My family and I recently got a chance to ditch the cold New York City weather for a few days and jet off to Hawaii. We were invited to stay at Aulani a Disney Resort and Spa and take advantage of the sunshine, beaches, and all fantastic things the hotel has to offer. Who could resist?
I find it's best to go in to these types of vacations super prepared. After all, the resort offers tons of ammenities, restaurants, and activites, and the best way to take advantage of it all is to know what your in for beforehand, espeically when there are kids involved. So, here are few things you should know before visiting the Aulani Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii.
Things to Do For Kids at Aulani
Aunty’s Beach House is the on-site kids’ club for children ages 3-12. It’s free and it’s so very Disney, so needless to say, your child will have an amazing time. There are games, crafts, and plenty of fun the theming that Disney is known for. There is also an amazing outdoors, shaded area with a playground set and lots of grass for running.
Definitely pre-register your kids before you arrive. It’s easy to do via the Aulani website and will make your first day at Aunty’s that much easier. There are also special events and activities for an added cost. These fill up quickly so it’s a good idea to register for these beforehand, as well.
The Daily ‘Iwa is the schedule of events for each day. You can look it up online or grab a copy each morning at the front desk. On it are the list of exercise classes provided by the spa (more on that below), activities for kids, and special events going on at the hotel that day. It’s great way to be in the know and not miss anything while you’re there.
Water Fun at Aulani
The beaches in Hawaii are notorious for their big waves and strong currents, but you don’t have to worry about that at Aulani. The beach, or rather lagoon at Aulani, is calm and shallow enough that my 2-year-old was able to play and have a great time. Another great amenity is that the hotel provides free beach toys and life jackets. All you have to do is provide your room number and you’re set. It was such a relief knowing that my kids would have toys to play with at the beach every day.
We also took advantage of the paddleboard rentals. The lagoon is so calm that I was able to paddle board with my 5-year-old sitting in front. It was such a great memory, not to mention a great work out.
The pools at Aulani are great for kids of all ages. The Menehune Bridge is a play structure that includes water slides and interactive water fun. It’s kids only, no parents on the slide or structures, although you can easily monitor your kid from the sidelines.
There’s also a Lazy River, Infinity Pool, toddler splash area, and adults only pool, which we, for obvious reasons, never got to experience.
The Food at Aulani
There are plenty of dining options at Aulani including an upscale restaurant, a buffet, and a grab and go store.
The Makahiki is the buffet and it serves breakfat and dinner. Definitely go there with an empty stomach as there is a lot of really delicious food. The best part? It is a character dining experience so Goofy, Minnie Mouse, and Mickey will visit you while you dine. This was so much fun and kids really have a chance to interact with the Disney characters they know and love. I swear my kids thought Goofy was their new BFF by the end of the trip!
‘Ama’Ama is the upscale restaurant on the property and the food is really spectacular. I suggest booking dinner there one night because it overlooks the beach and you will get the most amazing view of the sun as it’s setting.
The more casual options include Ulu Café, where you can grab cereal, fruit, snacks, or a poke bowl for lunch, Papalua Shave Ice (see image above for reference), Off The Hook, which is great for poolside dining, you don’t even have to get out of your bathing suit (we didn’t), and Mama’s Snack Stop which serves chicken fingers, fish and chips, and other quick bites.
The Spa at Aulani
This is one of the best spas I have ever seen. It really is quite the experience in and of itself. Aside from the treatments such as massages and facials, the Laniwai Spa offers guest a chance to experience its Outdoor Therapy Garden. Before of after your treatment you can take a dip in one of the Vitality Baths or rinse of in one of six unique waterfall rain showers. It’s suggested that you arrive to your spa treatment at least 45 minutes early to take full advantage.
The spa also offers treatments for the whole family including family massages, manicures, and the Keiki O Laniwai or Magical Makeovers for Kids, where your little one can transform into Moana.
The Laniwai Spa is also where you will find the gym and many of the exercise classes that do not take place at the beach. The gym is open 24 hours a day.
Entertainment at Aulani
There is no lack of fun entertainment at Aulani, many of which is included in your stay. The Pau Hana Room or community call is where you can take part in many of the family activities listed in the Daily ‘Iwa. They include: games, DVD rentals, ukulele lessons, t-shirt stamping, and the Menehune Adventure Trail, an interactive hi-tech scavenger hunt kids can play on iPads throughout the resort.
There is also movie night, fire pit storytelling, pool parties, and live music.
For an additional cost families can experience KA WA‘A, the luau at Aulani. I highly recommend this offering as you will eat delicious food and be fully immersed in Hawaiian culture. You will see amazing hula dancing and learn the history of Hawaii, while dining on traditional Hawaiian food. It was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Staying at Aulani was the trip of a lifetime and something my family and I will never forget. Here are a few more things to know before going:
Villas come with a full kitchen so it’s a good idea to buy some snacks and food you can prepare beforehand. This was a lifesaver; because of the time change our kids were up super early, before any of the restaurants were open.
Make reservations for the restaurants in advance. They can book up and it would be sad to miss a meal with Mickey!
The Photo Pass is a great option for families who aren’t so great at taking their own pictures. There are photographers scattered throughout the property ready to take your picture. You can view all your photos in your room and get them printed before you leave.
There is an on-site rental car facility, which is great if you want to explore Hawaii for a day or two. This was such a treat for us as we were able to easily access a car right at the hotel, and return it to valet once we were done.
You can also book an excursion through the hotel. Some of which include a tour of the nearby Pearl Harbor Memorial, a catamaran trip with snorkeling, a helicopter tour, or a shark trek experience.
Defintely check out the Rainbow Reef for a controlled snorkeling experience. Young kids (and adults) can try their hand at snorkeling in a 3,800 sq. ft. saltwater lagoon in the center of the resort.