I recently had the pleasure of previewing (with hardhat and all) the construction and plans for Disney’s migration to the Hawaiian islands. Yes, the all magical and wonderful Disney we all know and love is headed to the Aloha state.But there will be no kitch, no roller coasters and no Dumbo flying overhead. Instead, Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina on the island of Oahu will take the traveler far away to a magical place called Hawaii. Doing what they do best, Disney has created a home away from home where families can enjoy sun, fun and a cultural immersion into Hawaii done only as Disney can.
Aulani (meaning “a messenger of a chief – one who delivers messages from a higher authority,”) located on over 21 acres lining the amazingly beautiful West Oahu coast, is set to open August 29th 2011. The resort has already started to sell their 481 Disney Vacation Club villas and reservations for one of their 359 hotels rooms will begin today, August 2, 2010.
Always the story teller, Disney and it’s Imagineers team have dug deep into Hawaii’s history to bring alive the story of Hawaii to guests. The entire Aulani resort is layered deep with Hawaiian stories and rituals, so that the guest can discover a new piece of the Hawaiian culture and story with every visit.
The hotel rooms, spacious suites and all of Aulani Resort, offer impeccable detail that ties you into the Hawaii culture, both past and present. In fact, Disney reached out to over 60 local artists. Even details, like the white on white duvet cover, which has a delicate Kapa design, was created with the expertise of a local artisan, Dalani Tanahy. Although virtually transported to time of Hawaii’s past, you will find details that remind you that this is created by Mickey’s family, such as Mickey making an appearance in a traditional Hawaiian quilt or very cleverly placed into a piece of Hawaiian art hanging by your bed.
Cool fact: Sharp-eyed guests may spot Menehune, the legendary “little people” of Hawaii, hidden in locations throughout the resort. Many of these will be concealed at a level where only the smallest guests can easily find them.
For the keiki (pronounced “kay-key”, meaning little one or children in Hawaii)
Of course Disney has done the kid (in all of us) proud. There is sure to be no shortage of fun for the keiki; from interactive games, to a 900 foot lazy river, water slides and swimming with fish in the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon! Not to mention the gorgeous white-sand beach that meets the warm Pacific ocean in front of the resort.
Disney is also creating one of the coolest kids clubs I’ve seen in the islands. Aunty’s Beach House which sprawls over 5,200 square feet will feel like a home with two sections, one for the smaller traveler (ages 3 to 7) and another for the older adventurers (ages 8 to 12). Aunty’s Beach house, which has both indoor and outdoor play space, will be filled with magical fun, such as a fireplace who’s flame dances with surprises for the watchful visitor and a skylight above where you just might see Stitch running across. Open both day and night, it’s the perfect spot for the kids to let loose while the parents try out the spa or go out for a nice dinner.
Cool tip: anyone who is older than you in Hawaii, is an Auntie. So don’t be surprised if while visiting you are called Auntie by someone that you have never met before. It is a sign of respect and further reflects upon the value that many in Hawaii feel…that we are all responsible for taking care of and guiding our youth.
For the parents or Makua (pronounced ma-coo-ah)
While the kids hang out at Auntie’s Beach House, let the parents play in the 18,000-square-foot spa which includes 15 treatment rooms, including a family treatment room and a fitness center. Or take a dip in the quiet pool situated in a serene garden on the Aulani grounds. Also in the line up are excursion adventures, many of them exclusive to Aulani guests with a focus on stories that tie back to the experience. Excursions include horseback riding, dolphin-spotting and snorkeling, catamaran excursion, sea kayaking, Pacific Aviation Museum, Hawaiian Plantation Village, and much more all hosted by local experts and Aulani Guides. The resort also features convenient access to a 330-slip Marina and a Ted Robinson-designed 18-hole Championship golf course. Yes folks, there is something for everyone!
Cool fact: Disney has even created a room off of the lobby for the kids to play in while Mom and Dad check in! So clever!
Food…So ono (ono: (OH-no), meaning delicious)
We all know one of the most important things to any vacation is the food. Not to disappoint, Aulani will feature two on-site restaurants. The chic full-service ?AMA ?AMA, named after a traditional Hawaiian fish, will feature ocean-colored walls, a reflecting pond centerpiece and both indoor and outdoor seating areas. The Makahiki, a buffet style restaurant named after the Hawaiian harvest festival season, will host daily Disney character greetings and will be home to murals painted by Hawaiian artist Al Lagunero. Both dining experiences will feature foods unique to Hawaii with ingredients from local farmers and fisherman.
Among the lounges and bars will be the ?Olelo Room, celebrating the Hawaiian language. (?Olelo means “word.”) Décor will include surroundings all labeled in Hawaiian. That’s every single thing, from the floor, to the lights, to the forks, to the spoons, it will all be labeled with their Hawaiian word. And yes, children are invited to this lounge so it’s a learning and fun break for the entire family.
Aloha Disney…E Komo Mai (eh- ko-mo-mai meaning welcome!)
Even with only two days to preview the construction site and talk with the wonderful and creative folks at Disney who are behind Aulani, I still left learning more about Hawaii than I have over the past four years of living here. Their passion for delivering a true and rich story of the Hawaiian culture was ever apparent.
When one enters into the world of Disney, whether 3 years old or 70, they open their minds and are ready to be enveloped by magic. They are open to learning new things, going on new journeys and taking what they learned and remembering it, growing from it. Disney is magical in that way. Aulani is sure to be the same. With Disney’s migration to Hawaii and the opening of Aulani, guests are almost guaranteed to leave with a greater knowledge, respect and love of Hawaii and it’s culture. Disney is merging it’s pixie dust with that of Hawaii’s aloha…and the combination should be quite magical!
To sign up for updates, visit Disney’s website.
Disclosure: The Disney team paid for my travel, hotel, food and excursion while previewing the site.