My husband and I stayed in a 1 bedroom timeshare villa at this resort the week before Thanksgiving 2011. Overall we had a nice time and would bring our children back here in the future.
If you are looking for a Disney experience with Mickey everywhere, this is NOT the place to be. If you have been to any of the other high-end Disney hotels before (i.e. the Grand Californian or Animal Kingdom Lodge), Aulani feels just like those hotels, except that it is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is luxurious, nicely Hawaiian themed, clean, spacious, and the staff are super friendly. The lobby has a wonderful connection with the outdoors because of the high ceilings and fold away glass doors; you really get a sense of being outside, and the views are magnificant.
Our 1 bedroom villa was nicely laid out and very clean. The slanted balconies are a bit awkward and not very large at all, but the we never felt closed in. We had been "upgraded" from a standard view to an island view, and that gave us a 5th floor location with an upclose view of the parking structure of the JW Marriott next door. I was quite disappointed with the island view. We later moved to an ocean view room, which was exactly the same but on the 10th floor. Still not particularly appealing, but we were able to see the ocean from that floor. The Grand Villas and the pool view side rooms have the best views, so be sure to request one of those if view is important to you.
The pool area is not well shaded, so the seats under the few umbrellas filled up quickly. Even though part of the hotel was not yet finished, we arrived at the pool right when it opened in order to secure the spots we wanted, and we did hear about folks getting their seats taken when they left, even if they had beach towels saving them. So be aware that prime pool seats are going to be a premium in the hotter summer months (we were there in November after all) and when the hotel is at full capacity.
There are two sets of cabanas, one by the main pool, and one by the little kid water park area. If you rent one of these, you may want to consider requesting a specific location since you may be expecting an ocean view only to be stuck next to screaming little ones.
The hotel is quite far from EVERYTHING to do on Oahu, and the only outside food within walking distance was the ABC store across the street, or the restaurants at the nearby hotels. These retaurants included Roy's, so budget friendly food is really nowhere to be found within walking distance.
One "poor" family I spoke with had taken a cab from the airport to the resort in order to avoid the $35/night parking fee (this is waived for villa guests), but breakfast for their family of 4 was close to $200, for ONE DAY. If you don't have a kitchen, you definitely need a car unless you plan on only eating Disney food the whole time, because even the little sundry store had little chose from.
If you do have a car, there is a Target and a Costco, and also a small organic grocery store, about 1.5 miles away. My husband and I went to Costco on the first night and picked up prime steaks, lobster, bread, passion fruit juice, pork jerky, seaweed salad, a big bottle of rum, and a few other snackies and such for food for the week, and it cost us about $350. We only ate out 3 times the rest of the trip, one was a shrimp truck, one was sushi on the way to the airport, and one was a luau that was part of a tour we had booked. We did not buy any food at any of the restaurants at the hotel. I heard from other guests that the food was good, but overpriced. So those of you who chose to stay in the hotel, I hope you like eating out alot and don't mind paying for it.
I had originally booked a spa pass for one day, but was told that there were no in-out priviledges...once you leave, that's it. So I cancelled that. The spa pass would have been $45. May be worth it in the future if you want privacy and to get away from the crowds at the resort, but now the trip we were there.
The resort was very relaxing, but it was quite far from Honolulu, Waikiki, and the North Shore. Traffic is HORRIBLE. Even though it is approx. 17 miles away, it took us nearly 1.5 hours to get from the resort to Waikiki for the catamaran tour we had booked. It will also take you 1.5 hours to get back to the resort after 5pm. By the 3rd day, we decided to just stay at the resort, drink rum and passion fruit, and lay out by the pool so we could avoid the traffic. But if you want to do any activities outside the resort, be mentally prepared for a long commute even if the distance is short.
All in all, I enjoyed the resort, but found it remote and highly inconvenient (and expensive!) if you don't have a car. Since we didn't go very many places and had a car, this didn't bother us too much, but did discourage us from exploring more of the island. The Ko 'Olina area shuts down after dark, so if you want night life, you'll have to brave going into Waikiki, and the only things really open there are bars and restaurants.
That being said, we had a nice time and would return with our little ones in the future.
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- Also Known As:
- Aulani, a Disney Resort And Spa In Hawai`i
- Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa In Hawai`i Hotel Kapolei
- Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa Hawaii/Oahu