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…

Sidebar: Hawaiian Sunsets

I don’t know if it was because of the weather, the vastness of the Pacific, or what, but Hawaii had the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen. Here are four for your ooh-ing and ah-ing pleasure.

People pep-stepped or out-right ran to the beach with their cameras every evening at sunset. And when I say "people," I mean me and my husband.

People pep-stepped or out-right ran to the beach with their cameras every evening at sunset. And when I say “people,” I mean me and my husband.

Aulani: Excursions and Explores

A close-up of the bowsprit skeleton on the Queen Anne's Revenge!

A close-up of the bowsprit skeleton on the Queen Anne’s Revenge!

When you plan your vacation through Disney Vacation Club, there will often be options for excursions away from the resort. We decided to sign up (and pay for) two of them: Catamaran/Snorkeling and Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the Pearl Harbor tour was canceled – not enough people signed up – so we chose to save that for our next visit. The catamaran tour was touted as a whale watching/harbor tour, ending with snorkeling and lunch. This tour was full! We were loaded onto a couple of vans and driven to the docks. Our driver took a slight detour to show us a ship used in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies – Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge! She allowed us to get out of the van and take a few pictures – pretty neat!

The weather was perfect: alternately overcast and brilliant sun so it didn’t get too hot. We cruised around (motor, not sail) and saw a sea turtle paddling along and then – Thar she

There's Mama and Aulani is in the background!

There’s Mama and Aulani is in the background!

blows! –we saw a humpback whale and her baby. The humpbacks use the waters around Hawaii as an obstetrics ward and nursery – so cool! We didn’t get too close and she was keeping her babe away from us. I wonder if they were the same whales we saw from our room – it was in the same area… As we headed toward the captain’s favorite snorkeling spot, we saw some spinner dolphins which looked about the size of large salmon. And we could sure tell how they got their names! They were leaping out of the water and spinning like a power drill until they dived back in. There were quite a few of them!

Look at the water color! Gorgeous! Oh - and my cutie husband, waving at me!

Look at the water color! Gorgeous! Oh – and my cutie husband, waving at me!

We anchored for snorkeling and received instructions – this was my first time and, not being much of a swimmer, I was a little nervous. It seemed pretty straight forward and I was fine until I put on my mask and stuck the snorkel in my mouth. Apparently, I’m claustrophobic. I paddled a little way from the boat and realized I was panicking. The deck hands were watching all of us and one noticed I was distressed, tossed a life ring to me, and dove in to help me get back to the boat. I knew in my head that I was perfectly safe – I had an inflated vest on, for pete’s sake, and knew it was hard to sink with flippers on, too – but my lizard brain was screaming, “YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!!!” So I got out, calmed down, dried off and took pictures. I think my husband felt bad that I couldn’t do it, but once I was out, I was just fine and

On our way back from our catamaran adventure!

On our way back from our catamaran adventure!

I got a pretty cute picture of him in the water – wouldn’t have wanted to miss that! I actually could see the schools of fish from the deck – they were much larger than I expected – and very colorful. We had lunch on board as we sailed back to our dock. Despite my panic attack, it was wonderful and I would do it again. Well, not the panic attack, but you know what I mean!

Looking down from Diamondhead - the sparkling water, the lighthouse - beautiful!

Looking down from Diamondhead – the sparkling water, the lighthouse – beautiful!

On another day, we rented a car so we could drive around on the island. We went around to Diamond Head and took the trail up – I stopped one level below the top – Don went all the way. Despite the trail – and even stairs sometimes – it was pretty steep and tough for a wimp like me. The views were incredible, but it was pretty hot, away from the breezes on the beach!

As we drove around the island, we came across Kualoa Ranch  which had been used for one of the Jurassic Park movie locations and was often the site for Hawaii 5-O scenes. We didn’t do a tour, but took a couple photos and hit the gift shop. Next time…

A fellow tourist took this shot of us near the summit.

A fellow tourist took this shot of us near the summit.

Kualoa Ranch - home for some of the Jurassic Park movie scenes

Kualoa Ranch – home for some of the Jurassic Park movie scenes

We stopped for lunch at a place called Fat Boy’s in Kailua – yum! and then continued around to the North Shore. There was a surfing competition going on at one of the beaches so we watched for a while and picked up some very tiny shells. We drove on a bit further to a beach entrance a couple we met at Aulani told us about and came upon a wedding. It was heading toward sunset – and we saw some of the best sunsets ever on this trip – so we meandered down the beach to take some sunset shots. The light was incredible! It was like we were being bathed in gold dust. As it got dark, we headed back to Aulani with sand in our shoes, seashells in our pockets and a Papa John’s Pizza in the back seat. The perfect end to a perfect day!

Waves on the north shore of Oahu, nearly at sunset.

Waves on the north shore of Oahu, nearly at sunset.

Enjoying the golden light of near sunset on the north shore.

Enjoying the golden light of near sunset on the north shore.

Walking to a good vantage point for sunset photos

Walking to a good vantage point for sunset photos

Aulani: The Room Tour

We stayed in the Deluxe Studio which was a very nice, suite-like hotel room. (On the DVC tour, we had seen the one bedroom which seemed very luxurious indeed) This room becomes a second bedroom for the two-bedroom suites. Over-all, the studio was perfectly sized for just the two of us!

The bed in the Deluxe Studio - the inset shows the under-bed storage space that worked so well for suitcases! Don't forget to look for the Hidden Mickey on the quilt!

The bed in the Deluxe Studio – the inset shows the under-bed storage space that worked so well for suitcases! Don’t forget to look for the Hidden Mickey on the quilt!

The bed was queen sized, but very comfortable, and had a lovely Hawaiian applique quilt throw at the end. I wish they sold those – I’d have grabbed that in a minute! If you look closely at the photo showing the quilt, you can find a hidden Mickey! The closet was pretty small, but, while seated on the loveseat, I noticed quite a bit of space under the bed and discovered that it had been designed to slide suitcases underneath – very clever use of space!

The "desk" with the Mickey Lamp - inset shows a closer view. We took the chairs out on the lanai for most of our stay!

The “desk” with the Mickey Lamp – inset shows a closer view. We took the chairs out on the lanai for most of our stay!

Seating area, television/dresser and looking toward kitchenette.

Seating area, television/dresser and looking toward kitchenette.

We had a small table for eating or other desk activity – although we did that on our lanai – too beautiful not too! The table had an adorable Mickey Surfer lamp – available for purchase in the gift shop – which lent more atmosphere than illumination, but still! So cute! Our seating area had a loveseat which was also a fold-out double bed, as well as a trunk holding the extra bedding. There was a lovely piece of artwork over the loveseat that almost exactly mimicked our lanai view up the coast! There was a flat-screen TV across from the bed above the dresser, but we didn’t watch too much television while there…

This shows the vanity - very pretty! and the tub/shower. You can "just" see the ceiling shower head in the top, right corner of the shot.

This shows the vanity – very pretty! and the tub/shower. You can “just” see the ceiling shower head in the top, right corner of the shot.

eleventh floor

Eleventh floor – Room 1111!

The bathroom had a tub-shower and vanity with a separate toilet area and both doors were gorgeous pocket doors. It had a good shower with two heads, which was really nice after salt or chlorine water activities, and the nifty “bowed” shower curtain rod which gives you more “elbow room” in a tub shower. The vanity area had plenty of cubbies for tucking our assorted make-up/kit/etc. bags and was really a beautiful piece of furniture.

On the left is the actual view from our window; on the right is the glorious piece of artwork on the wall of our room!

On the left is the actual view from our window; on the right is the glorious piece of artwork on the wall of our room!

We were on the 11th floor – Room 1111, to be exact! And our view consisted of a view of the ocean beyond some rooftops, the Marriott next door and the “adult” swimming pool. We saw humpback whales from our lanai, so yeah – it was amazing! I also think the view overlooking the pool area would be lovely; if you were up high enough, you could probably see the lagoon area, too.

Would we go back again? I wish I was there right now!

I learned how to tie a sarong! (Wish I was there right now!)

I learned how to tie a sarong! (Wish I was there right now!)

Plane, Trains, and Automobiles (and a Ferry, too!)

Our epic journey began with a ferry ride, followed by a commuter train – and then light rail, followed by a plane and, finally, a taxi to the resort! Of course, somewhere in the middle we very nearly missed our flight! We had received a text from Alaska Airlines telling us our flight was as scheduled and that our gate would be D-10. For whatever reason, we believed them and settled in at that gate. After a while, we noticed that there still wasn’t a plane at the gate and it was scheduled to leave in the near future. I went over to the Departure screen and guess what? The gate we should have been at was clear at the end of Concourse C! I grabbed my husband and we started running towards C as we heard the final boarding call for our flight and our last name followed by, “Party of 2, please report to gate C-16!” As we ran, my mouth went as dry as the Sahara. When we got to the gate, they were about to give our seats to someone else! We got on the plane and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath – I needed to cough long and hard, but I couldn’t. I sat and fanned myself and tried to take even breaths without crying, throwing up, or wetting my pants. It was a struggle to even speak – very disturbing! Eventually, I was able to breath somewhat normally again, but, even as I write this, I have that little, “I need to cough” tickle in my throat. We talked about it later and wondered if it might have been an exercise induced asthma attack – which is a real thing, apparently. And, no, it doesn’t just mean I’m a fat lazy-butt, so get that right out of your mind!
Anyway!!!! We made it to Hawaii and it is warm, lush and beautiful! The Aulani Resort is lovely, the staff very attentive and our room is nicely appointed! We have a Deluxe Studio with an ocean view. In many ways similar to the Grand Californian with lots of nice woodwork and quality furnishings. I’ll do a post with pictures later on. We were greeted with leis – a tube rose one for me (very fragrant!) and one made of some sort of nut (I’ll look it up later) for my husband. I plan to borrow it to wear with one of my dresses later on!
After we unpacked, we decided to explore the resort a bit with the goal of grabbing something to eat. By this time, I was starving, having only nibbled a little trail mix during the 6 hour flight due to my distressed condition. We watched people take floats down a water slide, float along in a “river” as well as a more traditional pool. We later found a hot tub area that were “horizon” pools – very neat! We poked our heads into a couple of restaurants, but it was too early for seating. We felt like it was nearly 7 pm, but here it wasn’t yet 5 pm. We ended up eating at the “Off the Hook” poolside bar at a table with a nice umbrella. We watched people in the pool and could see the ocean just beyond a short wall. We both had the fish tacos which I thought were wonderful and my husband thought weren’t tangy enough. While we waited, a few of the clouds decided to join forces and rain for a bit. No problem! We were under an umbrella and from Seattle – let it rain! It didn’t last long and we soon were witnessing a lovely sunset.
We continued our walk, passing an elegant wedding chapel as we headed to the lagoon on the resort property. We could also see the outdoor movie area – canceled tonight because of the rain (Awww, man!) We stopped and made breakfast reservations at one of the restaurants on our way back to our room. Tomorrow, we’ll try out the pools!

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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.