Mom/daughter 5 night trip- first time to Hawaii/Aulani- all info welcome!


DIS Veteran
Feb 28, 2007
Hi all. :wave: Hawaii has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and DD (21 at the time of travel) is taking me to Hawaii/Aulani as a belated 50th birthday trip this January! :cloud9: I booked an Ocean View Studio this morning. She booked airline tickets 2 days ago. :hyper: We are traveling from LAX on Hawaiian Airlines.

We arrive on a Monday at 11 am and leave the following Saturday at 4 pm.

She is an explorer; traveled to Ireland and Italy over the past few months. I am not so much. :blush: I would be happy laying on the beach for the entire trip with a sweet frozen drink in hand.

We will be spending most of our short trip at the resort and beach but I know she also wants to explore some. I am thinking a 3/2 split; 3 resort/beach days and 2 days to explore. ::yes:: I wish we could stay longer.

With two days open to wander, what would you do/see? We are open to anything. She is a HUGE WWII buff so I am thinking we should visit Pearl Harbor. Is that a full day trip? Should we book through Disney?

With regard to Aulani specifically, should I request a specific villa? What are your must do's/eats? We are not picky eaters.

Should we rent a car and if so, from where? We will also need to get from the airport to Aulani.

I have been posting on the DIS for over a decade and I cannot believe I am FINALLY getting to post in the Aulani section. :woohoo:

Thank you for taking the time to read and post.


Jan 29, 2012
I missed the 1st wave of Pearl Harbor reservations online, but they have a 2nd wave the day before you want to go. They open it up at 7am. They are only $1 each to make the reservation. There are many different offers that cost way more, but I would stick with getting them online from the official website. Our entire family really enjoyed the tour even though we just got to see it from the boat. The museum was also super interesting. We spent about 2.5 hours there. It is close to the Dole Plantation. We rented a car at arrival using Costco for our entire time on Oahu. It was great that we did not have a parking fee at Aulani due to using rental points. A car is really needed to go anywhere outside of Aulani. Y'all will have an amazing trip!


DIS Veteran
Feb 13, 2014
I will be there in January as well. I am planning a Kualoa Ranch/Northshore day, a Pearl Harbor with Luau day, a day for Lanikai beach and Hanuma Bay and 3 resort days
  • nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Feb 11, 2009
    We will be spending most of our short trip at the resort and beach but I know she also wants to explore some. I am thinking a 3/2 split; 3 resort/beach days and 2 days to explore. ::yes:: I wish we could stay longer.
    I think this is a good compromise. We did the same during the Aulani portion of our trip. IMO, the beaches in Hawaii are good, not great, and the lagoon at Aulani is man-made. The main draw of Hawaii is the natural beauty and culture, rather than the beaches. If you're used to Gulf/Caribbean beaches, you may be slightly disappointed by Hawaii's beaches. The only exception was Kailua Beach - much calmer waters for swimming, light powder white sand. I think most of the beaches in the same area on the windward side are similar.

    She is a HUGE WWII buff so I am thinking we should visit Pearl Harbor. Is that a full day trip? Should we book through Disney?
    I'm not familiar with the Disney excursion, but its easy enough to do yourself. If they are doing tours to the Arizona when you go (not sure what the current status is), then you can get tickets online 60 days out. We had a 9:15am tour time. Got there around 7:15 to explore the museum areas while we waited, took our tour, and were leaving by about 11:30. We did not do the Missouri, but that's another option. We did an organized group tour with pick up/drop off from our hotel in Waikiki, and half of our tour did the Missouri as well and they allotted about two hours for it to give you an idea.

    What are your must do's/eats?
    Have either of you been to Oahu before? If not, a visit to Waikiki would be a must do for me. Even if its an evening on one of your resort days, just for dinner/drinks and shopping. The vibe in Waikiki is very different than anywhere else in Hawaii, and most everything is walkable. Any souvenir, restaurant, store you could want. They also do fireworks from Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach on Friday nights.

    Otherwise, North Shore is a must do - we loved visiting Matsumoto's, eating at Kono's, exploring Waimea Valley. We had a lot of fun on the VIP Movie Tour at Kualoa Ranch. And Kailua Beach was beautiful, wished we had more time there.

    At Aulani, AMA AMA breakfast was our favorite meal! Didn't care for the chaotic character breakfast at Makahiki, but the non-character dinner was great. Love having drinks and listening to the live music at Olelo Room - a duo called Ben & Maila occasionally play on Thursdays and they are great! Monkeypod is a restaurant across the street which we also loved - ate there twice.

    Should we rent a car and if so, from where? We will also need to get from the airport to Aulani.
    Renting a car is a must in my opinion. We rented from Alamo at the airport which makes the most sense logistically, because otherwise you'd have to pay for transportation to and from the airport. For most (all?) of the car rental locations, you do have to take a shuttle but they were frequent and less than a 5 minute drive. It was a very easy process. If you are staying on DVC points, you also get free parking at Aulani. Having a car for the duration gives you the flexibility to maximize your designated touring days, and you can also stop at Target or Costco on the way in to pick up some snacks, drinks, etc. for your room, since you will have a villa. Having access to drinks, snacks, and easy breakfast items helped our food budget.


    DIS Veteran
    Jan 29, 2012
    We just got back from 11 days at Aulani. We did quite a few different days away from the resort. Booked everything ourselves.

    In Waikiki we did an outrigger canoe ride and a catamaran ride. Both loved by all. Ate lunch at Dukes and my daughter and I even got Henna done by a really nice girl at her studio.

    Another day we went to the North Shore and did Climbworks zip line and then went to Sharks Cove for some snorkeling, stopped at Waimea Beach as my daughter (16) saw people cliff jumping and we stopped and she did that and then last stop was at Lanikea Beach to see the big turtles.

    Another day we went to the east side of the island and just beach hopped. As mentioned above Kailua is beautiful and 5 minutes away is Lanikai which is even more pretty. We drove a bit and stopped at Waimanalo beach and then on to Makapuu beach.

    We love walking next door to Paradise Cove lagoon and see the turtles. We walked over there 3 afternoons and all 3 times saw turtles. It is way less crowded than Aulani lagoon and the water is crystal clear (at least when we went) and feels a bit warmer. These turtles swim right up to you and even though you try not to touch them, they will brush right against you.

    This trip we did not go to Pearl Harbor but did our first trip. I booked the tickets online. I think we were there maybe 2-3 hours and we did the Aloha Swap meet right after since it is very close. This trip we did not do Dole Plantation as we have done it before. Hawaii is just so beautiful. We are from Florida and I wish it was not so far. Trying to figure out how to get back there for spring break!


    DIS Veteran
    Jun 17, 2004
    Did you find it difficult to find parking when you drove your car? I’ve heard parking in Oahu can be a nightmare.


    Jul 10, 2012
    The only place that parking can be difficult is Waikiki but there are paid parking stations dotted along Kalakaua - including a massive one behind the new International Marketplace.

    Other then that people can experience difficulties on weekends in small beach areas like Kailua / Waimea etc - visit those during the week to minimise hassles.
  • cedricandsophie

    DIS Veteran
    Apr 8, 2014
    You’ve gotten good advice from others about what else to do outside of Aulani. A few ideas while you are hanging out there.

    The four seasons next door has s happy hour from 3 to 5 with some drinks available at half price and some appetizers. My husband and I always go over at least once. If you are early diners you could certainly make it dinner.

    For a gorgeous sunset view walk out to the sidewalk along the beach and turn left. A short walk takes you to a great view. You will see lots of locals.

    If you want to get pictures with characters during the day you can go to the community room on the first floor and take a picture of the days schedule. It changes every day. Otherwise you can call.

    If you want a luau disney has one of the best in my opinion. You probably need to reserve ahead.

    Have fun.


    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Feb 11, 2009
    Did you find it difficult to find parking when you drove your car? I’ve heard parking in Oahu can be a nightmare.
    I agree with PP that the only place difficult to find parking is Waikiki, but its really no different than parking in any other urban area. On-street/parallel parking, lots and ramps for cost. We heard about people parking at the Ala Moana Center and taking the pink line trolley to the Waikiki strip - we didn't try this, but we did ride the trolley and I think it could work. The mall seems to have ample parking.

    Every other place we visited on Oahu had parking lots.


    DIS Veteran
    Jan 29, 2011
    If you have a car and don't want to do super-touristy things, head to Kailua. Great drive through the Ko'olau mountains. Almost like being on another planet on the other side. While there, head to the Manoa Chocolate factory for a tour. They show you how they roast cocoa and make chocolate in their own shop. Small shop, great chocolate! Try their cacao spritzer made from the cacao pulp. Very refreshing.

    Or, if you go to Waikiki, head up Round Top Drive at night to see the whole area from way up high to see the city lights as well as the stars.


    I only work to afford my toys and travel!
    Oct 19, 2005
    We have been going to Ko’Olina since before Disney bought the land. We are in Florida, so we tend to go for longer trips.

    On our last trip, we finally got to stay at Aulani. I actually worked for DVC when the resort was announced and wound up in some of the early meetings and conducted training for cast members about Hawaii as well as Aulani specifically, and then got injured and could not make the trip for a few years.

    My attachment to the resort is still very strong, although I no longer work for the company.

    We have two teenagers, and they did not want to leave the resort. They enjoyed everything there. It’s much like being on a cruise ship. Many activities, so much to do!

    We had also seen many of the standard sites on Oahu on previous trips. My youngest doesn’t remember most of the things, but she was more than happy to plant at Aulani. They were non stop the whole time.

    Pearl Harbor is close. You can book on your own. Disney has the excursion, it wil be more expensive, but probably the quickest and easiest.

    We do rent a car, but you can Uber or Lyft. We find it helpful to hit Costco and down to earth (a local Whole Foods type store) for some fresh produce and items.

    I really love the Polynesian cultural center, but would not recommend on a 5 day trip.

    My girls really liked the stories with uncle by the campfire. We went every night. Bring bug spray. This surprised me as they are mid to late teens. I really enjoyed them.

    The lagoon is fine for a quick swim. The pool is great. If you don’t have a go pro, you can get a cheap one on amazon. It was fun on the slide.

    Take time to watch the sunset and sunrise. They are gorgeous!

    Don’t try to see everything. It can’t be done. We are planning our stay for next year.


  • mrsmacsparky

    Earning My Ears
    Mar 5, 2013
    We usually rent from Alamo thru Costco. You can pick up the car at the airport and slowly make your way to Aulani. Stop by Waikiki on your way to Aulani the first day so you can check it out...find a place for lunch there. Aulani will spoil you and you won't want to leave. Having a car will also let you get in and out to explore. Spend a morning and drive over to the North Shore so you can check out that part of the island and visit some fun places. We've gone to Climbworks (located on the North Shore) to zip-line since they have a lot of runs and great views. Super friendly, too.


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