Alauni Vacation - Never Been, Need Advice

2prettygirl

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 12, 2013
My husband and I will be celebrating our 20 year anniversary next summer and we have never been to Hawaii so we are contemplating a family vacation to Alauni; DH, myself, DD15 and DD12 (at the time of travel). The only Disney vacation we have taken is a Disney Cruise. I am looking for advice on Alauni and whatever details you can provide me. Do you book dining reservations like you do at WDW, are meals included like they are with the cruise, do you suggest eating all meals on resort or traveling off site? Completely new to this so I am looking for whatever you can provide. We are beach lovers more so than theme park, hence why we have not been to WDW. :-) We plan to spend majority of our time on resort but would like to travel off site to visit Pearl Harbor and other parts of the island, perhaps even Maui if the price is right. Are luaus held on resort or would we need to travel off site? Would a rental car be suggested for the entire week or just for a few days when needed? Your assistance is greatly appreciated.
 

nkereina

Last chance to lose your keys.
Joined
Feb 11, 2009
Do you book dining reservations like you do at WDW,
Yes, but only for Ama Ama (think signature restaurant) and Makahiki (character buffet). The urgency of these reservations are not like the 180 days at WDW, but it is recommended to book these at least a month or two in advance.

are meals included like they are with the cruise
No. It is not an all inclusive resort and they do not offer all inclusive plans.

do you suggest eating all meals on resort or traveling off site?
I would do a mix between resort time and island touring time (see my comments below), which would include meals off-site. But specifically regarding meals, you will get sick of the food at Aulani real fast if you're spending more than a few days there. Its pricey and there's not a huge variety. There are a few tourist-geared restaurants across the street you can walk to, but otherwise, you'd need a car to leave Ko Olina (where Aulani is located) to visit any other restaurants.

we plan to spend majority of our time on resort but would like to travel off site to visit Pearl Harbor and other parts of the island, perhaps even Maui if the price is right.
How many days are you planning? Island hopping is best if you have longer than a week to work with, IMO.

Are luaus held on resort or would we need to travel off site?
Aulani has one and Paradise Cove Luau is walking distance from Aulani. There are also a few highly rated luaus on both Oahu and Maui. I would check out Trip Advisor for reviews. As a caution, many love the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center because of its authenticity, but they don't serve alcohol if that's a concern.

Would a rental car be suggested for the entire week or just for a few days when needed?
IMO, the entire week. You will not get to experience true Oahu and Hawaii until you leave the tourist gates of Ko Olina. Aulani does have some excursions around the island, but it will be cheaper and with much more flexibility if you do it yourself in your own car. You also have access to more dining options. A lot of us like to stop at the grocery store to pick up things like drinks, snacks, etc. to help save on the food budget as well.

As far as other Oahu activities and places to check out: Diamond Head (hike), Hanuama Bay (snorkeling), Kailua (beach town, white powder sand), Kualoa Ranch (popular site for movie locations), Dole Plantation, North Shore area (shrimp trucks, Matsumoto shave ice, surfing, sea turtles)
 

Neraj

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 4, 2012
I would just remind for renting a car... it's $37 per night for parking, so if you know you aren't going off property a couple days I don't know how much it's worth it to have a car 'just in case'. There are cars across the street at the golf course to rent by the hour or by the day (Hui app).
 
  • Noodlez

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 17, 2018
    We rented a car for 3 days in the middle of our week there and this seemed a good length. We had a long flight and didn’t want to drive from the airport, and we also wanted chance to relax at the resort a little.
    Admittedly, we did catch the bus into Honolulu which I don’t imagine many people do. :-)
     

    braysmommy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 10, 2010
    I would just remind for renting a car... it's $37 per night for parking, so if you know you aren't going off property a couple days I don't know how much it's worth it to have a car 'just in case'. There are cars across the street at the golf course to rent by the hour or by the day (Hui app).
    If you rent points through DVC member parking is still free correct? Which I would recommend as it is a way to save money over booking directly with Aulani.
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    I would just remind for renting a car... it's $37 per night for parking, so if you know you aren't going off property a couple days I don't know how much it's worth it to have a car 'just in case'. There are cars across the street at the golf course to rent by the hour or by the day (Hui app).
    If you rent points through DVC member parking is still free correct? Which I would recommend as it is a way to save money over booking directly with Aulani.
    Anyone staying on DVC points gets free parking. Whether you are a non-owner staying on rented points or you are the DVC owner using your points to stay there.

    I would also remind that Aulani does not offer airport transportation. If you don't have a car for the duration, you would need to pay for roundtrip airport transfers. Additionally, many rental car companies impose fees for picking up and dropping off in different locations. Just things for someone to consider when weighing the costs of renting a car for the duration versus select days only.
     

    Amw1064

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 29, 2012
    We have been to Aulani when our daughter was 12, 13, 14 & 16. We absolutely love it. We usually stay 10-12 days and our 3rd trip we added 3 days on and flew over to Maui. The last 2 trips my daughter used the go pro and when we got home she made a video of our trips. We try to find new things each trip but then some things we just love and do over again. Our first trip we did Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation, luau at Paradise Cove and North Shore. Our second trip we brought 2 other families with us and did the same things minus Pearl Harbor (which they both did on their own). Our 3rd trip we did North Shore but added Kualoa Ranch, a day in Waikiki, beautiful Lanikai beach and this last trip added ziplining at Climbworks. All 4 trips we have also visited the swap meet for souvenirs. Our favorite place besides floating around the lazy river at Aulani is going to the lagoon next door and hoping to see the turtles. We usually book the character breakfast or dinner ahead of time but everything else we just wing it. We are DVC members so we have free parking and always rent a car. I have a video in my signature of our last trip and I can find you the one with Maui from 2 years ago if interested. Enjoy! It is the best place ever.
     
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  • 2prettygirl

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2013
    We have been to Aulani when our daughter was 12, 13, 14 & 16. We absolutely love it. We usually stay 10-12 days and our 3rd trip we added 3 days on and flew over to Maui. The last 2 trips my daughter used the go pro and when we got home she made a video of our trips. We try to find new things each trip but then some things we just love and do over again. Our first trip we did Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation, luau at Paradise Cove and North Shore. Our second trip we brought 2 other families with us and did the same things minus Pearl Harbor (which they both did on their own). Our 3rd trip we did North Shore but added Kualoa Ranch, a day in Waikiki, beautiful Lanikai beach and this last trip added ziplining at Climbworks. All 4 trips we have also visited the swap meet for souvenirs. Our favorite place besides floating around the lazy river at Aulani is going to the lagoon next door and hoping to see the turtles. We usually book the character breakfast or dinner ahead of time but everything else we just wing it. We are DVC members so we have free parking and always rent a car. I have a video in my signature of our last trip and I can find you the one with Maui from 2 years ago if interested. Enjoy! It is the best place ever.
    I would love to see your video from Maui. The video in your signature is amazing, thank you so much for sharing. We have never been to Hawaii but it looks beautiful! I was a little concerned about my oldest having something she would enjoy at Aulani, she will be 15 at the time of travel but this gives me hope. :-)
     

    Amw1064

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 29, 2012
    I would love to see your video from Maui. The video in your signature is amazing, thank you so much for sharing. We have never been to Hawaii but it looks beautiful! I was a little concerned about my oldest having something she would enjoy at Aulani, she will be 15 at the time of travel but this gives me hope. :-)
    The other video she made almost 3 years ago when she was 14. Giving her the go pro was the best thing ever. She was so excited to get everything on video and it could just float around the lazy river with us. When I booked the tickets with the Maui stop, it wasn't any more expensive. I just did a multi trip ticket versus round trip. This past summer we stopped at Disneyland for 3 days and again, the ticket was the same price as just a roundtrip. (something to think about it) Let me find you the older video.
     

    Amw1064

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 29, 2012
    I would love to see your video from Maui. The video in your signature is amazing, thank you so much for sharing. We have never been to Hawaii but it looks beautiful! I was a little concerned about my oldest having something she would enjoy at Aulani, she will be 15 at the time of travel but this gives me hope. :-)
     

    ksromack

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 14, 2012
    Hubby bought "us" (me) a GoPro right before our Dec WDW trip and I took snips of video but I have no idea how to put them all together like your dd did! Our Aulani trip is a little over 4 months away and I feel like I need to cram for a final to learn how to edit them all together! Your dd did a great job!
     
  • Amw1064

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 29, 2012
    Hubby bought "us" (me) a GoPro right before our Dec WDW trip and I took snips of video but I have no idea how to put them all together like your dd did! Our Aulani trip is a little over 4 months away and I feel like I need to cram for a final to learn how to edit them all together! Your dd did a great job!
    I have no idea how to do it. She does it on her computer is all I know. I am allowed no input until they are done and by that time to late.
     

    KenInDenver

    Earning My Ears
    DVC Gold
    Joined
    Jan 22, 2018
    We are DVC owners (not a Aulani). Been to Aulani once when it opened. Many cruises and WDW lots of times. We also go to Hawaii every couple of years. We own in Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club so we have been going since before Aulani existed. Here are my tips.
    -Food is expensive in Hawaii, especially at the resort. The great thing about Ko Olina is there is a Costco about 10 minutes away along with grocery stores. Assuming you have a unit with a kitchen then go to Costco and stock up. Also KOA Pancake House is one of our local favorites.
    -If you are renting from an owner and the parking is free I would suggest renting a car for the week. You will want to drive around the island. Go to the north shore, Dole Plantation maybe, nut farm on the other side of the island. Lots of gems around the island to check out. By the time you rent a car for a few days, pay for airport transportation, etc it is just easier to rent a car (or minivan). Do this well in advance if you are getting a van.
    -Aulani itself is great. Lazy river, waterslides, etc. Our kids were younger when we went. Ko Olina is a private development so it is gated. Very nice. Not real Hawaii for sure but a perfect home base. There is also a small marina that is perfect for an early morning snorkel trip where you normally see dolphins. We use Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. We will be there for New Year week this year. Can't wait.
    -Going to Maui isn't just a day road trip. It is another vacation. There is a flight involved, etc. We normally do 2 islands but go for 2 weeks. If you only have a week then I would say not to blow a day traveling between islands. Just my opinion.
    -Luaus- I think Disney does a little one but not sure. There is Paradise cove that you can walk to (big touristy deal). There is Fia Fia at the Marriott if they still have it which used to be Chief Sielu and was funny and entertaining. He is doing something called Chief's Luau down the road now so I'm not sure if he is still involved. He was pretty funny and the real deal with fire dancing.
    Good luck and happy 20th!
     

    amym2

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 18, 2009
    I agree with what everyone has said and will just add that our 18 and 16 year old love Aulani! We were just there for our 3rd time this past Christmas. We did ukulele lessons, the free art & nature tour, listened to live music at the Olelo Room (and from our balcony over it).

    As far as food, we enjoy the Makahiki breakfast buffet and the coconut shrimp from Mama’s. We’ve eaten at Ama Ama (one time the kids stayed in ourvilla and ate pizza while DH and I ate there), but the menu this past time wasn’t appealing to us.

    Offsite, Monkey Pod across the street has a great happy hour menu (1/2 off most apps and $10 pizzas), and the coffee shop there has great coffee and smoothie bowls. We drive to Kapolei to eat at Koa Pancake House (mac nut pancakes with coconut syrup) and Aloha Salad. We always rent a car (but we’re DVC members so no parking fees) and find renting it for a week is not much more than for a few days.
     

    kickash

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 24, 2014
    We are DVC owners (not a Aulani). Been to Aulani once when it opened. Many cruises and WDW lots of times. We also go to Hawaii every couple of years. We own in Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club so we have been going since before Aulani existed. Here are my tips.
    -Food is expensive in Hawaii, especially at the resort. The great thing about Ko Olina is there is a Costco about 10 minutes away along with grocery stores. Assuming you have a unit with a kitchen then go to Costco and stock up. Also KOA Pancake House is one of our local favorites.
    -If you are renting from an owner and the parking is free I would suggest renting a car for the week. You will want to drive around the island. Go to the north shore, Dole Plantation maybe, nut farm on the other side of the island. Lots of gems around the island to check out. By the time you rent a car for a few days, pay for airport transportation, etc it is just easier to rent a car (or minivan). Do this well in advance if you are getting a van.
    -Aulani itself is great. Lazy river, waterslides, etc. Our kids were younger when we went. Ko Olina is a private development so it is gated. Very nice. Not real Hawaii for sure but a perfect home base. There is also a small marina that is perfect for an early morning snorkel trip where you normally see dolphins. We use Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. We will be there for New Year week this year. Can't wait.
    -Going to Maui isn't just a day road trip. It is another vacation. There is a flight involved, etc. We normally do 2 islands but go for 2 weeks. If you only have a week then I would say not to blow a day traveling between islands. Just my opinion.
    -Luaus- I think Disney does a little one but not sure. There is Paradise cove that you can walk to (big touristy deal). There is Fia Fia at the Marriott if they still have it which used to be Chief Sielu and was funny and entertaining. He is doing something called Chief's Luau down the road now so I'm not sure if he is still involved. He was pretty funny and the real deal with fire dancing.
    Good luck and happy 20th!
    We did the luau at the Marriott this past July and Chief was there. It is only held on Tuesdays I believe. It was a great luau!
     

    LPnerd

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2011
    I would just remind for renting a car... it's $37 per night for parking, so if you know you aren't going off property a couple days I don't know how much it's worth it to have a car 'just in case'. There are cars across the street at the golf course to rent by the hour or by the day (Hui app).
    we had a car, not charged at all. plus the valet was only 15$ a day so??? wait, maybe free is only for DVC members?
     

    LPnerd

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 4, 2011
    we just got back. The resort is beautiful, the kids had a blast except when we drug them away to drive the island, ( which I do not recommend), This island is full of industry, pollution, concrete, huge concrete polls for electric that block all views and houses stacked as close as possible up and down every hill from the resort, until you get to the north part of the island where you encounter angry island people who wish we had never taken their island from them, ( face it folks, the US are their occupiers, how much love can there be?). The resort is confusing, the staff is excellent, the food is meh and well overpriced. Aunty's beach house is amazing, and the lazy river saved our vacation.
    We went to the swap meet, fun and the place for your souvenirs, and we finally found The Shrimp Shack, delicious. The maps to get you around are not real helpful, the people up north play dumb for the most part. Dole pineapple was ok, the little one liked that, diamond head has very little parking close and for my money, the best view of it is from plane or the highway, it is PACKED rain or shine, we skipped it as it was pouring rain, and still no parking. Had I not spent so much money and time just getting there, perhaps I wouldn't be so disappointed, OR if the resort was on one of the other , less populated islands? But unless we go by cruise ship, and have a layover till we switch ships, we won't go back.
     

    ksromack

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 14, 2012
    we just got back. The resort is beautiful, the kids had a blast except when we drug them away to drive the island, ( which I do not recommend), This island is full of industry, pollution, concrete, huge concrete polls for electric that block all views and houses stacked as close as possible up and down every hill from the resort, until you get to the north part of the island where you encounter angry island people who wish we had never taken their island from them, ( face it folks, the US are their occupiers, how much love can there be?). The resort is confusing, the staff is excellent, the food is meh and well overpriced. Aunty's beach house is amazing, and the lazy river saved our vacation.
    We went to the swap meet, fun and the place for your souvenirs, and we finally found The Shrimp Shack, delicious. The maps to get you around are not real helpful, the people up north play dumb for the most part. Dole pineapple was ok, the little one liked that, diamond head has very little parking close and for my money, the best view of it is from plane or the highway, it is PACKED rain or shine, we skipped it as it was pouring rain, and still no parking. Had I not spent so much money and time just getting there, perhaps I wouldn't be so disappointed, OR if the resort was on one of the other , less populated islands? But unless we go by cruise ship, and have a layover till we switch ships, we won't go back.
    It doesn't sound like Oahu is your kind of place. Have you been to any of the other islands and were they more to your liking?
     


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