My hubby and I celebrated our 10th Anniversary in a big way- we stayed at the Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii. I want to share some of my suggestions and tips for staying at the Aulani.
Tips and pricing are based from our June 2022 trip to the Aulani.
Download and Use the Aulani App
Like the Disney World and Disneyland apps, Aulani has an app. The app informs you of the activities happening at the resort. In addition, the times and places where you can meet characters. You can also order food thru the app. When I stayed, the only restaurant available for mobile orders was Off the Hook. You can find information about your reservation on the app as well. The app is free to download.
Bring Your Magicband
If you have a Magicband from past Disney World vacations, bring it to the Aulani. It helped me a lot without having to keep getting out my room key card. It is just on my wrist. I used it a lot from purchasing items, getting pool wrist bands, and entering the room.
Sadly, the Aulani did not have magicbands for sale when I stayed. I know Disney is experiencing delays on them.
If you do not have a magicband, I highly suggest a lanyard with an id holder. It will provide easier access to the room key card. As I mentioned above, your room key card will be used frequently.
Buy the Refillable Drink Mug
If staying at the Aulani for more than one day, I highly suggest buying the refillable mug. With it, you get unlimited refills (for the length of your stay). At the Aulani, they use Coco-Cola Freestyle Machine giving plenty of options.
The mug cost $22.95 plus tax. We definitely got our money’s worth out of it and filled ours up multiple times in a day
Aulani does have a Popcorn Bucket which costs $18 plus tax with $3 refills plus tax if you want an affordable snack. The best thing about the Refillable drink mug and popcorn bucket is that they make good souvenirs.
Get Your Pool Band and Towels the Day Before
The pools and pool chairs at the Aulani are reserved for hotel guests. Pool bands are issued to hotel guests to monitor who is allowed in the pools/use the chairs. Hotel guests can pick up their bands in the pool area in one of the 2 Kawele Korners.
In the late afternoon/early evening, you can grab your band for the next day. This is a huge time saver because the lines to get the pool bands/towels can get rather long, especially if you get there right at opening.
You will need your magicband or room key card to get the bands, and everyone on the reservation needs to be physically there to get their band.
Get to the Pool Early/Understand the Chair Pool Policy
I highly suggest getting to the pool early so you can grab the best location for chairs. Getting to the pool area early also allows you to enjoy the pools before they get crowded.
We got to the pool before pool openings. Pools open at 8 AM. My family grabbed the chairs we wanted and lounged in them till it was time for the pool to open.
Getting to the pool early also allows you to be first in line for the pool band and towels if you did not get them the day before. The line typically starts forming around 10-15 mins before opening at 8 AM.
You cannot claim your chairs the day before or hours before pool opening due to Aulani’s policy.
Aulani pool chair policy states,
“Prior to 8 AM, Guests must be actively using their chairs. Any items left unattended will be taken to the nearest Kawele Korner. From 8 AM until pool closing, if belongings are left unattended for more than one hour, they will be removed and taken to the nearest Kawele Korner. Upon return to your chair, pull the folded towel down to let us know you actively utilizing the chair.”
Book the KA WA’A Luau
When visiting Hawaii, you have to do a Luau Out! The one at the Aulani, KA WA’A, was outstanding.
Everything from the food, drinks (unlimited), activities, and performance was suburb. It focuses on the Hawaii culture and history with a little bit of Disney. When I mean little, I mean little. It only had roughly a minute or so in which some surprise guests made a small appearance. The luau puts the focus on the Hawaiian culture!
My family and I had a great time and would definitely book it again. More details can be found here.
Take Pictures with Disney Characters
Like the parks and cruises, Aulani has character meet n greets throughout the day. Each day they have some different characters. Some characters include Stitch, Moana, Max, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Chip n Dale, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Duffy and some of his friends also make some appearances.
You can see the characters available for meet n greets on the app for that day. The times/locations show up on the app sometime around 8:30 AM that day.
Aulani does use the PhotoPass. It is accessed thru the Disneyland app, which you can purchase thru the app. I got one week of photos for $78. My photos became available to download from the app once I bought them.
You do not need to buy it to have it take photos with the characters. Cast members will gladly use your phone or camera to take photos. They will give you a photo pass card in which you can look thru the photos thru the Disneyland app. I purchased it after seeing some of the photos the photographers took.
You can always buy it after if you change your mind. Photos will be watermarked (until you purchased). They are only available for 45 days.
The PhotoPass at the Aulani does not include ones taken at the Character Dining Experiences. This is a separate cost.
There is a PhotoPass help desk on the 1st floor of the Aulani in which they can help you with any questions or help you purchase pictures. You can have pictures printed (for additional cost), and the Cast Members at the desk can help you with that as well.
Bring your Disney Trading Pins
One of my favorite things to do at Disney is pin trading. The Aulani offers pin trading outside the Kālepa’s Store every day from 3 PM to 4 PM.
During my trip, I got to trade with cast members who had a pin pouch display. I was glad to see that. I enjoy trading with cast members.
Know about the Free Shuttle to Ka Makana Ali’i
A free shuttle is available to the Ka Makana Ali’i Shopping Center if you want some time away from the Aulani. The shopping center has a variety of stores and restaurants to shop/eat at. There are some entertainment options too. You will need to sign up for both a pickup and return time. All can be done on the shuttle’s website. To learn more about the Ka Makana Ali’i shopping center, click here.
Do the Vacation Club Members Villa Tour
The Vacation Club Member Villa tour gives you an inside look at some of their villas. The best thing is it is free to do!
I got a tour of their 3 bedroom one and saw some breathtaking views of the Ko Olina beach. Seeing the villa makes it enticing to join Disney’s Vacation Club.
Shop the Gift Shops
If you could not tell by now, I love shopping for Disney merchandise. Aulani has 4 stores where you can shop.
- Kālepa’s Store- gift shop with convenience items and merchandise (like mugs, tees, ears, plushes, etc.)
- Hale Manu- higher-end gift shop.
- The Lava Shack- gift shop in the pool area (pool amenities, snacks, and personalized gift options)
- Laniwai – A Disney Spa has the Paint the Sky Salon in which little ones can get a makeover. The Salon is where you can find the princess dresses and other accessories to purchase for little ones.
If you want to shop for things other than Disney merchandise, there is a small shopping center (Ko Olina) across the street from Aulani. It has a variety of stores to shop from.
Know the Times when Dining Options Open and Close
Aulani offers a good bit of dining options, but a good majority of them are only open during certain times of the day. Some are only open in the afternoon, with others are only open at night. Only a couple of places were opened for multiple meals.
There were some times we wanted something particular from a location, and we could not get it since it was already closed for the day. More details on the dining options are available here.
Don’t Forget to ask about the Aulani Celebration Buttons
Just like Disney World and Disneyland, Aulani has free celebration buttons you can get. There is one for first visits, we celebrating, Happily Ever After, and Birthday. You can get them at the front desk or you can ask Cast Members.
Enjoy and Take in the Beauty!
The Aulani is one of the most beautiful resorts my husband and I ever stayed at.
The Aulani puts the main focus on the nature and culture of Hawaii. It has subtle aspects of Disney sprinkled in. Along with the inside, the outside is just gorgeous. Pictures cannot do it justice.
If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, I highly recommend staying at the Aulani. 100% worth it! It was a perfect way for my husband and me to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. It was a phenomenal experience and one that we will never forget!