The Aulaini Resort

This is the large window below the main lobby entry doors.

This is the large window below the main lobby entry doors.

I gave you a room tour, but want to show you a little more of the resort itself. The lobby is always the first impression and it is gorgeous! The arched roof lines are reminiscent of the native canoes and the lighting is a soft golden glow from gourd-like fixtures.

This was taken from the outside at night from near the Dancing Waters fountain area.

This was taken from the outside at night from near the Dancing Waters fountain area.

Standing lobby lights - a warm, welcoming glow!

Standing lobby lights – a warm, welcoming glow!

This shot shows the arch motif nicely as well as the gourd-like ceiling fixtures.

This shot shows the arch motif nicely as well as the gourd-like ceiling fixtures.

My favorite Menehune was tucked up in one of the elevators. A cast member (that's what Disney calls their employees, remember?) told me that this guy will switch elevators upon occasion!

My favorite Menehune was tucked up in one of the elevators. A cast member (that’s what Disney calls their employees, remember?) told me that this guy will switch elevators upon occasion!

Disney did a lot of research into the Hawaiian culture and, although there are the expected “Hidden Mickeys” like the other resorts, the changed it up at Aulani and had Menehune tucked everywhere! Menehune are little mischievous characters that spend their nights creating fantastic inventions and sleep during the day.  I believe there are more than 200 of the little guys all over the resort! Although there is a kind of scavenger hunt activity to try and track them(probably geared toward kids, but that doesn’t usually stop me), I chose to snap a few pictures and enjoy floating past ones placed along the Waikolohe Stream.

This Menehune is the largest one I saw.

This Menehune is the largest one I saw.

The patterns in the hallway wallpaper evoke many native themes - flowers, people, food - but do you see the hidden Mickey?

The patterns in the hallway wallpaper evoke many native themes – flowers, people, food – but do you see the hidden Mickey?

Dancing Waters fountain outside Makahiki Restaurant. Hmmm - I see Goofy and Minnie in there!

Dancing Waters fountain outside Makahiki Restaurant. Hmmm – I see Goofy and Minnie in there!

Water features are prominent throughout Aulani. The Laughing Waters fountain ends in a koi pool which is just across the path from a whirlpool next to the Waikolohe Stream. See what I mean?

The koi pond - Dancing Waters fountain in background.

The koi pond – Dancing Waters fountain in background.

Whirlpool next to Waikolohe Stream. Can you see the shark carving on the far side?

Whirlpool next to Waikolohe Stream. Can you see the shark carving on the far side?

Ama Ama had fabulous views of the lagoon!

Ama Ama had fabulous views of the lagoon!

The views are extraordinary. We enjoyed breakfasting at Ama Ama – which has a lovely view of the lagoon, or lounging near the pool to look for hidden carvings on Waikolohe Mountain (water slide). At night, looking down from an upper floor to the whole pool area is magical!

The Waikolohe Mountain (Disney always has to have a mountain!) has subtle carvings that are fun to hunt for while lounging or walking around the pool area.

The Waikolohe Mountain (Disney always has to have a mountain!) has subtle carvings that are fun to hunt for while lounging or walking around the pool area.

The Waikolohe Valley at night

The Waikolohe Valley at night

HallArtWork

One of the many paintings throughout Aulani.

On every floor, in elevator bays, along the hallways – there was beautiful artwork. The paintings looked like they were painted on sheets of plywood – there was wood grain visible through the vivid pigments used for each piece. The staircase leading up to the lobby from the entrance to the Makahiki Restaurant at pool level is a work of art in and of itself!

Carved container in a lobby display.

Carved container in a lobby display.

Beautiful stair case.

Beautiful stair case.

I’m sure I missed many aspects of the Aulani Resort – I probably should go back and take a little better notes…

Lazy River Time

20120130-084504.jpg We decided to spend our weekend exploring the resort and playing in the water. I was (and still am!) enamored with the Waikolohe Stream pool, also known as the lazy river. Which explains why the Osmond Brothers are singing, “Down by the Lazy River” in my head! Curse my internal soundtrack! We started the day by having breakfast at the fancy-schmancey restaurant at the resort, ‘Ama ‘Ama. I had peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast (served with both PB and dark chocolate syrups) and hubby had a Belgian waffle with pineapple compote and coconut syrup. Both were delish and the view – over looking the lagoon – was just gorgeous!

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As we wandered around after breakfast, we found where the spa was located and also the “quiet pool” (supposedly adults only, but we see kids in it all the time). We headed back towards the elevator bank and decided to duck into the Disney Vacation Club offices and arrange a tour to see what the other room options look like (we are in a deluxe studio) and to ask questions. We met with Matt who took us to the one bedroom(with a really nifty Murphy bed under the flat panel TV which looked like part of the console!) – with a next door “lock through” converting it to a two bedroom – and the grand villa three bedroom which takes up an entire end of the floor. This option has a balcony that stretches across the entire space, over looking the ocean. Stunning! It had a master bedroom (king-sized bed) and two other bedrooms (2 queen-sized beds each), plus the living area had a hide-a-bed sofa and chair. I think it could sleep 13 or 14 people! Matt was very knowledgable and gave us great tips on how to best utilize our DVC points and save money. He also pointed us towards the ABC store – a local grocery/sundries/souvenir store – so we could get cheaper food options. No one ever has said that Disney is a cheap stay, but there are ways to cut corners and not break your personal bank! Thanks, Matt – you were great!
Now it was lazy river time! We slathered on the sunscreen and oozed into our swimsuits and headed on down! There is a cabana one goes to for towels and get “banded” for the day. You show your key card and they snap on a plastic wristband, a different color each day. You see kids running around with a whole rainbow of bands up their arms! We then staked out a couple of chairs in a semi-shady area (by chance, next to a whirlpool) and then went to the river. There was a choice of single tubes or doubles. Hubby grabbed a double to take down the water slide, while I hoisted myself into a single and let myself drift away on the current! There isn’t much control, so there are occasional bumper boat moments, but everyone realizes this and it is all in good fun! I went around three times – probably took about 15-20 minutes per circuit. I people watched, got splashed in the “grotto” area, squirted around another bend, and marveled at how warm and beautiful everything was! There were lifeguards on duty about every 20 feet and they were very diligent, watching each guest or group until they went to the next “sentry.” the water is only a little over 3 feet deep, but there are lots of little kids – both in and out of tubes – so its nice to see they don’t consider the area an “at your own risk” pool. I’ve always said that Disney does it right! More later…

Next Stop: Aulani Resort in Hawaii!

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We finally did it – we bought into the Disney Vacation Club and booked a vacation at the Aulani Resort for late January 2012! This is a brand new resort that opened this past fall (2011) and, although it is a Disney Resort, it is not “character driven” like the theme park locations (not that there is anything wrong with that!). It looks to have a lot of water/pool features, so I bit the bullet and bought a couple of new swimsuits (and am exercising furiously, but hopefully not futilely!) before our trip.
This will be our first experience as DVC members and also our first trip to Hawaii, so there is much to be excited about! I hope to post before, during and after our trip, so stay tuned! More information about DVC can be found HERE.

Heading Home

carpet in our room at Disney's Grand California

Can you spot the hidden Mickey on the carpet in our room?

Our flight was not until 6 pm and, with Don once again in meetings (continuing education, actually), I was left to my own devices until 3:30ish when we’d have to catch our bus to the John Wayne International Airport. I went on the power walk through Disney California and found myself accompanied by one of Don’s colleagues at Harborview in Seattle. Teresa was on her own due to a mix up in registration (for the meeting) so I offered to leave her my Disney Guidebook so she could plan out some time at the parks. It was a chilly morning – our breath was clearly visible – but one of the women was from Ohio and in shorts. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? An interesting note about being in the park before it opens: the Grizzly Rapids Run is completely emptied of water every night. Who knew?!?
I had decided that my last breakfast would be at Catal – they had a brioche French toast that sounded delightful. It was good, but not as good as the Mickey Waffle – sad to say! After breakfast, I went back to the room to pack up before the late check out (noon). The Bell Captain kept our bags for me in their holding room until we were ready to leave – most convenient! I had used up my 3-day Park Hopper ticket (sigh), so my day would be spent Christmas shopping in Downtown Disney.
I managed (somehow…) to accumulate several purchases and still had time before I needed to meet Don back at the resort, so I approached the Disney Vacation Club booth to find out more about the program. We had looked into it a bit previously and – of all the time share possibilities out there – I was interested in learning more. I whisked away on a tram (bliss! my feet were so tired!) to the offices and chatted with Bruce who discussed scenarios, answered questions and gave me a tour of the model units from the Grand Californian. I would dearly love to someday have a family reunion or do Christmas at Disney World (specifically, Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a view of the “Savannah!”) and buying into the Vacation Club would help bring that dream to fruition. Plus, it’s Disney and I can count on them to do it right. The prices seemed reasonable to me and the program is fairly flexible regarding destinations and “point accumulation.” Perhaps, someday…
I was once again whisked away in the tram and back to the Grand Californian to collect our luggage and Don so we could hop the bus to the airport. I had just enough time to dash back into Downtown and buy some huge soft pretzels for our plane ride home before the bus was to arrive. Don returned to the resort just ahead of the Disneyland Express bus. Our airport experience was uneventful – no pat downs or body cavity searches – and our plane was fully loaded before our scheduled departure time. I believe we actually took off a few minutes early. The charming toddler behind me didn’t kick my seat the entire time, so the flight seemed quick and we were once again in rain swept Seattle. Home again, home again – jiggety-jig!