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

A Few Characters

I didn't have to knock over any little kids at all!

I didn’t have to knock over any little kids at all!

Aulani is a Disney resort – that’s why I’m talking about it here! But, unlike Disney World and Disneyland, there is not a theme park attached and the characters are few. There is a (very pricey!) character breakfast one can attend in one of the restaurants, but the characters will also hang out in certain areas, waiting to be noticed, posing for photos, and signing autograph books. At Aulani, there was Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy, as well as Stitch – all wearing “vacation” garb!

Now, it could have been the time of year – we were there in late January – but nobody really swarmed the characters. There was a really laid-back attitude toward them. Naturally, I decided to add to my autograph collection and get the elusive Mickey – so hard to get at the theme parks! I’m not a Stitch fan – never saw the movie – so I just went for the classics I didn’t have. Did I feel silly -as an adult – pursuing cartoon characters? No, I did not! I am Dizzy for Disney!

Donald looks pretty awesome in that hat!

Donald looks pretty awesome in that hat!

Donald was hard to get in the theme parks also, but easy-peasy in Hawaii!

Donald was hard to get in the theme parks also, but easy-peasy in Hawaii!

Me & my pal, Mickey Mouse! (Nice jams, Mick!)

Me & my pal, Mickey Mouse! (Nice jams, Mick!)

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!)