tell us we'll have to sort it out at the gate in Kona. I'm feeling a little nervous about this but there isn't really anything we can do. It's a short flight so I figure we'll make do and hope that we can at least get a couple of seat pairs so someone can sit with the younger two girls.

    Now, I need to include a little side story here. We are very good friends with a family, I'll call them the W's, who have terrible travel luck. Particularly air travel- delays, re-routes, mechanical issues-you name it, it all happens to them and frequently. My oldest DD has traveled with this family many times as she is BFFs with their DD. As we are boarding our SFO-KOA plane, DD13 slaps the outside of the plane as we cross in and says "Its a W family tradition! It's good luck!" We all immediately yell at her that we don't want their travel luck!!

    So now everyone has boarded the plane and after we're sitting there for a bit the captain comes on and says that they're all ready to go but there's a small issue they thought they'd have fixed by now but are still working on. Then they ask everyone to de-plane temporarily. Halfway through de-planing they come on and say its fixed, they just need to complete an inspection (but these are the top notch A-list mechanics and their work looks great, won't be an issue!) and we'll be off. So those who had gotten off come back and again we sit for quite a while. At this point we are about 1hr late and I am starting to worry about making our connection in KOA. The next announcement is worse. The repair steps were done out of order and it has to be re-done and re-inspected (so much for A-list top notch mechanics!). They tell us we can de-plane for a bit if we want to get snacks or just walk around. There is now zero chance we will make our connection. Our estimated arrival time is 2 minutes before our KOA-HNL depature time. We give DD13 a super hard time that this is all her fault for bringing us the W family "luck" when we boarded! She won't live this one down for a while!

    Here's where it get's even crazier-but in a good way! I decide to go out and talk to the gate agent about our options since we will miss our connection. As soon as the words "missed connection" are out of my mouth he says "Oh, yes- there's 5 of you, right? I've rebooked you on the non-stop to HNL that leaves in about an hour." WHAT??? United actually proactively fixed this?!?!?! Amazing! So I call DH to get all our stuff and get everyone off the plane. The gate agent for the rebooked flight is also amazing and shuffles people around so we have 4 seats together and only DH "has" to sit by himself (and in an exit row so extra legroom for him!). They tell us there's no guarantee on our bags but they'll get there eventually.

    New flight departs on time and arrives a few minutes early. We actually arrive at HNL within 10 minutes of our original HNL arrival time with the old itinerary (yay nonstop!)! We head to down to baggage claim just in case our bags made it and now we officially know we defeated the W family travel "luck" because all 5 of our bags made it onto our new flight and arrive for us at baggage claim.

    I have to say, the United area of the HNL airport is a mess with construction etc. and definitely not one of the nicer airports I've been to. And its MILES from baggage claim (and ticket counters/security). Baggage also took forever and it was very uncomfortable- hot, muggy and still- in the baggage claim area. But we are so elated that all our bags showed up this is quickly forgotten.

    I stalked rental car rates intensively for several months and booked and re-booked multiple times. We finally ended up with a minivan from Hertz for $200 for the week. I figured it wasn't going to get much better than that and stopped stalking when I secured that. I do LOVE being able to just walk up to the Gold counter, get my keys and go. Took all of 30 seconds. The minivan itself was a little rough on the outside but still met our needs.

    Our Aulani check-in wasn't until Sunday. Fewer miles were needed to fly Saturday vs. Sunday and we had a few things we wanted to do in Honolulu so we decided to stay one night in Waikiki on arrival. We chose the Hyatt Place since it had a reasonably priced room that would accommodate 5 people (those aren't all that easy to find!) and had breakfast. It's about a block off the main street along the beach in Waikiki down near the zoo. The hotel room was clean and acceptable, though not amazing (but my kids did get a kick out of the fancy heated toilet seat with all kinds of cleansing options :rotfl:). We didn't book for a pool and had no plans to use it but would have been very disappointed if we had as it was small and in an odd location. We did have an "oceanview" room but it was somewhat awkward. There was a patio but it was on the side and did not face the ocean. There was an odd, high window on an adjacent wall that did face the ocean, but you basically had to stand in front of the desk (but stand-not sit as it was high up) to see. This was the view out that window.
    [​IMG]

    We arrived at the hotel around 4:30pm. MIL and FIL were already there. They also had an oceanview room, same type/category as ours, but theirs was in a different tower and their balcony did face the ocean. If we'd been there more than one night I might have asked for something different but it wasn't that big a deal.

    Several weeks before we left I went looking for options where we could get a reservation for 7 for dinner knowing we would all be tired. I decided on the Hula Grill and made a 5:15 booking (early since our bodies would think that was 8:15pm). We did enjoy the walk up the beach to Hula Grill which was just about enough Waikiki for us (more on that later). We were seated immediately at Hula Grill with a table at the front of the open air dining room facing the beach where we were treated to a stunning sunset. The food was decent though not amazing. They did do a good job of covering Gluten Free options for those in our party who needed it. But this view was the perfect kickoff to our Hawaii vacation- especially after our crazy travel day.
    [​IMG]

    Even though I'd booked an early dinner the service wasn't super fast and my middle DD hit the wall about 3/4 of the way through dinner. DH took her back to the hotel and she was asleep before we even finished dessert. DD13 and FIL got a yummy pineapple-coconut creme brulee that was served IN a pineapple. We also got a kick out of the fancy sporks they give you to eat dessert. None of us had ever seen a spork that wasn't plastic before.

    We were all wiped and made our way back to the hotel. Everyone was in bed with lights off by 8:15pm. Around 8:45 we heard loud booming which turned out to be a short fireworks show over the water. I knew there were fireworks Friday night off the beach but this was Saturday so I was surprised. Not sure what they were for. Those of us still awake watched them from the goofy high window over the desk, though they were mostly behind the hotel in the middle of the photo above. Still, it was a fun surprise and a nice cap to our first night.

    Next up- Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor & Aulani Check-In!
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
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  5. scrappydew

    scrappydew l wish I were at Aulani!

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    Enjoying your report!
     
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  6. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Hanauma Bay-Sunday Part 1

    I don't know how east coast folks do it with the time change. We are only 3 hours ahead but everyone (except DH) was still up and ready to go by 5am. I had read lots about Hanauma Bay snorkeling and making sure to arrive early before the parking lot filled up. We figured this would be a great day to do this since we would already be up early and it would be a pretty easy drive from our hotel (as opposed to if we tried to go later in the week and had to drive over from Aulani). However, we did want to take advantage of the hotel breakfast which didn't start until 6:30am. We went down right at 6:30 and tried to eat fairly quickly. MIL and FIL decided they wanted to do a lazy morning and didn't join us.

    We arrived at Hanauma around 7:35am. The "lower" lot was nearly full but the upper section was still basically empty. We had brought our own snorkel gear along so we unloaded everything and headed over. The bay is just beautiful and it was a gorgeous morning.
    [​IMG]
    We chose to walk down to the bottom along the path instead of pay for the tram and easily found a good spot to the left of the tram area on the beach.

    We really enjoyed Hanauma and saw lots of fish but you'll have to get to later in the TR to find out if we'd go again ;)). I went farther out than most of my family and saw more but there was still sea life quite close to shore which was good for DD7 especially. She was at that point where I knew she could swim but she didn't fully trust herself yet and adding in the concept of a snorkel was a bit of a struggle for her. She ended up seeing a few things with the help of DH or myself but largely stayed splashing around in the shallows and playing in the sand.

    We were there about an hour after high tide. If you can time it to go at or near high tide I would recommend it. When I went farther out there wasn't that much water above some parts of the reef- especially when the water would pull back out before a wave came in-and I'd think this would be worse closer to low tide. There was a bit more wave activity out farther as well though it was still pretty gentle (as you can see from the photo above).
    Here's a few photos from snorkeling.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    At one point when I was farther out on the reef I suddenly found myself surround by a school of these fish, which I believe are tangs. It was a very cool experience!
    [​IMG]

    Also multiple sightings of the Hawaiian state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a
    [​IMG]


    We packed up and left Hanauma around 10:15 and did pay for the tram back up the hill in the interest of not wearing everyone out before it was even lunch time (NOTE-you need cash for the tram back up but it's pretty cheap. It was less than $10 for all 5 of us). The hotel technically had an 11am checkout but had assured us that anything before noon was fine and we wanted to have a chance to clean up before going to Pearl Harbor in the afternoon. There were still spaces in the upper parking lot when we were leaving Hanauma and the lot was not closed. So on a Sunday in Mid-October it did not seem to be a huge deal to need to get there very first thing in the morning though it worked well for us since we were already up anyway and could still go back to the hotel to shower before checkout.

    Afternoon plans at Pearl Harbor and Aulani check in (plus Makahiki dinner) up next!
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
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  7. braysmommy

    braysmommy DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to next post.
     
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  8. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Pearl Harbor and Aulani Check In- Sunday Part 2

    We decided to do Pearl Harbor in the afternoon "on the way" to Aulani. I made reservations for the 2:45 USS Arizona Memorial boat. Our plans were still a little up in the air at the 60 day mark so I actually made these reservations only about 1 month in advance. There was still some availability for the afternoon sailings at that point so we went with 2:45 (which was the last time slot of the day) knowing we couldn't check in until after 4pm anyway.

    We checked out of the hotel a little before noon, found a Ruby Tuesday's near Pearl Harbor for lunch (which was 'meh' but met our needs for something a half step up from fast food) and then headed over to explore the memorial before our 2:45 reservation. I knew we were committing a tourist "mistake" by having our luggage in the vans at PH but we just couldn't figure out a better way. We did put the backpacks with computers and electronics in the secret "Stow and Go" bins behind the front seats of the Grand Caravan but otherwise just took the risk. Fortunately we did not have any issues.

    We definitely enjoyed the visit to the memorial and spent probably a total of 2.5-3 hours there. We just visited the small museum at the main area and did the movie & USS Arizona boat this time. This was about the right amount of time particularly for our younger two. I would like to go back again and visit the Missouri, Bowfin and other sites but I think with the kids it was better to break things up. The movie before you get on the boat, as others have mentioned, is extremely well done and really helped provide good background and insight.

    The USS Arizona memorial itself is still under repair so the boat is just a trip around the harbor with some narration of the various sites but it was still great and very well done.

    You can see in this photo that the dock is not even currently attached the memorial itself (the dock is just barely visible at the far left edge of the photo) so it seems like a final fix is still a ways off...
    [​IMG]

    Shortly after we got off the boat, we experienced a 5 min downpour that we "waited out" in the PH Gift Shop. This was the only rain we encountered our entire trip!

    It was time to head for Aulani! We stopped for groceries at the Safeway in Kapolei on our way. In retrospect, it might have been better to go back for groceries by myself after we had checked in. Everyone was tired (but didn't want to wait in the car) and all three DDs had varying degrees of meltdowns in the store (remember-we've all been up since at least 5am and been snorkeling, walked around PH etc). I was tired and a bit scattered too even though I had a list so we weren't very efficient which didn't help. I think I'd do this differently next time.

    We pulled up to Aulani around 5:30pm. Even the driveway into the resort is just gorgeous. We all received our lovely leis or kukui nut necklaces and enjoyed the delicious pineapple water they have available. I had done the online check-in so everything was ready for us at the desk to the left of the entrance (where the pineapple water is). We put the kids to work hauling bags up ourselves so we wouldn't have to wait for bell services.

    As mentioned, we had booked Island/Garden View rooms. Thanks to DISBoards, I had narrowed down what we wanted to the following request:
    Ewa Building, Floor 6 or higher. Rooms ending in 71 through 87
    We had also requested rooms near each other and, if possible, for IL's to be able to stay in the same 1bd and add the adjacent studio midweek when they converted to the 2bd lockoff reservation. Location was top priority, then being close together and finally the part about keeping the room. We submitted the requests to David's who had the DVC owner place them for us.

    We knew these were requests and none, some or all of them might be granted. So I was thrilled when she told us our room was 971. AND IL's were down the hall (977 which is the next 1bd villa on the floor) AND would be able to keep their room and add studio 979 on Wednesday. AWESOME!
    971 is the first villa next to the elevators which was actually kind of nice. We did not hear any noise from the elevators. I ran out to our balcony as soon as we got to the room and was greeted with this.
    [​IMG]
    In full disclosure, there is an oil refinery and tanker terminal that is cut off in this photo. It's just to the left of the Marriott. So if you look straight out from the balcony, you do see the port and refinery. There was an oil tanker docked there for the first half of our trip and no, it wasn't the most beautiful thing ever. But especially with the angled balconies, it was so easy to just position yourself to look past it to the lovely view in the photo. I could not have been happier with this view given the room type we booked. MIL & FIL's view was even better given they were farther down the hall toward the ocean.
    Here's the view from the studio, 979 (taken on Wednesday afternoon).
    [​IMG]

    I knew we'd all be tired and wouldn't want to make dinner that evening so I'd made a reservation at Makahiki. DD13 LOVES Stitch and Sunday is one of the nights they offer the Menehune Mischief Dinner where Stitch usually appears so we booked at 6:30 for the second seating of that.

    MIL had to wait in their room for bell services to bring their bags (which further made us glad we'd brought ours) but the rest of us went to check in for dinner. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the character photo (Donald). I forgot to have them take one with my phone and we didn't purchase it when they came around with it later. We then had to wait another 10 minutes or so to be seated. We were seated outside at the far edge of the patio. This was good for FIL who is hard of hearing and loud restaurants can be challenging but it was very dark over there. I thought the "show" with uncle for the Menehune Mischief was ok but nothing amazing. My younger two did join the mini parades he leads through the restaurant and thought it was fun.
    [​IMG]
    Characters circulating the tables were Chip, Dale and Stitch which is what I expected from other reports. DD13 was beyond excited about Stitch, though she's met him plenty of times before. Sometimes the little girl inside my teenager does leak out...
    [​IMG]

    Foodwise, Makahiki was good and the chef did come out and tour our allergy family members (gluten free and corn free) along the buffet advising them what was and wasn't safe. With the exception of dessert, they still had quite a few options. That said, it was pretty pricey and I'm not sure it was really "worth it" though I stand by not having wanted to make dinner on arrival night after a long day of sightseeing. I don't know that I'd do Makahiki again or if I did, I'd try breakfast even though we're kinda past the character breakfast age with the kids.

    The resort is so beautiful, and the inside of Makahiki was no exception. Also fun to look for the Menehune all around the resort.

    I had to move the car due to a minor mix-up when we arrived about valet vs self park and took some photos of the driveway entrance.
    [​IMG]

    We were so happy to finally be at Aulani and thus far the resort was exceeding all expectations.

    Next up- Resort Day!- Monday
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018
  9. tgropp

    tgropp DIS Veteran

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    Great report. Thanks for taking the time to share
     
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  10. MacMama0930

    MacMama0930 I've Found My Laughing Place

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    Hoping to plan a trip soon! Can’t wait to read more!
     
  11. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Busy week with Halloween and all but finally have time to get back to this. Thanks everyone for reading along!

    Resort Day!- Monday

    We didn't have anything specific planned for this day other than checking out the resort. Although we were still all waking up pretty early it wasn't quite as bad as Sunday. We had a slow morning eating breakfast in the room and dealing with a small issue back home but still made it down to the pools by mid-morning. The upshot of this was no line for wristbands!

    We are not "lounge by the pool" types. We would go down and enjoy the pools, lazy river etc. but would usually just grab one chair to put our towels and other items on. We weren't looking for a whole group of multiple chairs to lounge in so we never had any difficulty finding something. Often they were in pretty prime spots too since we were just looking for one or sometimes two. I could see how it would have been difficult to find a larger group of chairs though. So we found a chair right in front of the lazy river entrance next to one of the wristband/towel huts, put our stuff down and headed straight for the river! (with a detour by the Stitch statue on the way to the pools)
    [​IMG]

    Thanks to advice on the DIS, I had purchased waterproof phone pouches/lanyards for everyone and these were GREAT!. I bought 6 of them total off Amazon before the trip for about $15. One pouch of the same type/design was $20 in Kalepa store (the main Aulani gift shop). These were great because my kids could all safely take their iPhone/iPods and room keys down to the pool, in the lazy river for photos etc. An unexpected bonus of this was since we had put the iPods (only DD13 has an actual phone) on the Aulani WiFi we could iMessage with DD9 and DD7 if we got separated or they wanted to go to a different area.

    Now, one caution with these- the next day, DD7's pouch leaked. Fortunately we were able to resuscitate her soggy iPod (really an old iPhone 5S with no service) with a product FIL has to dry out electronics if/when his hearing aids get wet. We had no issues with any other pouches and finally determined that the issue was DD7 tried earlier on day 2 to put her iPod in with a pop socket on the back. We had warned her not to but she tried anyway and it seems that stretched the opening of the pouch enough that it no longer sealed right. So if you have a very thick phone case or want to keep a pop socket or other attachment on the back of your device I'd suggest getting a larger size pouch than recommended for your device (ie- get one for an iPhone Plus even if you have a smaller phone or something).

    Some lazy river fun (and a good photo of one of the pouches).
    [​IMG]
    We spent several hours just hanging out and playing in the river and riding the volcano tube slide. Make sure you look for all the animals shapes in the "rocks" around the river and volcano. The volcano slide is super fun but pretty short. Still, everyone enjoyed it and went multiple times whenever we saw the line wasn't too long.

    We headed back up to the room for a late lunch and people decided they were done with pools for the day and got cleaned up. Some then decided to just chill/relax in the room for the afternoon and others of us went out to explore the resort. We were enjoying just checking everything out so much that I totally forgot to get an 'Iwa for this day so we didn't do any resort activities. Those of us who went exploring ended up at Ulu Cafe for Dole Whips and then just sat around at a table playing Heads Up. It was a wonderful, relaxing afternoon.

    Back up to the room for dinner. IL's joined us in our room for the meal. FYI- you CAN fit 7 people around the table (as long as at least a couple are kids) but its tight!

    I did remember from the 'Iwa I'd looked at/downloaded before we left that it was an 'Ohana Movie Night that evening and they would be showing Coco. We decided people were too tired to actually go down and watch but we could see and hear it clearly from our balconies so the kids went out there to watch for a little while.
    It looks far away in the photo but it was pretty easy to see/make out the screen.
    [​IMG]
    In case you're worried that this is a potential problem if you want to go to bed early and its a movie or luau night, the sliding doors do an EXCELLENT job of blocking out the sound from the lawn area. If you knew a movie or luau was happening and listened carefully you can pick out some sound with the doors closed but its really not very noticeable at all.

    While they watched the movie I went down and picked up the 'Iwa for Tuesday so we could see if there was anything we wanted to try and do. I found I really liked just walking around the gorgeous resort, even on silly errands to pick up the 'Iwa.

    Everyone agreed that our first full day at Aulani was amazing. A ton of fun but also very relaxing. We were looking forward to another resort day the next day (plus spa for me!)

    Next up- Resort Day 2 & Laniwai Spa!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  12. alohamom

    alohamom DIS Veteran

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    THIS IS BRILLIANT!!!!
     
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  13. AZMermaid

    AZMermaid DIS Veteran

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    Great report so far! How did yo7 submit your room request?
     
  14. Amw1064

    Amw1064 DIS Veteran

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    Great trip report so far.
     
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  15. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Thank you! We submitted our request to Davids who had the DVC member we were renting our points from submit it on our behalf. We received a confirmation back from Davids a few days later once the process had been completed. It was recommended to prioritize requests so here's what I sent:

    This is regarding the following group of reservations
    XXXXXXXXXXXX (1bed Island/Garden View 10/14-10/20)
    YYYYYYYYYYYYY (1bd Island/Garden View 10/14-10/17)
    ZZZZZZZZZZZZ (2bed lockoff Island/Garden View 10/17-10/20)

    Below are our requests in order of priority. We do understand these are merely requests with no guarantees and are at the discretion of Aulani.

    1. All reservations we would like Ewa Building, Floor 6 or higher. Rooms ending in 71 through 87
    2. Rooms near each other
    3. 2 bed lockoff (ZZZZZZZZZZZZ): request to stay in same room as first half of stay (YYYYYYYYYYYYY), just add adjacent studio. If not possible, same room location request as #1 ( Ewa Building, Floor 6 or higher. Rooms ending in 71 through 87)

    I have no idea what it looks like on the member side or how they actually submit these requests but it worked out well for us as you saw!
     
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  16. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

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    Glad people are enjoying my longwinded report! :flower3:

    Resort Day 2 & Laniwai Spa- Tuesday

    My extra "birthday" treat on the trip was going to Laniwai Spa. I picked out Tuesday as our best day for this as we didn't really have anything else planned but we would also have already had a full day to explore the resort so I wouldn't feel like I was "missing out". I do enjoy a nice relaxing spa experience though I usually just do massage and hang out in the relaxation areas a bit. I didn't want to use up the whole day so I decided to book the services for 9am figuring I'd go down around 7:30am, check out the hydrotherapy garden and amenities, then just hang out for a little while after the massage before rejoining the family around lunch. I couldn't decide what service to book and considered branching out into a body treatment but ended up deciding on the Signature LomiLomi massage with added Scalp Massage. I called and booked about two weeks in advance and had no problem getting a 9am appointment (for which they say you should arrive at least 45min in advance).

    Unfortunately, my timeline got a little messed up on the day of. After reviewing the 'Iwa the night before, 5 of us decided we were interested in the ukelele lesson being offered at noon. This was an item you had to sign up for in the morning in the Pau Hana room as "space is limited". We didn't know how limited or if running out of space was going to be a concern so I changed my plan to sign up in the Pau Hana room on my way to the spa. The Pau Hana room opens at 8am so I headed down around 7:45. I was the 8th person in line waiting for the doors to open and was able to sign up for the class.

    Side note: If you have wondered, they do offer ukelele's set up for lefties for the lesson. Somehow two of my three girls are lefties even though everyone in both families are right handed. During sign up they asked the age of the participant for ukelele size as well as if they would prefer left handed which was great. My girls were so happy to hear this though they were willing to just do it righty as well if that had been the only option.

    I finally finished all that and got to the spa around 8:15, pretty much exactly the 45min before my appointment that they recommend but well after what I had planned (7:30am) when booking the appointment. You start with a tour of the spa and hydrotherapy garden which was lovely as well as selection of a scented sugar scrub to take with you. They have 3 daily options and you can pick which you want. Then you're shown to your locker with a robe and sandals and told they'll come find you with about 10 minutes warning before your service appointment. I ended up with about 15-20 minutes in the gardens before they let me know it was time to get ready for my treatment. I definitely wished I'd had more time and had actually made it down to the spa closer to 7:30 as planned. As it was, I had just about enough time to try out various pools and showers but not really spend time in any of them. The slightly warm pool was my favorite. I didn't try the high temp or cold plunge pool due to couples in that area. The rain shower garden was fun and novel but once through each one was enough for me. The other piece I didn't love was that, while the hydrotherapy garden wasn't at all crowded, everyone else there were couples (I can't remember if it was 3 or 4 couples). I felt super weird as the only person there by myself. This was probably just a coincidence but awkward nonetheless.

    The massage was very good (though not amazing) but I don't know that I would recommend the scalp massage add on. It was nice but not worth the $105 extra. I didn't really want to put my swimsuit back on and go back to the hydrotherapy garden after the treatment but I did spend about 30 minutes in the relaxation lounge which was lovely. They have both co-ed and gender specific lounges and I opted for the women's one as it seemed quieter. I debated if I wanted to shower at the spa or in the room but decided on the room because the showers in the spa locker room don't have a private 'dressing area' attached to each shower which I prefer. I was finished cleaning up in the room by around 11:30. While I was at the spa the rest of the family decided to hang out in what was quickly becoming our favorite spot- Waikolohe Stream (the lazy river). Time to go find them for the ukelele lesson!

    [Sorry, no spa photos. It seemed weird to take photos there and there's plenty online]

    We really enjoyed the little ukelele lesson. There did seem to be room available in the class but I was still glad I had signed up in the morning even though it messed up my spa plan since I was able to request the left handed ukeleles. The class was pretty simple- they just teach you 4 chords but they demonstrate how many songs those four simple chords can be used with. The instructors were great and DD13 and DD9 now wanted ukeleles. They sell a basic plastic one with colored marks on the fret for various chords for $46 (but the colored marks wouldn't work for left handed set up) or a wood one like those used in class for $135. We decided we'd look around some more if they really wanted to get one. I was so focused on my own ukelele playing that I totally forgot to take any photos during the lesson!

    After the lesson we did lunch back in the room and then headed back down to the pools. Our target this time was the Ka Maka infinity pool and grotto which we'd seen walking around the day before and looked interesting. Loved this pool! The view is stunning and the little grotto is cute (and shaded!). This is the pool you can hear whale sounds underwater. We had a great time playing and hanging out in this pool for the first half of the afternoon.
    [​IMG]
    Looking back toward Aulani from this pool
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    I loved this little "window" in the grotto area
    [​IMG]

    We were rapidly using up the bread we'd purchased just a couple days before and needed a couple other things so we cleaned up and DD13, DD9 and I walked across the street to check out the shops in Ko Olina Station (and brought along our reusable grocery bags we'd packed from home thanks to another DISBoards tip!). We didn't go in the galleries but wandered through a clothing shop and another store with cute Hawaii made items and ended up at the Island Country Market which is run by ABC Stores. This place is part liquor store, part gift shop, part market, part fast food restaurant and part coffee bar. It packs all that in a relatively small space so while we found everything we needed there aren't necessarily a ton of options for each item. That said, we found the selection to still be good enough and got everything we needed. They also had cheap flip flops and other similar items which was good since DD9's flip-flops had ripped earlier that day. I was also impressed with their gluten free options. We had brought along two loaves of gluten free bread and some gluten free pasta but I was pleasantly surprised to see they had the exact same GF breads (Ener-g Sourdough and Cinnamon Raisin) and pasta (Tinkyada) in this store. These items were a little more expensive than home, but probably not enough to have made it worth us hauling it down there! Now I know for next time. I wouldn't plan to buy all your groceries here if you're making full meals but if you just want a few items for lunches or breakfasts I think you could go forgo a separate trip to Kapolei and just pick up what you need at this market-especially if you don't have a car.

    FIL and DD13 had also noticed the Sunset Photography Class in the 'Iwa. FIL has a fancy Nikon DSLR that he's never really learned to use and DD13 wants to learn digital photography but didn't bring a camera with her. It did mention that camera rental was available. FIL called early afternoon and signed them both up for the lesson plus the camera rental for DD. Note that this is premium activity as well so was $40 each and camera rental was $19 for the class (it was a Nikon DSLR but I don't know which model as I didn't see it and DD didn't pay close attention). The $19 rental included the memory card from the camera for her to keep with the photos she took in class. FIL and DD agreed that this class was awesome and they really enjoyed it.
    Here's a couple of DD's photos:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Have I mentioned how much I liked just walking around the resort? So beautiful. I went downstairs for I don't even know what while they were at class and couldn't pass up taking this photo since I noticed there was no one in the lobby seating areas.
    [​IMG]

    We had dinner in the room again and tried not to sneak too many peeks at the luau off our balcony since we didn't want to spoil it for ourselves (we were going the next night). After dinner DH and I walked back to Island Country Market because he had realized one of the two swim trunks he'd brought was the wrong pair and didn't fit. I'd noticed they had some there earlier in the day that weren't too expensive and he was able to find a decent pair as well as a better pair of flip-flops than the $3 Old Navy ones he had (these were still only $20 but were much better for walking around). We got ice cream at Two Scoops (without the kids! don't tell!) before heading back to the room. The kids had gone to hang out at the IL's room (I later learned to eat cupcakes that had been brought back from a local bakery MIL had gone to that afternoon to order a surprise for me...more on that later).

    Tired but happy from another amazing day at Aulani we all headed to bed.

    Next up- Resort/Beach Day and Ka Wa'a Luau
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2018
    egesicki, ErinF, braysmommy and 2 others like this.
  17. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 26, 2003
    Messages:
    3,858
    Amazing photos especially the ones from your daughter's photography class! It seems so rare that you see a photo of the lobby with no guests - what a beautiful shot! Thanks for sharing all of your tips such as Island Country Market's finds and insight on planning for spa treatments :)
     
  18. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,560
    Thank you! The lobby photo is now the wallpaper on my phone so I can constantly dream about going back. :blush:
     
  19. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
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    1,560
    Resort/Beach Day & Ka Wa'a Luau- Wednesday

    We still hadn't really made it down to the lagoon/beach area since the pools (and lazy river!) had been so inviting. So after our usual breakfast in the room we made our way down to the lagoon with plans to rent a stand up paddleboard. None of us had ever tried SUP before and thought it looked interesting. We decided to rent for an hour and take turns since we weren't sure if we'd really want much more than that. I don't remember the exact cutoff but DD9 and DD7 were both too young to go out without either DD13 or one of us or to be the main "paddler". Basically they could just ride on the front. DD9 was a bit bummed about this. Everyone also has to wear a life jacket when on the SUP boards. Probably a good idea but their jackets were the cheap annoying kind that just kind of get in the way, especially if you end up in the water (which, as we discovered, was pretty much guaranteed since we were novice paddleboarders).

    DD13 went out first by herself. She did eventually manage to stand up for a bit. She's the one all the way out by the rock in this photo (you can barely see her but she is standing up!). [​IMG]
    We all took turns trying it out with varying degrees of success, though we did all manage to stand up at least a bit. DD13 and DD9 were probably the most successful pair and managed to stand up together for several minutes before falling in. All in all it was fun but an hour was enough for us.

    When we were renting the SUP someone came up and returned 2 boogie boards. I had heard these could be difficult to come by so we grabbed them but didn't really end up using them. There certainly wasn't enough water movement in the lagoon to use them as boogie boards and they didn't really make great floats either. The girls played around with them a bit but basically they ended up back by our chairs. Speaking of chairs, again we weren't really looking for anything to lounge around in, just something near the beach for convenience. There were lots of chairs available but we wanted some near an umbrella so our stuff wasn't going to get totally baked in the sun. The first four umbrellas we tried were actually broken so we ended up a couple rows back purely to get something under and umbrella. I was surprised to see this many broken-usually Disney takes care of that kind of stuff more quickly.

    We were interested in the sailing canoe they take out but decided it was just too expensive for all of us to go ($99 per person!). It was pretty neat to watch them sail it in and out of the lagoon (and blow the conch shell) though!

    The lagoon is lovely and relaxing but the sun and salt were taking a toll so we decided to head back up. We ran into FIL and MIL on the way back up from the beach so DD's and DH decided to check out the main pool with MIL for a while. FIL and I had other plans- we were interested in the Maka'Iki'I: The Nature and Wildlife of Aulani tour at noon.

    The tour met on the balcony off the main lobby and FIL and I ended up being the only two on the tour. This tour was about an hour and the guide told us about the design of the Waikolohe "valley" at Aulani and pointed out some of the animals that the "rocks" are shaped into. We had already noticed some of these but he pointed out some more and told us where to look for others. We then went down to the gardens around the pools and he pointed out various trees and plants and shared information about what the plants/fruits/seeds etc. were used for. All in all it was interesting but not amazing. Not much info on "wildlife", really just the plants.

    FIL and I found the rest of the family in the pool and everyone was ready for lunch. This was the only day we bought lunch at the resort. We decided on fish/shrimp and chips from Mama's Snack Stop since it was convenient and sounded good to everyone (GF FIL ate in the room and usually GF DD decided she was going to cheat a bit). They were decent but not amazing and very pricey. We didn't regret having had lunch in the room the rest of the week.

    SIL and friend were arriving that afternoon so we were excited for them to join us. To pass the time until they arrived, we decided to check out the Menehune Adventure Trail. When we went down to the Pau Hana room they told us only the indoor trail (in the lobby areas) was available but that the outdoor one would start soon. We decided to do the indoor and then hopefully the outside one would be available when we were done. I won't post photos or spoil the surprises but we all enjoyed the trail and its pretty well done. DD13 got a little bored with Aunty and the "story" on the tablet so she bailed after the indoor one. The rest of us then did the first part of the outdoor one as well. The staff had told us there were three parts to the outdoor one and it would save your progress at each of those points so you could come back and finish later. We ended up doing just the first part with plans to finish later since SIL and friend arrived. We never did end up making it back to finish it up but all agreed that we would have liked to.

    This was also the day IL's were "switching" from the 1br villa to the 2bd lockoff (so adding the studio next door). MIL had gone to get the new keys that morning but partway through the afternoon all but one of the keys stopped working. Fortunately it was a quick fix and all in all not a huge deal since at least they didn't have to physically change rooms. A side note about the room keys- we were a little disappointed that they keys didn't say Aulani on them since the kids like to keep them as souvenirs. I have seen photos of Aulani keys before so was a little surprised when they were blue Walt Disney World keys instead! We finally asked someone and they told us they had recently switched out all the door locks from the kind where you slide the card in a slot to the kind with an embedded chip that you 'tap' on the door lock instead and that they hadn't received the Aulani specific cards with the chips yet. This seemed a bit "un-Disneylike" to us that they wouldn't have thought or planned ahead on this. I think its more likely that they had an overstock of cards at WDW (since everything is Magic Bands) and/or a shipment got delayed somehow.

    Once everyone had arrived it was time to get ready for the luau. We had decided to go ahead and book VIP so we had early access to activities and good seats. In the end, I'm torn on whether this was "worth" it. Our seats were great but it seemed like the non-VIP guests were being let into the activities pretty much right after we were. That said, the kids didn't have any difficulty trying everything out.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Making poi
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    Another ukelele lesson opportunity (this is DD7 who didn't do the first one with us)
    [​IMG]

    While we were doing activities the chef came and toured our special diet folks (now we had a dairy free person with us too!) though the buffet and let them know all their options. We always appreciate how well this is handled.

    They then have everyone sit and call the tables up to get food individually. We all thought the food was great and the amount of time allotted for eating was just about right. We were seated in the second row of tables and right along the aisle which meant we had a good view of the stage and were right next to the first of two 'mini stages' in the aisle.
    View of the Stage:
    [​IMG]
    The mini-stage in the aisle
    [​IMG]
    All in all we enjoyed the luau and thought it was well done. Not too "Disney-fied". Mickey, Minnie and Moana all make a brief appearance at the beginning of the show, sort of before the real show begins but that's it for characters. The "story" of the luau was a little contrived but it wasn't too bad. I have seen comments that Ka Wa'a isn't a "real" Hawaiian luau because there are fire dancers. They make it quite clear in the story that several of the dance styles portrayed (including the fire dancers) are from other Polynesian cultures so I'm not sure what the big deal on this is.

    Our family visited the south pacific island of Rarotonga a couple of years ago (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) and there we visited a place called Te Vara Nui that also had a show demonstrating various performances from different Polynesian cultures. We all agreed that Te Vara Nui was a good deal better than Ka Wa'a (probably in part due to the setting which involved the show being on the water) but I haven't been to any other luaus in Hawaii to compare Ka Wa'a to. Still, overall we enjoyed the food and the show and would recommend it.

    You can take photos with the performers after the show which was fun (though the lighting is terrible). This was the "sister and brother" that were the main storytellers.
    [​IMG]
    All in all everyone agreed it was a fun night but we were ready for bed!

    Up Next- Dolphin & Snorkel Sail and Stargazing
     
    ErinF, AussieDisneyfans and AZMermaid like this.
  20. pharmama

    pharmama DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 6, 2012
    Messages:
    1,560
    Shoutout to anyone still hanging in there on this one. Sorry I'm so slow.

    Dolphin & Snorkel Sail and Stargazing- Thursday

    Thursday was our first day with a planned activity outside Aulani...but not very far outside. We had booked a dolphin and snorkeling boat out of Ko Olina harbor which is less than 5 minutes down the street. We didn't have to be there until noon so we took the morning to show our new arrivals (SIL and friend who had just joined us the previous evening) the pools- mainly the lazy river (have you noticed a theme?) and the infinity pool.

    We encountered a PhotoPass photographer on the lazy river. We had only had one previous PhotoPass encounter (while we were doing the Menehune Adventure Trail) but had not sought them out or gone to any character greetings either. She took some photos, gave me a card and we continued on. I was given a PhotoPass wristband from the previous encounter but found it very annoying for some reason- much more so than the pool wristbands-and had already cut it off so I was glad she gave us a card instead.

    We considered taking the free Ko Olina shuttle to the harbor (the shuttle goes all around the resort district and stops at Aulani on the hour and half hour) but ultimately weren't quite ready to catch the 11:30am shuttle and ended up driving the few minutes down the road (and paying $10 per car for parking). It was a quick trip, obviously, and check in for our boat was painless inside the marina store.

    We had booked the Afternoon Snorkel Sail through Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. https://koolinaoceanadventures.com/tours/catamaran-snorkel/ We had chosen the more laid back pace of their catamaran (they also have a speedboat) in part because FIL loves sailing- especially multi-hulls. While we knew it wouldn't be "real" sailing with 30+ people on a big cat but it was still a lovely environment. The staff and crew on the boat were amazing.

    You sail out of Ko Olina harbor and up the coast right past Aulani to a spot not that much farther up. Here's what Aulani looks like from out on the water.
    [​IMG]
    Not long after we passed Aulani we encountered a group of spinner dolphins who were actually being chased by some snorkelers. They had come from shore but were very far out and had no flag or anything. Dangerous. One of the naturalists on board actually told them they were harassing the dolphins and were too far out and they backed off.
    [​IMG]
    The crystal blue waters were just stunning. You could see fish (and the dolphins) in the water easily from the boat. The power plant north of Aulani was a little less photogenic but what can ya do ;)

    One of the other reasons we had booked with this company was that they offered a Snuba option. If you are not familiar, Snuba is a cross between snorkeling and scuba where you have an air tank on the surface with a hose to your mask. So you can only go down about 25 feet but you can stay down and don't have to deal with a snorkel. SIL had done Snuba before on Maui and enjoyed it. We booked the Snuba add-on for everyone except MIL (who wasn't interested) and DD7 because the minimum age was 8 (and I'm not sure she was ready for it anyway).

    There was very little information on their website about snuba and any possible health restrictions but once we boarded the boat we all met with the snuba guide (who is a certified scuba instructor but an independent contractor and not Ko Olina Adventures staff) who had us start with a health questionnaire. I am an asthmatic though it is well controlled. The first time I went snorkeling years ago I did have some issues so I had planned to make sure I brought my rescue inhaler on the boat with me in case I had issues with snuba. Well of course I forgot to bring my inhaler. I had realized this before even getting the health questionnaire and was already having second thoughts about trying it knowing I didn't have the inhaler. The health questionnaire confirmed that this was a bad idea so I was out for snuba. FIL was really looking forward to snuba but was dismayed to find that the health questionnaire also disqualified him due to a relatively minor elective cardiac procedure he had earlier this year. If he had gone over things with his doctor ahead of time he probably could have been cleared to participate but he didn't know he needed to. He was extremely disappointed-especially since it probably could have been avoided had we known-and it definitely cast a pall on his enjoyment of the afternoon. So, if you are considering snuba make sure you inquire about health restrictions ahead of time. Lesson learned.

    The way the guide's snuba rig works is set up he takes up to 4 people out at a time. The boat stops at two different snorkel spots (though they aren't very far apart) so since two of us could no longer do the snuba we had DD13 and DD9 take our places which meant they got to snuba at both spots which they really enjoyed. Both spots aren't much deeper than the snuba lines can go anyway which was perfect. Here's one group (DH, DD13, DD9) and the guide:
    [​IMG]
    DD9
    [​IMG]

    While I was a little bummed not to do the snuba, it was fairly quickly forgotten as the snorkeling was amazing. The first spot this company goes to they usually see turtles at and sure enough, right after I got in the water one of the crew yelled at me that there was a turtle nearby. I looked over and it was on the surface about 20 feet away. I stayed still so as not to bother it and it swam toward me then dove down to the bottom right below me. This was one of the coolest moments of the trip for me.
    [​IMG]
    A few minutes later my friend yelled at me that there was a shark. She had indeed spied a medium sized shark (probably 5-6 feet) fairly rapidly exiting the scene. I didn't get a good photo but you can kind of see it swimming away in the middle of the shot-it was quite a ways away at that point. We later heard from the crew that one of them had seen it too and thought it was a Galapagos shark. They had not alerted everyone since they didn't want people to panic as they are generally harmless and it was clearly more interested in getting away from us than anything.
    [​IMG]
    The turtle and the shark were certainly a great way to start things off! In addition to those we saw tons of beautiful fish and I couldn't get over how clear and beautiful it was- the cloudiness in the photo above is more a function of the distance and the camera. These big yellow fish floating on surface were particularly strange ;) (...or maybe it was my friend and DD7). If you recall, DD7 had really struggled at Hanauma and was very nervous snorkeling. Well the intervening 4 days in the pool and lagoon had really boosted her confidence and between that and the life vest she LOVED the snorkeling off the boat. Yay!
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    They had everyone get back on board and we moved to the second spot which wasn't too far away. This spot had more reef on the ocean floor and even more fish.
    [​IMG]
    A couple from DD13 who was doing snuba so able to get closer to the reef (but not touch, of course)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    My "finds" at this site were a spotted eel (sorry, blurry)
    [​IMG]
    and an octopus! Sadly, no photo of the octopus but it was incredible. At first I thought there was a dark brown piece of trash drifting along the bottom of the reef (or really I thought kelp because there's lots of that in my area of the pacific though it wouldn't make sense for it to actually have been kelp there) but then I realized it was an octopus!! probably only about the size of an 8.5x11 piece of paper. Shortly after I spied it I think it realized I was watching as it rapidly climbed inside a circular crevice in the reef and camouflaged itself. It was amazing to watch it change right before my eyes.

    Once we finished at the second site they had everyone get back on board and fed us lunch (included with the price) which was actually quite good! They had Kalua pork or chicken which you selected when you booked though I think that was just for an estimate-they weren't holding you to what you had selected. They also had an option to mark gluten free on booking and had the food for our GF crew set aside to prevent any contamination as well as some rice for them (everyone else got Hawaiian style buns to make sandwiches). They had fruit and I think mac salad as well as chips. It was actually a surprisingly good meal. IIRC, they also gave you a couple of drink tickets for an adult beverage but I didn't use mine. They had a few sodas, juice and plenty of water available as well.

    We highly recommend Ko Olina Ocean Adventures (just do your diligence if you plan to add on snuba). While I enjoyed Hanauma Bay and it was a lovely start to our trip, if I had known just how much better the snorkeling would be on the boat, I don't think I would necessarily have bothered with Hanauma. Obviously there is a HUGE price difference between the two so if its not in the budget to do the boat Hanauma is still a GREAT option.

    After the late lunch we headed back to the harbor and back to the hotel. I had read good things about the 'Imi Loa Na Hoku Explore the Stars premium activity ($40/ea) which was happening at 8pm and 9pm that evening. Everyone was interested and the weather looked pretty good- just some patchy clouds-so we went by the Pau Hana room to make sure there was still space. This was definitely not an issue- plenty of space but the wrote down our party size and told us to come back around 7:45.

    MIL & FIL had made some chili ahead of time so we'd have an easy dinner once we all cleaned up from the boat. If you remember, we had already determined that 7 was the max number of people who could squeeze around the villa tables...well, now we were 9. DD7 and DD9 eagerly agreed to eat their dinner out on the balcony overlooking the lawn where they were getting ready to start Wreck It Ralph for Ohana Movie Night. Suddenly, we hear all kinds of shouting and ruckus from them on the balcony and DD9 darn near takes out the screen trying to get inside. She comes running in to tell us she had seen our PhotoPass photo from the lazy river on the screen for the movie! I guess they show random photos the PhotoPass photogs have taken throughout the day as part of the pre-movie filler routine (closer to show time they also have some MCs come out and do trivia type stuff too). We all went out, waited long enough to see the photos loop back around and there we were! Photo is from our balcony so this is really the giant screen down on the lawn.
    [​IMG]
    (I think I might have been a little traumatized if I had actually been down there and seen gigantic us on the screen. But from up on our balcony it was fun and the girls thought we were so cool :cool1:).

    MIL and younger two DD's decided they were too tired to do the stargazing so the rest of us headed down. You check in outside the Pau Hana room (well, at least this night it was outside because they were doing a Paint and Sip inside. If there isn't something like in the Pau Hana room perhaps they do check in inside). Fortunately it was not a problem that our headcount had dropped from earlier-we were not charged for them. They have you pick a sort of goofy little souvenir bracelet that has wooden and colored and glow in the dark plastic beads on it. I think this also helps them verify who has paid and is part of the group though they also gave us a paper wristband (the wristband are insane. It's a "thing", especially with the kids, to keep all your wristband on for everything. So in theory by this point in our stay we had 4 days of pool wristbands, a VIP luau wristband and now the stargazing one. Plus there could have been a PhotoPass one. Most of the adults had cut them off at various points but the kids were going strong!).

    The cast member told us we were the only ones signed up but we waited until just after 8pm for any additional drop ins. No one else came so she escorted us down through the pool area and out the gate that leads down to the beach. On the path just outside the gate (near Little 'Opihi's) there was a local astronomer set up with his very cool GPS guided telescope. With the telescope we were able to actually see the rings on Saturn! He pointed out several key constellations and showed us a small galaxy, several stars with unique properties, and several other interesting sky features. Near the end, he showed us the moon on which you could see amazing detail. This photo was taken with my iPhone through the telescope eyepiece
    [​IMG]
    The astronomer was super nice (am kicking myself that I can't recall his name) and we had a great hour with him that flew by. It was a little awkward a few times when random people would come by and try to join since you're just out there on the beach path but he and the Aulani CM who hung around for a little while were practiced at courteously shooing them along. If the weather is good we HIGHLY recommend this activity. MIL and the other two DDs ended up bummed they didn't rally and try to go down.

    Our time at Aulani was nearing an end :sad1: We had another outside activity planned the next day for our final full day of vacation- next up Zip Lining at Keana Farms, North Shore Tourist Eating and Photo Session
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2018
    Almondmilktea, egesicki and ErinF like this.
  21. braysmommy

    braysmommy DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2010
    Messages:
    652
    What a fun day! Did you have your own underwater or use the one they provided?
     

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