Australian's first time to Oahu, Aulani and eating Gluten Free


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Hi Dis fans :)

We just got home a couple of days ago from a 16 night trip to Oahu. It was our first time visiting Hawaii, a trip that had been cancelled and rebooked several times since 2020. On the trip was myself and my husband, both 40-ish and no kids. I'm going to go through the trip report in order of how we did it - flew in from Australia and stayed in Waikiki for six nights, went up to the North Shore for two nights, and then ended with seven nights at Aulani. We had such a fantastic trip, not only was it our first post-pandemic international trip but it was really the first time we had a decent break together and from work in three years. My husband has Coeliac disease, so he requires Gluten Free food, I mostly eat this way when we are together too - so i'll note our dining experiences here.


We live in Melbourne, but travelled to Sydney on Friday 2 September for an overnight stay. Fortunately we had points to use for this leg, so we flew in Business and started the trip with express through security and some time in the lounge. The flight to Sydney was on time, and during a week of mass cancellations in Australia, this was a good start to the trip.


We love the Little National hotel in Sydney, it's right above Wynyard train station, so you can get from Sydney airport to the hotel without having to go outside - a bonus when it's raining (it was on this day). If you travel to Sydney and are heading into the city the train is a great option - it's super quick and easy, and if there's only one or two people it's cost effective.


Little National is a hotel that has small rooms, with super king beds - the beds are so comfortable for sleeping and we don't spend much time in the room while we are in Sydney.



It was about noon when we reached the hotel, they let us check in straight away so we dumped our bags and headed out. First stop was Wholegreen Bakery, it's completely GF and only a couple of blocks from the hotel.


Once we were fed, we kept on walking down towards Darling Harbour - it was raining on and off.


We always visit the Chinese Friendship Garden when we have time, it's so calm and pretty in there and changes so much from season to season.





Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
After the garden, we wandered back around Darling Harbour and towards the ferry stop at Pyrmont Bay, and caught the ferry around to Circular Quay.


It's a novelty for us to catch ferries in Sydney, and I love the view of coming under the Sydney Harbour Bridge towards the Opera House.


There was a cruise ship in port - that was the first time i'd seen one since 2020.


We stopped for a drink at a pub along the wharf, had our first toast of the trip while we watched the ship pull out of port. Then we walked around under the bridge and through The Rocks area.


It was raining again, so we headed back into the CBD and found a place for a drink close to the restaurant we were having dinner at - Kitchen by Mike. The service was a bit slow, but the food was really tasty and everything we ordered was GF.

This was -
Wood roasted Jerusalem artichokes, sofritto, caper leaves (vg, gf) $23
Albacore tuna tartare, black sesame cracker x1 (df, gf) $7


This was a special of beef and mash potatoes - I don't remember exactly what it was, but I know it cost around $45.


After dinner we walked back to the hotel (still raining) and tucked in to watch some F1 practice.

It was probably around this time that I logged in to check something for our flight to Honolulu, and realised that the flight had been cancelled. No surprise as it's been a global issue for most industry's suffering all sorts of staffing shortages and flow on issues. Fortunately, we had been rebooked on a flight leaving at exactly the same time - original airline had chartered a plane from another airline to take us. We we able to nab exit row seats on the new flight, so we went to sleep still excited to be leaving the next day.


Earning My Ears
Jan 24, 2009
Following along - we are off to Aulani and Waikiki in January for the first time since 2012! Love your photos and can't wait to read more.


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Saturday 3 September

It was another wet day, so we had a slow morning at the hotel and hit the gym, grabbed some coffee and took the train back to the airport around 1pm.

Airport was easy, check in was super quick and there were no lines at security. The flight to Honolulu was meant to depart around 4.30pm. We spent some time in the AMEX lounge, and looking around the duty free shops.


We were then delayed a couple of hours so we moved over to the Qantas lounge to kill some more time. This lounge is dated and feels so loud and grubby.


Eventually we boarded, and around 7.30pm we were taking off. We had exit row seats, and the GF meals on Qantas are always ok - some airlines won't provide anything for GF.


This was a GF curry with rice, and some accompanied snacks.



We did manage to get some broken sleep, maybe about 3 hours. The flight time from Sydney was about 9 hours, and before long we were on approach to Honolulu - we flew over Aulani. It was about 8.30am in Honolulu on Saturday 3 September.



We arrived into the Immigration queue right after a flight from Japan, but most counters were open and I think it was probably about 30 minutes until we were collecting our bags and heading outside.

It was raining but at this point we didn't mind one bit. We were happy to finally have arrived!

We headed upstairs to the roadway, and ordered an Uber to take us into Waikiki.

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Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
We got a good deal at the Halepuna Hotel in Waikiki and we LOVED this hotel. The package was booked late last year, and we got a $25 a day resort credit, breakfast at the Halekulani each day and a bottle of wine on arrival. They have no resort fee, and the rate we paid was US$340 a night. We had the most basic room category. It's a quiet and very clean hotel, and the staff were all so lovely and helpful throughout our stay.


We arrived at the hotel around 10.30 am and waited patiently in the lobby for about 30 mins until they had a room ready for us.


The room had a king bed, a small fridge, Keurig, large bathtub and a Japanese toilet.





I know many hotels in Hawaii give out complimentary drink bottles to use instead of disposable bottles, but these were SO GOOD. We would fill them with ice and water in the morning, leave them to sit in a hot car all day and come back to have the ice still unmelted.


We explored the hotel, and found their rooftop garden, which had rocking chairs, lounges, sea views and a reflexology path.




The Halepuna also has a gym, guest laundry and a lounge that guests can use before/after check in.


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
We thought it was important to try to stay awake all day today, and get a good sleep tonight for jet lag purposes. The time difference between Melbourne and Honolulu is 20 hours - so, really only 4 hours of change. I had organised a delivery from Walmart to arrive at the hotel, so the bellman brought this up along with our suitcases. I wanted to make sure we had the basics on day one, and we didn't collect our rental car until a couple of days into our trip.

Everything was GF except the sugar cookies - everyone from the UK going to Disney World raves about these, so I had to try - but I only ate one and wasn't a fan.


We used the lemons and limes as slices in our water bottles.


Getting the pool noodles delivered was handy, and we used them so much over the two weeks.


After we had put away our things, we headed out for a walk. The Halepuna is one street back from the beach, and directly out the front there is a path to the water. This was our view when we reached the beach...


The rain was lifting and the blue sky was returning. We turned left and walked through the back of the Sheraton, stopping for an iced coffee.


Then through the Royal Hawaiian gardens...



Back onto the beach, and down 'Surfboard Alley'



Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
We were on Kalakaua Avenue at this point, around 1pm, and we were starving. My brain wasn't firing on all cylinders and I knew Cheesecake Factory had good GF options, so we lined up and within 10 minutes were seated at a table for lunch.

DH got the 'Evelyn's Favorite Pasta' GF version


I went non-GF option of a special flatbread that had pepperoni, honey and caramelised garlic


Also first cocktail of the trip!


Funnily enough, one of my close colleagues had been in Hawaii for the previous two weeks, and was due to fly home on the plane we landed on. We weren't going to see each other at all, but then the mess that our flight cancellation caused ended up meaning they were 'stuck' in Honolulu for an extra two nights. We had tickets that night for the Rainbow Warriors football game, so they decided to tag along and the four of us went off to the game - it was a quick Uber ride from Waikiki.


They had lots of local food stalls around the stadium that were open well before the game started, and we all picked out some things to eat, except DH. The only thing we found that was GF was some fried poi mochi - we got it and it was fun to try, but not really dinner. Also, the only alcoholic drink being served was beer. There were about 6 stands selling drinks, but they all only sold beer or soft drinks.

The game was fun, the sun was brutal but as soon as it began setting it was such a lovely way to spend our first night in Hawaii.



We ended up back in Waikiki and had some late night snacks and drinks at the Maui Brewing Company. There was a mix up with the GF nachos we ordered, which was really just a miscommunication and it was sorted out, however the manager was very apologetic and comped our food and whole round of drinks which was so nice of him. That's a great place for a late night drink and snack overlooking Kalakaua Avenue.

We collapsed into bed around midnight.


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Sunday 4 September

We slept so well and woke up around 8am - no jet lag for us! We headed over to the Halekulani for our breakfast. We had this included and it was buffet at their House Without a Key restaurant. It's such a lovely place, especially first thing in the morning.


There were lots of GF options on the buffet - toast, fruit, yoghurt, omelettes, hot food like bacon, potatoes and eggs, salads, salmon, cheese etc.

It was a slow morning and around noon we got ready to head over to Herringbone for lunch. I'd read good GF reviews of this place, and it did not disappoint.



We started with a cocktail

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Then we moved onto food, all GF...

Peel & Eat Prawns (We Peel!)* wasabi cocktail sauce $18

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Hamachi Crudo* white truffle-yuzu vinaigrette, brunoise vegetables, chile, crispy garlic, micro shiso $23


Island Chopped Salad pipikaula, local romaine, Castelvetrano olives, local tomato, cucumber, mozzarella cheese, lilikoi vinaigrette $20

Buffalo Octopus shaved vegetables, black-eyed peas, anchovy aioli $23

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Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
After lunch we wandered around the shops for awhile, and then headed to Tommy Bahama - it was Happy Hour there, and we couldn't resist another drink.


Actually, we had multiple drinks.. all of these were on the HH menu for $11 each


The frozen Mai Tai was excellent.

We also tried:

Fire-Roasted Salsa, Guacamole, House-Made Chips


Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Caramelized Pineapple - it was GF minus the cream


We enjoyed the view over Kalakaua Ave, and being a Saturday there was lot's of interesting people watching to be had.


We rolled out of Tommy Bahama and down towards the beach, and decided we would make our way towards Ala Moana for some shopping.


We walked through Hilton Hawaiian Village, and although it was a chaotic energy in there my husband really enjoyed the 'resort' feel that the place had.



After that we did a bit of shopping at Ala Moana, we were pretty tired though and definitely didn't see it all. Last stop was Foodland, and these were the last photos of the day.



We took a taxi back to the hotel for an early night - I think that was around $10.


Earning My Ears
Jan 24, 2009
The Pineapple Creme Brulee looks amazing! We're hoping to head to Foodland when we go shopping at Ala Moana Centre. Am I right in thinking they have pre-prepared meals as well as groceries?
Aug 22, 2018
I'm loving this report so far, thanks for sharing! We're on the US east coast and have only ever done Disney trips to Disney World. We've been talking a lot lately about Hawaii/Aulani but we have little ones and realized we really should push it back a few years until they're a bit older. I'll just have to satisfy myself reading trip reports until then!


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
The Pineapple Creme Brulee looks amazing! We're hoping to head to Foodland when we go shopping at Ala Moana Centre. Am I right in thinking they have pre-prepared meals as well as groceries?
Yes! They had so many meal/side options :)


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Monday 5 September - Labor Day

Today we had booked a chair and umbrella set outside the Royal Hawaiian. We were able to access this from 7am, but we arrived around 9.30am. At this time we were in the second row of chairs - which turned out to be a bonus as once the tide was coming in, the front row was getting wet.


We spent the morning swimming and reading, it was so relaxing.



In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel, but I stopped for some Kith ice cream on the way - definitely not gluten free...


In the evening we decided to go out to eat, and of course everywhere was super busy. We ended up getting a table at California Pizza Kitchen, although the service was horrible.

We shared two GF pizzas on the cauliflower base, and they were really good...

Mushroom, pepperoni and sausage

Barbecue chicken add pineapple


On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the Cheesecake Factory and got some of the Godiva GF cake... really good!




Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Tuesday 6 September

We started the day with breakfast at House Without a Key - I can't emphasise how nice it was to begin each day in the garden by the beach, so lovely and relaxing.


Today we were collecting our rental car, and the best deal was to collect it from the airport. Originally i'd planned to just get an Uber, but we were ready early so we decided to get The Bus instead. The stop was a block from the hotel, and although the bus was busy, we got two seats together. The ride cost $3 each, and took about 40 minutes. The third stop at the airport was right outside the car rental garage.

I'd booked and rebooked our car so many times in the lead up to the trip. The deal I ended up going with was via Discount Hawaii Car Rentals, through Budget. We got a small SUV for 12 days, at US$750. This included all insurances, zero excess and additional driver. As an Australian, my insurance wasn't transferrable and paying at the counter would have been about $30 a day, so the price that included insurance really was a good deal for us.

We walked straight up to the counter, not one other person in sight, and were heading to the car in less than 10 mins. The girl in the garage let us choose from a couple of SUVs, and DH wanted the smallest one.


From the airport our first stop was the Nu'uanu Pali Lookout.


We pulled in, purchased a parking ticket from the machine and walked to the overlook. As soon as we got to the edge, the sky opened up and started dumping heavy rain on us. There's no shelter there so everyone went running back towards the car park. I was so disappointed, but by the time we got to our car we were absolutely soaked and I didn't want to go back outside in the rain.


On the way down the other side we pulled into another small overlook on the side of the road. A police car pulled in as well, and the officer got out and started chatting to us and another group of people who were parked. He told us to never leave anything in the car, not even in the trunk, as there was such a high chance of the car being broken into. I was wary of this already, so it was a good reminder to DH who thought I was overreacting. Over the next 12 days we pulled into so many lots where there was smashed glass on the ground.



Next stop was the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, this place was spectacular...


We drove through, stopping at different lots and taking short walks - we could have spent much more time here.




Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
From the garden we moved on to check out the Byodo-In Temple. It was pretty and calm, but I don't think it's worth the entry fee. Maybe it's just a one and done kind of place.



We headed into Kailua from here and stopped at the Wholefoods there for lunch - we love Wholefoods and visit them where we can while travelling.

I also tried some Spam and egg musubi - it was better than I expected :)


We spent the afternoon back in Waikiki having another swim...



Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Wednesday 7 September

This was our Pearl Harbour day, and our USS Arizona entry time was 10am. First stop was the Honolulu Coffee Experience which was a fun place to have a look, with lots of easy and free parking.


The car parks at Pearl Harbour were already quite full at around 9.30am, and we ended up in the third lot. I knew not to bring any bags, so we walked straight in with no fuss.


We didn't realise that we needed to sit in a different theatre first to see the movie, so we wasted about 20 minutes sitting in the holding theatre, and didn't see the film before we went out to the Memorial.

All the doors in the holding theatre were open (great for ventilation) but it was very hot and stuffy in there, even this early in the morning. As we were filing out to the boats a girl collapsed from heat stress, a good reminder to bring plenty of water.

The boarding process was very efficient, as expected, and we were soon on the boat to the Memorial.



No need to say much about this, but of course it was fascinating, emotive and definitely worth a visit.

For lunch we went over to Pearl Ridge, and visited the La Birria taco truck.


This was so good! Well worth the stop, we loved the tacos...


We also got the pickled vegetables and the aqua fresca - YUM


Then onto the Bishop Museum, the Halepuna Hotel has an agreement with them for guests to receive free entry. I believe this also applies to the Honolulu Museum of Art.


This museum was very interesting, and covered exhibitions featuring other Pacific nations as well as Hawaii. We enjoyed the time we spent here.




Aug 12, 2013
Really enjoying this trip report, thank you for sharing. My family will be there in early November and will be staying at the Halepuna for a few nights in Waikiki, so I'm glad to hear that you liked it.


Earning My Ears
Jul 7, 2019
We were there the last week of August! I love reading other reports about their week on Oahu! We were more on the east side of Waikiki


Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
There was time for a swim at the hotel once we got back to Waikiki - the service on the pool deck was really good. The attendants were very quick with taking drink orders and also managing the lounge chairs for people who wanted to move around.


We ordered a couple of their special Mai Tai


After a swim we got cleaned up and then headed to the beach to see the sunset. First stop was Koa Oasis.


We got high top seats under the awning, and ordered a couple of lava flows


We had a good view from our seats as the sun dipped



Once the sun was down we headed back up Lewers St and stopped at the Poke Bar for dinner. The service in here was good, the menu has clearly marked GF options and the staff were knowledgable, they changed gloves and utensils between each customer.

We split a bowl between us - it was really fresh.



Down Under Disney Lover x
Feb 5, 2008
Thursday 8 September

First stop, another yummy breakfast at House Without a Key...


This was our Diamond Head morning, and we had reservations with parking from 8am.


I know the reservation system is still quite new, but still I was surprised at how many cars were turned away vs let through the gates - more people seemed to not have reservations than did have.

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The hike is not difficult, however it is a constant uphill climb, including stairs, and in some parts the ground is very uneven. Taking it slow and with lots of water is a good idea if your fitness level is not high. Even at 8am the sun was beating down on us. I had quite a few breathing stops on the way up :rolleyes1





At the top I handed over what was left of my water to a young family who had a child clearly suffering heat stress, lucky we brought more than enough.

The trip back down was much quicker for me, and it felt a lot busier all of a sudden.