An authentic Hawaiian experience with the added touch of Disney magic, Aulani is located on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, a mere twenty minutes from Honolulu Airport.
Opening its doors in September 2011, the resort and spa is the culmination of the work of Walt Disney imagineers and locals and celebrates the culture, history and traditions of Hawaii.
While guests will see some of their favourite characters having fun by the lagoon pool or dancing under the stars, Mickey and friends do not take away from the traditional Hawaiian feel of the property.
The grand lobby that greets me is peppered with Hawaiian art and artifacts and opens up onto a sweeping balcony that overlooks the picture perfect ‘Waikohole Valley’ and ocean.
Guest services agent RJ ensures that I am refreshed with cool infused water and the scent of fragrant flowers surrounds me as I am welcomed with a traditional fresh lei.
We play a game of “Where’s Wally” as he guides me through the myriad of facilities on offer at the resort that will be my home for two nights.
I mentally scribe a list of activities I wish to participate in and wish that I had more time to spend in what seems like paradise to me.
My inner child screams with excitement when I see Pu’u Kilo which houses two water slides that lead into the lazy river that weaves through the Hawaiian landscape.
The Waikolohe Pool glistens in the summer sun and RJ tells me about Rainbow Reef, the only private snorkelling lagoon on Oahu that offers an up-close and personal look at the marine life of Hawaii.
Walking by the Reef, there is a viewing area that is more my style with large glass windows making me feel as if I am taking a glimpse into Nemo’s world.
We venture to Menehune Bridge that is brimming with children playing in the interactive splash zone and I silently wish that I was just a tad younger so that I could join in the fun!
The Makai Preserve is something I can experience though with marine biologists on hand to guide you through a special stingray encounter.
You can actually get in the water with the seven stingrays living in the Preserve (I was assured that they wouldn’t hurt me) starting from USD$45 with a portion of the fee going to the Disney Conservation Fund.
RJ bids me “Aloha” and Jeff, who almost bursts with passion about the resort, escorts me to my room.
He tells me of his love Hawaii having relocated from the mainland to work at Aulani and he eagerly awaits my reaction to the view that awaits me in my spacious room.
The resort looks like a painting below me. The sun couldn’t be shining any brighter and the water
couldn’t be sparkling any more than it is.
Palm trees sway gently in the warm breeze and waves break on the outskirts of the protected white sand of Ko Olina beach.
Dark wooden furniture and neutral accents give my room a warm, homely feel and, if I look closely, I can spot some special Disney touches.
Leaving me to explore my room further, Jeff suggests I check out the beach activities on offer but I need a moment to take everything in. Aulani had truly captivated me.
The Disney eye for detail is evident everywhere I look. From high beds to accommodate your suitcases beneath them, to fly screens so that you can enjoy fresh air instead of air conditioning, the rooms also have recycling bins and blu ray players for those movie nights in with DVDs rented from the Pau Hana Room.
A media player allows you to plug your computer or camera into the flat screen television and ‘The Daily Iwa’ detailing the myriad of activities available at the resort is delivered every evening .
I choose to take advantage of the free resort-wide wifi to Skype home and head to the ‘Ama’Ama restaurant on the beach to devour an Angus chuck burger with Maui chips (otherwise known as sweet potato fries) washed down with a coconut smoothie.
Spotting an array of Disney characters in the distance, I take the opportunity to cuddle Donald Duck and nab a photo before relaxing on a sun lounge on the beach ahead of the Aulani Starlit Hui hosted by ‘Uncle’.
My fellow guests and I are guided through the legend of the hula with special lessons for the Keiki in the Makaloa Garden, while local artisans gather and the band takes to the stage.
Disney characters including Mickey, Goofy and Stitch don Hawaiian shirts and teach us all some modern line dances including the “Cha Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle”, before joining us on the straw
mats to dance the night away under the stars.
Aulani offers the perfect balance of entertainment and activities for both keiki and adults throughout the day and into the night and one of the most popular features of the resort is the renowned Laniwai Spa.
Recommending that clients arrive at least an hour before their treatment to savour the extensive facilities available, I am greeted by Ashley who asks me to select my pohaku makami (wishing stone) that will provide my mantra for the day.
That is the pohaku makami I have selected and Ashley encourages me to focus on this throughout my time at the Laniwai Spa.
I am guided through the sweet smelling corridors to the wishing well where I cast my stone gently into
the water after making my wish and relish the ripples of light that emanate on the smooth walls surrounding me.
Setting my belongings in a locker, I relax in the Eucalyptus infused steam room and make the promise to relinquish any worries for at least a few hours.
Ashley is my spa attendant for my time at Laniwai and she brings me pineapple and lemongrass infused water, what she swears are organic gummy bears (you don’t have to ask me twice) and carrot muffins to enjoy pre-treatment.
I experience the fragranced jacuzzis as Ashley whips up a personalised Hibiscus exfoliant for me to take home and I wash my cares away in the circle of rain showers that offers guests six different warm water pressures to caress the body into utter relaxation.
My lomi lomi massage therapist, Wesley, escorts me to my cabana after selecting the more unique
outside option for my treatment rather than a treatment room inside and, once prepped, I hear the stories of his Aunty Margaret who taught him the magic of lomi lomi all those years ago.
Wesley is renowned in Hawaii for his treatments and it’s a true honour to be his client for what is a magical 80 minutes of healing.
He tells me of the synergy between healing, prayer and lomi lomi and of how Aunty Margaret always instilled in him the importance of connecting with his clients on a spiritual level to heal any ailments they may have.
That is, after all, the beauty of lomi lomi, true connection on every level and this is an art that Wesley has perfected.
His soothing voice and magical hands transport me to a place of relaxation that make my aching muscles sing…
The 80 minutes speeds by and I’m glad the spa closes at 8pm so that I can relish the private dining option in the spa garden before a final walk on the beach as the sunsets over the horizon.
While my short time at Aulani is nearing an end, I bid the resort a grateful mahalo and make a promise to return to this slice of Hawaiian paradise.
Originally written by Natalie Aroyan for e-Travel Blackboard.