Aulani is a Disney Resort in Hawaii that offers beautiful scenery, amazing pools, plenty of entertainment and, of course, food. With ten different restaurants and bars, there is quite a bit of variety and different items to try. We didn’t quite make it to every single place but we hit a good amount of them. In this post, we’ll give a quick review of the different restaurants we tried and add in some thoughts about dining at Aulani in general.
Two things come to the forefront when talking about Aulani. The first is the immaculate design of the resort and just how beautifully it fits into the Hawaii landscape. Unfortunately, the second is the expense. The cost naturally stretches to the food. Now, that’s not just an Aulani issue. Everywhere we went in Hawaii was quite expensive when it came to dining. Still, there was some sticker shock when looking at a menu, even for our theme park driven brains.
For reference, I’m not sure I saw a meal under $15 at the resort. Over $20 was the usual at counter-service restaurants and even the snacks were pretty expensive. Thankfully, a good amount of what is offered is shareable. As someone who loves a good travel hack in finding a way to spend less money on food, I just couldn’t find one inside of Aulani other than sharing.
Aulani doesn’t exactly have a captive audience but if you’re paying to stay there then chances are that you’ll want to be there. There are a few options within walking distance of Aulani that aren’t in the resort including a Starbucks, ice cream shop and a breakfast place. A grocery store in that same complex will offer the best bang for your buck as they have daily specials that are discounted heavily a few hours before closing.
Happy Hours were a saving grace. Both Monkeypod and Mekiko Cantina offered one and were just a 5 minute walk from Aulani. The Cantina offered heavily discounted drinks and had a decent list of food at cheaper prices. Monkeypod offered appetizers and pizzas at discounts, as well as drinks. That is the best way to save money on food at Aulani short of picking up groceries on the way.
That’s not to say you should only do that. Much of the food we had at the resort was good, if not great! We don’t recommend skipping it entirely and if you have the means then I think you’ll enjoy the options. For those on a budget, walking nearby was the best work around that I found.
I’ll get into the restaurant reviews. I’m just going to add a paragraph or two about each place we tried. If you’re interested in a more thorough review about a specific place then leave a comment and I’ll get that out! Let’s get to it!
Ulu Cafe is the main counter-service restaurant at Aulani. They serve flatbreads, a daily dinner special, poke bowls at lunch, and have plenty of pre made sandwiches. There were also a few hot sandwiches and hot breakfast options. Being right by the pools, there’s limited outdoor seating at Ulu Cafe because it’s far more comfortable to just go back to your pool chair.
We had a hot chicken sandwich and a flatbread at the restaurant and thought both were very good. I especially liked the flatbread, as it had a good crust and fresh ingredients that they really layered on. That’s the way to this meat lover’s heart. The sandwich was a bit overpriced, even by Aulani standards, but was very good.
Melissa enjoyed the Spam Musubi and Monkey Bread from here on multiple occasions, as well. There were quite a few different snack options overall. Refillable mugs were also offered and turned into pretty good deals if you’re a soda/tea/coffee drinker and were staying multiple days. If I had been there one more night, I definitely would have gone for the dinner special as they always looked good, as well.
Ulu Cafe was a quality option and offered some unique items to keep it interesting. I wish there’d been just a couple of more things on the menu at dinner time but I was impressed overall.
Off the Hook
Off the Hook was the other popular fast option at Aulani. It’s a walk up bar but they also have mobile orders and a wait staff walking around the pool to take orders. The prices here were a bit higher than Ulu Cafe but the dishes were more thought out. Melissa and I shared the Chicken Club and Crab Cake BLT here on two different occasions. Both were fantastic, among the best items we tried at Aulani.
The second time we actually dined at the bar seating and, while there’s not a ton of décor, it’s a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. When you have a beautiful place around you a restaurant should just let that show off and not try to distract the view. That’s what Off the Hook does. This place is my top recommendation at the resort, regardless of if you get it as a mobile order or go sit there.
Makahiki – The Bounty of the Islands
Makahiki is the one table-service restaurant we did try. The Luau and Ama Ama both looked fun but were just a bit out of the price range this time around. We did try both dinner and breakfast at Makahiki. The restaurant is beautiful with some striking paintings inside before opening up to some greenery and the lazy river in the distance near the outdoor seating.
I don’t think I’d recommend the dinner. It was a 3-course meal for $73 and, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t wow me. My favorite thing I had there was the Kona Coffee Cheesecake. The Filet Mignon was good but not great. It’s a fun meal and the wait staff was excellent but the price was too high for what we ended up with.
Everyone in our party preferred the breakfast. The price is still steep at $49 but the Loco Moco I had there was the best item I ate at the resort. Breakfast also comes with pastries, fruit AND characters! I probably buried the lede there. There’s a photo op with Mickey as you enter and then some of the fab five come and visit as you eat! Overall, I would do the breakfast at Makahiki again but would pass on the dinner.
The Olelo Room
The Olelo Room is essentially Makahiki’s bar. With that in mind, the atmosphere is great and has some of the most unique decorations in all of the resort! Grabbing a drink here is great. Being connected to the restaurant, they did share the same dessert menu. There’s also an interesting assortment of appetizers served.
We had the Pork Tonkatsu and Miso Soup. The former was delicious, wonderfully breaded and flavorful pork. The Miso Soup was also good but was a very small portion for the ten dollars. I wouldn’t get that again. If you want to try the desserts at Makahiki without going then this is the way to go. I wish both The Olelo Room and Off the Hook were open an hour later, as they were the most adult areas Aulani offered.
Mama’s Snack Shop
This little shop is right in the middle of the pool grounds and kind of seemed forgotten about. The prices here were fairer than Ulu Cafe, as this was the de facto second counter-service option. I had the fish and chips, which served a hearty portion. They weren’t anything special but I think I’d go back for one of the other options here as the Coconut Shrimp or Ono Sandwich both sounded good and were reasonably priced.
Papalua Shaved Ice
Sitting right next to Mama’s Snack Shop, the shaved ice was the most moderately priced item at Aulani and is a must do. Pay the extra dollar to add Mickey ears to your shaved ice. Heck, pay another extra 50 cents or dollar to add the milk topping or ice cream. It still was under 6 dollars and tasted delicious after a third time down the water slide on an 80 degree day!
Overall, the food at Aulani was good but the value wasn’t. If and when we return, there are definitely spots that I look forward to returning but I also would probably plan for most breakfasts in the room (from a grocery store) and a few Happy Hours down the street.
Have you tried the food at Aulani? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a Disney trip? Check out our Travel Guides to help get you there! If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages. You can find all of those things on the right side of this page. Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!
Categories: Restaurant Reviews