Hello! We are dreaming of a big trip to Disneyland and then to Aulani sometime in 2021. I am just beginning my research. We are big fans of WDW but have never been to DLR or Hawaii. I’d love to hear from anyone who has done this or has any tips/advice in general. TIA!
I spent part of the day at Aulani when I was on Oahu last month. The rooms are great and the property is gorgeous. The lazy river alone is almost enough to get me stay there. That said, where you choose to stay should depend upon what you’d like to do. As a former resident that visits yearly, I prefer to stay in Honolulu to be closer to the sights and activities that I like, such as climbing Diamond Head, snorkeling, shopping in Waikiki and at Ala Moana. If you are looking for pure tropical relaxation, Ko Olina (where Aulani is) is perfect, but kind of far from most tourist spots (in Hawaii terms). Most places are within 30-45 minutes, but traffic can be brutal. Hawaii itself is magnificent and glorious and I encourage anyone with the means to visit, no matter where you stay. There are so many things to see and do, I can’t imagine staying anywhere on Oahu without a car.
I love Aulani! I stayed there for a few days with my family a couple of years ago. The pool and lazy river are so much fun. The kids loved the splash pad and I enjoyed the slide. The beach area is tame but great for families with small children or adults who just want to sunbathe. Not good for body surfing or if you enjoy large waves.
I found it to be a good way to disconnect from the bustle of Honolulu while being within driving distance for a day in Waikiki. You will definitely want to take excursions to other parts of the island. Parking is expensive on Waikiki so try to consolidate all the activities you want to do there into one block (there is lots of dining and shopping downtown). I also recommend Liliuokalani Palace, Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific, and Diamondhead in the Honolulu area.
If you like Dole Whips, check out the Dole plantation. Scuba diving in Hanauma Bay is popular. For bigger waves, go to the north shore - I like Waimanalo, for example. There are lots of nature hikes, waterfalls, etc. as well.
As for Disneyland, what kinds of questions do you have? You’ve come to the right place for recommendations!
The first thing to know about DLR is that it does not require the kind of crazy planning that WDW does. I think this is for 3 reasons:
ADRs do not open up until 60 day prior, and then sometimes it may take an extra day or 2 to load. In addition to the 60 vs 180 day window, the QS at DLR is quite good, making TS reservations less necessary.
Fast Pass/Max Pass vs Fast Pass Plus:
DLR has the old paper system of fast passes where you can walk up to a ride and pull a paper ticket with a fast pass return time (standard fast pass). They also have max pass that you can pay for, which lets you “pull” tickets virtually so you don’t have to be at the ride and you can see all of your available options. This means no making fast passes 60 days ahead of time (like with FPP) and more spontaneity with your day - follow the fast passes. This leads me to…
The smaller size of these parks means more rides in less space. This also means less planning is needed in order to avoid extra walking. I love this as I often lose my family with the long walks between sections of WDW parks (I am looking at you AK and EP, even though I love you). This can lead to DLR feeling more crowded, but I think it adds to the charm.
All of this said, there are wonderful, touches that happen at DLR - so if you really want to plan (like I do) there are things to be learned - where characters tend to “show up” in the parks, why the train is a must do, and more. But even these I like to just keep in the back of my mind and enjoy the chance to be more spontaneous.
Good luck - sounds like a wonderful trip!
I have not been to Aulani, but have made 11 trips that included time on Oahu. We only rented a car 2 or 3 times. If you stay in the Waikiki area, you can walk to shopping, dining, the beach. We often used TheBus which can take you completely around the island. We stayed on the North Shore once which is very different than Wailiki. Some of our favorite places would be the Polynesian Cultural Center, Iolani Palace, the Bishop Museum, Pearl Harbor, beaches on the Norgh Shore.
We have made one trip to Disneyland. Everything is so walkable. We stayed at Paradise Pier and could walk to the parks in 15 minutes at a comfortable pace. We had a 5 day PH which gave us time to do every attraction that we wanted to do, most repeatedly. The convenience of walking across the esplanade to get from one park to the other in minutes was amazing. Dining reservations were much less stressful.
All: this is so great! Thank you all for your thoughtful feedback. The research and planning is definitely part of the fun for me