Welcome to Aulani! Disney’s resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii opened in 2011 and has skyrocketed in popularity every since. It’s not hard to see why – everything you could want from an island paradise is right there at the resort, and better yet, it’s all touched by Disney Magic! Sure, there may not be a Disney theme park right away the corner, but you won’t even mind the absence of roller coasters as you’re relaxing on the beach or floating along the lazy river.
We’ve been to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii twice now – once in 2012, and our most recent trip was this past May 2018. I’ve found six things that you HAVE to try before you leave Aulani, making your Hawaiian vacation a trip you’ll never forget!
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You might be wondering – wait a minute. Isn’t this a Disneyland treat? Why are you mentioning that here? Well, I’m bringing it up because, as you might have guessed, Aulani has recently started serving Dole Whips at the resort! If you’ve never tried this pineapple soft serve delight, you absolutely must before you go home. My boyfriend tried it for the very first time when we were there, and no surprise, he loved it!
Dole Whips can currently be found at The Lava Shack and Little ‘Opihi’s on the beach.
Rainbow Reef is one of my favorite features at Aulani. I’ve tried snorkeling in the ocean, and let me tell you a little secret – you won’t see ANYTHING. The only time you’ll be successful with this is if you go on one of those expensive excursions out in the ocean. Why do that when you can just stay at your hotel for a fraction of the cost??
For $20, you can get all day access to snorkeling at Rainbow Reef. This controlled environment has all the tropical fish you could ever want to swim amongst – and no need to worry about the dirty ocean water! If you’ve never snorkeled before, an expert Cast Member will assist you and help you get equipped, and then you’re off. You can snorkel as long as you want, and since you get a wristband, you can come back later and do it all over again!
If you have someone in your party who is not as adventurous, they can watch from the underground viewing area and get some sweet shots for your Instagram!
Ka Wa’a – A Disney Luau
When you’re in Hawaii, you absolutely have to go to an authentic luau, otherwise you’re SERIOUSLY missing out on experiencing great food, culture, music and dancing. Luckily for you, Disney has a Luau right on site!
Ka Wa’a Luau features traditional Hawaiian food, live dinner entertainment showcasing hula dancing and traditional Polynesian performances, and pre-show activities like temporary tattoos and taro pounding. I’m a huge foodie, which is reason enough for me to sign up for a luau each and every time we head to Hawaii – you haven’t lived until you’ve tried authentic Hawaiian roasted pig, I promise!
**tip – if the price of this Luau is making your eyes bulge a bit, check out Paradise Cove. They are another traditional Hawaiian luau just down the street from Aulani (literally a 5 minute walk) that is about $30 cheaper and just as high quality!**
Character Dining at Makahiki
Since opening in 2011, Disney has expanded their character dining buffet to include not one, but TWO character dining options that you absolutely must experience! The breakfast buffet has all your favorites – scrambled eggs, bacon, Mickey waffles – as well as traditional Asian and Hawaiian breakfast items. Auntie goes around and engages with the kids while Mickey and friends come to your table and take pictures. The dinner show, “Mehehune Mischief” is very similar, with Uncle telling stories of the Mehehune, who are little mischief makers of the island, as you dine on a buffet of seafood, sushi, and traditional buffet items like pasta, macaroni and cheese – and of course dessert!
If you make a reservation (HIGHLY recommended) for breakfast, it will always be character dining with Auntie and friends – however if you want to book a reservation for the dinner show, you need to check the Aulani website for the schedule. The website will list the times of the show – simply make a reservation for dinner during that time (it won’t explicitly say “Mehehune Mischief” when booking, but rest assured, if you’re dining during that time, you’ll see the show!)
Even if you don’t have kids, I recommend checking out the character dining. See my post HERE on why adults should book character dining reservations!
Adult Pool and Coffee Bar
Need a break from the kids? Head over to the Wailana adults only pool to get some much needed relaxation! Pool service cast members will come by and serve you snacks and beverages as you relax, and this pool is perfectly placed in the sunshine, off the beaten track, providing everything you need to catch some rays away from the hustle and bustle of the main pool. One of my favorite features of the adult pool is the bar – they serve coffee in the morning, so if you’re missing your usual Starbucks fix, head on down before 10 AM! I was up at 8 AM pretty much every morning (thanks time zones!) and absolutely LOVED heading down to the pool to grab a special iced coffee drink to sip while reading my book by the pool before it got too crowded.
In case relaxing in the sun and chillin’ on the beach wasn’t enough “me time” for you, head over to Laniwai Spa before you head home for some pampering! In addition to the traditional spa services, such as massages, mani pedis, and skin treatments, Laniwai provides unique spa services that will truly help you relax on your vacation. You can make your own scrubs using island ingredients (I picked Plumeria scrub and it was absolutely delightful!) and relax in the Kula Wai Hydrotherapy Garden before getting your massage. I’d never heard of a hydrotherapy garden before, but it was probably my favorite part of the whole experience!
The water is infused with minerals, allowing you to soak your cares away before enjoying a nice massage. It’s complimentary with any spa service purchase!
Those are just a few of the MANY amazing things Aulani resort has to offer. Disney is never one to cut corners, and their Hawaiian resort may be one of the best examples of their classic attention to every detail. When it comes to resorts, Disney has no comparison – and Aulani is no exception!
What are some of YOUR favorite things to do at Aulani? Comment below! And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter! You’ll receive updates whenever I post new Disney content!
My husband and I had a couples massage there! It was so good. We had a lotion that smelled like pineapple! The Best!
Can you use your own mask and snorkel at Rainbow Reef, or do you have to rent from the resort?
I believe you have to use the ones provided from the resort. You can use your own mask and snorkel out in the ocean, though!
Tamara A Land says
Do you have to be a guest at Aulani to purchase the activities. We will be staying close by and would love to take youngest to a character breakfast and his mom for a massage if available.
I think those would both be OK! I think the only thing you’d probably not be able to access would be the pool and beach front as you need wristbands for those areas to prove you are staying at the hotel, but I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be able to book a reservation at the restaurant or a massage.