After the summer concerts are over and before the winter powder falls, it's the perfect time to get away—with the family, with your buddies, with your heartthrob.
Families can splash at Keiki Cove, the resort's splash zone
Ohana Means Family
Disney's Aulani Resort isa Hawaiian getaway that's big on culture
At Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina on O'ahu, Hawaii, a family vacation means mom and dad sipping cocktails, while the youngsters play in a beach house made just for them and teens relax in their own spa.
Later, the family gathers for ohana time at the beach, gazing at exotic fish while snorkeling or enjoying a yoga class.
Aulani is Hawaiian for "messenger of the chief," and here that message is Hawaiian culture. "Our Walt Disney imagineers went throughout the islands and spoke to cultural practicioners of all walks of life," says Aulani's Cultural Advisor, Kahulu De Santos, who makes certain the resort is continually inspired by Hawaiian culture, not a mockery of it.
The result: Aulani has the world's largest collection of Hawaiian contemporary art, pool lights align with constellations used in Polynesian navigation and parts of the building are shaped like native canoes. If you look up when you enter the lobby, you'll see a 200-foot Hawaiian cultural mural by artist Martin Charlot.
Kids stay entertained at Aunty's Beach House
Just for Kids
Still, Disney, at its corporate heart, is for children. Kids can serach for Aulani's 300 menehune figures (little magical and mischievous people of Hawaiian folklore) scattered around the resort—many hidden where only the shortest guests will find them—and learn about them on the Menehune Adventure Trail, an interactive, tablet-led tour.
At the 5,200-square-foot Aunty's Beach House, the kids play dress up, watch live performers, do crafts and more. "When I first walked into this house, I was like, 'This is like Grandma's house,'" says Olivia Ho, youth activities manager.
Snorkeling at Rainbow Reef
Adults get similar treatment at an adult-only pool—complete with a poolside bar. "We have cultural experiences for them," says Daniel Hee, family and adult program manager. "Ukulele class is probably one of the most popular." Adults can also learn to hula dance and go stargazing.
Also for the mature set is the Olelo Room, which offers cocktails and Hawaiian beers and 150 shadow boxes with intricate carvings and the Hawaiian word for the image inside. If that's not enough vocabulary for you, bartenders tend to be native speakers.
Families hit the water off of Aulani's beach
With Your "Ohana"
Family activities are endless. A sample itinerary:
Start the day with a beachside family yoga class.
Head to Rainbow Reef, the resort's private snorkeling lagoon, which doubles as an aquarium for those who would rather stay dry. Disney tried to recreate the look and feel of an actual Hawaiian reef by importing 49 species of native fish, including the Hawaiian state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua'a (just humuhumu for short).
In the evening, the family can attend the Starlit Hui, a colorful cultural show with fire and hula dancers, ukulele players and more.
Laniwai is the first spa created by Disney, offering 150 treatments in 15 treatment rooms and a salon. And, of course, massages—"a traditional type of Hawaiian massage," says Brett Perkins, a graduate of Utah College of Massage Therapy, who moved to Hawaii 11 years ago.
"They say the technique actually speaks down to the bones of the individual." Teens get their own fully appointed spa, Painted Sky, next door to Laniwai.
For the kids's sake, go to the character buffet breakfast at Makahiki. Goofy (It's Disney, after all) will likely interrupt your meal to give you a high five.
'Ama'Ama is the resort's fine-dining restaurant. As Aulani receives many Japanese visitors, the Japanese breakfast is excellent. You'll start your day with broiled catfish, poached egg, miso soup, steamed rice and dried seaweed.
If you ask, pretty much every dish at Aulani can be made gluten-free, including Makahiki's Mickey Mouse waffles.
Across the street from the resort is Monkeypod, a brewpub known for fish tacos, where you'll also find banh mi, pizzas and smoothies.
And, of course, don't leave Aulani without enjoying a shave ice on the beach.