Aloha Disney Aulani Resort & Spa with kids! From crystal blue waters, lazy rivers, and toddler-only splash pads to breakfast with Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the gang there are, quite possibly, a thousand great reasons why visiting Disney Aulani with kids should be on your bucket list. And while we’d love to detail every single one of them (including all the ways this resort was inspired by the community and Hawaii itself), here are our top 10 reasons for visiting the Hawaiian resort. The rest of the (amazing) reasons you’ll have to discover for yourself.
Reason #10: The Location
Located on the western side of the island O’ahu, the Disney Aulani resort has, according to some locals in the know, one of the best lagoons on the island. Protected by a set of barrier rocks, the Pacific ocean is turned into a gentle giant making the beach and the water a fun (and safe) spot to spend the day.
The sand is soft and the water is warm. Ample chairs and towels line the water’s edge. Boogie boards and sand toys are complimentary (no need to pack those into your bags!).
You can also rent a paddleboard here if you want (and snorkel gear too). If your kids are under age ten, have them sit on the front of the board while you paddle through clear blue water. Be on the lookout for sea turtles!
REASON #9: Aunty’s Beach Club & The Laniwai Spa
Aunty’s Beach Club is a supervised, kids-only spot where you can leave the little (and big) ones age 3-12, from 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Utilize this free service when you and your partner want some downtime, want to grab a nice dinner (we suggest ‘AMA’AMA for fresh Hawaiian-inspired fare) and a drink at The ‘Olelo Room. Or better yet, book a couple’s massage and relax knowing the kids are having a great time without you.
The Laniwai spa is Disney’s first foray into spa services and they have done their research to provide a relaxing spot that is devoid of any outside stress. Head to this freshwater heaven at least 45-minutes prior to your treatment to take advantage of their outdoor hydrotherapy garden (imagine shower heads of various pressures, hot tubs and the like) and plan ample time to try out the dry and wet saunas.
For the ultimate Hawaiian massage, we recommend the Hana Pōhaku, that incorporates warm river stones to help rejuvenate the body while releasing all that traveling-with-kids tension.
REASON #8: Mickey-Shaped Shave-Ice
An only-in-Disney Aulani moment where you get to combine the island’s must-have dessert with the iconic ears of Mickey himself. Choose your flavor (they have everything from vanilla to guava), add the ears ($1 extra) and get ready to refuel the second half of your day.
REASON #7: A Private Snorkel Reef
Yep, you read that right. There is a man-made reef, filled with fish, on the premises, that was built solely for your snorkeling pleasure. Kids under 11 must be accompanied by an adult but feel free to swim for however long you want to snorkel to and fro. Expect to see thousands of tropical fish, all at your fingertips!
If your kids are too young, don’t worry—they can still get in on the action. There are two windows into this magical world and if you look closely you may spot a Menehune or two at the bottom.
Insider Tip: Speaking of Menehune, these are believed to be mythical creatures that cause mischief. Carved versions of them have been sprinkled all over the resort and keep your eyes peeled for them—they are known to cause mischief among the locals. And if your kids are up for a real-life adventure, head to the Family Room, check out their Menehune Adventure on the iPad (10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) for a virtual reality-filled treasure hunt that will take you all over the resort.
REASON #6: Makeovers from Painted Sky Studio
Before you scroll down to Reason #5, a must-visit is the Painted Sky Studio where your little keiki (Hawaiian for kids) can get made over into a luau boy and girl. From picking out the clothes they wear, to choosing fun, custom hairstyles, they can be transformed to fit the part in no time. Of course if they want to channel a more Disney-like character, they have Ariel from the Little Mermaid, Moana and more traditional Minnie Mouse Buns they can choose as well.
Of course, nothing is better than seeing their faces when they reveal the makeover (the kids are turned away from the mirror for the entire process and then spun around at the end). Add to that a dusting of glittery pixie dust on top of their heads and you are on your way, totally dressed for the party.
REASON #5: The Ka Wa’a Luau
This locally-inspired buffet-style dinner turned luau spectacular is worth both your time and money. Pre-show there are activity stations set up that showcase the art and culture of Hawaii. Get a traditional Hawaiian tattoo, take a ukelele lesson, make a lei bracelet, pound tarot root…or do them all before dinner and the show starts.
Dinner has been designed with both kids and adults in mind. From fruit cups with marshmallow bits and Moana-face gracing cupcakes to a fresh from the sea poke station, there is literally something for everyone here. In addition to the poke, the pulled pork was our favorite.
REASON #5: Continued...
The Ka Wa’a Luau hits all the right notes for an evening of entertainment, no matter what age is in your group. There is singing, dancing, fire, and of course a special appearance by not only Moana but Mickey and Minnie as well.
The kids will be dazzled by the theatrics and the adults will be able to relax and enjoy the show.
REASON #4: To the Infinity Pool and Beyond!
Not as centrally located as the other pools, splash pads and slides located in the Waikolohe Valley (what the central section of the resort is called), the Ka Maka Grotto pool had the best view of the ocean, a cave that makes swimming feel adventurous with an even more secret hot tub just off to the side.
REASON #4: Continued...
There are plenty of lifeguards watching the pool so you can be rest assured there is more than one set of eyes watching your kids. So feel free sit and watch the kids swim their hearts out all under the watchful eye of resort-appointed lifeguards while sipping a tropical drink from dry ground.
REASON #3: Activities Galore
There is always something happening at the resort. Refer to the daily ‘Iwa—the resort’s dossier—that details special events like Mo’Olelo fire pit storytelling (with sometimes a surprise visit from Moana herself!), live music by local musicians, beachside workout classes (we highly suggest trying the ocean yoga), fish feedings, cultural activities like t-shirt stamping and animation classes, plus can’t-miss outdoor movie nights—we saw Incredibles 2 on the Halawai lawn.
The ‘Iwa also details what’s going on at Aunty’s Beach Club—the themes change daily so for kids, every day is a new adventure whether the day is about superheroes, a royal party or kakamora chaos, they won’t get bored.
REASON #2: Character Breakfast
The resort is careful not to inundate kids with characters galore (they are on vacation too after all!) but to get your Mickey and gang fix, make reservations for the Disney Character Breakfast. Before sitting at your table, you’ll be able to grab a photo-op with Mickey himself who personally greets each and every guest before the head to their table and take their first bite.
This buffet breakfast is full of fun and a great way to start the day (can’t they all start this way?). Expect a spontaneous parade or two, hugs from visiting characters like Minnie and Pluto and prepare for culinary delights like watermelon bread, Mickey-shaped waffles and bananas-turned into dolphins thanks to a couple clever knife and marker tricks.
REASON #1: Making Multi-Generational Memories
The lure of a Disney resort vacation may be obvious but in all honesty, the takeaway for families is how great it is to be able to vacation with multi-generations. Everyone in the family can participate, from babies to great grandparents, at this resort and enjoy the same getaway. And the best part? The resort is as easily accessible for those who may have handicaps or assisted needs as it is for babies just learning how to walk.
Before You Go
Getting There: There are multiple, daily direct flights from LAX to Honolulu Airport. Disney Aulani resort is about a 35-minute drive from Daniel K. Inouye International airport, depending on traffic. We recommend coordinating the ride through the hotel although you can also take a Lyft or Uber.
About the Rooms: The resort is broken up into hotel rooms and suites reserved for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Members. And while you don’t have to be a DVC member to book a suite, we recommend requesting a suite for a family of four as it comes with a full kitchen, dining nook, a separate bedroom, a washer and dryer plus a high chair for those traveling with little ones.The living room also has a balcony but the best part was a secret bed that stashed itself into the television console. Prepare to navigate who gets the bed first as this will become the most desirable spot in the room.
Where to Eat: There are nine restaurants and bars on the property. Looking for grab ‘n go? Ulu Cafe is your best bet. The Wailana pool bar has table service or you can order from one of the servers while at your pool chair #resortlife.
Makahiki is where the character breakfast is held but you can also pop into this spot for lunch and dinner. ‘AMA’AMA is the fanciest restaurant on the property with a view of the ocean and spectacular sunset to boot but don’t let the word “fancy” stop you. It’s absolutely kid-friendly with menu items totally catered to kid’s preferences. We highly recommend going there at least once, with or without the kids. Lille ‘Opihi’s, The Lava Shack and Papalua Shave Ice is where you can snag snacks and post-pool fuel-ups during the day.
Cost: A standard room (sleeps up to 4 adults) cost $494 per night while a 1 bedroom villa (sleeps up to 5 adults) starts at $769 per night and includes Aunty's Beach House and resort fees.
Note: This trip was paid for by Disney Aulani Resort & Spa, but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.
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