I’ve stayed at Aulani 6 times since it opened and it holds a very special place in my heart. The first remote broadcast of our show (The DIS Unplugged) happened there in 2013 (yes, I’ve lost a few pounds since then).
I got to bring my Mom there and fulfill one of her bucket list dreams to visit Hawaii. The memories I’ve made at Aulani make it a place that is very special to me. Now, as a DVC member, I’m looking at it in a whole different way.
On my last visit in November 2017, I stayed in a one-bedroom villa on the DVC side (paying cash). The rate was a steep $750 per night. While I love the hotel rooms at Aulani, this villa was amazing. All the amenities you want from a DVC resort, and all that space makes a huge difference. But that’s not the main reason I want to go back to Aulani.
Aulani is not like any other resort I’ve ever experienced. – I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels. Aulani is different. Aulani isn’t a cheap caricature of Hawaii. The research, effort, and respect that went into building this resort is evident everywhere you turn. The pool is without a doubt the best of any Disney resort. The rooms are spacious, well-appointed and comfortable. The service is in line with Disney Cruise Line, which brings me to my second point
DCL on land – If you love Disney Cruise Line, then you’ll love Aulani. First, I’ll mention that Disney Vacation Club, Aulani and Disney Cruise Line all fall under the same management umbrella, and there is a sense of consistency between the products. I’ve often said that Aulani is like DCL just on land. There’s an excursions desk in the lobby that can help you book experiences all around the island (or even day trips to other islands). Oh, let’s not forget the spa. UN-BE-LIEV-A-BLE. Expensive, but amazing.
The cultural immersion – Imagineer Joe Rohde (the man responsible for Animal Kingdom, among other projects) was the lead Imagineer on Aulani, and it shows. Disney wanted to be sensitive to the Hawaiian culture as locals were nervous that Disney would come in an create some Disney-fied bastardization of their culture. Joe Rohde was determined NOT to do that. He met with local leaders, did the research necessary and made sure that authentic Hawaiian culture was woven into the fabric of the resort, not just merely slapped on to placate the locals. The result is the most authentic Hawaiian resort you’ll find anywhere. That’s not me saying that that’s the locals who say that. They tend to see Aulani as a celebration of their culture. I think that speaks VOLUMES about this place and the incredible lengths that Disney went to in order to make this special. A great example of that is the Olelo Room – the lounge located in the main building. All of the cast members working there speak the native Hawaiian language – something you don’t find in many places on the Hawaiian islands.
Location – The island of Oahu is home to some of the most famous places in Hawaii – Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach, the North Shore. Personally, Oahu is my favorite of the Hawaiian islands that I’ve visited. It has everything – if you want shopping and dining, Honolulu is the place. You want natural, authentic Hawaiian beauty – head up to the North Shore. There is so much to see and do on Oahu that you could easily spend a week or more exploring and never run out of things to see. A ‘must do’ for me on every visit to Aulani is to rent a car for the day (convertible of course) – and drive up to the North Shore for some lunch and shopping, stopping at some beaches along the way, as well as some great spots to take photos. A visit to the Dole plantation (cheesy, but fun) – then head back to the North Shore to hang out at the Turtle Bay resort (of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall fame) to watch the sunset. I’ve done that pretty much every trip.
NOT getting a hotel bill. As I mentioned, I’ve been to Aulani multiple times, and while I love it – I die a little inside every time I get the bill. Hawaii isn’t cheap. Disney isn’t cheap. Combine these two and well, you get the idea. One of the best parts about DVC is that I don’t get ‘the bill’ when I check out (except for things I charged back to the room).
As you can tell, I’m a HUGE fan of Aulani. I know it’s a long flight (and the flights can be expensive), but if you want to do something REALLY special with your DVC points, this is the place to visit.