We’re just back from the grand opening celebrations at Disney’s newest—and perhaps most surprising—resort. Why surprising? Rather than create a Disney resort that just happens to be in Hawaii, Aulani (http://resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort) is an authentic luxury Hawaiian retreat...with a few notable Disney touches.
No “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Space Mountain” here—in fact, the resort is not a theme park at all, and the water park in between the two towers is on the intimate side. (One could go through just about everything in an hour, tops.) No, this resort is much more laid-back, upscale and (dare we say it?) grown-up, geared for everyone in the family.
|Suites may come with a small kitchenette setup.|
Mom and dad and even the grandparents will find plenty to keep themselves entertained at Aulani. There’s the beach, of course, which is blocked off by an artificial reef that keeps the waves gentle and the water fairly shallow. A quiet pool tucked away in a corner of the resort is for more sedate swimming, along with plenty of lounge chairs for sunbathing and even cabanas for spending all day by the water. And when the family wants to take in some local sights, there are dozens of excursions available around Oahu...and even over to the other islands.
Of course, there is plenty for the younger set, and the balance between child’s play and adult relaxation is what makes Aulani shine. One pool is especially shallow for very small children, and has an elaborate jungle gym (called the “Menehune Bridge”) for climbing and playing. Two new characters have been created for the resort: Aunty and Uncle— terms of endearment used not just for ohana (family), but for friends in Hawaiian culture. Both can be spotted throughout Aulani, and will lead impromptu parades or sing-alongs. Just off the pools of Waikolohe Valley (the park’s official name) is Aunty’s Beach House, where kids can spend an hour or all day playing with a wide range of toys, building arts and crafts (the beach house features a fully stocked tool shed) or listening to stories from Aunty.
|Waikolohe Valley, is the water park between the hotel’s two towers.|
Aulani has several room types available, from simple studio rooms with two queen beds to spacious interconnecting suites for large families. We stayed on the 14th floor (great views!) in a one-bedroom suite that had a massive king-sized bed (elevated for storing luggage underneath), a nice living room with a small kitchenette setup (a small sink, refrigerator and countertop that would make cereal breakfasts and quick sandwich lunches a snap), and both a small guest bathroom and a huge master bath. The master bathroom came complete with soaking Jacuzzi, a shower with a rain head and spa bench, and an electrically heated toilet with built-in bidet.
The Parlor Suite is best for families, and can sleep up to five guests comfortably on a king-sized bed in the master bedroom, a queen-sized sleeper sofa and a bunk-sized pull-down bed. (It also has one full bathroom and a half-bath off the parlor.) The Lei Hulu and ‘Ahu ‘Ula suites can sleep up to five and six, respectively—the latter has a second bedroom with a queen-sized bed and a large sleeper sofa as well as three full bathrooms. (Book these for your top clients.)
The spa, Laniwai (meaning “freshwater heaven”—water is a dominant theme), has 15 treatment rooms, including a couple’s room and a flex-room (for treatments for more than two people).
Upon check-in, guests get a small stone with a word carved into it (“Balance,” for example), and they are asked to meditate on that word during their stay. In the middle of the spa is a small pool where guests can put their stones before heading off for their therapies. The real novelty at Laniwai is Kula Wai, the co-ed outdoor hydrotherapy garden, which is included in all treatments but can be booked independently. The garden has six distinct motion-activated showers guests can wander through before jumping into either a warm Jacuzzi or a cold-water plunge pool (depending on preference), and several herbal soaking tubs. It’s a really lovely way to spend an hour or so before or after spa treatments, and guests should budget extra time to unwind outside. (Nice Touch: Guests also get a custom-made scrub when they check in. The maile sugar scrub smells a little sweet but is far from cloying.)
|An Elevated king-sized bed in some suites provides for luggage space underneath.|
Inside, the sauna and steam room areas have little refrigerators filled with damp towels, which help make the heat much more bearable. And the main lounge has a full range of lotions and hairsprays and whatnot, so guests don’t have to leave the spa looking like they’ve just…well, left a spa.
It’s too early to tell yet what the most popular treatments are (though we hear all of the signature treatments are earning good reviews), but we can recommend the hot-stone massage.
Teenagers have their own dedicated spa at Laniwai. Painted Sky has special treatments just for younger guests, and kids can try their hand at making their own perfumes. (Be afraid. Be very afraid.)
The spa director is Lucia Rodriguez. Call 714-520-7001 to reserve your clients’ spa treatment directly.
Luxury travel advisors should visit www.disneytravelagents.com for booking anything at Aulani.