I bought into DVC at Aulani last year with my first trip planned for my 32nd birthday; I just got back from 5-nights in a One-bedroom Villa Island Garden View that overlooked Laniwai Spa’s Hydrotherapy Garden. And, yeah 5-nights were not enough; the whole trip I kept thinking about how to add on more points. I’ve never been one to really celebrate my birthday, but 2020 made me realize I need to celebrate more things in life and enjoy myself. So, I asked my two gay best friends Wesley and Danny if they’d like to join me; they had never been to Hawaii while I had been once before with my family when I was in high school. I am the Disney fanboy while they are more meh about Disney. So, we probably aren’t the typical group enjoying Aulani, but it was amazing for all three of us.
First, check-in was a bit clunky due to COVID—the masks and face shields make it hard to communicate. And, even with online check-in, you still need to check-in at the front desk to get keys and be COVID quarantine cleared—maybe they will add key functionality to the Aulani app? We got to Aulani at about 2:30 pm, and as expected the room wasn’t ready yet. After a 6-hour flight from California, we were pretty hungry, so we went to Off The Hook and got the club sandwich, which was at least two meals in one. We sat for a bit to relax and digest, and then once we got the motivation to get up to explore Aulani, we got the text that our room was ready.
That one-bedroom was amazing! We walked in with the birds chirping on the tv; we seriously thought we had birds on our balcony. The room had some minor normal wear and tear issues like scuffs and scratches on the dining table and some seat cushions had lost their firmness. So, a soft goods refresh might be in order in the near future. If they replace the pullout couch with a murphy bed, they will have to move that ceiling fan over a bit. Our chief complaints about the room were the coffee cups and bowls in the kitchen were rather small—I needed 5 Malibu Barbie cups to equal my normal coffee cup. Also, the supplied coffee was better than nothing; we used 4 packages and it still was pretty water forward, but again this is free hotel coffee anyway. Also, no pizza cutter—what’s up with that?
Our first full day was my birthday! I wore that birthday button almost all week—having cast members say “Happy Birthday” never got old. I had a spa appointment for my Birthday especially given all the rave reviews I heard. Laniwai lives up to all the hype and then some. This was my first massage, and it was great; I had the Signature LomiLomi. Laniwai’s major amenity is the hydrotherapy garden, and I’d pay just for that but I see why they don’t do that because it would take away from the rest of the experience and how they manage the flow of people. Laniwai’s story really shows the thought and intent behind everything at Aulani, and just for that reason, you should have a Spa appointment to fully immerse yourself into Aulani.
We did a little exploring around Ko Olina. We walked down the way and saw the critically endangered monk seals. We took their lead and lounged around. We spent a good amount of time by the pools, hot tubs, and the ocean. Now, the real reason everyone has the wristbands on for each day they are at Aulani is because they are impossible to get off and there are no scissors in the kitchen. Granted due to COVID and Aunty’s Beach House being closed, the adult-only spaces were opened to all ages. However, the double hot tub overlooking the beach was so nice, especially at sunset. A seaming lesser-known adult-only space was the beach at night after the pools had closed; several nights, we’d grab a beverage and lay on the beach and star gaze—so many shooting stars!
We did a Waikiki gay nightlife excursion. Getting around Oahu is expensive. We took a Lyft to the Kapolei Transit Center and took a bus into Waikiki—$17 Lyft (2 miles) plus bus fare for 3 equaled about $25 versus the amusingly $69 Lyft ride back to Aulani at the end of the night. We started by walking down the beach at sunset, and Waikiki you can rain on me. Then, we hopped over to Hula’s where the food was good and the drinks were strong. We got the Five-Spice Duck Quesadilla, Kalua Pork Quesadilla, and Burger Sliders with Mojitos, which came to $25 each. In my opinion, the Duck Quesadilla was the better of the two. We then, topped off the night at Bacchus, which is small and cute with cheap strong drinks—$4. All in all, the Waikiki gay nightlife was fantastic.
On our last night at Aulani, we took a Sunset Sail by Ko Olina Ocean Adventures. The Ko Olina Marina is a nice walk down the beach past the other lagoons. The 18+ Sailings include drinks; the boat’s signature drink, the Naked Pirate is quite tasty. They provide some light snacks as well. The captain maneuvers the boat so that no matter where you stand you will get a great view of both the island and the prolific sunset. Also, some dolphins decided to join us for a while on our cruise. This is the best way to end your Aulani vacation!
From the moment I stepped off the airport shuttled I felt vindicated in my Aulani contract purchase. For sure Aulani is more family-centric, but if three childless millennial single gay guys can enjoy it and have an amazing time then there really is something for everyone at Aulani.