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“The Good, Bad and Odd at Aulani”

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Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Kapolei
Certificate of Excellence
Los Angeles, CA
Level Contributor
253 reviews
108 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 319 helpful votes
“The Good, Bad and Odd at Aulani”
Reviewed April 23, 2013

Let me just say this out front: I would never choose this hotel and island if I didn’t have kids or didn’t have a reason for choosing Oahu as my island of choice, because I would could never recommend Oahu as the best Hawaiian island destination. Kauai is paradise, Maui is sunsets and honeymooners, and Hawaii is raw beauty. Oahu is pretty and the beaches are beautiful, but it is a metropolis with traffic, factories and Wall Marts.

That being said, Disney’s Aulani offers families and adults a large amount of options on a very crowded piece of property on a very attractive manmade beach.

The Good

The cast members are outstanding. Probably the best service of any hotel I’ve ever experienced in Hawaii. They went out of their way to deliver an authentic, friendly Hawaiian tone and hit just the right mix of playful and professional. The entry welcome was top notch and check in was perfect.

The ground and landscaping are beautiful, and will grow even more lush and lived in with time. There are bridges, nooks, streams and fish to bring a touch of nature to this very cramped resort.
The cuisine at the waterside fine dining full service restaurant, AMA AMA, is first rate, delicious and fairly priced for a Hawaiian resort hotel. The main dining room (to the right as you walk in) is very Hawaiian, beautiful and feels as if it’s been there for 200 years.

The Spa is stunningly beautiful and offers a water playground for adults that is truly amazing. You have to see it for yourself (especially at night). If this is the first Disney run spa – they are going to hit a home run.

Disney also offers a daily list of activities for the entire family and most of these are FREE! This is a great touch and very thoughtful. The amount of special activities, places and meals for kids cannot be beat anywhere in Hawaii.

The Bad

The entire resort is crammed onto a sliver of land. This results in soaring hotel towers that resemble Hawaiian housing projects sporting fiberglass thatched roofs that unsuccessfully disguise their imposing, sun-blocking, view-killing characteristics. Simply put—the towers are not my idea of Hawaii or a vacation.

To make matters worse, the rooms are very small—especially for Hawaii. Some rooms offer a wider, more useful rectangular balcony, but others suffer from a useless triangular balcony that ruins both the room layout and the balcony itself. Outdoor space if very nice to have in Hawaii, so it is really disappointing Disney ended up with the worst lanais in Hawaii. On a better note, the room décor is the perfect casual Hawaiian palate of colors and patterns that says Aloha.

Although we loved the old Hawaiian dining area of AMA AMA, we loathed the left side of the dining area that resembled a pier under construction… or something like that. This are also has abrasive fluorescent lighting on a 1970s blue plaster wave wall that has the charm of an airport at night.

While there are a large number of pool safety attendants, it seems that every time we enjoyed the terraced spa at sunset, we were sharing it with half the beach… of non-hotel guests with beer cans, glasses and backpacks. There was no one watching this area and it was a disaster. We personally watched as two people nearly cracked their necks using the handicap chair lift as their handrail in and out of the beautiful spa. I also sliced my kneecap open of a sharp screw on the bottom on a plastic vent cover on the spa floor.

The Odd

You would think the first Disney Resort in Hawaii would have the best pool it the world… you would think. But there is a lack of Magic when it comes to the pool area. The problem stems from an odd-shaped, dry looking, jagged rock lump in the center of the pool—is it a volcano? A meteor? Why does it look so dry and uninviting -- this is Paradise isn’t it? The lame structure is also the main focal point for the canyon of rooms that face the center area of the resort. Like a budget version of The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom, the structure offers a handful of creatures sculpted into its base, but it looks like a last minute effort to make more of the lump. The mountain also hides two good waterslides that lead to the pool below. What happened here? And why did this get by Disney?

There is a lazy river too. It’s nicely done, but short and shallow with no heater. Brrrrr.

But it isn’t the pool that strikes me as the strangest misfire at Aulani—it’s the total miscalculation of lack of retail. Guests in Hawaii stay at their hotel and look for things to do—this includes shopping. Disney currently only offers one small, disappointing store off the lobby. Really? Yes, that’s it! All Disney had to do is look at every other major resort in Hawaii to see that retail is part of the mix of a successful total resort. They are adding one additional store—but that seems like a pathetic fix to a major miscalculation.

So, should you make your way to Aulani? If you love Oahu to begin with and have young kids—this is the best place to stay. Period.

But if you are expecting a Hawaiian paradise resort with space to relax and take in all Hawaii has to offer—this isn’t it. Despite amazing spirit and the best staff in Hawaii, Disney’s Aulani is good, not great.

Room Tip: Ask for a rectangular balcony, not a triangular.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
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11 Thank TRVLtruth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
12 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed April 23, 2013

I have stayed at many excellent locations in Honolulu, but the Aulani, in Kapolei simply stands out as awesome.
Lot's of places to swim and relax.
The kids love Aunty's Beach house, and parents love the fact that it is free and inclusive. If you need time away, rest assured that your young ones will be well taken care of here. My niece and nephew didn't want to leave.
The only drawback is the food offerings. Quite expensive yet food quality was mediocre. The best on-property option is probably the buffet. if you have a car, I recommend that you head to neighboring Kapolei city for more affordable offerings.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank jennifer k
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
31 reviews
30 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
Reviewed April 20, 2013

We brought our infant and our in-laws and had a wonderful time. We are DVC members, but found the hotel a notch above the normal DVC standard. The staff was warm, activities were fantastic, and the rooms were very nice. The ongoing renovations did not disrupt our stay, but will add a much needed children's pool as well as additional casual dining options.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank YGlobalTraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Seoul, South Korea
Level Contributor
57 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 108 helpful votes
Reviewed April 19, 2013

We had a one room villa this time. I almost missed the fact that there was a pull down bed under the TV! We had a wonderful time and the highlights were the lazy river, the kids' water playground, and the FREE childcare from 10 am - 9 pm at Auntie's Beachhouse. That is what makes the expense worth it. The other highlights were the Disney style hula show (families sit on mats on a lawn) and poolside Character visits. You would pay a LOT for these types of things at other hotels. So when you add it all up, it's the inclusives that you must take advantage of and you will think it's worth the price.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank AmerInEuroJen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bellingham, Washington
Level Contributor
26 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed April 19, 2013

Whether it is the perfect beach lagoon, water slides, or lazy river Aulani has everything you need for a hawaiin vacation with the family. We stayed in a one bed room villa that was absolutely immaculate. Our kids both had their own hide-a-beds, and we had a king bed in our bedroom. The room had a full kitchen and restaurant style booth in the dining room. The bathroom has a jacuzzi tub and seperate standup shower. All of the amenities in the room are terrific. We deciding to stock up at the grocery store rather than eating at restaurants the whole time. Also we are DVC members and they waive the daily parking rate with this. Our kids loved the teen club and all of the activities offered. This resort gets a 10 out of 10 we will definitely be going back.

  • Stayed November 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank HamTravelGuy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Woodinville, Washington
Level Contributor
27 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed April 19, 2013

At the outset, this trip was everything we have come to expect from a Disney experience. The kids had a fabulous time and we took advantage of all aspects of the resort. It will be a lifetime memory. But I have to say, the beds were terrible. We had a one room villa and our queen mattress felt like it was coated with plastic. When you are trying to sleep with a sun kissed tan (or mini sunburn) and you're hot because your body is not used to being in the tropics, sleeping on plastic is not relaxing or comfortable. Additionally, when you or your spouse move the bed crinkles loudly. Our kids slept on the pull outs and Murphy bed and more than once we came out to find them all on the floor because the beds "poked." This hasn't been our experience in LA or Orlando so it was disappointing. BUT, if this gets fixed, we would go all the time as it is truly a great experience otherwise.

Room Tip: Be insistent about what you want and will accept. The resort is so great that I'm not sure payin...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank K R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Level Contributor
25 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed April 17, 2013

We live on Oahu and wanted to experience Aulani when the timing was just right. This hotel is exactly as advertised. It is a property that was planned well. The people and customs of Hawaii were tastefully applied and provided authentic examples all over the resort. Take the time to view all of the artwork. The hotel is unique and breathtaking. We had a pool garden ocean view in the Waianae tower and couldn't have been more Pleased.. The pool is the centerpiece of the property with something for all ages. I loved the lazy river. Goofy hung out for quite a while taking pictures with anyone who asked. He was wading in the river sitting at times waving to passing floating people! The interactive scavenger hunt is a must do both inside and outside. I saw Stich passing by and when I waved to him, he blew a kiss. You will not be bombarded with Disney overload. This is with intent. You know exactly where and when the characters will be if you use the daily Iwa newsletter. Although the rate is high, there are many complimentary experiences. You can get you monies worth. Again, use the daily Iwa. They allow you to continue to enjoy the pool even after you check out. Take a separate swim bag and use the Luana lounge to shower and spin dry your swimsuit before heading home. I want to go back!

Room Tip: We loved room 936. I was just thrilled to be there.
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank TripleAMom808
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

Property: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Address: 92-1185 Ali'inui Drive, Kapolei, Oahu, HI 96707-4434
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 Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Kapolei
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa 4.5*
Number of rooms: 819
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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

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