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101 Magical Aulani Tips
By Alisha Molen
The best part?
All of our Aulani advice, tips, and tricks will help you save time, save money or make your Aulani experience even more magical.
So, if you want your Hawaii vacation to be as magical as possible, use these Disney Aulani tips to help in planning your stay at Aulani resort.
Note: these Aulani tips provided are based on my own opinion and/or personal experience. If you have a tip to add or differing viewpoint, I'd love to hear it. Add your tips in the comments below.
Contents: Aulani Tips
You can read every single Disney Aulani tip here (highly recommended) or use the navigation links here to skip to the Aulani secrets that are most valuable to you.
I want tips on:
FREE EMAIL COURSE
What to Expect on Your First Aulani Visit
FOR FIRST TIME AULANI GUESTS:
ANSWERS TO YOUR MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
BEFORE YOU GO
1) Make Dining Reservations as Early as Possible
Aulani has two sit-down restaurants on property, ‘AMA‘AMA and Makahiki.
If you want to dine at these locations I suggest making reservations before arriving since they tend to book up.
‘AMA’AMA is Aulani’s finest dining establishment with a gorgeous view of the lagoon and ocean while Makahiki is their buffet that also offers character dining.
If you know Disney, you know character dining is very popular.
At Aulani, they have a character breakfast as well as a character dinner.
Aunty's Breakfast Celebration is offered every morning while "Menehune Mischief" Character Dinner are on Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
Keep in mind that you can book these and you don’t have to pay until you dine there - even the character meals - so if you book and change your mind, no worries.
Just cancel at least 24 hours prior to your reservation time.
2) Register Online for the Kids Club Before You Go
Aunty's Beach House is Aulani's kids club devoted to children ages 5-12.
In order to hang out at Aunty’s, your child must be registered. The good folks at Aulani need basic information about your child, as well as contact info and permissions to help them in case of emergency.
Save precious resort time! Do this registration ahead of time using this form, then print the forms and bring them with you (along with your ID) to Aunty’s when it’s time to drop your child off.
You can do the online registration if you are within 2 to 90 days of your check-in date.
3) Download the Daily Iwa in Advance
Are you a planner (like me)? I like to make a tentative plan for my vacation in order to maximize my days.
Thankfully, Aulani publishes their Daily Iwa (their schedule of activities and events) in advance and you can access it online before you ever leave home.
I suggest you download the Iwa, highlight the activities that interest you, and make a loose plan for each day to maximize your trip.
Here's a sample of what my advanced planning looks like:
4) Request a Room on a High Floor
If you’re booking an “ocean view” room, request one on a high floor. Those rooms have the best birds-eye view of the property as well as clear, unobstructed views to the ocean.
We have stayed in an “ocean view” room on the 6th floor, where you really had to stretch to see any sliver of ocean. Much of the view was obstructed by palm trees.
5) My #1 Favorite Item in My Beach Bag
We spend much of our time at Aulani soaking up the sun and taking in the glorious Hawaiian ambience from our beach chair.
While we relax, however, our phones get quite a workout! After all, we listen to music, snap photos, post them to Instagram, texting, and listening to a favorite podcast or audio book.
Do that for hours and hours at a time, and your device will eventually run out of power.
That’s why my #1 tech toy (besides my phone of course) is this power charger.
It is so small, you can slip it into your beach bag without any problem. And it charges two devices at once…and it charges them fast.
Also, once it is powered up, it will completely recharge my phone 3-4 times before it needs it’s own recharging.
Seriously, this is such a game-changer! Grab one of these now…you won’t be sorry!
6) Pack Multiple Swimsuits
A big part of any Aulani vacation involves water.
You'll spend so much time in your swimsuit (laying by the pool, enjoying the lazy river, paddle boarding in the lagoon, etc) I highly recommend you pack multiple swimsuits.
Bathing suits often take awhile to dry on their own and nobody loves a damp swimsuit, so I suggest packing 1 or 2 additional. (And I like to mix it up and accessorize anyways!)
If you rent a 1, 2, or 3 bedroom villa, there are washers & dryers in your room you can use to dry your damp suits.
7) Don’t Pack Beach Towels
Some of our Aulani tips are straightforward. Like this:
Aulani conveniently provides towels to use at the beach or the pools. You can request as many as you need and get fresh towels as often as you like.
There are multiple locations near the pools to get towels.
8) Pack Towel Chair Clips
The tropical breeze on Oahu is delightful, except when it blows your towels all over the place.
Add a few towel chair clips to your beach bag to keep them in place.
9) Aulani Offers Free Pack 'N Play
Aulani has complimentary Pack 'N Play Playards available for your room.
The resort does not, however, rent strollers or cribs.
10) Check Out Items for Baby
You can check out (with a deposit) bottle warmers, booster seats, bed rails, outlet covers, and high chairs to use during your Aulani stay.
11) Bring Enough Sunscreen
Some tips are probably more obvious than others. This one is probably a “yeah duh” tip, but I have to mention it.
Any extended stay at Aulani means plenty of time in the sun. Hawaii’s sun burns bright, and it’s equatorial rays are coming at you non-stop (yes even when cloudy.)
So, you’re going to want to always be wearing sunscreen (duh! 🙄)
I’ll spare you the lectures about SPF and how often to apply, as this tip is focused on a) remember to bring enough, and b) if you run out, don’t buy it at the resort.
The local Costco is our favorite place to get the slathery stuff. It’s soooo much cheaper than you’ll find at Aulani or even the ABC market across the street.
Best bet? Bring enough sunscreen from home.
12) Pro-Packing Tip: Roll Your Clothes
Here's an Aulani tip that professional travelers use to pack more into their luggage.
The secret is to roll your clothes!
By using the right rolling technique you can fit more items in your suitcase and, if done right, dramatically cut down on wrinkles.
13) You Can Use Disney Gift Cards at Aulani
Disney gift cards are accepted at Aulani resort in Hawaii.
The simplest way to use these is to charge everything to your room, and then use the gift cards when you settle your account.
14) Maybe Take the DSLR; But Definitely Bring a GoPro
If you’re a full-fledge photographer, then yes, you probably are ignoring this tip because you already have a plan to bring the DSLR. And rightfully so…there is so much to photograph in Hawaii.
However, if you own a DSLR and you’re debating whether or not to bring it with you to Aulani, here are my thoughts.
There were only a few situations where I was prepared to carry and use my expensive DSLR. Most of the time at Aulani, I was in my swimsuit or shorts, jumping in and out of the lazy river, chilling on the beach, or just hanging by the pool.
These moments are perfect for my GoPro Hero7. It’s small – tiny actually – and fits in my beach bag. It is waterproof and I can take it with me in my water adventures and capture those moments. It is convenient to put in the pocket and take to activities where the DSLR would be unwieldy. It does photos, video, and video time lapses. Super cool.
Having the DSLR at the pool/beach just causes extra stress about it being stolen, getting sand in it, or getting doused with water.
Common moments you will want your DSLR at Aulani? Probably the luau, character buffet, and family photos at sunset.
For most everything else, I’ve found the combination of my phone and my GoPro was perfect for Aulani.
15) Compare Prices of Taxi / Uber / Lyft Before You Book One
If you're not renting a car during your Oahu Aulani stay, there's a good chance you're thinking about a cab or ride share option to get to/from the resort and Honolulu International Airport.
There are plenty of options to choose from, but the prices vary widely, so here is a quick way to compare the prices.
Charley's is usually very competitive because they offer a discounted flat rate of $55 for one way to/from Aulani & the airport.
If you haven't tried Uber or Lyft, use these links to save a few bucks off your first rides.
Aulani doesn't offer a shuttle to/from the airport.
16) Enjoy O’ahu & Aulani Separately
This tip isn’t for everyone. In fact, it might be borderline blasphemous for some.
So buckle up, here we go:
As someone who has been to O’ahu a few times, I know there are many amazing things to do on this beautiful island.
I absolutely recommend you get out and enjoy Hawaii’s many attractions (Pearl Harbor, Hanauma Bay, North Shore, Dole Plantation, Diamond Head, Waikiki, Polynesian Cultural Center, etc!)
My suggest is to have two portions to your vacation (in this order):
- The Oahu exploration portion
- The Aulani relaxation portion
Here’s how I suggest you do it:
I would book a separate hotel for the Oahu experience; one that is more centrally located to Honolulu or North Shore. By being closer to the action, this will save you a lot of time. And by not selecting the full "resort experience", you can save money too.
Then, when you arrive at Aulani, just stay there. Relax. Hang out with Moana. Soak in all of the fantastic resort amenities and get the full bang for your buck.
17) Get Two Free Audiobooks for Your Vacation
A good audiobook can dramatically improve your vacation.
Use my method for getting two free audiobooks and you'll have one for your flight and one for your relaxation and enjoyment at the beach or by the pool.
18) Make an Aulani Vacation Playlist
In preparation for any big vacation, I love to build the hype and enhance the trip experience by creating a playlist.
Of course, Aulani is no different!
Make a Aulani playlist for the family to listen to before your trip, on your flight, in your rental car as you drive to Aulani, etc. My husband will include those songs in our vacation home videos as well. Now, whenever those songs come on the radio, the kids say “this song reminds me of our trip!”
I’m sure you have your list of favorites. Here's a list of a few songs that are on mine.
BONUS) Get a Free Aulani Guidebook
I can't make this an "official" tip because it isn't always available, but I definitely want to mention it here.
From time to time, Disney offers a free Disney Aulani guidebook that spotlights everything that makes Disney Aulani Resort such a coveted spots for the perfect Hawaiian vacation for your family.
Note: the offer comes and goes (probably at the whim of the Disney marketing team budget) but if it's available, it's a "must-get" if you really want to comprehend what makes an Aulani trip so fantastic.
THE FIRST DAY
19) The Bell Desk Will Store Your Groceries
If you bring groceries with you to Aulani (highly recommended...see my tips below) and you arrive before your room is ready, you can leave your groceries at the bell desk.
The bell captain treats each grocery bin the same way they do a piece of luggage and will bring it to you when you're able to get into your room.
Remember to tip the bell desk personnel when they bring all your items.
20) Check-in As Early as You Want! Enjoy the Pool
While Aulani check-in time is 4pm, you can arrive as early in the day as you want to enjoy the pool, beach, and amenities.
Your room won't be ready until between 3-4pm, but you can check your luggage at the bell desk.
And that leads us to our next tip...
21) Prepare Your Beach Bag for Your First Day
Since you're going to want to check in early and take full advantage of your first day at Aulani, you're going to want all your "beach bag" stuff.
- power charger
- water bottle
- lip balm
But since you will have checked in your luggage at the bell desk, you want to be sure you keep all of your "beach bag stuff" out and with you.
If you have your pool/beach bag ready, you can fully enjoy your time at the resort until your room is ready!
22) Valet & Self-Parking are Same Price
Valet and self-parking are both the same price ($37 per night) so if you’re driving a rental car, feel free to take advantage of the valet parking.
The additional charge of a few dollars tip is well-worth the convenience.
We found the valet service to be speedy, but naturally this will
vary based on the time of day.
Parking is free for DVC members.
23) The Best Place to Self-Park
If you decide to self-park, park on level "PL". From here you can walk directly into the Lobby (which is the 3rd floor) without taking an elevator in the garage.
24) Completely Unpack Early on the First Day
On your first day at the resort, I recommend unpacking early upon gaining access to your room.
Hang up your clothes (more time to get those wrinkles out), lay out your toiletries in the bathroom, find the perfect place for your unmentionables.
Whether you're staying for a few days or a few weeks, it feels fantastic to get organized on your first day.
You'll enjoy your vacation much more if you know everything has a place. And more importantly, where to find it when you need it.
25) Unsure About the Spa? Take a Tour
If you are debating whether or not to partake in one of Aulani's spa experiences, you can visit their open house at 6pm and get a tour of the facilities and ask a lot of questions.
26) Preserve Your Memories: Make a Video
You’re going to want to remember your Disney Aulani vacation for many years to come. Best way to preserve those precious memories forever? Make an engaging video that you’ll want to watch again and again!
To do that, here are just a few don't-miss moments to consider recording for your Aulani video:
- Arrival - they greet you with a lei
- Character meet-ups
- Lazy river & water slides
- Splash pad & pools
- Menehune ipad adventure
- Frolicking in the water of the lagoon
- Watch the sunset
- Eating the dessert of your choice (Dole Whip, Shave Ice, etc)
27) Snap a Photo of Your Room When You Arrive
When you arrive at Aulani resort, you'll likely be struck by how awesome your room is.
Take a picture of your room on the first day before you unpack. It’s likely going to look messy after that.
28) Use a Wrinkle Releaser
I have started carrying a wrinkle releaser for my clothing.
When I unpack, I hang up my nice clothes and then if any items need some wrinkles eliminated, I use this product and it works well. There are ironing boards available in the your room but I hate taking vacation time to do ironing!
29) Know the Housekeeping Policies
If you’re renting an Aulani hotel room or Disney Vacation Club villa on a cash basis, you’ll receive full housekeeping service each day.
DVC members (and their guests) who are using points to stay at the resort get housekeeping service every 4 days. They will remove your trash every day. You can upgrade to daily housekeeping for a fee.
30) Use the Retractable Line in the Shower
In your bathroom, there is a retractable clothes line that extends across the shower area.
Got a damp swimsuit? Or maybe you're doing a quick bit of laundry in your tub or sink?
These come in very handy in drying wet clothes.
31) Do Your Own Laundry
Aulani's 1, 2, and 3 bedroom villas offer in-room washers and dryers.
For those rooms that don't, Aulani offers laundry facilities that make it easy and convenient to do a quick load if you need.
FOOD & DINING
32) Get the Refillable Beverage Cup When You Arrive
For $19.99 (plus tax), Aulani will sell you a refillable collector’s mug that you can keep filled with Coke products, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, juices or milk during your stay. There are a few self-serve beverage stations around the resort, making it fairly convenient to keep your cup full.
It gets very warm during the day and the hard work of laying in the Hawaiian sun can build up quite a thirst, so we made good use of this perk.
33) Find the “Hidden” Beverage Station
If you have the refillable beverage cup, you’ll get used to carrying it around with you to keep it filled with your favorite liquid refreshment.
It’s important to know where all the soda machines are!
All the literature and even the cast members will tell you about the usual places to get a drink: Lava Shack and Ulu Cafe.
There is a drink station that I never saw used, however. It is located behind ‘Ama ‘Ama restaurant.
I liked this station because it was the closest to “our favorite spot”.
34) Get Hot Chocolate for Your Refillable Mug
Since this isn’t found at most of the beverage stations, a little known fact is that you can get hot chocolate and a variety of teas in Ulu Café.
This is not out in the open, however.
Just ask the cashier for the hot cocoa or tea packets and the cast member will be able to get them for you.
35) Get Juices for Your Refillable Mug
Most beverage stations only offer water, lemonade and Coca Cola soft drink options.
Visit the Olelo Room when it is open and ask at the bar for juices such as cranberry, orange, and passionfruit orange guava (POG).
36) Get Groceries & Goodies at Costco or Target
Food at Aulani is not cheap!
Here's the good news:
Most rooms at Aulani feature at least a miniature fridge, if not a full kitchen.
Are you a Costco member? Make a stop in Kapolei before arriving at Aulani and grab some reasonably (non-resort) priced groceries.
VIDEO: How to Save Money for Aulani Vacation at Costco
Costco has pretty much anything you could need for supplies – sunscreen, soda, even swimsuits. Our favorite local treat to stock up on are the Hawaiian Host chocolates…yum!
Breakfast (muffins, cereal, Pop Tarts) is usually the easiest meal to get at Costco to help save money on meals.
For non-Costco members, Kapolei also has a nice Target that offers groceries.
Both Costco (map) & Target (map) are approximately 4 miles from Aulani.
No car? No problem. Take an Uber. The money you'll save on the groceries will more than make up for the fare.
37) Order Groceries Online, Have Them Delivered
If you don't have a rental car or you don't want to spend your precious vacation time to do the shopping yourself, then this tip is for you.
Yes, you may pay a little bit more than if you were to go and purchase these items in store but this tip is all about the convenience.
Costco, Safeway and Foodland in Kapolei all have InstaCart options that deliver to Aulani. Now that is convenient!
If you haven't used Instacart before, click here to get free delivery on your first order + you get $10 off your first order with code MMOLEN28F19A.
38) Bring Your Own Booze
Resorts make a killing off the sale of alcoholic drinks.
Purchase your own booze at Costco (see above) or other local store and you'll save a ton.
Store your liquid refreshment in the fridge in your room.
39) Stop by Cinnabon
In Kapolei, we like to make a stop at the Cinnabon in the mall and get a 6-pack of cinnamon rolls.
Then, we use the microwave in our room or at Ulu’s Café to warm them up.
Presto! Inexpensive and tasty breakfast.
40) Save Money with Happy Hour at Monkeypod
Monkeypod Kitchen is the most popular non-resort restaurant in immediate proximity to Aulani ... and with good reason.
The location is just across the street from Aulani property, the ambiance is festive and classy, with glorious views of the Ko Olina Golf Course. Most importantly, the food is top-notch with a nice variety.
Between 3-5:30pm and 9-11pm Monkeypod has happy hour, offering $10 personal pizzas and 50% off most of their appetizers.
The pizzas were our go-to meal, both for our budget and our taste buds. It is hard to find anything remotely close to $10 per person in the Aulani area, so schedule a reservation around 5 or 5:15 to enjoy the happy hour savings.
41) Enjoy Happy Hour at the ‘Ōlelo Room
We loved the vibe at the ‘Ōlelo Room.
We loved the live Hawaiian music...chill and calming.
And we really loved the happy hour snacks (they call it "Sunset Hour") available between 5-7pm.
Their happy hour menu has discounted items that are uncharacteristically affordable for Aulani food.
42) Get a Refillable Bucket of Popcorn
At Ulu Café, you can purchase a popcorn bucket that can be refilled for just $1.25 each time.
43) Dole Whip Hacks
Desserts at Aulani aren’t cheap so if you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to the beloved Dole Whip at the resort ($6), you can purchase a large Dole Whip ice cream at the ABC Market across the street for just $3.99.
Opinions vary but we think the Aulani Dole Whip option is much creamier.
If you do purchase your Dole Whip on-site, ask for two cups:
The ice cream won't melt as quickly and it's great for sharing.
44) Try the Malasadas
Malasadas are Portuguese in origin, but they are pretty popular in Hawaii.
These are deep-fried doughnuts that are lightly dusted with sugar and you can buy them at Ulu Cafe.
I'm not saying that Aulani has the best malasadas in all of Hawaii, but they are inexpensive and usually warm and we thought they were pretty tasty.
45) Mickey Mouse Chopsticks Make Great Souvenirs
Also at Ulu Café, you can pick up chopsticks to go with your meal.
These aren't just any chopsticks, however. Oh no. These chopsticks have Mickey Mouse heads embossed on them.
Grab a few of these free chopsticks every time you visit Ulu Cafe and you have some great Aulani souvenirs!
46) Sneak a Snack from the Character Buffet
If you eat at the buffet at Makahini in the morning, consider taking a few extra packets of dry cereal as a snack for your kids later in the day.
Options sometimes include Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, and Raisin Bran.
47) Enjoy a Drink from a Pineapple
Each day Aulani has a limited number of hollowed-out pineapples on hand and you can order yourself a delightful fruity drink from one of these.
Sure, it's a pricey extravaganza. But hey...you're in Hawaii. And it's a pineapple!!
48) Grill Your Own Meat
On property, located directly behind Aunty's Beach House, the resort offers complimentary use of outdoor grills.
If you want to bring in your own groceries (recommended to save money) and enjoy a BBQ, you can request grilling tools at the community hall (the Pau Hana room).
49) Order a Pizza & Have it Delivered
Another alternative to pricey resort food is to order a pizza...and have it delivered to Aulani.
Pizza Corner is located very close to the property and has strong reviews on Yelp and others.
Call them for delivery details. Usually you just have to meet them out by the valet stand.
50) Vegetarians Can Ask for Special Meals
As a vegetarian, I know what it's like to wonder if there will be anything delicious to eat.
For both the luau and the Makahiki character buffet, I let the staff know ahead of time (at the time of reservation) that I am a vegetarian.
I was given fantastic treatment at both places.
At the luau, I was brought a special entree. At the buffet, the chef (Adam) came out and gave me a tour of the buffet, telling me what was vegetarian and what wasn't. He then asked me what I liked and he prepared a delicious tofu scramble for me.
Moral of the story? Let them know of your food preferences.
51) Mickey Mouse Shave Ice Anyone?
At least once during your stay, refresh yourself and your crew with a Mickey Mouse shave ice.
The Pāpālua Shave Ice shack is located in the middle of all the pool action. You pick your flavors and your shave ice base, and presto! You have a Disney Aulani classic.
52) Get the Fish & Chips
There are a lot of food options at Aulani, and we don't pretend to have tried them all. However, from time to time, we get asked for a quick go-to option while enjoying poolside relaxation.
My husband enjoyed the close proximity of Mama's Snack Shop and said the Fish and Chips were fast and tasty.
53) Try These Popular Cocktails
Aulani has some specialty drinks and we did some informal (very informal) polling to see the favorites.
For your sampling pleasure, here are two to try:
- Blue Lagoon. The classic Blue Hawaii drink served with Dole Whip. Ask for it at Little Opihi's.
- Liliko'i-lada. It's a pina colada with passionfruit nectar.
54) Try the Four Seasons Brunch Buffet
Located right next door to Aulani is the Four Seasons Ko Olina.
For about the same price as Aulani’s buffet, you can enjoy the Four Seasons buffet "Brunch for all Seasons". It is loaded with brunch items, and seafood lovers will especially enjoy it.
Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-2pm. No reservations are needed.
PHOTOGRAPHY AT AULANI
55) Get the PhotoPass Early in Your Stay to Make the Most of It
Aulani has professional photographers stationed around the resort to take pictures of you and your family. You’ll find them at character greetings, even in the swimming pools.
The most economical deal is to purchase all of your photos as a package that includes digital versions of all pictures.
So, get your PhotoPass wristband early and don’t be shy about taking as many photos as you want.
No wristband? No worries! You can get an Aulani PhotoPass wristband from any photographer at the time.
There is no obligation to purchase any photos, so even if you’re not sure you will be buying the package, go ahead and take the photos anyway! You can preview your pics before making a decision to buy.
56) Get a Family Picture on the Beach at Sunset
Looking for a picture family photo for this year’s holiday card? Why not have it done in the gorgeous sunset hours at Aulani?
One of the best perks of the PhotoPass is each evening at the “golden hour” (the hour just before sunset), the staff photographers have stations on the beach to capture a family portrait.
57) Check Out Your New Photos On TV
BEACH & POOL
58) Morning Lines are Shorter at Rainbow Reef
Each morning you’ll need to obtain a new resort wristband for the day. This brightly colored wristband signifies to Aulani that you are a paid guest and are thus eligible to enjoy the pools, slides and all the resort amenities.
The stands that offer these wristbands open at 8am and the lines can get pretty long at opening.
Fewer people realize you can get a wristband at the Rainbow Reef rental stand and the lines are much shorter there.
59) “Reserve” Your Pool or Beach Chair Early
If you want to lock down the perfect spot to veg all day, you’ll need to be an early bird. Guests will snag the best loungers around 7:00am-7:30am.
You know…the ones in the front row of the pool? Or the ones with the best views of the ocean? Yep, those ones go first and go fast.
This may sound early but if you are coming from the U.S. it’s really not that bad. If you’re from the West Coast, there’s a 3-hour time difference so 7:00am is really 10am to you. The East coast peeps have an even bigger time difference of 6 hours.
I promise you 7:00am isn’t as bad as it seems – at least at the beginning of your vacation.
60) Stay With Your Stuff Until 8am
On our first visit, we thought we were smart and went down to the pool at 6:45am to stake out some great pool chairs.
We set out some of our items on those chairs and then went for a walk along the beach!
Upon our return, we found that our belongings were missing and another family had taken our chairs.
You see, we hadn’t read the signs that explained this policy: any items left unoccupied on chairs before 8am will be taken by the staff and those chairs will be freed up.
Fortunately, a friendly cast member patiently explained the policy and was able to easily retrieve our stuff for us. We were only out our perfect spot for the day. Lesson learned!
61) The Trick to Saving Chairs at Aulani
After 8am, it’s fairly easy to keep your favorite Aulani pool or beach chairs for the day.
Cast members known as “chair timers” at Aulani come around every so often and will neatly fold your towel on the back of your chair if they notice you haven’t been there for an extended period of time.
Once the folded towel is placed on your seat, they will leave it there for one hour and if you don’t come back during that time, they’ll remove your belongings and make the chairs available to other guests.
If you need to be gone for more than an hour, one tip is to make friends with nearby guests that are willing to take down the folded towel for you if a chair timer does begin to monitor the time you’ve been away.
Alternatively, simply just check back on your spot every so often!
Naturally, the Golden Rule applies…if you’re going to be gone for several hours, it’s only reasonable to plan on allowing others to have your spot.
62) There are More Chairs Available on Beach than Poolside
Since Aulani is such a kid-friendly resort, the chairs nearest to the children’s pools and water attractions tend to fill up the fastest, with the chairs by the beach having a much greater availability.
So, if you get a late start to your day and are in search of a quieter option with more plentiful chairs and umbrellas, try the sand by the lagoon.
Standard beach loungers & umbrellas are included with your stay.
63) Adult-Only Pool Has Lots of Open Chairs
Aulani has a pool reserved for adults-only. It is called Wailana Pool, has its own pool bar, and is reserved for guests over the age of 18.
If you need some shady quiet away from kids, there always seem to be available lounge chairs in this area.
Image: Disney Aulani Resort
64) Get Towels in Advance for the Next Day
We like to be down to our desired pool or beach chairs around 7am each morning. However, the towel stands don’t open until 8am to distribute towels.
Since we like to start our relaxation before the 8am hordes, we simply ask for a fresh set of pool towels to use for our chairs on the night before we leave the pool area for the last time. We take them to our room to use the next morning.
Then, when we claim our spot for the day, we are able to fully set up with towels and start relaxing right away.
This is also helpful because Aulani sprays down all the pool chairs / loungers every morning. Having towels to sit on, even when the loungers are wet, allows you to relax without getting a wet bum.
65) Our Favorite Spot…if You Don’t Have Young Kids
Parents of young children will naturally gravitate to the pool chairs/umbrellas near the kids pools and water attractions so they can relax while watching their little ones frolic in the water.
If you don’t have young children, however, we have a favorite spot! And it’s largely undiscovered too.
Just below the ‘Ama ‘Ama restaurant, there are three rows of lounge chairs (two rows with umbrellas) that offer unobstructed views of green grass and white sand that lead to the blue water of the lagoon. Without the masses of beach chairs and umbrellas in front of it.
Additionally, the chairs are situated on hardwood planks that mean no hot sand on your feet or towels.
This area is quiet, away from the noise, hustle and bustle of playing children, but still close enough to the action and food to make it our ideal location for a relaxing day at Aulani.
66) Crowds Lighten After 2pm
Just after lunchtime must be naptime for the little ones at Aulani because this is the time of day when the crowds tend to thin out a bit. This is also the peak of the heat of the day as well and we’ve noticed significant fewer people hanging out by the pools and occupying the chairs on the beach.
This is great time to move to set up camp at a more desirable location or spread out a bit.
67) Boogie Boards, Sand Toys and Life Vests are Free
There is no charge to check out beach sand toys, boogie boards and life vests for all-day fun at the beach.
Simply check them out at Makiki Joe's Beach Rentals and you can enjoy them all day for free. You can also play ping pong and life-size Connect Four as well.
68) WiFi and Texting is Spotty
The WiFi at Aulani is a bit unpredictable, especially down in the poolside area.
There were times when our text messages would go through, others where they failed. Our workaround was to turn off WiFi while making calls or texts.
69) Order Lunch by the Pool
If you get hungry but don't want to leave the comfort of your lounge chair, you can order food and beverages poolside.
From time to time, a cast member will come by and take your order. The menu is from the Off the Hook restaurant and has quite a few options to choose from.
My favorite? Try the burger or the sliders.
The only drawback is you have to wait for the cast member to make her way to your seat and flag her down.
70) Protect Yourself from Theft at the Beach
This tip isn't specific to Aulani, but just living the beach life in general.
Theft at any beach is a real concern.
First of all, consider what valuables do you really need to take with you to the beach. If you're at Aulani, you can probably leave your wallet in the room and simply charge anything to your room using your Aulani room key.
If we do have to take a wallet to the beach, we only take the credit cards and cash necessary for the trip and leave the rest in the hotel room safe.
Second, consider a lockable beach bag. There are many great options, but one of our favorites is this theft-resistant backpack.
Or, you could try the highly rated beach lock box.
ACTIVITIES & THINGS TO DO
71) Don't Skip the Daily Iwa
All of Aulani's major activities are listed in their printed daily guide called the Daily Iwa ...pronounced "eee-vah".
(If you've sailed on DCL, this is the equivalent of the Personal Navigator.)
Each night at 8pm, the resort puts out the Iwa at the front desk. Pick yours up before bed and plan out your next day.
You'll find both the free and premium (extra-charge) activities listed, along with the weather forecast and times for sunrise/sunset.
72) Enjoy the Slower Pace
First timers to Aulani often come expecting a similar experience to a Disney theme-park.
You know, the type of day where you have to plan your Fast Passes or you'll miss out on some really fun activities?
A day at Aulani, a Disney resort, is not like that at all.
Yes, there are activities to enjoy, a kids clubs for the littles, character meet and greets. And yes, we do recommend you become familiar with the Daily Iwa (see the previous tip) to know what's happening.
However, don't worry about over-planning. A Hawaiian vacation at Aulani is more about the relaxation, communing with Mother Nature, and perhaps building up a base tan.
For me, it was a great time to lounge in a chair, stare at the ocean, and catch up on my Crime Junkies podcast.
So, whatever your mode of relaxation, we hope your Aulani vacation is chocked full with a whole lot of it.
73) You Don't Need the VIP Option for the Luau
Planning on attending the Aulani Luau?
The Ka Wa‘a Lū‘au is a special Hawaiian celebration of food, dance, and culture.
There are two options for seating: General admission & VIP seating.
The VIP option gives you early check-in, shorter lines, some complimentary drinks (alcoholic & non), and priority seating up in front.
Save some pennies (a lot of pennies actually) and skip the VIP option.
The seats are pretty good no matter where you are, and if you are really concerned about getting a great seat, you can get in line for the general admission about 30 minutes early.
74) Go On a Menehune Treasure Hunt
At the community hall (Pau Hana room) you can check out iPads that have been pre-loaded with a very special interactive game.
It is called Menehune Adventure Trail and through a series of videos, players are led throughout the resort lobby and grounds to unlock hidden treasure that have been left behind by the Menehune (mythical Hawaiian creatures).
There are several different versions of the game, so there are plenty of variations to try.
We particularly liked playing this as the sun was going down, as many interactive elements “light up” and shine brighter in the twilight.
75) Count the Menehune
Speaking of Menehune...
There are approximately 300 menehune statues spread throughout the resort. (Thanks Disney Imagineers 👍)
Menehune are magical, mythical, and mischievous creatures from Hawaiian legends that Aulani has woven into the resort’s design and theme.
76) Nights are Quiet
Night time is fairly quiet at Aulani, a Disney resort.
The reasons for this are simple:
1) Aulani caters to families, especially those with young kids.
2) Travelers coming from the US are adjusting to a significant time difference, making it desirable to retire early each night.
If you’re a night owl, you’ll have most of the resort to yourself to enjoy a quiet drink.
77) Movie Night on the Lawn
From time to time, will show a major motion picture on the Halawai lawn after the sun has gone down.
This can be a lot of fun!
They hand out mats to sit on and we saw people who bring pillows and blankets from their room.
78) Learn to Play the Ukulele
For a fun hour out of the sun, watch for the free ukulele group lesson. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and felt like Don Ho by the time the hour was up.
79) Play Name that Tune in the Elevators
In Aulani's elevators, they play famous Disney songs that have been redone in the Hawaiian style and language.
Want to get in the mood before you get there?
80) Bask in the Sunset
Check the Daily Iwa (Aulani’s daily schedule of events) to see what time sunset is and plan your dinner and nightly plans around it.
To our family, watching the sun disappear into the horizon was one of the highlights of our day. So serene, so peaceful, each sunset was so beautiful that it almost brought us to tears.
Plus, our teenage daughters loved the warm glow of the sun which made for the perfect Instagram post. 📸
We made our dinner reservations around 5:15pm so we could be back to the beach for Mother Nature’s magical show (which was around 6:50pm in April).
Even after the sun has set there are still glorious pics to be taken of rows of palm trees with a pinkish-orange backdrop.
81) For Glorious Sunsets, Go Left
One of our favorite activities of any Aulani vacation is to watch the sunset as the golden orb dips gracefully into the sea.
The Aulani lagoon is a wonderful place to watch the sunset, especially the left (southeast) side of the lagoon. Depending on time of year, this tip varies a little bit, but most of the year, you’ll get completely unobstructed views of the sun in all its glory.
For a comfortable place to sit, try the edge of the grass where it meets the sand. This lip forms a ledge and makes a very natural (and non-sandy) place to sit to watch the sun go down.
Unless you are willing to keep going...in which case, read this next tip...
82) For Best Sunsets Overall, Go to Sunset Point
When looking out to the ocean from Aulani, you will see a grassy area on left (southeast) tip of the lagoon. This is called Sunset Point and for a very good reason.
Talk a walk over here 20-30 minutes before sunset to take in the beauty. Out of view from Aulani are some rocky cliffs on the other side of the grassy knoll. These make a perfectly romantic spot to take in the sunset.
83) Have a Date Night! Leave the Kids at Aunty’s During Dinner
The kids club (ages 3-12) at Aulani is called Aunty’s Beach House.
You can leave your kids at Aunty’s and for $10 per meal, they will feed your child lunch or dinner. Sign up for the meals at Aunty’s on the morning of the same day (no advanced reservations allowed). We suggest signing up as early as you can (they open at 8am), as space is limited and sometimes sells out.
Both lunch and dinner are served “family style” – meaning they bring out a bunch of options and the kids can pick and choose.
Here are some typical items from each meal:
- Lunch – hamburgers, pasta salad, grilled cheese sandwich, veggie sticks and dessert
- Dinner – Pizza, mac & cheese, chicken fingers, veggies and dessert
84) Attend the Arts & Culture Tour
There are so many cool design elements at Aulani. Disney Imagineers don't do anything without a lot of thought and consideration.
Adults will truly enjoy the arts and culture tour, where an Aulani cast member will guide you through the main Aulani reception building sharing facts about all the special touches that were put in by Disney Imagineering team. The tour lasts 30 minutes.
85) The Stories at Uncle's Fireside are Different Each Time
Each night, Aulani hosts several fireside chats with "Uncle" who comes and tells engaging stories about Hawaiian culture.
He tells different stories quite often, so you can attend more than once and have an enjoyable experience.
Rumor has it that Moana joins Uncle from time to time...
There is a lighter crowd at the later story times. Perfect if you have older kids.
86) Check Out a Movie or Board Game
87) Plan to Do a Whole Lot of Nothing
There is a lot you could do when you visit Aulani and Hawaii. So much to do, in fact, that you’ll never have time to do it all.
Just accept that fact; you’ll be happier! 😀
The best part of Aulani is your downtime. Don’t over think it. Leave yourself a lot of time to just relax and unwind.
Yes, find time to add in some of the activities from the Daily Iwa (especially those mentioned in this guide). But earmark most of your time to just delight in the calm serenity of doing very little. Hawaii’s magical powers of relaxation can transform you.
88) Make a Goal: Talk to Other Guests
We tend to re-learn this tip every time we travel to a Disney destination. We are typically more "keep-to-ourselves" travelers.
However, at Aulani, people are on vacation! They are happy, approachable, and usually being the best versions of themselves.
So, get outside your comfort zone and introduce yourself to someone new. Perhaps that person in the lounge chair next to you.
Many guests stay for extended periods at Aulani, which means you will probably bump into them a lot. We met many cool people...folks we would totally hang out with back home if we could.
89) Snorkel with Turtles at Paradise Cove
Disclaimer: I don't like to share tips that I haven't personally experienced, but I have heard this one so frequently, it doesn't make sense to leave it off a comprehensive list of Aulani tips, even though I haven't tried this out personally. There...caveat emptor... or whatever.
There isn't much to see when snorkeling in the Kohola Lagoon in front of Aulani.
If you want a chance to see and possibly swim with turtles without venturing too far from the resort, try Paradise Cove.
It's approximately a 10-minute walk from Aulani (here's directions). The natural reef makes a protective barrier for fish and Hawaiian sea turtles.
Keep in mind that turtles are protected by law in Hawaii. Don't touch them and keep your distance.
90) Use the Blue Bible to Explore Oahu
I’ve used the “blue bible” guidebooks for every Hawaiian island I’ve visited and they are incredible. They are thorough (and easy to read, thank goodness) and almost completely unbiased.
When you read recommendations found on the internet, quite often they are biased because they are getting commission, sponsorship, or it was their only experience.
If you’re venturing off the Aulani grounds to explore the rest of the island, do yourself a favor and get yourself this book. You won’t be sorry.
91) Bring Your Pins and Lanyards
Pin trading is alive and well at Aulani!
For our pin trading friends, we have great news. Many cast members at Aulani will be sporting Disney pins so there are a good deal of pins to trade for.
Hawaii's proximity to Asia means that tourists bring with them pins from Disney parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, adding a nice variety of pins that you won’t regularly experience in the U.S. theme parks.
92) Find the Pin Books
Besides the individual cast members, there are a few other treasure troves of pins to be found at Aulani…if you know where to find them.
Big books with multiple pages of pins are located at the Concierge desk, the two gift shops, and at the Disney Vacation Club office.
FUN FOR KIDS
93) Get Braids Done at Spa or Pool
Want to get that tropical braid look?
For $15 per braid, hairstylists will do your hair by the pool or the spa.
Call the spa to ask for the times.
94) Listen for the Whale and Dolphin Sounds
In the pool at Ka Maka Grotto, find one of the underwater speakers and see if you can hear the sounds of whales or dolphins that are piped throughout.
95) Call to Get the Daily Character Greetings
Some of the most beloved Disney Characters make appearances at scheduled times through out the day.
All Disney characters will appear wearing Hawaiian gear. Naturally, Moana and Stitch are popular figures at Aulani, a Disney resort, and appear fairly frequently.
The characters, their meeting times and locations vary, however, so you will want to call each morning after 8am to find the daily schedule. Dial 2447 on your hotel phone to get the day's info.
96) Here's When to Start Lining Up for Meet & Greets
I suggest lining up for character meet and greets about 15 minutes before they arrive.
While the lines aren't terrible for meet and greets, there have been instances where we lined up too late and they had to cut us off.
So, if you're going to have to have a slight wait, might as well get to the greeting a little early and be toward the front of the line.
The good news is the "handlers" that manage the photos and greetings with characters keep the lines moving pretty fast.
97) Take a Sharpie & Autograph Book
Our family has always enjoyed “collecting” the autographs of our favorite Disney characters.
Bring a sharpie and your autograph book and simply ask the cast member that “handles” each character meet and greet if it’s okay to get a signature.
98) Have Characters Sign a Ukulele
This is one of those "I wish I had thought of that" tips.
Since a recent Aulani visit, I've read about people who bought a ukulele and had each of the Disney characters sign it with a sharpie. (Make sure to get the right color of sharpie.)
99) Speak Like a Hawaiian
Here are a couple of tips to help you speak like a Hawaiian (and less like a Haole).
In the Hawaiian language, the W is pronounced as a “V” when it is not the first consonant in the word.
- Hawai’i is technically pronounced “Hah vie eee”.
- The Daily Iwa is pronounce “eee vah”
100) Hidden Mickeys Aren’t What You Expect
The Aulani resort is a Hawaiian resort with some light Disney touches.
One of those is a Hidden Mickey in the wallpaper that doesn’t have the traditional Hidden Mickey look.
In Hawaiian design, circles aren’t used very much so the Disney Imagineers used more traditional Hawaiian shapes to create the Aulani version.
101) Impress Your Family with Cool Aulani Facts
As usual, Disney Imagineers put immense thought into every aspect of the Aulani design and artwork. Additionally, Aulani resort is the 2nd largest collection of contemporary Hawaiian art in the world.
Take the Art & Culture tour to learn incredible factoids about the thoughtful details of the Hawaiian art.
Here’s one to get you going:
Each of the two wings of the resort (Waianae & Ewa) have a separate gender representation.
The Ewa wing has many design details devoted to the traditionally feminine roles in Hawaiian culture, while the Waianae art features more masculine Hawaiian themes.
102) Ask a Hawaiian the Real Pronunciation of "Aulani"
Many Aulani cast members are local residents of O'ahu of Hawaiian descent.
Ask anyone of them that is a speaker of the Hawaiian language how the word "Aulani" is pronounced.
You might be surprised to notice the subtle differences from how you most commonly hear it pronounced.
103) Say "Aloha" and "Mahalo"
When in Hawaii, I suggest you learn -- and use -- a few of the most important Hawaiian language words and phrases.
The two most important are "aloha" and "mahalo."
Aloha is commonly used as a greeting or farewell, like "hello" and "goodbye". Locals will tell you, however that aloha means much more than that. It's a way of life. It's about sharing love and respect and ultimately a spirit of human kindness.
Mahalo is a simple and straight forward "thank you." You can find plenty of times to say "mahalo" on your Aulani vacation!
OTHER AULANI TIPS
104) Save Money with Disney Visa
This tip won't be for everyone but if you're a Disney Visa cardholder, you get a few perks, such as 10% off select merchandise, 10% off Rainbow Reef, and 10% off a new ukulele (if you buy immediately following the lessons.)
Check at the resort for other current Chase Disney Visa promotions.
Thanks so much for your comprehensive information on the Aulani Resort. Friends of mine are going soon so I sent them your link. We will be looking or the “course” to appear on your site in, hopefully, the not-too-distant future.
Thanks again for all your great info!
I’m so glad it’s helpful, Anne. Thanks for sharing this with your friends!
I really enjoyed all your tips. Thank you and here’s to 2021. Can’t wait for our vacation in April
This was EXTREMELY useful. Happened upon this guide and my friend and I were able to use so many of these tips to make the most out of our 3 day stay! Thank you so much. We got way more out of our vacation than we would have on our own or just with the Aulani app.
I’m so glad! Thank you for letting us know – I love to hear from you.