Escape Winter by Diving into Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa

The holidays are over and we’re facing the doldrums of winter.  As New York City weathers its first big snowstorms of the season, I’m going to celebrate #ThrowbackThursday by looking back at my August trip to Aulani, Disney’s resort in Hawai’i.  Continue reading for more photos and a tour of Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.

Aulani - beach and male wing

I wish I could say I was an overnight guest at Aulani, because the rooms are gorgeous – spacious, comfortable, beautifully-themed and appointed.

Aulani - 2-bedroom main bedroom Aulani - 2-bedroom living room

Not to mention the spectacular views!

Aulani 2 bedroom view

I was treated to a wonderful morning by Aulani’s hospitality team, starting with the character breakfast at Makahiki, Aulani’s casual dining restaurant.

Aulani Makahiki

As you wait for your table, you can take a picture with Mickey in his Hawaiian finery, then relax in the ‘Olelo Room, covered with printer’s blocks that teach visitors Hawaiian words.  If you look carefully, you’ll find Disney characters and images tucked in here and there around the room.

Aulani - Mickey at Makahiki

Aulani - Olelo Room

Aulani - Olelo room words

Take a look at the castle!

Makahiki offers a wide variety of cuisines, from a kiddie bar with Mickey waffles and dolphin bananas, to an array that includes European, Asian, and American foods, so guests can feel comfortable and at home, no matter how far away they are, and can also experience new food adventures bite by bite.

Aulani Makahiki Banana Dolphins

Aulani Makahiki Buffet Aulani Makahiki breakfast plate

Some of my favorite dishes were the red velvet Iron Man waffles, the individual moco loco, and the best biscuits and gravy I’ve had outside of the South.  YUM!

Aulani - Makahiki Red Velvet Iron Man Waffle Aulani - Makahiki Loco Moco Aulani Makahiki Biscuit and gravy

While we ate breakfast, various Disney characters visited the tables, taking pictures, signing autographs – the same as any other Disney character breakfast, though with a Hawaiian flair to their outfits.  What really sets the experience apart is when Aunty takes a spin around the dining room, playing her ukulele, singing, and engaging the guests.

Aulani Makahiki Aunty

After brunch, I met with one of Aulani’s Cultural Greeters.  Cultural Greeters act as Aulani’s aulani (aulani translates to “messenger of the chief”).  He shared Disney’s philosophy for Aulani and showed us many of the special touches that make the resort uniquely Hawaiian and Disney.  I’ve listed Hawai’i and Disney in that order, because Disney wanted Aulani to be “Big H, little d” – meaning Hawai’i is first and foremost, with Disney an element of the design, but secondary.  Hawaiian textures, textiles, stories and artifacts are major elements of Aulani’s design and decor.

Aulani Lobby Mural Aulani Ceiling Textiles Aulani Lobby View
As you enter the resort by car, a taro plant is the first thing you see.  In Hawaiian culture, taro represents life.  In fact, in the compass rose, a Disney resort tradition, the directionals are taro leaves.  The directionals point to the mountain and the sea; male and female (there’s a second, smaller compass rose that indicates north, east, south, and west).  The two wings of the resort represent male (Maui) and female (Ewa).

Aulani Compass Rose

My favorite design element is the photo collage behind the reception desk, which is composed of photographs taken by Hawaiian children of what represents Hawai’i.  It’s stunning.

Aulani Reception Mural

Menehune are another element of Hawaiian culture that has been incorporated into Aulani.  Menehune are mischievous little people and they’re hidden all around the resort.  Guests can borrow special tablets to help them find all of the menehune around the resort.

Aulani Menehune

Some of the Disney touches that can be found around the resort include Hidden Mickeys

Aulani Hidden Mickey Wallpaper

Aulani Hidden Mickey Wallpaper

Aulani Hidden Mickey Fabric

Aulani Hidden Mickey Fabric

and, of course, Hawaiian-themed Disney merchandise.  I wish I could play a bit of the elevator music for you – It’s Hawaiian versions of Disney songs.

Aulani Mickey Ears

Aulani Disney Pin

And, now, for the jewel in the crown (and the resort-guest only area).  Between the two wings of the resort is a fantastic pool area, which includes a keiki (kiddie) splash zone, an adults-only pool and hot-tub, two general pools, a lazy river, slides, and more.  These are all included in the resort fee and guests are given wristbands to show that they’re entitled to access those areas.

Aulani Pool Area Aulani Pool Area from Above

Well, actually, the pool areas are the platinum setting.  The true jewel in the crown is the Rainbow Reef.  The Rainbow Reef is a snorkeling area (there is a fee associated with this attraction) where guests can see ocean animals in a safe setting (safe for both the snorkeler and the animals, who are acclimated to humans swimming around them).

Aulani Rainbow Reef from Above

Aulani Rainbow Reef

Aulani also has a beautiful beach area, which is the epitome of the Hawaiian experience.  Aulani Beach View Aulani View from Hot Tub Area

As I wake to the snow-filled streets and the bitter chill of the Arctic winds, I’m going to travel back in time by checking out the pictures in this gallery and daydream about sunny and warm Hawai’i and this delicious Taste of Hawai’i (an in-room amenity).

Aulani Taste of Hawaii

Thank you to Aulani for the delicious Makahiki brunch and the tour of the resort.  Next time, I’m staying!

To see the rest of my pictures from Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, check out the gallery below.

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About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.