Disneyland or a beach? Settle the argument in the middle of an ocean.
You want a beach holiday but the kids want to go to Disneyland. Such a conundrum!. But I’m with you….a beach right about now sounds pretty dreamy. So, why not settle in the middle… as in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii, at the Aulani, Disney Resort and Spa.
Set on a quiet sandy cove of Ko Olina, the Aulani is class act offers accommodations, dining, and activities that respect the Hawaiian culture. “Aulani” means “messenger of the chief” and as soon as you arrive, you will be immersed in Hawaiian lore. The Disney Imagineers embraced the culture and designed the resort to reflect the beauty of it and the landscape. But of course, this is Disney and there’s always an element of fun. Trust me – Disney without the Magic Kingdom is still magic.
Your choices of accommodations are endless. There are hotel rooms with the standard features including a mini-fridge and coffee maker all the way up to butler service in 2000 square foot villas. The most popular choices are the villas complete with a washer and dryer and full kitchen. That way you can fly only using carryon luggage and a quick stop at the grocery store had the fridge full for many inexpensive meal choices.
Don’t expect Disney Characters everywhere you look, but they are there on vacation of course! Small children will love the chance to enjoy a Character Breakfast with Mickey and Minnie.
There are many other choices for dining including poolside restaurants with everything from fast snacks to buffets. Finer dining included our favourite ‘Ama ‘Ama where the gentle ocean breeze and setting sun joined us on many nights.
Everyone will enjoy the beach. It’s a protected cove so no large waves can come in and crash your princesses’ sandcastle. Not too many fish come into the cove but that’s ok, the family can enjoy the amazing array of local fish at Rainbow Reef – Disney’s man-made private snorkeling lagoon. If that’s not the way you want to see the umpteen angelfish, butterflyfish and tangs, just press your nose against the glass to peer into the giant aquarium.
There are at least ten other pools to float in including a lazy river and the more extreme water slides, hot tubs to watch the sun set and water parks to splash the day away. The favourite seems to be the lazy river where everyone makes countless loops lazing on an inner tube. Palm trees shade the route so sunburns are not a worry. What you might watch out for is the waterfalls. There seems to be an unwritten rule to stall the tube under the waterfall – drenching unsuspecting moms and dads on every lap.
Aunty’s BeachHouse is a magnet for children between the ages of 3 and 12. There is all sorts of amenities under the supervision of childcare professionals or Disney Youth Councillors. If your kids love a good mystery, check out the Menehune Adventure Trail. Signing out an electronic notepad has everyone following clues throughout the resort to discover hidden treasures and surprises – like a volcano that erupts when you find it!
It’s absolutely delightful and can take hours to do. The best part is, you can save your game and resume it on another day.
Let’s get back to the moms who wanted some downtime in an exotic location. The adult area includes a large “Adults only” pool with a poolside bar. Behind a fern covered wall awaits a luscious respite to rejuvenate – the Laniwai Spa and the soothing Kula Wai outdoor hydrotherapy garden. Six different waterfalls and mineral baths are yours to enjoy before or after a spa treatment. Linger as long as you want. You won’t be bothered by anyone.
The daily ‘Iwa or itinerary lists where to find a constant supply of entertainment and exercise. You can start your day at sunrise with yoga or Beach Body Boot Camp, the little kids can start hanging out with friends at Aunty’s Beach House at 8:30 A.M., and the teens head off at the crack of 11 A.M. for the Teen Beach Games.
A day at a Disney park usually ends with fireworks but this slower island excursion ends with sunsets and dancing. The Starlit Hui is the feature that every family enjoys on the massive lawn. The sun goes down, the torches are lit and the music starts. Hawaiian music, hula dancing and wonderful storytelling enchant the entire family. After the show, the dancing really begins! Disney characters – that are also on vacation – join in on the fun and dance with the kids. It’s the perfect way to drain that last ounce of energy from those tireless bodies.
Aulani is 32 kilometres from the Honolulu International Airport. There is a shuttle service or taxi but renting a car will provide you the opportunity to explore the island. Visit the official Hawaii Tourism website for more ideas and visit the Aulani Disney Resort site to learn more about the resort.