Disney’s Hawaiian Resort: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
LAST UPDATE: 5/15/13Disney has built a new resort, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, on 21 acres of oceanfront property on Hawaii’s island of Oahu. The resort’s first two phases opened in the second half of 2011. The third phase will open in 2013. See below for information on Aulani discounts, as well as tips and tricks, information on FREE activities, and more!
The property, located on the island’s western (leeward) side in the Ko Olina Resort & Marina, is home to Disney’s first mixed-use family resort outside of its theme park developments. The new resort overlooks breathtaking crystal blue lagoons and sandy beaches, and will eventually include a total of 481 two-bedroom-equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas and 359 hotel rooms.
The resort offers an extensive and elaborate pool and water play area, an 18,000-square-foot spa, a children’s club (Aunty’s Beach House) and dining at two full-service restaurants.
To make the guest experience even better, the resort is expanding its current amenities offerings. Expansions include:
- An additional pool, toddler pool and interactive water play area
- 18,500 additional square feet of pool deck
- Two new, convenient quick-service dining locations, including a beach kiosk
- The addition of a retractable trellis cover at the signature Makahiki restaurant to allow for outdoor seating during any weather conditions
- An expanded Starlit Hui venue, allowing even more guests to enjoy this popular show
- Another beach access point will be added
Construction for these projects, which began in September 2012 and finish in mid-2013, is happening in conjunction with the building of the final phase of the Resort.
Aulani offers activities and amenities that aim to engage every member of the family. At the resort’s signature waterway, for example, family friendly tubes and body slides weave through volcanic rockwork and around an iconic caldera volcano, while a nearby wading pool gives parents with toddlers a welcoming alternative to the sprawling zero-entry fun pool. In addition, more adventurous family members will find vibrant fish species in a saltwater snorkel lagoon, Rainbow Reef.
At the heart of the resort, an open-air lobby building — dubbed Hale Aloha — draws its design inspiration from a traditional Hawaiian canoe house, visually connecting families to the sea and beyond. Window designs, wall graphics and other details welcome families with tales of adventure, myth, legend and more, while twin streams flow through the building before uniting as a single cascade into the center garden below.
Hawaii’s aloha spirit influences the many intricate details for which Disney resorts are famous, with stories woven into the architecture, interiors, art, graphics and signature gardens, all brought to life through carefully selected colors, patterns, materials and forms. Wood, thatch, lava stone and coral are among the materials represented in the resort’s two 15-story guestroom towers, each oriented perpendicular to the ocean to maximize ocean views from the strategically angled guest rooms. Façade murals add to the distinctive look of each tower and portray some of the stories and legends of the islands.
Aulani is designed to respect and connect with the local culture of the Hawaiian islands. The Walt Disney Imagineering team has researched Hawaii and worked with local architects and cultural experts as part of the resort’s creative design process. The resulting design is a village celebrating the Hawaiian customs and traditions that lead to a life filled with joy and in harmony with the natural world.
To further incorporate Hawaiian traditions, cultural programming including music, dance, history, and arts and crafts; a story-driven, technology-enabled adventure game; and other surprises come together to create a Hawaiian destination that’s uniquely Disney.
You can read my review of our January 2012 stay at Aulani, which is linked from the Trip Reports page.
- Booking a Vacation at Aulani
- Discounts on Aulani Vacations
- Aulani Resort Tips and Tricks
- FREE Activities
“Rack” (full price) rates at Aulani start at $399 a night (plus 14% hotel tax) for a standard hotel room. Rates vary by season of the year. Generally speaking the rates are lowest when kids are in school, and highest in summer, at Christmas and during other holiday periods.
Vacations at Aulani can be booked in various ways:
- For a full-service travel agency that specializes in Disney and can help you plan your stay at Aulani, contact Small World Vacations.
- If you prefer to self-book your vacation, Travelocity and Expedia now offer online booking for Aulani.
- If you want a hotel + airfare package, Alaska Airlines Vacations and Funjet Vacations offer air-inclusive vacations to Aulani.
- It is sometimes possible to book an Aulani stay by renting Disney Vacation Club points from an owner. This is the only way for non-owners to book one of the fabulous DVC studios or villas at Aulani more than 60 days in advance. The best way to do this is through David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
AAA members can save 10% off room rates at Aulani. Blackout dates may apply. No discount will be available during Holiday Season (12/21/13-12/31/13). Thanks to Audrey A for info.
- To book this offer, contact Small World Vacations and provide your AAA membership number when booking.
Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
When available, renting Disney Vacation Club points from an owner is a great way to save money on an Aulani stay. (It is also the only way for non-owners to book the studio or villa accommodations more than 60 days in advance.)
- The best way to rent Disney Vacation Club points is through David’s Vacation Club Rentals.
Annual Passholder Discount
Aulani is offering an ongoing discount for ALL Disney theme park Annual Passholders, no matter which Disney theme park. This includes Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Resort.
- To book with the Annual Passholder discount, you can log into the Passholder site or contact Small World Vacations and request Annual Passholder rates.
Aulani has an ongoing discount for active duty military: 25% off, subject to availability!
- To book with the Military discount, contact Small World Vacations and request Military rates.
Kama’aina (locals/Hawaiian resident) rates may be offered seasonally. You will have to show a Hawaiian resident ID (drivers license) at check-in.
- Getting to Hawaii
- Transfers to/from Honolulu Airport
- Checking In and Out
- Local Dining, Drinking and Luau Options
- Saving Money on Groceries & Beach Items
- Internet Access
Links to major airlines that fly to/from Honolulu from North American mainland cities:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Continental Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- United Airlines
- US Airways
For lots of information about how to save on airfare, click here.
There are no Disney-provided transfers between the Honolulu Airport and the resort. I strongly encourage you to rent a car (click here to find rental car discounts). Otherwise you’ll have to take a taxi, which will be costly because the resort is 17 miles from the airport.
If you prefer to rent a car only for the drive to/from the airport, or for only part of your stay, Alamo has a rental car desk at Aulani (location code is HNLR72).
You can check in at any time, but your room will not be ready until 3:00 pm. Check-out time is 11:00 am.
Bell Services can store your luggage if you arrive early or depart late. In addition, Aulani offers an innovative Early Check-In/Late Check-Out Lounge for guests with flights that do not sync up well with the check-in and check-out times. The lounge, which is open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, provides restrooms, showers and dressing rooms. It also offers a TV viewing area and a touch-screen computer where you can print boarding passes (but you can’t surf the Internet on it).
Get ready for some sticker shock: Hawaii is expensive, and Aulani is no exception. Here are a few of the resort’s prices to give you an idea:
- Refillable mug – $18.99 plus tax
- Shave ice – $3.75
- Frozen yogurt (4 oz with 3 toppings) – $6.00
- One Paddle, Two Paddle (counter service) – Sandwich/Tacos/Lettuce Wraps/Burger $12-$14, Keiki (kids’) meals $6.95, Milk $2, Fountain Drink $3, Juice $3.25, Bottled Water $3.50, plus tax
- Continental Breakfast at Olelo Room (self service) – Hot Breakfast Sandwich $7, Danish/Muffin/Croissant/Bagel $4, Cold Cereal $4, Whole Fruit $3, Coffee $3
- Breakfast at ‘Ama ‘Ama (table service restaurant) – Full Breakfasts $13-$21, Cereals/Pancakes/Waffles $7-$15, Bakery Baskets $8, Sides $4-$9.50, Fresh Juices $2.50, Coffee $3 and up, plus tax/tip
- Non-Character Breakfast at Makahiki buffet (Mon/Tue/Thur/Fri) – $27 for adults (ages 10+) and $14 for kids (ages 9 and under), plus tax/tip
- Character Breakfast at Makahiki buffet (Wed/Sat/Sun) – $32 for adults (ages 10+) and $18 for kids (ages 9 and under), plus tax/tip
- Lunch at ‘Ama ‘Ama (table service restaurant) – Starters $8-$16, Sandwiches/Salads $12-$24, Hot Entrees $23 and up, Desserts $10, Cold Beverages (juice, tea, soda) $2.50-$4, plus tax/tip
- Dinner at Makahiki buffet – $43 for adults (ages 10+) and $21 for kids (ages 9 and under), plus tax/tip
- Dinner at ‘Ama ‘Ama (table service/fine dining restaurant) – Starters $16-$18, Soups/Salads $12-$18, Entrees $31-$63, Desserts $10-$14, Cocktails $9-$13, Wines by the Glass $9-$26, plus tax/tip
- Snorkeling in Rainbow Reef, Aulani’s artificial lagoon – one-time $20 adult, $15 child; or length-of-stay $39 adult, $29 child, plus tax
- Interaction with stingrays in Makai Preserve – $50 adult, $45 child, plus tax
- Beach rentals – Snorkel Set: Hourly $10, Half Day $15, Full Day $20; Single Kayak: Hourly $20; Double Kayak: Hourly $30; Stand up Paddle Board: Hourly $30, Half Day $75; Double Chaise Lounge Chair: Half Day $30, Full Day $40, plus tax
- Pool Cabana – Full Day (9:00 am – 6:00 pm) $275, Half Day $150, plus tax and optional gratuity for attendant; furnished and includes 32″ TV, wireless Internet, fruit tray, bottled water, ceiling fan, for up to 6 registered guests
You can also click here to see sample grocery prices from the Aulani gift shop, the ABC Island Country Market across the street, and the Kapolei Safeway and Costco.
General Excise Tax (similar to sales tax) of 4.712% applies to almost all transactions on Oahu, including food, gas and medicine.
If you are using DVC points for your stay at Aulani, be aware that a Transient Accommodations Tax of 9.25%, times 1/2 of the per-point Aulani maintenance fees, times the number of points used, must be paid at the resort. This applies to those renting points as well. In short, you’ll be paying tax of roughly 26.5 cents per point used. For example, if you stayed for a week in Adventure Season in 2011, in an Oceanview 1-Bedroom Villa, the total points required would be 322, times ~26.5 cents, for a total tax of ~$85.33 due at checkout.
If you are paying cash for your stay, the tax on your room rate is just a hair under 14%.
Food and Restaurants
Aulani has two restaurants:
- ‘Ama ‘Ama offers full service/fine dining breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can read my review of ‘Ama ‘Ama here.
- Makahiki offers a buffet breakfast (with Disney characters three days a week) and buffet dinner. It also offers a la carte lunch and dinner options.
- See above for sample prices for the two restaurants.
- The two restaurants take online reservations, and I strongly recommend making advance reservations for Makahiki, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.
In addition, there are two beachside/poolside bars and an indoor/outdoor lounge, all of which serve limited bar food. There are also four quick service locations, only one of which (One Paddle, Two Paddle) serves actual meals: the other three offer frozen yogurt, shave ice and snacks like hot dogs and chicken fingers. You can get a few pricey “grab and go” wraps and salads in the two resort stores, and there is room service.
Across the street from Aulani is Island Country Market (an upscale version of ABC Store), which has a deli area with very reasonably priced take-out food: $6.99-$8.99 will get you a substantial sandwich, hamburger & fries, or salad. Its grocery prices are high — about the same as Disney’s Aulani gift shop prices — though it has a lot more selection.
If you’re looking for more dining options, JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort, which is located within easy walking distance of Aulani, has several restaurants, including a moderately priced (by Hawaiian resort standards) breakfast/lunch/dinner location called Naupaka Terrace, with a nice view of the pool and the ocean. There is also an elaborate and expensive Sunday brunch (raw bar, prime rib, omelette station, waffle bar, you name it) at Naupaka Terrace. There are also other, quite expensive options at the JW Marriott: Ushio-Tei, a Japanese restaurant serving sushi and sashimi, and Azul, an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant. Other than Naupaka Terrace, most restaurant prices at the JW Marriott are comparable to those at Aulani, so you probably won’t save any money, but at least it provides some variety.
Additionally, Roy’s Ko Olina is located at the Ko Olina Golf Club, close to Aulani. Roy’s is a well-regarded chain of high-end “Hawaiian fusion” restaurants.
Aulani has three bars: two outdoor pool/beach bars (Off the Hook and Wailana Pool Bar) and one indoor/outdoor lounge in the lower level, below the lobby (Olelo Room). Most of the featured cocktails are around $11, and in my experience they are terrible. Their recipes all seem to be cloyingly sweet, yet flavorless. The bartenders seem to have no idea what they’re doing and the drinks they produce aren’t even consistent.
You will do slightly better (lower price and it’s harder for them to screw the drink up) if you order a very simple liquor-on-the-rocks or liquor-plus-mixer type drink (Baileys on the rocks, gin and tonic, etc.), in which case you’ll pay around $6.25 for a drink using house liquor and a buck or so more for premium liquor. Avoid complex mixed drinks like Mojitos: the one Mike had was bad, but “only” $7.50. Beer is at least a safe bet, but costs around $6.50 for a bottle, $7.00 for draft. Wine is high-priced (5 times retail, so a glass will cost you about the retail price of a bottle of the same wine), but at least the selection is good.
Across the street from Aulani is Island Country Market (an upscale version of ABC Store), which has an excellent wine selection. Prices are a little high, but compared with buying wine at Aulani, it’s a bargain.
If you’re up for a walk, check out the happy hour deals at Chuck’s Steak and Seafood, located in Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club about a half-mile down the oceanfront walkway from Aulani. Chuck’s offers nice views of the sunset from its outdoor seating area and has happy hours daily, which are listed on the Chuck’s website. You can get a good Mai Tai for just $5 during the happy hours.
Paradise Cove Luau is located immediately on the other side of the JW Marriott, so it’s very close to Aulani and requires no transportation.
- You can book this luau directly with Paradise Cove, or through the tour desk at Aulani, but it’s a better deal to book it through Viator.
If you are a Costco member, you will definitely want to stop at the Costco in Kapolei, about 4 miles from Aulani. It is by far the best place to stock up on essentials, and it offers a nice variety of Hawaiian specialities like kalua pig, pork lau lau, ahi poke, Portuguese sausage, Hawaiian sweet bread, lomi lomi salmon, Kona coffee, POG (passion fruit/orange/guava) juice, pineapples and more. You can even buy leis and exotic floral arrangements. Costco also usually has the best gas prices on the island.
Another good option is the Target in Kapolei, also about 4 miles from Aulani. You can pick up basic foods and beach items like snorkel gear, sand chairs, beach umbrellas, etc. Having your own gear can save you a fortune in rentals.
Even if you don’t plan to have a rental car, you can walk over to Island Country Market, across the street from Aulani. The food prices are about the same as what you’ll pay at Aulani, but there is a lot more selection. I don’t recommend doing a lot of grocery shopping here: it would be like buying all your groceries at 7-11, price-wise. However, the market has a very nice selection of wines and offers things like inexpensive, basic snorkel sets.
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members get 10% off Aulani beach rentals, Rainbow Reef snorkeling and full-day cabana rentals. To get the discounts you’ll need to show your blue DVC membership card.
Access to the Laniwai Spa complex, including the outdoor Kula Wai hydrotherapy garden with private vitality pools, co-ed mineral baths, a reflexology path, six different “rain” showers, whirlpool jet spas and more, costs $45 per day. It is complimentary with any 50-minute spa treatment. You must be 18 or older (14 and older with an accompanying adult) to use the Kula Wai facility. You can read more about the spa in my Aulani trip report.
For younger guests, there is the Painted Sky facility (ages 13-17) and a private family suite where the whole family can enjoy treatments.
Click here to download a PDF of the spa brochure, describing the various treatments. Click here to download a PDF of the spa treatments price list. (List was valid as of 9/2/11, but prices are subject to change.)
Spa treatments at Aulani’s Laniwai Spa can be booked by phone at (714) 520-7001, or you can do an online information request and someone will contact you by email.
- Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members may qualify for discounts or free upgrades to Laniwai Spa treatments. Be sure to ask when booking — they do not volunteer this information! You’ll need to show your blue DVC membership card when you arrive at the spa.
- The very nice, fully equipped Ihilani Spa at the JW Marriott across the street has slightly lower prices on almost every treatment, though the facility is slightly dated.
Childcare for kids ages 3-10 at Aunty’s Beach House is complimentary for guests. There is no babysitting for infants and toddlers under 3.
If you are leaving your child at Aunty’s during a mealtime, you can pay $14 for the child to be served lunch or dinner.
A “bonus” activity is offered daily, for which there is a fee. For example, the “Fish are Friends” activity (learning about fish, making fish food, feeding fish at Rainbow Reef) costs $69 (includes lunch).
Wireless Internet access is available in guest rooms and public areas of the resort and is included in your room rate.
Parking at Aulani is $35 per night.
- Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members get FREE self-parking for up to 2 cars per room.
- If you spend $35 on food, drink or souvenirs, you can show your receipt(s) to the valet and parking is complimentary for up to 4 hours. This tip is great for locals who want to visit the resort.
When booking a stay at Aulani, you can enjoy a wide range of activities at no additional cost!
In addition to the beach and the resort’s themed pools, Aulani offers many complimentary experiences:
- Aulani Starlit Hui: This evening celebration by the beach features hula performers, lively music, Disney characters and more.
- Mo‘olele Storytelling: Guests of all ages gather round a fire pit for a night of enchanting tales, complete with puppetry, props and magical effects.
- ‘Ohana Disney Movie Nights: Watch family-friendly Disney movies under the stars, as well as enjoy pre-movie games, activities and trivia competitions.
- Aunty’s Beach House: Kids are invited to explore this special area designed just for them as they engage in Hawaiian activities, games and crafts.
- Menehune Adventure Trail: On this high-tech scavenger hunt, guests explore Aulani to solve riddles, search for statues and discover surprises.
- M‘ka‘ika‘i, the Art of Aulani: This guided walking tour showcases the art of Aulani.
- M‘ka‘ika‘i, the Nature and Wildlife of Aulani: On this guided walking tour, learn about the native plants, nature and beauty of Aulani.
- ‘Ohana Hula: Delve deeper into Hawaiian culture with a free hula lesson for the entire family.
- Self-Guided Excursions
- Great Oahu Excursion Ideas
- DVC Member Discounts Outside Aulani
- Go Oahu Card
- Standard Excursions from Aulani
- Adventures by Disney Excursions
Exploring the island on your own is usually much less expensive than Disney’s standard excursions, as well as more flexible. I highly recommend it.
For self-guided exploration, a rental car is a must. The resort’s location is remote and there is very limited public transportation. The nearest bus stop is 1 mile from Aulani and major attractions are located 30 minutes to 1 hour away by car. Click here to find rental car discounts.
If you prefer to rent a car only for only part of your stay, Alamo has a rental car desk at Aulani (location code is HNLR72).
If you plan to drive around Oahu, be aware that traffic is often very bad, particularly along the south shore/Waikiki/Honolulu. Avoid driving into the Honolulu area on weekdays between 5:00-8:00 am and out of Honolulu between 3:00-6:30 pm.
Snorkel at Hanauma Bay
For a much less expensive — and far more authentic — alternative to Aulani’s artificial lagoon (Rainbow Reef), drive about 1 hour to Hanauma Bay, which is open daily except Tuesdays. Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and one of the world’s best places for novice snorkelers. Within the bay’s pristine and clear waters, visitors can swim through a stunning coral reef with more than 450 species of vibrant tropical fish. You can drive down on your own and snorkel all day for just $7.50 per adult, and kids 12 and under are FREE. You will need snorkel equipment of your own, or you can rent some on the beach.
Experience Kualoa Ranch
Consider a visit to Kualoa Ranch, located on the opposite coast of Oahu, about 45 minutes’ drive from Aulani. Many movies and popular television shows were filmed at the Kualoa Ranch complex, and the area is a popular tourist destination that offers a wide array of reasonably-priced recreational activities, including catamaran sailing, ATV tours, horseback riding, a “secret island” beach and film set tours. Kualoa Ranch is on land once inhabited by the Kahuna members of Hawaiian society, who served as advisors to Kualoa’s resident royalty. The ranch acreage includes a lush valley, natural streams and mountains with beautiful ocean views, and an 800 year old Hawaiian fishpond.
- The Go Oahu Card includes multiple activities at Kualoa Ranch, plus over 30 other Oahu activities and excursions. If you buy a 3, 5 or 7 day card, you get a FREE bonus attraction, and one of the choices is a half-day Sunset Experience at Kualoa Ranch.
- Kualoa Ranch offers kama’aina (local resident) discounts. Click here for details.
Explore the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC)
You can easily spend a full day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, located on the northeast coast of the island, about an hour from Aulani, and open daily except Sundays. The PCC is focused the cultures of the 1,000+ Pacific islands that make up Polynesia. The park is divided into six different villages representing islands of Polynesia and their customs: Aotearoa (New Zealand) Village, Hawaiian Village, Tahitian Village, Fijian Village, Samoan Village and Tongan Village. Each of the villages allows visitors to experience cultural practices of that particular island. Some of the activities include fire pit cooking, coconut husking, lei-making, learning the haka dance, fire-starting, tree climbing lessons, tattoo-drawing, and fire knife dancing.
General admission includes the villages and the Rainbows of Paradise canoe pageant, Hawaii’s only water-borne show. For an additional fee, one of the best luaus on the island, featuring a buffet and spectacular show (HA – Breath of Life) with over 100 performers, can be added to your admission ticket. The PCC is run by Brigham Young University-Hawaii and there is an optional tram tour focused on the history and beliefs of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) church and its activities in Hawaii.
- The Go Oahu Card includes general admission to the Polynesian Cultural Center, plus over 30 other Oahu activities and excursions. If you buy a 3, 5 or 7 day card, you get a FREE bonus attraction, and one of the choices is the HA – Breath of Life dinner show at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Visit Pearl Harbor
The most popular thing to do at Pearl Harbor is to visit the Visitor Center and USS Arizona Memorial. Other options are the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.
The Visitor Center and USS Arizona Memorial are operated by the National Park Service. They are FREE to visit and parking is free, but you must get a ticket for the boat over to the Memorial. Boat tickets are frequently all taken before noon. Show up as early as you can (tickets are distributed starting at 7:00 or 7:30 am) and avoid weekends if you can. Paying your respects at the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor — the final resting place of many of the 1,177 American sailors who were lost in the Pearl Harbor attack on the ship — is intensely moving for most adults, but can be boring for young children. It may be worth taking children 10 and older, especially those interested in history.
There are fees to enter the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum and USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park. The Battleship Missouri and the USS Bowfin are interesting for some younger children because they can tour through the massive ships, but children under 4 are not permitted on the Bowfin. Children who are very interested in planes and/or history will enjoy the Pacific Aviation Museum.
Be aware that you cannot carry ANY bags (fanny packs, wrist purses, handbags, diaper bags, backpacks, camera bags, etc.) into the Pearl Harbor sites. You can carry a camera in your hand or around your neck. Put your personal items in your pockets or car trunk before departing for Pearl Harbor (don’t put things in the trunk when you get there, as theft from car trunks is a big problem in Hawaii and thieves could be watching). Alternatively, you can store things for $3 per bag at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park.
Strollers can be taken into the Visitor Center (except the theater), but all pockets and compartments must be empty. Strollers CANNOT be taken on the boat over to the USS Arizona. You are allowed to leave a stroller outside the theater in the Visitor Center while you take the boat to the Memorial, but no one will be watching it. No strollers can be taken onto the Battleship Missouri or USS Bowfin.
- If you plan to visit the Battleship Missouri, there are military and kama’aina (local resident) rates – ask at the box office and show ID.
- If you plan to visit the USS Bowfin, there are senior, military and kama’aina (local resident) rates – ask at the box office and show ID.
- If you plan to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum, click here to print a coupon for a FREE combat simulator flight, normally $10 (one coupon per group). There are also military and kama’aina (local resident) rates – ask at the box office and show ID.
- If you plan to visit everything at Pearl Harbor and do other activities on Oahu, the Go Oahu Card includes the Battleship Missouri, USS Bowfin and Pacific Aviation Museum, plus over 30 other activities and excursions.
Hawaii is a great place to do this! There is so much to see (amazing fish, rays, eels, turtles), and the water is wonderful and clear on the west side of the island, where Aulani is located. There are also interesting wrecks and caves in the area. Unfortunately the lagoons at Aulani (and throughout Ko Olina) are not good for off-the-beach scuba diving as they are too shallow, but open water dives are amazing. Hawaii Nautical is the local scuba diving company in the Ko Olina area. If you are not already a diver, there is a 3-hour “Scuba Diving for Beginners” excursion from Ko Olina Marina (very close to Aulani) where you can learn to scuba dive.
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members qualify for some discounts on Oahu, away from Aulani. At last check there were deals for about a dozen (mostly minor) attractions, shops and restaurants, such as the Bishop Museum, Hard Rock Cafe, Hilo Hattie and Germaine’s Luau. I don’t list them all here because they are subject to frequent changes: the best way to see the current offerings is to check the DVC member website. To get the discounts you’ll need to show your blue DVC membership card.
If you plan to do much self-guided sightseeing on the island, be sure to check out the Go Oahu Card, which includes admission to over 37 attractions, including a Grand Circle Island Tour, Hanauma Bay snorkel excursion from Waikiki with equipment included, multiple activities at Kualoa Ranch, general admission to the Polynesian Cultural Center, and lots more. It allows you to skip the line at top sights and saves you up to 55% on regular admission rates.
You get a FREE bonus attraction (such as a Dolphin Encounter, the HA – Breath of Life dinner show at the Polynesian Cultural Center, or the half-day Sunset Experience at Kualoa Ranch) on 3, 5 or 7 day Go Oahu Cards. The card is also available in 1 and 2 day versions, but those don’t include the bonus attraction.
- Save 10%-15% on a 3-, 5- or 7-Day Go Oahu Card. Use the link to get the discount. This offer comes and goes frequently. If you don’t see it offered right now, try again in a week or so.
- Costco.com sometimes offers a very good discount on the Go Oahu Card. You don’t have to be a Costco member to buy through their site. (Non-members pay a 5% surcharge, however.) There is a shipping charge when ordering from Costco.com. Thanks to Peter L for info.
A variety of standard excursions are offered by Aulani’s Tour Desk. The primary advantage of doing these excursions is that they depart from Aulani, so you don’t need to drive. However, you will generally pay a considerable amount more than if you did them on your own. You can certainly book Oahu excursions directly with various tour operators (Viator is a good site for learning about and booking dozens of different Oahu tours), but almost none of them depart from Aulani/Ko Olina or anywhere nearby. The vast majority of tour operators offering direct bookings have departures only from hotels in Waikiki. For that reason, if you won’t have a car and you want to do any of the excursions below (except Paradise Cove Luau), you really are better off booking them through Aulani.
These excursions are operated by third parties (not Disney) and are booked independently from any room or package reservations. They are payable in full at the time they are reserved. Most have a 2 or 3 day cancellation policy. Currently excursion reservations are not available online; they can be booked by phone at (866) 814-3569, added to your reservation by your travel agent, or you can book in person when you arrive.
Standard excursions from Aulani (price per person, subject to change):
|Oahu Submarine Tour||$106.63|
|Two Palaces Tour||$57.59|
|Cultural||Polynesian Cultural Center Tour||$94.71|
|Luau||The “Original” Luau||$72.00|
|Paradise Cove Luau||$82.00|
|Magic of Polynesia Dinner Show||$139.00|
|Creation Polynesian Dinner Show||$145.00|
|Dinner Cruise||Sunset Dinner Cruise||$100.50|
|Royal Sunset Dinner Cruise||$130.33|
|Boat Tour||Dolphin Encounter||$104.70|
|Water activity||Dolphin Snorkel Cruise||$89.50|
|Recreation||Day on the Bay (Jet Skis, Parasailing, etc.)||$98.43|
|Waterfall Hike & Hanauma Bay Snorkeling||$62.77|
|ATV Ride (2 hours)||$99.48|
|Kayak and Exploration Guided Tour (5 hrs)||$130.89|
|Helicopter||Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour||$191.30|
|Makani Kai Helicopter||$199.00|
|Hiking||Diamond Head Crater Adventure||$30.37|
Adventures by Disney excursions are exclusive to Aulani and include experiences you can’t easily arrange on your own. Most of these excursions are offered only once a week and are subject to cancellation if not enough people reserve them. The minimum age for most is 4 years. Transportation from Aulani to the destination is included. All prices below are subject to change.
Perhaps because of the high price of the Adventures by Disney excursions, they are frequently underbooked. If they don’t get enough people, the Holo Holo desk cancels the excursion. Our Hawaiian Cooking Class excursion was cancelled with one day’s notice, and I’ve heard from numerous other Aulani guests whose excursions were cancelled at the last minute. This is another excellent reason to have a rental car — otherwise you may be stuck at Aulani on a day when you’d planned to be having fun elsewhere.
Currently excursion reservations are not available online; they can be booked by phone at (866) 814-3569, added to your reservation by your travel agent, or you can book in person when you arrive.
Catamaran Experience ($154 adult / $124 child; Mondays 12:30 – 4:30 pm, including travel time) – Join an exclusive group of Aulani guests and an Adventure Guide for this 4-hour adventure on the high seas. Just a short drive from Aulani, board the 53-foot Gold Coast Catamaran and cruise out along the shoreline of Oahu’s sun-kissed leeward coast. Following a hearty lunch prepared by your crew, you will be greeted by local marine life. Playful Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) spottings are frequent. Kohola (humpback whale) watching is also a highlight during the months of December – April. The marine life will continue to awe you as you enjoy a guided snorkeling excursion. Then, catch some rays on the deck while a local ukulele player entertains.
Kailua Sea Kayaking Experience ($164 adult / $144 child; Mondays 12:30 – 5:30 pm, including travel time) – With its fine white sand, pristine, crystal clear water, and natural beauty, Kailua Beach defines tropical paradise. Join an exclusive group of Aulani guests and an Adventure Guide on this exciting adventure that combines gentle kayaking with Hawaiian natural history stories. Launch your kayaks in the tranquil waters of Kailua Bay and paddle for about 30 minutes to nearby Popoi (Flat Isle) – an Iwa (migratory bird) sanctuary. While there, a local expert and kayak Guide will lead you on a storytelling walk around the island and impart stories about the local flora and fauna as well as lore and legend. As you paddle back to Kailua Beach, be on the lookout for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) and other marine life.
Tales of a Moonlit Night ($99 adult / $79 child; Tuesdays 7:00 – 9:30 pm, including travel time) – Join local Hawaiian storyteller Lopaka Kapanui and your fellow Aulani guests and an Adventure Guide on this exclusive journey into the legends and lore of Hawaiian “chicken skin” stories. This “spirited” evening takes place along the nearby, gorgeous Waianae Coast and will bring to life the folklore and mystic culture of various haunted locations. Separated by the Waianae Mountains from the rest of Oahu, the natural setting of this special coastline lends itself well as home to the local spirits. Stories will by enjoyed both on a private motor coach as well as at various coastal stops along the way.
Exclusive Hawaiian Fire Surf School ($154 adult for group instruction / $184 child ages 5-10 for private instruction; Families: Wednesdays 8:00 – 11:00 am, including travel time; Teens only: Thursdays 8:00 – 11:00 am, including travel time) – Join an exclusive group of fellow Aulani guests and an Adventure Guide for a fun-filled surf lesson at a nearby semi-secluded beach. The engaging Hawaiian Fire team is comprised of Honolulu City Firefighters who put safety first. A barrier reef about a mile offshore naturally breaks down most large swells, reducing the size of the waves making them perfect for surfing beginners. The instructors’ calm, relaxed, and professional manner will instantly have you putting all hesitation aside and allow you to accomplish the “bucket list” goal of surfing in Hawaii!
Honolulu Academy of Arts & Bishop Museum ($154 adult / $139 child; Wednesdays 8:30 am – 3:30 pm, including travel time) – This excursion to the two premier museums on Oahu has been hand-crafted for all members of the family (minimum age of 4 years). This exclusive offering to guests at Aulani will immerse you into the art, culture, geology, and legends of Hawaii. Through hands-on activities and with expert museum docents as your guides, you will discover the roots of Hawaiian fine arts via an engaging “sketch tour” at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Later, at the Bishop Museum, children will be invited to participate in a variety of hands-on Hawaiian activities and “walk along the path of Pele” in the museum’s Science Hall while adults visit the amazing collection inside the museum’s famous Hawaiian Hall. Capping the experience will be a healthy lunch in the museum’s café with a bit of free time to enjoy the museum shop.
Hawaiian Cooking Class with Local Celebrity Chef Sam Choy ($224 adult / $204 child; Thursdays 2:00 – 7:00 pm, including travel time) – Local personality and famous Chef Sam Choy is your private host for this Aulani exclusive adventure that combines a walk with Sam through Honolulu’s vibrant and colorful Chinatown market followed by a private 90-minute cooking class and lunch featuring local and traditional specialties. You’ll receive an autographed recipe booklet and a cooking apron for use during class as well as a take-away souvenir.
Kualoa Ranch Experience ($254 adult / $224 child; Thursdays 11:00 am – 6:30 pm, including travel time) – Join fellow Aulani guests for an exclusive, customized visit to arguably one of the most breathtakingly beautiful pieces of land and coastline on Oahu. Your adventure begins with a private beach and catamaran experience. You will then cross the ranch’s legendary Fish Pond, said to have been constructed by Menehunes, en route to a private beach where you will be treated to an exclusive beach BBQ and a sea-turtle spotting expedition on a private catamaran. Later, you will embark on a horseback ride through the ranch’s northern lush valley where you will see various movie and television locations. Here you will hear stories about Oahu’s Ahupua’a, the traditional Hawaiian land division that extends from the mountain to the shore.
Waimea Falls-North Shore Experience ($134 adult / $104 child; Fridays 8:00 am – 2:00 pm, including travel time) – Join fellow Aulani guests for an exclusive excursion to a slice of tropical paradise on Oahu’s North Shore. This special site is rich with Hawaiian history and is a repository for Hawaiian spirituality and traditions. Along with local expert hosts, you will enjoy a guided walk through the botanical gardens of this vast tranquil setting. En route, children will have the opportunity to stop at various staging areas to try their hand at playing ancient Hawaiian games. Upon returning to the visitor’s center, you will be treated to lunch as well as a hands-on Hawaiian activity with a local Aunty. Waimea Valley is a living example of an ahupua’a (traditional Hawaiian land division that extends from the mountain to the shore), and here you will learn just how deeply embedded this tradition is in today’s Hawaiian culture.
Manoa Valley Rainforest & Bamboo Forest Hike ($119 adult / $104 child; Fridays 8:00 am – 2:00 pm, including travel time) – Join fellow Aulani guests for an exclusive adventure in an authentic Hawaiian rainforest! Discover a special hidden Hawaiian hiking treasure on this gently-paced 3-mile hike. This is a rare opportunity to see the majestic beauty of a towering 200-foot tropical waterfall. Cross tranquil streams, walk along picturesque pools, view ancient rock terraces all the while surrounded by vast, lush tropical vegetation and ancient forest. Return along a path winding through a magical bamboo forest rich with stories of the Menehunes.