Aulani - Dream Vacation & Tips

Thought I’d post a couple things about Aulani in case folks here are interested in going.

First, a little about who went from our group in case that helps. My family (DH, DD (9) and DS (12)) stayed in a one bedroom renting DVC points - which was amazing - more on that in a bit. My MIL and FIL (both 70) stayed in the hotel part of the resort in a standard garden view room. We originally reserved a Garden View 1 Bedroom, but because there was a pipe leak coming from our room into the room below ours (eek, and sorry to those below us!) they moved us after the second night to an Ocean View 1 Bedroom! Pics of the views from both below.

Overall we stayed 9 days, 8 nights, and while I thought that would be too long, it was actually perfect! Quick itinerary and recommendations below:

(1) Day 1 - Arrival Day. We arrived around 3:00 and powered through a 7:00 dinner at Monkey Pod across the street - other than I wish we’d made the reservation earlier, it was awesome. There was live music that wasn’t overpowering, we sat in a comfy booth, and everyone, including my picky DD found something on the menu that they loved and was at least somewhat Hawaiian. Definitely recommend.

(2) Day 2 was a pool/beach day. We weren’t able to reserve any pool cabanas or beach casabellas (oops- forgot to call on time!) but my husband was able to snag two Casabellas - or four shaded chairs - on the beach the morning of by being first in line at the Rainbow Reef shack the morning of by grabbing our Aulani refillable coffee mugs and lining up around 7:30-7:45 before it opened at 8:00. As for the resort, all I can say is, I could have stayed here the whole time and not felt like I missed out on a single thing. There are so many pools! The lazy river, multiple slides, the cove, and other coves to walk to - and the sunset view - I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. Honestly, if I could only take one vacation in my life it would be to Aulani. Pics of the sunset that first night below.

(3) Day 3 - Jurassic Park Day! - This day we took off early in the morning (grateful for our kitchen in the DVC villa! to make breakfast for all 6 of us!) and drove to Kualoa Ranch. We signed up for the first Jurassic Adventure tour and it did not disappoint. Don’t be fooled by the Movie Sites Tour, which sounds more expansive. We were told by some locals staying in the DVC area that the Jurassic Adventure one actually goes to more sites in the reserve, and we loved being in the Jeeps rather than the busses. The other options they had available also looked fantastic, including the horseback ride and bike ride/zip line. We will go back and try more things out if we return.

After seeking Kualoa we made our way up to the North Shore to try out some of the famous food trucks and watch the surfing. The famous Banzai Pipeline did not disappoint. When we were there (mid-March) the beaches were still closed in this area for safety except to expert surfers, but enjoying our food and watching some of these athletes take on 20 ft + waves was a show in and of itself! Our favorite food truck was the Sunrise Shack - we liked it so much we ended up going twice during our trip!

Day (4) - Whales, Dolphins & Turtles - This day we chartered a boat with Wild Side Specialty Tours - an experience that was beyond amazing. Don’t be fooled by the other dolphin swimming excursions - a couple we saw while we were out on the boat. There are simply too many people on those boats to get a real hands on experience with the sea animals. Wild Side does private charters and per person excursions on a much smaller boat that get you up close and personal with the sea life. We spent at least 30 minutes with a huge pod of bottlenose dolphins jumping and swimming along with our boat and then got to get in the water as the swam around us. We saw spinner dolphins, a humpback and her calf, and seat turtles as well in our half day (morning) trip. These ladies are experienced marine biologists and conservationists, and this is the way to do this experience if you can. Plus, the dock was only about 20-25 minutes from the hotel. If I had to pick one excursion on this trip, it would have been this one. Plus, this is a great and comfortable experience for all ages. The kids and my 70 year old in laws all enjoyed it.

(5) Day 5 - Swim with Sharks! - This day we booked a charter with Shark Encounters - which was again, a great experience. The waters were definitely rougher on the North Shore, and it looked like they wouldn’t even be able to go out for their afternoon trip, so I was really glad we booked the earliest possible outing for this one. But the guys on the boat were very enthusiastic - you could tell they loved what they do - and they really enjoyed sharing information about the sharks. In addition to swimming with the sharks for a good 30-45 minutes, we got to see several whales breaching and playing about (maybe the rough waters were as fun for them as the surfers?!). Again, it was enjoyable for all ages - my FIL actually go into the water with us, and my MIL (who opted out) got to see a humpback whale only about 30 feet from the other side of the boat! (Us chum in the water missed it while we were looking at sharks!). Overall a great experience and also recommend. After swimming with the sharks we went back to the food trucks and caught some more great surfing. The waves were so high on this day there were professional film crews out catching the action!

(6) Day 6 - Pearl Harbor + Pool/Beach/Spa Day + Disney Luau - After all of our adventures we needed a day with some rest! We went to the Pearl Harbor museum in the morning (again - the first opening) and saw the submarine and Missouri using the Passport + the Arizona pass. Make sure to book these once the open up, as people we know tried a bit later and weren’t able to get the Arizona passes (there were some day of walk in options available though . . .) You have to set up an account with before you can buy the passes, and calendar your reservation date like WDW dining reservations!

Once that was done, my husband and I returned to a couples massage for me and my husband, and a blow out for me + a Painted Sky appointment for my daughter. Painted Sky is similar to Bippity Boppity in the Disney Parks. It is geared entirely toward girls makeovers, and depending on the package you can pick out a dress and a hairstyle - although the styles are more geared toward an island look. Pic of my daughter’s dress and hairstyle below. She loved it! And it was perfect to time it along with the Luau. She felt like a goddess, and the braids actually stayed in just fine for the next few days despite time in the pool and on the beach (yes, I admit I let her keep them in even through a couple showers).

Finally, the Luau - DEFINITELY get online and book this as soon as it opens. I talked to several people who weren’t able to get in during their stay. It was a little inconsistent when they opened up reservations. Sometimes I could see things 3 months out and sometimes only 2, so I just checked the site every couple days starting about 3 months out.

(7) Day 7 - More Pool Fun + Sunset Horseback Ride on the Beach - This day we did the snorkeling at the snorkel pond at the hotel, relaxed on the lazy river, tried out all the slides (the kids had done them several times, but they convinced mom and dad to finally join by now), and ended the day with a horseback ride on the beach. And what a way to end our trip! It was both relaxing and a beautiful send off to the island. The ladies who do these rides are so kind. I’d recommend emailing or calling the day before or day of your ride to confirm when they plan to actually head out, because they try to time it perfectly with the sunset. And if you have kids who love horses as much as my DD, maybe go early to help get the horses ready! She loved that, and the manager was kind enough to give her information about all the horses and their personalities.

Horseback Ride:

Sunset from Ama Ama Restaurant:


We also managed to eat at all of the Aulani restaurants while we were there, so let me know if you are interested in our thoughts on that! Hope this helps anyone who is considering making their way to Ohau - whether you are staying at Aulani or not!

1 Like

Fantastic photos! So gorgeous!!!

Wow! How nice to get upgraded to ocean view! Can I ask if you were originally booked in Island Garden or Poolside Garden view? I’ve just booked an Island Garden Studio for a few nights in November so curious what that view was like.

Your pictures are gorgeous! Glad you had such a great trip!