Adventure, baby!

Hawaii

Hawaii Disney-style: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Back in 2012 my family and I met for Christmas in Hawaii, specifically the Ko Olina resort area. We rented an apartment on the beach, in a complex right along the waterfront from a brand new resort that was just opening to the public. The resort was Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, and it was still under construction. Nevertheless, we were extremely impressed with the facilities of the hotel, even half finished – so impressed that we planned to fly back for a holiday when our daughter was old enough to make use of the pools and activities, at age 4.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

We returned recently to Hawaii and made good on our promise to stay at Aulani. The hotel sits on 21 oceanfront acres, between gorgeous mountains and the quiet Kohola Lagoon. It’s about a 30-45 minute drive out of Waikiki – close enough to drive back in if you want to go shopping or exploring, and far enough away to be removed from the crowds in that main tourist area.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Aulani is a big resort, with 351 hotel rooms, including 16 suites, 481 Disney Vacation Club units, 2 restaurants, 3 lounges and several quick-service dining venues. It also features a spa, fitness centre, Aunty’s Beach House kids club, Painted Sky teen spa, pools, waterslides, water play areas and more. It’s the kind of place you can stay at for a week and never need to leave the resort. I never used to be a “resort” person, but now I have a small child, a place where the whole family can enjoy themselves effortlessly is the perfect place for us to take a holiday.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

“Aulani” means “messenger of a chief” in Hawaiian – and really sets the tone for the resort. While it is, indeed, a “Disney” resort, the emphasis is firstly on being Hawaiian, with a touch of Disney. Around the resort you will see about 90% Hawaiian decorations and design vs 10% Disney – mostly small motifs and the occasional nod to Mickey Mouse.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The resort was intentionally designed to reflect Hawaiian traditions, and also offers guests many Hawaiian-inspired experiences, such as fireside storytelling, the Starlit Hui—an evening celebration of Hawaiian traditions and Disney storytelling, Hawaiian activities and crafts, including hula and lei-making classes.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Select Disney characters show up all over the resort – mostly Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Goofy, with the occasional appearance by Stitch, Chip & Dale and Duffy (Mickey’s bear). Mickey-themed ice creams, pretzels, and other snacks are available in all the snack bars, and Disney-themed activities are run alongside the traditional Hawaiian ones.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Upon entering the resort, we were presented with traditional Hawaiian leis and necklaces, which really set the tone for our trip. Hawaiian – with a touch of Disney.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

We stayed in an ocean view suite, which had a queen bed and fold out couch, plus a microwave, bar fridge and sink. It was a small room, but since we didn’t plan on spending much time in it, it was fine for our purposes. The view from our balcony was spectacular.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The hotel as free wifi throughout it, which I really appreciated.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Aulani is absolutely the most family-friendly hotel I have ever stayed at. A combination of their facilities plus activities and friendly staff make it the perfect place for an extended (or brief!) family holiday.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The resort features several pools varying in depth. Several of them are very shallow, plus an infinity pool and adult-only pools. Little kids can also enjoy two water play areas with fountains – one for young toddlers/babies, and one for kids under 42 inches tall (122cm).

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Kids who are confident swimmers (or confident with floaties) can snorkel in the man-made tub/mini reef. And then there is also the beach! A shallow, gentle lagoon that is perfect for kids.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

My daughter’s favourite water play was the tube slide and the Waikolohe Stream, or lazy river, which wasn’t so lazy as she jumped in and out of the tubes and swam the majority of the river with the current.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

When the sun wore us out, there were plenty of indoor activities to keep us occupied, with the favourite being the Disney Animation drawing and painting class.

Parents wanting time to themselves can drop kids aged 3-12 off at the free kids club. We decided not to use the kids club on this occasion, but I did take a look and it was incredibly clean and full of great activities for kids. Tweens and teens are catered for too, with a special club for them, too.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Every morning the daily ‘IWA is released – a sheet filled with activities for families to do together, kids to do on their own in the kids club, or for adults, like “sunrise yoga”. The activities were incredibly popular, so in order to secure a spot at the events with limited numbers, it’s suggested that you line up either at 7:45am for the family activities or 7:30am for the kids club ones, particularly on weekends when they are the most popular. We missed out on the activities we wanted at first as I didn’t realise the registration system, and had to wake my jet lagged self up early the next morning to get in the queue to lock in our spots for the animation drawing class and ukulele class.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The animation drawing class was my favourite activity during our stay. the first part of the class was spent learning to draw a Disney character on paper, and the second involved painting an animation cell. It was really fun and inclusive of all abilities.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Cheese really enjoyed the “Menehune Adventure Trail” which was a particularly clever scavenger hunt around the resort using an interactive tablet. I wasn’t prepared for the resort to interact back with us on the hunt – we woke the volcano, caused streams to erupt, set fire to lamps and spooked the tiny kids in the toddler water play area when we set off loud noises and a water jet pattern. Cheese was delighted with the magic we found on the resort.

If you need some down time in your room, guests are invited to pick up a few free DVD rentals – all Disney of course – or a board game.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The last highlight for our family on the trip was the character breakfast with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy. At $32 per adult and $18 per child over age 3, it’s a pricey breakfast. The food was pretty good – the fresh omelette station produced delicious food, and the fruit was incredible, but it still came to over $100 for breakfast for the three of us, with only Minnie and Goofy in the dining room (Mickey stayed outside for photos).

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Minnie was a sweetheart, coming to see us several times and really making an effort to interact with our enthralled daughter, but Goofy was a tough one to catch. It took us a while to flag him down as he bolted past our table, and even then we had a few seconds to try and get a photo before he bolted off again. It would have been nice for the cost to have additional characters like Stitch, Donald Duck and Chip and Dale since we knew they were on the resort.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

The only down side to our stay was the food. We found the resort food limited and expensive. The two main restaurants were either an expensive buffet at Makahiki ($49.99 per adult) or the “fine dining” option, Ama Ama, which was way out of our budget for daily dining.

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Being a vegetarian made it even worse – there was pretty much only pizza or a single veggie burger that I was able to eat. Even the salads mostly had meat in them!

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

We ate several of our meals off the resort at the little shopping complex across the road where we found a cafe and restaurant with additional choices (particularly for this vegetarian!), as well as an ABC Market where we bought basic groceries like yoghurts, fruit, cereal and so on so we didn’t need to eat every meal in a restaurant. (See the pic above for an example of a meal we found at the cafe across the road).

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Our stay at Aulani just what we needed it to be – a relaxing time for us to bond as a family. Hawaii has always been a special place for us, with my husband and I travelling the islands during our honeymoon, and also bringing Cheese here when she was a toddler. It’s still a very special, wonderful island that we love deeply. Aulani lived up to our very high expectations as the perfect family getaway. We can’t wait to return. Aloha!

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me
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Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me
aulani

Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me Disney Aulani Resort & Spa via christineknight.me

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Christmas in Hawaii

We decided to fly to Hawaii for Christmas and meet my family there instead of flying back to Australia. I booked us a three-bedroom suite at a resort in Ko Olina, right on the waterfront.

The flight was brutal – 10 hours straight. Eloise napped just once and then was awake for 12 hours straight.

It’s a miracle, she’s asleep!

The resort and beach were so beautiful. Ko Olina was a little piece of paradise. We spent most days walking around the beaches, swimming in the ocean and pools.

Checking out the beach for the first time since she was four months old in Sydney.
Pure joy.
Ocean!
Walking by the beach with Daddy.
Beach with my Cheese.
Decided she loves the beach.
Hey beach baby!

We also did the toddler dolphin experience at Dolphin Quest. It was wonderful to meet dolphins with Eloise. It totally blew her mind. She was fascinated by them, and has been saying “dolph!” and pointing to pictures of them since.

Dolphins!
View from the balcony.
Sunset.

One thing I really wanted to do was the Disney character breakfast at Aulani. It was so much fun! A decent buffet breakfast with a great omelet station, Minnie Mouse and Goofy wandering around to the tables for meet and greets and photo ops. Every so often, “Auntie” would strike up music and sing cute Hawaiian-y songs, handing out instruments and leading the kids in a parade around the restaurant. Eloise was in absolute heaven.

Disney breakfast at Aulani resort.

Alec and I had a few hours to ourselves one day so went for a drive to Mokule’ia Beach, where Lost was filmed. It was stunning – a pure white sand beach with almost no one in site for miles.

Mokule’ia Beach, Oahu

We also went on an easy hike one day with Tim and Michele up to Diamond Head. It had an amazing view of Honolulu.

View from Diamond Head.

I also got up super early one morning to see Pearl Harbour with Michele. It was a sobering experience to be there and see the sunken Arizona ship.

Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour.

Even though I get really sea sick pretty much just by looking at boats, I thought it would be a fun idea to get on a boat and go snorkelling and whale watching. True to form, I felt ill the entire time, but we did see about 10 Humpback whales.

Humpback whales spotting.

We went for a stroll through Waimea Valley. It was really beautiful – a little too manicured, but some amazing plants.

Crazy antics.
Waimea Valley.

We also went on the Ranch and Movie tour at Kualoa Ranch, where a lot of movies and TV shows have been filmed. I loved the tour – especially seeing where Jurassic Park was filmed for the famous scene with the log below.

Jurassic Park filming location, Kualoa Ranch.

It was really strange being somewhere other than in Warwick Farm for Christmas morning. It was really lovely, but also really strange! My first Christmas not in Warwick Farm in my life so far. We had breakfast at the neighbouring Marriott resort, followed by present opening and relaxing.

Christmas morning with my baby.
Christmas palm tree.
Family shot, Christmas Day.

What a wonderful trip! It was so great to see my family all together. Hawaii is paradise – can’t wait to go back again.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Shopping

I wasn’t planning on doing a post on my Hawaii shopping, but Beverly wanted to see my purchases, so here we are. I reserved basically all shopping till the last day and went a bit berserk at the outlets and Alo Moana Centre. Thanks Alec for your supreme patience…

Honeymoon gift from the Hawai’ian mothership.

New charms from Juicy Couture.

This fab bag from LeSportsac was 50% off and served as my extra bag to bring my loot home.

Tissue and make-up pouch from LeSportsac.

Cute little money and travel pouch.

Little evening bag from the Coach outlet.

I love the logo.

Some interesting looking sandals from Crocs.

Overload at Sephora and Mac.

Urban Decay eyeshadow primer – it’s amazing!

Laura Mercier make-up – I’ve been wanting to try it for a while. So far, it’s fantastic.

Body wash from Philosophy. It smells fantastic.

My fave mascara from Fiberwig. Pricey, but looks great and doesn’t smudge.
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Oahu

Last stop – Oahu and shopping. Honolulu reminds me of the Gold Coast, so I like to get on and off the island pretty quickly. I’m sure there are beautiful areas on this island too, but it’s just so built up that I’m not overly keen to explore it. We spent a very short period here – two nights and one full day. Just enough to shop till I maxed my credit card out.

Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

Honeymoon splurge gift.

Me and the Duke, we’re old mates.

Waikiki sends us off in true Hawaiian style on our last morning.

Aloha Hawaii!
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Kauai Part 5, Ins and Outs

Pretty much the only bad thing about Hawaii is the food. They have a lot of junk food, and most regular food is cooked the fattiest way possible. Throw in vegetarian and it’s a struggle to find anything to eat.

One of only two decent places we found to eat was the Bubba Burgers chain on Kauai. The burgers look like cute little McDonald’s burgers – but they taste amazing in a way Maccas have never been able to master. They had a vegie burger made out of Taro, a root vegetable kind of like sweet potato. I was hesitant to eat it, but it was really good.

Inside Bubba’s – watch your burger get cooked on the grill by the local teenagers.

How cute are they? How good do they look?

Completely wrecked by our 2.5 hour hike and desperate for burgerrrrrrrs.
There are a some very well-placed waterfalls in Hawaii so tourists who don’t want to hike for an hour can still see the natural beauty without breaking a sweat.

Such as this waterfall, literally on the side of a road.

We found this pie stall on the side of the road. The pie maker had created about 15 types of fruit and dessert pies.

We tried two types, one of which was mango. It was the best pie either of us has ever eaten.

Also the best looking pie I’ve ever seen.

 More fishies out the front of our hotel and at Poipu Beach.

Blurry photo courtesy of a dirty underwater casing.

Parrot fish!

In the hotel pool.

Last night on Kauai. Sadness.

So long Kauai, thanks for the tan!
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Kauai Part 4, Kalalau Trail

Kauai is a small island. You can drive from one side to the other (on the one main road they have on the island) in an hour.

We took a drive along to the end of the highway, along the Coconut Coast and North Shore, stopping along the way at anything looking interesting. It was a gray, rainy day, but fortunately the sun came out sporadically enough that it was still a great day for our hike at the end of the road.

The USA is famous for their fruit pies – and we happened upon a little cafe in Princeville that sold slices of blueberry pies that made Alec exclaim in happiness – much to the amusement of the waitress who had never seen anyone so happy to buy pie before.

One very happy camper.
Princeville is in the shadow of mountains, which makes for a very dramatic landscape.

Just your average, run-of-the-mill location …
A short drive past Princeville we came to Ha’ena Beach Park, where we saw this amazing view…

Across the road from the park is the Manini-holo dry cave, one of several sea caves located in the area. The cave, which is about 300 yards deep, used to be much larger but the 1957 tsunami partially filled it with sand.

It doesn’t look so big …

Amazingly huge. The roof and walls have beautiful colours and details.

A little further down the road is the Waikanaloa Wet Cave.

We decided on a hike, despite the bad weather. We’d heard great things about the Kalalau Trail, which starts at Ke’e Beach and leads to Hanakapiai Beach. You can continue the walk further, but the mud from the rain made it a really difficult hike so we just walked the 3.2km to the beach and back again.

View along the hike.

Muddy!

Our final destination comes into view.

Alone on Hanakapiai Beach.

Alec has no idea this is the last photograph in which his 3rd pair of Oakleys will appear. Shortly afterwards, Alec took his shirt off, dropping his sunnies into the stream.

The beach is only accessible via the walking track, making for a peaceful destination.
Navigating back over the steam out of paradise.
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Kauai Part 3: Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is the largest canyon in the Pacific. It measures 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and more than 3,500-feet deep.

We took a drive up into the canyon to do a hike. There are a lot of hikes you can do – you could easily spend days trying to do all of the walks.

Stunning.

The view is spectacular.

The Fraggle Rock of foliage.

Completely wrecked. What, we have to hike BACK UP again?
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Kauai Part 2, Up In The Air

Around 90% of Kauai isn’t accessible by land, so the only way to see it is with a helicopter flight. We decided to take the Jack Harter Helicopter tour because they flew a Hughes 500 with the doors off for maximum photo greatness. I was incredibly excited about taking photos from the air – only to find myself squished in the worst possible seat because I was the lightest person on board – between a fat lady and the pilot, which left my arms pinned in a position like a T-rex. I put Alec in charge of the camera and enjoyed the view.

“I’m in a helicopter!”

The waterfall in Jurassic Park …

… is tiny compared to some of the other falls on Kauai!

Kauai is known as the garden island because of the lush landscape and tropical waterfalls. It is home of the wettest spot on Earth, as well as Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. While smaller than the Grand Canyon (it’s still massive, mind you), I think it’s actually more beautiful. 

The amazing red soil.
Kauai is also famous for the Na Pali Coast – a stretch of coast that you can also only see by air or boat. It’s also stunning – cliffs, canyons, set against turquoise water.

Part of the Na Pali coast.

Wedged in tight.

More lush valleys. Is there a dinosaur in there?

Last waterfall of the flight – we visited it on land not long after.

We had a particularly lovely sunset that night – amazing lighting for a few photos.

Taken off Poipu Beach.

Beautiful light for portraits.

Do we have to go home? Really?
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Kauai Part 1

For a change of pace we spent our second week on Kauai. We stayed in a boutique hotel on the beach in Poipu. We had a gorgeous view from the window and it was amazing falling asleep and waking up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore.

Lovely decor.

Not a bad view!

Just another perfect day in Hawaii!

At the hotel pool bar with the first of many cocktails.

Staying on the beach allowed for many walks in different lights. Thanks for being such a good model Alec 🙂

Sand bar on the beach in the dying light.
I was hoping to spot a rare Hawaiian monk seal on our visit, but since they’re classed as critically endangered (only around 1500 left in total, 150 of which are on the main Hawaiian islands), so we were stunned to see a seal on the beach right outside our hotel on our first night. The next morning we went for a walk along walk along the beach, and saw a second one. Two days in a row, what amazing luck. The seals had hauled themselves out on to the sand and lay there for hours having a snooze. Local life guards set up barricades around them to keep people away.

Ignoring the paparazzi.
We stayed in an area where we saw amazing sunsets every night, right outside our room.

We also stayed right on a beach with great snorkeling. The water was crystal clear, so we had perfect visibility. There was a surprising amount of fish as well – in amazing colours. The fish were really relaxed about us snorkeling all around them, letting us get really close.

How’s the serenity?

Doesn’t get much better than this.

Monk seal spotting #2.
We hadn’t realised Kauai was famous for … chickens. That’s right. There are wild feral chickens running all over the island. You literally can’t take a step without tripping over a chicken. They are thought to be a cross between the chickens the Polynesians brought across many years ago, and the more recent fighting chickens, making them a very hearty breed. I’ve never seen such healthy, happy chickens, so island life clearly suits them well.

No, I’m not your dinner …
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.

Hawaii Honeymoon: Maui Part 3, Under The Sea

People who get sea sick should NOT get on boats. It’s as simple as that. Yet, I always find myself on a boat when I go to Hawaii. This time I was enticed by the idea to visit the Molokini Crater off the coast of Maui.

The crater, rising out of the ocean.

Wearing a wetsuit top as the water was pretty cold still.

Lanai island in the background.

In the water, the ocean life was pretty average – I’ve definitely seen better variety and numbers in other places, such as on the Big Island of Hawai’i. It was still enjoyable though, even with the sea sickness!

The next stop was “Turtle Town”, an area off the coast of Maui with a large population of turtles. I think I saw about five different giant turtles. Seeing them swimming towards us through the clear sea was amazing – gentle giants of the ocean.

Here they come!

Bye for now!

Back on land, we received a tip from a local photographer on a place to spot more turtles, a beach called Black Rock. We swam a few meters off shore, and, sure enough, there were more turtles!

Black Rock – another gorgeous beach.

This guy ate a lot of sea grass. Or fungus. Or whatever it is they eat.

Lookout on the way back to our hotel.

Last night in Maui.
Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby! She loves cake, her tolerant husband and her busy preschooler.