Experience Hawaii at Disney's Aulani
Dreams really do come true at Disney’s first Hawaii destination resort and spa, Aulani, on the Leeward Coast of Oahu.
If a picture of Mickey Mouse in a grass skirt comes to mind, think again. Aulani’s creators worked with locals to build an authentic Hawaiian experience. The result is two towers with rooms outfitted in warm Koa wood, native art and even a few coconuts. The resort opened to guests in August 2011 and, when all phases are complete in 2013, Aulani will house 359 rooms, including 16 suites and 481 Disney Vacations Club villas. The centrepieces of the resort are the pools and waterslides. But don't miss Aunty’s Beach House with a kids-only beach house (a.k.a free daycare) and a community room where adults can also be involved in lei-making and hula lessons. If, after all this, you still want to leave the resort, Aulani offers land and sea excursions.
For the biggest meal of the day, head to the lounge 'Olelo Room. The small menu only features appetizers, but they are big enough to satisfy a Winnie the Pooh-sized appetite. The scrumptious Kobe beef sliders run about US$15. Try to order in Hawaiian as 'Olelo also has wooden displays with common Hawaiian words decorating the bar.
At Laniwai Spa, get a traditional Hawaiian lomilomi. This massage uses hands, elbows and forearms, or with warm river stones, lomilomi sticks or rainwater. There is also a 5,000-sq.-ft. outdoor co-ed hydrotherapy garden with a blue eucalyptus pool and rain showers. For a last bit of indulgence, grab a zucchini macaroon-topped cupcake or visit the yogurt bar next door in the teen spa.
Of all Aulani’s pools, streams and slides, the Rainbow Reef is the most magical as it appears to be plucked out of The Little Mermaid. This saltwater snorkelling pool has a spectacular underwater landscape, complete with a miniature castle made from artificial coral. Stay still and thousands of fish will surround you.
Mandy Savoie's work has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and on CHARTattack.com. A consummate music nerd, Mandy has played Pete Townshend’s guitar, touched Elvis Presley’s cane sword and has hobnobbed with everyone from Robert Plant to Billy Idol to (begrudgingly) Rod Stewart.