Aulani is a very different Disney destination compared to theme parks. The resort is far more laid back, relying on a pristine location on Oahu’s coastline. There’s still a few tricks to the trade though and helpful lessons that came with our stay there. In this post, we’re going to give 15 of our best tips for a stay at Aulani!
I’ll start by saying these are in no particular order. Number 1 is not necessarily more valuable than number 15. One tip that didn’t make the list is that you should download the app. I didn’t necessarily enjoy using the app, hence the exclusion from the list, but it was useful to mobile order, see character meet times, etc. Let’s get to the list!
1. The food is expensive! Plan ahead and take advantage of different Happy Hours within walking distance of Aulani. There’s a grocery store (that’s still expensive) about a 5 minute walk from the resort and they’ll have daily specials that are heavily discounted in the hours before closing. More than anything, just be prepared to spend more on food than even a usual Disney Parks trip.
2. If staying for multiple nights, pay for the length of stay Rainbow Reef access. One day is $25 while the length of stay is $45. Rainbow Reef alone is one of the best parts of Aulani. Factor in that access to there includes a snorkel set at the lagoon, as well. Unless you’re bringing a snorkel with you, that’s a pretty fair price to rent a snorkel for a whole trip.
3. We’d advise DVC Members without young children to skip the DVC party. Go get the free goodies and bounce right after that. While I’m always a proponent of free stuff and generally like the DVC events put on, I was very underwhelmed by the offering here as some characters came out to dance on stage. The whole process felt very drawn out without actually doing much. There are much better uses of time than this.
4. On the flip side, do not skip the complimentary tours offered at Aulani! There is both a nature and culture tour offered and I’d recommend doing both of them. The information felt very relevant and not overly rehearsed. Our tour guide was excellent and had a wealth of knowledge.
5. There are other lagoons right beside Aulani’s and it’s easy to walk around to get a different view or try snorkeling at a different spot. Even if you’re without a car, there are options outside of Aulani.
6. In our experience, Lyft’s (or rideshares) to and from Aulani range from $50-$75, with it being closer to $100 if you need a bigger car. The ride takes about half an hour, although there is a chance you’ll be stuck in traffic along the way. All in all, the process to catch a Lyft is very easy from anywhere in Honolulu to Aulani.
7. The best hot tub at Aulani is an adults only one that overlooks the lagoon. It’s right outside of the main pool, close to the ocean. Because of it being adults only, it is also one of the quieter spots at the whole resort. Take advantage, your kids will be fine in the lazy river!
8. If you’re interested in a luau, do some research before just opting for the Aulani option. Even resorts right next to Aulani offer luaus at a different price point and with different dining options. I’m not saying that Aulani’s is bad or that it’s the best, I do not know! I’m saying find one that fits what you want, has good reviews and at the best price point possible
9. There are some really unique character meet & greets at Aulani! Duffy and friends are the most obscure characters and have some of the longer lines. Along with that, there’s the fab 5 in their best island garb, characters from Lilo & Stitch and a few surprises along the way.
10. If you have a late flight on the day of check out, sticking around Aulani really isn’t a problem. I know swimming in the ocean without a shower and before a long flight isn’t appealing but the resort has showers that guests can reserve! Just go to the front desk and pick a time you want the showers. The facilities are very nice and it’s a relaxing space, complete with bathrooms, couches and TV’s. Time slots generally last half an hour.
11. Night owls beware, Aulani does close down a bit early. While there’s no restrictions on where you can sit or anything, places to eat and activities shut down after 10 PM. That does make sitting oceanside very peaceful as hardly anyone else is out there. But if you want to go out for a nightcap or a late meal, you’ll have to go off resort. Some of the restaurants across the street do stay open pretty late though.
12. As always, Cast Members are wonderful and many of them are from Hawaii. Take the time to let them know they’re appreciated and find out more about the island.
13. Reserving chairs at the beach and pool starts at 8 AM and ends at 5 PM. Before or after those times, you have to be in your chair to hold the spot. If things in your chair are left unattended for 1 hour then they will be taken to the nearest towel station and the chair will be up for grabs. It’s hard to tell how enforced that is but it’s better to not risk it. If you have an early riser in your group, get that perfect beach spot for the day!
14. There aren’t many ‘good values’ at Aulani but the shaved ice is more than fairly priced. So much so that adding the Mickey Ears for an extra dollar is a no brainer.
15. Day guests at Aulani are welcome to enjoy shopping, dining and the spa. Technically, part of the lagoon is open to the public so guests can also use that section to swim. The pool, Rainbow Reef and beach chairs are not available for day guests. You will have to have a wristband to take part in those.
Do you have any Aulani tips? 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: Vacation Tips
I wonder why the food at Aulani is more expensive.
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I think it might be less of an Aulani problem and more of a “nice resort in Oahu” problem. Prices were pretty well in line with other places we went there.
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I guess that makes sense. Hawaii is really expensive.
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