The Trip I Thought I'd Never Take

Discussion in 'Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa' started by GatorChris, May 25, 2018.

  1. GatorChris

    GatorChris Not of This World

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    The title says it. My wife and kids would see the ads for Aulani and ask and beg and wish we could go. And I'd always say, "When I'm a millionaire". BUT....I had a friend who's a DVC owner who needed to get rid of 250 points by the summer and he wasn't using them. So he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. And my first thought were, "Let's go to WDW!!!!" That is, after all, my favorite place. But then I got to thinking how hot it gets in May in Florida...and the thought hit me that Hawaii is always the same temp year round. Let's see if we could get some nights there.

    The rest is history. We locked up 5 nights in an ocean view room for the first full week in May. So I wanted to show some pics and drop some wisdom about the resort.

    First bit of wisdom. If you live in the Central Valley of Cali and you want to catch a plane in San Jose on Monday morning, just go there the night before and get a hotel. The commute is always horrible, but this time it was a nightmare. Instead of easing into the vacation, we got to the airport 45 minutes before the flight departed. AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! So I dropped off the kids and wife with a SkyCab and they got everything aboard. I had to race to find a parking place and then run about a mile back to the Hawaiian Air desk. I made the 30 minute cut off by 2 minutes, according to the desk attendant. Then I ran through security and ran to the plane. And after all of that, we finally pull out of the gate, only to pull back in because "one of the passengers wasn't feeling well". So that took another hour to get out of the gate.

    We finally landed in Honolulu an hour+ behind. Then waited half an hour (with about 20 other people) for the Budget rental bus to pick us up. And then I got lost about three times trying to find a place to eat before we went to the hotel. Things really started out poooooooorly.

    But it's amazing how it all changes when you finally get to the hotel. Can I just say: Aulani is awesome. You ride in, the valet grab your bags for you, you walk in (if you're pre-registered) and an lady said, Here's your key cards and room! That easy. So we went into the Ewa tower and down the beautifully Hawaiian halls.
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    We walked into the room, and it was so amazing! A one-bedroom suite with a balcony that overlooked the Pacific.
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    When we got there, it was really cold! We all sweaters on and the wind was blowing like crazy. It felt like we landed on Pismo, not Oahu. For dinner, we decided to try out MonkeyPod. It had good ratings for Gluten Free food for the wife, so we tried it out. I can honestly say, it was OK. Not bad, and not great. But definitely cheaper than the Aulani main restaurants.

    When we returned to the room, we realized that the Aulani luau was right below us. Well, waaaay below us. We were on the 15th floor. But we could see it from above and enjoy the music each evening. That was a real treat! To enjoy the show without forking out $125/person for hotel food.

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    The next day, we headed over to Pearl Harbor. It was a cooler day for Hawaii so it really worked out. I've hit Pearl when it was hot, so this was a welcome change. Here's a few shots. The first, is what you always go to see, the Arizona Memorial. This shot is from the USS Missouri.
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    I finally got to tour the USS Missouri, which I always wanted to do. And the Mighty Mo didn't disappoint. It was really the highlight of Pearl Harbor. I highly recommend it and definitely wait for a free tour. Lots of cool info.
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    More Pearl Harbor and the rest of the trip on the next post.
     

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  2. GatorChris

    GatorChris Not of This World

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    Pearl Harbor continued.

    I got to stand in the exact spot where the Japanese signed the surrender ending WWII. A totally surreal moment.
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    And then my wife and I got to reenact that famous photo at the end of WWII. They had a statue of it at the USS Missouri, so we took the shot.
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    We then headed back to Aulani where we had reservations for the kids to eat and stay at Aunty's. This is a really cool part of Aulani - it great for kids and even tweens as far as fun goes. Plus it gives you that adult alone time you so desperately need on vacations. We had a long walk on the beach and got to catch one of the world famous Hawaiian Sunsets.
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    Of course, the best part of Aulani is that "private" beach they have. I know it's not private, but it was pretty amazing. The water is so clear when the sun is shining. Of course, I'm a "doer". So sitting on a beach lasts about 20 minutes before I have to get up and do something. So, I decided to make a giant turtle from sand. And it turned it out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. And as every artists desires, I got a lot of thumbs up for the work.
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    The kids and loved the multi-colored wrist bands they'd get each day. They collected them and thought they were cool....until they realized a large portion of their forearm was a lot whiter than the rest of their tan bodies.
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    One of the things I love about Hawaii is all the tropical flowers. I just can't seem to get the same flowers to grow in Cali. Here's one that I dont' know the name of, but it's very fragrant. Loved it.

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    Just like Epcot, Aulani seems to have a different Magic to it once the evening comes. It's just amazing.
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    Next to come....Dining at Aulani.
     

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  4. alohamom

    alohamom DIS Veteran

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    Great wristband shot!

    I love the one of you and your wife recreating the solider and nurse statue too.
     
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  5. alohamom

    alohamom DIS Veteran

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    I think the flower is Tiare / Polynesian Jasmine
     
  6. mpk33

    mpk33 Earning My Ears

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    You can tour the USS Missouri for free?
     
  7. drcoulsey

    drcoulsey Mouseketeer

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    I noticed you are wearing MagicBands. I thought Aulani didn’t use them.
     
  8. mentos

    mentos Minty fresh happy haunts

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    Glad you enjoyed it - Oahu is my least* favorite island (reminds me of being back home near San Francisco), but even as you exit to Ko Olina, your problems just melt away!

    *least in a relative term, if you gave me a free trip there... I'd still go, haha.
     
  9. newdeal

    newdeal DIS Veteran

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    I would guess its the kids wearing them and they use them for Auntys beach house. Just like they give kids magic bands in the oceaneers club on the cruise line to keep track of them. You have to give them back at the end of your stay or pay like $13 each to keep them
     
  10. newdeal

    newdeal DIS Veteran

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    I have never been to the other islands but our first trip we stayed in Waikiki and I vowed to never go back. Then we went back and went everywhere except Waikiki and I realized its awesome if you totally avoid Honolulu
     
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  11. Jiminy's Girl

    Jiminy's Girl Earning My Ears

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    Following your report! Looks like an amazing trip so far! Great photos. Love the turtle!
     
  12. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

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    Enjoying your trip report! You threw me off when you said Hawaii is the same temp all year round....would be nice if it was!!
     
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  13. ebonyeyes

    ebonyeyes Mouseketeer

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    Great TR so far!
     
  14. 94bruin

    94bruin DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for sharing! I have to say that the center female entertainer in the photo of the luau looks like one of those kitschy bobble figures!

    I love your photos from Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, when we go, we won't be able to board the memorial. But glad to hear there is a lot of other things to see.
     
  15. GatorChris

    GatorChris Not of This World

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    While at Aulani, we got to try many of their restaurants and food choices. Of course, when you're there, you usually don't walk around with your phone, so we didn't get pics of everything. But I did do the Shave Ice and had the Guava flavor mixed in with some sweet plum flavor (li-hing-mui), and that was really good. Very "hawaiian". We also did the DOLE WHIP!!!!! Yes, it exists at Aulani! I actually had the pineapple-vanilla twist, which in my opinion is far superior to the just-pineapple flavor you get at DL. Definitely worth grabbing if your on the beach.

    After we took advantage of ordering dinner for the kids at Aunty's and leaving them there for a few hours, we headed over to AmaAma. This place is very pricey, so leave the kids at Aunty's. My wife had a very good piece of Moon Fish (gluten free) and I had scallops covered in a macadamia-nut butter sauce. They were delicious! We really loved the view of the ocean near the time of sunset. BTW, if you call and they have no reservations, don't sweat it. We called that morning, and they had nothing. So we walked up at 5:30 or so and the place was empty on a Wednesday evening. We also ordered a king crab leg. It was super yummy, but for $25, it was really really small. We both had the triple mashed potatoes - white, sweet, and purple. Definitely hawaiian, though not my fave.
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    The next evening, we went over to Makahiki for dinner. This buffet is like one of those huge buffets you see on Waikiki beach, with all you can eat crab legs and prime rib. This was definitely my favorite meal on the island during our trip. And even though you can't get a clear reference online, it IS a character meal for a few of the times. You start out meeting Donald, and then we got Pluto, Chip & Dale. They were a lot of fun!
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    And as you can see, the characters have fun with the whole family. This is after I told Dale he was waaaay better than Chip. It was an attack hug!
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    And since we were there on our anniversary, and the chef knew my wife had Celiac Disease (which he made several great dishes for her), he also made a GF dessert for us. It really was the finish touch on the best meal of the stay.
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    Of course, with meals so expensive, and since we had suite with a kitchen, we hit a Wal-Mart on the way in to buy some cheap breakfast foods....and of naturally, POG. I love that stuff!!!! Just like drinking a Big Red in Texas, POG just tastes better on the islands. So we would grab some food and sit out on the patio, eat, and enjoy the view of the blue seas.
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  16. scrappydew

    scrappydew l wish I were at Aulani!

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    Really enjoying your report! Thanks for sharing!
     
  17. GatorChris

    GatorChris Not of This World

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    A few more shots from the trip. There's always the obligatory family shot where we all get dressed up "Hawaiian" and take shots at the ocean. And of course, it was cloudy that day so the ocean looked more like Monterey than the crystal clear Oahu version.
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    And the mushy shot that shows how far my hair is pulling back....
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    After we got on the plane back, I wanted to catch some shots from the air. This shot is the north shore of Molokai.
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    Here's the northwest corner of Maui, where it looks like there's a lighthouse or something tall.
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    And finally, here's a shot of the Haupa'Akea Peak on Maui.
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    And I think that's all I have to share from our trip. It started off poorly, but by the end, we all wanted to stay another day. But....Aulani is just too pricey to do that. Should I ever strike it rich, or have a friend who's trying to dump DVC points, I'd love to go back for sure.
     
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  18. mommy2allyandaveri

    mommy2allyandaveri DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for your report. We are flying out of San Jose on a Monday morning but coming from Sac. We are also driving that morning. What time was your flight?
     
  19. hilarys

    hilarys Hilary S

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    Not to hijack this thread, but I commute from the far east bay to the Peninsula and travel part of the route that you will take from Sac to SJ. Monday mornings are the worst commute mornings of the week. 680 will already have heavy traffic at 5 am. OP had a good rec to come in the night before and stay near the airport. If your trip is in the summer, it may be a little lighter. Feel free to send me a PM for any other thoughts.

    Aulani is amazing and you don't want to start your trip off with the stress of missing your flight.
     
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  20. GatorChris

    GatorChris Not of This World

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    Our flight was at 9am. We left at 5am from Modesto area and got there at 8:15. Nightmare. I was going through all the steps to keep from going completely nuts. We spent 55 minutes between Tracy and the Altamont, so you'll skip that. Not sure where your commute pain starts from the 680.
     
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  21. Angrose

    Angrose DIS Veteran

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    Hurray for Aulani and unexpected trips! We had planned for this November, but couldn't wait so we went last November instead and absolutely loved it. We want to see other islands now but are also dying to get back to Aulani. Looks like you all had a fantastic trip! Thanks for sharing!!
     

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