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Trip Reports & Member Reviews Discuss Aulani Trip Report December 2011 in the Vacation Planning forums; With Aulani being relatively new, I thought it could be helpful to post a trip report. I wasn’t able to find too much information prior to our trip, so hopefully ...
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    FrankVC is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    With Aulani being relatively new, I thought it could be helpful to post a trip report. I wasn’t able to find too much information prior to our trip, so hopefully this will help you.

    This was our first trip to Hawaii and we traveled with just two adults, no children (I know many of you are jealous). Having made countless trips to WDW, DLR and DCL and being DVC members we had some expectations that I would expect other guests may have. I will make some reference to other Disney properties as benchmarks to help calibrate expectations.

    Location – prior to arrival I had my trepidations about the being 35-45 minute drive to most Oahu tourist attractions. However, after our first day trip to the tourist areas, we couldn’t wait to get back to Ko Olina. Ko Olina is a healthy drive from Honolulu and traditional locations on Oahu. It is a private resort area that Disney shares with Marriott and other resorts. It has four man made lagoons (more about that later) and is very quiet and secluded as compared to a Waikiki resort. There is no Magical Express counterpart and your choices are a rental car or a shuttle service. Even Disney recommends a rental car and it will help you do some island exploring during your stay. Remember, Hawaii does get chilly in the evening and it does rain often, thankfully this side of the island is less susceptible to rain showers than the Honolulu area.


    Check in – parking your rental car at check in was a little complicated but here are my suggestions to make it smoother than my experience. If you plan on valet parking the entire time, just drive up. If you plan on self-parking ($35/day or free for DVC), go straight into the parking garage and grab a ticket. You can leave with your room key after check in. There is a sign that says you must have a room key to park, you don’t. I heeded the sign and pulled straight in only to find I had to valet park for the brief check in process. There is no short term check-in parking. Think Wilderness Lodge or Grand California set up, not Saratoga Springs. I ended up valet parking my car and waiting longer to get it back to move to self-park than I was gone for. You are greeted like you would be at other Deluxe resorts but with a traditional wood bead Lie (not floral Fantasy Island style) and given a tour of the beautiful lobby. You will then be walked over to a standard resort type check in desk. You get a key to the world card, but they don’t call it that and the cast member didn’t know what I was talking about when I called it that. They should call it the “Key to the Island” card in my opinion. If you are staying on DVC points, there is a tax you have to pay that is not heavily advertised. The state imposed tax is approximately $0.21 per point used for the stay. The free parking for DVC guests more than makes up for this and it is outside Disney’s control. They will charge you in full for this at check-in so don’t be surprised.


    Rooms – Rooms are architected like the Grand Californian and Animal Kingdom rooms but with a traditional Hawaiian flare; plenty of videos and photos available on line. We went for Christmas and believe it or not we couldn’t get the room cold enough. That is my only real issue with the room. Other than that, it had a good assortment of TV channels, in fact a better variety than at WDW, DLR or DCL. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News along with local network affiliates, a new DVC infomercial channel tailored to Aulani and your standard ESPN, Disney Channels etc. We had a great Ocean view room on the 14th floor. Aulani also has their own take on the H2O brand bathroom amenities of soap and shampoo much like DCL has a different type than the resorts. Be warned, there are pocket doors for the both the toilet room and the bathroom that do not offer much of a noise barrier (good thing they have those extra TV channels).



    Facilities – there is free guest Wi-Fi in the rooms and throughout the resorts. People with smart phones and iPads everywhere, seemed as though everyone forgot they were on holiday. There are two hot tubs and several pools, the lazy river, snorkel pool, sting ray encounter and water park. Think Storm Along Bay on Polynesian steroids. There is a guest laundry area and normal DVC amenities. A General store similar to those in other Deluxe and DVC resorts. The general store offers fountain drinks only if you buy the $19.95 refillable mug, also hot drip coffee (not Nescafe) and hot tea. Five refrigerated sections of bottles beverages, milk, juice, ice cream (yes both the Mickey Ice Cream Pop and Cookie Sandwich varieties) and frozen meals. There is an additional refrigerator area for wraps and salads made on property which are pretty pricey ($13-$17). An assortment of resort items and souvenirs you would find at most resort general stores at WDW or DLR can also be found to include some coveted DVC merchandise.


    Activities – no shortage of family activities at Aulani; much like on DCL. However, Aulani has little or nothing for adults traveling without children other than two bars. Unlike DCL, there is no adults only pool, only a “quiet” pool that has no age restriction other than younger children must be accompanied by adults. This is great for families and should be a good expectation setter for adults without children.


    Overall ambiance – Disney spent a great deal of time and money to create an authentically Hawaiian experience. Even most of the Cast members appeared to be of Polynesian decent. The resort is beautiful, clean and full of details. The recreational amenities (water park, snorkel reef, spa etc.) are all top notch and exactly what you would expect from a Disney Deluxe resort. Aulani also publishes a daily paper akin to the Personal Navigator on DCL; although we stopped getting it after the second day for some reason. I brought them home and can e-mail them if you are interested.

    Food – now this is the area of biggest joy and caution. The food is expensive, even for Hawaii and even as compared to the other Disney resorts. There is no dinning plan like at WDW and as mentioned earlier the food in the general store is expensive too. Not only is it expensive, it is a fusion of Hawaiian and Polynesian flavors. The meals were all great for me and I enjoyed the seafood and different flavors. For the more picky eaters or those who like more traditional fare, it is very limited. There is a kei kei (child’s) menu for those 9 and under that offers mac and cheese, chicken fingers and other traditional foods. A simple improvement Disney could make is to offer an adult portion of the kei kei menu for even twice the price. Overall, expect menus more like California Grill than Pecos Bills. Off the Hook does offer a Cheeseburger but it was over cooked and not worthy of Pecos Bills. With that being said, Disney’s dining options are all excellent if you enjoy food and do not have the pallet of a 6 year old (like my wife). ‘AMA ‘AMA is the signature restaurant that now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is pretty traditional and excellent. Lunch and Dinner offer superb dining options. My favorite was a seafood “stew” which was more like a soup of scallops, mussels and shrimp in a curry sauce. All Disney dining options have their menus on line along with their pricing. I recommend you not only make ADR’s like you would in the park (available on line) but also review the menus with your family to ensure there is something on the menu for everyone and the meal fits your budget.

    To save money, we brought oatmeal, coffee and snacks with us from the mainland. This helped significantly with time and cost much like it does in the parks. There is a Super K-Mart down the road and a Whole Foods type organic grocery store if you are in a DVC room and plan to take advantage of the in room facilities. In the same shopping area is a great Brick Oven Pizza shop, a Denny’s and an Outback along with other options. We didn’t go to Hawaii to eat like we can back home, but getting a Pizza one night actually hit the spot and we brought back half the pie for lunch the next day. I would also recommend walking across the street to the Ko Olina market or down the Lagoon to a bar/grill for other options.

    One of the most pleasurable things to report back on is the aforementioned lack of Nescafe on property. Considering Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee, it does make sense and was a welcomed surprise. However, one detail that may escape the casual observer; if you read the package carefully of the genuine “Hawaiian” coffee in your room, it only contains 10% Hawaiian coffee. Irrespective of its origins, I found only good old fashion drip coffee on property and not Nescafe.

    Ko Olina – As I mentioned earlier, Ko Olina is a resorts complex housing more than just Aulani. There is a 1.5 mile paved trail that runs between each of the four man-made lagoons and the Ocean front resorts. Perfect for a morning run, a sunset walk or just going between the lagoons. The lagoons and beaches are all public access. The lagoons have beach areas with imported sand and have rock barriers protecting them from the ocean to make them a perfectly calm watering hole for the entire family. Most of the lagoon is only a few feet deep but does drop off as you get closer to the ocean. For snorkelers of all ages, each lagoon offers something. Lagoons #3 & #4 seemed to have more fish and lagoon #2 had a sea turtle. Lagoon #1 (in front of Aulani) had more people, boats and stand up surf paddlers. It is a short .25 mile walk to each lagoon, so I recommend you find the place that is right for your needs. There are ample bathrooms, water fountains and showers along the walk way to use so don’t hesitate to leave lagoon #1. There is a private marina at the far end that is fenced off from non-members. The marina houses a few boats that offer tours as a convenient option for those staying in Ko Olina. For fans of the TV show “Lost”, Desmond’s sailboat the “Elizabeth” is docked there and is called the “Mowee”. It can be seen from the pier.


    Excursions – there is an excursion desk at Aulani. We did not use it however. Equipped with two books, smart phone, GPS and an iPad we took full advantage of having a rental car. As I said earlier you are 35-45 minutes from most tourist attractions. You will often read or be told to be mindful of the speed limits. I would agree as I passed speed traps ever few miles – plus it is just the right thing to do. If you want to see the sunrise from Diamond Head, you need to leave Aulani by 5:30 AM to get there by 6:15 AM and be able to climb comfortable in time for the sunrise. I definitely recommend this. Pearl Harbor sites are about the same distance. We drove around the Island (you can’t really do a full 360) and did other excursions. Send me a note if you have any specific questions but I will leave tips on Hawaii to the guide books and websites.

    Summary – a beautiful resort and a must visit for Disney enthusiasts. I think we began to enjoy it more after a few days and we re-calibrated our expectations. After visiting Waikiki, we certainly preferred the seclusion of Ko Olina. We also branched out of the resort for dinning which helped with both preferences and budgets. We also learned to read the menus prior to choosing a restaurant. If you have been to Hawaii before, I would suspect you would appreciate Ko Olina even more than a first time visitor. It offers a setting not normally associated with the densely populated and often urban sprawl of Oahu. You will also need to be prepared to do some traveling to visit most of the traditional tourist attraction but the drives are easy and once you accept it, it is not a big deal. Overall, an excellent resort and outstanding addition to the DVC family offer the same level of exceptional quality we have all come to expect with the Disney name.


    Photos from our trip can be found at:


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankca...7628568026237/

  2. #2
    HauntedGabe's Avatar
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Thank you. That was the best information I have read to date. Most of the ones I've have read or listened to were invited guests of Disney so you are not getting the cons, just the fluff.

    Excellent read.
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    That was a very well done and comprehensive report. As a former Hawaii resident, bravo in navigating the island on your own, many are afraid to try that.

    Ko Olina was created in what was a barren stretch, good that they found a use for it, bad for over development of a tiny island IMO only.

    I like being in Waikiki area, just because the nighttime is so interesting and fun-just tourist watching is a hoot, and the walk around entertainment is hysterical. But I can see the benefit to being more isolated, if that is a preference.

    For those who may not be able to afford a full 10 to 14 there, do you think the resort is doable in three days? Could someone see and enjoy that complex area, then trasfer to a much, much cheaper Waikiki hotel and get the full effect. in your opinion?

    It was disturbing to read there was a curry on the menu, and a fish stew of sorts, neither of those are native cuisine but I understand they have to cater to a wide variety of palates.

    We also read restaurant menus before booking the ressies, I have a picky and limited palate and my DD is far more particular, much of the stuff would be on our no thanks list.

    That they are only serving 10% Kona in a Hawaiian resort is horrible. The local (100% Kona) is the best tasting coffee ever, right up there with the Jamaican Blue Mountian. Lava grown coffees are the best. My opinion. And Columbian is a giant MEH in my world.

    Hopefully everyone will read your report, and go to Aulani, even though it is far too expensive, even for a Disney.
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    Cool Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Great report! Thanks for sharing!
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    FrankVC is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Thanks for the compliment!

    We did four days at Aulani and three days at the Hilton Waikaloa Village on the Big Island. You can't compare the two islands but you can't help compare resorts. The Hilton is about half the price and doesn't have the themes, extensive water park or the Disney touch. The Hilton did have a kids program, private lagoon/beach as well as a short walk to A-Bay. The Hilton did have a larger selection of food/restaurants and night time entertainment for adults and children. The Hilton was dated but clean.

    So to answer your question with respect to staying a short period and resort hoping, absolutely. That would be how I would do it even with children. You can spend a few days in Aulani and Ko Olina without leaving the complex. Then transfer (or vice versa) to a Waikiki resort more central to the tourist sites and as you pointed out the night life.

    I am from New York (if heard show #253, that was probably clear) and the urban setting of Waikiki isn't what I was looking for over an extended period. But a few nights there would have been fun, especially without children, but with them as well. I would recommend splitting your trip as you said, especially if you are traveling from the east coast and invested time and money in a longer plane trip. You would actually get a better Oahu experience in my opinion.

    Frank

    Quote Originally Posted by Keasmom View Post
    That was a very well done and comprehensive report. As a former Hawaii resident, bravo in navigating the island on your own, many are afraid to try that.

    Ko Olina was created in what was a barren stretch, good that they found a use for it, bad for over development of a tiny island IMO only.

    I like being in Waikiki area, just because the nighttime is so interesting and fun-just tourist watching is a hoot, and the walk around entertainment is hysterical. But I can see the benefit to being more isolated, if that is a preference.

    For those who may not be able to afford a full 10 to 14 there, do you think the resort is doable in three days? Could someone see and enjoy that complex area, then transfer to a much, much cheaper Waikiki hotel and get the full effect. in your opinion?

    It was disturbing to read there was a curry on the menu, and a fish stew of sorts, neither of those are native cuisine but I understand they have to cater to a wide variety of palates.

    We also read restaurant menus before booking the ressies, I have a picky and limited palate and my DD is far more particular, much of the stuff would be on our no thanks list.

    That they are only serving 10% Kona in a Hawaiian resort is horrible. The local (100% Kona) is the best tasting coffee ever, right up there with the Jamaican Blue Mountian. Lava grown coffees are the best. My opinion. And Columbian is a giant MEH in my world.

    Hopefully everyone will read your report, and go to Aulani, even though it is far too expensive, even for a Disney.

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    FrankVC is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    I received an e-mail today with the on line post visit survey. Having already written this trip report is was easy. In fact, I pasted a link to it in the comments section. Wonder if anyone at Disney would read it?

    Quote Originally Posted by HauntedGabe View Post
    Thank you. That was the best information I have read to date. Most of the ones I've have read or listened to were invited guests of Disney so you are not getting the cons, just the fluff.

    Excellent read.

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    FrankVC is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    No problem. I struggled to find some good info and decided this would be my first trip report.

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnO View Post
    Great report! Thanks for sharing!

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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankVC View Post
    No problem. I struggled to find some good info and decided this would be my first trip report.

    you did a great job for it being a first, so composition of correspondence must be a required skill.

    i LOVE Waikoloa, love it. But I love Kona Village as well, and Hilo Village-just for the Mom and Pop food and local cookies/candies/delicacies. On Maui, I prefer Lahaina and Kapalua, preferring Lahaina.

    LOL, I love just strolling in Waikiki, and the circle island drive, if done well, ends at "the end of the island-a gorgeous beach with a huge sunset.

    But glad you did a 2 islander, and varied resort choices. If you go back, the Marriott on Maui and the Mauna Surfrider are worth the price.
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Awesome report Frank! Very comprehensive. My wife and I want to go to Aulani at the end of 2012. We've been to Hawaii a couple of times, but never really explored Oahu. We have a young one, so the details of your review were very helpful. Thanks!

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    FrankVC is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Glad I could help. Feel free to let me know if I could be of any help.

    BTW -- I am from Long Island too. Originally from Setauket but also lived in Belmoore and Port Jeffereson.

    Frank

    Quote Originally Posted by bigthundermicky View Post
    Awesome report Frank! Very comprehensive. My wife and I want to go to Aulani at the end of 2012. We've been to Hawaii a couple of times, but never really explored Oahu. We have a young one, so the details of your review were very helpful. Thanks!

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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Middle Island. It is amazing how many WDW radio listeners/forum members are from the area.

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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Quote Originally Posted by bigthundermicky View Post
    Middle Island. It is amazing how many WDW radio listeners/forum members are from the area.

    Also from Long Island - Holbrook, originally from Lindenhurst and then Holtsville. I worked in East Setauket for 4 years though :-)


    Thanks so much for the information! My family and I have been tossing the idea of using my parent's points there, I will make sure to pass this along for them to read.
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    Re: Aulani Trip Report December 2011

    Great report Frank! The hubby and I have vowed to make it out to Hawaii someday and it seems like it would be a pretty "user friendly" place to visit (albeit expensive).

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    What is the price of such a site?..

    Good morning. Found on the Internet this site - ( goodzonehotel.com.ua ) I want myself to order the same site. I really liked the design. Excellent structure. If there is a forum for webmasters, please send me a PM.

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