It's A Small World After All At Disney Aulani Resort

10 June 2016

While Aulani doesn’t scream Disney in the way the famous theme parks do, make no mistake, there’s plenty of squealing in the massive onsite water park. This Hawaiian resort is perfect for the pint-sized traveller – and grownups will be happy to go along for the ride too. The new-ish Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa (opened in 2011) occupies a spot among the natural and man-made lagoons of Ko Olina on the leeward side of Oahu island. It’s about 32 kilometres’ drive from Honolulu International Airport, and far, far away from the busyness of Waikiki.

A little girl embraces Mickey and Minnie characters at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa There's lots of familiar faces at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

In our spacious Deluxe Studio room, the Disney touches are subtle: a wooden Mickey Mouse lamp (with surfboard, of course) here, a picture there, but the overall vibe is of Hawaiian plantation luxe. The open foyer is tastefully decorated with teak accents and the koi pool adds a serene feel.

A father and daughter on a tube in the water park at Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu The whole family can easily spend hours in the water park. (Image Cassandra Laffey)

Outside, the obvious kiddie attraction is the humongous water park that meanders in and out of the lush jungle foliage, rocks and wooden bridges. The Waikolohe Valley aquatic playground area includes the Keiki Cove Splash Zone for kids aged five and under with squirting jets and fountains to run through, and the main Waikolohe Pool – 2.5 square kilometres of poolside fun that includes the Waikolohe Stream and two waterslides. Tip: Each day, a different colour wristband allows daily access to the pool areas. Wristbands are issued from 8am, so get in early to avoid the lineups and nab a spot to dump your towels.

A little girl eats a Mickey Mouse ice-cream outside at the resort Mickey even pops up on ice-cream. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

For big thrills, big kids can tackle the Volcanic Vertical tunnel body slide, and ride the twisty rapids on a solo or two-person tube through caverns. Our four –year-old adored the tubing adventure down the Tubestone Curl with her dad – the open-air waterslide spirals from the ‘volcano’ down to the lazy Waikolohe Stream that travels around the tropical landscape and under bridges.

A young girl embraces the character of Duffy the Disney Bear at Aulani Meeting new friends, like Duffy the Disney bear. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Also for the littlies, the Menuhune Bridge (menuhune are the mythical and mischievous ‘little people’ in Hawaiian folklore) offers a water play area with two waterslides and a climbing structure with plenty of interactive features that’s restricted to kids under 1.2 metres in height.


More Disney experiences:

Where dreams really do come true. An Unforgettable Disney Ride

The lowdown on Walt Disney World. Your Essential Walt Disney World Dictionary


Entry to most aquatic amenities is included in your stay, however for a fee, kids will get a kick out of the Rainbow Reef where they can swim with tropical fish in a private saltwater lagoon. Snorkelling equipment is included in the entry cost, and children under 11 will need to be accompanied by an adult. As our daughter was too little to channel her inner Ariel, we opted to peer at the colourful marine inhabitants through the viewing window instead.

A little girl looks at the fish within the viewing tank at Aulani resort Checking out the aquatic wonderland at Rainbow Reef. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Of course, if your ‘ohana (family) wants to venture to the ocean, the Aulani Beach is just down the paved trail from the resort. The sheltered lagoon is tranquil enough for the little ones, while the older kids can swim, try stand-up paddleboarding or use the boogie boards.

A mother and daughter give high fives to Mickey and Minnie characters M-I-C-K-E-Y! High fives all round. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Of course, what is a vacation at a Disney resort without Mickey et al? Aulani offers Disney Character Breakfasts or Dinners  for a toon tête-à-tête over pancakes and waffles, but my tip is grab a copy of the Daily ‘Iwa for a guide to when and where to track down your favourite character for a selfie. We stalked posed with Mickey and Minnie, Donald Duck, Stitch, Goofy and the in the outdoors areas for free.

A little girl poses with the Donald Duck character at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa The character experiences are one of the highlights of a stay at Disney Aulani Resort. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Kids aged five to 12 years can also enjoy the amenities of Aunty’s Beach House, a kids club with movies, dress-ups, heaps of crafts and interactive activities and outdoors play equipment in an enclosed space where your child’s whereabouts are tracked on a monitoring device. There’s so many checks and balances, your kids are in great hands if you need a breather.

Families gather around the fire pit for story time at Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii Story time at the fire pit captures all the kids' attention. (Image: Cassandra Laffey)

Even at night there’s plenty on for the young’uns. A magical Mo’olelo Fire Pit Storytelling reveals the tale of the mischievous menehune (the awed attention of the kids is priceless), while the ‘Ohana Disney Movie Nights under the stars brings family-friendly favourites to the big screen. So while Disney is doing it for the kids, your inner child will love Aulani too.

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on Disney holidays in the USA.

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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.