Disney Aulani in Hawaii is a step into Hawaiian culture alongside calm beachfront lagoons, delicious food, and stunning snorkeling. Our Disney Aulani review outlines everything you’d expect to see in a Disney resort. Just take away the parks, add Hawaiian flair and an onsite waterpark.
Is Disney Aulani in Hawaii Open to the Public?
Aulani is a part of the Disney Vacation Club, but there are rooms for the general public to book. In fact, that is what I did during my recent trip.
If you are not a DVC member, and are wanting to book a trip to Disney Aulani in Hawaii, simply click on their website, or even easier, get in contact with your Disney travel agent.
Now onto the DVC explanation. What is the DVC?
The Disney Vacation Club is essentially a timeshare, Disney style. For the most part, the DVC is centered around Disney World and Disneyland. But, there are DVC resorts without parks in Vero Beach Florida, North Carolina, and Oahu Hawaii, which is Disney’s Aulani.
DVC members must pay a buy-in fee, which gives them a certain amount of points per year at their Disney “home” resort. At this resort, your points go further, and have more value, but they can be used at other Disney DVC resorts as well as on Disney cruises, and even some non-Disney resorts.
As with most timeshares, the DVC has annual fees, which do tend to increase a little bit each year. Ultimately the choice to join the DVC depends on your finances as well as how often you plan to travel to Disney resorts, as your points give you the most bang for your buck at Disney properties.
What’s unique about Disney’s Aulani, when compared to some other DVC properties, the resort offers both vacation club rooms as well as standard hotel rooms.
Where is Disney Aulani Located and What Is It Like There?
Disney Aulani in Hawaii is on the island of Oahu, inside the more remote Ko’ Olina area. Ko’ Olina features 4 manmade lagoons which create beautiful beach access with wave breaks for safe swimming and snorkeling.
Disney’s Aulani Hawaii is located on the Kohola Lagoon with the Four Seasons resort. This is the biggest of the manmade lagoons.
In this Disney Aulani review, we should discuss the layout of the resort itself. As I mentioned, the resort is on one of the lagoons. The buildings are laid out in a horseshoe shape, with a couple buildings sticking out as wings. In the center of the horseshoe are the pools, lazy river, and dining.
Additionally, one of the “wings” holds the spa, with a pool out in front, while the other “wing” hosts the Luau.
Located inside the pool area is the centerpiece of the resort. We all know Disney parks tend to have a centerpiece, and so does Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii. The volcano stands tall above the foliage that fills the pool areas and features two waterslides inside.
When entering Aulani, you will find the lobby is on the 3rd floor, as are the resort’s two stores. In the lobby, a balcony offers views of the entire resort with the ocean as the backdrop. Here, you will often find Hawaiian performers dancing hula or playing the ukulele.
On the 1st floor, guests will find the spa, pools, koi pond, and restaurants, as well as the many garden pathways to explore.
If you are interested in the DVC rooms, particularly the layout of the larger ones, each side of the horseshoe offers DVC open houses in 2 and 3 bedroom DVC villas, providing the opportunity to take a peek inside.
Disney Aulani Rooms
Rooms at Disney Aulani come in multiple varieties, including standard hotel rooms and deluxe villas. Since the deluxe villas are part of the Disney Vacation Club, they are designed to provide a homier experience, complete with some at-home amenities, such as a kitchen with stove and fridge.
You’ll find a full kitchen in the 1, 2, and 3 bedroom villas and a kitchenette in the deluxe studio rooms. Unlike most DVC resorts, the Aulani regular studio rooms do not have a kitchenette and feel more like a hotel.
Additionally there are non-DVC style suites at Aulani, some of which feature kitchenettes. All of the suites sleep up to 5 adults, in a varying array of king, queen, and sleeper sofas.
Regular resort rooms come in standard view (of the conference center,) garden view, poolside garden view, partial ocean view, and ocean view. Standard rooms contain one king bed and one queen sleeper sofa, or two queen beds. The Deluxe studio rooms have one queen bed, and one sleeper sofa.
Villa rooms come in the same view categories as above. One bedroom villas have a kitchen, 1 King Bed and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa and 1 Single Pull Down.
Two bedroom villas at Disney Aulani in Hawaii have 1 King Bed and 2 Queen Beds and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa and 1 Twin-Size Sleeper Chair. (Some rooms have a twin pull down bed rather than a sleeper chair.)
Three Bedroom villas sleep up to 12 adults with 1 King Bed and 4 Queen Beds and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa and 1 Twin-Size Sleeper Chair. This room type comes with 3 bathrooms.
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Disney Aulani Reservations
Room reservations at Disney’s Aulani are available online, by phone, or by travel agent.
Dining reservations are available online, but not in the app. The concierge can also help with dining reservations. If you are traveling to Aulani during peak times, dining reservations are highly recommended.
If traveling during quieter times, (October through February,) as we did, reservations are not required, but you will have a short wait during peak dining times.
Reservations are required to attend the luau, and it is recommended to book early.
What is There to DO at Aulani?
You cannot do a Disney Aulani review without discussing all of the activities to do at this resort. There are 4 pools, a lazy river, two waterslides, a water playscape, a splash pad, and a hot tub.
This is all in addition to the beachfront access with the lagoon. Inside the lagoon, you can swim, snorkel, paddle board, or just lay out on a beach chair. A private snorkeling lagoon offers fish feedings and is the perfect place for beginner snorkelers to test their fins.
Additionally, there are fun activities like ukelele lessons, story telling by the fire pit, make your own Mickey ears, fitness classes, (including morning yoga on the beach,) painting lessons, character experiences with Mickey, Minnie, Moana, and more, nature tours, karaoke, game nights, as well as beach front games like ping pong and giant connect four.
Aunty’s Beach House hosts games and fun activities for kids and teens alike. The Pua Hana rooms host many of the activities designed for all ages. If you have any questions, or for a full schedule, be sure to visit Pua Hana.
Does Disney Aulani Have an Airport Shuttle?
Before my first trip to Disney Aulani in Hawaii, I did a lot of research and reading of Disney Aulani reviews, and I still left without an answer to this question.
While there is no airport shuttle that is operated by the resort itself, there are many options you can take. For example, we asked concierge, and they told us they had many companies they worked with, and they could book us a shuttle, and add it to our room bill.
If you prefer a shuttle service over a taxi or a ride share program, be sure to call into concierge at Aulani before your trip, and they would be happy to help you.
That all being said, the shuttle cost about $45 per person, and a taxi costs over $100 one way. The most affordable option is to hire an Uber. After a week on Oahu, we found uber to be the most affordable option to travel the island.
To get from Aulani to the airport was $45-$55 depending on time of day.
Rental cars are also available through Enterprise onsite at Aulani. This is great if you want a one-day car rental (or longer). We thought about renting a car for the entire trip, but parking is $37 a day for non DVC members. It is worth noting that valet parking is included in the parking fee for non-DVC guests.
Due to this high parking cost, we opted for Uber during the one day we traveled to the Waikiki area. We also rented an Enterprise rental at the resort to explore the north shore on one day. This cost $165 for the day, and we were able to get a reservation day of, which aided in spontaneity.
During busier resort times, day of rentals may not be available, but you can always check by going to the car rental counter near the conference center.
Disney Aulani Dining Review
Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii has some of the best dining on the island. There are two types of Disney dining: quick service and table service. Quick service is higher end fast food, and table service is your traditional sit down dining. Additionally, Aulani has a third dining category, of lounges and bars.
Aulani’s Quick Service
For quick service, first there is Ulu Café. The Ulu Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For breakfast you can get breakfast sandwiches, French toast, acai bowls, and breakfast platers. Lunch and dinner is flatbreads, hot sandwiches, burgers, and more, as well as a rotating hot plate with options like half chicken, and a variety of sides. In addition to the dinner menu, the lunch menu serves a variety of fresh poke bowls.
The Wailana Pool Bar is a coffee and baked goods bar until 10:30 am, before turning into a poolsode bar and snack bar. They serve kid loved meals such as hot dogs, chicken strips, mac and cheese, and burgers. Adult options include a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and pizza. Notable options are the ahi poke nachos and garlic shrimp tacos. The Wailana Pool Bar also serves up a variety of adult drinks.
Mama’s Snack Stop, serves fried snacks like fish and chips and mini corndogs poolside. Little Ophi’s serves ice cream beachside, and Papalua Serves up Hawaiian’s beloved shaved ice.
Aulani’s Table Service
Table Service at Disney Aulani Hawaii is diverse and delicious. We never had a single bite of food at the resort that was anything less than stellar.
On the high end is Ama Ama. Ama Ama is a modern take on fresh Hawaiian food, and serves dinner only, in four courses for adults, and 3 courses for kids. The four course meal will include a starter, appetizer, entrée and dessert. Notable menu options include Kobocha Squash starter, the Pork Belly appetizer, the local catch or lamb entrees, and the coconut flan dessert.
Makahiki is full of beautiful murals that depict the harvest seasons of Hawaii and overlooks a large picturesque koi pond. 3 course breakfast and dinners are served here, and breakfast is a character meal. Guests first meet Mickey Mouse upon entering and can grab a photo with him. After being seated, characters like Goofy, and even his son Max, rotate through the room, stopping at tables for autographs and photos.
Breakfast serves up omelets with Hawaiian flair such as the Kalua Pig Omelet, as well as pancakes, French toast, waffles and more.
Dinner begins with a soup or salad option, followed by an entrée, and dessert. Notable entrée options are the filet mignon or the shrimp and fettuccine. And for dessert, be sure to try the pineapple cobbler.
No Disney Aulani Review would be complete without talking about Off the Hook. Off the Hook is a casual beachside dining experience with amazing food. This was our go to spot, as it was easy to get into any hour, and was open for lunch and dinner, as well as to go and mobile order.
The bar serves up cocktails with Hawaiian themes such as Mai Tais and Pina Coladas. The menu features the best poke appetizer I have ever had. Our favorite entrees were the Fresh Island Catch and the French Dip. Ask any of the employees about the French Dip to hear them rave about it.
Bars and Lounges
Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii is set up for kids and adults alike. But, the Olelo Room definitely has a slightly more adult vibe, unless your child happens to love sushi, of course.
The Olelo Room is a lounge inspired by the Hawaiian language. Drink options here are endless, and the menu is a mixture of Hawaiian and Asian. Aside from the delicious sushi options, you will find some options for non-fish lovers as well.
The Olelo Room is located next to Makahiki. Just ask the host about it. They also serve coffee and cinnamon rolls in the mornings.
Ka Wa’a is the Luau proudly offered by Aulani. The food is served buffet style with options such as pork, seafood, and other traditional Island fare. The food is some of the best food at the resort, which is saying something, because everything we ate during our whole trip was phenomenal.
The Luau is dinner with a show. Hula dancing and fire twirling tell stories of the island and will mesmerize you.
Disney Aulani Pools
Let’s get down to the fun part of the Disney Aulani Review. There are 4 pools, a lazy river, a splash pad, and a water playscape inside Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii.
One of these Disney Aulani Hawaii pools is the adult only pool, and features an infinity edge view of the ocean.
The Ka Maka Grotto pool also features an infinity edge with ocean views and is open for all ages. This pool seems to be the busiest and the loudest one at the resort. Or at least it was during our stay.
The Waikolohe Pool is the fun pool, and the largest, as well as one of my favorites. This pool features fun details, such as light up constellations in the floor. They are the same constellations wayfinders used to navigate the ocean long ago.
The Waikolohe Pool is designed to mimic the ocean with its zero entry access, and it wraps around and into the volcano, hosting the Volcano Vertical Body Slide. A magical surprise waterfall soaks guests who dare enter the volcano.
The Wailana Pool is the undeclared quiet pool. Tucked back behind the Ulu Café, the Wailana Pool is set up for relaxation. This pool is the place to go to avoid the harsh sun and crowds. The pool and chairs are shaded in trees and the proximity to both the Ulu Café and the Wailana Pool bar make it ideal for those hoping to spend a day poolside.
The Waikolohe Stream begins with the tube waterslide in the volcano and carries guests slowly along the grounds of Aulani. It is a relaxing experience shaded by the foliage and a great way to float away your cares.
The Keiki grove is a splash pad for the little ones in your family, and the Menehune Bridge is a water play structure, complete with two small slides for children under 48”.
How Can I Book a Reservation at Disney Aulani Hawaii?
If you are a DVC member, use your DVC login and reserve your room using points just as you would at any other DVC location.
For non DVC members, room only reservations or Disney Aulani packages can be booked online here, or with your Disney travel agent, like us!
Disney Aulani Packages
Disney Aulani packages are different than what you’ll find at Disney theme park resorts. Instead of booking a room and ticket combo, at Aulani, you can turn any room reservation into a package by adding ground transportation. Just let your travel agent know what you want to do, and they can arrange the details with a call to the Aulani booking line.
Disney Aulani Review- What to Know Before You Go
After spending a week inside of Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii, I have formulated my review, along with some tips you should know before you go.
Finding Your Way Around
Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii is stunning, to put it simply. It is everything you’d expect from a Disney hotel in Hawaii. The grounds are meticulously kept and the foliage and gardens add to the atmosphere. Despite having other people around, the layout of this resort and the abundant greenery give a sense of serenity and privacy not found at other resorts in the area. You could spend hours exploring the grounds and finding your way around, sometimes without seeing other people.
Which brings me to my first point of this Disney Aulani review. Aulani is difficult to navigate. It took us a couple days to get the lay of the land, and the map is… not great. Spend some time exploring the grounds to find the restaurants, pools, etc, and to enjoy the hard work put into the creation of this place. If you get lost, ask a cast member, they are all friendly and happy to help.
As far as room views go, we stayed in a partial ocean as well as a garden view room, but I did take note of the views of the other room types. For the best views, get an ocean view, or a garden view poolside view. That being said, to save some money, opt instead for the partial ocean view and the garden view. They both offer great views, and are more affordable. If possible, avoid the standard view, they are the worst views at the resort.
If you find yourself in a garden view room on the left side of the horseshoe in Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii, in room areas of 60-89, you may have a view of the luau, which would be fun for the first couple nights. Luckily, the luau is over at 8pm, but it can get a bit loud.
When finding your room, it is important to note that last numbers of your room number are the room number itself, and the first 1-2 numbers are the floor number. For example, room number 841 is 8th floor room 41. Room number 1543 is floor fifteen, room number 43.
Due to the lobby being only 3 stories tall, with restaurants underneath it, and having no rooms above it, you will not be able to walk through the entire horseshoe while inside the buildings.
All dining and pools can be found on the 1st floor, and the lobby is on the 3rd floor.
Using Concierge and the Tour Desks
Staying at Disney Aulani in Hawaii is magical and a bit confusing. When it comes to the Disney World and Disneyland websites or apps, you can easily find answers about your resort and activities, but that is not the case with Aulani. Aulani’s website and onsite app leave off many of the resort’s amenities.
No Disney Aulani review would be complete without discussing the wonderful concierge and tours staff. The best way to get the most out of your visit is by utilizing the concierge and the tour desks found in the lobby near the front desk.
The lovely, helpful employees working here will answer any questions you have about the resort, the island, and help you find things to do outside of the resort. The concierge can help arrange transportation if you prefer not to use Uber and Lyft, and they also have tourism maps of the island.
At the tour desks, you can book activities at the resort itself, like the luau, as well as tours offered by outside companies that pickup and drop off at the resort. We booked a Pearl Harbor tour through the Tours Desk. It was easy to book, and we were picked up directly outside the lobby by a wonderful and informative tour guide.
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Using the Lagoon
Another important component of any Disney Aulani review is the lagoon. The lagoon on the resort property is beautiful, safe, and perfect for a relaxing day at the beach.
The lagoon at Disney’s Aulani, and all four lagoons in ko’ Olina are technically public beaches, but parking at all but the Ulua Lagoon is extremely limited for non-resort guests. Aulani is on the Kohola Lagoon, which is the biggest of the four, and shares usage with the Four Seasons. The beach chairs and umbrellas at the Kohola Lagoon are owned by the resort and can only be used by resort guests.
All four lagoons are connected by a walking trail, which we highly recommend utilizing to see the other lagoons.
You can swim at any of the lagoons, and we often brought our towels to the other beaches which were less busy. The Honu Lagoon is directly next to the Aulani lagoon, and has no chairs out for any resort guests, and therefore tends to be the least busy. We also found this lagoon to have the best snorkeling as it was shallower.
If you are concerned about waves and the dangers of the ocean, don’t be! All of the lagoons have wave breaks to diminish dangerous waves.
Inside the lagoon, guests can swim, snorkel, and paddle board. Snorkeling equipment can be rented from the beachside rentals kiosk at the Disney resort. Here you can also rent paddle boards (for a cost), and equipment for beach fun such as boogie boards (included.)
While relaxing in the beach chairs, employees will wander around and take food and drink orders from the Wailana Pool Bar and Off the Hook. Of course, this is not included in the cost of your resort stay. The food charges will be charged to your room, but it is a fun service to use.
What to Know About the Pools
One important thing to mention in this Disney Aulani review is the pool towels and where to find them, as the locations are a bit hidden. To get towels, there are two towel kiosks for guests at Aulani. One of them is in between the volcano and Menehune Bridge. The second is behind the splash pad near the Maka Grotto Pool.
These open at 8 am, with a long line. After 8:30 am, the line will be no more than a couple people for the rest of the day. Wrist bands are required to get towels and to use the pools, but not the lagoon. These bands can be picked up daily at the towel kiosks, with your room number or room card.
There is a beach and pool chair policy. Guests may “reserve” chairs during pool hours with their stuff, for only one hour. If the chair is left unoccupied for over an hour, your stuff will be removed and brought to one of the towel kiosks.
One of the disappointing things about Aulani’s pools is the early closures. During our visit, all the pools closed sharply at 8pm, including the lazy river. We were hoping for a nighttime float down the river, as the temperatures were so pleasant, and the river looks beautiful lit up at night. Of course, the lagoon has no set hours, and no lifeguards.
Miscellaneous Aulani Tips
- To save some money on dining and supplies head across the street to the Island Country Market by ABC Stores for snorkeling equipment at a discount, snacks, meals, coffee, souvenirs, clothing, and alcohol. (One of the employes gave us this tip for cheaper food and drinks which can be enjoyed pool and beachside.)
- Grills are located behind Ama Ama for guest use to cook your own food.
- The Pua Hana Room and Aunty’s Beach House are where most of the activities are held. Head inside them to book your activities!
- Preferred seating at the Luau is worth it, and even includes drink service, rather than having to walk to the bar.
- Get to the Luau early, so you have time to enjoy the fun learning activities.
- PhotoPass photographers will be at all of the character greets, but you can still have your photo taken with your phone if you prefer not to purchase the photo from Disney.
- A complete schedule of character meet and greet locations and times can be found on the Aulani App.
- Off the Hook is the only restaurant to do mobile ordering, and no room service was available during our trip.
- Dining reservations can be made ahead of time on the app, but you can often get in with a short wait without reservations.
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