Hawaii Vacation at Aulani

We recently got back from our Spring vacation to Hawaii, which in the words of Max, was epic.  Plenty of words and photos below.  Why was it so good?  Because it was the perfect Wynn vacation, no plans, no agendas, just lazing around in a beautiful place having a great time.

We headed to Disney's new resort on Oahu, Aulani, which just opened recently, for Ella's birthday.  We moved our trip back a couple of weeks because we had a whole bunch of friends coming to see us just after Ella's birthday.  We always go to Disney World for Max's birthday, so for our spring vacation we thought that it would be nice to go somewhere for Ella.  And Aulani just opened and is one of the Disney Vacation Club resorts (we actually own part of Aulani), plus it is pretty easy to get to Hawaii from Seattle, so it seemed like a grand plan.
The resort itself is just gorgeous.  Disney really worked to get a lot of authentic Hawaiian art and traditions throughout the entire place.  It sits in a golf community called Ko 'Olina, so you are about 45 minutes from Honolulu, but that didn't bother us at all, we weren't there to shop.
Aulani's Main lobby as seen from our room
The Lobby, beautiful Hawaiian art covers everything
The beach
The pool, the waterslides go through the rocks back there
When we first booked, we just booked a Studio room (for DVC members, you can choose a Studio, 1, 2, or 3 bedroom villa).  After 3 days we decided to upgrade to the 1 bedroom.  With the kids getting bigger, we just felt that we needed more space, and it was really worth it.  We had a whole stockpile of points to use to do it, so we should have just done it from the beginning, you get some much more space plus a full kitchen and washer / dryer that it was a way better room.
The living room had a bed in the couch and one under the TV

The resort still is not fully opened, I think only about 66% or so is currently open, there is a large wing yet to open later this year, so we didn't have to worry too much about crowds or anything.  There is an absolute ton of stuff to do, multiple pools, a lazy river, water slides, kid area, snorkeling, a beach, a spa, goes on and on.
You can see the main pool, the kids play area, the lazy river, snorkeling, and the slides are in that volcano

Of course, me being me, and the kids being kids, we were all about the pool and especially the water slides.  Unfortunately, the tube one was closed, apparently it was a little too slow and some tubes were getting stuck, so they were in the process of resurfacing it while we were there.  However, the one slide Volcano Vertical is pretty cool.  It starts at the top of the Volcano, and then it is in a completely pitch black enclosed tube, that is much faster than you think (Sarah only did it one time).  It was pretty awesome.
The slide was really speedy, thus allowing me to make a monster splash
Ella liked to be prepared for the water

Max also optimized for speed and would yell the whole way down which was hysterical
Being Disney, they make sure to take care of the kids.  First there is Auntie's Beach House, which is a 5,000 sq ft enclosed and monitored area just for kids.  They have staff to watch and entertain the kids so that you can just drop them off and go do whatever you want.  Each day had organized activities like volcano science where they would make a volcano, or space goo where they would make some gooey, slimy stuff with Stitch.  Then they have a bunch of adventure trails where the kids go on a scavenger hunt all around the resort with some smart phones that give them clues, and when they solve the clue and find something, it would usually make something cool happen, like turn on torches or something.  It is all based around some Hawaiian stories about Menehunue, who are these little mischievous guys who like to play tricks.

It just keeps going and going, they also offer a ton of entertainment.  Each day you can pick up a calendar for the day that lists all of the stuff going on for the day, from hula dancing to craft type of stuff, stargazing, and a whole lot more.  Now we didn't do a whole lot of different things, we were there to just relax after all.  However, we did do movie night under the stars, some fire storytelling.  Once a week, they put on a hui, which is like a luau without the eating and fire dancing.
Ella doing some Hula dancing at the hui
Next up on our adventure was some snorkeling.  They have a pretty large pool right in the resort where you can go snorkeling in.  You are free to take the stuff down to the beach if you want, as long as you rinse off before going in their controlled pool.  Ella and I decided to check it out and were surprised at how cold the water was for the fish.  Was pretty neat, but I prefer the real deal.

Ella and I saying hi to Sarah through the viewing windows
Obviously there is plenty to eat while there, but one of the highlights and the place that got a whole lot of money from us was our daily trip to the Shaved Ice shack.  Delicious.

With a full kitchen in our room, we actually ended up buying food at the grocery store and eating most of our food from our room.  It was easier, faster, and a heck of a lot cheaper.  We did do one really nice dinner at Ama 'Ama which is one of the restaurants there at the resort.  It was Ella's birthday dinner, so we went all out.
Our view at dinner
Ella's double birthday desert (which was incredibly good)
The highlight of the trip, at least for Ella and I, was surfing lessons.  Max was not quite old enough to take it on yet, so Sarah decided to hang out on the beach with him while Ella and I took our first ever attempt at surfing.  Before we get too much further, the standing up bit is a little easier than you might think, but all of that paddling will kill you.  I was worn out big time after an hour of surfing.

We ventured out with Hawaiian Fire, which is a surf school owned and operated by local fire fighters.  They teach it at a beach not too far from our resort which was convenient, and I had read a lot of good things about them online.  You can also book with them directly through Disney, but we decided to do it on our own.

Because of Ella's age, she required a private lesson, which was fine by me.  It was nice knowing that an instructor would be with her 100% of the time.  We both started out practicing some paddling and standing up on shore before heading out in to the water.

After we nailed the basics, Ella headed out with her instructor for some tandem surfing so that she could get the hang of it, while I was thrown to the sharks.  It was pretty windy that day, and the surf was fairly chaotic so I was a little worried Ella would only be able to go tandem the whole time.  But not too long after I got in, I looked over and saw Ella on her own board surfing away, so she must have impressed her instructor.
Ella on her first wave
She already looks like a natural
She did it!
Apparently, I don't have the natural abilities that my daughter does
Proof that I did something other than fall over
Proof that Ella fell at least once
Ella wants to change her bedroom to be a surfer's girl room, she loved it
Max just played on the beach while Ella and I surfed

While we were on Oahu, we had to check out Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.  Apparently, we chose the wrong day to go, because there was a Spam festival happening downtown and traffic was a nightmare.  However, we did eventually make it.  Waikiki is surprisingly small for being so famous.  Really nice, just small.  On our last day, we had a late flight, 8:30pm, and coincidentally, the Reynolds landed on Oahu at 1:30pm.  So we were able to head back down to Waikiki to see Jaime, Dawn, and their new daughter Reese before we had to head back home.  It was great to be able to see him, and have a few drinks right on the beach.
Honolulu as seen from the beach where we surfed
World famous Waikiki Beach
The Godfather of surfing, the Duke
Last but not least, we did make a visit to Pearl Harbor.  Very cool experience to see the history, take the kids through the park as they were earning their Junior Ranger badges.  Only odd part was they bought some toy battleships and old WW2 fighter plane toys and then recreated Pearl Harbor on the floor.  Not sure if that is ok, or if we should try to redirect it.  Kind of weird to be honest, we just sort of let it go, I think it is just kids playing, no ill intent, so seemed ok, but some weird debates go on internally over that.
The USS Arizona Memorial

Gun turret #4 from the Arizona
It is still leaking oil, the soldiers who died inside are still there
While we were there, we were able to watch a Sergaent in the army who was retiring raise a few flags on the flag pole over the Arizona to be able to keep as part of his retirement.  Pretty cool to see.


Pam said...

Very much enjoyed your pics and commentary. Glad you got to see the Pearl Harbor Memorial. No trip is complete without a visit there. It is a moving and emotional experience.
The pics of Ella surfing are priceless!
Thanks for posting!

A. Pam

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