Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on the western coast of Oahu, welcomed its first guests on Monday, Aug. 29, with a special sunrise ceremony. Aulani, a Disney Vacation Club property that also is open to individual guests, combines a Disney experience and Hawaiian traditions for families. The official Grand Opening ceremony for Aulani will take place Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. Most of the first guests this week are Disney Vacation Club members.
Guests of Disney’s Aulani have ample opportunity to interact with Disney characters but also are exposed to Hawaiian culture throughout the resort, from the artwork to nightly performances. “We are thrilled to open our doors and invite guests from around the world to experience Aulani,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "This resort is a unique and exciting project that combines the magic and storytelling of Disney with the rich culture and beautiful scenery of Hawaii. It is the ultimate family paradise with a touch of Disney magic.”
Each day of their stay, Aulani guests can customize their experiences – relaxing on the beach or visiting Laniwai, the first Disney-operated spa, playing pools (which include two waterslides), discovering the island on specially planned excursions (some operated in conjunction with Adventures by Disney, Disney’s tour operation), gathering at the Fireside Mo‘olelo for storytelling (mo‘olelo is the Hawaiian word for story), or spotting the statues of Menehune, the legendary island little people, hidden throughout the resort.
“We want this resort destination to reflect the vibrant culture that surrounds it. The name Aulani expresses a connection to tradition and deep storytelling – and its roots are in this land right here,” said Joe Rohde, senior vice president and creative executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. Aulani in Hawaiian means “a messenger of a chief – one who delivers a message from a higher authority.” Aulani’s goal is to serve as a messenger of the Hawaiian spirit, people and culture.
Aulani is situated on 21 acres of oceanfront property in Ko Olina, adjacent to a nine-acre, crystal-blue lagoon and white-sand beach. Ko Olina is 17 miles from Honolulu International Airport and approximately 30 minutes from Waikiki. When all phases of the property are complete, Aulani will include 359 traditional hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom Disney Vacation Club villas in two towers, each featuring rooms that offer thrilling views of the ocean, mountains and the magnificent, lush surroundings.
Resort amenities include the 18,000-square-foot Laniwai spa with 15 treatment rooms and a fitness center. Many spa treatments draw upon Hawaiian healing traditions. Aulani also features two signature restaurants – the full-service beachside Ama Ama and the buffet-style Makahiki – each offering foods unique to Hawaii.
Children 3-12 have access to a kids’ club, Aunty’s Beach House. Here they can explore Hawaiian culture through supervised entertainment, including interactive touch tables, wildlife and nature programs, arts and crafts, Disney movies and traditional Hawaiian games. Children also can play in Waikolohe Valley, Aulani’s seven-acre water play area. For those who love waterslides, Aulani offers Tubestone Curl, the resort’s tube slide, and Volcanic Vertical, Aulani’s tunnel slide.
Guests also can interact with native Hawaiian fish, including angelfish, butterfly fish and tangs, in the 3,800-square-foot Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon. The Makai Preserve conservation pool offers an interactive experience that allows guests to get in the pool with stingrays and other local species (available by reservation only for $50 adult, $45 children). A portion of the proceeds from this activity will support research and conservation efforts through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. Other water activities at Aulani also include a quiet adult pool, wading pool and, for the ultimate relaxation, sunset-facing hot tubs.
Aulani offers a full menu of discovery excursions with the aid of local experts. These include explorations of tropical forests, hiking in local mountains, sailing aboard catamarans, swimming with dolphins, cooking with local chefs, following a ghost tour and more. The excursions are specially designed for Aulani guests by Adventures by Disney and feature a special Disney Adventure Guide.
When all phases are complete, Aulani will feature 50,000-square-feet of meeting space, including a 14,545-square-foot conference center, the main ballroom (which is divisible by six), four breakout rooms and other pre-function space. Disney also has created three distinct event lawns, including an oceanfront wedding lawn for Disney Fairy Tale Weddings & Honeymoons. For more information, travel agents can visit www.disneytravelagents.com.