6 Best Things To Do at Aulani, Disney Resort (plus 10 tips for families)
6 Best Things To Do at Aulani, a Disney Resort, with your entire family! Plus, my top 10 tips for families looking to make their Aulani trip the most amazing adventure of a lifetime.
Aulani, a Disney Resort
Our family vacation guide – Aulani a Disney Resort!!
For us, traveling to the Disney Aulani in Hawaii was a huge splurge and a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
Before we booked our trip, I was a little worried that the Disney Aulani would be too much like a Disney theme park. Not that there is anything wrong with that, we love Disneyland and went there for Elliette’s 5th birthday. But for this trip we wanted something a little more geared towards the entire family – something the kids would never forget as well as a place that my parents, husband and myself could relax and also have a great time in a more resort-sort of fashion (ie.. fruity drinks on the beach;). We also all agreed that we didn’t want to have to wait in any long lines on this vacation.
We went for Parker’s 5th birthday (see the theme here;) at the end of July for 5 nights. We wanted to blow Parker’s mind with her own magical birthday experience while also having a fun family vacation.
Aulani was absolutely without-a-doubt perfect!
It’s a world-class Hawaiian resort with a sprinkle of Disney magic. Everything from the layout and design of the resort, food, welcome committee, staff and characters were nothing less than amazing. Nothing was over the top, cheesy or had too long of lines. We went at peak summer season and while it was crowded, it was never overwhelming or crazy busy.
I used to travel to Hawaii all the time for my old job (I know, tough life), so I have stayed at my fair share of Hawaiian resorts, and hands-down the Aulani is the best family-friendly resort on the island!
There is nothing I would change about our trip or do differently, it was simply an amazing family vacation. The entire family had a blast and I know that none of us will ever forget it. There were some serious core memories made during this vacation, which to me, is priceless.
6 Best Things To Do at Aulani, Disney Resort
Below were some of our favorite things to do at Aulani (and one excursion!).
Beach Fun at Aulani Beach at Ko Olina Lagoon
Ins & Outs
Ages: 6 months and up
Things To-Do: FREE boogie boards, sand toys, life jackets. You can also rent snorkel sets and paddle boards for a small fee.
Where to Eat: Little ‘Opihi’s – a selection of snacks, lunches and small bites as well as fun drinks for the kids and adult beverages.
Seems like a no-brainer.. Hawaii.. beaches.. match made in heaven. But I was surprised to learn from a staff member that not even half of the guests that stay at Aulani venture down to the beach.. which I might add is probably 200 feet from the pool area.
GO TO THE BEACH!!!
They have the beach set up as a sort of lagoon, so the waves are gentle and the sand is soft on the feet. It’s a perfect beach area for kids of all ages. They have a ton of free lounge chairs and umbrellas, and from what I saw there was always some available.
We went down to the beach for an entire morning and also for an evening swim. Both times were amazing – only slightly crowded (way less than the pools) and a fun way to experience the beaches in Hawaii!
Evening Pizza Party at the Pool
Ins & Outs
Cost: $50 for a pizza and a couple of salads
Ages: 4 and up (staying up past bedtime)
Things To-Do: when we were there the slides were open until 8pm and the Waikolohe pool was open until 10pm. Do the slides in the dark (even more scary) and float the lazy river before coming back to the Waikolohe pool for after hours swim. Bonus, all the restaurants have bands at night and so you can hear the performances while you are floating down the lazy river or in the Waikolohe pool.
Where to Eat: Grab some take out pizzas and salads from the Ulu cafe. Fill up the kids refillable water cups up at Ulu cafe and then head over to the Off The Hook bar for some adult drinks. TIP – make sure you get the pineapple cocktail at least once while you are there!
Evening Pizza Party at the Pool
But one of the best nights we had on this trip was when we ordered a couple of pizzas to go from the Ulu Cafe, grabbed a couple of lounge chairs, some adult cocktails and just hung out be the pool all night.
We wondered down to listen to Uncle’s story time by a blazing fire, we watched the sun set from our lounge chairs all while hopping in and out of the pools. The adults even made it to the adults-only hot tub.
There is something about swimming at the night that feels somehow more magical.
My kids thought it was amazing to swim at night, especially Elliette that loved the scary dark slide even more when it was dark outside.
The best part – the pool was empty!
We literally had the entire place to ourselves.
Not that we mind sharing the pools during the day with the hundreds of other people, but being alone in the pool felt way more personal. It was just my family in a pool surrounded by magic. It was my favorite night on the trip.
Plus, if you sit by the Waikolohe pool, the bar with adult beverages is only a few steps away. Just saying;)
KA WA‘A – A Lū‘au at Aulani
Ins & Outs
Cost: general admission $139 for adults and $89 for kids, VIP admission $179 for adults and $109 for kids.
Ages: 4 and up – I would say kids old enough to sit through an entire movie will enjoy this event.
Things To-Do: before the show they have a ton of different activities – lai making, temporary kakau tattoos, kapa printing, taro pounding, ukulele lessons and more – all of which are included with your ticket. Then you eat before you watch the Lu’au performance.
What to Eat: everything! They have an amazing selection of top-notch food at the buffet. The chefs will walk anyone with food allergies around the buffet beforehand to discuss your different options.
Tip: The VIP tickets were reserved when we booked our tickets but I would have paid the extra money if I had a chance because you get better seats as well as free adult beverages:)
Lū‘au at Aulani
This was an expensive night for the 6 of us, but it was completely worth it!
Like I said before, I have traveled to Hawaii a bunch of times and have been to several other Lu’au on Oahu. They all have their own pros and cons, but honestly, Disney’s La’au is pure magic!
The food is 100 percent ligit!
The show is small but completely family-friendly. They ask the kids to go up in the beginning of the show and Mickey and Minnie Mouse teach them how to do the hula, which to this day is one of my kids favorite part of the trip.
The drinks were strong.
The men wearing their costumes, or lack of costumes was.. ☺️.
Okay, back on track. It was a great show and wonderful night and I will always remember how perfect it was.
Definilty worth the price!
Laniwai Spa Day
Ins & Outs
Cost: $210 and up
Ages: adults only. They do have a family services and a HI Style Studio for kids as well.
Things To-Do: get a massage, facial or service, then relax in the steam room, hot sauna,
Where to Eat: they have a smoothie menu you can order from as well as a room service menu.
Put your kids in Aunty’s Beach House for the couple of hours and treat yourself to a service at the Laniwai Spa.
You seriously won’t regret it.
The price is steep and I seriously thought I should skip it.
But I decided to go for it. And I am so glad I did. It was beyond a spa, it was a spa adventure.
I was there for 5 hours! They literally had to politely (in their best Disney voices) ask me to leave.
It was that amazing.
I would recommend going at least 1-2 hours early so you can enjoy some of the amenities – vitality baths, soaking pools, heated jet spas, rain-style showers, steam rooms, hot saunas and relaxing rooms. After a couple of hours, you will feel like the most relaxed and recharged version of yourself! Worth every penny!
Plus, the kids had a great day at Aunty’s Beach House, so it was a win for all of us!
Visit the North Shore
Ins & Outs
Cost: $0-$100 depending on if you eat/shop
Ages: 6 months and up
Things To-Do: swim with the turtles, beach hunt, visit the Dole Plantation, etc.
Where to Eat: tons of options – rustic farm to barn restaurant, taco truck or local restaurant, but shave ice is a must.
While this isn’t something to do at Aulani, I don’t think any trip to Oahu is complete without a trip to the North Shore. It’s a 30-45 minute drive to the North Shore from Aulani. You can rent a car at Aulani for the day.
We went to Laniakea Beach and swam with the turtles, which was both scary and epic for my girls. Then hit a Farm To Barn Cafe for some life-changing açaí bowls. It was such a fun morning, and great to see more of the authentic Island life.
Some of my favorite things to do on the North Shore –
- jump off the cliffs at Waimea Bay
- shave iced at Matsumoto
- fish tacos from the taco trucks
- Dole plantation and train ride (on the way to/from the North Shore)
- watch the surfers at Banzai Pipeline
- try surfing at North Shore Surf Girls
- browse the shops in old town Haleiwa
Best Disney Aulani Runners-Up
- Lazy River
- Sunrise Yoga
- Sailing Canoe Experience
- Underwater Explorers at Rainbow Reef
10 Tips for Families
Ages Of Kids
If you are planning a stay at Disney Aulani, then I would say this resort would be great for kids aged 3-14.
My girls are 5 and 7 and that seemed like a perfect age for this level of trip. Old enough to enjoy while still young enough to want to hang out with us;). But I saw plenty of people with kids 2 and up that were having a great time. They have a zero entry splash pad and a pool with an amazing playground structure as well for smaller kids. I also saw plenty of older kids on their own playing on the slides and lazy river without their parents, and that also seemed like a magical experience – me reading a book on a lounge chair while the girls play in the pool by themselves! The resort seemed to have a ton of activities geared towards teenagers.
Reserve Dinner Accommodations Before you Leave
Make dinner or character dining reservations before you even leave for your trip, as the restaurants will fill up. You can always cancel them (even the day of). Breakfast and Dinner accommodations at the sit down places and especially at the Character Breakfasts and Dinner do fill up, usually a few days or weeks beforehand. So make reservations before you actually leave for your trip. I usually don’t like to make reservations for places because you never what is going to happen on vacation with your kids, I mean who knows when they are going to have an epic melt down on you. But I never had any troubles canceling or changing my reservations the day of.
Reserve the La’ua Once You Book Your Stay
I am serious, book it as soon as you can. I tried to book our La’ua three weeks before our stay and they only had one show available for our entire stay.
Character dinning, in my opinion is not worth it. Unless your kid is a die hard character fan, then skip the expensive character meals. You will see most of the characters around the resort and the Aulani also has a hotline if you want to track down a certain character. My kids really loved just bumping into Minnie or Mickey walking around the resort more than the Character Dinner I paid extra money for. Also, the characters put on a fun Pool Party on select days where they dance and play games on the side of the pool. We just happened to be there for it one day, and it was super fun.
Get a Waterproof Phone Case or Pouch
This is a must in my book! I had both a waterproof case and a waterproof phone pouch and would trade them off depending on where I was – for the beach and ocean I would put my phone in the pouch so I could hang it around my neck, while at the pool I would just use my waterproof phone case. You will want to take all the cool underwater pictures and videos of your kids and not worry about your expensive cell phone.
This was the only thing that caused stress while we were there. The chairs are a hot commodity, especially at peak season. So here is what I learned – if you are planning on spending the day at the pool then go early and get some chairs. And when I mean early, I mean early – 7am or earlier. We went on the trip with my parents so one or two of us would go early, grab a cup of coffee and breakfast from Ulu Cafe and then we would grab some chairs by the pool. Try to get some chairs under the umbrellas as it gets toasty hot mid-day and you will want some shade, especially if you think you can get your kids to nap under the umbrellas. Before the pools open, if you try to leave your stuff on the chairs to claim them, the staff will simply take your stuff and store it at the towel cabanas. You have to be at the chairs before the pools open to save them. Once the pools open you can leave your towels and belongings there for an hour and then come back. The staff does time you by folding your towels over the headrest of the chair, and in an hour if you haven’t moved the towel, then they will take your belongings and store them in the cabana. Usually, I just saw them folding the towels and then waiting the hour before removing towels from chairs that people probably just didn’t put in the drop off bins. Around 4pm everyone gets ready for their nightly adventures and a ton of chairs open again. The pools close between 6-10pm.
Reusable Cups and Popcorn Buckets
Are worth the money! You pay for the reusable cup and then you get unlimited refills for the duration of your stay. It might be a huge price on your initial purchase, but over the time you are at the resort it is completely worth it. I don’t let my kids have soda, but the machines at the Ulu Cafe had a huge selection of naturally flavored waters and lemonades. We probably filled our cups up at least 4-5 times a day (seriously!). Also, for us, the popcorn buckets were worth the price. We love popcorn and so we got 2 of them. After you pay the initial price of the bucket, each refill is $1.25.
The food at Aulani is amazing! I am gluten-free and my husband is a vegetarian and we both had an easy time eating there, and of course they had a wide selection of amazing kids meals. Here are our top picks –
- Makahiki — The Bounty of the Islands Buffet – I am not usually a buffet person, but seriously this was one of the most amazing buffets I have ever been to! Tons of fresh seafood, kid-friendly foods, salad bar, sushi, pasta, etc etc etc. It was epic! They serve breakfast and dinner.
- ‘AMA‘AMA – Contemporary Island Cooking – We had reservations one night but decided to cancel them day of so we could have a pizza pool party instead. Their location is amazing for a sunset dinner.
- Ulu Cafe – we ate here a ton and loved every meal! I had the best-ever gluten free pulled pork pizza! They had a ton of amazing grab-and-go hot and cold food items, pastries, fresh fruit, popcorn and other snacks.
- Off the Hook – has great cocktails as well as quick lunches and dinners. Amazing shrimp tacos, veggie burger and kids menu. They deliver pool side.
While Aulani has some great options for food on the resort, it can get a little pricey to buy all of your meals out. I would recommend walking across the street to the ABC Market to pick up some snacks, breakfasts, drinks, etc. They have a pretty decent selection of healthy food (including allergy-friendly foods) that will help you from eating every meal out. If you have a kitchen in your room, then you can completely stock up on dinners and lunch staples there as well. Plus, they have a huge selection of well-priced souvenirs.
Make sure to get the Daily ‘Iwa to see what free and paid events are happening that day. While some of the paid events do fill up, we didn’t have any problems just showing up and participating in both the free and paid events. The only exception was we paid for the Moana event at Aunty’s Beach House a couple days in advance because we knew that one would fill up.
Aunty’s Beach House
Send your kids to this, I promise you they will love it! They felt so special going to this cool playhouse just for kids! Plus, we got a little adult time at the spa, so it was a win-win for all of us. While I heard that Aunty’s does fill up, it didn’t on our trip. If you want to make sure your kids are there on a certain day/time then you can book them a meal or paid experience that guarantees them a spot 30 minutes before the experience starts. You will need to pre-register them before you leave for your trip and also register them in person before you plan on dropping them off. I would recommend registering them in the afternoon as it’s not as crowded and we didn’t have to wait in any line. You will need your driver’s license to register them.
So there you have it! My 6 Best of Aulani plus 10 family tips! We had the most magical stay there and we are hoping one day we get to go back.
If you have any questions about our trip or Auluni, then comment below and I’ll try my best to answer. It’s a huge trip and I get that there might be some anxiety on getting it just perfect. I’m here to help you do just that.