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Disney Aulani Resort Review (On Oahu Island in Hawaii)

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Planning a trip to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu and wondering if a stay at the Disney Aulani Resort is a good option? Our full review of the Disney Hawaii resort is sure to help you make your choice. We say it is a must-do when you are visiting Hawaii. This Disney Aulani Resort review includes our stay, and our opinion along with answers to questions about the hotel rooms, things to do at Aulani, and more. 

Disney Aulani Resort Review

Luxury meets Hawaiian charm at Aulani, a Disney resort and spa on the Hawaii island of Oahu. Learn why this property is a popular pick among families and check out our in-depth review of staying at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii.

The combination of Hawaiian culture and Disney make it fun for kids of all ages and the whole family will have a blast when visiting the Disney Hawaii Resort. In this Disney Aulani Resort review, I am going to share my opinions, what we loved, and what I would do differently next visit along with helpful information about the resort. 

Front building of the Disney Aulani Resort

Disney Aulani Resort Review

We started our trip to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu at the Hale Koa Military Hotel. Being that we were already in Hawaii and are big Disney fans we wanted to also have a stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort. While I am glad we did there are things I would do differently on our next trip to Hawaii and I do plan to get back to Hawaii and stay at this gorgeous property again. I will get into more on what I would have done differently on our trip later. 

My whole family loves Disney. We have been to Walt Disney World multiple times, we have been to Disneyland Paris, and have now been to Disney Resort in Hawaii. We do have Disneyland in California on our bucket list to get to (I have been there but the rest of the family has not). When I scored our steal-of-a-deal tickets to Hawaii and started planning the trip I knew we were going to be booking a few nights at the Disney Resort in Hawaii. I couldn’t be in Hawaii and not go there and it really is a great place to take the family for a family vacation.

There are so many things to do. There are activities to keep the kids busy, tasty food, a character breakfast, meeting Disney characters, and amazing pools. Everything you would expect when visiting a Disney property. The touch of Disney magic is not overwhelming like when you are in the theme parks, but you can for sure feel it and see it. 

check in area of Disney Aulani Resort

What Is the Disney Aulani Resort and Spa?

The Disney-branded Aulani Resort & Spa is a top family-friendly resort in the Ko Olina resort area of Hawaii. This Hawaiian-themed resort is in Ko Olina on Oahu’s west coast. The resort has excellent pools, a great beach, a highly-rated kids club, tons of activities for kids and adults, and a variety of restaurants to eat at. 

It is a great vacation spot for families and there is something for everyone when you are staying here. In this Disney Aulani Resort review I am going to share with you information that I hope helps with your planning along with our experience.

walking into Disney Aulani Resort

Arriving at Disney Aulani

We drove from the Hale Koa Hotel to Disney Aulani and it took us about 40 minutes to drive. The check-in process was super easy. We arrived and there was no line at the check-in counter. They asked us if we had any celebrations that month and since it was our 6-year-olds birthday at the beginning of the month they gave her a special birthday button. We got our room keys and then headed to our room.  We booked the 2 Bedroom Villa Room which was the perfect size for all of us. 

After getting to our room and unpacking a bit we walked around the resort a bit. We order dinner from Monkey Pod (which is across the street) and then headed to bed as we had spent the whole day before check-in going on a catamaran sail in the morning, then a trip to the botanical gardens and a visit to the Byodo-in temple before arriving at Aulani. 

The 2 bedroom villa at Disney Aulani Resort room had plenty of space, a full kitchen, multiple bathrooms, and a balcony where we could enjoy the warm weather. The room was perfect for our family of 6 and can sleep up to 9 people in the room. There is a pull-out couch and sleeper chair that pulls out to a bed in the living room. If you are wanting a room that is perfect for a large family or bringing grandparents this room is perfect.

Aulani Lagoon and beach at Disney Aulani Resort

Disney Aulani Day 2

Our day started with a walk around the man-made lagoons looking for the monk seal a friend of mine told me to keep an eye out for on the beach. It is an amazing thing to see, but if you do see it be sure to stay away from it and only watch from afar. 

After our walk we we went to the character breakfast at Disney Aulani Resort that I had booked us which was something the entire family loved. We then headed to the lagoon for some swimming and snorkeling. We headed out back to the Polynesian Cultural Center to see everything we had not seen on our first day visit there. 

After getting back from the Polynesian Cultural Center we went swimming in the Disney resort pools and had dinner at the resort. All of the kids loved going on the water slides, swimming in the pools, and the lazy river. 

For dinner on this night, I got Hawaiian-Style Ahi Poke Nachos and the Crab Cake BLT. The kids and my husband went over to the Ulu Cafe and got pizza and salads for dinner. The kids also picked up some Mickey Mouse-shaped treats to bring home with us. 

monk seal on the beach in hawaii

Disney Aulani Day 3

My youngest and I woke up early to see the sunrise. I highly suggest making sure that at least one morning you wake up in time to watch the sunrise. Sitting on the beach watching it was amazing and then we did a photo shoot that was a ton of fun and we have beautiful photos from it. 

My daughter and I then went back to the room and grabbed the snorkeling gear. We went into the ocean water to check out all the amazing fish that are in the lagoon right in front of the Disney resort. The calm waters of the lagoon make it easy for kids to swim and be able to see the fish swimming in the water. 

After snorkeling for a bit, we went and woke up the others and got something to eat for breakfast. All of us then went swimming in the pools. 

By the time we were done swimming in the pools, it was time for us to pack the room up and head to the airport. 

kids snorkeling at Disney Aulani Resort

Things I loved about staying at Disney Aulani in Hawaii

  • The amazing architecture. Everywhere you look the building is beautiful. You can tell much thought was put into the design of the building along with the finishes like the Mickey Mouse lamps in the rooms.
  • The Views. Our photo shoot during sunrise was amazing, and while our room wasn’t an ocean view we still had amazing views. Everywhere you go and walk around at the resort it is beautiful and enjoyable. There are enough pools that we never felt like we were on top of people when we were swimming. 
  • The beach. Just sitting on the beach will get you the best view. Then when you get in the water it is clear and you can see the bottom along with the fish and sealife that are swimming in it. There is no cost for the beach chairs so you can grab a chair and enjoy the beach. If you are traveling with kids, even little kids will enjoy the water as it is calm waters that are in the lagoon. 
  • Easy to Navigate. Once you do a quick walk around the resort, finding where you need to go becomes easy. Never did I feel like I was lost when at the resort. 
kids swimming in the pool at Disney Aulani Resort

What the Kids loved Most about Disney Aulani

  • Tasty Disney Snacks. If you love Disney treats then you will love the ones at Aulani. Of course, we had to get a Dole whip but they also have some other themed treats including the Mickey shaved ice and Mickey Ice Creams. You can also find Mickey brownies and cookies too. 
  • Plenty of activities. While my kids were happy with the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and character breakfast there are actually 30 different activities that you can do at the resort which is basically endless fun to be had.
  • The Pools. My kids love to swim and the pools at Aulani are amazing. There are 8 different water areas and pools that the kids can enjoy. From waterslides to swimming, a lazy river, and a splash zone all kids are going to love being in the water. 
lazy river at Disney Aulani Resort

What Would I do differently?

This Disney Aulani Resort review would not be complete if I didn’t include the things I would do differently. While we loved our stay it is important to note that what I would do differently has nothing to do with the resort itself.

Aulani is the perfect place to have a vacation and there are so many activities that we did not get to do because we had other things planned that were not on the property. Next time we go the plan is to have at least 2 full days that are just at the resort. With the list of things I still want to do while there, I may push it to 3 days of just resort time. 

I would plan our days better to make sure I didn’t miss things that we all wanted to do. We missed things like character experiences, the kids going to the rainbow reef, Aunty’s beach house, and some of the dining options that we had wanted to try. We also missed the Menehune Adventure Trail, Guided Nature Walk, and a few other things that I think the whole family would have enjoyed.

I would plan out where we wanted to eat before we arrived. There are many amazing restaurants at Aulani and there were a few signature dishes that I had wanted to enjoy but didn’t get to. Other than our character breakfast none of our meals were planned for the days that we were at Aulani. It ended up that we ate at the Monkey Pod across the street the first night. The second night we had a late night leaving us with few options to pick from for dinner. 

bedroom of a Disney Aulani Resort hotel room

What are the Room options at Disney Aulani Resort?

Disney Aulani Resort offers several types of hotel rooms to accommodate different preferences and group sizes. Each room type is designed with Hawaiian-inspired décor and offers a range of amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay at the resort. Depending on the room you will have a standard view, a partial ocean view, an ocean view, a garden view, or a poolside view.

  • Standard Rooms. A standard room features either one king-size bed or two queen-size beds and can accommodate up to four guests. These rooms have a single bathroom with a tub, shower and toilet. They offer a private balcony or patio and come with various views, including a garden view, pool view, or ocean view.
  • Deluxe Studios. These spacious studios can accommodate up to four guests and include one queen-size bed and one queen-size sleeper sofa. They feature a kitchenette, a private balcony or patio, and views of either the island, garden, pool, or ocean.
  • 2-Bedroom Suite. With 1 king bed in the master bedroom and 1 queen and 1 queen sleeper sofa in the second bedroom, 3 full bathrooms, a full kitchen with a butler pantry, and a separate catering entrance are in this suite. This is Aulani Resort’s most luxurious suite and can have up to 6 guests. 
  • One-Bedroom Parlor Suite. With 1 king bed in the master bedroom and 1 queen-size sleeper sofa and 1 narrow twin-size pull-down bed in the parlor for sleeping and having up to 5 guests. Included are a small kitchenette and 1.5 bathrooms. 
  • Signature 1-Bedroom Suite. This suite sleeps up to 5 guests. With 1 king bed in the master bedroom and 1 queen bed and 1 sleeper chair in the parlor. This suite also has a fully equipped kitchen and 2 full bathrooms. 

Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney Aulani

While many of the villas are set aside for those who are Disney Vacation Club members and you can get these rooms if you are a member or are renting points you can also book them without being a member. We stayed in the Disney Aulani Resort 2 Bedroom Villa Room.

  • One-Bedroom Villas. These villas provide separate living and sleeping areas, making them ideal for families or larger groups. They include a bedroom with a king-size bed, a living room with a queen-size sleeper sofa, a fully equipped kitchen, a washer and dryer, and a private balcony or patio.
  • Two-Bedroom Villas. These villas can accommodate larger groups and families and feature two bedrooms, one bedroom has a king bed the other has 2 queen beds, a living room with a queen-size sleeper sofa and a pull-out single bed, full kitchens, a washer and dryer, 2.5 bathrooms, and a private balcony or patio. The master bedroom typically has a king-size bed, while the second bedroom will have either a queen-size bed or two queen-size beds.
  • Three-Bedroom Villas. These spacious villas are the largest accommodation option at Disney Aulani Resort. They can accommodate up to 12 guests and include three bedrooms, a living room with a queen-size sleeper sofa, a fully equipped kitchen, a dining area, a washer and dryer, multiple bathrooms, and a private balcony or patio.

What activities are available for kids at Disney Aulani Resort?

There are many activities that are included in your stay at Aulani. While there are a few added-on experiences that you can pay additional costs for the majority of the fun is already included in the cost of your room rate. 

Included Activities

  • Māka‘ika‘i, the Nature and Wildlife tour. You can immerse yourself in the captivating Hawaiian culture, lush landscapes, and abundant wildlife with a complimentary, walking tour at Disney Aulani Resort. You will discover the meticulously crafted environment, thoughtfully designed by Walt Disney Imagineers, which pays homage to the island’s Hawaiian traditions and natural beauty. This tour is held on select days so be sure to check the daily schedule to see when it is going on while you are there. 
  • Art and Culture Walking Tour. On this tour, you will get an in-depth look at the one-of-a-kind environment created by Walt Disney Imagineers that reflects the rich Hawaiian tradition and beauty of Hawaii. There are family tours and adult-only tour options. 
  • Mo‘olelo Fire Pit Storytelling. The whole family can join around the fire and listen to stories of Hawaiian legends.
  • Character Experiences. Kids have the opportunity to meet and interact with beloved Disney characters at designated locations within the resort. They can take photos, get autographs, and create magical memories with their favorite characters.
  • Aunty’s Beach House. This supervised kids’ club provides a fun and interactive environment where children can engage in age-appropriate activities, crafts, games, and entertainment. It offers various themed rooms, storytelling sessions, and character experiences.
  • Disney Movie Nights. Enjoy outdoor movie nights under the stars with your little ones. Snuggle up with blankets and pillows as you watch classic Disney movies together in a relaxed and family-friendly setting.
  • Hula Lessons. Kids can participate in hula lessons, where they can learn the graceful movements and beautiful storytelling of this traditional Hawaiian dance form.
  • Fitness Center. The fitness center is open 24 hours a day, with a large range of equipment for your workouts. 
rainbow reef at Disney Aulani Resort

Paid Activities 

Along with the included activities there are also paid activities that you and the family can enjoy. 

  • KA WA‘A  Lū‘au on Oʻahu at Aulani. You can enjoy a Hawaiian Luau without having to leave the resort. You will need to book this in advance. 
  • ‘Imi Loa Nāa Hōkū (Explore the Stars). You can learn about how ancient Polynesian voyagers navigated using the stars as their guides. You will get to use a telescope and have a local expert tell you about the stars and their role in navigation.   
  • Spa Services. There are many different spa services that you can partake in. They have services for just the adults and also spa services that can be a family activity as well.  
  • Rainbow Reef. The whole family can go on an exciting snorkeling excursion within a saltwater pool boasting a vibrant coral reef and beautiful tropical fish without having to leave the resort. To participate, reserve a time slot and make the necessary payment for this activity. All the required equipment will be provided, ensuring a hassle-free and immersive snorkeling adventure.
  • Excursions. There are many excursions that you can take part in for an additional cost. They have a dolphin encounter, a Day on the Bay excursion, Zipline tours, and a North Shore experience just to name a few. These excursions are similar to how you would do one when you are on a cruise ship.
  • Create your own Mickey ears. Head over to the Pau Hana room and book a time to make your own Aulani-inspired Mickey Ears.
sunset at Disney Aulani Resort

FREE Child care at Aulani 

If you are wanting to have some kid-free time while you are at Disney Aulani and want to make it a spa vacation for yourself for a bit then take the kids ages 4-12 over to Aunty’s Beach house. All guests must submit an online pre-registration online with Aunty’s Beach House before their arrival but then the kiddos can spend as much time as they want to doing supervised activities. Each day there are different games, arts & crafts, and activities for the kids to enjoy. There are some premium experience time slots that do have a fee, but the majority of the time has no cost. 

girl swimming at the Disney Aulani Resort  beach

Disney Water Activities

Disney Aulani Resort features several spectacular pools and water attractions for guests to enjoy. In addition to these pools, Disney Aulani Resort also offers a lazy river called Waikolohe Stream, a private snorkeling lagoon called Rainbow Reef, and various whirlpool spas throughout the resort. 

There is also snorkeling at the lagoon and you can rent snorkeling gear. There is free use of boogie boards for anyone who is a guest to use in the ocean as well.

  • Waikolohe Pool. This is the main pool at Disney Aulani and is located in the Waikolohe Valley area. It is a large, zero-entry pool with a gently sloping entrance and a thrilling tube slide called Volcanic Vertical.
  • Ka Maka Grotto. Adjacent to the Waikolohe Pool, this pool is a tranquil, infinity-edge pool that offers beautiful views of the ocean. It features a cascading waterfall, underwater jets, and a small waterslide.
  • Keiki Cove Splash Zone. Designed specifically for younger children, this interactive water play area is located near the Waikolohe Pool. It includes splash pads, water jets, and small slides.
  • Menehune Bridge. Also located near the Waikolohe Pool, this interactive play structure is perfect for kids. It features slides, interactive water elements, and a large Menehune statue.
  • Wailana Pool. Situated in the adult-exclusive Wailana Pool Area, this peaceful pool offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere. It is a great spot for adult guests to unwind and enjoy some quiet time.
  • Lava Shack Pool. This shallow pool is located near the Waikolohe Pool and is designed for young children. It provides a safe and enjoyable water play area for toddlers and infants.
Disney Aulani Resort  dole whip

What Are the Food Options at Disney Aulani Resort?

There are sit-down restaurants along with quick-service restaurants at the Hawaii Disney resort making it easy for you to have options when it comes to dining. 

  • Makahiki. This buffet-style restaurant offers a character breakfast on select days and a dinner buffet with a variety of dishes, including Hawaiian-inspired cuisine.
  • ‘AMA ‘AMA. This beachside restaurant offers a relaxed dining experience with ocean views. It serves contemporary island cooking featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
  • ‘Olelo Room. This casual lounge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It offers small plates, sandwiches, salads, and beverages in a relaxed setting.
  • Ulu Cafe. Located near the pools, Ulu Cafe is a quick-service eatery offering a range of options, including grab-and-go items, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, and desserts.
  • Mama’s Snack Stop. This poolside location offers light snacks, shaved ice, and refreshing beverages.
  • Off the Hook. A lounge located next to ‘AMA ‘AMA, Off the Hook offers cocktails, appetizers, and a relaxing atmosphere.
  • Wailana Pool Bar. This poolside bar offers a selection of drinks, including tropical cocktails, beer, and wine.
  • Papalua Shave Ice. At this stand, you can get the Mickey Mouse shaved ice. The shave ice at Papalua is often served in a cup or a bowl, and the colorful syrups are poured over the finely shaved ice to create a delightful treat
  • Little Opihi’s. Grab Fresh fruit, ice cream bars, Dole Whip soft-serve and Dole Whip sundaes along with drinks at this spot. 

Is Disney Aulani Resort worth the cost?

I say YES! My whole family does as well even though we did not get the full experience that most plan for because we left the resort quite a bit. We used the military discount to get a steal on our room, but even at full price if you were to plan for staying at the resort, using the amenities, and having all the fun you can have there even at full price I think it is worth it. 

Is Disney Aulani Expensive?

Yes. Disney Aulani is a luxury resort that comes with a higher price tag. I say it is well worth it, but it is expensive. However, there are ways to save money on a Disney Aulani vacation. 

When Is the best time to go to Aulani?

The best times to go are during the slow times. Mid-April to Mid-May and September and October are the times that I found the best prices on hotel rooms. We went in September for our trip.

pool area at Disney Aulani Resort

How Many Days is enough at Disney Aulani Resort?

After being there and not finishing the things we wanted to do I would say 3-4 full days is needed. Not all of the activities are held on each day so you will want to make sure you leave enough time to catch them all. You also do not want to plan to leave the resort for other activities on your Aulani days if you want to see and do everything that the resort has to offer. 

Is Aulani All-Inclusive?

No. While many activities (most I should say) are included in the room cost, as is access to the beach and other things you will still need to pay for your meals. 

Is food included at Disney Aulani?

No. Food is not included in the cost of your resort stay when at the Aulani resort in Hawaii.

Where is Disney Aulani Resort located?

Disney Aulani Resort is located in Ko Olina, on the western coast of the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The resort is situated at 92-1185 Ali’inui Drive, Kapolei, HI 96707, United States. It is nestled along the picturesque shores of Ko Olina and offers beautiful ocean views and access to a pristine beach. 

What island is Aulani on?

Disney Aulani is on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

How far is Aulani from the airport?

It will take you about 30 minutes to get from the Airport in Honolulu to the resort if you are renting a car. If you are getting a shuttle ride then the time can take longer. 

Is Aulani Open to the public?

The beaches in Hawaii are all public beaches, so you can enjoy the beach (without using Disney’s equipment) at no charge. You can also make dining reservations and attend the Luau even if you are not a guest at Aulani. To use the pools and other amenities you must be a guest. 

Can I do a Character Breakfast if I am not Staying at Aulani?

Yes. You can book a character breakfast at the Disney resort in Hawaii without being a guest. 

zero entry pool at Disney Aulani Resort

Can You Swim at Aulani if not a guest?

No. You can not use the pools or other amenities of the resort unless you are a paying guest. 

Can you swim at Aulani Lagoon?

Yes! It is a great experience swimming at the Aulani Lagoon. The clear water is not only clean but also calm. You do not need to be a guest at the resort to enjoy the lagoon. 

Parking at Aulani?

Parking is $37 per night. While it sounds steep, that is on par with parking all over the island including in areas like Waikiki, Honolulu, and the north shore. If you are a Disney Vacation Club member or you are staying at a DVC room because you rented points to book your room then parking is free. You can opt to use valet parking, however, it is an additional cost to use.

When you are parking your car in the self-parking lot be sure you have your room key as you will need it to get into the parking garage.  

Things to do in Hawaii with Kids

Love Disney? Be sure to check out tips for spending one day at Disney World and The best times to visit Disney World.

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