Soaking Up The Sun at Aulani, Disney’s Hawaiian Resort and Spa

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Waikolohe Stream, Aulani’s lazy river.

We are enjoying a 6 day-5 night stay at Disney’s Hawaiian Resort, Aulani, located on Hawaii’s most populous island Oahu where the capital Honolulu is located. Boris likes his sit-down-and-be-served breakfasts, so we started our day across the street from the resort at Eggs and Things.  The Ko Olina location is relatively new, but the chain has been on Ohau since 1974. They operate four locations in Hawaii, one in Guam, and a special Japanese website.  At 8:15 am on a Sunday the place was packed and we had a 20-minute wait for a table. You can put you name on the list online, but we didn’t know it until after this first visit. Upon arrival, we started with the vaccination card, ID, name and phone number drill.  This breakfast spot opens at 7 am and serves until 2 pm daily.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. If you are looking for some serious whipped cream? Check out the strawberry waffles, a specialty at Eggs and Things on Oahu.

Being the savory over sweet eater, I got the steak and eggs with potatoes as my side selection.  With a meat and eggs, you could get a side of rice, potatoes, or three fluffy pancakes.  Since I had the pancakes yesterday, I went with potatoes.  This was already a large breakfast; pancakes would have set it over the top.  Boris chose the pancakes as his side.  It was really good food.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Toes in the sand, Aulani

The couple at the table next to us had been at the resort for 8 nights and were heading home to Florida that day.  Their greatest concern was staying awake for their 10:45 pm departure.  They had chosen to “stay” on Eastern time for their trip, adjusting their activities to fit that schedule.  Tonight they were going to be flying all night to get home to Florida.  On the way to Hawaii, it was only one stop for them in Los Angeles.  Going home, they were flying to Seattle, stopping in Phoenix, stopping in Atlanta, and then finally getting home to Tampa.  They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.  They had met on Ohau when they were both in the military.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani Lobby at Night

After breakfast, we went to the Island Market, an extended ABC store. The ABC stores are a chain that has been on the islands forever.  I remember ABC stores as a place to get cheap souvenirs and inexpensive beach supplies you didn’t mind just leaving when you departed the island.  All that is still at this store, but this location has an extended grocery section as well.  I picked up bread, meats, cheese slices, crackers, chips, condiments, and drinks.  You can even buy wine and hard liquor if you so desire.  Boris did so desire.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Multi-level viewing of the beach at Aulani

So by the time we got back, put everything in the refrigerator, put on suntan lotion and our swimsuits, and headed down to the pool, it was already pretty packed.  Since we started with the beach yesterday, we decided to start with the pool today. We were unable to find seats in the shade.  Boris immediately headed off to the lazy river, Waikolohe Steam.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Waikolohe Stream, Aulani’s lazy river.

Waikolohe means mischievous water in Hawaiian.  From our balcony, we could see the stream’s winding path, but when you ride it feels longer.  You pass under several dated bridges, go through a short cave, and float under waterfalls. The date on the bridges is 1923, the year the Walt Disney Company was founded.  There are single and double tubes to ride on, but the water is so shallow that all but young children could walk it with their head above water.  There are multiple entrances where you can join the flow.  Mid-afternoon, Disney characters stand on one of the bridges and wave to guests as they float by.  During our stay, I saw Goofy, Max, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie, Chip, and Dale on the bridge.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. These young guests were multitasking, enjoying screen time during their float.

It didn’t take long for Boris to decide that he had no interest in hanging out on a lounge chair by the pool in the sun.  At one point during the trip, he commented that he had spent more time hanging out with me by the pool/on the beach on this trip, than he had in the last 40 years.  It wasn’t much of an exaggeration.    I hung in there longer than Boris, but eventually even I headed back in for an afternoon nap.  We don’t have dinner reservations tonight; the plan is to stay in, enjoy the music from the balcony, and eat the snacks we bought at the market in the morning.  With another gorgeous sunset, it was a perfectly relaxing evening.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Fireworks over the Ko Olina Lagoon

The big surprise that evening were the fireworks that were shot from Ko Olina Lagoon. I hadn’t seen it advertised anywhere. We had a great view from the balcony. I asked the next day what the schedule was and found out that Disney does not sponsor the fireworks; they are hosted by the permanent residents of the Ko Olina community.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Fireworks over the Ko Olina Lagoon

It was back to Eggs and Things the next morning.  We learned our lesson yesterday and went shortly after they opened at 7 am so we had no wait.  This time I tried the traditional eggs benedict, one of my morning favorites.  Unfortunately, the hollandaise sauce was from a mix and not homemade which completely ruins this dish.  After such a good breakfast yesterday, it was very disappointing.  No market run today, so we headed straight back to the resort afterwards. 

Photo ©Jean Janssen. I was totally out-ordered by the family next to us at Eggs and Things (who kindly let me take a picture of their selections). The daughter had the strawberry waffles, but I think Dad had even more whipped cream on his coconut, pineapple, and macadamia nut pancakes.

The resort offers multiple crafting opportunities for guests from stamping tee shirts to making your own Mickey Ears.  You can find information on the Aulani App which they recommend you download before your arrival.  I found the app information generally not up to date or incomplete. You also can not sign up for activities or restaurants on the app.  I went down to the Pau Hana Room this morning to sign up for the ear-making class thinking I would need to attend the class one of the last two days of my stay because today’s times were booked and currently not showing up on the app (although they were there the day before).  You must sign up in person.  When I arrived (and after I waited in line), I was told there were three classes still available for today at 11 am, noon, and even 5 pm.  The evening time slot had never even appeared on the app.  I would not rely on the Aulani Resort Mobile App; just stop in and schedule the things you are interested in. 

Photo ©Jean Janssen. For making my ears, I was assigned a table and given a glue gun and my supplies.
I chose the DVC blue ears; the reading glasses are my addition.

The Pau Hana Room is a community space for events, but as it is enclosed so it is currently being used only for sign-up purposes. The ear-making classes are being held in the Ama Ama Restaurant. This is the resort’s fine dining restaurant that is currently closed. I am not sure why, it is an open-air facility. Perhaps it is a staffing issue or a choice given reduced capacity at the resort. There are stunning views of the beach and the water and you can see why the location was chosen for an upscale restaurant.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The ears are formed and the greenery attached to the back.

After the morning at the pool, I joined the noon class and was assigned a table with a view. Each participant is given a glue gun and a sack with their selections inside. When you sign up you choose the five items you want to decorate with, the color of your ears, and whether you want lights or no lights. The regular ears cost $25; lighted ones are $35. An assistant circulates giving instructions and helpful advise. When I was there, it was more adults than children. There were even men participating. The table next to me had two small girls with their father and grandfather.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Flowers are glued to the greenery on the front side. You could chose any combination of 5 decorations. There are flowers, carved wood symbols, and bows to chose from. Everyone gets greenery.

Unlike Emma and Maggie, I am not a crafty person. However, I enjoyed the class and would recommend it. You have up to an hour to complete your project. I was pretty proud of my finished customized ears. I got lots of complements as I wore them poolside. I directed several people to signup who were unaware that the classes were offered. These ears will definitely be joining me on my next trip to the parks.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Pu’u Kilo to the right, Off the Hook in the far center in front of the tower, and Ama Ama to its right at the Waikolohe Pool, all at Aulani

Maybe it was just because I was wearing my new ears creation, but unlike Boris I didn’t feel the need for a nap today and stayed all afternoon at the pool. One thing I have noticed is that the crowds have dropped off considerably now that the weekend is over. I learned that they are special incentives given to the locals on the weekends. I am sure they needed to drive in more traffic when they first opened back up. I wonder how long this program will last. I also noticed that about 2 pm the numbers by the pool and beach drop off considerably and continue to decline throughout the afternoon. This is a great time to try the lazy river or one of the water slides that are more crowded earlier in the day.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Pu’u Kilo, the launch point for the body and tube water slides at Aulani.

The two slides start at the top of Pu’u Kilo, the mountain-like structure that sits in the center of the resort amenities between the towers where the guest rooms are located. Disney describes Pu’u Kilo as the “craggy peak overlooking the Waikolohe Valley”. One slide twists and turns through the open air and dumps you out at one of the launch spots for the lazy river. You ride a single or double inner tube supplied by the resort. The other is a body slide inside Pu’u Kilo that dumps you out on the opposite side into an alcove of the Waikolohe Pool. Disney describes the body slide as “extreme”. Neither rivals the big attractions at water parks, but the slides are popular with all members of the family and are included in your resort stay.

Photo ©Jean Janssen

Dinner tonight was at Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman. Just across the street from the resort is the Ko Olina shopping center with Eggs and Things, the ABC Island Market, and the very popular Monkeypod Kitchen. Every person we talked to about eating out during our stay at Aulani suggested Monkeypod. The chain has three restaurants. There are two on the island of Maui; the Ko Olina location is the only one on Oahu. Chef Peter Merriman has been called a culinary pioneer; the Los Angeles Times referred to him as “The Pied Piper of Hawaii Regional Cuisine”. This is farm to table fare featuring products grown, raised, and captured in the area.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Boris went with the cider on draft. It was very good. Monkeypod Kitchen Ko Olina

We had trouble getting reservations and had to wait until four days after our arrival to get in. Our reservation is also for a later time than we usually eat. Once again there is all the paperwork and documentation to go through upon arrival at the restaurant. By now, we know the drill. The restaurant is covered inside and out, but it is all open on the side. We were seated on the outdoor patio where a live musician performed.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Monkeypod Mai Tai, the drink specialty of the house.

The restaurant has a wonderful happy hour daily from 3:30-5 pm; both food and drinks are discounted. The restaurant is also family friendly. According to our server, they have been voted as having the best mai tai for seven years running. This is not usually my drink, but with that recommendation I had to try. It was fabulous, if a little strong. I loved how it was presented with the pineapple on the side and lots of foam on top. They will give you extra foam at no charge if you ask. I did.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman, Ko Olina

The restaurant name comes from a tree. A monkeypod tree sits at the corner of the patio just behind where the musician was playing. The restaurant’s website offers the best description I found. The monkeypod tree is not only beautiful, but it has a really special presence in Hawaii. The monkeypod tree has a single stalk and branchs [sic] that spread into a wide canopy. They thrive in the Hawaiian Islands, more than any other place. Unlike other trees that kill the grass and other plants that live beneath them, the grass is always greener under the monkeypod tree, literally. Its leaves release nitrogen to naturally fertilize the soil beneath it.

A monkeypod tree

Boris wanted the lobster deviled eggs as an appetizer so we shared that. I ordered the fish and chips with truffles fries (you can also just get salt and pepper on them) for my entree. I had heard about their truffle fries. They did not disappoint. Great dipping sauce too. We finished with a slice of banana pie and a slice of chocolate pie, also recommended. All the food was good. It was definitely a more casual menu than Roy’s and a location worth repeating. We had a great server whose father was in the military and she had lived all over the world with her family. When her father retired, she chose to return to Hawaii to live. She has a two-year-old son and wanted to give him the experience of living this lifestyle. She will stay as long as she can, but the cost of living in Hawaii is very high.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. My fish and chips at Monkeypod Kitchen, Ko Olina.

After dinner we didn’t stay up long after returning to the resort. Only one more full day at the resort. I went to sleep with the sound of the ‘Olelo Lounge Singer in my ears.

Photo ©Jean Janssen. Aulani at Night

–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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