Looking back on my childhood, some of my most cherished memories consisted of our family summer vacations. We would typically drive to each vacation destination and stop at any and every tourist attraction along the way. I remember one of my favorite trips was our drive to Seattle when I was ten. We hit up several tourist attractions on the drive ranging from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone to a mining museum in Montana to exploring some cool towns in Idaho. I loved traveling with my family, and I was obsessed with wanting to visit every state. (I’ve almost accomplished this goal… I only have Vermont, Delaware, and New Hampshire to go!) Now being a parent myself, my husband and I hope to offer the same to our children – the opportunity to show our children new places while creating fun, long-lasting family memories. (And hopefully one of our future trips will enable me to check off my final three states!)
When debating where we wanted to take our vacation this year, Alfonso and I wanted a place that both Sienna and AJ could enjoy. We had an amazing experience last summer at Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos – even though AJ was too young to really enjoy it. After many suggestions from friends and conducting my own research online, we concluded that Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii seemed like the best fit for everyone.
I had read hundreds of reviews about the resort before heading to Hawaii. I found some to be very helpful, (i.e. not using the resort to rent a car for a day, reserving a two-bedroom villa, attending a luau at nearby Paradise Cove, etc.) To offer my own review, here’s what I loved about Disney’s Aulani Resort:
- The resort is absolutely, positively beautiful! Aesthetically, it looks like a Disney resort in a Hawaiian paradise. It was the perfect mix of enjoying the Disney characters along with the Hawaiian beaches, food, and ambiance.
- The two-bedroom villa was wonderful. It was the ideal space for our family. (We brought all three kids, Sienna’s friend, and our baby-sitter.) The full kitchen was great for cooking the kids’ breakfast and dinners. (My toddler is one of the pickiest eaters ever. He is currently in the will-only-eat-oatmeal-for-breakfast phase.) Additionally, it was great to have the ability and space to clean bottles and breast pump parts -two activities that I find myself doing constantly.
- The beach was, in the words of my stepdaughter, “absolutely awesome!” The Aulani beach is on a man-made lagoon, which made it easier/safer to take AJ out for a dip and for the girls to snorkel without battling the waves and strong currents.
- The cabanas were a wonderful break from the continuous -and often unsuccessful- search of finding available chairs by the pool. We rented a cabana for two days by the pool and loved every second. There was a Pack ‘n Play set up for my 3-month old, a fan, curtains for privacy, TV, awesome waiters, and simply, it made the pool/beach experience much easier with kids. They were expensive, but well worth the splurge for two days out of the week.
- The Laniwai Spa was a favorite for Alfonso and me. We both had a deep tissue massage that served as the most relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minutes of our vacation. We also enjoyed utilizing the beautiful spa gardens consisting of a charming area of mineral hydrotherapy pools and showers at various temperatures. They offered a great array of massages at typical resort pricing. (Next time, I will definitely be trying the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage.)
- Ama Ama was hands down the best restaurant. My Korubuta Pork Chop with Coconut Rice and Thai Peanut Sauce was DELISH! Alfonso and I enjoyed a romantic date night here (sans kids) on one of the nights. The breakfasts here were also divine. Their Buttermilk Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Vanilla Sauce is a must! Your life will never be the same after letting your taste buds enjoy this delectableness.
- The buffet breakfast (Makahiki), where the Disney characters make their rounds, was sheer excitement for my toddler. Even though I always fed AJ in the room prior to heading down for breakfast, he used this time to stalk Goofy and Minnie and partake in the fun activities led by the Disney characters.
- The luau at Paradise Cove was fabulous! It’s a ten-minute walk from the hotel and totally worth venturing out to enjoy. The activities beforehand are great for all ages – the spear throwing was a big hit for our clan. (Not to brag, but I was the only person in our group to stick my spear in the target. Apparently, I have some mad spear skills.:)) The show itself was incredibly entertaining! The kids loved the experience of getting up on stage and partaking in the hula lesson. And the fire performers produced some major cringe-worthy moments with many “oooo’s” and “ahhhh’s.”
- The friendly Aulani staff –or “Cast Members” -were incredibly helpful. Everyone we dealt with was warm, welcoming, and always cheerful –just like at Disneyland. They certainly receive a 10-rating for hospitality!
- There was never a shortage of things to do! The girls enjoyed Aunty’s Beach House (where they offered activities for kids ages 3-12), snorkeling, paddle boarding, and the water slides. AJ had an absolute ball at the Starlit Hui show (featuring some hula and traditional Hawaiian dancing, as well as appearances by the Disney characters). He also enjoyed the Splash Zone, making sand castles on the beach, the Lazy River, and the Ka Maka Grotto pool. And, of course, Anders enjoyed observing all of the sights, sounds, and checking out the pool scene from his deluxe Pack ‘n Play in the cabana.:)
Overall, our family vacation was everything we hoped it would be. It was fun. It was relaxing. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy numerous activities together as a family. And most of all, we created some wonderful, long-lasting family memories. Aulani was the perfect place for our family vacation. I would highly recommend it if you’re a Disney-lover, Hawaii-lover, or love both. And if you have a range of ages, it caters to all!
Now all Alfonso and I need after the flight back with two under two is another vacation. Any suggestions?:)