It's impossible not to gasp with joy when you catch your very first glimpse of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. Rising majestically above the sandy shores of Ko Olina, and sprawled across 8.5 inviting, ocean-front hectares, it's an impressive sight to behold as you turn off Highway 1 on the leeward coast of Oahu.
We arrive on a balmy summer's day and are greeted with leis upon stepping into the grand foyer, designed to reflect the rich local culture (a theme present throughout every structure in the resort).
From the crowds, it's clear this place is a holiday favourite with families and it's this sense of 'ohana' (the Hawaiian word for 'family') which is at the forefront of all they do at Aulani.
Time To Prioritise
With only four days allocated for our stay, we realise the best way to get value for money is to spend all of our time onsite at the resort. Plus, with a jam-packed schedule of enticing activities on offer (most of which are free) we don't want to leave anyway.
With this part of our Hawaiian holiday dedicated to the kids, we decide to make their wishes a priority. The result? Disney characters and water activities for the win!
An Aquatic Paradise
There's no shortage of aquatic activities for kids at Aulani. Thrill-seekers will relish the Volcanic Vertical, a gripping tunnel body water slide in the Waikolohe Pool area, which itself covers 2,500 square metres.
The little ones will be drawn to Keiki Cove, a whimsical water playground designed for those under five. Expect the kids to also adore the Menehune Bridge play area.
Based on the Hawaiian legend of the 'little people' responsible for mischief and magic on the island, it offers ample space for children to tackle two water slides, interactive activities and climbable structure designed to spray and soak you from every angle.
If you're still not sated from all that water-based fun, sample the snorkelling on offer in the artificial Rainbow Reef.
Children younger than 11 must be accompanied by an adult and in return you'll witness a magical array of local marine life. This underwater oasis is both a soothing and educational holiday activity, set in a safe place away from unpredictable currents and waves.
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Up Close With The Disney Gang
The crown jewel of any Disney-loving child's stay at Aulani is the chance to cosy up to their favourite characters. It doesn't take long to stumble across our first, encountering the lovable Goofy five minutes after arrival.
While there will be many sightings during your stay, official meet-and-greets can also be arranged with the likes of Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the gang for heartfelt cuddles and happy snaps.
The popular Aunty's Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki Restaurant is a memorable dining experience with beloved Disney buddies. However, it's the Shake-A-Shaka Pool Party, hosted by Goofy and pals, which hits biggest with our kids.
This energetic and entertaining event is held at the Waikolohe Pool, where we not only learn about the famous surf culture of Hawaii, but also dance, splash and play interactive games all while in the water.
Sleep In Style
Aulani has accommodation options to meet most holiday budgets. Those prepared to splurge can enjoy a one-, two- or three-bedroom villa, but be assured the most cost-effective choice will certainly suffice.
The Standard Room, tastefully decorated in earthy tones, provides everything required to make your stay comfortable. And unless the children need a day-time nap from all that Disney fun, it's unlikely you will spend too much time indoors as there's far too much to see and do outside.
The 'Disney Difference'
If you are seeking a Disney holiday, but the budget won't stretch to one of the famed theme parks, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is the perfect option.
The renowned 'Disney Difference' is weaved into every moment, along with the warmth of ohana from the minute you arrive to the moment you grudgingly leave.