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Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
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Reviewed January 21, 2014

My wife and I just stayed at Aulani for 3 nights with our 1 year old son. Overall, we had a great time, and the resort does a lot of things very, very well. However, there are also some areas where the resort could make much needed improvements. Also, any future or potential guest of Aulani should be aware that a resort employee entered our room without permission after 9 PM to deliver an invitation to a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) timeshare sales pitch. I expressed my concern about this to a DVC employee, and he apologized and indicated he would speak with management, but we have not had acknowledgment from management that our privacy was violated (not to mention our contract for lodging with the resort). Hopefully, management was made aware – as we were told would occur – so this does not happen to other families. And hopefully this review makes other families aware, so you can latch your doors if you stay at Aulani.

We booked an oceanfront room at the hotel part of the resort, and we were upgraded to a 1 bedroom villa in the vacation club part of the resort – which was very nice. The room itself was fantastic, except for the shower, where the floor was not sloped properly to allow for adequate drainage.

A lot of the existing reviews for Aulani highlight the things that are done right, so I won’t use too much space or time here. I think it is worth stressing that virtually every employee (or “Cast Member” in Disney-speak) we encountered was extremely friendly and helpful. Many of the Cast Members were awesome to interact with, and they make the resort a wonderful place to be with your family.

The resort is stunningly beautiful and well-designed. Also, the entire Waikolohe Valley setup with the pools, lazy river, and water slides, is fantastic. It is the type of thing you expect Disney to get right, and they without question did. They do a good job of making guests feel safe in this area, with plenty of lifeguards and other staff keeping an eye on what is a bustling area, especially during the middle of the day. I think Aulani should consider, though, trying to crack down on the few guests acting like idiots in the lazy river. I understand the lifeguards are not there to police behavior, per se, but when some guests’ behavior creates potentially unsafe conditions in the lazy river – as I saw happen – it seems like a quick warning from a lifeguard would be appropriate, but I did not see it happen once.

In terms of the overall improvements that could be made, the biggest one on my view would be to increase the variety of food options and the quality of the food. We did not eat at the resort’s fanciest restaurant, Amaama, but we did experience the buffet dinner at Makahiki, breakfast at Ulu Café, lunch food at Mama’s Snack Stop, and room service (Private Dining in Disney-speak) for dinner. The food we paid for ranged from mediocre to very good. The only great or delicious thing we had at Aulani was the taro bread that came free with dinner at Makahiki. It was definitely the best taro bread I’ve ever had. But besides that, the food was not impressive, and definitely not what we expected from Disney, or from any luxury resort.

Moreover, Aulani needs to revamp the breakfast options. As it is now, there is only one place (Ulu Café) to get hot breakfast food that does not require sitting down for a full meal. As a family-oriented resort, Aulani needs to provide more options for breakfast that do not take as much time, especially when the line at Ulu Café gets to be 50 people long, with a 45 minute to 1 hour wait for food, as happened on our second full day. The resort would also make a large amount of money if it opened a decent espresso place. You can get an espresso drink at Ulu’s, but it is merely decent (and only if you add at least one additional shot to the normally single-shot drinks). The demographic staying at Aulani would pay a good amount of money for really good espresso and coffee, but that option doesn’t exist now, which is probably why I heard Aulani guests talking about walking to Starbucks in the resort next door.

If you are staying at Aulani and want great coffee, food, and beer, consider making the short trip to Ko Olina Station shopping center, where you can get quality coffee drinks at Island Vintage Coffee and ono grinds and beers at Monkeypod Kitchen. These places are about a ten minute walk from Aulani. We went to Monkeypod for their happy hour, which offers great deals and a sharp contrast to what you will get at Aulani -- we got 5 fancy beers (Rogue Dead Guy), 2 pizzas, a pupu, and a slice of pie, for under $60.

And now to the creepiness of having a resort employee enter our room without permission. Sometime after 9 PM on our second night at the resort, a hotel employee opened our door to leave inside the room an envelope containing a time share sales solicitation and a box of shortbread cookies. At the time, I was on the lanai enjoying the view we paid to have, and my wife and son were sleeping in the bedroom. I did not even know a resort employee had been in our room until about 10:30 PM, after I came back in from the lanai and saw the envelope and cookies on the floor not far from the door. My wife told me the next day that she heard someone knock on the door and then heard the door open and close, but she assumed that I had been the one to open the door in response to the knocking. I had not even heard the knock on the door. The day after this happened, I went to the DVC preview center at the resort and expressed my concerns to a DVC employee, who informed me that the bell staff delivers the solicitations and shortbread for DVC. The DVC employee told me that no one should have entered my room after 9 PM, that he was very glad I talked to him about the problem because he is very good at dealing with situations like this, and that he would speak with the front desk manager about what happened. The DVC employee apologized several times, which I appreciated, and I told him that I just wanted to make sure management was made aware of what happened, both because it should not have happened to us and to hopefully prevent it from happening to other families in the future.

I do not think the resort employee who entered our room after 9 PM with no legitimate reason had any ill intentions or did anything other than leave the envelope and shortbread, but the fact that it happened anywhere – especially a fancy place and a Disney resort – is extremely disturbing. It is something that I would like to know happened to someone if I were considering or planning a stay at Aulani with my family.

My mother always told me to use the latch on hotel doors, and I always thought she was being overly-cautious, but I do wish I had latched my door at Aulani. With our door latched, the sales solicitation and shortbread could still have been left in our unit, but we wouldn’t be so creeped out by the possibility that a resort employee could have been in our unit doing whatever they wanted without me knowing, and while my wife and child were asleep. It just should not have happened, and it absolutely did not need to happen. As I told the DVC employee I spoke with, Aulani makes you tell divulge the name and age of every person in the room, so Aulani knew I had an infant staying in the room. I cannot understand why someone would knock on my door after 9 PM to deliver a sales pitch. And even if someone at Aulani thought it was appropriate to make a sales call after 9 PM, when there was no response to a knock, the envelope with the sales pitch could have be slipped under the door – maybe with a note to come pick up some free shortbread – just as my bill was slipped under the door the following night.

Further, when the employee knocked on our door and there was no response, he or she had no idea why there was no response or what may have been going on inside the unit. What if my wife was nursing our infant son on the couch, which is in direct line of sight from the door? I understand there are legitimate reasons for a hotel employee to enter our room (e.g. housekeeping or based on some reasonable suspicion of illegal activity) but the delivery of a timeshare sales solicitation is most definitely not such a reason, even if it did not happen after 9 PM. Unfortunately, the breach of our privacy taints our entire Aulani experience to some extent. As I said, we had a really good time, and we are considering returning to Aulani in the future, but the fact that it is a place where an employee entered our unit without permission and without any right to do so does give us reason to reconsider. Would it happen again? Probably not . . . but I would have had the same answer if I was asked whether it would ever happen in the first place.

  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled with family
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6  Thank ate_oh_ate
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 20, 2014

having spent many vacations on disneys many properties I thought that I had experienced all that i could expect. wow. the staff of aulani proved me wrong. the hotel is beautiful which is to be expected at their resorts but the staff is what makes it amazing. Every wish was made with grace and speed. My wife and I look foward to returning which is what we consider the hallmark of a great place to vacation.

  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled with family
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1  Thank Gerard S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 20, 2014

We had a wonderful Christmas vacation at Aulani. The location was wonderful. It is away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu but an easy drive to everything. You will want a rental car. We stocked up on groceries at the Costco and Target that was nearby. Across the street there is a small shopping complex with an ABC grocery store and several restaurants. Monkey Pod is a great restaurant there which we ate at several times! We stayed in a one bedroom villa. The room was wonderful except for the slotted doors which meant you could hear anytime someone went to the bathroom or got up during the night. The resort is beautiful and has plenty to keep you busy. We really enjoyed the self-contained snorkeling area, lagoon, water slides, and lazy river. The Spa was also wonderful! The Disney Characters came out a few times throughout the day otherwise you wouldn't even realize it was a Disney property. We will definitely be back some day!

Room Tip: We were in 1613 Ocean view which faced the backside of the Marriot. Close to the elevator, lobby and spa.
  • Stayed: December 2013, traveled with family
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2  Thank TALB87
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 18, 2014

A beautiful facility with a magnificent beachfront and views. With many internal on the grounds water related attractions, lovely rooms, and exceptional service, this resort is at a Disney level of excellence. Nearly an hour drive from Waikiki Beach, one can stay at the hotel or venture elsewhere for a day or part day outing. The facilities are in a relatively small area for the number of guests and the facilities could be at least somewhat crowded at times.

  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled with family
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1  Thank Bills2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 17, 2014

From the minute we arrived at this resort we knew we were in for a treat.
1st Tip: check in is at 4pm! We arrived at 11am.So try to arrive as close to 4pm as possible.
When we first arrived it was very overwhelming.The resort is HUGE, with so much going on at any given time.When we finally got into our room ( we had a pool view villa on level L which was very convenient), we found it to be surprisingly spacious ( after our shoebox size room at Hyatt in Maui).we had our own kitchen,dining table,laundry,spa bath and 2 balconies, oh and plenty on cupboard space!! The Disney side of it is not overdone at all, the rooms are very tastefully decorated and get cleaned daily.Our dishes were even washed and stacked for us, and there is a turn down service at night if you have a rollaway bed which we did.
Every day there is a newsletter called "The Daily Iwa".It lists all the activities that are happening around the resort that day and it is broken down into categories .OHANA ( family)KEIKI (children)& OPIO(youth).
Tip no 2: "The Daily Ewa" is available from 10 pm the night before and it is advisable to get it then,as the activities at Aunty's Beach House ( kids club) fill up very quickly.My husband lined up outside the kids club every day at 8 am with all the other dads,just to put the kids names down for that days activities.
Tip No 3: Some activities are booked out months in advance .( I kid u not!!).so when you book your stay at Aulani,ask for the paid activities that will be on during your time there,and book them.
My son was obsessed with Aunty's Beach House.We would drop him at 9am and would pick him up at 9pm. He would have slept there if he could!he became like part of the furniture.The staff are very professional .The children get tagged with hospital style bracelets upon entry and de-tagged upon exiting the club.If,like us, you did not have an American cell phone,they provided you with one so that you could keep in contact with them.Aunty's Beach House was unbelievable,very professionally run, with activities galore ! Only one issue we had was that the OPIO ( youth) activities start from age 13, and my eldest son is 11, so the KEIKI ( children's) activities were a bit boring for him. But he was kept very busy in the Rainbow Reef pool.A man-made aquarium where you can swim and snorkel with the tropical fish.It is cheaper to buy a pass for the duration of your stay then individual days.
Tip No 4: you can buy refillable flasks(mugs) for $20 each,which you can refill at any time with drinks of your choice, including soda's,hot chocolate and coffee . There are mug washing stations as well.it works out way cheaper to buy these then paying for drinks every day.
Tip No.5: Your room entry card is also a Charge Card! Make sure when u get given your cards at check-in that the Adults cards are the only cards allowed to make purchases on, otherwise the kids will be buying Shave Ice all day!!
There are no shortages of restaurants here.AMA AMA is great for breakfast or dinner with a beautiful view over the ocean. We booked a character breakfast on our first day there at MAKAHIKI, which although very pricey, was loads of fun!
There are plenty of restaurants around the pool areas for snacks and light meals.
If you are looking for other options, your best bet is to walk outside the hotel and down the road to the strip mall. There are a few restaurants and shops here. Notably the coffee shop which sells a very healthy and tasty ACAI berry bowl which I had for breakfast every day. The coffee is good too. The ABC store is very well stocked with everything you need if you don't want to pay resort prices for your food. Fresh fruit & veg,salads,even a make your own salad bar.
There is also a pizza restaurant which was delicious.
Back at the resort, if you want to spoil yourself, go to the Spa!
Whilst it is expensive, it is worth every cent just to experience it.
Tip No.6: Be warned : when you go to pay for your treatment, they automatically add on 20 percent gratuity. You DO NOT have to pay that much and they can override it !
In the resort there is also a store that sells Disney merchandise if you are into that sort of thing.We found a lot more variety at the Disney Store at the Ala Moana shopping centre in Honolulu.
There are no shortage of activities here! The water slides are fantastic and the lazy river is great. In order to go on all the rides, you need to collect a wristband from the towel counter every day. We left all of ours on so by the time we left we had 5 different coloured bands on our wrists.My boys still have them on, 2 weeks later.
Menehune bridge is the children's water play area. If you have young kids,this is where you should sit. ( mad rush in the morning to secure your lounge chairs). This play area is like a fort with water cascading everywhere, every 5 minutes a horn sounds and water comes rushing out of an upturned boat. It's simply unbelievable the effort that has gone into these pool areas.
As if this wasn't enough, there is also a magnificent beach. Here you can do all sorts of water and beach activities.equipment can be hired from Makiki Joe's beach rentals. My eldest son played beach volleyball every day and you can also swim out to, and jump off, pontoons in the water.
The resort is not over run with Disney Characters. There are special times during the day when you can line up on the Halawai Lawn to meet Donald & Daisy Duck,Minnie & Mickey, Chip & Dale etc.
I specially arrived at Aulani on Dec 31 thinking New Years Eve would be a fabulous experience here for the kids. I couldn't have been more wrong. There was a dinner you could book for in advance which we were not told about at the time of booking, but I heard afterwards that it was a disaster anyway. We ate a lovely meal at AMA AMA and the kids went to Aunty's Beach House which was open until 11pm. By which time they were exhausted and there was no way I was waiting around on the beach with thousands of other people,until the 12pm fireworks display which only lasted 10 min anyway. We ended up watching the fireworks from the comfort of our villa .
In saying that, WE WILL BE BACK!! Maybe not for 6 days, 3-4 days is more then enough here.Well Done Aulani on Wonderful Service, brilliant activities & a fabulous holiday !!!

  • Stayed: January 2014, traveled with family
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12  Thank funkyfamilyof5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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