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“GREAT Family Resort - Food is TOO expensive” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

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Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
4.5 of 5 Hotel   |   92-1185 Ali'inui Drive, Kapolei, Oahu, HI 96707   |  
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Special Offer
Up to $500 Resort Credit!
Ranked #2 of 3 hotels in Kapolei
Top Contributor
66 reviews 66 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
42 helpful votes 42 helpful votes
“GREAT Family Resort - Food is TOO expensive”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 14, 2013

Visited Aulani for eight days and seven nights in January 2013. Our family of four (two adults and two kids ages 12 and 9) had an absolutely GREAT time! We stayed in a dedicated two-bedroom suite villa (dedicated means that it was not a joined one-bedroom villa with an adjoining deluxe studio). We planned on visiting several sites on Oahu (e.g., Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, Diamond Head, Dole Plantation) but we had too much fun at the resort.

Room: The room was spacious with great finishings, furnishings and amenities. It had one king size bed and two queen size beds, 2.5 bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a common area. The beds were all comfortable and the bathrooms spacious.

Food: While Hawaii is expensive, the resort restaurants were higher than they needed to be. The buffett restaurant (Makahiki) was bad. It was overpriced ($240 for four of us) and the food was cold, dry, and just not that good. The signature restaurant (Ama Ama) was very nice, although be prepared to pay for it! It was about $270 for four of us including drinks and dessert, but it was worth the splurge! Breakfast is overpriced for little bland food. Lunch and bar food was okay but slightly expensive.

Pools: A definite highlight! The lazy river was fun for adults and kids and takes about 20 minutes to go around. The family pool is large and has enough room when there are lots of guests. The adult only area wasn't tried. While one water slide was down for safety improvements, the other one was open and it was a lot of fun. Guests from the Marriott next door would come over to use the amenities. Although we didn't try Rainbow Reef (a snorkling pool stocked with fish), people seemed to enjoy it.

Beach: A great beach with free use of nice beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards and sand toys. For reasonable prices you can rent kayaks (one and two person), full-sized paddle boards, and scuba gear.

Poolside and Beach service: One downside was that poolside and beach drink service was often slow. Although nearly every server had a great attitude and was enthusiastic, you could easily wait more than 30 minutes or more for assistance.

WiFi access: Free for resort guest! Awesome!

Construction: The resort was doing limited construction in late January to expand recreation areas. Unfortunately, it was noisier than they wanted guests to believe and mroe distracting. Do NOT let this hold you back though! It's due to be done in a month or two, and we plan on going back regardless.

Parking: Free for resort guests.

Off-resort amenities: The Ko Olina golf course is right across the street, and there are good restaurants within a short walking distance that are reasonably price and have great food.

Room Tip: Dedicated two-bedroom villas are better than non-dedicated ones. "Non-dedicated" ones com...
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  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
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Los Angeles, California
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 14, 2013

I want to preface this review by stating upfront that we are Disney Vacation Club members, which makes all our vacationing affordable and sensible to us.

My girl and I bought into DVC about 3 years ago as Aulani was nearing completion, and chose Aulani as our home resort. We lived on the East Coast, USA, and figured we would never get to visit, but liked the idea of owning timeshares on Hawaii. When we moved to California for work, one of our first planned vacations was to Aulani. We planned many days of excursions, with some time allocated at the resort to enjoy the amenities and so on. That being said, we ended up only out of the resort twice - and both on Adventures by Disney excursions! The vast amount of things to do at the resort, including the vast amount of time that Disney has put into making this a cultural center for Hawaii blew us away. We learned more about Hawaii the more we were on property than whenever we left! The story telling with the Uncles (Uncle Ito is amazing, by the way), the art and nature walks, the classes, the exercise programs, the beaches, the bars, the food, EVERYTHING was perfect. We have since been back once and plan on going back again as soon as we can.

We have made four excursions off property in the two total weeks we were there - two with Adventures by Disney, and two self-guided tours. The ABD tours were a hit and a miss. We did the Kua'loa Ranch horseback riding excursion which was simply amazing. Great guides, fantastic horses, and just the right amount of time on horseback through some of the most majestic scenery ever. The second tour - Tales of a Moonlit night (ghost tour) was...not so good. The guide was used to playing up the horror aspect of the story rather than true cultural spiritual stories, which is what we came to expect from Disney. Honestly, save your money. Our other two self-guided tours involved a trip to the North Shore and a trip into Honolulu. Definitely get up to the North Shore! Beautiful!

Hands down, if you're looking to get immersed in Hawaiian culture (right down to learning to play the ukulele - now I own one and can play reasonably well!), and are looking for a Disney-quality experience, this is the resort for you. The one thing I would say is that it is EXPENSIVE. However, you get what you pay for. We love the food, the booze is great, and the accommodations are all worth it. Just know that you will need to set aside a good chunk of cash to do it.

But oh man, is it worth it.

Room Tip: Pick the Ocean View! The view out west is amazing! On the DVC side, you get a solid sunset view al...
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
inland empire, ca
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
27 helpful votes 27 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013

Our party of 4 adults just got back from a week at the Aulani. I've read all the reviews, both good & bad, and I must say, anyone with a negative review of this place is not used to resort travel. Hawaii is expensive, get over it (except for gas, oddly enough, which is cheaper than in California. Figure that one out, Gov. Brown)!

As we drove onto the property, we were greeted by name, presented with leis, given a short tour of the resort and handed our keycards. When I asked if we could get a unit a bit higher (we were on the 4th floor; the lobby is the 3rd floor), I was walked over to the registration desk and introduced to Ashley. After a very brief phone call, we were moved to the 16th (TOP) floor. A great start, that continued for the week.

The Aulani is quite different from the 2 Marriott resorts in the Ko-Olina resort area. They are all in white, where the Aulani is in soft earth tones, all browns & beiges. It really stands out and has a much warmer feeling than the Marriotts.

Our two bedroom, garden view villa, overlooked the grass area where the Starlit Hui & movies were shown during the week. What's more, we had a wonderful view of the ocean looking back towards Honolulu. The unit was wonderful: two bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, full kitchen, living room and 3 flat screen TV's. There was a slider in each bedroom & in the living room. The villa had two balconies. The sliders are hurricane quality and are quite heavy, but as a result, the rooms are very quiet. In fact, too quiet for me. We left the sliders open all night and listened to the waves until about 5 am, when all the service trucks started showing up and the landscapers started mowing, blowing, sweeping, etc. No problem, we just shut the door.

As to the food, yes it is expensive, but no more so than any other top level resort. We had drinks in both bars and there was no lack of alcohol as I had read in other reviews. The Aulani has an all-you-can-drink cup that can be purchased for $18. It's good for soft drinks, tea & coffee. That compares well to the same offering at the Marriott for $32.99!

The top dining room, Ama-Ama, was delicious and served a terrific Maui Onion soup. Steaks were perfect, as were the snapper and lamb. With drinks, the bill was $300, but that is to be expected. Frankly, any quality restaurant in L.A. would be priced the same. And besides, the menus are printed outside the restaurants. If it's too expensive, there are cheaper options across the street and all the chains are in Kapolei, just a couple of miles away.

The rest of the property is beautiful and leaves you feeling completely immersed in Hawaii. Disney stuff is there, but very muted. Except for the character breakfast and a few characters making an appearance from time-to-time, you would never know it was a Disney resort. The pool area is quite large & we never had a problem finding a lounge. There are 4 spas and a meandering river that flows through the area. Just grab an inner tube and relax. The beach area is also very large, with great sand and very few people.

There is a gift shop that I felt was sufficient, but they are adding another. The Aulani T-shirts are from Crazy Shirts and while a bit expensive are of very good quality. The shop also has some food, sundries, etc.

For guests without transportation, the resort offers many daily events, both free & at a cost, and also has a tour desk with several options.

Across the street is a shopping area, with 3 restaurants, an ice-cream parlor and an interesting ABC store. While its liquor prices were very high, it had a pretty good selection of very high quality wines for not much more than we pay in California. It also had hats, clothing, etc. at equally good prices.

If there is a downside to the resort, it's the location. I'm sure Disney wanted to reach the largest amount of travelers and chose O'ahu for that reason, but It would have been so much better to have the resort on Maui or the Big Island. Ko-Olina is about 25 minutes from the airport, past the refineries and is a bit isolated. We had a car, so that wasn't a problem. Parking is $35 per day, but free for DVC members.

All in all, I can't say enough about this place: it's beautiful, the cast members were always smiling and saying "Aloha". I'd come back in a heartbeat.

Room Tip: Everyone wants a high floor. We requested a garden view, instead of pool or ocean views and still ha...
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Philadelphia
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 14 cities Reviews in 14 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 13, 2013 via mobile

We spent 10 nights at the Aulani, and could have stayed longer. Even though this is a Disney property, its dedicated to Hawaii...from the morning chant, the architecture, and grounds to the Hawaiian music everywhere. The attention to detail is impeccable. It's well worth the 20 minute drive from Honolulu. Plus, it's always sunny, because it's on the west side of the island. Also, the spa must be the best I've been to, and I've been to many. There are great restaurants at the hotel and within Ko Olina. It was a great stay!

  • Stayed February 2013
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sacramento
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
10 helpful votes 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2013

I'll make this quick - others have written excellent, comprehensive reviews. We are not really Disney people (never stayed at a Disney hotel before, though we've done Disneyland a couple times), so we are a little apprehensive about trying this Disney resort experience with our two small boys. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find there's really very little Disney about the Aulani. It's very much geared to a Hawaiian experience, with lots of attention to incorporating Hawaiian history and culture into the entire grounds and the entertainment. I think it's theoretically possible to stay at the Aulani for a week and not realize it's actually a Disney establishment (despite the daily showing of a Disney character or two for photo opps and optional character breakfasts). So kudos to Disney for completely blowing my mind on that score.

The resort is geared toward outdoor family fun. The pools, hot tubs, lazy river, waterslides and splash area--not to mention the man-made lagoon and beach--are fun and can keep you active all day. There is a community room with board games, video games, books, and a TV, but I noticed hardly anyone was ever in there watching TV. There's too much fun to be had outside. My kids (2 and 5) especially loved the Menehune trail walk. It's basically an app that has you walk around and learn about Hawai'i, and you find clues and then trigger interactive experiences around the resort. And it's free. I've seen a lot of complaints here about how expensive everything is at Aulani, but honestly, there's a ton of stuff that's included, so you don't really have to spend much more than hotel and parking costs (especially if you stock up on groceries instead of eating at the resort restaurants). There are various entertainments, lessons, and craft activities planned throughout the day, some for adults, some for kids, some for both, plus evening entertainments like oral storytelling around the firepit, the moonlit hui, and outdoor movie nights. Oh, and fresh towels are available all day long for the pool area - LOVED that. We never had to worry about towels.

The rooms were spacious, clean, and comfortable. We went during low season, so we got upgraded to a room facing the pools and ocean, which was nice. Service was overall quite good, usually friendly. The kids had a blast, and we'd consider going back again someday.

BTW - I didn't think the food prices were outrageous. Expensive? Heck yes. But if you combine Disney + Hawai'i, it's not shockingly high. Just go shopping at a Safeway (or, if you have the stomach, a Whole Foods) in Hawai'i, and you will totally get why the food costs so much at the Aulani. The food was quite good (not quite 5-star good, but good), and they were able to easily (and respectfully) accommodate our need for gluten- and dairy-free meals.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sacramento, CA
Top Contributor
58 reviews 58 reviews
31 hotel reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
54 helpful votes 54 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 11, 2013

We are in our early 40's with kids 8 and 10. We typically stay at standard Marriotts and other chain hotels. Occasionally nicer but mostly pretty mainstream. We generally go to Hawaii once a year. This was our first time to Aulani. We found Aulani to be very close to 5 stars. As others have said it's much more Hawaiian than it is Disney. No hidden Mickeys and no over the top Disney stuff. Just an occasionally Mickey sighting walking around and the Mickey shaped pancakes and waffles at breakfast! Classy but clearly within the Disney family if that makes sense.

Highlights:
- Staff is plentiful, friendly and with a few exceptions very top notch;
- Probably 10-15 bellhops standing around to open doors and take your luggage when you arrive - old school and impressive to me;
- Food variety (our daughter has Celiac so eats gluten free) was exceptional -- this was #1 highlight when my daughter learned of all their gluten free options at the on-site restaurants;
- Day care center was the best I have ever seen by FAR;
- On-site snorkel lagoon is amazing;
- Waterslides were perfect for my kids;
- Lifeguards everywhere - safest feeling pool I have ever seen;
- You can hang out onsite for days and never feel the need to leave;
- Wi-fi good and no passwords needed which was nice;
- Shave ice very good and, as everybody else, very friendly employees;
- Very clean;

Low Lights (I have to stretch here to think of a few):
- It's expensive;
- Food is pricey and not great quality but it's fine;
- The last morning the woman on phone said a 12:00 "late" check out was no charge and she would call back to see about a later check out but then called back (left VM) to say they couldn't do a late check out. I didn't get that message until 10:58 on the voice mail and was surprised, irritated and annoyed. Call downstairs to talk about it as my family was at the pool and I was hung up on... and then phone wouldn't re-dial. I think the first woman on phone was inexperienced so I don't blame the hotel. Probably isolated incident.
- Ko Olina is far from Waikiki and isolated - to me this is a positive but to some would be too far I am sure.
- Gym is not huge, has no windows, and only has 3 bikes (1 upright and 2 recumbent);
- The day care center was incredible but geared toward slightly younger kids. Maybe a few more organized activities for 10-12 year olds would be nice.

Overall highly recommended and 4.5+ stars.

Room Tip: There are few bad rooms. We saved money with non-ocean view and it was totally fine.
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 11, 2013

The Disney Aulani resort is Amazing to us!

Disney really did a good job!
We love Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom at WDW, but this will be our second home base!
( we heard that Aulani was designed by the same Disney Executive Imagineer who also designed
Kidani Village / Jumbo House at Animal Kingdom and that he is also from Hawai'i... )
It's beautiful, clean, friendly cast members, really nice swimming pool, hot tubs, nice lazy river
and we were surprised by the tropical fish lagoon which you can go snorkel in... and a beautiful beach.

Even though it's focused on families, as a couple, it is really nice and there is lots to do,
on site and off site...Disney style, Hawaiian style...or your style!
You can make nice walks along the beach cause there is a nice long beach walkway along the other resorts and we saw a lot of turtles too! ( after the Marriott resort )
We came there to relax and we just did!
Of course, we did the character breakfast! Which was really nice!
We had every other day, breakfast at the 'Ama 'Ama restaurant at the beach side,
really awesome view!

We stayed in a 1 bedroom apartment /unit. Beautiful!
It's even better in real, what we say on the pictures on the internet!

Aulani we see you back in 2015!

Room Tip: We stayed in a 1 bedroom apartment...it's so worth it! and make sure you do a character breakf...
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  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Also Known As:
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa In Hawai`i Hotel Kapolei
Aulani, a Disney Resort And Spa In Hawai`i
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa In Hawai`i Hotel
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa Hawaii/Oahu
Address: 92-1185 Ali'inui Drive, Kapolei, Oahu, HI 96707
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Hawaii > Oahu > Kapolei
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 hotels in Kapolei
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa 4.5*
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