WDW Fans' First Visit to DL and Aulani - Where to start?

Discussion in 'Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa' started by MapleGirl, May 22, 2018.

  1. MapleGirl

    MapleGirl Perpetual Planner

    Jul 31, 2007
    DH and I are WDW devotees and DVC owners. We are planning our first trip to Disneyland and then on to Aulani for December 2019. Where should I start my planning? We've never been to Disneyland or Aulani. My initial thought is to fly to CA and spend 2-3 nights in Disneyland (either DVC or off-site if we don't have enough points). Spend 1 day each in DL, CA Adventure, and Downtown Disney. Then fly to Honolulu International Airport and spend ?? nights at Aulani.

    What are the top 5-10 Not To Be Missed things to do on Oahu? Are there things I absolutely need to see on the other islands? We are not thrill people. We like nature, gardens, food, and shopping.

    Are there any great blogs, trip reports, planning resources you can point me towards?

  2. luvmychaos

    luvmychaos Mouseketeer

    Sep 30, 2011
    Hi :wave:
    I’m not an expert on Oahu(we’ve been there twice and did the usual things-Paradise Cove Luau, North Shore, Waikiki Beach)but we do live in SoCal and are at DL often.
    I really don’t think you’ll need a full day for DTD, it’s something you could do between Touring the parks. It’s literally to the side of both parks. It’s not like Disney Springs wherein you get lost trying to get back to your car! :drive:In 5 trips to WDW, we still haven’t seen all of Disney Springs!
    We are currently in the process of planning a DVC trip to Aulani in September and while I can’t offer you a top 5 yet, I can give you some tips of what I’ve done:
    1) I keep a list of places that I hear about randomly on the interwebs(Instagram, here, google searches) that sound interesting and need to be explored further i.e., the easiest hikes to the most scenic places, best beaches to see sea turtles, etc.
    2) once I have a few places of interest, I do a deeper internet search and see what’s the most appealing. There will usually be pictures, blogs, random musings about a particular place that will pop up.
    3) if it’s a place, like a particular luau, I look at Yelp reviews to get an idea of how they really are. For instance, I thought the Sea Life Aquarium Luau sounded cool but the Yelp reviews and pictures made me decide against it.
    I know, for sure, that we’re going to Leonard’s for malasadas, Kualoa Ranch for some type of “touristy” tour(movie set, catamaran, ATV), and hitting the North Shore for Matsumoto’s Shave Ice and the Tide Pools. Basically, you have to spend a lot of time on the internet :surfweb:popcorn::
    Sorry that’s a whole novel! :rotfl:
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  4. Pete W.

    Pete W. DIS Veteran

    Aug 20, 1999
    Everyone is different so it's very hard to say what will work for you, but you mention that you are WDW devotees and DVC members planning your first trip to Hawaii, and it appears it will just be the two of you, and that describes my wife and I who just returned from a 2-week, 3 island trip including 6 nights at Aulani so you might find some parts of my TR to be helpful -- https://www.disboards.com/threads/april-2018-tr-maui-the-big-island-oahu-aulani.3680090/.

    I'm also happy to answer questions.
  5. scottmel

    scottmel <font color=darkorchid>Does my logic in my origina

    Jul 28, 2002
    We are doing this trip in July. We are WDW Vets too but have visited DL 3 times in past 4 years. This July will be our 4th visit. I would start with casey's website disneylanddaily - she has fantastic disneyland advice on how to use maxpass and tour plans etc. I am doing 2 park days and that is enough. you might want to consider a 3rd day for yourself being your first visit.

    From Disneyland I am flying from SNA to HNL. This is SOOO much closer and easier to navigate than LAX.

    We tend to go a little crazy on vacations especially to new destinations and decided to stay in Waikiki at the Halekaulani for 4 nights and then moving to Aulani for 5 nights. There is soooo much to do in Oahu! I wish I had a few more days....Pearl Harbor, Bishop museum, Hawaii 5 0 Tour, Private Tour of the North Shore, chefs counter at both Napa Rose in DL and Roys in Waikiki, Climbworks for ziplining in north shore, Docent tour of the Iolani Palace...those are my planned highlights. I LOVE the book called Oahu Revealed by Andrew Doughtery. LOVE IT And super helpful!
  6. snoodledoo

    snoodledoo Loves Jiminy Cricket

    Sep 11, 2005
    I could not spend 1 full day at DTD. If you were there 3 days, I would spend 1 day in each of the parks and on the 3rd day, leave open for park hopping and DTD.
  7. Aviator621

    Aviator621 Mouseketeer

    Dec 9, 2008
    Some initial thoughts:
    For Disneyland, ALL of December will be VERY crowded due to the local annual pass holders (plus the Star Wars land Galaxy's Edge, will be open by then), so you will probably need all three days to see both parks. As mentioned, you can walk through DTD in 15 min; save it for just a dinner if at all. Also, plan for airport transistion--if you use LAX, can be a 2 hour drive during rush hour--use SNA if you can. On Hawaii, there is a TON to see on the other islands, but getting back and forth is not as easy as you'd think for day trips. My recommendation is stick to Oahu unless you have an extra 4 or 5 days and just extend your stay on the second island. For Oahu, realize traffic is bad there as well, so would suggest only heading out every other day, and combining activities--can make for long days but will save travel time. The starting recommendations for Oahu include Pearl Harbor, Polynesian Culture Center (can do luau there too), Haleiwa, and Waikiki only for high end shopping. Atlantis subs are fun too. However, best advice I can give is just pick up Oahu Revealed by Andrew Doughty--his are the best Hawaii guidebooks by far, and gives you an honest assessment of activities, hikes and restaurants. Have fun!
    soniam likes this.
  8. soniam

    soniam Wooden leg named Smith...

    Jun 22, 2012
    Definitely Pearl Harbor and Polynesian Cultural Center if you like learning about other cultures. We like old cheesy, kitschy Hawaii, so we like the Dole Plantation and Waikiki. Definitely pick at least one upscale Hawaiian restaurant, if you enjoy higher end food. We also really liked the Bishop Museum. I would love to see Iolani Palace, but I enjoy Hawaiian history and culture.

    EDIT: I think it’s good to spend at least 4 or more days at each island. Each one is so different. It takes time to really explore to appreciate the culture and geography of each one. You might need to do multiple trips to have that sort of time at each one. However, of the 3 we have visited, here is how we rank them starting with our favorite: Kauai, Big Island, then Oahu.
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
  9. Grammy4Lizzy

    Grammy4Lizzy DIS Veteran

    Mar 15, 2010
    In 2019 DTD will probably be a mess with construction of the new hotel. I would take 3 days to see both parks and get Park Hoppers as the parks are Very close together. You can go back and forth in 5 minutes.
    alohamom and hilarys like this.
  10. thedogatemyhomework

    thedogatemyhomework Mouseketeer

    Jun 9, 2015
    If nature is your thing, kauai, maui, and the big island have more to offer (assuming the volcano settles down by then...and hopefully it will). For shopping ala moana and waikiki on oahu have the most shops, and its not a long walk from ala moana to waikiki. Most of the higher end dining options are also in/near waikiki.

    Popular stuff to do on oahu for many people are diamond head, hanauma bay, polynesian cultural center, kua loa ranch, north shore, kailua beach, pearl harbor, manoa falls.

    In december the north shore has the potential for some huge waves, and that can cause heavy traffic, and sometimes road closures (typically only when waves reach 25+ ft...at 40+ its even crazier), theres also a small chance some whales might be around.

    Aulani itself could easily be 1-2+ full days on its own (depending on how much you like relaxing, and things like the lazy river and rainbow reef...theres also the character breakfast, and character dinner...the luau too)
  11. happymommy

    happymommy DIS Veteran

    Jan 8, 2006
    Where are you coming from? How long do you want?

    I lived on Oahu from 1995-1998 and go back every other year (or more). I'm on the East Coast now, so absolutely do not do less than 10 nights (that's the shortest I've done, but over the years it's grown to two weeks most trips, last summer I did a month). We own at the Marriott Ko Olina, 2 weeks deeded in a 2 bedroom, so last summer I did the lock off, so 2 weeks in the studio with just my youngest then 2 weeks in the one bedroom all 4 of us (and added a couple nights cash as we use airline miles and those were the days I could get first class tickets with miles).

    On Oahu, we always go to the flea market at the stadium (it's on Wed, Sat and Sun). North Shore is cool, matter of fact we usually take one day and drive around the island, stopping at old spots near Kailua where we lived. I recommend Willow Tree in Kailua for lunch (Hawaiian style Korean food).

    We've done the Bishop Museum in the past, and I've done Iolani Palace (with a women's group when I lived there). Pearl Harbor is cool, but it's closed indefinitely right now. A day in Waikiki is fun (matter of fact, next April DH and I are doing 5 nights at the Moana Surfrider followed by a week at Ko Olina). We used to love Sunday Brunch in Waikiki, but not sure who does one any longer (the Moana and the Halekulani both used to do very nice ones).

    Now we mostly relax and eat in town.

    If you like sushi, Sushi Bay in Kapolei has the best conveyor belt sushi on the island.
  12. dolewhipdreams

    dolewhipdreams Counting days until my next Dole Whip

    Feb 24, 2017
    When we went in November we found the Go Oahu Card to be an excellent value for us. Give it a google search and check out all of the attractions that are included!

    Probably my three favorite things that we did:
    1. Kayak from Kailua Beach to the Mokuleia Islands
    2. Snorkel with sea turtles off the shore of Honolulu
    3. Rented mopeds in Waikiki and rode to Diamond Head and Manoa Falls

    If you like nature, you might check out Waimea Valley. It's not too far from Aulani and features a beautiful botanical garden and lots of walking paths that all end in a pretty waterfall that you can swim beneath.

    We also did a lot of the popular stuff (Kualoa Ranch, Polynesian Cultural Center, Hanauma Bay, North Shore). There really wasn't anything I was disappointed by! Hawaii is just so beautiful and different from anything I've experienced before that it was bound to be an amazing trip.

    I've written a couple of blog posts about our time in Oahu and you're welcome to check them out. Go to expeditioneddy(dot)com and scroll through the home page and you'll see a few.
  13. happymommy

    happymommy DIS Veteran

    Jan 8, 2006
    If you go to Waimea Valley, wear heavy bug spray! We got eaten alive (only place I ever have gotten bitten).
  14. dolewhipdreams

    dolewhipdreams Counting days until my next Dole Whip

    Feb 24, 2017
    Good tip! There were a lot of bugs there.

    While on the subject of protecting your skin... Please, please take with you reef safe sunscreen. Hawaii is getting very strict about the types of sunscreen you should wear while in the ocean. The chemicals in a lot of sunscreens are really harmful to sea life. I used the brand All Good, which I got from a local natural grocer. They also have it on Amazon.

    Reef safe sunscreen is a little more difficult to work with and usually will leave some white residue on your skin, but it's worth it to protect the marine life. Be sure to really watch the ingredient list to make sure it doesn't contain any of the following: titanium dioxide, oxybenzone, and octinoxate.
    Sunnyoboe likes this.
  15. ktlm

    ktlm DIS Veteran

    Jun 20, 2008
    Don't know where you are going from-- but we did the opposite. We went to Aulani first (then Maui), and then on the way home from Hawaii stopped at DLR for several days-- which meant we never dealt with jet lag from the 5 hour time difference between home and Hawaii. It worked out great. Since you are going in December- that might depend on your dates and park crowds though as to which direction.

    Also--you should get hoppers. DTD, DL and CA are all within the security parameters- meaning you go through security once, and then you can freely go between the 3 locations. DL and CA are separated by a plaza about the size of a football field-- the distances between the two parks is less than the distance between your park bus stop and the park gate at most disney parks. DTD is right next to that plaza. So basically, you can get from the back corner of DL to the back corner of CA in 10 minutes- we have done it. You can get from the back corner of either park to DTD in about 5 minutes. I would not allocate a day for DTD-- I instead would get a 3 day hopper. We go back and forth between the 3 all the time on our DLR trips. Also if one of the parks is open earlier or later than the other-- you can squeeze in extra park time with the hoppers. We have done that many many times.

    A lot of people think the Polynesian Cultural Center is cheesy-- but we absolutely loved it. We wished we had spent more time there. Since you say you lean towards gardens, food, and shopping, it might be something you like. We did the package with the VIP tour thinking we would ditch the tour and go off on our own- but we really liked being with the tour guide. We got to do more activities and learn more than we would have on our own, and we were taken directly to all the little shows at the right time and given good spots.

    If you like gardens and nature and are thinking about other islands, on Maui the Road to Hana is one of my favorite things I have ever done. It was so beautiful. You have to have the CD or the app, to give you the right places to stop and to look as some things are a bit hidden. It was amazing. We stopped at a place along the way called the Garden of Eden which did cost to enter, but it was well worth the price if you like gardens-- so gorgeous and the views were amazing!
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
  16. Pixie_Dust

    Pixie_Dust DIS Veteran

    Feb 10, 2000
    New hotel, got excited and googled it on the disney site, but did not see any mention of DVC units. If not included, I wonder why, since they only have a handful and there's never any availability.
  17. mhingher

    mhingher DIS Veteran

    Dec 15, 2004
    We are DVC members as well, and have been to DL twice. We are going to Aulani for the first time this August!

    I recommend going to DL first, stay for 3 days. You’ll find it extremely different than WDW! Only 2 parks and you don’t need a monorail or bus to go back and forth. Because everything is so close, it’s also not worth staying onsite, IMO. We stayed at the Camelot Inn last time and it was a quick walk to DD and the parks. It was super convenient to take a mid-day Break.

    As for Oahu, I have done a lot of research so if I can help in any way, let Me know.
  18. Cinderella94

    Cinderella94 I miss my tags!

    Oct 21, 2005
    We're doing your trip in reverse in January. Flying to HNL from Philadelphia, and spending two nights in DL on the way back (arriving on Thursday afternoon, planning to do DTD that night, and then spending full days Fri and Sat in the parks with park hoppers). I debated doing DL on the way out instead, but I read it's harder jet-lag-wise to adjust when you're flying West to East, so people suggested spending a couple days in DL to adjust more slowly on the way back. Also, if we did DL on our way out there, we would have been there the first weekend that AP holders were no longer blacked out, and I didn't want to deal with more crowds because of that.
  19. rocketriter

    rocketriter DIS Veteran

    Nov 14, 2003
    Buy an Oahu tour book and flip through it for ideas. But here are some things we have learned.
    • Go to Tours by Locals and look for a car tour with a private guide for a few hours on your first full day. You'll get oriented quickly and immediately see some sights like the Palace. We like Roland's history tour, but there are a number of good offerings, with this company and with others.
    • Rent a car. You'll want to drive all over Oahu. Just don't plan to drive into Honolulu from Aulani during morning rush hour, or back to Aulani at evening rush hour. It's like California highway traffic: slow, slow, slow.
    • Drive along the North Shore and just randomly choose a nice-looking place for lunch or dinner. It's all wonderful, although during surfing season the roads along the beaches can be slow.
    • Visit the Bishop Museum. You'll find a lot more depth about Hawaiian culture there than at the Polynesian Center.
    • You'll think I'm crazy for suggesting this one: book a tour (the Aulani concierge can help) that flies you into Kalaupapa on Molokai in the morning and flies you back at the end of the day. (Do not, however, attempt the donkey ride down the cliffs to Kalaupapa, as it is difficult and exhausting.) Yes, Kalaupapa is the notorious former leper colony you might have read about in Michener's Hawaii. It is now one of the most beautiful, blessed and spiritual places on earth, rich with stories of heroism and survival and good deeds. I have succeeded in talking only a few of our friends into trying this (it sounds so unlikely) but the result has always been "Thank you! That was absolutely the highlight of our vacation."

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