New Experiences and Familiar Magic: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Awarded Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award 2014 in the category of Top Family Hotel: USA, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, celebrates Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions while providing the world-renown Disney service and experiences. On the Go talked recently with Elliot Mills, managing director of Aulani, about the resort’s unique features but Disney touches.

Lobby Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa


Q: How is Aulani different from other Hawaiian hotels?

Elliot 01A: This resort is unique and exciting, and it combines the magic and storytelling of Disney with the rich culture and beautiful scenery of Hawaii.  It is the ultimate family paradise with a touch of Disney magic.

There are three key factors when comparing Aulani with other Hawaii resort properties: One, we were purpose-built for family vacation travel. Every detail of our resort was designed to accommodate families. Two, we provide a great deal of inclusive activities and recreation. Our entertainment, our extensive pools and water slides and themed whirlpools and grottos, and of course our very popular Aunty’s Beach House children’s play center, are all included in the price of the room. Three, we celebrate the true Hawaiian culture.  It’s not just a saying for us – we are obsessed with delivering a resort experience which celebrates and embraces the true stories of Hawaii.  Our resort is filled with details to explore which all help us to tell the story of Hawaii.


Q: How does Disney emphasize the Hawaiian culture at the resort?

A: Aulani celebrates the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands with a design that seamlessly melds the traditional with the contemporary. It also showcases one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the islands. The goal was to create a project that honors and respects Hawaiian culture and inspires guests to see the rest of the islands.

The culture is a living culture. With Aulani, we are telling you the story of Hawaii – from the mountains to the ocean – weaving together culture, art, legends, stories and places with a basis in history, but with current interpretations and an eye to the future.

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Q: Does your resort cater to families only? Does it have programs or activities for couples and families with teens as well?


A: Aulani beckons guests of every age to find the Hawaiian vacation of their dreams. Our resort has been designed to embrace Hawaiian traditions, inviting dreamers from everywhere to savor their time together.

Each day of their stay, Aulani Guests can customize their experiences to fit their particular needs, with or without families.  For example, there’s relaxing on the beach or in the Laniwai Spa, splashing through the pools and water play areas of the Waikolohe Valley, or discovering the island on specially planned excursions.

Among the unique experiences at Aulani are the Fireside Mo‘olelo for storytelling—mo‘olelo is the Hawaiian word for story—and spotting statues of Menehune—the legendary island little people known to accomplish marvelous feats of construction—hidden throughout the resort.

There really is something to do for everyone.


Q: What Disney experiences does Aulani offer?

0617BZ_1313DZA: Aulani guests are entertained throughout the day with games, music, parties and a full menu of activities that celebrate the traditional and contemporary culture of Hawaii. We carefully infuse a few traditional Disney elements into the experiences as well. For example, guests to Aulani won’t be vacationing alone – our Disney characters can be found vacationing there, too. In fact, they help Aunty lead the breakfast celebration each day at the Makahiki buffet.

Much of Aulani’s entertainment and activities are also included in price of the resort’s accommodations, so our guests experience the best of Disney-quality entertainment without added charges during their vacation.

Related Story: Hawaii: Six Islands, Six Escapes


Q: How does the Aulani Disney resort experience differ from other resorts’ that are attached to theme parks?

A: Aulani opened in August 2011 and sits on 21 acres of beautiful oceanfront in Ko Olina, adjacent to a nine-acre, crystal-blue lagoon and white-sand beach. Ko Olina is 17 miles from Honolulu International Airport and approximately 30 minutes from Waikiki.

Aulani is uniquely designed for families and inspired by the wonders and traditions of Hawaii – it’s a family paradise with a touch of magic. We feature rooms and spacious villas, a perfect location on a beautiful beachfront lagoon, and renowned Disney service and entertainment.

While we do not have a Disney theme park attached to us, we are surrounded by the spectacular beauty and excitement of Hawaii, and we are proud to help tell the stories of this special destination.


Q: Heading out to Hawaii, families are going to want space to stretch out. What accommodations are offered at Aulani?

A: An exciting part of staying at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, is the wide variety of spacious accommodations to choose from. Each type of room or villa is specially designed for families and provides a welcoming décor that blends Hawaiian tradition and Disney whimsy.

Aulani a Disney Resort & Spa -guest room13

Families can stretch out in deluxe studio, one- or two-bedroom villas which feature deep soaking or whirlpool tubs, stacked washer-dryers and fully equipped kitchens. In the larger villas, a dining table provides the perfect opportunity for families to connect over a home-made meal prepared in the villa’s full kitchen. Guests may also enjoy the villa’s private balcony. The villas can accommodate from four to 12 guests, and there’s even 3-Bedroom Grand Villas which can serve as an ideal retreat, with a private balcony and elegant furnishings inspired by the Islands.

The one-, two- and three-bedroom villas feature separate bedroom and living room space, flatpanel televisions, DVD players, a private porch or balcony, and well-equipped kitchens with modern appliances including full-size refrigerators, stoves, microwave ovens, dishwashers and complete sets of cookware and tableware.


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