There are so many PRACTICAL things I want to tell you if you are headed to the paradise that is Aulani, Disney’s amazing resort and spa in Hawaii…but in my head as I type I’m simply screaming JUST GO! GO NOW! AND TAKE ME!
That pretty much sums up how wonderful it was…I can’t even write about it, because I am too busy planning how to get BACK.
First and foremost there is something just magical about the Hawaiian Islands. The people are wonderful. The islands are beautiful and rich with culture and history. I was happy stuck in traffic simply looking around at the lush hillsides and ocean nearby. What sort of nut is happy stuck in traffic?
Think about that for a second. I live in Los Angeles. I was happy stuck in traffic. Clearly this place either makes you high or insane or temporarily delusional. Or it’s just that darn nice.
After a six hour flight from LA to Honolulu, we found our shuttle driver (they have awesome signs and everything…I just love being picked up by a driver with a sign. I have no idea why. It makes me feel rich and special..) we drove about 25 minutes to the resort on the west side of the island.
As soon a we pulled in I got that stomach flip-flop feeling when you want to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming. The family sharing the shuttle with us remarked “Oh, wow…look at this place…well this certainly isn’t our resort, we’re not staying at a place this nice.”
They asked us where we were again, and we replied “the Disney resort” and heard “oooooh, I didn’t realize it was like this…”
By this, I assume most people mean so much like a five star resort and not simply a theme park extension with nothing but screaming kids and characters.
While yes you will see the occasional Mickey in his Hawaiin shirt taking photos with the tourists, it’s only at select times in select areas. And he and the others are easily avoided if you want to play down that portion of the vacation. In fact, we only caught a glimpse of the characters a few times out of our balcony window. That was it.
Upon check in we were offered some wonderful water with tropical flavors and fruit and comfy couches to rest our travel weary bodies on as Linda, our cast member, checked on our room.
Linda immediately saw we had requested a wheelchair accessible suite and the only 1-bedroom suites she currently had ready were not wheelchair compliant. I told her that I was in much better health than when I had booked our vacation a year ago, so we didn’t need the wheelchair room.
Linda burst into tears. Got up. Hugged all of us. Hugged me a gazillion times. Made me cry. And then began all over again congratulating me and running off to get me another button to wear, this one reading that I was celebrating my good health, written in Hawaiian, of course. You know, the buttons just like they give you a one of the Disney parks.
As the tissues continued, our room magically became available and she made sure we also were given lunch accommodations at Ama Ama, the very beautiful and right on the beach restaurant. So off we went to drop off our bags and then head down to enjoy the view and some wonderful locally sourced fish and veggies with a view that made me cry all over again.
The waves rippled into the cove before us, the wind was sending the smell of plumeria occasionally wafting across the table as the kids ate fresh fish and I exhaled for the first time in 12 months.
We were officially on vacation.
Now I intentionally skipped over the “dropped off our bags” portion of the check-in process, because I wanted to take you straight to my ‘exhale’ moment. However I need to go back and explain to you just how awesome our 1-bedroom villa was.
I could live there. In fact, I would like to live there. In fact, let’s all go live there right now.
A balcony off the master bedroom. A balcony off the living room where the couch pulled out into a double bed AND under the tv another bed pulled out, which made my 9-year old the happiest girl on earth, and she called it her own and made it her little hide away for our entire vacation.
The views were perfect. We could see the coves and the ocean. We could see the pools and the people below. We could hear the music, smell the salt water and flowered’ air. We could watch the sunset from our balconies.
We had a kitchen, washer, dryer, even an eating area so we could sit and eat like a real family. Which we did for several meals before heading out to explore the resort.
I should note we spent the majority of our time at the resort. One day we left and took a boat ride to snorkel with sea turtles and dolphins…
…an awesomeness I will explain another post… but for the rest of the time we were at Aulani and soaking up every moment. There was no need to go anywhere else. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
You want a pool? There are several to choose from, including ones for adults only. You want water slides? The have those too. You want treats and drinks and SHAVE ICE and DOLE WHIP… by GOD you can have shaved ice and DOLE WHIP…with no lines.
Can you imagine no lines for Dole Whip at Disneyland? No, I can’t either.
I should also note, I’m now I shave ice addict. I crave it. I must have it. I want more NOW NOW NOW.
Ok, trying to calm down.
There are gift shops, of course. There are restaruants that range from the quick service type to the more fancy sit down type…but you can still walk in with your sundress on over your bathing suit. It’s Hawaii.
The cast members were very, very helpful. The lazy river was our family’s favorite…we would all grab tubes and just float along the little trail they made and every so often the kids would take the water slide into the lazy river and join us with a splash. It would take us through caves and the kids would try and steer our tubes right under the water falls. You know, the usual hijinks. Little pirates.
There was the beach, where you could grab a few chairs and umbrellas and sit and watch the kids wander out into the coves- all with sand bottoms where minnows and other fish would tickle their toes and they would squeal with delight and scream for you to COME SEE COME SEE and of course by the time you got over there the fish were scared off. But you might catch some very snappy crabs scurrying along the rocks between the coves. Also making the kids scream COME SEE COME SEE.
There was also paddle boarding and kayaking and Hawaiian crafts and such good food we ate and ate and just fell into the lazy river and then wandered upstairs to our room with yet another shave ice and got comfy on our beds watching the sunset and enjoying the Hawaiian music coming from below.
Sure we wandered across the street where there is a market and some other stores and places to eat. But really, it was all beach, lazy river, shave ice, balcony. Rinse, repeat.
I cried when we left. I actually, for real cried. Aulani was my dream vacation for my 40th birthday and I didn’t want it to end, ever. Much like when we visit Disney parks, we forget our troubles and just enjoy. I happily forgot my troubles and simply enjoyed.
And ate a stupid amount of this Hawaiian mistress of simple flavored snow was warm ALL THE TIME but NOT hot. And if I got hot I simply dipped my toes in a pool or into the sand or the wonderful ocean waters of the cove.
In fact, if any of you are there now, please feel free to find a way to bring me some of the magical ice with Japanese fruit flavors and condensed milk and the warm air and water that made me feel alive and pain free.
I’m not kidding.
I’ll pay you.
I’ll pay you lots.
In short, Aulani is the best family resort I’ve encountered as of yet. It will be hard to top.