Planning a visit to Hawaii? Disney opens Aulani on Oahu

August 31, 2011, 12:27 PM · Planning a visit to Hawaii soon?

If you are, and you're a Disney fan, you've probably looked into Aulani, the new Disney resort that opened this week on Oahu.

Aulani is a Disney Vacation Club resort, joining Vero Beach and Hilton Head as DVC locations outside Disney's theme park resorts. If the prospect of a Hawaiian vacation is tipping the scales to get you to finally join DVC, hold on. You can't buy into Aulani right now, as Disney stopped selling into the resort while it sorts out the mess allegedly made by its former DVC management team. (But if you already are a DVC member, I understand that you still can use your points to get into Aulani.)

You don't need to be a DVC member to book a stay at Aulani - it's a regular hotel, too. (Though a pricey one - rooms start at $400 a night.) Here's a look at the resort's pool and one of its typical hotel rooms, in photos provided by Disney. (As you might have guessed, I haven't been. The ol' Theme Park Insider travel budget ain't that big yet.)

Given that Disney isn't selling the resort while it's getting the publicity the opening will generate (the official ceremony is next month), I wonder how Disney will try to grab attention when sales open up again. Perhaps we can expect a "very special episode" of some Disney Channel or ABC sitcom, where the characters just happen to decide to take a trip to Aulani?

Site unseen, what's your verdict? Planning a trip to Aulani? Thinking about a trip? Would rather stay elsewhere if you ever visit Hawaii? Personally, I remain partial to Ka'anapali Beach on Maui, where Laurie and I stayed when we visited a couple years back. (Aulani's located in Ko Olina, on the western shore of Oahu.) But I'd love to hear any island experts' take on Aulani's site.

Replies (12)

August 31, 2011 at 1:19 PM · No, thanks. I'd only pick somewhere that's clean and has free breakfast. I wouldn't pay $400 a night, then pay extra for breakfast. That's insane!
August 31, 2011 at 2:46 PM · I remain partial to Hilton Hawaiian Village, but I'm willing to try new things. Unfortunately, the hotel rooms are twice as expensive as the cheapest hotel room on Waikiki. It's not even on a beach. The lagoon has calm waters for water activities, but its a bit of a disappointment to go further to enjoy the beaches, which are marvelous in Hawaii.

The look of Aulani is very much like Animal Kingdom Lodge. I'm not so convinced that Aulani is an accurate presentation of Old Hawaii (as other bloggers claim). The lobby structure reminds me of the City of Refuge in the Big Island, but everything inside is very much decorated in a Tiki Bar style, although an upscale version. The rooms are comparable to other resorts. Overall, it is a chance for Disney to offer a new location to DVC members. I think they will succeed, but thus far, I'm not impressed with the property despite the amount spent.

August 31, 2011 at 4:57 PM · Disney's very much positioning Aulani as a "family friendly" resort and citing the lagoon as a feature. They're trying to appeal to families who want a beach but don't want ocean waves or undertow.

One of the reasons I like Ka'anapali is Black Rock, which houses an amazing local ecosystem. Stick your face underwater and say hi to the tropical fish and sea turtles. It also breaks the waves a bit, but not so much as to make the water feel like a swimming pool, as lagoons often do.

August 31, 2011 at 8:08 PM · I would go. It seems like fun!
September 1, 2011 at 2:28 AM · Isn't Aulani basically Loews Royal Pacific Resort but with hidden Mickeys?
September 1, 2011 at 6:44 AM · I've never been to Hawaii and I'm a DVC member so 2013 here I come! I agree w/you Robert. They could also have the Extreme Home Makeover family vacation there and I'm sure the Very Merry Christmas parade special will be a big infomercial for Aulani as well.
September 1, 2011 at 10:23 AM · Where did you stay in Maui? Thanks.
September 1, 2011 at 11:06 AM · The Sheraton.
September 1, 2011 at 8:59 PM · If I won the lottery I would stay here. I would also consider it for a few nights for a honeymoon or anniversary if I got married.
September 2, 2011 at 5:29 PM · We are using our DVC points to stay at Aulani in a one-bedroom for 8 nights, checking in in just 4 weeks time! :D I have only been to Oahu once almost 20 years ago, but have been to Maui 3 times and the Big Island once since then. I'm looking forward to truly exploring Oahu this time. From the photos and videos I've seen, I think Aulani looks absolutely amazing. I can't wait!
September 3, 2011 at 9:59 AM · I'm surprised they didn't put the resort in touristy Waikiki Beach (lack of space, I suppose). That being said, if you weren't confined to Waikiki, why wouldn't they choose a nicer location with an actual beach?

I'm interested to see if the Disney service changes things. Most of the best beach locations on the island are owned by independent, not chain, hotels, meaning that there's no exceptional service guarantee. That Disney brand name and service may be enough to justify the $400/night for wealthier families.

September 3, 2011 at 5:20 PM · If I could afford it, I would go. That being said, I'd prefer a more reasonable priced hotel closer to Waikiki. But heck, that's just me!

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