Another day in Paradise: Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian Resort and Spa

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach

Boris and I are soaking up the sun in Hawaii with a trip to Aulani, Disney’s newest non-park resort.  This will be our first full day on property and we are starting with a very unBoris activity, a character breakfast.  Our Disney family group loves the photo op aspect of character dining.  Rocky in particular likes the face character interaction when he can talk to “in character”.  That said, Boris is really not into Disney.

Photo ©Jean Janssen Socially Distanced Character Greeting at Aulani’s Character Breakfast.

Right off the bat, you are ushered into the outdoor patio with a stage (used as a popular lounge in the evenings featuring live entertainment).  With COVID restrictions preventing the characters from going table to table for photos and autographs, Mickey and Minnie in their Hawaiian garb were on stage and you stood in front and took pictures with them behind you.  Boris actually smiled for the camera.  These photos are going on the Christmas cards.

Photo ©Jean Janssen Goofy at Aulani’s Character Breakfast

Next you go into the waiting area to be seated for breakfast.  On the way in, we were asked if we wanted a second photo opportunity this time with Goofy (in his chef attire) and Pluto.  Same set up, they stood behind the empty buffet serving area, you stood in front whle the pictures were taken.  They did some tricks with props.  It was fun and since Pluto is Boris’ favorite Disney character-who knew??-even he enjoyed it.

Photo ©Jean Janssen Pluto at Aulani’s Character Breakfast

Next it was another three-course meal in Makahiki where we ate last night.  This morning we were seated on the patio.  We started with a beautiful fruit plate, all very fresh.  Coffee and your choice of juice was also served.  When in Rome…I went with the pineapple juice and it was the finest I ever tasted.  Tomato juice wasn’t one of the options, but our server was able to find some for Boris.  Next came a basket with four pastries.  What??  After the instance the night before that they did not serve bread baskets due to dietary restrictions, now the sweet bread basket appears as one of three breakfast courses?  Apparently the attention to special diets only comes into play at night.  Doesn’t make any sense to me.  I suspect the dietary concern is only the excuse they give for not having to serve bread at night.

Photo ©Jean Janssne. What? Bread? Last night we were told it wasn’t served because of people’s dietary restrictions. This morning it appeared as one of three courses on the Character Breakfast menu.

I chose the pancakes-very unNatasha like.  I definitely have savory versus sweet taste buds.  A pastry is never my choice for breakfast.  If I am going to have breakfast, I want meat and eggs.  However, these were macadamia nut pancakes.  You had me at macadamia…and bacon.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Fluffy pancakes with bacon at breakfast.
You could go with the traditional maple syrup or try the coconut macadamia nut variety.

Boris went with an omelet with Portuguese sausage which is a very common meat served on the island.  It was a good breakfast and I knew we weren’t going to have to worry about eating again anytime soon. Another breakfast highlight for me was the wonderful music. The live performer was so good, I thought it was a recording.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Aulani Character Breakfast features live music. He was a wonderful performer.

I had worn a dress as a coverup over my swimsuit so I was ready to go right out to the beach.  Who comes to Hawaii without a swimsuit?  Well apparently, Boris who couldn’t find his swim trunks while packing.  We checked out a couple of the shops after breakfast, but he didn’t see anything he liked.  We’ll try the Lava Shack near the pool when it opens at 10 am as they supposedly have a larger selection.  We went down to the beach, found open seats with an umbrella, and lathered up.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach
Photo ©Jean Janssen. When you are facing the water, The Four Seasons’ Beach area was off to your right. It was deserted this morning. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach

Aulani is set in a man-made lagoon along the coast line.  It sits in the center edge of this lagoon with a condo project on one side and The Four Seasons Resort on the other side.  Disney has a lot of chairs and umbrellas in place (and free) for guests.  The calm waters of the lagoon cover a large area and the water tapers out to the natural coastline slowly offering lots of shallow water to enjoy.  Eventually things get deeper so you can enjoy a swim or other exercise.  The lagoon covers a large enough area that paddleboarders, boogieboarders, swimmers, snorkelers, boppers, and waders can share the area with some personal space in between.  There were even a couple of sailing canoes the went out periodically with paying guests and I never saw any collisions among the various groups.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach

At the far end of the lagoon the area was roped off.  Only the sailing canoes went beyond the marked area.  The canoes set out to the sound of a tribal horn under manpowered oars without using a motor.  They were equipped with motors for use in the open ocean when needed.  Each ride lasted an hour.  Significantly, there were no motorized water vehicles in the large lagoon.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. With the sounding of a tribal horn, the sailing canoe sets out from shore at Aulani’s Lagoon Beach
Photo ©Jean Janssen. Past the protected area of Aulani’s lagoon, the sailing canoe enjoys the open water.

The water was a little cool when I got in, but I adjusted quickly and enjoyed my swim and just treading water for a bit.  Everything was very clean, but the water wasn’t clear enough to snorkel in my opinion.  No way to know if this is always the case.  The resort actually has a huge “aquarium” where guests can pay for the opportunity to snorkel with the beautiful fish that lives in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  There are multiple sessions at Rainbow Reef each day.  There is a bottom level viewing so all guests can enjoy a look and in the evening you can see scuba divers cleaning the tank.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach

The sand was a nice tan color and very clean.  There were no rocks or shells.  Even though temperatures got into the upper 80s, the sand was never hot enough that you couldn’t walk on it in bare feet.  At 10 am, Boris went up to find a swimsuit.  By 11, he had not returned and all that lovely sand and clean water was reflecting some serious heat.  After a text, he came down wearing one of the suits we had seen earlier.  Apparently, the larger selections had not actually yielded a different option.  There were two Aulani designs; he ended up with the one I liked least.  The suit however, did serve its purpose.  Boris spent a lot of time in the water.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani’s Lagoon Beach

Eventually, we ended up poolside at Off the Hook to enjoy some lunch.  Their food and drink menu is the same fare that is served at your lounge chair by the pool or on the beach.  Chair service begins at 11:00 am and continues until late afternoon.  We were ready to get away from the heat, so we chose to eat on the open-air patio at a table.  I can recommend their burgers and the shrimp tacos.  Boris also liked their hotdogs and wings.  It is not a cheap lunch.  The burger is $21 before you add cheese ($3 more) or bacon.  The shrimp tacos are $24.  They also offer salads. They come with Maui chips, fries, fruit, small salad, or onion rings.  On an all-out day, go for the onion rings with the spicy dipping sauce.

Photo ©Jean Janssen The famous lava flow.

On the first day, I found that they serve my beloved Lava Flow, a pina colada with a strawberry puree and I had one almost daily.  Boris ordered a regular pina colada and was offered the extra shot of dark rum on top.  After having it with the shot the first day, he continued to order it that way the rest of trip.  He also tried the local beers.  Other than my daily lava flow, I drank tap water the rest of the time we were at the resort.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. You could see Aulani’s lazy river. Waikolohe Stream, from our balcony.

I have to admit that after lunch with a full tummy and the rising heat, the air conditioned room and an afternoon nap sounded like a good plan.  I had wanted to check out the shopping center across the street for some grocery supplies and also take a turn on the resort’s lazy river.  However, still feeling the effects of the time zone change, my short nap turned into an all afternoon nap.  We eventually woke up in time to shower and change for dinner.

Tonight, we are going off property to eat at Roy’s, a Ko Olina restaurant at the golf course clubhouse.  It was recommended to us for a “nicer” meal in the area. Chef Roy Yamaguchi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. He is known as the innovator of Hawaiian inspired cuisine… He was honored with the James Beard ‘Best Pacific Northwest Chef’ Award in 1993.” royyamaguchi.com

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Dining on the large outdoor deck at Roy’s Ko Olina Restaurant in the Ko Olina Golf Club

It was a short walk (about 9 minutes) from the resort.  Upon arrival and before you go inside, you have to show your COVID vaccination card and ID.  You also had to fill out a medical form.  This process was not unique to Roy’s. With a 6 pm reservation, we were able to walk over in the light and secure an outdoor table overlooking the golf course and the mountains beyond on the restaurant’s wonderful patio.  You will definitely need reservations if you plan to go on the weekend. 

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sticking with the macadamia nut theme of the day, I had the crusted mahi mahi as my entree at Roy’s at the Ko Olina Golf Club.

We ordered a bottle of Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain.  It was not particularly good and not nearly cold enough.  That said, there was not a bottle on the wine list that was over $60, so you get what you pay for.  On a return visit, I would probably just order a cocktail instead. For the first course, we shared the recommended crispy crab cakes with a wonderful sauce.  Yummy; we both liked them.  For my entrée, I had the macadamia nut-crusted Mahi Mahi.  Boris stayed with the Spanish-theme and ordered the paella.  It was an extensive menu.  I am pretty sure I out-ordered Boris this go around.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Boris’ paella at Roy’s at the Ko Olina Golf Club.

It was dark for most of our dinner.  The sun sets quickly here.  I was disappointed I didn’t snap a picture of the hills before it got completely dark by 6:30 pm.  We finished off with a chocolate souffle for Boris and the pineapple upside down cake for me.  These are the special-order items that take 22 minutes to prepare.  Our last glass of Cava from the bottle in the ice bucket was finally cold enough to enjoy.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. One of the specialty desserts at Roy’s Ko Olina Restaurant, an individual pineapple upside down cake.

After dinner, we wandered back to the hotel needing even that short walk to work off a little of that meal.  I took some pictures of the lobby at night.  Back in the room, we enjoyed the live music from the lounge below our balcony and the lights that highlighted the beauty of our resort.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance lobby at Aulani at night.
Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani at night, looking out of the lobby deck toward the water.

It was a wonderful first full day at Aulani…Aloha.

–Natasha

About travelbynatasha

I am a retired attorney who loves to travel. Several years ago I began working on a Century Club membership achieved by traveling to 100 "foreign" countries. Today, at 49 years of age the count is at 82. Many were visited on land based trips. Some were cruise ports. Some were dive sites. Most have been fascinating.
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