Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for booking an Aulani vacation.
Aulani Vacation – Everything You Need to Know
I just came back from a bucket list place: An Aulani vacation! If you’re unfamiliar, it is Disney’s Hawaii Resort & Spa, located in the beautiful and serene Ko’Olina, on the island of Oahu. We went to celebrate my 30th birthday and my daughter’s 5th. I had dreamt of going to Aulani, but I will admit being someone accustomed to the parks and having packed days on Disney vacations, I thought maybe I would only need two full days or so at Aulani itself and then the rest I would venture away from the resort.
We stayed five nights, arriving early on our first day, so had pretty much five full days there. We stayed on Aulani property without leaving at all for four of the days, and one of the days we went to the Dole Plantation and Waikiki beach. Not because we needed to venture off, but because there were a few places I wanted to see. When we left Aulani, I had actually wished we had six nights, as I felt we needed an additional day! I don’t think I’ve ever vacationed at one hotel for that many days without leaving property. It definitely exceeded my expectations with the amount of stuff there was to do!
I wanted to share about the amount of time we spent there first, as how many days one needs at Aulani had always been my top question before going. But now let’s dive into booking Aulani, what to plan ahead, and what to expect when you’re there, including my must-do things.
What’s Included in a Stay at Aulani
If you’re used to Disney trips such as Walt Disney World or Disney Cruises, you know there’s a few things included. During my stay at Aulani, I had a lot of people on Instagram asking me what is included in Aulani. So before I get into the process of booking Aulani, I wanted to talk about what’s included in your stay/versus extra cost:
- Your hotel room
- Free access to Aunty’s Beach House (aka a Kid’s Club like on the cruise. Perfect if you want a date night or some adult relaxation time!)
- Access to all of Aulani’s pools, water slides, and lazy river, plus free life jacket rentals for kids.
- Access to Aulani’s beach and lagoon to swim in the ocean, plus free boogie board and sand toy rentals
- Community Center, with iPads for free rent to do scavenger hunts on property, as well as Blu-rays for rent (there’s a Blu-ray player in each room)
- Character meet-and-greets
- Fireside storytimes
- Art and Culture of Aulani tour
- Nature and Wildlife of Aulani tour
- Outdoor movie nights on the lawn
What’s Not Included:
- Transportation to and from the airport
- Parking ($37/day for self parking or valet)
- Rainbow Reef (the area on Aulani property where you can go snorkeling)
- Some premium community center activities, such as painting and cocktail nights and creating DIY Minnie ears
- Some premium Aunty’s Beach House activities that are add-ons
- Luau experience
- PhotoPass photos
- Spa experiences
- Painted Sky Studio
I had always dreamt of having an Aulani vacation, but thought it was far out of my reach in terms of cost. I thought I would look into it anyway, so reached out to Get Away Today, the travel agency I partner with to share about Disneyland ticket deals. They were able to find me a special Aulani deal for winter that was stay four nights, get one free, plus 30% off, plus a $250 credit to use at Aulani’s restaurants or shops. The flights they got me combined were also an insane deal!
It made it super easy for me to have Get Away today do all the work in finding the best dates pricewise during my daughter’s winter break, and booking it all for me! It was a much better price I had found looking on my own and am definitely going to be getting my future trips with them! You can browse vacations with them here, and if you book online use code HEALTHYMOUSE10 for an additional $10 off a vacation package. Or if you book over the phone, mention you found them through The Healthy Mouse for your $10 off!
You’ve Booked! Now Here’s What to Do Before Leaving
Pre-Register for Aunty’s Beach House: Now that we’ve covered how I booked Aulani at an amazing price, let’s talk about what to do prior to leaving on your trip. If you are travelling with kids, Aunty’s Beach House (the kid’s club) is included in your hotel stay! It is for kids ages 3-12. This was great to drop off Amelia for when we went to the spa, or wanted a couple cocktails by the beach together. Before leaving, you can pre-register your child to save some time when you arrive. You can also do this in-person, but when we went it was pretty busy so can save you 20 minutes or so when you arrive! You will be given a MagicBand that costs $13.50 for your child to check in and out, but if you keep the receipt you can return it at the end of your stay for a refund.
Dinner & Character Breakfast Reservations: You will also want to make dinner or character breakfast reservations ahead of time. There are two table service restaurants on property. Ama Ama which is the table service restaurant next to the beach with a stunning view of the ocean. We ate here twice and the food was incredible! I would recommend making reservations for about 5:30pm so you can watch the sunset over the ocean. The other restaurant is Makahiki, which is buffet style. The breakfast is a character breakfast, which seems to book up fast so definitely make these reservations ASAP.
Ordering Cakes and Special Gifts: Since we were there to celebrate birthdays, I wanted to order a cake ahead of time. They have custom design cakes, which are a bit larger. Since there were just three of us, we got the 6″ Celebration Cake, which is chocolate mousse cake. It was absolutely delicious, and was enough for us to each have a slice that night and a slice for leftovers. You will want to call ahead of time to order a cake or a gift to a room.
Spa and Painted Sky Reservations: If you’ve been thinking of visiting the Laniwai spa during your Aulani vacation, it is definitely a must-do. It is the best spa experience I ever had! If you book a spa treatment, you can enjoy the spa’s relaxation garden which really is the cherry on top of the whole experience. They have warm soaking pools in the outdoor garden, warm showers, and a jacuzzi. Plus a steam room and sauna adjacent! So bring a bathing suit along with you to take advantage of these amenities. I booked the Kilikili massage, which is 70 minutes. Kilikili is the “fine mist rain” massage, where you are receiving a massage while simultaneously have fine mist shower heads going across your body. It’s so relaxing!
We also did Painted Sky Studio, which is Aulani’s version of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. At Painted Sky, you can choose from a Minnie Mouse dress, Moana or Ariel costume, or Moana, Belle and Ariel swimsuit. They also have Hawaiian dresses designed by Tori Richard. The packages include the outfit you chose, hair style, make-up, and a Mickey head/plumeria bracelet and necklace that changes colors in the sun. I felt this was a more relaxing version of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, with a very spacious area. I also loved that Moana came in to say hi to the kids getting makeovers! We wanted to enjoy the ocean, so we did the mermaid swim package so she could still have water fun with her makeover.
Excursions: We didn’t do any excursions this trip, as we just wanted to enjoy the resort since this would be our very first Aulani vacation. However, there are a lot of excursions you can book ahead of time on Aulani’s site!
Booking a Rental Car: They do offer Uber in Hawaii. However, since Ko’Olina (where Aulani is located) is about 30 minutes from Honolulu/Waikiki, it is very costly to get an Uber to and from the airport or other places if you’re wanting to see more Hawaii sites. We mapped out that it would be more cost efficient to rent a car, and bring our own car seat and pay for parking. I think it probably saved us a couple hundred dollars and made it easy to go to and from the airport, Dole plantation, and Waikiki.
Must-Do Activities on Your Aulani Vacation
If you’ve got the list of above bullet points, booked, now you can relax until it’s time to pack for Aulani! When you arrive, you will instantly feel relaxed as you’re greeted with fruit-infused water (from a water dispenser with fruit carefully placed in a Mickey-shape) and leis! You’ll enter the lobby that opens out to the balcony with a view of the resort, it’s absolutely breathtaking and photos don’t do it justice!
We had the Deluxe Studio room with a garden view, and even that view was wonderful! The rooms were surprisingly spacious, with a huge bathroom, a microwave, mini fridge, kitchenette sink, desk, TV with Blu-ray player, a couch, coffee table, balcony with table and chairs, and a queen bed. After we settled in and changed out of our airplane clothes, we were ready to go! Here’s what we did each day on property, and this itinerary worked well for us!
Day 1: Ate lunch and had mai tais at Off the Hook, a poolside lounge that ended up being our favorite hangout spot. (Plus they have Beyond burgers). Then we checked Amelia into Aunty’s Beach House, while we explored the property to get a feel for it. We stopped by the stores on property to see what was there. Merchandise here goes fast when there’s something new, so it’s a good idea to pop in each day in case there’s something that just arrived! For our arrival night, we walked along the sand of the beach that lines Aulani, and ate at sunset at Ama Ama restaurant. That’s where we had the birthday cake we ordered arrive, and they had their singers/musicians come and sing happy birthday in English and Hawaiian. After ward, we stopped in the community center to rent a Blu-ray to watch in our room.
Breakdown of Must-Do’s: Have mai tais at Off the Hook, dine at Ama Ama at sunset, have a sunset walk on the sand, check kids into Aunty’s Beach House so you can explore and get a feel for the property to more easily navigate.
Day 2: I headed to the spa and Amelia headed to Aunty’s Beach House. Since we went in January, it was a little chilly and windy each morning, so I liked going to the pools closer to 11am. So spa first thing in the morning was perfect! After allotting three hours for the spa and spa’s garden, I picked up Amelia and took her to Painted Sky where she got her mermaid bathing suit and makeover. Afterward, we went to the beach so she could live her best mermaid life having fun on a Hawaiian beach!
Before you head down to the beach, go to one of the towel stands in the pool area, where you show you room key to get towels, life jacket for kids and an Aulani Resort wristband. Then go to the beach and grab some chairs for a spot! After securing chairs, we rented a boogie board and sand toys (complimentary for Aulani guests). We played in the lagoon area four HOURS! The ocean is very warm and clear, making it easy to swim in. Plus there are no strong currents in the lagoon (and the water is too shallow for sharks, so no need to be worried for that). Aulani cast members also come around the beach to take your order if you want to get food or drinks! For the ultimate vacation experience you can order any cocktail served in a pineapple for an additional $9! They also have a stand with snacks, Dole Whips, Dole Whip floats, and an Olu Dole sundae right by the beach. My two favorite treats I got from this stand was the Olu sundae and a Dole Whip float with vanilla Dole Whip and guava juice.
Breakdown of Must-Do’s: Laniwai spa, Painted Sky Studio, a day at the beach with a boogie board and sand toys, order a cocktail in a pineapple.
Day 3: This time, we went to the pools for the day! My favorite pool was the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, that even has a jacuzzi and a special cave, with stars that light up at night! This is also the warmest pool on property. When we wanted a break from the pool for lunch, we went to Off the Hook again (or you can order this same menu from your pool chairs), and then afterward got shave ice, which you can add Mickey ears to for an additional $1. Amelia then went to the huge water playground/splash pad area while we got some sun. We finished off the day of pool fun by going down the water slide a few times. That night, we had dinner in the Olelo Room, their outdoor lounge that serves sushi and other appetizers, and has live music nightly! You can also then head to the community room to rent an ipad to do the nighttime scavenger hunt. (It takes about an hour and a half)
Breakdown of Must-Do’s: Have a day at the pools (especially the infinity pool), get Mickey-shaped shave ice, do a night time scavenger hunt, dine at the Olelo room and listen to live music.
Day 4: We went to the lazy river first this morning! The line to go down the lazy river slide (seriously so fun!) can get pretty long, so the earlier you do this the better! We went around 10am and the line was short. Then we went down the lazy river a couple of times. It feels as though you’re in Jungle Cruise! The whole lazy river path is very immersive and scenic. We then did more shopping, got a shave ice and looked at the Rainbow Reef tank, and met characters. You can find out which characters are out each day by dialing 2447 from your room’s phone. The character times are released each day at 8am. We saw Mickey, Moana, and Donald out and about a lot, but the harder-to-find characters that aren’t out each day are Stitch, Duffy and Shellie May. So definitely check times each morning to make sure you don’t miss a character you want! We then ended out last night with fireside storytelling, another walk along the sand and dining at Ama Ama (which even has a special vegetarian menu). After dinner, we went to the infinity pool at night. With the stars on the cave, it was extra magical!
Breakdown of Must-Do’s: Lazy river and the lazy river slide, meet Duffy, Stitch, and Shellie May, fireside storytelling, visit the “cave pool” as well call it, at night.
Our Daily Must-Do’s: As mentioned throughout this post, but wanted to put it here to break it down a little easier for your planning, this what I recommend doing each day:
- Visit the stores to check on new merchandise
- Relax at the lounge Off the Hook
- Call the Toon Finder line each day between 8-9am (the first character appearances start at 9:30am. You can call it from your room phone by dialing 2447.
- Renting movies from the community center (you can rent two a day) to enjoy at the end of the night.
- This is very personal to just us, but I know some other people who may appreciate this tip, but each morning we walked ot Starbucks (the Starbucks iced coffee in Hawaii is soooo amazing). It’s directly across the street from Aulani, an 8 minute walk.
We had an incredible time! The only two things we didn’t do that I still want to try were snorkeling in Rainbow Reef, and the character breakfast at Makahiki. But just all the more reason to go back! Overall, Aulani exceeded my expectations. I’m someone who always likes to be busy, so I thought I may get bored being here too many days. But there were enough variety of pools, dining and beach activities where I felt relaxed while not being bored. I think it even be my new favorite Disney vacation over a Disney Cruise (but I still am in love with Disney Cruise Line). I hope these tips for planning and enjoying this magical destination is helpful in making your own Aulani vacation possible! YOu can start planning with Get Away today here.