Disney in Hawaii? You bet! Set in Ko Olina on Oahu’s west coast seashore and a 45-minute drive from either Waikiki or the North Shore, Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa Ko ‘Olina, Hawaii is perfect for finding the true flavor of Hawaii in every nook and cranny. From the authentic, hand-carved details to the dreamy pool and winding waterways to traditional storytelling and Hawaiian music at sunset ... there is something unique and amazing around every corner.
On arrival in the open-air lobby you are welcomed by a friendly staff with a lei for the women, a kukui nut necklace for the men, and a Menehune (the mythical “little people” of Hawaii) necklace for the children. Three carved ki’i (“tiki” elsewhere in Polynesia) grace the entry of the lobby where twin pools of water in lava rock represent the balance of the feminine and masculine side of the resort—one calm and gently flowing, the other wilder with rushing water through large boulders. Arched ceilings supported by massive timbers illuminated with clusters of basket lighting soar overhead, and a story-telling mural of Hawaiian life wraps high above the flagstone flooring. Throughout the lobby is decorative banding inspired by Hawaiian kappa cloth representing land, sea, and sky. Behind the check-in desk you’ll find an interesting 200-foot long “Rainbow Wall” of photos taken by local students capturing the essence of the islands. With plenty of seating areas both inside and on the verandah outside, the lobby is a great place to gather or relax. And you can’t beat the views that spread across a wide expanse of gorgeous scenery and welcoming pools of water highlighted by the resort’s volcanic outcropping and the sparkling blue ocean in the distance.
While I’m not particularly enamored with the Ko Olina area, it does offer a golf course, marina, a few shops and restaurants, and over a mile of seashore pathways. But if it is a resort family experience you are looking for you can’t do much better than Aulani. Don’t expect a theme park atmosphere or characters wherever you go (although you will certainly have the opportunity to hang with Mickey and the gang at various times each day), but do expect an authentic Hawaiian atmosphere with a few obvious Disney touches. For instance, the elevator music is classic Disney songs translated into the Hawaiian language. However, step outside and you’ll find gorgeous swimming pools on par with a 5-star resort.
Local artisan touches are just about everywhere you look. In fact, Aulani houses one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art. Realistic faux aboriginal petroglyphs adorn the rocks, and there’s even a lava tube for the kids to explore. And get ready to see plenty of Aunty and Uncle on hand to educate guests about the lore and tradition of the Hawaiian culture through their storytelling.
You’ll find complete information on Aulani dining, recreation, and services in The Luxury Guide to Disney Vacations.