Parents Guide to Disney’s Aulani Resort on a Budget

in Travel

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii

Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, I received an ancestry DNA kit that let me on a lineage journey and revealed that my mother’s ancestors were Hawaiian. As I was in the middle of planning a Disney Cruise for my family of four, I realized I could plan a trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa for the same amount I had saved for my cruise.

aulani
Credit: Disney

As we all know, Hawaii can be expensive but dreams of soaking in that Hawaiian culture and experiencing a touch of Disney magic all in one Disney Resort can be feasible!

If Disney Aulani Resort is on your bucket list, then join me as I share a guide to Disneys Aulani Resort  Hawaii and learn how to budget your dream vacation whether it’s planning for your family, a group, or just a couple getaway.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

The Aulani Experience

Aulani A Disney Resort and Spa offers much more than a resort room and a lovely Ko Olina beach. Experiencing an Aulani vacation includes enjoying family time together and allowing everyone in your family some time to experience this wonderful Disney vacation all on their own, and this includes children! Let’s take a look at the journey your child will embark on when visiting Disney’s Aulani Resort.

aulani family in water
Credit: Disney

Things kids will love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii

Disney magic is everywhere when visiting Disney’s Aulani Resort and especially moments exclusively for kids! From Aunty’s Beach house to Menehune hunts, this Disney Resort has it all! Be warned that your children may never want to leave this place!

aulani 1
Credit: Disney

Which Disney characters call Disney’s Aulani home?

As many Disney fans know, when visiting a Disney Resort, you don’t expect to run into Mickey and other Disney Characters. Not only is the Disney Aulani Resort the perfect destination for Disney Magic mixed with Island paradise, but when you become an Aulani Guest, you are bound to run into your favorite Disney character anywhere around this Resort.

Character Dining

Makahiki — The Bounty of the Islands is where you will find the character breakfast and start your morning with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. As you walk towards the front desk, you will be greeted by Donald in his adorable Hawaiian attire, ready to snap pictures with your family and friends.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

When you are seated, taking in the gorgeous outdoor views of the Hawaiian island and enjoying a bountiful breakfast, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy will make rounds interacting with each family. Guests will also meet Aunty, who shares an incredible ukulele experience while you enjoy your stay inside Makahiki.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

For dinner, the Menehune Mischief Character Dinner allows you to spend an enjoyable time with Stitch from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch while our beloved Uncle sings and tells musical stories of Hawaiian culture.

Keep in mind, character breakfast is on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays only and the buffet has now been changed to a 3-course dinner due to Covid restrictions.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Spotting Disney Characters around the Resort

One of my fondest memories while relaxing in the Waikolohe Stream lazy river with my family was running into Moana. As she watches my son struggle to paddle, act silly, and trying to catch up with the rest of us, Moana looks at me and says “is that the Heihei in the family” We all laughed, and she looks over my son and yells, “Heihei had a hard time in the water too, don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon” We will never forget that!

This is not the only spot where you can run into your favorite Disney Characters. At Aulani Resort and Spa, your Disney friends are everywhere as Aulani’s website states,

Mickey and his Friends love to vacation at Aulani Resort, so you never know who will drop by to say aloha!

Here are some of the Disney Characters you may meet as they enjoy their fun-filled vacation at Aulani Resort:

  • Mickey Mouse
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Donald Duck
  • Goofy
  • Pluto
  • Daisy Duck
  • Chip ‘n Dale
  • Duffy
  • Shellie May
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Some Disney Characters now call Hawai’i home and drop by Aulani Resort to make new friends:

  • Moana
  • Stitch

If you’re a huge Duffy Disney fan, then we are happy to announce that you can meet the Aulani exclusive friend ‘Olu Mel only at the Aulani Resort! ‘Olu Mel, the adorable sea turtle friend, and representative of Aulani is welcoming Guests and will be available for meet and greets. Check the Daily Iwa (daily schedule) for more information.

Children will be excited to run into their favorite Disney Characters by the Waikolohe Pool for fun-filled pool parties and games. While children take some time away from their parents at Aunty’s Beach House, they will be surprised to find a Disney Character stopping by to say hello!

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Premium Character Experiences

Special Character Experiences are also an option as Aulani states,

Kakamora Chaos with Moana: Delight in a fun-filled experience playing traditional Hawaiian games and learning new games with the wayfaring Princess of Motunui, Moana!

SURF’S UP! – A Surfin’, Fishin’ and Dancin’ Party!: Play surfing games with Chip ‘n Dale, learn about native Hawaiian fish from Goofy and dance, dance, dance with your Disney Pals at this interactive beach-themed bash!

*Premium Character Experiences require a fee for participation

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Disney Vacation Club Member Experience

Guests who are DVC members have an exclusive treat just for them. The Disney PhotoPass Photo Op will snap a special souvenir of you and a Disney Character between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Luana Lounge. Be sure to check the Daily Iwa on most Tuesdays and Fridays for this incredible experience.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

What children’s activities are available to Aulani Resort Guests?

Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa is the perfect getaway for children and teens. From spending time away from parents to family fun activities, this Disney Resort has it all.

Aunty’s Beach House

Children will be able to explore Hawaii and the culture, music, and art with a side of Disney magic! The best part of Aunty’s Beach House is parents will feel safe knowing their children are supervised by the best and most professional Disney Youth Counselors. Plus, children are checked in and out with a special magic band and family code only the entire family will know.

This complimentary hideaway hosts children ages 3 to 12.  The Aulani website shares,

Aunty’s Beach House features an array of outstanding amenities:

  • Complimentary programs and activities to engage children
  • Highly interactive Premium Experiences featuring enhanced storytelling, special souvenirs and more (fees apply)
  • A movie room showing Disney favorites
  • Xbox video games
  • Interactive game tables
  • Hawaiian arts and crafts
  • A costume closet full of fun finds so kids can play dress-up
  • An enclosed and secure backyard, complete with play structure
  • A secure check-in/check-out process for children ages 3 to 12

Magical Touches

  • Discover magical touches everywhere you look—including hidden surprises such as:
  • Visits from some favorite Disney friends
  • Enchanted fireplaces
  • Cozy rain windows in the movie room
  • Magical portals depicting spectacular scenes from around Hawai‘i
Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa

Over 30 fun activities for kids

Children will be amazed walking towards the gorgeous beaches of the Ko Olina Lagoon with complimentary boogie boards and sand toys are at their disposal at Makiki Joe’s beach equipment rentals. At Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa, children and teen can experience unlimited activities such as,

  • Guided excursions
  • Keiki Cove Splash Zone
  • Hawaiian t-Shirt stamping
  • Menehune adventure trail
  • Menehune Bridge with slides and water activities
  • Mo’Olelo firepit storytelling with Uncle and Moana
  • Pau Hana Room with unlimited games, crafts, movies, and more
  • Rainbow Reef snorkeling (additional cost)
  • Sunrise Yoga on the beach (additional cost)
  • Pools, slides, and lazy river fun
  • Family treatments at Laniwai Spa (additional cost)
  • Ohana Disney Movie nights
  • Golf at Ko Olina Golf Club (additional cost)
  • Ukulele Lessons

Check out all of these activities and more right here on Disney Aulani’s official website. 

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson from ITM
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson from ITM

How can kids learn more about Hawaiian culture at Aulani Resort?

All around Disney Aulani Resort and Spa, families will be immersed in the culture and way of life of the Hawaiian people. One of the best experiences our family has had was outside by the Mo’Olelo firepit. This special storytelling with Uncle and Moana teaches Guests the stories of Maui and his family and the traditions of Hawaiian culture.

The Māka‘ika‘i, the Nature and Wildlife of Aulani Resort tour is a complimentary walking tour that teaches families about the landscape, wildlife, and nature of the Hawaiian island.

At the KA WA‘A – A Lū‘au at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Guests will enjoy an unforgettable experience and learn about Hawaiian’s deep cultural roots with traditional music, dance, and an incredible Hawaiian feast. Right before the show, families will experience hands-on Hawaiian actives such as flower arranging and paʻi ai taro pounding. Your children may even learn how to hula with Aunty, Mickey, and Minnie and learn more Hawaiian stories from special Guests like Moana.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Disney’s Aulani Resort review and planning guide

How does Disney’s Aulani Resort compare to other Disney properties?

After visiting Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa once, it became very clear that this Disney Resort would become a family favorite and one we would return to over and over again. The unique experience is unlike any other Disney Resort.

Disney’s Aulani Resort opened on August 29, 2011, and since then has offered families a tropical getaway from the moment they walk into the lobby.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Over the years while visiting many Disney Resorts, I’ve noticed how Disney Imagineers put so much effort into telling a story. This stunning stay at this Ko Olina Resort in Hawaii is a testament to that. The entire Disney Resort is complete with Hawaiian images (inside and outside the resort) that tell the stories of Maui and his family and the Hawaiian traditions and lifestyle.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

An Aulani Guest is immediately welcomed with an ALOHA and a flowered lei or kukui nut lei which is very important in the Hawaiian culture. Complimentary water infused with fresh Hawaiian fruit is also offered upon entering the Disney Resort.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

This is definitely one Disney Resort you will stand and stare at. The lobby is the most mesmerizing site, with no doors and a completely open concept. Hawaiian music invites you in while you enjoy the sites of this massive entrance covered from head to toe with images of traditional Hawaiian culture and interactive special effects that light up on the floor or even when you look up at the lamps above.

The rooms are completely transformed into a Hawaiian retreat with so many Disney touches. From the carved Mickey lamp to the sand-colored restroom complete with a double sink and rain shower, this suite gives the ultimate luxury feel and Hawaiian experience.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Where can you find a Disney Resort complete with a Ka Wa’a Aulani Luau right inside the Resort and a high-tech scavenger hunt where statues, rocks, and water come to life just by answering clues.

This Menehune Adventure Trail starts inside the Pua Hana room where Guests can check out a special tablet to start this interactive adventure. As you walk around the entire resort, discover clues and answer Aunty’s questions, the Menehune which is are legendary and magical “little people” will share a bit of magic with you. This unforgettable experience is for all ages but recommended for pre-teens and older as some clues may be difficult to answer for little ones.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

The Rainbow Reef is a wonderful experience right inside Aulani Resort! Aulani states “Enjoy up-close encounters with tropical fish at Rainbow Reef, the only private snorkeling lagoon on O‘ahu.” Located by the Waikolohe Valley pool area, Guests can get up close and personal with thousands of tropical fish! There is an entrance fee and snorkeling equipment is included. Check for hidden Menehune and artistic carvings in the rocks while snorkeling or check them out through a viewing window for free.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

What other attractions are close to Disney’s Aulani Resort?

As you can see, this Disney Hawaii Resort located in Oahu has it all. And although Guests have an unlimited supply of adventure and relaxation all in one resort, many Guests are excited to get out there and to travel around the island. If you’re planning to discover the wonder of this amazing paradise, check out these cultural activities.

Dole Plantation Tour

Are you a fan of Dole Whip? Then head your way to the Dole Plantation Plant where you can learn about Disney’s world-famous dole whip as Disney’s Aulani shares,

Board the Pineapple Express for a 20-minute narrated train ride through Hawaii’s only working pineapple plantation. On your journey, learn about the history of the world’s most popular tropical fruit and how James Dole founded the plantation exactly where it still stands as you pass fields of pineapples at various growth stages.

Afterward, you can choose to tour the Dole Garden, comprised of 8 mini gardens where you can see, touch and smell a variety of different crops. Or challenge your problem-solving skills in the 3-acre Dole Maze, the world’s largest outdoor botanical labyrinth, as you seek out 8 hidden stations that lead you to the secret at its center. At the plantation country store, browse tempting gifts and enjoy local foods and signature refreshments, including the world-famous DoleWhip

Dole Plantation
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Ko Olina Activities

Check out all the wonderful and convenient activities right outside and some across the street from Disney’s Aulani Resort. This includes shopping, ocean excursions, and Ko Olina’s golf club as the website states,

  • Ko Olina Marina – Relish the unspoiled beauty and nearly year-round beautiful weather of the leeward coast of O‘ahu with a variety of ocean excursions and tours, including snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing, seasonal whale watching and romantic sunset cruises.
  • Ko Olina Golf Club – An 18-hole championship golf course, driving range, putting greens and well-appointed clubhouse are literally right across the street from Aulani Resort. Private lessons, clinics, a pro shop and Roy’s Ko Olina restaurant are also at your disposal.
  • Ko Olina Station & Center – Discover a variety of shopping and dining options sure to please the whole family, including Just Tacos Mexican Grill & Cantina, Ko Olina Hawaiian Bar-B-Que and Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor. Island Country Market, featuring quality foods, wine and liquor, sundries and a full-service deli, offers even more choices.
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Outside Ko Olina and around the island

For the adventurous Guests, head to Waikiki located on the South Shore of Honolulu for shopping dining, and tourist attractions including hiking the giant Diamond Head Crater. Other amazing activities include Kualoa Ranch, the north shore beaches, the famous Pearl Harbor, and more. Check Aulani’s official website for more information. 

Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Disney’s Aulani Resort amenities and recreation

What spa features does Disney’s Aulani Resort offer?

The Laniwai Spa is the ultimate spot for relaxation and rejuvenation. I personally recommend this and can attest that this is the best spa I have ever experienced. Many treatments include,

  • signature and traditional Hawaiian massages,
  • fine rain massages
  • heated stone massage
  • traditional Thai massage
  • herbal body remedies
  • facials
  • couple treatments
  • family treatments
  • treatments specifically for men

Enjoy the complimentary Kula Wai: Outdoor Hydrotherapy Garden when purchasing a full-service spa treatment where Guests can enjoy vitality baths, ancient therapy hydrotherapy, pools, rain showers, and more.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Disney

How many pools are there at Disney’s Aulani Resort?

Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa have some of the best pools in any Disney Resort! Whether it’s challenging your family down water slides, or relaxing in the lazy river, this Hawaiian Resort has an infinity of pools to choose from.

Ka Maka Grotto infinity pool is the most popular, with gorgeous views of the beach and the magnificent ocean. Designed with a misty grotto, glittering lights at night, and next to a hot tub, this will be your favorite spot for your entire vacation, I guarantee it!

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Other amazing families and adult-only pools include,

  • Keiki Cove Splash Zone (for children)
  • Menehune Bridge (for children)
  • 8,200 square foot Waikolohe Pool
  • Waikolohe Stream
  • Wailana Pool
  • 4 Whirlpool Spas
  • ‘Alohi Point, 2 terraced whirlpool spas feature an infinity edge (adults only)
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

What opportunities are there for dining at the Aulani Resort?

Makahiki — The Bounty of the Islands is one of the most gorgeous and tranquil dining experiences. This family-friendly atmosphere is quite stunning and looking over the koi pond will entertain your children for hours while you take it all in. Located on the first floor, this restaurant will immerse Guests in a Hawaiian feast and gorgeous jewel-toned mural views.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Before the pandemic, the Makahiki dining option was a buffet-style restaurant but as part of the rephased opening, Guests can expect a delicious three-course breakfast or dinner featuring fresh and local ingredients from the island. Reservations are recommended.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Ulu Cafe located on the first floor next to the Waliana Pool is a quick-service location that features freshly made entrees, grab-and-go snacks, poke bowls, lunch and dinner options, self-serve items, breakfast, dessert, pizza made to order, and more.

Off the Hook poolside bar next to the Waikolohe Valley pool area offers a covered lounge and seaside shack experience. Guests can expect live Hawaiian music and food service right to their lounge chairs and around the bar. Off the Hook bar and poolside menu includes island-inspired burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and appetizers.

The ‘Ōlelo Room (meaning to converse in Hawaiian) is the perfect Bar and Lounge to learn how to speak like a Hawaiian while sipping on cocktails and trying traditional Hawaiian appetizers. This bar is covered with wooden carvings of objects we see every day and the names of each carving in Hawaiian. Enjoy live music performed on the patio every night while enjoying kālua pork sliders and popcorn fries!

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Unfortunately, the Ama ‘Ama restaurant located right beside the Ko Olina lagoon and beach is closed, Be sure to check Aulani’s website for updated information when this dining option will return.

The two most popular places in Aulani have to be Mama’s Snack Stop and Pāpālua Shave Ice. These two fast food joints located outside and in the heart of Aulani serve local Hawaiian shave ice dessert with island flavors and delicious seafood and savory snacks. The best thing about this shaved ice spot is you can get it mickey-shaped!

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa
Credit: Jenny Patterson from ITM

 What types of seasonal discounts does the Aulani Resort offer?

We all know traveling to Hawaii can be expensive, but Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa continue to offer seasonal discounts to Guests throughout the year. Right now Guests can save up to 25% on 4-night stays and 30% on select rooms for a 5-night stay! On the official website, Aulani shares, 

Keep the good vibrations of summer going all through the fall with this special offer and discover the enchantment of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi. Save up to 30% on select rooms at Aulani Resort for stays of 5 or more consecutive nights. Valid from August 14, 2021 through November 21, 2021 and November 27, 2021 through December 18, 2021. Travel must be completed by December 19, 2021. Book through October 8, 2021.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Aulani also offers a wonderful Fall Offer for Members of the U.S. Military. Disney’s Aulani states,

As a special “thank you” for your service, members of the U.S. military can save on select rooms for stays of 2 nights or longer at Aulani Resort:

  • Save up to 35% most Sunday to Thursday nights
  • Save up to 15% most Friday and Saturday nights

This offer is valid for stays most nights August 14, 2021 through November 21, 2021 and November 27, 2021 through December 18, 2021. Travel must be completed by December 19, 2021. Book now through October 8, 2021.

Eligible military service member/spouse must present a valid military ID upon check-in and must stay in a room on the reservation.

aulani
Credit: Disney Vacation Club

When is the best time of year to stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort?

Guests who are planning to visit this incredible resort should always check dates between August to December for the best deals and cheapest times to stay. As of now, Aulani is offering Guests who are Hawaiian residence a deal of a lifetime as Aulani’s website shares,

Extend your summer fun into the fall at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi! With this special offer, Hawaiʻi residents can save on select rooms for 2-night or longer stays at Aulani Resort:

  • Save up to 35% most Sunday to Thursday nights
  • Save up to 15% most Friday and Saturday nights

This offer is valid for stays most nights August 14, 2021 through November 21, 2021 and November 27, 2021 through December 18, 2021. Travel must be completed by December 19, 2021. Book now through October 8, 2021.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
Credit: Disney

How can you save money at Disney Aulani?

Keep in mind along with Disney’s Aulani Resort discounts, Guests can also save hundreds of dollars even before stepping foot on the Hawaiian island.

Before reserving your suite consider renting Disney Vacation Club points. Sometimes, DVC members may not use all their points reserved for the year and offer them to Guests on DVC websites at a discounted rate. Aulani is home to more than half of DVC suites and will give your family ample room and amenities while saving a ton of money! I personally purchase DVC points and look for deals from October to March and avoiding Christmas, New Years’, Thanksgiving, and summer holidays.

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Other amazing tips for saving money include,

  • Purchasing discounted Disney Gift Cards
  • Maximizing credit card perks and points
  • Taking advantage of all free activities inside Disney’s Aulani Resort (Check Daily Iwa)
  • Buying groceries at Island Country Markets in the shopping center across the street and making meals
  • Attending a DVC Presentation and receiving $150 Disney gift card and Luau tickets
  • Dine-in Aulani Quick Service restaurants
  •  Check off-season months
  • Buying alcohol off the property
  • purchasing refillable popcorn buckets and refillable mugs
  • Using Skyscanner for the cheapest flights to Oahu
Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

With keeping all of this in mind, anyone can plan a trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort by using these tips and tricks. As the pandemic has affected this resort it is noted to check the official website for updated and important information. I can say with all honesty, this is my favorite Disney Resort in the world and I hope many families can experience it and create memories that will last a lifetime!

Disney Aulani Resort and Spa in Hawaii
Credit: Jenny Patterson at ITM

Have you been to Disney Aulani Resort and Spa? Will you be planning a visit soon? Let us know in the comments below! 

Need advice planning your Aulani Adventure? Our friends at Academy Travel are EarMarked Diamond and can help you plan your incredible Hawaiian vacation! 

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