I’m fresh back from an amazing Hawaiian vacation. My family and I stayed at the gorgeous Aulani Resort on Oahu for 3 days/4 nights. The second half of the week as spent on Maui at the Grand Wailea Resort.
After staying at Aulani, I have a short list of my top tips for those planning their Aulani vacation:
1) Request a pool-side room: We had a Standard Room and called to request a specific location, which was able to be granted. We requested to be on the ground level by the pool. The pool-side rooms have a patio area with a locking gate door, so we had easy access to our room all day long without having to enter the main resort to get to our room. It was great for bathroom breaks (pool-side restrooms are wet – yick), getting more bottled water from the mini-fridge, grabbing a glass of wine (yes, I kept wine in my room!), or grabbing snacks.
This access encouraged us to stock our room with beverages and food from the neighboring convenience store, which ultimately saved us money over buying more at the pool area, where it can get expensive.
I was worried the noise level would be higher, but the pools are closed from 8 pm to 8 am, so we had no problems with pool noise at night. Our room was right outside a part of the Waikolohe Stream (aka Lazy River) and was a short walk from the pool deck area.
2) Make dining reservations in advance: Two restaurants take advance reservations – Ama Ama and Makahiki. These are hard to get into if you do not have reservations. The other options are around the pool area, so if you like a sit-down dinner, then you’ll want to take the time to make dinner reservations for each day of your stay. This can be done up to 180 days in advance of your vacation.
If you’re planning on Ama Ama’s, make your reservation for 30-45 minutes before sunset. You’ll have a beautiful view of sunset from this restaurant.
While you’re making dinner reservations, make one at Monkeypod Kitchen. Monkeypod is a relaxing Hawaiian themed, foodie-inspired restaurant across the street from Aulani. You’ll want reservations here for dinner because it is a very popular restaurant. I had the Fresh Gnocchi with Pork Sausage and it was one of the best meals I had in Hawaii! They have an extensive beer and wine list and very reasonable prices when compared to others in the area.
3) Purchase the refillable mugs: The refillable mugs are available for purchase at Ulu Café and Lava Shack and cost $19 each. The main benefit of buying one of these mugs is that you get unlimited refills of fountain beverages and iced tea for the entire length of your stay. When you factor in drinks when purchased separately are $3-5 each, you’ll save money. You also get to keep them as a souvenir to take home. We refilled our mugs at Ulu Café and Lava Shack while we were there – both locations were convenient to our room (pool-side room) and pool/beach areas.
4) Register your kids for Aunty’s Beach House activities in advance: While I did attempt to register my kids (age 11 & 7) in advance, it was not advanced enough. All available spots were taken for the free activities hosted by Aunty’s Beach House. My recommendation is to register 180 days in advance to ensure a spot for Stitch’s Space Goo, Aunty’s Aloha Party, and Coconut King and Queens of Comedy activities. Although my kids wanted to make Stitch’s Space Goo, they were perfectly fine not leaving the pools! Plus – if you don’t register in advance for general drop-off (outside of the activities), there is a hour-plus line to stand in every morning!
5) Visit the Island Market ABC store on your first day: Located in the little shopping village across the street, the Island Market ABC store is a great location to stock up on bottled water, breakfast and lunch items, snacks, and alcohol. Your resort room will have a fridge, so you will save money buying these things to keep in your room.
6) Reserve your pool or beach chairs between 7 am and 8 am: Beach and pool chairs get spoken for early in the day. If you’d like to reserve one in a certain place, (ideally centrally located under an umbrella!) you’ll need to be ready to do so before 8 am. We would eat breakfast at Ulu Cafe at 7 am and then take our food to our preferred pool chairs to eat. When the pools opened at 8 am we were ready to go!
Disney cast members do keep track if a chair hasn’t had activity for an hour . They’ll fold a towel over the back of the chair to mark it (timer starts), so be sure that someone in your group checks in with the chairs every hour to remove these towel markers.
7) Ask for a Dole Whip at Ulu Cafe: While not on the menu, the Ulu Café has secret dole whips! Just ask a cast member at the door directly to the left of the self-serve bakery cases.
8) Purchase a waterproof phone pouch ahead of time: For the first day all of my photos were from dry areas, keeping my phone safe from the water. I saw lots of people with these phone pouches, but didn’t fully understand how handy they were. We needed to go to Target on the second day and I happened to see one of these so I bought it. I loved being able to get photos while in the water. My phone stayed dry the entire time. I regretted not ordering one ahead of time on Amazon to have from the beginning.