COMPLETE - Trip Report - Aulani, Oahu, & the Big Island - August 2018

Discussion in 'Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa' started by gregf71, Aug 29, 2018.

  1. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
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    Day 1 – Welcome to Aulani!

    At 4:00am PDT, the alarms on both my wife’s and my phones went off. I purposely chose the built-in ukulele ring tone because I thought it was quite fitting given our travel destination today. This amused my wife greatly. Our bedroom door opened almost immediately, as the 12 year old, our daughter, the child we have to use a crowbar to get out of bed on the weekends, rushed in with a huge grin on her face. It was vacation time!

    Quickly showered, dressed, and somewhat fed, we finalized our luggage and carry-ons, triple-checked that everything was all set for the house and the cat sitter, and eagerly awaited the 5am arrival of my dad for our ride to the airport. Just before the top of the hour, he pulled up, we said our goodbyes to the cat, loaded up the car, and we were off! Amazing how little traffic there is on the San Diego freeway system at 5 in the morning on a Sunday.

    As our flight was on Alaska Airlines, we were dropped off at Terminal 1 at San Diego Lindbergh Field. Thanking my dad for the way too early lift, we made our way into the terminal and queued up to check ourselves and our luggage in. There was a bit of a line, but not bad at all. Checked in, baggage fees paid, and luggage riding away on the conveyor belt, we were surprised to learn that our flight was actually departing from Terminal 2, so we trekked over to the “other side” and entered the TSA line. Again, not bad at all, but busier than I expected it to be this early in the day.

    Through security, we needed food, so while my wife and daughter headed to Peet’s Coffee, I popped over to the Jack in the Box counter service. Initially, I queued up in the line behind six people, but quickly noticed a self-service touchscreen monitor just off to the right with no one using it. I quickly placed and paid for my order, then stepped aside with my receipt. Within a few minutes, my number was called and I sauntered over to a nearby table area to enjoy, noting that three of the original six people who were in front of me in the original line were still waiting to place their orders with the live person. It pays to use technology folks!

    All of us now happily fed, we made our way over to our boarding gate seating area. Grabbing three spots along a wall, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the seats had built-in plugs to charge our devices. Unfortunately, the chairs themselves were not plugged into any power source and there didn’t seem to be any along the wall nor in the floor. Sigh. Such a tease! This corner of the airport seemed to be reserved this morning for Alaska Airlines direct flights to the Islands. While we awaited our flight to Honolulu, we heard calls overhead for flights to Maui and Kauai, including mention of seat upgrades. “Seat upgrades,” questioned my wife, “What are those?” First class of course, I replied, but also a few rows in the front of the main cabin with a bit more room and free drinks (adult drinks) for $99 per seat. “Are any of those available on our flight,” she retorted. I interpreted her question less as an inquiry and more of a request, though she would never admit that. Seeing an Alaskan representative appear at our gate desk, I slyly maneuvered over and inquired about availability. Sure enough, they had seats available and the next thing I know I am handing over our original tickets and the credit card. Strutting back to my family, I handed over the new tickets to my wife. She was most pleased.

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    Our flight was direct from San Diego to Honolulu, leaving at 7:30am. Our new seats provided ample additional space; it was actually just a few more inches, but it sure felt good, and a free adult beverage for my wife and I was certainly nice. Flight time was scheduled for 6 hours, but we must have caught a tail wind because we landed about 30 minutes early, around 10am Hawaii Time. Off the plane, we made a quick trip to the restrooms and then down to baggage claim, where we waited for only about 10 minutes or so for two-thirds of our bags to come out. As my wife and daughter’s bags came out first, they scooped them up and stood waiting as I scanned the conveyor belt for mine. While doing so, I noticed that a man appeared in the corner of my eye near the exit doors, holding a sign labeled Hele Hele Shuttle. Having booked our airport transfers with Hele Hele, as recommended via the Aulani website, I motioned to my wife, asking her to check to see if he was there for us (and possibly others). Sure enough, he was there for us and us only. Grabbing my bag soon afterwards, I joined up with them and we headed outside. Making our way across the first lane of traffic, he led us to the center island area, where just off to the left he told us to wait as he called for our vehicle. Within a few minutes, our van arrived, our bags were loaded in the back, our greeter was tipped, and we climbed aboard. Warmly welcomed by the driver, we learned that the van was ours alone! Cool! Off to Aulani!

    Sunday mid-morning traffic from Honolulu to Ko Olina was very mild, at least from our perspective; the driver actually commented on the unusual number of cars on the road, but to us it was nothing at all. While making our way west, our driver asked if we were planning to explore the island at all, to wit we responded that we intended to rent a car for one day for that exact purpose. Immediately, he reached for and handed me a tall, thin visitor guide and a pen, telling me to unfold the map in the back section. He then proceeded to enthrall us with a list of sites that we had to see, all of which we could apparently see and enjoy in a single day. Yeah, I had my doubts about that, looking over and smirking at my wife. Actually, we already had a plan in place for our day of exploration (one that was ripped thoroughly on the DIS Boards I might add) and we were quite happy to stick with it; we appreciated his recommendations nonetheless. At the very least, he reaffirmed some of our choices.

    I think we pulled up and into the Aulani entrance-way about thirty minutes or so after leaving the airport, putting us there around 11am. This arrival time turned out to be key because that is check out time and as a result the entire lobby area was a madhouse! Exiting from the van, we were immediately greeted by a CM, asking us if we were checking in. Upon my affirmation, she welcomed us home and placed a kukui nut lei around my neck and a floral lei upon both my wife and daughter. Confirming with us that we checked in online ahead of time, she retrieved a packet from a nearby kiosk and escorted us into the lobby entrance (incredibly beautiful by the way) and off to a flat surface on the right. Since we arrived so early, our room was understandably not available yet, so she showed us where the Bell Desk was, provided us with a resort map, marking important (and currently accessible to us) locations upon it, and gave us our eventual room key cards and another to the Luana Lounge. Beyond hungry at this point, we quickly checked our bags and made our way to the Ulu Café.

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    Refillable mugs procured, our dining selections consisted of the daily sandwich special for me (a delectable Korean bulgogi), along with a Mickey-shaped spam masubi (also delectable), while my wife enjoyed a “decent” customized poke bowl and our daughter a BBQ kalua pork flatbread, which she loved. We also shared slices of exquisite pineapple, a common thread for this trip. We never had a bad bite of pineapple over the entire two weeks in the Islands. The seating area for Ulu is very widespread, which we hadn’t realized at this moment. Thankfully, we managed to snare a table just in front of Ulu, but let me tell you, that space was crazy busy with guests coming and going into Ulu itself, as well as accessing the drink dispensers off to the left.

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    Happily fed, we explored, walking around all of the pools, the lazy river, and the beach area. We meandered through the two gift shops, making several purchases of course in Kalepa’s Store and thinking about a few items in the higher end Hale Manu. I tell you though, I was really surprised in Hale Manu that there was no Aulani specific Tommy Bahama camp shirt. There were two TB camp shirts there, but neither had Aulani emblazoned upon it; in fact, the one printed shirt, filled with all kinds of blue designs, had graphics with signs for Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but no Aulani (at least that I could find). Nearby, there was a nice, blue Tori Richard shirt with Menehune strewn throughout the design, but still no indication of Aulani anywhere. Oh well.

    We then walked back out into the exterior space, making out way over to Aunty’s Beach House to complete our daughter’s registration and get her wristband. Now, I’ll be honest, she’s 12; too old for the kiddy activities and too young for the teen. The truth is, she just humored us in getting her band and signing up. She looked around and immediately knew that Aunty’s wasn’t for her. Still, we completed the registration with the possibility of her participating in one of the evening tween hours (7:30pm to 8:30pm each night), but during our five night stay, she never used it; instead, she had a blast with us. Ohana means family you know.

    Left with seemingly nothing else to do (our swim gear was packed and checked with Bell Services), we decided to check out the Luana Lounge. Upon entering, we were immediately struck with how crowded it was. It was a decent sized space, but with so many people (remember it was Sunday and not long after check out time) it was uncomfortable and honestly not a place that we wanted to be, so we left. Returning to the main lobby, we grabbed some open seats and just chilled, people watching, soaking in the ambiance, and reviewing the paperwork the CM handed us earlier. I noticed in the Daily Iwa that there were two stargazing events that night, so I headed over to the Pau Hana Room to see about availability and got us signed up for the 9pm session. Now around 2pm, I returned to my family after another quick little stroll around Kalepa’s Store and our daughter asked me to check my phone to see if they texted. Having never felt my phone vibrate, I assumed it was a fool’s errand, but there it was! One message waiting! Could it be! Yes!!!

    Our room was ready! Number 544. But where was it exactly? Which tower? The message didn’t say, so we headed off towards the Ewa Tower. Eventually running into a CM, we asked and guess what? We guessed wrong. We were in the Waianae Tower. So, we turned around and marched across the way, finding the elevators and heading up to the fifth floor. Now, I will mention here that we booked a standard room with an Island Gardens view. When I attempted to complete the online checkin the week prior, I ran into issues with the website, so I ended up calling the resort to complete it. While talking to the CM, when it came to a room request, I simply asked for something with a nice view. I also added that it was our first time at Aulani and our daughter’s first time to the Islands. I hoped for something nice, but was blown away by what we got!

    As we walked towards our room through the corridors, I quickly realized that the even numbered rooms were on the inside of the resort. Was it possible? Did they give us an upgrade? I dare not speak a word of what I was thinking as we approached. Our daughter excitedly demanded that she be allowed to insert the key card, which we happily obliged. We opened the door and I immediately looked straight out into the space, through the glass doors leading to the balcony. I could see the other tower! I COULD SEE THE OTHER TOWER! Keeping my cool, I walked over to the balcony door, slid it open and stepped outside. The view was sublime. Yeah, we could see the ocean; a little bit of it off to the right, but still WE COULD SEE THE OCEAN!!!! I called the ladies over to check it out. “What do you think? Not bad, eh?” We all hugged. We were here and this was our view:

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    We scheduled an early (4:45pm) dinner at Makahiki tonight since our stomachs were still essentially three hours ahead. Arriving a few minutes early, the space in front of and around the greeting desk was rather disorderly with excited guests of all ages rushing around and CMs trying to manage them. Finally, one of the CMs admirably took control and got everyone in line, putting together a stantion area near the base of the stairs leading up to the main (second) level of the resort. Group by group, we were granted exit from the stantion area, across the front of the stairs, and into a second queue for pictures with Donald Duck! The mantra here is patience folks. You are on vacation, right? So, take it easy, yeah? I say this because we frequently found ourselves behind large groups, especially during photo opportunities. Yes, they took the standard full group shots, but they also wanted several individual shots with a variety of singles and pairs. It was totally fine, but it did take some time. Eventually, it was our turn to meet the Duck and snap our pics.

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    Escorted to our table after a quick introduction to the buffet options, we found ourselves seated in the exterior section of the restaurant, which was perfect because it was cooler out there and offered a wonderful soft breeze at that time. A couple adult beverages and a specialty drink ordered, we hit the buffet for round 1. The offerings were excellent, especially the more Japanese focused items. I very much enjoyed the sushi section, while my wife loved that night’s fish entrée. Of course my daughter and I hit the prime rib carvery station, which was very tasty, but I always wish they cut thicker slices; I suppose I could ask them to, but I never think to at the time. The desserts were plentiful and wonderful too. Overall, it was a very nice dining experience. But then, you don’t come here just for the food:

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    Being a character meal, our table was visited by Stitch and Chip and Dale. “Uncle” also walked around the tables playing his ukulele, singing songs and leading the younger kiddos in parades (yeah, our kiddo preferred to observe rather than march…no surprise there).

    Well fed and back up in our room, being that it was still so early and the stargazing event wasn’t for several hours, we changed into our swim suits and went down for our first of many visits to the lazy river. But first, we had to get our daily swim wristband!

    After about an hour or so of playing and lounging in the lazy river, we returned to the room to freshen up. A word about that tub and shower. Unless you have long legs, the tub requires the use of a small trampoline or rope to climb in. While wonderfully tall for bathing and soaking, getting into that darn thing required a certain level of yoga flexibility. Secondly, the overhead shower head! Oh my god, that thing was so wonderful! You know what they say, once you go ceiling mounted, you never go back. Sadly, we did go back (home) eventually and now I weep quietly, fondly remembering our Aulani shower each time I take my morning shower. OK, I am being overly dramatic, but it was a fabulous shower!

    Just before 9pm, we reported to the Pau Hana Room for the stargazing event. Since I didn’t have our room number at the time I signed up, I made the point of checking in and getting the payment squared away. Yeah, this was one of the Premium experiences that came with an extra charge. Admittedly, it was a tad pricey, but in the end we loved it and felt that it was well worth it.

    Once everyone was checked in, the entire group was escorted outside to a designated space between the fire pit and the infinity pool. There, we found our instructor with two telescopes set up, as well as a good number of seats along the entire perimeter of the space. Once settled, he introduced himself, talked about the equipment he brought, and detailed what we were about to see. For lack of a better word, it was stellar! Saturn (we could see the rings!), Mars, Jupiter, and different types of star clusters were made visible between the two scopes as we took turns looking through each for about an hour or so.

    Finally back in our room, we shut down after a very long day. While my wife and daughter chilled inside the room, I grabbed a seat on the balcony, soaking in the sounds of the entertainment from the Oleo Room. Honestly, it couldn’t get much better than this.

    More to come! Six nights at Aulani, one day exploring some of Oahu, and then a week on the Big Island just before Hurricane Lane. Care to come along for the ride?!
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
  2. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

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    Day 2 – Aulani & Monkeypod Kitchen

    As mentioned at the end of the Day 1 saga, our vacation was essentially planned in two parts: Aulani & the Big Island. For the most part, the Aulani portion was intended to be more relaxed, more chill, and lots of swimming in the pools, lazy river, and lagoon! The Big Island was where we planned more of the exciting activities.

    Day 2 started with breakfast at Ama Ama. Kind of hard to beat this view, huh?

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    The experience was practically perfect in every way. I ordered the amazingly delicious loco moco with an over-hard fried egg:

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    My wife, on the other hand, ordered the famous buttermilk pancakes with macadamia nut-vanilla sauce:

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    And our daughter adored her cereal-crusted French toast with a side of Portuguese sausage:

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    Following breakfast, we meandered a bit to allow for proper digestion and then it was time to get wet!!!!

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    We spent all day long hopping between the lazy river and the two pools. Our daughter absolutely fell in love with the infinity pool, as did we all.

    When we did step out of the water for a bit, lunch was had at Off the Hook, where we split a kalua pork quesadilla, kalua pork tacos, and some furikake French fries with wasabi kewpie mayonnaise. All of it was fabulous!

    Later in the day, we needed a treat, so what else would we get:

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    I cannot tell you how many mouse ears we saw fall off people’s shave ice as they tried to get pictures. Take them quickly, folks! I consider ourselves lucky that we got this shot! Oh, and do yourself a favor if you get one of these beauties...add the condensed milk on top...extra sweetness and a creamy texture that goes elegantly with the shaved ice crystals.

    Dinner tonight was planned at Monkeypod Kitchen, across the way in the Ko Olina Center. We headed over around 4pm to walk around and check out what all was over there. This particular late afternoon, it was really hot. The direct sunlight beat down on us as we walked over and around. We quickly checked out the shops on the left side of the center, spending a little time in a particularly nice shop with Hawaiian made items in it. Crossing over to the other side, we spent a good amount of time in the ABC Store as there is so much to take in there, ultimately buying a few small things.

    Eventually, our reservation time arrived and we checked in at Monkeypod Kitchen. Initially, the hostess attempted to seat us on the exterior patio, at an uncovered table. Um, no. Did I mention how hot it was?! Declining that table, she brought us back inside and sat us at a table on the first floor along the window. This one was better, but unfortunately, the sun was beaming directly into my face and there were no blinds to bring down. I figured that I could deal with it by simply wearing my sunglasses, but a server noticed my uncomfortable situation and offered us another nearby table, one out of the direct path of the sunlight. It was much better.

    Service was great and the food was tasty. I had the Big Island Cheese Burger, my wife the Fresh Island Fish Sandwich, and our daughter the Proletariat pizza sans olives. It was all good, not great, but good. You may have noticed that so far I have not mentioned price and value when speaking of meals thus far. There is a reason for that. It’s all too darn expensive! We knew that going in and figured that it was just part of the experience we would just accept. We wanted quality and for the most part we got that. Could we have dined less expensively? Sure, but within reason we chose not to let that be our guide this trip. And that’s all I am going to say about that.

    Back at Aulani, we decided to have a little dessert at Ulu before returning to the pools and lazy river for the remainder of the evening and eventually calling it a night. Two words...Lilikoi Cheesecake!
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
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  4. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

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    Day 3 – Upper Verandah & Ka Wa’a Luau

    For today, we had reserved the Ama Ama upper veranda with plans of enjoying the beautiful lagoon.

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    We checked in at Rainbow Reef at 8am, officially paid for the reservation, and were then escorted to the space with a handful of towels. The private location came with two casabellas, covered two-seat loungers that sat between Ama Ama to the rear and the lower veranda just in front.

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    Unbeknownst to us at the time, it also sat right next to an active construction zone for the next door wedding pavilion. Still, the view was awesome:

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    Breakfast was take out from Ulu. While I lounged in a casabella, my wife and daughter popped over to grab a few things, namely pineapple coconut yogurt, some fresh cut fruit, and an amazing pastry called a Caramel Pillow (we think...something like that). Once they returned it was my turn and I came back with my own Caramel Pillow and a scrambled egg and Portuguese sausage flatbread. A word on ordering hot items at Ulu...these items are purchased by grabbing a colored ticket from a basket in front of the service counter. Take the ticket to the cashier and pay for it, whereby your order is automatically forwarded to the back kitchen for manufacturing. As instructed, grab a seat outside and wait for a CM to come out calling your name with your hot items in hand. Yes, depending on how busy the restaurant is, it can take a little while for your hot food to come out. Now, back to what I ordered...the Caramel Pillow was warm, fresh, and so incredibly good! The breakfast flatbread not so much. I was rather disappointed by it honestly. The scrambled eggs were bland and small and frequently fell off of the piece of dough as I tried to lift it up to bite. Plus, it was really too much for one person...better for two or three to share. Truth be told, I wish I had grabbed two more Caramel Pillows instead. They also had malasadas that morning, but my wife and I both felt that they were too small and too expensive.

    Back to the veranda...as it turned out, we ended up in this area all by ourselves. A woman arrived and set herself up in the lower veranda around 9am, while my wife and daughter were enjoying the water and I was lounging in a casabella. Within a few minutes, reacting to the sometimes loud and raucous construction sounds to our left, she turned to look at me and said, “Can you believe this?!” I just shrugged and said, “Yeah, it’s a bit annoying at times.” Well, apparently she decided that it was not something that she and her family wanted to deal with, so she paged her attendant and off they went, never to be seen by us again that day. We think that she may have moved over to one of the poolside cabanas because we walked by the Executive Ama Ama Lanai later that afternoon and it was definitely not her group there.

    So, yeah, the construction noise was irritating when we were trying to relax on the veranda. We enjoyed a nice break from the noise, and the occasional profanity from the construction workers (which our daughter got a good chuckle over), during their lunch break. I asked our food and drink attendant if earplugs were available, but she apologized that they were not.

    Escaping out into the lagoon was our best option and it was sublime. While my wife had a fabulous time swimming and diving down under the water, our daughter loved playing in the sand by the water’s edge. I, on the other hand, simply enjoyed swimming out with one of the free boogie boards we borrowed from Makiki Joe’s, turning back and admiring this view:

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    Lunch was enjoyed in our casabellas. We ordered from the same bar menu offered the day before at Off the Hook. This time we decided to share the salt and pepper calamari sticks and chicken tenders with a side of fruit. The calamari sticks and their coconut-curry dip were the hit of the meal by far! So ono!

    Since we had tickets to the luau tonight, we packed up and left the veranda around 3:30pm, heading up to our room to shower and get dressed for the dinner show. I volunteered to return the two boogie boards to Makiki Joe’s while the ladies went ahead. Walking back on my own, I decided to stop by the front desk to comment about our experience with the nearby construction. The CM listened thoughtfully and took some notes as I spoke. I didn’t ask for anything because we still enjoyed the day for the most part, but I did feel that it would have been appropriate for them to notify us about the construction noise ahead of time, especially given that I received two emails and a phone call the week and the day prior to our reservation affirming our plans. She apologized for the inconveniences and told me that a manager would be following up with me. I thanked her for her time and headed upstairs.

    At 5pm, we headed downstairs to checkin for our VIP luau experience. The enhanced tickets granted us early access to the area and the pre-show activities, as well as better souvenir leis, closer seating, priority access to the buffet, and all the drinks we cared to enjoy, including adult beverages (for my wife and I of course). We very much liked the leis; while mine was a mixture of kukui nuts and small snail shells, my wife and daughter both received leis made entirely out of the beautiful yellow snail shells:

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    Entering the space, we quickly checked in and received our red Ka Wa’a wristbands. After a picture with two show cast members and receipt of our first pre-prepared drinks (go to the bar if you want better drinks), we were shown to our table and seats:

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    A wonderful quartet of musicians played and sang beautiful Hawaiian tunes while up on the main stage. It was a perfect accompaniment as we walked around and participated in some of the activities. We strummed ukuleles, made decorative cards using stamps, and my daughter and wife got beautiful wrist flowers and temporary tattoos:

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    A short pre-show, as opposed to the quartet, began after a while with dancers and special guests, Moana, Mickey, and Minnie; this was it for the Disney character involvement in the luau. Once completed, it was time to eat! The process was managed flawlessly. Tables were informed in an orderly manner when the guests could make their way back to the buffet tables, duplicated in two sides of the rear lawn (it was actually turf grass). The food was outstanding! Seriously, it was outstanding!! The selections were many and the quality was all excellent. My personal favorite was the whole roasted pig with adjacent bao buns and hoisin sauce. I went back two more times for this stuff!

    As for the show itself…magical. It was simply spectacular. My family and I have twice sat through the luau at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World and that one, if I’m honest, pales in comparison to Aulani’s. Great performers, wonderful music, good pace and length, and a perfect storyline tying it all together. Oh, and of course it had the fire dancers at the end! You got to have that and they were fantastic! Overall, this was a splendid experience.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  5. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

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    Joining in! This by far as been the best most detailed Aulani TR I've read in awhile! Love all the details you included which really helps others in knowing what to expect (and maybe not expect) at Aulani. The view from the lagoon looking back at the resort was amazing! Can't wait to read more!
     
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  6. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

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    Mahalo! It was an amazing trip and I have lots to share! You liked the picture of the resort from the lagoon...just wait until you see the sunset images on our last night!
     
  7. alohamom

    alohamom DIS Veteran

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    Wonderful so far, cant wait for more!!!

    Oh man, that Lilikoi Cheesecake is sooo amazing. My daughter and I LOVE it!

    The photo of you and your family at the luau is so nice, what a great remembrance of your trip.
     
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  8. Kitzka

    Kitzka DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much for the detailed trip report. I can’t wait to read more!!
     
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  9. eagle29

    eagle29 Mouseketeer

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    Great report so far!! I will be there for 5 nights next April and love the details...keep in coming!!!
     
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  10. wishiwasindisneyjen

    wishiwasindisneyjen Earning My Ears

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    Absolutely loving your report, can't wait for more. :lovestruc
     
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  11. Dizney73

    Dizney73 DIS Veteran

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    Can't wait to read more! Loving your report!
     
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  12. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

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    Day 4 – Driving Around Oahu (this is a long one)

    The plan for the day…explore Oahu! Many months prior, I reserved a rental car from the Alamo location at Aulani through Costco Travel. The nice thing was that there was no pre-payment or credit card hold necessary to do so, allowing me to monitor the pricing as our trip neared and cancel and reset if the price dropped (I’ve done this with previous trips elsewhere with much success). In this instance, the price stayed the same the entire time, so no tweaking was ever necessary.

    Also many months prior, I posted on these very DIS Boards a post detailing our thoughts about what to see and do this day, asking for opinions of our initial plan. The response was pretty brutal. We were nuts! Fools they said! OK, no one actually called us names, but overall the sentiment was that we would be victims of awful, horrible traffic in and around Honolulu, that we were spreading ourselves too thin and couldn’t possibly see and enjoy everything that we were thinking about. As a recap, here is exactly what we were thinking at the time:
    • Getting up early and picking up the rental car from the onsite Alamo at 7am-ish
    • Liliha Bakery for breakfast
    • Byodo-In Temple
    • Dole Plantation (yeah, it's a cheesy tourist trap, but it's fun!)
    • Up to Haleiwa for a small lunch and shave ice at Matsumoto's (ok, the shave ice is the real lunch)
    • Laniakea (Turtle) Beach
    • Drive back down south for dinner at La Mariana Sailing Club (need my tiki bar/restaurant fix)
    • Swing by Leonard's for malasadas for dessert...and few extra for breakfast back at the resort the next morning
    • Gas up to car at the Kapolei Costco and then return to Aulani
    And here is ultimately what we did:
    • Get up early and pick up the rental car from the onsite Alamo at 7am-ish
    • Quick stop at Nisshodo Candy Store in Honolulu for some sweet treats
    • Liliha Bakery for breakfast
    • Byodo-In Temple
    • Dole Plantation (yeah, it’s a cheesy tourist trap, but it’s fun!)
    • Up to Haleiwa for lunch from a shrimp truck and then shave ice at Matsumoto’s (nope, the shave ice was not the real lunch…the shrimp was AMAZING…more on that…)
    • Laniakea (Turtle) Beach
    • Drive back down south for a drink and snack at La Mariana Sailing Club (need by tiki bar/restaurant fix)
    • Swing by Leonard’s food truck in Waipahu for malasadas (they never made it to breakfast the next morning)
    • Gas up the car at the Kapolei Costco and then return to Aulani
    How did we do? Perfect! In fact, we got back early!

    I got up and out of the room first so that I could be at the Alamo service desk, located on the back side of the Ewa tower, main floor, out by the convention area, when they opened. I arrived just before 7am and there was only one person waiting ahead of me. The Alamo staff member arrived soon afterwards and opened the outer doors, welcoming us both. Quickly taking care of the woman in front of me, he called me up and got us all taken care of, directing me to the nearby elevator to take down to the rental car level. Since my wife and daughter had not yet arrived, I had to wait for a few minutes, but once they showed up we hustled by the half a dozen or so smokers that suddenly appeared (one of their hideaways since they cannot smoke inside Aulani proper) and jumped into the elevator. As we stepped out, we saw our car pulled out and waiting for us with an attendant ready to get us on our way. Finishing up the paperwork, we confirmed that we could return it to the Aulani valet upon our return and we were off!

    OK, let’s discuss the first warning that we received from the DIS Boards members…morning traffic into and around Honolulu! “It will be horrible!” “You will just sit there and waste precious time!” “Slower than a snail moving through glue!” OK, I made that last one up, but you get the gist. Folks, it was truly nothing. Now, keep in mind, we live in San Diego. Rush hour traffic in the morning and afternoon here truly stinks. It is not up to the levels of Los Angeles area commuter traffic (which we have experienced on a few occasions) yet, but San Diego is constantly growing and it is getting worse. The traffic that we encountered driving from Ko Olina into Honolulu this morning was pleasant. Yes, there were many other cars on the roads and highways, but comparatively it was easily manageable and frankly quite amusing for us as we had been told that it was going to be so horrific. I guess it really depends on what you are used to or maybe we were just lucky, who knows?

    Our first stop of the day was Nisshodo Candy Store. Located west of Honolulu in the eastern part of the Kalihi Palama area, it proved to be a bit of a challenge to locate, as it is nestled behind a strip mall on Dillingham Boulevard. In fact, when you drive behind the front-facing businesses, those operating in the back look to be using space partitioned within massive, plain-front industrial buildings. We found Nisshodo and entered to this beautiful display:

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    Being quite the fans of Japanese sweets, we immediately started drooling (a common occurrence throughout the day we found) as we perused their colorful offerings. Mochi and manju, rice-flour pastries filled with sweet bean, of several different flavors, as well as their famous Chichi Dango, melt in your mouth sweet rice-flour candies, begged us to buy, buy, buy! It was so hard to choose, but in the end we got a box of Chichi Dango and second box of six (two each) mochi of various types; these didn’t last the day.

    Next, breakfast at the famous Liliha Bakery! 5 minutes away! This is why you plan ahead folks! Two quick right turns, a left, and then one more left into the parking lot! Behold the goodness:

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    Liliha’s claim to fame are their puffs and, boy, did they live up to the hype! This particular Liliha location (there are two; this one is on Nimitz) included a sizeable coffee shop with the bakery section in front. We decided to take our goodies to go, as my wife and I both ordered a pair of puffs and our daughter a couple more savory items. Climbing back into our car, we proceeded to dig in. My Coco and Chocolate Cream puffs were divine, while my wife loved her Coco and Green Tea puffs. They were crunchy, flaky, and oozed with goodness as their fillings poured out a little at time with each bite. Our daughter, unusually quiet in the back seat, devoured her “pizza” pastry, saying that it was the best she had ever had. I apologize that I didn’t take any pictures of these things. They were just gone too darn fast!

    Fed and very happy, we then hit the road to the Byodo-In Temple, northeast of Honolulu. The drive was so nice, as we left the city and town area, and entered almost immediately into vistas of green mountains, even driving through a long tunnel cut through the base of one (I love tunnels!). So taken by the beautiful scenery, we were stunned by how seemingly quickly we arrived at the temple location. Located in the back of the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park, Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple that welcomes people of all faiths to worship, meditate, or simply appreciate its beauty. Parking is available near the temple area and there is small entrance fee per person, cash only.

    Two words…beautiful serenity.

    Since it was still fairly early in the morning, there were only a handful of people here visiting. While there was space in the parking lot for tour buses, there was not a single one here yet. As a result, it was a very calm, quiet, and peaceful visit. Walking across a bridge, you see the main building in the distance. Off to the left is the Bon-sho, the sacred bell, which is customarily rung before one enters the temple. Ringing the bell purifies the mind of evil spirits and temptation, as well as bringing happiness, blessings, and long life. We each took a turn. The tone was so pleasant, deep, and soothing.

    Before entering the temple itself, we walked up a small hill up to the left to the Meditation Pavilion. We paused to look back down on the area and then I started feeling things on my leg, little things, particularly of the mosquito variety. Looking around, I noticed a couple other folks slapping down at their legs. Along the path leading up to the pavilion was a small river, leading to the larger pond in front of the temple. Honestly, I didn’t see anything on my leg, but I pulled out a bug repellent wipe from our backpack and covered exposed areas. This was honestly the first time on Oahu that I had this need. Mosquitos were never an issue over at Aulani.

    Walking towards the main temple, we noticed the requirement to remove ones shoes before entering. We did so, leaving them with others on the floor, and then passed into the large room with the Amida Buddha.

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    There was an older gentleman seated near it quietly enthralling two tourists with some stories about the temple, as well as a table just off to the right where visitors could light and leave incense. We respectfully admired the statue for a few minutes, then retrieved our shoes and walked around the front of the building, over to the gift shop and restrooms. My wife and daughter found a few things to their liking in the shop and we also bought some food for the koi in the ponds. As we meandered along the pathway back towards the bridge and parking lot, we fed the fish and kept a keen eye out for droppings from any of the many feral cats that called this place home.

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    Back in the car, we made our way down out of the mountains and headed northwest to the Dole Plantation. Fairly busy by the time we arrived, the paved sections of the parking lot was full, but we managed to nab a spot at the beginning of the dirt section down by the Pineapple Garden Maze. Honestly, we spent most of our time here in the main building shops. Aside from the all of the Dole Plantation fruit, candies, and merchandise, we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice variety of independent retailers selling their wares around the edges of the space. We ended up buying some treats to bring back to friends and co-workers, as well as a couple nice gifts for our moms, and a couple souvenirs for ourselves. And of course, I just had to hit the Dole food and drink area to get a Dole Whip Float in a collectible plastic pineapple mug!

    Stepping outside the rear of the store, we paused for a few pictures (this being one below), checked out the pineapple varietals garden, and the koi pond. We gave a little thought to riding the train, but the queue was 45 minutes long and we were happy with the views we could get from where we were.

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    Satisfied with our pineapple quality time, we headed north towards the famed North Shore, stopping in the town of Haleiwa. It was lunch time and the Big Wave Shrimp Truck was our target. Perhaps not quite as famous as Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in the area, we chose Big Wave because of many positive social media reviews, as well as a segment on an old episode of Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Pulling into the unpaved space adjacent to the truck, we managed to find a spot back behind it, where we saw several other food trucks parked. We arrived at the perfect time, able to walk right up and place our order before another family and group of about ten Army soldiers arrived to get their lunch.

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    We settled down at a picnic table in front of the truck and were quickly called to claim our two plates:

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    Knowing that we had shave ice plans next, we decided to get two plate lunches to share, the garlic shrimp and the short ribs. Both came with rice and pineapple slices. Friends, there are no words to properly describe how good these things were…all of it! It was an absolute pleasure peeling the shells off of each succulent shrimp because I knew that my fingers (and the front of my shirt unfortunately) would be covered with the garlic buttery goodness. The short ribs were perfectly cooked, just chewy enough, but not too much, and full of savory flavor. And the pineapple! Oh my, that pineapple! Sweet perfection!

    Finishing lunch, my wife noticed a shop right across the street that sold soaps. As she had been dying to take a nice soak in the tub in our room at Aulani, this was the perfect opportunity to grab a bath bomb or two. I wish I remembered the name of the place, but it was fabulous. More than just bath bombs, they had amazingly scented soaps with sponges inside them; of course we ended up with a few of these as well. Circling back to Aulani and their shops…with such nice showers and tubs in their guest rooms, we were really surprised that they didn’t sell nicer bath products (likewise in the shops across the way) on property.

    A five minute drive up the road and we found ourselves getting lucky with a quick parking spot in the lot behind Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. This place is a landmark. While personally not my favorite shave ice during our entire trip (we will get to that later), it certainly put the one at Aulani to shame. When we arrived, there was nearly no line, which again proved to be very lucky, as a tour bus arrived soon after we stepped outside with our selections; these are my wife’s and daughter’s:

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    We grabbed a seat on a bench outside and thoroughly enjoyed. Finishing mine first, I went back into the adjoining gift shop and picked up something that has been on my souvenir bucket list for many, many years…a tie-dye t-shirt. What better place to get such a multi-chromatic piece of clothing that at a shave ice place?! Its bright colors perfectly reflect those of the rainbow that one can get on their wonderful products. I was so happy!

    Ready to remove ourselves from the suddenly over-crowded seating area (thanks tour bus, grrr), we jumped back into the car and again headed north up to Laniakea Beach. Now, if I were to say that we hit any actual traffic during this day, this would be it. The northeast heading 83, called a highway, is a two lane road and the closer we got to Laniakea Beach, the more bumper to bumper things got. Parking is where you can find it along the side of the road. For lack of a better term, it’s just plain nuts. Thankfully, people are coming and going here, so we were able to find a spot pretty quickly on the right side.

    Crossing the street was a bit of a challenge; you need to be very careful and watch both ways as there was no crosswalk that we could see. Thankfully, folks are nice and stopped for us. Climbing down to the beach through some trees, we arrived at this beautiful location.

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    Known also as “Turtle” Beach, this place is widely known as a place to see sea turtles both on the sand and in the water. It certainly lived up to its name, though in limited quantity. This fellow decided to take a little nap on the beach:

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    And while we walked down the beach towards the west, we noticed two or three turtles in the surf.

    After about fifteen minutes or so of soaking in the sites, we returned to our car, had a little adventure pulling out and turning around, and then started the oh so long (I am being sarcastic) trek to La Mariana in Honolulu.

    You see, me, I love tiki culture. I know that it’s not true Hawaii, that it is kitsch, but I like it. I love tiki drinks and I love to collect tiki mugs. During our trip to the Islands, I really hoped to find something tiki related and while planning our trip I was surprised how few tiki places there were in the Islands, but thinking about it more and more, it really isn’t that surprising. On Oahu, the place to go for tiki is La Mariana Sailing Club. Fairly well hidden, it was slightly challenging to find, but we eventually succeeded.

    Before reaching the entrance to the bar and restaurant area, we stopped in their small gift shop. I could hear the tiki gods singing (sort of like angels) as I perused the various mugs they had for sale. Prices ranged from $30 up to $150, the latter being two custom mugs in the form of the Kakamora, remember the coconut pirates from Moana. Oh my, my tiki and Disney worlds were crashing together?! But, $150 was too rich for me. The really sweet staff member told us about the various mugs they had available and their quantity. Eventually, I made my selection and it turned out that it was one of the ones currently being offered in the restaurant. Why was that important? If I bought it in the restaurant, I could get a drink in it for $5! Sold! So, we made our way into this wonderful tropical oasis:

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    Being that it was a weekday afternoon, it was virtually empty. We were greeted and seated immediately and after quickly reviewing the menu options, I hopped up and walked around snapping pictures. I ended up ordering my go to run concoction, a Zombie. The ladies ordered a couple non-alcoholic beverages and missing home (just a little) we got some chips and salsa. As chips and salsa go, it was quite good. The chips were hot and freshly made and the salsa was decent enough. But, my Zombie! Wow! There were some powerful spirits swimming around in that mug let me tell you. I mean, I am not a small fellow, and we had lunch, shave ice, plus now the chips and salsa, but half way through that drink I looked at the my wife and said, “You are driving.” In fact, I couldn’t even finish the darn thing. When our server took the mug away to clean it out and wrap it up, she noticed that there was some goodness left within and asked me if I wanted to finish it. I just couldn’t, even though it tasted so good.

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    So, how best to counteract a super-buzz from a super tiki drink in Hawaii? Why fresh malasadas of course! Jumping back in the car, we hit the H1 westbound, making our way to a mall parking lot in Waipahu. Back by the Lowe’s Home Improvement sat three or four food trucks and one of them was from the famed Leonard’s bakery!

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    Again, we scored with the small number of customers, walked right up to the order window, placed our order, and awaited the goodness…this goodness:

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    My gosh these were good! Wait, not good, great! Hot, soft, mildly crunchy on the outside and almost gooey in the middle. We ordered three coated with sugar and cinnamon and three coated with Li Hing Mui (dried plum) powder. Amazing! Three of these beauties didn’t make it back to the car, the other three were devoured as we got gas at the fairly nearby Costco.

    The rental car now all gassed up, we returned to Aulani after a wonderful full day. We pulled up front, returned the vehicle to the valet (make sure that you tell them it is an Alamo rental return!), and headed back up to our room. So, now what? It was only the early evening. Well, my wife very much wanted to try out one of her new bath bombs. Our daughter wanted to swim. And me, I just wanted to chill out.

    Inevitably, we ended up all heading down to the pool area as the sun was setting. Wanting some semblance of a dinner, I grabbed a table by Off the Hook, while my wife popped into Ulu to grab a caprese salad, and our daughter plunged into the pool. During our previous two Off the Hook experiences, I had been eying the Harris Ranch Angus Burger and tonight I would finally give it a try (sans the tomato of course because raw tomatoes are yucky); to be good though, I swapped the fries for a green salad. My wife eventually joined me with her salad, which she liked very much, and I could not have been happier with my burger.

    As my wife returned to our room to enjoy the tub, I moseyed over to the pool lounge chairs and set up shop while our little fish swam and hit the slides. I promised my wife at least 45 minutes of peace before we would return to the room, so what better place than this to lean back and relax. After several minutes, my phone started vibrating with an 808 number. Since it was local, I answered and found myself speaking to an Aulani manager about our earlier issues with the upper veranda and construction noise. We chatted for several minutes, my goal being to communicate my opinion that better communication from their end would have been nice for their customers, not just me, but going forward as well. I never asked for anything, but in the end the manager thanked me for my time, apologized for the inconveniences we experienced (isn’t “inconveniences” the code word for problems in the hospitality industry?), and offered me a $100 room credit. I thanked her sincerely for the credit, which was a very nice gesture on her part, and we ended the call. As the promised 45 minutes came to an end, and I was getting tired, I summoned our daughter from the pool and we made our way up to the room, where my wife was happily relaxing in a post-bath glow. It has been a good day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
  13. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    222
    Day 5 – Our Final Full Day at Aulani

    Originally, the plan for this morning was to have extra malasadas from Leonard’s for breakfast. Well, they didn’t make it past the Costco gas fill-up the day before (which I wisely assumed might happen), so just in case I booked one more breakfast at Ama Ama for 9am. Seated once again with a wonderful view of the beach and lagoon, we debated about repeating our earlier orders or trying something different. We chose the latter and lived to somewhat regret it.

    While our daughter tried the Classic Flavors “Gift of Bread” with cinnamon rolls, apple danish, and apple muffins, along with a side of pineapple, both my wife and I went with the two-eggs any style with Aulani Potatoes and Portuguese sausage. First the good, the bread service, pineapple, and the sausage were all great! The Aulani Potatoes were nothing special, chunked and fried with onions and peppers; standard stuff really. But the worst, the absolute worst, we the scrambled eggs that we both ordered. Very similar to what I experienced on my breakfast flatbread from Ulu days before, these eggs were flat, small, and every so bland. I generally have a rule when traveling to resorts or hitting buffets…avoid the scrambled eggs. They tend to be made with an egg mixture, not fresh eggs, and the results are always the same, flavorless and flat. I decided to take a chance here at Ama Ama because it is their prime dining location; they had to do them good, right?! Wrong. Both my wife and I were disappointed with our scrambled eggs. We ate them to get the protein, but we were not happy. As the meal ended, I told them to go ahead up to the room to change for swimming while I paid the bill. When our server came to claim the check and our room card, he asked how everything was and I told him honestly that everything was good except for the eggs. He apologized and stated that they were cooked with butter. Huh, I thought to myself. I cook scrambled eggs with butter every time and that has no bearing on their fluffiness, and as far as flavor it usually enhances it. Weird. Anyway, he kindly offered to comp the sliced pineapple that our daughter ordered, which I appreciatively accepted.

    OK, time to hit the water again! While my wife returned to the lagoon, our daughter and I moved between the two pools and the lazy river. And it was in the infinity pool that she pointed out something that I had not noticed during our previous swims…there are wall-mounted speakers here that play sounds of marine animals under the water. We must have spent an hour swimming back and forth, from speaker to speaker, dunking our heads under the water to hear and identify the noises. It turned out to be a fun little game!

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    (Taken from under the water looking up at the tower)

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    By around noon-ish, my wife had rejoined us in the pools and it was time for me to head up to the room to shower and change for my appointment with DVC. Positioned throughout the resort, DVC representatives are there to coax you into visiting their model rooms and sit down to listen to their presentation. One day earlier in the week, while I was up in the main lobby taking some pictures, one of them struck up a conversation with me. Over the next few days, we frequently walked by this person and she would greet us, politely asking if we wanted to check out what DVC had to offer. We would amiably chat, but always chose to go about our business. That changed when during one little quick chat, she offered me a $100 room credit. All I had to do was sit, listen, and chat; no strings attached. After discussing it with my wife, I agreed to do it and set up the appointment for this afternoon. Truth is, we have always been somewhat interested in the program, even sitting through a group session during our Disney cruise to Alaska in 2013, so we figured why not get the current numbers…especially if we’d get a nice room credit out of it.

    Cleaned up nicely, I arrived at their suite on the second floor of our tower. I checked in and was quickly ushered into a meeting room with a very nice man, named Dennan. We had a very nice conversation and an informative session that lasted about an hour or so. There was no high pressure tactics, just a friendly sharing of information. I left with documents of the cost breakdown and then found my wife and daughter sitting down for lunch at a table out near Ulu.

    Did we buy? Nah, but it certainly gave us something to discuss as a family. Ultimately, we agreed that if we decide to join the program, buying into a property in Disney World makes more sense for us, with Aulani being a somewhat close second. It very well might happen someday.

    Being lunch time, I popped into Ulu and grabbed two more of the Mickey Spam Masubi. The ladies, since we were actually seated in the nearby adult bar area, ordered a couple things from the server, who turned out to be the same awesome attendant we had during our upper veranda day! Back into the water for some final dips and then we returned to the room to get ready for dinner at Ama Ama.

    We arrived at Ama Ama just before our 5pm reservation. A family of four was trying to adjust their reservation time, which isn’t of any interest here, but what I did note and will mention was that the CM made a point of reminding the father of the restaurant’s dress code. Regarding the code, the policy is clearly posted, but we observed it to be somewhat loosely enforced.

    Our table was off in the southern section of the restaurant, down towards the verandas. I much preferred where we sat for our two breakfast meals, but the view was still very nice from here. Our daughter, reviewing the menu, was feeling very uneasy, fearing that there was nothing on it that she would enjoy. She wondered if she could order from the kids menu, but with that being limited to a max age of 9 and her being 12, I didn’t think that they would let her. Maybe they would, but we never asked. I pointed her to the steaks. She loves steak, but when she saw the prices, she fell victim to sticker shock. She felt bad paying that much for her dinner, but we reminded her that we were on vacation and this was our last dinner at Aulani, so she should enjoy herself.

    In the end, she ordered a center cut filet, as did I, with a side of truffle mac and cheese and creamed corn. Similar to high end steakhouses, the sides are ordered separately from the entrée. My wife ordered that day’s “fish auction”, opah (no, it’s not a Greek fish), with the server recommended lomilomi tomato ogo butter enhancement.

    How was the meal? It was so good that I forgot to take pictures! The filets were so tender that you could have cut them with not a butter knife, but a knife made of butter! I joke, but they were insanely tender and flavorful. The cream corn, which I love, but my family hates, so I never get it at home, was fabulous…and all mine! The mac and cheese was good, not quite creamy enough for our liking, but still tasty. With the truffle oil, it proved to be a tad too different for our daughter’s palate, but she had several bites nonetheless. The fish, pure perfection, according to my wife. So, are you wondering if it was worth the price? Absolutely, whole-heartedly, yes!

    Dinner over and the sun near setting, I asked the ladies if we could walk out the point to watch the sunset. Believe it or not, this was our fifth night at Aulani and we had yet to watch a sunset. “The Point”, as I called it, is a short walk out to the left of the beach and lagoon as you face them. There is some open grass and several palm trees, along with a few large rocks to stand or sit upon. We arrived about 30 minutes before scheduled sunset (according to Accuweather on my phone) and just soaked it all in. Here are a couple pictures as 7pm approached:

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    I’ve always liked taking sunset pictures with something blocking the sun and creating an aura of sorts. OK, folks are you ready? My best and most favorite picture of our entire trip…behold:

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    I may print this one and frame it. :)

    With darkness finally arriving, it was now time to return to our room to pack for our departure from Aulani and our shift to the Big Island. One final visit to the gift shops just in case and of course we grabbed a few more things. In fact, I should mention, each morning we noticed that they put out a sort of sale rack of Alex & Ani bracelets. My wife had been eyeing one of them over the length of our visit and asked about it from the CM in the area that night. Sure enough, they had them off the floor in the back, so she retrieved it for my wife and we ended up getting it. Apparently, they don’t leave it out all day, so know to ask if you are interested.
     
  14. North of Mouse

    North of Mouse DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Messages:
    12,145
    A great Aulani trip report - the best, most interesting that I've ever followed from vacations there! Thanks, and glad y'all had a fabulous time!! :) You definitely kept me waiting for more - you will have such good memories for life!
     
    gregf71 likes this.
  15. gregf71

    gregf71 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    Messages:
    222
    Day 6 – Mahalo Aulani, Aloha Kona!

    We decided to end our Aulani visit the same way we started it…with a character meal at Makahiki! As our Hele Hele shuttle was not scheduled to pick us up for the airport until 11am, we figured that a 7:45am reservation suited us just fine.

    Similar to the other night, arriving groups were organized in a stanchion zone prior to getting the opportunity to take a pre-meal picture or pictures. Two differences today, the character of honor was now Mickey Mouse and the he was outside on the patio instead of inside. Just our luck, we had another larger group in front of us, which was fine, but it took a little longer as they wanted several secondary pictures. Eventually, it was our turn:

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    Once seated (almost got the same exact table as dinner), we took turns hitting the buffet. Yes, I avoided the scrambled eggs! Fool me once, fool me twice…not going down that path a third time! Instead, I visited the omelet station and while there they did use a pre-fabricated egg mixture, ultimately it came out tasty and somewhat fluffy…though all the bacon and onions didn’t hurt! The overall selections were breakfast buffet staples, but my favorite were these little beauties:

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    Red velvet Mickey waffles!

    With Mickey greeting guests up front, within the seating area we enjoyed visits from Minnie and Pluto. Where we had “Uncle” serenading us during the dinner, at breakfast we had “Aunty.” Having our room situated just above Makahiki the entire week, I can’t tell you how much I was done with Aunty’s Aloha song. Nice tune, but when you hear it every day, I mean EV-ER-Y day, one does get a tad bit sick of it.

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    Oh, did I forget to mention the wonderful POG juice?! Oh, and did I forget to mention how cool their Mickey emblazoned chopsticks are?! I had to take a pair home as a souvenir:

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    Our final Aulani meal consumed, we went to complete our daily trip ritual…claiming that day’s swim wristband. Collecting them over the length of our stay became a sort of rite of passage. We were certainly not planning to swim that day, but we just had to have that day’s different color band to complete our sets:

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    I wore these the entire time we were on the Big Island.

    Last thing to do was turn in our daughter’s Aunty’s Beach House wristband. Initially, she said that she would keep it as a souvenir ($13 or so charged to our room account if we chose to retain it), but having never spent a second there, she chose to return it.

    Heading back to the room, we stopped quickly by the front desk to get a final printout of our charges and credits. I forgot to mention that the previous evening I made a point to stop by to count our various Disney Gift Cards and Disney Visa Rewards points against our room charges. They took away a nice chunk having been saving them up for about a year, but we still did some good damage to the credit card.

    Around 10:45am, we said goodbye to our wonderful room and made the sad, slow trek out to the airport shuttle pickup area. One Hele Hele shuttle bus sat awaiting its passengers, of which we were three according to the driver. Fantastic, I thought, as we loaded our luggage into the back section and climbed in. However, unlike our arrival, this bus was not to be ours alone. In fact, we were awaiting two other families. The first family arrived soon afterwards and then we waited…and waited…and waited…and waited. Apparently, as we came to learn, the third family was waiting for the Bell Desk to claim and bring down their luggage. The driver kindly affirmed our departure times and assured us that we would make it without issue. Eventually, the third family and their luggage arrived and boarded. We were off! Mahalo Aulani, it was a very special visit and we will return.

    We arrived at the Honolulu airport during what I like to call the “crazy” hour. The place was crazy busy and the staff had their hands full trying to direct all of the would-be passengers in the right direction. We were flying on Hawaiian Airlines to Kona. After asking three different people, we found our way to a ticketing check-in station, then the luggage check-in station, and finally the outside line leading to the TSA security check. It could have been worse and we made it through into the terminal with plenty of time to hit the restroom and grab some beverages (and a sweet pineapple cup) from Starbucks before waiting for our flight.

    The flight was short and sweet; basically up and down. If you have ever flown from San Diego to Las Vegas, it was pretty much like that. Claiming our luggage, we grabbed the Hertz rental car shuttle and headed out to their lot. After a little uncomfortable chatting about possibly charging my wife as a second driver (they didn’t) and them trying to upcharge us to a 4x4 (that guy at the Aulani Alamo was so much nicer), we tetris’d (is that a word? You know what I mean) our luggage into the trunk and made our way to Costco.

    Loading up on a few provisions for some daily breakfasts, snacks, and a case of water, I was stoked to see that they sold apple bananas! If you have never had an apple banana, then you are missing out! They are so sweet and delicious!

    Our eventual destination was the Wyndham Mauna Loa Village, located in the southern area of Kailua-Kona. My dad and his wife gave us 7 nights here as part of their timeshare. It’s a little dated, but proved to be a very nice place to stay. We essentially had our own two level space, with the bedrooms on the 1st floor and the 2nd consisting of a full kitchen and a living area. Two patios outside the two bedrooms and a veranda on the upper level. This was our view:

    [​IMG]

    We spent the next few hours settling in and unpacking. Dinner tonight was at a place called Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill. We had a wonderful meal there. Great service and wonderful food. Do Guava BBQ Glazed Baby Back Ribs sound good to you? They did to me and they were amazing! My wife ordered that day's fresh fish special and our daughter had their burger. Both dishes pleased them highly. Dessert too was a real treat. Our daughter wanted the gelato, sourced from the epic Big Island gelateria Gysea Gelato (more on them later), but she couldn't decide between the more savory Kona coffee chocolate or the sweet guava and lilikoi, so our waiter very nicely brought her some of both. While liking both very much, to her genius, she quickly discovered that the blending of the two together created a taste that greatly surpassed them on their own. Imagine the best chocolate en-robed piece of fruit you have ever had, smashed and blended together and then chilled! My wife and I...we had this...

    [​IMG]

    It was their take on a brownie a la mode, made of macadamia nut and coconut. The brownie was warm, soft, and ooey-gooey, serving a perfect contrast to the cold creaminess of the ice cream and chocolate sauce drizzle. Our respective spoons sparred several times as we cleaned this plate!

    So, now I leave it to you dear readers. Shall I continue documenting our Hawaiian adventure for you here? These boards are for Disney-centric postings, of which this has been, but now we are definitely out of the Disney zone. We had five more days of adventure before Hurricane Lane cut our trip a little short. Do you want more?
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
  16. ErinF

    ErinF Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Messages:
    236
    Absolutely finish the report with your whole trip! I have loved reading your travel saga the past couple days. I must say you have a very detailed and engaging writing style, so it's been a great read! I think many people plan Aulani as part of a bigger Hawaiian vacation, so it's helpful (and fun) to hear about the rest of the trip. I know our family is planning our vacation for June 2019, with 3 nights at Aulani, 4 nights on Kauai, and 5 nights on Maui. Sadly we won't hit the Big Island this trip, but I'm still interested to hear your adventures. :-)
     
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  17. alohamom

    alohamom DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Messages:
    2,604
    WE WANT MORE, WE WANT MORE, WE WANT MORE (please)
     
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  18. Dizney73

    Dizney73 DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2007
    Messages:
    842
    Yes! Of course, you need to finish!
     
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  19. Wayland10

    Wayland10 Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2018
    Messages:
    81
    Please finish! I would love to do a trip like this!
     
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  20. Flossbolna

    Flossbolna Sea days are just so relaxing!

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2006
    Messages:
    12,183
    I am currently planning a trip to Hawaii and trying to decide which island to include besides Oahu. So, Inwouldmlove to read more about your adventures.
     
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  21. scrappydew

    scrappydew l wish I were at Aulani!

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2016
    Messages:
    254
    Absolutely more! What are you thinking?! :rotfl2:
     
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