10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Aulani

Aulani, a Disney resort and spa is, in our opinion, the best family-friendly hotel in Hawaii. We have been there multiple times and each time was, to sum it up in one word, magical. As of this posting, our most-recent family trip was February 2022 and, oh yes— we’ll be back!

So, why do we love Aulani so much? Between the beautiful views, the tasty food options, and the vast array of activities, not to mention plenty of opportunities to see some of our favorite Disney characters, there’s a lot to talk about. We’ve pared it down to a list of our top 10 favorites.

1. The Location

Aulani is located in Ko Olina, Oahu, which is tucked away on the southwest side of the island about 25 miles northwest of the main city of Honolulu. We’ve stayed in Honolulu before, but it is quite crowded and busy— not necessarily the quiet and relaxing atmosphere we look for on a trip to the islands. The area of Ko Olina encompasses 642 acres of beautiful land and includes four ocean lagoons. The lagoon Aulani sits on has breathtaking views and is great for both kid-friendly swimming and beach play.

Ko Olina also has a cute little shopping village containing a marketplace, shops, and restaurants and it’s all within walking distance. The market carries personal necessities, beach items, a full grocery store, and has a pretty decent liquor section as well. There we were able to stock up on food and beverage items as well as extra beach towels and sunscreen. We ate dinner at the Monkey Pod and would highly recommend it. We shared a delicious hand-tossed pizza with Kalua pork, macnut pesto, roasted pineapple, jalapeño, and green onions and there were also complimentary buttered noodles for the kids. For dessert, we stopped next door at Black Sheep Cream Co. for ice cream. They have some really unique flavors that change daily. We had a few of the flavors and they are all so delicious! We would highly recommend this place as well.

Overall Ko Olina is quiet and laid back (but still lots of fun!), easy to get to, and has everything you need for a great stay. And did we already mention beautiful views? If so, it’s worth saying twice.

2. The Water Park Pools and Activities

Aulani has three main pools, two water slides, a lazy river, a kids play area, a baby splash pad, and several hot tubs. There is truly a little bit of everything for everyone, and we were able to include several full pool days and a few half days on our 11-day vacation without getting bored. If you find yourself in the infinity pool, make sure to go underwater and listen…

3. The Reef

The Reef is a contained snorkeling area (pool) with lots of different kinds of fish. It’s a lot of fun for adults and it’s a perfect place for little kids to learn how to snorkel as well without the fear of sea creatures out in the ocean (not sure if they offer lessons though). We’ve done a good bit of open-water snorkeling and the Reef actually had the most fish we’ve ever seen! We went several times during our stay and think it’s a must do while at Aulani.

4. The Lū’au

Aulani has their own private Lū’au on-property! We got priority seating so we could sit closer to the front and would would recommend it since the venue is so large; it would be a bit hard to see in the back. We thought it was great and our kids absolutely loved it and wanted to go back the next day! (We didn’t though; it was booked). The lū’au includes a delicious 3 course meal, drinks, traditional music and Hawaiian stories, lei bracelet making, learning how to do a hula dance, and more. Mickey Mouse made an appearance as well (you are at a Disney hotel, after all) but the main focus was on the Hawaiian cultural experience. It’s truly an experience you don’t want to miss.

5. The Food & Drinks

The food and drinks are all so delicious! For breakfast, the tropical açaí bowl was definitely a favorite. We also had a super fun character breakfast at Makahiki. For lunch and dinner, there are a variety of options from standard sit-down meals to quick poolside bites (try the poke nachos!). The snacks are great too. The Mickey shaved ice is a must and perfect for a hot day, and the Stitch sundae-pineapple and watermelon Dole whip over fresh watermelon in a waffle cone bowl with sprinkles on top was our favorite treat during the whole trip! And finally, we have to mention the drinks. They are all super good and refreshing and came with fun decorative flowers! 🌸🍹

6. The Daily Activities

Aulani has so much to do! There are lots activities throughout the day and you can find them conveniently listed in the Aulani app. For example, there are character greetings, ukulele lessons, hair-braiding, crafts for making Mickey ears, night time pool stories, and so much more! Really, it’s hard to fit it all in so pick your favorites and save the others for next time, right? 😉

7. The Beach

Aulani has an awesome ocean lagoon and it’s perfect for the whole family. The sand is fine and great for sand castle building, there are lots of lounge chairs available, stand up paddle boards are available for hourly rental, and the swim area is consistently wadeable without a big drop off . It’s one of our favorite beaches! Since it’s sheltered from the bigger ocean waves, it’s a perfect place for little kids to play in the ocean without being swept away (unlike the beaches at the North Shore; those waves are awesome, but a bit intense for young kids! 🌊)

8. Excursions

On one of our excursions we took a sailing canoe trip out along the coastline near Ko Olina, and it was incredible! The canoe leaves and drops off at the lagoon beach (see above) so it’s super easy to get to/from. There’s something truly magical about ridding on an outrigger with the breeze in your hair while you cut through the waves (it’s a real Moana vibe 😉). While you’re out there, you’ll probably see some wildlife as well! We saw a few whales, a sea turtle, and some monk seals. We highly recommend going on one of these! Make sure to check out Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. You can book through the hotel, down at the beach, or through their website.

The second excursion we booked through Aulani was surfing lessons at Eisenhower Beach about 8 miles away. The waves were perfect for beginner surfers and we had a blast! They provided longboards, which are a bit easier to get up on for newbies, and there was a photographer on the beach who took some great action shots. We’d do it again in a heartbeat!

9. DVC Hotel

We aren’t Disney Vacation Club members, but this hotel is a part of the program and they have lots of information available in case you’re curious and want to check into joining. It sounds like a great deal if you go to a Disney property frequently, and it’s good to know that not all DVC hotels are at the Disney Parks. Maybe someday we’ll become DVC members…

10. Magical

Overall Aulani is our favorite resort, hands down. Immediately upon walking through the front door for the first time, you can just feel the energy that this is a very special place—and that energy lasts throughout the entire stay. The atmosphere is simply magical and you can feel it throughout the property. From the murals along the ceiling telling stories of Hawaiian culture, the torches that light up the paths at night, the menehune that can be found hiding in unexpected places, and the super friendly and smiling staff, you can definitely feel the Aloha. It really is the best family resort of anywhere we’ve stayed, and if you haven’t been already, you definitely need to add it to your travel bucket list. Aloha! 🤙

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16 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Aulani

  1. Fantastic place! So many cool activities to do in Aulani and also excursion look incredible! Beach obviously are always a good idea! Thanks for sharing this

    Liked by 1 person

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