Why visit mickey in Hawaii?

If you’re wanting a relaxing beach vacation with enough fun to occupy the kids, then this is the place to visit.  It’s a return-trip destination.  Mostly because Mickey is there, but the rest because it is a picturesque home-away-from-home imaginable!

We have enjoyed two trips to Aulani.  Our first was in 2012 and then we returned in 2016.  Our first trip we went on one excursion a day.  The second time we went, we did only one excursion spending the majority of time at the resort. 

Here are some of our highlights from those trips.


Ask for Info

The Daily ‘Iwa is an in-room, or online, newsletter with the activities at the resort, information on character meet-and-greets, weather, sunrise and sunset times, tide information and shuttles.


Plan to Meet the Characters


For character experiences, call the ToonFinder from your in-room phone anytime between 8am to 8pm at extension 2447 or 2427.  It will list which characters are available for greetings with details on when and where to find them.


For Little Ones and Not-So Little Ones

Aunty's Beach House

Aunty’s Beach House is the blessing of blessings for parents of younger children.  We go on family vacations to be with the family of course.  But for the parents of small children, this typically means no one-on-one time. It’s those mamas and daddies who had to be in mind when Disney decided they needed an activity center offering childcare every kid wouldn’t want to leave.  And that place is Aunty’s.  What’s better is Aunty is a real person! You’ll see her at the character breakfast. Our kids were a little old for Aunty’s by our ’16 trip, but in 2012, they all four were signed up for an evening at Aunty’s to make wooden surf boards with Chip and Dale’s Surfs Up.  They were given a drawstring bag as an additional keepsake to carry their keepsake, which still hangs on their walls. Beyond craft making, they played games, sang songs and had story time.  Brandon and I hit the spa during their fun time at Aunty’s.  If that sounds appealing to you, read on down below.

The Storyteller

There is a grand storyteller at Aulani and since you can find Aunty in her beach house, of course you’d expect to find Uncle around the fire pit.  I hear now that Moana joins this fun evening encounter.

Menehune Adventure Trail

Ask a cast member about getting hooked up for this activity.  You’ll get a device to find the Menehune characters throughout the Aulani resort on a fun interactive experience for kids.  But be prepared; adults find it to be pretty fun as well.


Laniwai Disney Spa

Oh my goodness.  Do I need to say any more than that one word alone?  Spa!  

I love massages.  I mean really.  But of course, this spa is even more!  Brandon and I did a couple’s massage and it was glorious.  So relaxing. The only thing more would’ve been to carry us to bed and tuck us in.  Apart from that over-the-top vision, Laniwai Spa is an experience worth budgeting.  And allow time before your reservation to take advantage of all the different pools and showers available.  Again, I don’t want to give too much away but let me tell you, it’s great!  And reflective.  You’ll experience elements of personal reflection from the moment you check in.  And maybe a robe.  Those are super incredible too and available for purchase.  It’s a plush Hawaiian souvenir the man in our home enjoys during Oklahoma’s winter months.


Fitness & Yoga

Personally, I don’t believe in exercise on vacation.  I exercise because I need to, kind of like making dinner and paying the bills.  So for me, vacation means escaping all the responsible things I need to tend to in life.  For many though, exercise is a relaxing part of vacation.  If this is you, then you’ll want to check out their fitness center.  (So a friend told me.)

If you just read that bit about the fitness center you won’t be surprised that I do not have personal experience with the yoga classes.  Unless personal observation counts.  Those fit people are out there while I walk the beach and enjoy my coffee with my hubby.  Options include Sunrise Yoga or for the even more balanced of souls, you can opt for Paddle Board Yoga.


Snorkel Gear and Boogie Boards

This is one of our Meadows Magical Moments with Mickey.  Every single day we hit Makiki Joe's Beach Rentals to grab either snorkeling gear and/or boogie boards.  Brandon and I pull our beach seats up to the water and watch our kids boogie to their hearts content.  And snorkeling.  It’s an activity for nearly all ages.  In fact, on our 2012 trip, Brandon and I were snorkeling with all four of the kids.  It may not seem like a big moment, but the year earlier we had made the decision and commitment to close the bearing babies chapter for our family.  It was what we knew was right for us, but still hard to be officially done.  Our youngest, Gavin, was three years-old when we visited Aulani the first time.  And our snorkeling adventure, even though his was more like a floating adventure, was the first time ever that we, on a family vacation, were all doing the same thing as a family.  All the years before, one of us sat back with the baby, whichever one was a baby at the time.  Our Aulani Snorkeling moment was sweet confirmation that we were right where we were supposed to be in our family.  So go check it out; but be prepared for the most unexpected epiphanies to hit you! Boogie boards, life jackets and even sand toys are complimentary.  Snorkel Sets and paddle boards are rented on a per day fee, with the option to pay for your entire trip at a discounted rate.


Rainbow Reef

I cannot even think about the Rainbow Reef without laughing.  Out loud. 

So this is an aquarium you can actually snorkel in.  It’s pretty neat. In addition to swimming with the most brilliant colored fish, you can search for Menuhune and a hidden Mickey.  That is always so fun. So yes, pretty neat. And pretty cold. Like take-your-breath-away kind of cold. I was practically doing Lamaze through my mouth piece.  I don’t recall this being mentioned the first, and only time I have snorkeled the Rainbow Reef.  However, the 77 degrees is indicated on the website and probably posted somewhere, but with smaller children at the time, these activities are almost like herding cats.  Cats.  In water.  That’s about as natural as it felt to me snorkeling in this gorgeous creation.  I knew there was no way on earth my mom would participate in this frigid activity, and Brandon had already paid.  Instead of going to the trouble cancelling her experience and refunding the fee, I figured we strong-willed women are made of tough stuff and could withstand the temperature.  So I told Mom she had to snorkel the lagoon before she could snorkel out in the ocean.  She was appalled.  I encouraged her that we could do it and she did.  It wasn’t until turning in the snorkeling gear that she found me out.  Her clueless statement to the cast member crushed the entire charade.  She said, “That was incredible.  I just loved it.  It would’ve been even better if you all didn’t require guests to snorkel in the aquarium first.  That is just so cold.”  I tried my best to distract from his opportunity to set her straight, but he succeeded nevertheless.  I still laugh about it.  But if 77 degrees isn’t too cold for your liking, you go for it.  I was frozen to the core.  Obviously.  Only a frozen heart could deceive their mother so easily.  But the story and the experience were totally worth it.  Another option is to just watch.  There is a massive viewing window for those who rather keep warm.  Which is what I did on my second trip to Aulani.  It was still beautiful. 


Water Slides, Pools and a Lazy River

There’s no better kind of river to have right outside your room than a lazy one!  Although I’m not quite sure the kids pick up on that “lazy” clue.  It’s apparent parents and children have different ideas on how to enjoy the river.  But whether it’s floating or a friendly race, the river and resort pools are a focal point of the Aulani vacation.  And moms and dads can check out the adult only pools.  Those are the pinnacle of relaxation.  And views!  That infinity pool is serene!

Now let me share a bit about the slides.  There are two.  One slide is open and for single and double rider rafts.  Our first trip, three year-old Gavin didn’t meet the height requirement.  So the cast member offered the body slide as an alternative.  Gavin and I got up to the slide, while the Dad went with the other kids on the rafts.  I told the Life Guard that I would go first to be there to catch Gavin when he came out.  I communicated should Gavin decide he didn’t want to go down then to phone down to the pool Life Guard and I would come back up and get him.  It was a plan.  So I proceeded on my journey down the Volcanic slide.  Yes.  Volcanic.  Meaning totally enclosed.  Meaning completely dark.  Like, can’t-even-see-in-front-of-your-face dark.  The adventure seemed to take for…ev…er!  I was trying to get the Life Guards attention upon my exit, “Call up there and tell them not to send my little boy.”  I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth fast enough.  Or enough times.  Despite her attempt at calling, it was too late.  And here came Gavin.  His eyes as wide as could be.  His face stoic to say the least.  I hooped and hollered and cheered my mama-heart out for how “fun” it was.  He didn’t have any response.  None.  He was completely emotionless.  When I asked, “do you want to do it again,” with much composure he simply shook his head no.  Oh my word.  What an experience.  Four years later he was running with his siblings while mom and dad chilled at Off the Hook and not one memory seemed to have had an ill effect on his water experience.  Whew.  If you’re traveling with little ones they are sure to love the splash zone. My kids were quite bummed when they realized they outgrew the area by the time we returned for another trip.


Kayaking and Catamaran

The Meadows have never participated in these activities but we’ve observed them with a book in hand from our beloved beach seats. 


Dining & Live Music


The resort’s character dining is available for breakfast and dinner at Makahiki.  On property we enjoy Ama’Ama for a nice sit-down dining experience.  It’s a perfect view at sunset.  For quick service and a nice drink, Brandon and I found ourselves well acquainted with the Off the Hook cast members. Mama’s Snack Stop is a counter service right there by the pool.  There are more options, but our lazy beach bum selves visited the ones convenient to our path from room to pool and beach.  Check out the website for a list of all they offer.  Oh, and not of caution: pace yourself for the buffet at Makahiki.  So much food.  So good!

Off property here are a few we have visited.

Ola Restaurant on the North Shore 808-293-080, according to the hyperlink, Ola was forced out in 2015 because the lease was not renewed.  The food was excellent and the views were beautiful.  If you’d like to visit the new restaurant at the location it is Ke Nui Kitchen.  We haven’t been back since the change but may have to check it out on a future trip.

Shorebird Restaurant at The Outrigger in Waikiki—we’ve eaten here twice now.  If you go for lunch you get great food, but…if you wait and are there for dinner you get the full experience- grilling your food.  Okay.  So it may not sound fun to have to cook your own dinner that you’re paying for, at least that’s what some said before we went the first time, but it really was a lot of fun.  It’s a different experience and one everyone enjoyed and remembered.  The restaurant is open to the beautiful beach and a nice view of Diamond Head.

Roy’s this is a fine dining experience which was really funny to us, because where we are from we have a fried chicken place of the same name.  However, it is some fried chicken that helped put the town on the map.  But this Roy’s was a treat to our Hawaiian vacation. We went to the “original Roy’s” in Ko Olina, just down the street from Aulani.  Within walking distance.  One we will keep on the list to return to.

Monkey Pod is another with a few locations.  Again, we took a nice walk and popped right across the street for this dining experience.  We all enjoyed our meal.  There was one in our group who didn’t heed the description of spicy and found it to be more than what was anticipated, but still good.  A neat fact is the restaurant doesn’t have condiments like ketchup and mustard.  They make their own.  The boys weren’t too sure about that, but found they liked the sauces even more.  

Live Music

We never went to the ‘Olelo Room, but we sure enjoyed the music.  The live music was the perfect accompaniment to an evening on the balcony. 


Beach Photos


I can’t recommend Anthony Calleja enough.  It may come as a shocker that I wouldn’t say Disney.  And I’m sure Disney does a great job.  They do have Photo Pass people around the resort available for character meet-and-greets and periodically along the beach and at the pools.  Yes, those Photo Pass people will even get your picture in the pools and hot tubs!  But Disney didn’t offer the photo options when we first visited Aulani in 2012 and that’s how we found Anthony.  He came and took family beach photos within walking distance of the resort.  So when we returned in 2016, of course we emailed Anthony.  Our more recent photos we went to the other side of the island for sunrise pics.  And then Anthony took us to another location to capture some very personal pictures for me.  I wrote about it in Abandoning Imperfections.  His compassion and heart were incredibly touching and I’m deeply grateful for his talent to accomplish what the Lord challenged me to share.



Here are a few excursions we have taken when visiting Aulani.

Paradise Cove Luau is within walking distance of Aulani.  A fun experience I’m glad we did once, but we all felt like once was enough for us.  Worth doing if you’ve never been to one before. 

The horse-lover in our group really wanted to horseback ride our first trip to Hawaii.  The Disney excursion was a little pricey, but since we were planning to drive up to the North Shore anyway, we made reservations with Happy Trails. You can visit them on their website in the hyperlink or call 808-638-RIDE (7433).

Waimea Beach was beautiful and a fun place to play.  But be careful with those little ones and the waves.  Whew.  Gorgeous to see and awesome to hear, but be safe.  Take some sand castle making tools and maybe pack a lunch to eat on the beach.

You never know if you’re going to get to go back, so when you go somewhere you’ve never been it’s natural to want to do as much as possible just in case it’s the one and only experience you get.  Soak it up, right?  We visited Sealife Park on our first trip and left with having had the Dolphin Encounter and the DVD to prove it.  None of us had ever even touched a dolphin before, so that was super fun!  Check mark on that life experience box.  Oh, and by the way, you probably knew this, but that was super chilly too!

Yep!  We went to Hawaii and saw the Dole Plantation.  Not a return-for-more kind of experience but fun for the first time Hawaii vacationer.  We did the tour, and the maze, and of course, had a Dole Whip. 

Pearl Harbor.  We visited on our first trip when Brooklyn was eleven and she took it in so deeply.  It was somber still seeing oil on the water’s surface.  And there was such a sacred reverence for the lives lost.  Grateful to have taken some time to observe the sacrifice and visit this memorial.

We had planned to Hike Diamond Head in ’12 but kind of thought maybe our youngest traveler wouldn’t do so well, or really that the adults might have to carry him, so we scratched that off the list.  However, everyone was quite a bit bigger in ’16 so we ate at Shorebird for lunch and headed over.  We weren’t sure about all those people who showed up with water bottles and hiking shoes.  It seemed funny when the first part of the walk was just that—a walk, on a nicely concreted path.  It changed and a handrail became available on parts of the trek up to the top.  Water bottles are a great thing to include on the hike.  What a fabulous view it was though.  Well, the second child didn’t quite think so, but he faced his fear of heights long enough for us to grab a pic.  A fun, memorable family experience.


Transportation & Hawaii Tax

We rented a car both trips.  There are other options to make it work, but after checking into shuttle schedules, it seemed more feasible.  Even our last trip where we pretty much just sat on the beach each day, we still rented a car.  Parking is complimentary at Aulani for Disney Vacation Club members.

A room tax is added per night.  We stay at Aulani on our Disney Vacation Club points, so this is something we have to remember to budget in for our trip. Cast members will remind you when booking and checking in; therefore it’s not easy to overlook it. 

Visit Disney’s Website for all the information and about booking your magical beach get away with Mickey! Disney’s Aulani