Aulani - A Place For Kids To Play And Adults To Get Away
by, 10-22-2011 at 08:06 PM
E komo mai (welcome) back to another edition in our continuing series on Disney’s newest hotel in Hawaii, Aulani.
- Aloha Aulani - Grand Opening Celebration
- Rooms in Paradise
- Water Water Everywhere - The Pools and Activities at Aulani
- Dining at Aulani
This week is all about the different activities at the resort and how parents can get away from the kids and enjoy a little Aulani luxury.
Aunty's Beach House
Traveling with keiki (kids in Hawaiian) can be fun, but that often means no alone time for the adults, unless you are able to find a sitter or day program of some sort. Disney has created a very special kids club at Aulani which addresses this problem.
Aunty's Beach House (next to 'Ama 'Ama restaurant) is a secure club house just for kids aged 3 to 10 years old (they are tagged with a GPS "Mickey bracelet” so they can be tracked at all times). Once checked in, the kids can't get out again without you showing up to get them (no one gets in or out with out being buzzed through a secure area), so they are perfectly safe and in good hands with Disney's activities counselors and teachers. And believe us when we say that once they check in, your kids aren't going to want to leave.
Before you can enter Aunty's, you have to wash your hands.
Aunty's Beach House is open 7 days a week, all year long. While hours change daily, the house is usually open by 7:30am and doesn’t close until at least 9pm (until 11pm on certain nights)!
The Beach House is designed with many different rooms, each focused on different types of activities. Half of the house is referred to as Aunty's side and the other half is called Uncle's. And all of it has been heavily Imagineered with windows which storm, a magic ceiling, enchanted fireplace, giant touch screen tables (for art and play), and a healthy dose of theme and backstory. Those with a watchful eye will even find some props from Pleasure Island's long lamented Adventurer's Club.
Auntee's Main Room
Drop your kids off at Aunty's for an hour or all day. Snacks are served every couple of hours (at no additional charge) in Aunty's kitchen but meals can also be provided for a fee. That means you've got real time to have a romantic dinner, go to the spa, and enjoy the resort . . . your kids will be perfectly happy to be rid of you too. This place is a child's absolute dream. Your kids will probably end up learning more about Hawaiian culture than you will ever know. While they navigate the house and its many rooms, they'll be able to sit in Aunty's living room for story time (usually tales from the islands), learn how to hula or make real Hawaiian leis, they can find out how a volcano erupts (and then make a play volcano blow its top), and make their own play slime (which Disney is calling Stitch's Space Goo). The staff employ many neat tricks to keep the kids entertained. Our favorite . . . how do you get kids to settle down for a movie in the middle of the day? Why, make it rain of course. The windows in Uncle's TV room are a bit like the Enchanted Tiki Room, they storm to set the mood for snuggling in for a long movie. . . brilliant!
Uncler's T.V. Room
There are lots of interactive elements in the house. Uncle's den has tables with interactive touch surfaces where kids can play games such as memory (turn over the shells to see what is underneath and attempt to match two like items to remove them from the table).
Uncle's garage is a craft laboratory where young artists will want to spend a lot of time. The back yard has a play house and room for athletic kids to run around until they are ready to collapse. And when they are ready to crash, nap mats are available for the young ones to sleep and recharge their batteries.
The only problem with Aunty's Beach House is that you can only visit if you are a kid and your kids aren't going to want to leave. We imagine that many many tears will be shed every day by kids how just don't want to go home. For curious adults, ask the front desk about tours, which may be available from time to time.
The back yard
Disney hasn't forgotten teens either. Painted Sky is their lounge, which includes video games, a yogurt bar, salon, perfume mixology lab, teen-only events and evening programs. Best of all, there's even a teen-only spa.
They can buy their own accessories.
Mix their own facials
Get a make over.
Get manicures and pedicures
Surf the net.
Painted Sky is designed for guests aged 13 to 17
The tweeners (aged 11 and 12) don’t really have their own place. If they are younger at heart, they are welcome at Auntie Beach House and those who hang with an older crowd can enjoy Painted Sky. There are some activity programs targeted to tweens as well, including stargazing, pool parties, hula lessons and such.
Pau Hana Community Hall
Several events and activities are based out of this room on the 1st floor. Video games and movies are available as well as a few Imagineered quests. Take a nature walk, learn about Aulani’s conservation programs and even find out more about the mythical menehune (keep reading).
The Community Hall.
Each day, a newsletter will be left in your room. It contains a listing of events and activities at the resort, including shows, family activities, movies and tours. Take the time to read it and if you aren’t sure which activities are just right for you and your family, ask one of the cast members in the Pau Hana Room as they are very well informed on daily events.
Menehune Adventure Game
Cast member, Eldon, in Aulani’s main store suggested we carve out some time to explore the Menehune trail and experience a different side of Aulani. So, we stopped by the Pau Hana Room to inquire and were given an iPod Touch loaded with an interactive application. The iPod app sets up the story of the trek you are about to take and explains Hawaii’s mischievous little people, called Menehune. You then set out to find the Menehune and solve some local riddles in the process.
Aunty fills you in on what you have to do.
Set off a variety of interactive elements.
There’s a story which goes along with the adventure and they need you to help find clues to make certain things happen. Some of the effects are pretty cool with some unexpected animation of props in places you wouldn’t have expected (islands appearing in ponds, a secret cave, moving rocks, volcanic steam vents, squirting flowers, etc)
This rock has hidden talents you must unlock
Imagineers have hidden Menehune statues all over the resort for you to find, but for the purposes of this adventure, you’ll just be outdoors around the pool area for your quest. At various points, you’ll be asked if you want to continue or stop. We played along for what turned out to be well over an hour, before finally opting to stop, so a substantial time commitment is required to finish the game. This is a creative family activity and a great way to explore the resort and uncover the magic of the Menehune. We are so glad we took the time to interact with the cast members about the resort and found out about this wonderful little game.
Among the fun surprises is a rock formation that sinks into the water to form the islands of Hawaii.
Spas are all the rage these days, and Aulani’s is deserving of notice. From the moment you enter, you will feel a sense of peace and tranquil relaxation. As you walk from the reception area, deeper into the Spa, the sounds of rain will increase and the light levels begin to dim. You’ll eventually reach a circular chamber which contains a shallow pool with a singular crystal raindrop suspended from the ceiling - from which droplets of water fall to the pool below, creating rhythmic ripples.
A full salon
There are dozens of treatments available at Laniwai, from standard Swedish and Tai massage to Aulani’s signature Lomilomi (traditional Hawaiian) and rainwater massage. Many of the treatments are conducted in a beautiful outdoor hydrotherapy garden called Kula Wai, which contains mineral baths rain showers, whirlpools and “vitality” pools.
Leave the stress of the mainland behind you and start your Aulani vacation at the Laniwai Spa. There is simply no better way to get into a Hawaiian state of mind than starting your trip off with a relaxing spa service. Then do your best to stick to no schedules, don’t let stress creep back in, and don’t think about work again until you board the plane back home. And if your little monsters have other ideas in mind for you, keep them fully occupied at Aunty’s Beach House while you attempt to maintain your new found peace of mind. It’s all too easy to skip Laniwai . . . don’t!
Our final tip in today’s column is a simple thing which helped make our last day on Oahu stress free and allowed us to squeeze a bit more Aulani into the day without having to worry about luggage or where to store things before heading out to the airport. Every good hotel will store your bags for you after check out until you are ready to depart for the airport. Aulani takes things a step further. They have a large lounge which contains free lockers, showers, couches, TVs and even computers (with printers so you can print out your boarding passes). The lounge is just steps away from the pool area, so it is completely possible to take a final dip in the ocean or pools, lay out by the beach or slide down a fake volcano before your trip home.
Lounge and watch T.V., nap, or use the free wi-fi
Our flight home was scheduled after 8pm. That left us with nearly a full day at Aulani that we were able to fully enjoy because of the lounge. We were able to visit the beach, the pool areas and slides, have an early dinner. Then we returned to the lounge to clean up for the flight home, check the computer to make sure our flight wasn’t delayed, and retrieve our laptops, cell phone and cameras from the free lockers. This was such a simple addition to the resort which made our vacation a bit easier and enabled us to really enjoy that last day.
And with that, we were on our way back to the mainland. We always leave Hawaii reluctantly, but never more so than saying goodbye to Aulani. We also know that we’ll be returning soon, this coming June in fact, as MiceChat will be offering a heavily discounted trip to Disney’s new island paradise (more information below).
We’ll be back next week with one final look at Aulani which includes some information on how to make Aulani affordable and some ideas and activities outside of the resort. If you are seriously considering visiting Oahu, be sure to check back next week.
Don't miss the rest of our Aulani series (including our honest opinions about the resort and suggestions for making an Aulani trip more affordable). You won't find a better guide anywhere else:
- Part 1: Aloha, Welcome To Aulani
- Part 2: Rooms in Paradise - Staying at Aulani
- Part 3: Water Water Everywhere - The Pools, Spas and Beaches of Aulani
- Part 4: Dining at Aulani - Tables in Wonderland
- Part 5: Activities and Child Care at Aulani
- Part 6: Making Aulani Affordable-ish
See Aulani for yourself - contact MiceChat's approved travel partner, Fairy Godmother Travel.
Fishbulb is a Disney reporter and photographer who edits MiceChat's weekly In The Parks column and takes many of the photos you see on this site. He has recently joined Fairy Godmother Travel as a Travel Adviser for Disneyland and Hawaii vacations. If you have questions about Aulani or Disneyland or would like assistance planning a magical vacation, please contact Fairy Godmother Travel.
Disclosure: Portions of travel to Aulani were subsidized by the Walt Disney Company, though MiceChat incurred significant expense to bring you this coverage.