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What to Know Before Visiting Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

by Mommy Frog on January 14, 2024 Honolulu

What to Know Before Visiting Aulani Disney Resort & Spa - pinterestAloha, fellow froggy travelers! Ready to take a trip to a tropical Disney oasis in the heart of Oahu? From transportation and accommodations to activities and entertainment, there are so many factors to take into consideration when planning a trip to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaiʻi.

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Tips to Know Before You Go — Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

1. Know When to Visit

When is the best time to visit Aulani, you ask? There are many answers to this layered question. If weather is the most important factor when planning your upcoming visit, it’s crucial to consider that the climate is tropical and humid in Hawaii year-round. No matter when you go, the highs hit around 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) and the lows fall into the high 60s or low 70s. The best weather in Hawaii is typically in spring and early fall, from late April to mid-May, as well as September through October. You may also find that the busiest times around the resort coincide with when the tadpoles are out of school, especially on the West Coast (check out our post on the Best Times to Visit Disneyland to see the full breakdown!)

What to Know Before Visiting Aulani Disney Resort & Spa - hotel exterior

2. Plan Your Fun (and Know When to Reserve)

One of the first things we investigated when planning our trip to Aulani was what was and wasn't included in our stay — and which experiences were most important to our family, so that we could make a reservation, if required.

Ka Wa‘a – A Luau is the signature luau experience available at Aulani Resort & Spa. It tells the story of canoe exploration that brought Hawaiian voyagers to Ko Olina. Keep in mind, this luau experience is a cultural experience (rather than a Disney experience). The show tells a beautiful story, with a special appearance from Mickey and Minnie Mouse at the end. You'll also find some arts and crafts included at the beginning of the show. The best part? The short waddle ... err, walk! ... back to your room after that delicious buffet fare, including prime rib, seafood and island fare. And not to worry — there's even a kid-friendly bento dinner for the keiki. Luau reservations generally open up five months in advance, and reservations are required for this experience (and advance payment is required). Other dining experiences, including the character breakfast, can be made up to 30 days in advance.

What to Know Before Visiting Aulani Disney Resort & Spa - aunty's beach house

To enjoy some much-needed relaxation time, allow the tadpoles to explore Aunty’s Beach House — a supervised activities kids club exploring Hawaiian culture, art and music with a Disney twist. This kids club is meant for guests ages 4 to 12. While most of its activities are complimentary, be aware that select character experiences are available at a fee. But if your tadpoles would jump for some play time with Moana, you may find the upgrade to be right for your family! Aunty's Beach House must be reserved in advance, and reservations can be made up to three months ahead of time.

Don’t froget to check the schedule for outdoor movie nights on the Hālāwai Lawn, where you can enjoy Disney and Pixar films under the stars. There are also free karaoke nights, teen games, drawing lessons and firepit storytelling events to choose from. Activities at an additional fee include ear making (even light up ears!), stargazing and more. Again, many experiences require reservations, so be sure to check the app!

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - rainbow reef underwater view

Rainbow Reef is the only private snorkeling lagoon in Oahu. Colorful and full of diverse marine life, guests can enjoy up-close encounters with tropical fish of all kinds. If you’re planning on staying at Aulani multiple nights and you're interested in snorkeling, pay for Rainbow Reef access for the entirety of your stay. The cost of adult access for one day is $25 while a length of stay pass is $45. You can even bring a snorkel with you if you prefer it to a rental.

Aulani offers complimentary guided tours of the resort, too! During the guided Art and Culture tour, get an in-depth look at the serene environment created by Walt Disney Imagineers, as well as Hawaiian art highlights showcased throughout the resort. There are tours for families and tours solely for adults. For more of a nature-oriented experience, embark on a nature walk, known as Maka‘ika‘i, the Nature and Wildlife of Aulani Resort. Explore the landscaping, nature and beauty of Aulani during this free, guided tour.

3. Think About Room Size and Amenities

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - room interior

Aulani offers many rooms, suites, villas and Disney Vacation Club Villas — which means there's an option with room for nearly every party! Think through three key questions: how many are in your party; do you want a space to cook and want a kitchenette; and what kind of view are you looking for?

Standard rooms hold either two queen beds or a king bed with a queen pullout sofa, allowing up to four guests. The 1-2-bedroom suites are more luxurious and offer a parlor area with a kitchenette, sleeping four to nine guests. On the other hand, the 1-3-bedroom villas are well-suited for families. These come with a fully equipped kitchen, a washer-dryer combo and a whirlpool tub in the master bedroom, sleeping four to 12 guests. These rooms are especially helpful if you’re planning on buying groceries nearby and preparing meals in your hotel room.

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - room bed

The entire resort has Wi-Fi access, and each room offers a private lānai with Standard views (conference center or parking garage), Island Gardens (mountains, spa or landscaping), the ocean or Poolside Gardens. Where do you want to drink your coffee — or eat your Dole whip?

4. Think Through Transportation

Aulani is located in Ko Olina, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Make sure to research transportation options from the airport to the resort and consider renting a car or using shuttle services during your stay. Getting an Uber ride from the airport to the resort and back can cost anywhere from $50-100 depending on the size of your group. For a group larger than two, Speedi Shuttle (the company Aulani contacts for transportation) is cheaper than Uber or Lyft when going to and from Honolulu Airport.

If you have a vehicle, you can valet your car at the front of the resort or self-park in the guest parking lot to the right of the resort driveway. If you self-park, take a ticket and park in any open spot. Up to two room keycards can serve as designated driver keycards per reservation, and they can be used to swipe in and out of the parking lot.

Those who park at Aulani without a reservation or keycard will have to pay a base rate that increases every half hour, adding up to a total of $40 per day.

5. Download and Check the Aulani App

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - olelo room dining

The free Aulani Resort Mobile App is available on both iOS and Android devices. The app contains multiple features that can really help you focus on what you want to do around the resort. You can also use the app to begin the check-in process, make dining reservations and book activity reservations. You can even find an interactive map of the resort, see which characters are meeting when and see menus.

The app also gives you access to one of the most important resources you can possibly have, the Daily ‘Iwa. The Daily 'Iwa is a calendar that lists all of the scheduled activities, shows and excursions taking place at the resort each day. This handy guide can be found via the app, or at locations throughout the resort. Find everything from character greetings to fitness classes!

6. Keep an Eye Out for Characters

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - meet olu and friends

Check the Daily 'Iwa (calendar of events) to see which characters will be out. You never truly know which characters you’ll encounter at Aulani. On some days, you’ll catch the Fab 5 (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto) wandering around in different outfits. Others, you might spot more obscure characters, such as Duffy, Shelly Mai, Olu and other friends. Other characters include Chip 'n' Dale, Lilo and Stitch or Moana. Sometimes, during bouts of inclement weather, character encounters are moved to inside the Kaiona Ballroom.

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - mickey shaped sushi roll at ulu cafe

7. Don't Miss Out on Dining

Whether you want to enjoy a quick poolside meal or something more formal, the resort offers two sit-down restaurants, three lounges and several quick-service dining venues to choose from.

For a quick bite or something you can take up to the room, Ulu Cafe offers hot meals, sandwiches, pizzas and various pastries and snacks (usually Mickey-shaped). The ‘Ōlelo Room, which serves drinks, sushi and pūpū-style dining, is the sit-down restaurant that offers the most bang for your buck. The portions are large enough to share without sacrificing quality and each cocktail is well worth its price.

When searching for an affordable dessert option for the whole family, look no further than Papalua Shaved Ice. You can combine multiple flavors and, for an additional dollar, you can add little Mickey ears to your shaved ice. (A well-spent dollar, we say!)

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - papalua shaved ice

8. Explore the Island

Only a few minutes away from Aulani, there are multiple dining, shopping and entertainment options to explore! In the same vicinity, the Ko Olina Marina gives guests the chance to partake in ocean excursions and tours, including snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing, seasonal whale watching and romantic sunset cruises. The Ko Olina Golf Club provides an 18-hole championship golf course, a driving range, and a clubhouse across the street from Aulani Resort.

Any Dole Whip fans? Nearby, you can board the Pineapple Express for a 20-minute narrated train ride through Hawaii’s only working pineapple plantation. Learn all about the history of the world’s most popular tropical fruit and how James Dole founded the plantation exactly where it is today. (Of course, you'll also find Dole Whips at Aulani — including the Stitch Dole Whip Fruit Sundae at Little Opihi's.)

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - main pool area

9. Keep Track of Time

It’s always pivotal to remember that Aulani is designed to be a family-friendly resort in all senses. While there are a few adult-exclusive activities and areas scattered throughout the resort, such as the two whirlpool spas at ‘Alohi Point, most of the resort’s amenities tend to close early in the night. Wandering the resort at night is toadally fine, but most eateries and activities in the resort are closed by 10 p.m. The pool closes by 8 p.m. sharp. This makes it easy to enjoy a peaceful night of stargazing outside, but it also means you’ll have to leave the resort if you’re in the mood for entertainment or a late-night meal.

When getting ready to visit the beach or pool areas, chair reservations become available at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Before or after those times, you have to be physically using a chair to claim it. If things in your chair are left unattended for one hour they will be taken to the nearest towel station and the chair will be up for grabs. The early bird gets the worm!

What to Know Before Visiting Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - paddleboarding in Ko Olina beach

Have a late flight home? It’s no problem. After checkout, you can stick around the Aulani Resort and enjoy some of its amenities, including the pool areas and Aulani’s beach (Ko Olina Lagoon). Take a dip in the ocean but make sure to reserve a resort shower in advance! Go to the front desk and pick a 30-minute time slot for your shower. The facilities are very spacious and contain bathrooms, couches and TVs.

Are you planning a trip to Aulani Resort & Spa anytime soon? Got any important tips worth sharing? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: Our ~Frogtastic~ Guide to Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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