Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Disney Aulani Resort Review Part II - Dining Choices the Spa and More!

My family visited Aulani in early June and had the absolute best family vacation.  In Part I of my review I went over the pools, water park features, Aunty's Beach house (childcare) and the resort rooms.

Today I'd like to tell you about the Spa, Restaurants, off-site outings as well as on site entertainment offered.

Laniwai Spa

First off the Laniwai Spa which was probably my favorite part of Aulani.  Thanks to the fabulous Aunty's Beach house my husband and I were able to take a few date days and nights.  One of these dates we signed up for a couples massage at the Laniwai Spa which ended up being my very favorite part of our stay at Aulani.  We chose the Honihoni massage which is a 60 minute Hawaiian Lomi Lomi style.  As if this massage wasn't enough the spa has many amenities available to guests before and/or after.

The Spa has an outdoor hydrotherapy garden with soaking pools, mineral baths and even a jacuzzi tub.  They also have a circle of huge rain-style showers and a variety of comfortable lounge beds and cabanas.  

Inside the spa there are co-ed as well as male/female "resting rooms" with comfortable lounge chairs, blankets, pillows, food, flavored water and a variety of magazines.  Let me tell you, I could have spent all afternoon there just relaxing!  My husband told me that the man side included a television showing sports.  Ha!

Each male/female side of the locker rooms included an eucalyptus steam room, sauna, changing room and of course showers with all the needed toiletries.  In the hall by the steam room/sauna they have a freezer drawer full of frozen washcloths and a iced-tea dispenser. 

Before we left they gave us a couple goodies; a scented body scrub and some bath salts.  

On-site Dining

'Ama 'Ama - This restaurant is the fanciest and most expensive at Aulani.  I saw it rated as a 4 Star.  My husband and I spent a date night there eating just the two of us as the sun set (then slipped off to the adults only infinity-edge spa).  Ah paradise!

We weren't excited about that night's menu choices and 'Ama 'Ama was happy to let us select/create our own dinner combo.  They had wonderful service!

I suggest making reservations ahead, especially if you want to catch the sunset.  They are a family friendly restaurant, but at $45+ a plate you may want to leave the kids at Aunty's Beach House instead. :)

Off the Hook - Next to the pool and 'Ama 'Ama this relaxed restaurant has a full bar and tables with a view of the pool and a bit of the beach.  This was our favorite restaurant and we went a few different times to eat there, usually on dates. :)

They have a fun cocktail menu and entree options like coconut shrimp, fish tacos and burgers.  They are also flexible with their menu and you can substitute different meats/fish for tacos, salads, burgers, etc.  For example one night I made a fish burger and my husband had a fish wrap (neither were on the menu).

They have the craziest desert (Olelo has it too), the Cheeseburger Macaroon.  The photo on the left is all dessert, isn't that wild?  Good times.

The Olelo Room - This restaurant/bar is next to the buffet restaurant (that we didn't eat at) located in the ground floor of the main lobby.  They have live music in the evenings and an extensive heavy appetizer menu.  

It's a little tricky for kids as the menu is mostly adult, but we were able to make a quasi-dinner here for our family (and I got fresh Ahi Poke!).  

Ulu Cafe - This cafeteria style take-out restaurant is next to the Rainbow Reef and Adult Pool.  They have a variety of deserts, grab-and-go salads/sandwiches, soups, breads and changing hot meal choices.  You can also get Kona coffee (higher % Kona than the "free" coffee available for the reusable cups).

Outside of the Cafe is a large selection of drinks for the reusable cups (available for sale inside).  They have iced-tea, coffee, hot water, lemonade, sodas, Gatorade, etc.  There are tables to sit at and lots of little birds waiting for scraps of bread.

Papalua Shave Ice - Last but not least we tried out the shave ice shack.  They had quite a few flavors and authentic shave ice (not a slushy-type ice).  We were happy!

There were a few other dining options at Aulani that we didn't get around to trying.  The buffet restaurant hosts a character breakfast each morning, which we skipped since we ate in our room every morning.  We didn't miss anything since we saw (and took photos with) plenty of characters around the resort the rest of the week. 

Off site Outings/Rental Car

Aulani is huge and you have plenty to do during the duration of your vacation.  However, if you want to go off and explore the island there are many things to see!  We had two days of car rental from Alamo (included in our reservation package) and we chose to go into Honolulu to do shopping one day and to the North Shore the other day.

Since I lived on Oahu for a few years I didn't have the pressure to see the most popular/famous sites/attractions and instead focused on what our family would most prefer.

Alamo Car Rental - Located right at Aulani this is the most convenient car rental location.  The service was outstanding and you can have the luxury of returning the car directly to Valet at the end of your day.  I would skip keeping the car for days in a row because you will have to pay an additional $35 a night for parking.

If you price it out there are other car rental locations nearby, including Enterprise just down the road (they'll pick you up!).  I found that Enterprise was MUCH cheaper, but I ended up cancelling my reservation and stayed with just the 2 days from Alamo.  Honestly, the traffic is so horrible on Oahu that I preferred to stay at lovely Aulani rather than fight it!

Aulani Entertainment

Aulani has quite a few entertainment options, some are included and other have a fee.  Although we stayed for 8 nights we only hit a few of them, but hey that leaves more to discover on our next visit.

Starlit Hui - This is Aulani's version of a Luau (but without food).  It has Hawaiian music and dancing with a dash of fire and Disney characters.  

Before the Hui starts they offer opportunities for kids to make leis, weave leaves and learn the hula.  Here's a tip though, get to the Halawai Lawn early!  People start lining up to get in 60 minutes before the show even starts.  If you can get in early then you'll have a spot at the front since it's first come first serve the lahala mats (which your family sits on).  Your kids will also have a better opportunity to participate in the arts and crafts activities if you can get there early.

After the show ends they started a dance party for the kids.  We didn't stay for the entire part but my children LOVED dancing along with the Disney characters.  It was all I could do to keep my 3 year old from storming the stage.

Pau Hana Room - This "community" room hosts a variety of activities such as crafts and music.  Some have an additional fee but many are included in your stay.  They have a huge library of Disney movies available to check out as well as video and board games.

The Pau Hana room is where you can check out the interactive scavenger hunt called the Menehune Adventure Trail.  This activity uses a tablet that talks to and guides you throughout the resort trying to solve clues.  It also makes different objects and areas light up, spit out water, explode lava, sing, talk, etc.  My girls loved it!  However, I will warn you that it can take over 2 hours to do the entire Trail so pace yourself and perhaps do just a little bit each day.  I was told that the system saves where you left off and so you don't have to start over.  

There were other entertainment options that we didn't get to take advantage of including fireside storytelling, movies on the lawn, character pool parties and even sunrise yoga.  I was especially disappointed to miss the sunrise yoga, but hey, someone had to wait in the line for Aunty's Beach House signups. ;)

So there you go, I hope you can see that we had a wonderful vacation at Aulani!  

Part 1 of my Aulani Review

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