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Aulani Villas Archives

August 26, 2012

Ama Ama: Aulani's Signature Dining Experience

Andrew Rossi

In my last entry I talked about the various dining options available at Disney's Aulani resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii. Of all the restaurants at the resort, however, there is one that stands above the rest. If you were to only dine at one restaurant at Aulani, Ama Ama would be the one not to miss. The restaurant is to Aulani what California Grill is to the Contemporary or Yachtsman Steakhouse is to the Yacht Club resort, a fine dining experience that offers unparalleled service, atmosphere, and cuisine. At Aulani, Ama Ama provides a dining experience unlike any other and one that is truly unforgettable.

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Overview:
One of the greatest attributes of Aulani is its breathtaking location. Sitting right on the beach and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the resort highlights the natural beauty of its surroundings.

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Aulani is also a resort meant to celebrate Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions. Ama Ama does both of these, showcasing the island's natural beauty and its unique culture. While Hawaiian heritage plays an important role in the restaurant's theming, it does so in more subtle ways. This starts with the restaurant's name as the ʻamaʻama is a tasty local fish immortalized in popular Hawaiian songs. Ama Ama celebrates not only the fish, but also the fishing settlements along the coast dating back to the 12th century. A very distinctive cuisine also plays an important role in Hawaiian culture and at Ama Ama the gourmet chefs use fresh local ingredients and island flavors to create dishes that combine both traditional and contemporary elements. What truly makes this restaurant special, however, is its location which helps make it a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.

Atmosphere:
Location, location, location. At Ama Ama this is what takes precedence above all else. Situated right on the beach, the restaurant is designed to highlight the beautiful view.

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What makes the dining room so unique is that it is open-air, which maximizes the views of the nearby ocean and allows you to enjoy the practically perfect Hawaiian weather.

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Every table in the restaurant is positioned in a way to offer diners an optimal view. It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures of Ama Ama do not even do it justice.

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With an atmosphere that relies primarily on its tremendous views and location, there are few decorative elements and details inside. However, although very minimalist in style, the restaurant is not without a backstory. According to legend Auntie and Uncle (who are the fictional family incorporated in much of Aulani's lore) have a beach house with roots which go back to the 1800s. The original house was part of a fishing village and was added to over time as the family grew. Thus, each room represents a different generation and has a slightly different feel, going from the traditional to the more modern.

Throughout the restaurant there is subtle theming that pays homage to Hawaii's fishing heritage. For example, in one part of the dining room you can notice fishing nets draped from the ceiling rafters.

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The restaurant also has a degree of refinement. In fact, just like when dining at a Signature restaurant in Disney World, there is a dress code. Men are asked to wear khakis, slacks, dress shorts, and collared shirts; for ladies capri pants, skirts, dresses, and dress shorts are acceptable. Those clothing items not permitted in the restaurant include tank tops, swimwear, men's hats, cut-off pants, and torn clothing.

This more refined feel is set as soon as you set foot inside Ama Ama. Diners enter the restaurant through a glass-enclosed entryway with a modern-looking light fixture.

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The first element of the dining room that greets you is a beautiful fountain and reflecting pool.

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There is even live entertainment for guests to enjoy during the course of their meal.

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The dining room's overall upscale feel makes it geared more toward adults rather than families with small children. The restaurant's low lighting makes for a more romantic dining experience. Still, I found the overall atmosphere to be very calm and relaxing. Whether enjoying a beautiful Hawaiian sunset or dining under the stars, Ama Ama's atmosphere is absolutely awe inspiring; simply put, it is paradise.

The Menu:
Matching the restaurant's refined and upscale atmosphere is a gourmet menu that highlights traditional Hawaiian flavors and ingredients with a contemporary flare. While the menu rotates to highlight seasonal ingredients, the dinner menu focuses primarily on sustainable seafood as well as steak and pasta dishes.

For starters there is a Big Eye Tuna and Sea Asparagus Poke Martini ($18.00) that is finished tableside. Other appetizers offerings include the Hamakua Mushroom Tart ($16.00), the Ama Ama Seafood Platter ($26.00) featuring sustainable catch ceviche, crab legs, jumbo shrimp, and Goose Point oysters, the Ama Ama Chopped Salad ($18.00) with crispy wanton strips, bacon, avocado, and a house-made ranch dressing, Island Field Greens ($12.00) with a paypaya vinaigrette, Kahuku Corn Chowder ($12.00), and Maui Onion Soup Au Gratin ($12.00).

For entrees the menu is very diverse. For those in the mood for seafood there is the Hawaiian Sustainable Catch (market price) prepared either pan seared or grilled, topped with your choice of lemon-caper brown butter or tomato-ogo, and served with island vegetables and potato puree. There is also a Seafood Paella ($37.00).

For steaks the menu features a Grilled New York Strip Loin ($41.00) topped with a shallot-red wine sauce and served with potato puree and farmer's market vegetables and a Grilled Angus Filet of Beef ($49.00) creamed swiss chard and soufflé potatoes.

There is also a Cider-Maple Roasted Chicken Breast ($33.00) accompanied by gnocchi, maitake mushrooms, broccoli florrets, and baby carrots, Rack of Lamb ($46.00) served with roasted root vegetables, potato gratin and topped with a garlic-lemon thyme jus, and for vegetarians a Local Spring Vegetable Pasta ($27.00) with a basil pesto and toasted garlic bread crumbs.

If you want additional side items there are also a variety of options including Asparagus Gratin ($8.00), Hamakua Mushrooms ($9.00), Sauteed Broccoli ($7.00), Souffle Potatoes ($8.00), Potato Puree ($8.00), and Brown Rice ($4.00).

You might also want to save room for dessert as there are some delectable choices such as the Coconut Panna Cotta with chilled passion fruit broth, Liliko`i Meringue Mousse with caramelized bananas, Hawaiian Chocolate Cake with Ka'u coffee cream and caramel, Floating Island with guava, strawberry, and lychee sorbet, and Pineapple Tarte Tatin with caramel cream. All desserts are $10.00.

When we sat at our table we were first brought some fresh multi-grain rolls. This was a great way to start the meal as the rolls were served warm, crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. Along with the bread was brought butter and two different types of Hawaiian salt to help add a little extra flavor.

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For an appetizer our sever strongly recommended the Maui Onion Soup Au Gratin ($12.00). I was a little hesitant about spending that much for soup, but decided to give it a try. The size of the soup itself made it worth the price as it was more than enough to split with another member of my party. In taste, the soup was very similar to a standard French Onion Soup. One thing that I did notice about the soup, and it might have to do with using Maui onions, was that it had a slightly sweeter flavor than a regular French Onion soup. The soup also came topped with a generous amount of cheese and I would not hesitate to say that this was one of the best onion soups I have had anywhere.

Onion_Soup

For an entrée I decided on the Rack of Lamb ($46.00) served with roasted root vegetables, potato gratin and topped with a garlic-lemon thyme jus. The lamb itself was so tender with just a little bit of fat that added a little extra flavor. It was grilled perfectly so that it was slightly charred on the outside but once you cut into it, it was still juicy and moist. The garlic-lemon thyme jus that topped the lamb really complimented it very well. I actually found the sauce to be fairly mild and light in flavor so as to enhance the taste of the lamb without being too overpowering .

Lamb

I was a little disappointed with the root vegetables. To start, they were not cooked very well so they were on the crisp side. Also, some of the vegetables also had very strong, distinctive flavors. I was not exactly sure what types of vegetables they were, I definitely noticed some onion and squash, but in appearance it looked kind of like a ratatouille. The real star of the meal was the potato gratin. Not only were the potatoes cheesy and creamy in flavor, but they came wrapped in a flaky pastry crust.

Overall, this was a very high-quality meal. The dishes featured a great combination of a variety of flavors and utilized fresh, native ingredients. In addition, the presentation was exquisite. In sum, the meal was everything you would expect from a Signature Disney restaurant.

Service:
One thing that was very impressive about Ama Ama was the number of servers the restaurant had. The sever-to-guest ratio was such that each server only had a couple of tables to wait on at a time. This meant that the servers could be very attentive to their guests. Indeed, throughout the course of the meal my server was continually checking in on our table to make sure we were enjoying everything; he was able to take his time with us rather than having to rush around from table to table.

Not only was my server was also extremely helpful and informative when it came to the menu, but he was also a great source of knowledge about the resort and the surrounding area. With dishes using so many local Hawaiian ingredients, he took time to explain the various dishes and offer recommendations. He also asked us about our plans and what we were going to see and do on the island, giving us some local insider tips and advice. Overall, the meal progressed at a very relaxed pace that really allowed you to fully enjoy your food as well as the beautiful setting in which you were dining.

Dining on a Budget:
Ama Ama is not the type of restaurant that you can really dine on a budget, but if you are staying at Aulani it is definitely worth the splurge. How many times are you going to have the opportunity to dine in a restaurant like this? One possible way to save a little money is the Ama Ama Menu for Two. For $115 this includes an Appetizer Sampler, a Bone-In Rib Eye Steak For Two served with potato puree, hamakua mushrooms, and broccoli with you choice of shallot-red wine or béarnaise sauce, and Hawaiian Chocolate Cake for dessert.

Ama Ama is also open for breakfast and lunch, which allows you to experience the same beautiful atmosphere and breathtaking views as dinner but with a menu that is slightly less expensive.

The Overall Experience:
I really do not think that my words can truly do justice to Ama Ama. Like the rest of Aulani, this restaurant takes advantage of the natural beauty of the resort's location. Aulani has everything you would want from a Hawaiian vacation; it is quiet, relaxing, visually stunning, and completely immerses you into the culture, history, and traditions of the Hawaiian Islands. Ama Ama does all of these things as well. While its location is the true highlight of the dining experience, the subtle details of the restaurant's décor and its locally-inspired menu of both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian cuisine should not be overlooked. Dining here is an experience unlike any other I have had at any restaurant Disney or otherwise. To sum it all up, at Ama Ama you truly feel as though you are dining in paradise.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

August 14, 2012

Fun and (Mostly) Frugal Excursions from Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Miller Family recently returned from a special stay in a Disney Vacation Club villa at Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa on Oahu with our two teenagers and my husband's parents to celebrate some “big” anniversaries happening this year (20 years for my husband and me and 50 for my in-laws). We were looking forward to all of the fun and activities offered at the resort (thank you AllEars.Net for the great reviews!), but we also rented a mini-van so that we could explore more of what the island has to offer. Since all of us had visited Oahu at least once before, my job was to find activities that would please everyone, that none of us had done on previous visits, and that wouldn't break the bank. Here are the highlights. (Please note that travel times from Aulani can vary greatly, depending on the traffic, which can be very heavy at just about any time of day. From what I can tell “rush hour” is any hour in Honolulu.)

Dine and Dance at the Paradise Cove Luau
www.paradisecovehawaii.com

Distance from Aulani: 0.25 miles, a 10-minute walk
Cost: $86 to $149 for adults, $76 to $133 for youths (13-20 years old) and $66 to $121 for kids under 12, depending on the package you choose. DVC members can get a discount to Germaine's Luau, another local luau, but we opted for Paradise Cove, since it was within walking distance of Aulani. We chose the basic luau package in order to keep costs down.

The basic price includes first-come-first-served seating, pre-luau Hawaiian games, music, dancing, a hukilau (fishing) ceremony, the procession of the Royal Court, and the Imu (roasted pig) ceremony, followed by a luau buffet and Hawaiian music and dance Revue. Upgraded packages include souvenir photos and various levels of reserved seating. We really enjoyed the experience. The food was good (although the buffet line was long) and the entertainment top-notch.


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Play a Round of (Windy) Golf at the Ko ‘Olina Golf Course
www.koolinagolf.com

Distance from Aulani: 0.25 miles; a not very long walk before 18 holes of golf, a really long walk after 18 holes (hint: you may want to drive over).
Cost for resort guests: $169 before 1:00 p.m., $129 after 1:00 p.m. DVC members receive additional discounted rates before 1:00 p.m. and kids play free with a paying adult (including free rental clubs) after 3:00 p.m. We played after 1:00 to keep the cost down, but did not wait until after 3:00, when the kids would have been free, because my husband and father-in-law wanted to make sure that they got in 18 holes before it got dark.

Ko ‘Olina is a beautiful, challenging course, but is suitable and welcoming to players of all ages and abilities. The windy conditions made the round even more challenging for the novice golfers in our group, but it certainly kept things interesting. Keep an eye out for the course's famous black swans, and take your plastic souvenir cup upstairs in the club house to Roy's Ko ‘Olina for a discounted beer after your round.


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Hike to the Summit of Diamond Head Crater
http://www.hawaiistateparks.org/parks/oahu/index.cfm?park_id=15

Distance from Aulani: 29 miles, 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
Cost: $5 per car or $1 per person for pedestrians

The hike to the top of Diamond Head was relatively strenuous, and took us about an hour and 15 minutes round trip, including rest stops and stopping to take pictures at the top. This activity is fine for active kids and adults, as long as you take along plenty of water, stop to rest often, and wear proper footwear (unlike the lady we saw doing the hike in her 3-inch heels!), but beware that while short, it is steep, and has a number of stairs to be climbed near the summit. We had a great time, and the views from the top were well worth the effort it took to get to see them.

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Get Wet at the Waikiki Aquarium
www.waquarium.org

Distance from Aulani: 29 miles, 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
Cost: $9 for adults, $6 for active duty military, students and seniors, $4 for youths age 13 to 17, $2 for kids ages 5-12 and free for kids 4 and under.

We really enjoyed the hour and a half that we spent in this small, but very nice aquarium. Highlights included the jellyfish and seals.


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Surf it Up on Waikiki Beach
Distance from Aulani: 28 miles, 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
Cost: varies by provider, but expect to pay $75 to over $100 per person for a one to two hour lesson. There are many surf schools located up and down Waikiki beach.

My husband and I and our kids had taken surfing lessons at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on a previous trip, and I was not really up to it this time, but my husband and kids were eager to hit the waves again. We moved down the beach to a location just in front of the “Duke” Kahanamoku statue (near the Hyatt Regency), and procured one-hour semi-private lessons and an additional hour of surfboard rental for the surfers, and umbrellas and beach chairs for the non-surfers in the group. This location was great, as the waves were breaking closer to the beach here than they were near the Hilton Hawaiian Village, requiring less paddling. All of the surfers “got up” multiple times, and all of us enjoyed the scenery and sheer fun of Waikiki.


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Swim with the Fishes at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve
www1.honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay/index.htm

Distance from Aulani: 35 miles, 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
Cost: $7.50 for adults and free for kids 12 and younger, parking is $1. There is a tram that will take you down to the beach (for $1) and back up (for $1.50), but the walk, while steep, is manageable.

Plan to arrive at the park early! The parking lot often fills early and you will be turned away if it is full (which we were). Once we resolved the parking issue (my husband dropped us off, parked somewhere he probably shouldn't have, and walked up the highway to meet us, don't ask) and actually got everyone into the park it was great. We had to wait about half an hour for our scheduled entry time, and after watching a short video presentation on protecting the assets of the park, we walked down the (steep) hill to the beach. The snorkeling here was absolutely amazing, and the setting gorgeous. I was glad that we snorkeled here rather than paying Disney prices at Aulani's Rainbow Reef.


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Learn and Play at the Polynesian Cultural Center
www.polynesianculturalcenter.com

Distance from Aulani: 47 miles, 1.5 to 2 hours
Cost: Basic admission is $49.95 for adults and $35.95 for kids ages 5-11 (younger free), but there are many different admission packages to choose from that include the nighttime show, “Ha: Breath of Life,” and three separate dining package choices. We chose the basic afternoon admission (noon to 5:00 p.m.), since I thought it might be too long a drive at night after the evening show ended back to Aulani.

We spent a great afternoon touring the six Polynesian villages, watching the shows, and participating in the games and activities. This “outdoor museum” run by the local branch of Brigham Young University, and staffed mostly by its students, was well-executed and a lot of fun. One of my teenage daughters proclaimed it one of the best museums she had ever been to, because of the level of interactivity with the visitors.

Hint: Drive back to Aulani via the North Shore on the Kamehameha Highway, and stop for dinner either at one of the many shrimp trucks in and around Kahuku, or at a restaurant in the lovely town of Haleiwa (we had great Mexican at Cholo's).


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About the Author: Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was ten years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world.


August 3, 2012

Dining in Paradise at Disney's Aulani Resort

Andrew Rossi

I recently had the tremendous opportunity to stay at Disney's Aulani resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii. This was my first ever trip out to our fiftieth state and I could not have asked for a better introduction than staying at here for a few nights. Aulani is everything you would expect from a Disney resort in terms of quality, theming, and detail and all this is added to the fact that you are in such a breathtaking setting.

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I have had the opportunity to stay at many of the resorts in Walt Disney World and I would not hesitate to say that Aulani trumps them all in terms of sheer beauty and grandeur.

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Of course, no trip to Aulani would be complete without sampling some of the resort's cuisine. Here I will offer an overview of the various dining options available at Aulani.

Aulani is a resort that is meant to celebrate Hawaiian culture, history, and traditions. This is evident from the moment you enter the resort's lobby. As soon as I entered the resort I was struck with the same sense of grandeur that I get when stepping into the lobbies of Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World.

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With its high ceilings and beautifully intricate artwork, the Aulani's lobby helps set the tone for the rest of the resort. It is a resort that is built to showcase its location. Indeed, it seems as though no matter where you walk in the resort you are treated to breathtaking views of the ocean or other forms of natural beauty.

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Enhancing this natural beauty is the artwork found throughout the resort that goes a long way in immersing you into Hawaiian traditions and culture.

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Another way to be immersed into Hawaiian culture while staying at Aulani is dining at one of the resort's restaurants. Aulani's restaurants present traditional Hawaiian cuisine and, just as with the rest of the resort, do so in beautiful settings that honor Hawaii's natural beauty and its people's artistry. Here are the various dining options available at Aulani:

Makahiki:

Makahiki_Signage

Makahiki is named for the annual Hawaiian harvest festival held in Oʻahu to celebrate the season of bounty and peace. The story of the Makahiki festival is brought to life in the restaurant's dining room with a series of elegantly composed, jeweled murals which depict scenes of feasting, games, and celebration.

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The dining room also has large windows that allow in plenty of light and bring in some of the natural beauty from outdoors.

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There is also a very unique lighting fixture where the lights look like fruit growing along the branch of a tree.

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The restaurant offers a buffet breakfast served from 7:00am-11:00am, an a la carte lunch from 12:30pm-3:00pm, and dinner from 5:00pm-9:30pm that offers the option of either buffet or a la carte. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday breakfast at Makahiki is transformed to “Aunty's Breakfast Celebration” and features some of your favorite Disney characters. Cost of the breakfast buffet is $27 for adults and $14 for children nine and under. However, on the days with characters the cost of breakfast increases to $32 for adults and $18 for children nine and under. The dinner buffet is $43 for adults and $21 for children nine and under.

The buffet is divided into different sections to highlight the various components of Hawaiian cuisine. At breakfast this includes a Continental section of fruits, yogurt, pastries, and bread pudding; the Western section features scrambled eggs, vegetable frittata, both pork and Portuguese sausage, corned beef hash, baked ham, pancakes, waffles and French toast; the Chinese/Japanese section contains grilled and seared island fish, noodle salad, miso soup, and fried rice; and there is also a Live Action Station where they prepare made-to-order omelets.

At dinner the buffet features a wide variety of offerings. The Starters section includes field green salad, Asian noodle salad, sushi, and soup of the day; there is a section of Seasonal Seafood on Ice that has shrimp, marinated squid, and oysters on the half shell; the Entrée section is comprised of huli huli style chicken and guava barbeque ribs; the Asian section features Chinese pork buns, fried noodles, wok-fried vegetables, and assorted tempura; the Grill section includes kalbi short ribs, soy steaks, and lamb osso bucco; the Seasonal Vegetable section is comprised of island sweet potatoes with macadamia nut butter, and sautéed bok choy; and the Dessert section features mango cheesecake, apple cobbler, bread pudding, molten chocolate cake, and cream puffs.

When it comes to the a la carte menu, lunch offers a lighter fare comprised primarily of sandwiches, salads, and pizzas including an interesting create your own section:

Makahiki_Lunch_Menu

For dinner the a la carte menu features appetizer offerings such as Shrimp Cocktail ($12.00), a Blue Crab Cake ($13.00), and Caesar Salad ($7.00). Entrees include Grilled Teryaki Salmon Filet ($27.00) served with Japanese noodles and stir-fried vegetables, a Pan Roasted Ahi Tuna Steak ($28.00) with peppercorn sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes, and tempura asparagus, and Fafalle Bow Tie Pasta ($21.00) with seasonal vegetables and a creamy basil pesto. The dessert offerings are comprised of a New York Style Cheesecake ($7.00), Chocolate Cake ($10.00), and Apple Pie ($7.00).

The Olelo Room:

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Located adjacent to Makahiki is a lounge known as The Olelo Room. Olelo is the name of the Hawaiian language and the lounge's unique décor features wooden representations of common objects and labels that convey their Hawaiian names.

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The lounge is open from 6:00am-10:00am for a Continental breakfast featuring house-made pastries, fresh fruit, breakfast sandwiches, and specialty coffee drinks. The lounge then opens again from 5:00pm-11:00pm and features live nightly entertainment and an assortment of dinner appetizers.

The Olelo Room's appetizer offerings are a great option if you are looking for a lighter and more relaxed and casual dinner. Some of the offerings include Oyster Shooters ($16.00), Kobe Beef Sliders ($15.00), Kalua Pork Nachos with Pineapple Salsa ($14.00), Sweet-and-Spicy Guava Barbecued Chicken Wings ($14.00), and Crispy Calamari ($15.00)with spicy Luau and sweet Chili Dipping Sauces. The ʻŌlelo Room is also a great place to stop by for a drink before or after a meal offering tropical cocktails, mai tais, mojitos, margaritas, new twists on classic cocktails, fruit-infused sangria, Hawaiian beers, and wines.

Mama's Snack Stop:
If you are just looking for a quick bite to eat there are actually not too many options at Aulani. One such option is Mama's Snack Stop located right in the middle of the resort's main pool area. The brightly colored stand is certainly hard to miss and its location makes it very convenient for grabbing a quick snack while lounging by the pool.

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The menu includes a variety of “dogs” that come on your choice of either a soft roll or crusty bread. There is the Local Red Frank ($5.75), a hickory-smoked all beef hot dog, Portuguese Sausage ($5.75), an All-Beef Hot Dog ($5.75), and a Buffalo-Ranch Fried Chicken Tender “Dog,” basically a fried chicken sandwich ($6.75). The menu also features Fried Chicken Tenders ($9.95) served with French fries. The dogs do not come with fries, but a side of fries or Maui chips can be purchased for $2.95. For something sweet there is a Macadamia Nut Pineapple Cupcake ($4.50). Mama's Snack Stop is open from 10:00am to 7:00pm.

Papalua Shaved Ice:

Shaved_Ice

Right next to Mama's Snack Stop is another of the resort's snack options. Shaved ice is a very popular local favorite and a very refreshing treat while sitting in the sun by the pool or on the beach. For $3.75 this is a great value if you are looking for a quick snack. The shaved ice comes in a wide variety of flavors including watermelon, mango, grape, strawberry, green tea, pineapple, orange, lemon-lime, cherry, guava, banana, root beer, and vanilla. This definitely seems to be the resort's most popular snack options and I witnessed many people around the pool area enjoying one of these frozen treats.

One Paddle, Two Paddle:

One_Paddle_Signage

Tucked in an out-of-the way corner of the main pool area is another of the resort's counter service dining options. If you are not specifically looking for One Paddle, Two Paddle it is very easy to miss and one of the odd things is that it is only open from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. The menu features an assortment of sandwiches, wraps, and salads that make it a good option if you are looking for a lighter meal:

One_Paddle_Menu

Off The Hook:

Off_The_Hook_Signage

Aulani's main poolside bar is Off The Hook, featuring an open-air bar area with big screen televisions and ample seating to enjoy a tropical drink or a bite to eat.

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Off_The_Hook_Seating

Designed to resemble a fisherman's seaside shack, including decorations such as cowry-shell lures, shark-tooth knives, and fishhooks, the bar offers great views of both the main pool as well as the beach.

Off_The_Hook_Exterior

If you are looking for a refreshing drink to cool off while sitting beside the pool, the bar features mai tais, piña coladas, Blue Hawaiʻi, Long Island Ice Tea, signature cocktails, wine, sangria, margaritas and Hawaiian beers.

For lunch, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, Off The Hook serves the same menu featured at One Paddle, Two Paddle. The menu changes at dinner time to an assortment of appetizers that make it a great option if you are looking for a lighter meal while enjoying the Hawaiian sunset or while sitting under the stars. One of the appetizer highlights is the build your own seafood platter. This offers a choice of Oysters, Prawns, Alaskan Crab Legs, and Sustainable Catch Ceviche served with chili pepper water and cocktail sauce. It is priced per piece with Oysters $1.50 each, Prawns $3.50, each the Sustainable Catch Ceviche $7.00, and two once Alaskan Crab Legs $11.00 each. Other appetizers include Spicy Korean Fried Chicken Wings ($12.00), Kobe Beef Sliders ($15.00), and Hoisin Barbecue Pork Riblets ($14.00. If you are in the mood for something sweet there is the Miniature Dessert Sampler ($13.00) that includes Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Brownie, Coconut Panna Cotta with Braised Pineapple, and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake with Guava Pate de Fruit.

Wailana Pool Bar:

Wailana_Signage

Located next to the resort's quieter secondary pool, the Wailana Pool Bar offers the same selection of drinks found at Off The Hook in addition to serving the same menu as One Paddle, Two Paddle from 11:00am-5:00pm. The nice thing about this pool bar is that its more out-of-the-way location makes it less crowded than Off The Hook. It is also a great place to grab a cocktail before enjoying Aulani's Starlit Hui, which is held on the lawn adjacent to the bar.

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‘Ama ‘Ama:

Ama_Ama_Signage

Aulani's signature dining experience is Ama Ama. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if you are staying at Aulani this is definitely a restaurant you do not want to miss. The highlight of the restaurant is its open-air dining room that offers amazing views of the ocean. The chefs here use fresh local ingredients and island flavors to create distinctive Hawaiian dishes that combine traditional with contemporary.

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Breakfast is served here from 7:00am to 10:30am, lunch from 11:30am to 3:00pm, and dinner from 5:30pm to 10:00pm. I had the good fortune of dining here for dinner during my stay which I will go over in greater detail in my next review. Here though is a look at the restaurant's breakfast and lunch offerings.

Breakfast features many traditional items, but with a Hawaiian flair. There is the Three Egg Omelet ($14.00) served with Aulani Potatoes, Sweet Potato and Portuguese Sausage Hash ($15.00) accompanied by poached eggs and marinated hearts of palm, Poached Eggs with an Island Crab Cake ($17.00) topped with a soy-wasabi hollandaise, a Belgian Waffle ($13.00) with grilled island pineapple and salted caramel sauce, Chocolate Milk-Dipped Haupia Bread French Toast ($15.00) stuffed with bananas and peanut butter 15.00, and Whole Wheat Pancakes ($13.00) served with island papaya and coconut syrup. The menu also features two Bakery Baskets: the Classic Flavors, featuring a Cinnamon Roll, Croissant, Almond Bear Claw, and an Apple Fiber Multigrain Muffin ($8.00) and the Hawaiian Flavors, which includes Guava Fan, Coconut Cream Pocket, Croissant, and an Orange-Macadamia Nut Muffin ($8.00).

Lunch features appetizers such as Hearts of Palm and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp ($16.00), Ahi Tuna Tempura ($13.00) with mustard and pickled vegetables, Crispy Curried Chicken Firecracker ($13.00) with mango, and a Kahuku Corn Chowder ($9.00) with taro and salmon. The menu's sandwiches are all served with a choice of sweet potato fries or an island field greens and include a Kalua-Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich ($14.00), Crab and Lobster Roll ($24.00) with wasabi mayo and cucumber, Roasted Chicken Salad on Ciabatta ($14.00), Char-grilled Vegetable Sandwich on Foccacia ($12.00), and an Angus Chuck Burger ($18.00) with caramelized balsamic onions and Vermont white cheddar. If you are looking for something a little more than just a sandwich the menu also includes Today's Hawaiian Sustainable Catch (Market Price), Grilled Sirloin Steak ($24.00) with sautéed mushrooms and sweet potato fries, and Goat Cheese Ravioli ($23.00) with local baby vegetable stew.

Disney's Aulani Resort is pure paradise. It has all the little magical touches that you would expect of a Disney resort added to its absolutely stunning location. If you are looking for a relaxing and care-free vacation, look no further than Aulani; the toughest decision you will have to make during your stay here will be whether to sit by the pool or on the beach. The resort's various dining offerings match perfectly with the overall feel of the resort, presenting an array of both classic and contemporary Hawaiian cuisine.

My only complaint about the resort are that the dining options are somewhat limited. The resort could definitely benefit from the addition of a food court, another counter service restaurant, and maybe a more casual and economical sit-down restaurant. As luck would have it, the Disney Parks Blog just recently announced the addition of two new quick service dining locations at Aulani with construction set to begin in September. Aulani is still in its infancy and I expect the resort will continue to grow, develop, and add new experiences through the years, which will help make an already great resort even better.

See past reviews by Guest Blogger Andrew Rossi.

September 10, 2011

A Sneak Preview of Aulani, Part 3

by Jennifer B.
AllEars® Guest Blogger

Day Four " Saturday
The Plan: Beach Day

We slept in this morning, and then just got straight into our swimsuits and cover-ups and headed down to breakfast.

We went to the front desk afterwards so that I could see Arynn again since she was working that morning. We chatted with her for a few minutes and then went out to the snorkel lagoon. We got our snorkel gear and got into the freezing cold water. It was a pretty large lagoon with a lifeguard in the water and another one on the side. The cast member there told us about not stopping in the middle and that we could stay as long as we wanted. It was very similar to the shark reef at Typhoon Lagoon.

We all went into the water and swam around. There were so many fish and they were so beautiful! The fish weren't afraid of us at all and swam very close, but not close enough that you would be nervous to have them there. There was also a menehune in the water.


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After a few minutes Ellen and Beth got out, and Angela and I stayed in. After we had our fill we went down to the beach and they let us take the snorkel equipment with us.

We tried to find some fish in the ocean, and while we did see one or two, it wasn't as clear as the lagoon was. And of course the amount of fish that was there was much better in the Disney lagoon. So we decided we were done with snorkeling in the ocean. Ellen decided to get a paddle board then, and we all took turns on it after signing the waiver. It was such hard work! I couldn't even balance enough to stand, so I just paddled on my knees. It definitely gave me a whole new respect for surfers and what strength and balance it takes to do that.

We left the beach area and went back into the lazy river. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool just relaxing and we also ordered lunch from the servers.


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Again, the service was incredibly slow, but the food was delicious. The pool meals are dubbed complete meals, so we got a burger with avocado on it, taro chips, potato salad, and chocolate cake. We also ordered Passion Coladas which were non-alcoholic drinks. Everything was delicious.


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Every now and then the characters would come out, and Goofy even got into the pool water (just his feet) with the kids. The kids were having a blast with the cast members and the characters. At 3 p.m. that day, they were offering lei-making in Community Hall. That was so much fun! They had out bowls of different colored orchids and they gave us large needles and string, and we just made it however we wanted. They also had bowls of different beads so that we could make bracelets. I ended up making two, one for each of my daughters.

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We took the leis back up to our room, and then went back out to the pool and hot tubs. We did some recordings on the camera about how much fun we had and what we enjoyed most. Then again it was more time on the lazy river. I think we could have spent the entire vacation on those innertubes and been very content!

We wanted to get a few more things from the Island Store at the shopping center, so we walked back. Each time we went to the Island Store, we combined all of our receipts to get it to equal $100. If you did, you got a free gift. So from this trip, Beth, Angela, and I were all able to get a Hawaii reusable grocery bag. On the way back to the room, I stopped by the gift shop to look at their pin book. I had brought a few with me from home to trade, so I was able to get four new ones that I liked out of their book.

We went back up to the room to shower and change and then we went to dinner at ‘Ama ‘Ama. We had our original server from the first dinner there, Johnston. He was wonderful again, and offered us purse hangers for our purses. I think this is a wonderful idea for restaurants to carry these!


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For dinner, we got the tomato salad again to share and then Beth and Ellen split a shrimp appetizer. For our entrees, I ordered the goat cheese ravioli, Ellen and Angela got the filet of beef, and Beth got a lobster tail.


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The food was great, and then we went to the gift shop one last time to get the souvenirs we had been eyeing all weekend. I ended up getting Duffy bears for each of my daughters, and an Aulani frame and some pins. We went back up to the room to start the dreaded task of unpacking.

We were all up late that night packing and talking. It was hard to believe that the trip was almost over!

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Day Five " Sunday
The Plan: Swap Meet, Waikiki Beach, and Fly Home

We woke up early because we wanted to get in some more beach and pool time before we had to check out at 11 a.m. After breakfast we went to the Menehune Bridge in the pool area so that I could take some pictures of it. You are supposed to be less than 48 inches to be there. There was a small water slide, and bridges, and waters cannons. It was definitely a child's dream! I saw adults on it without kids on more than one occasion, so I am sure that it is fun for people of all ages.


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Angela and I snorkeled some more, then Angela went down to the beach. I wanted to get in the ocean once last time since I am in a land-locked state. Angela stayed on the shore and made dribble castles in the sand.

We only stayed for about 20 minutes and then went back to the lazy river. We did a few laps, and then the girls left and I did one last lap by myself. I went back up to the room and showered then got the rest of the packing done. Beth, Ellen, and I ran down to the lounge they have for guests who have a late flight home.

Since checkout is at 11 a.m. you can store your bags with bell services, and then they have a lounge that you can use all day if needed. They have lockers, showers, computers, TVs, and couches. So you could spend the whole rest of your day at the beach or the pool and still be able to shower and freshen up before the red eye flight home. They even have the fast spinning dryer for your bathing suit so that you don't have to take a wet suit home with you.


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We did a last sweep of the room and then called the valet to pull the car around. We stopped by the concierge desk to see what they recommended for lunch that was near the airport. She mentioned pizza, and we all thought that sounded good since we hadn't had any since we'd gotten there. We went out to the front drive and the valets loaded our bags in the trunk and then wished us safe travels home.

We drove to Big Kahuna's Pizza, which was a tiny hole in the wall restaurant. The place was tiny, but it smelled so good! We all ordered individual pizzas and since it was our first visit there, the woman working there gave us a complimentary order of their garlic cheese bread balls. All of the food was so delicious! And the price was between $6 - $8 per individual pizza. I got a veggie pizza, Angela got cheese, Ellen got BBQ chicken, and Beth got a BLT pizza. Beth and I ended up trading one slice each so that we could try out each other's.

After lunch, we drove Angela and Beth to the airport for their flights. Ellen and I were on the same flight that night, but it didn't leave until 9:44 p.m. We said our goodbyes, and then Ellen and I went to a Swap Meet that they have on the weekends at the Aloha Stadium. It was a dollar to get in, and then we parked on the backside of one of the tents.

All I can say is, WOW! We wished we would have known about this place sooner. Ellen and I joked that next time we are getting off the plane and going straight there. It was the perfect place to buy souvenirs. I ended up buying two Hawaiian shirts for my husband, two dresses for my daughters, two dresses for me, and one for my sister. I really wish we would have known about this sooner because we spent twice the amount on dresses earlier in the week at the Island store, and we could have gotten them here for half the price. Oh well, lesson learned.

We stopped to get some cold drinks and then left since the meet shut down at 2 p.m. We didn't really have a plan, so we decided to go to Waikiki Beach and go exploring. We couldn't really find a good place there, so we parked at the Army Museum and then walked around Luxury Row. It had stores like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.

After a couple hours of exploring we stopped at a few more shops to get drinks and I bought a couple more trinkets for my daughters. We knew we wanted Bubba Gump's for dinner, so we drove toward the mall where the restaurant was located. Once we got into the mall, we saw that there was a Longs Drugstore there, so we went in to buy some Locals flip flops. Ellen picked up a pair for herself, and I bought a couple pairs for my sister and niece. We stopped by a DVC booth and I took Ellen's picture with it, and then went to the Disney Store.

This Disney Store was definitely the plainest one we had ever seen. It didn't have any decor on the walls, so it almost seemed as if it was a temporary setup. Ellen and I both bought reusable grocery bags that had the characters on them and it said Hawaii, then I got some Princess Jasmine pajamas for my daughter, and a Minnie Mouse Hawaiian shirt.

We went upstairs to Bubba Gump's, where Ellen ran into a friend of hers at the restaurant, and then we left for the airport. We stopped to fill up the tank and even though we had used less than half a tank, it was over $40 to fill it up! I think we paid $3.99 a gallon. We dropped the car off at Alamo and then took the shuttle to the airport.

Once we got to the airport, we had to send our bags that were getting checked through an x-ray scanner. I think they were checking for illegal produce. After we got the bags back we got in a very long line to check in for the flight. I had forgotten to print my boarding pass, so I decided to try out the phone document check-in. It was very easy, I just handed over my phone and it was scanned over a barcode reader. It was a pretty far walk to our gate, but we were outside, so the breeze was nice.

It was a full flight, so Ellen and I didn't even try to see if we could change seats to sit together. We landed at LAX the next morning at 6:45 a.m. My next flight left an hour earlier than Ellen's did, so we said our goodbyes and I got on my plane.

I must have been tired because I remember watching the very beginning of the safety video and the next thing I knew I woke up and we were already in the air. After an uneventful flight, we landed about 20 minutes early.

Conclusion/Thoughts:

All in all, this was an amazing trip! Disney has absolutely outdone themselves with the Aulani resort. I can't wait to start planning my next trip there with my family. I think the kids' club looked like a lot of fun, and had a lot of great activities. The decor was beautiful and the service was outstanding in terms of friendliness. My only complaint would be the length of time the food establishments took, but hopefully that was all because it was new and they were just trying to see what systems worked best.

We also would have liked to have seen a few more items in the gift shop. They didn't have a scrapbook there, and there was only one Aulani frame for sale, and it would only hold a vertical picture. Most people take horizontal pictures, so it would have been nice to have more options there.

In terms of the cast members, we did not encounter anyone that wasn't exceptional. Everyone was friendly, accommodating, and if they didn't know the answer to a question, they went and found out. I would say the same for the local population. We seriously did not meet anyone that wasn't extremely friendly. What a refreshing place to visit!

We loved that all the restaurants and the lobby were open air seating or outdoors. It was so pleasant to eat and feel the breeze and hear the ocean around you.

The pool area was amazing! I have never been on a vacation before where I have wanted to stay by the pool all day. I could have done that all day and been happy as a clam. There was so much to do; I could have easily made an entire vacation there without ever leaving the resort.

A word of warning though, the ground at the pool is HOT! We would practically run to get into the water because our feet couldn't take the heat. On the plus side, they did spray the stairs with misters on the way up to the water slides, so those were nice to walk on. The pool area also only played maybe four songs, so we would hear them over and over. You'd think they would play more music.

The hotel offered a daily schedule that would show all the activities for each hour. That was very nice to have so you could see what was going on.

I did not see any face characters there, only Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Stitch, and Chip and Dale. I had heard that Lilo will not be there at all because she is not the typical Hawaiian girl that Disney wants to portray at the resort. I can understand that, but I think it's a shame, because I think it would be great to see her there with Stitch.

Four nights was definitely not enough. I would say a minimum of six would be a good amount. Again, all I can say is how much we loved the resort. It was so much fun and relaxing! I look forward to being able to take my daughters there and letting them experience the culture and friendliness of Hawaii!


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September 9, 2011

A Sneak Preview of Aulani, Part 2

by Jennifer B.
AllEars Guest Blogger

Day Two " Thursday
The Plan: Pool/Beach Time and Exploring

The next morning we all got up around 4:30am. That was still sleeping in to us! Angela brewed us some coffee and we enjoyed it on the balcony while watching the sunrise.

We knew it was going to be a pool day, so we got dressed in our swimsuits and cover-ups and then went down to breakfast. On the way there I ran into one of my old managers, Lisa, who I worked with on my second Disney college program at Hollywood Studios. We chatted for a few minutes. She was there on task force, which means she is there to train cast members and then goes back to Orlando after a few months. I would love to be able to live in Hawaii for a few months free of charge and just get to train.

This morning's breakfast was in Makahiki Restaurant, which is a buffet. When we were seated, our server brought over coconut bread, which was a little dry, but it still tasted good.


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They had the traditional fare of eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc. But the cool part was, there was also Asian food there. You could get Miso Soup, Dim Sum, steamed rice, congee, fried rice, and a few other items. It was great to be able to try so many different things. I loved eating fried rice for breakfast. That was wonderful!


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Our server brought us some French Pressed Kona coffee, and then also a pot of a Makahiki blend. I didn't care for the Kona coffee, but the Makahiki blend was wonderful and I am not even a coffee drinker. Some of the other food offered was fresh fruits (I ate a ton of papaya), fresh whipped cream, Mickey waffles, bagels, toast, sausage, salmon, pastries, and muffins.

The restrooms outside the restaurant reminded me of the ones outside Sanaa at Kidani Village, in that I love the décor and the sinks. The ones here are bamboo troughs. They were so pretty.


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After breakfast we went straight to the pool. We got our towels and set them up so that we were facing the ocean. We got into the lazy river and the ocean and just relaxed for a few hours.


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We went back to the lazy river and then we all decided to ride the two water slides. I hate water slides, but I decided to be brave and try them out. The one that you used an innertube on, Beth and I rode together on a tube for two people. I screamed the whole way down and then of course Beth and I flipped when we landed. Then we all did the dark one. Never again. It was so scary for me! I screamed bloody murder the whole time and then after I landed Beth told me, “Angela said, 'What is that noise?' and I said I think it's Jen screaming.” That slide magnified and echoed sounds.

We took some underwater pictures after that and had a great time. We all loved the camera. It was great. We did poses of peace signs, mashaka, and Angela even did a yoga pose in the water. It was just fun acting like kids again.


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We were on our own for lunch that day, so we decided to go to Roy's for lunch. They closed at 2 p.m., so we rushed upstairs to shower and get ready. The valet told us to go down the road and make a U-turn to get there. We ended up missing the turn and going into the condos that are in Ko Olina. We eventually found it and went in. We were seated just before 2 p.m., so we just made the cutoff.

Ellen, Angela, and I all ordered teriyaki cheeseburgers and fries, and Beth got a fish wrap. The food was delicious. After we finished eating, we snapped a few pictures outside and then drove over to Target. We bought a few souvenirs and snacks and then headed back towards the hotel. There is a small shopping area across the street from the resort, so we stopped by the Island Store there to get a few more souvenirs.


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After we got back to the resort went back to the gift shop to look around, then went back up to the room and I started to Skype on my iPad with my husband and daughters while Beth went out on the balcony to read. She came back in a little while later and said they were putting fake surfboards down on the grass and Goofy, Chip, and Dale were out there. We all went out and they were playing music. It was all set up on the grassy area outside the ballrooms. We asked if we could come down and the character greeter was saying to come and join them, and Goofy was motioning for us to go down.

So we all rushed down to see them. Beth opted to go to the gift shop while Ellen, Angela, and I went out there. I was still online with Jose and the girls, so they got to see it all happening on the iPad, which was so cool for them. We played musical surfboards with the characters, danced, and did the surfboard wave with them. It was so much fun to be a kid again, and we were the only ones out there besides a PhotoPass photographer and the character greeter. How cool was this? It was like we got our own personal meet and greet!


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We posed for a few pictures afterwards and then left to go back to the room. We decided to walk around a bit and go exploring, so we walked down to the beach and walked to the JW Marriott. The hotel there was beautiful, and the spa looked nice. Beth continued to look at the backside of the resort while Ellen, Angela, and I all went to the front of the hotel to take pictures of the sign and the fountain.

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After we got inside we took a few more pictures in the lobby and then stopped by the gift shop to see our PhotoPass pictures that we had taken so far. That took us quite a while and then we headed back up to the room. Beth came back about 30 minutes later and told us she had stayed by the JW to watch the sunset.


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We then went down to One Paddle, Two Paddle, which is the quick service restaurant. The service there was incredibly slow. I think we waited almost 20 minutes for our food, which for a quick service is a pretty darn long time. Ellen, Angela, and I all got the lettuce chicken wraps and Beth got a pulled pork sandwich. The pork came with kimchee, so I asked if I could have some also for my wraps. They were happy to accommodate me.


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We grabbed a table out by the pool and it was so relaxing with the ocean breeze and the nice warm weather. We ate dinner and then went back up to the room. We all got ready for bed and then sat around and got online. I think we got to bed a little before 10 p.m.

Day Three " Friday
The Plan: Aunty's Character Breakfast and Pearl Harbor

We woke up early that morning and all got ready for Aunty's Breakfast, which we had a 7 a.m. reservation for. It had been surprisingly easy to get up early here since we are all on earlier time zones.

We went down to Makahiki and checked in with the hostesses and waited. Aunty arrived shortly and was mingling with all the guests in the lobby. There was a family of the day, and she spoke with them and offered them the gift of bread and told them a few stories. Mickey arrived a short while later and we all took our picture with him outside just before the tables started.

We were shown to our table and the breakfast offerings were the same as what we had had the day before. So we were very familiar with the drill and went back in to get the delicious food. It was nice to be there again because we were able to try more things that we didn't have room for the day before. The servers just asked us to remain seated until the drink orders had been placed so that the drinks would be waiting for us after we got back from the buffet.


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During the course of breakfast, Minnie came around as well as Goofy. Goofy was motioning that he was surfing, so he was “telling” us that he remembered surfing with us the night before. That was nice that we were remembered Aunty then throughout breakfast sang us songs on the ukulele, and we got up and did different parades with her with fish on our hands, and coconuts as musical instruments. It was a lot of fun, and the kids there seemed to really love it. There was a lot of audience participation.

As soon as breakfast was over we left for Pearl Harbor. The GPS took us to a random area that we were pretty sure was not near Pearl Harbor, so we stopped at a Long's Drug Store to ask for directions. Unfortunately neither of the workers there knew how to get there, so we tried again using the store's address as a starting point. We eventually found our way there and checked in to get tickets around 9:45 a.m. The next open time slot was at 11 a.m., so that gave us just over an hour to look at all the exhibits. There were several Navy soldiers there that day, all dressed in their sailor uniforms.

We started with the gift shop and bought some souvenirs there. Then we looked at all the displays. It was very sad and humbling to see all of that and think about how it must have been that day. We walked over to the opposite side and there was a second gift shop and a food court area. Just before 11 a.m., it started to rain and we got in line to watch the movie.

The movie was just over 20 minutes and it showed real footage of the bombing and what happened that day. We then left and got on the boat. The ride was just a few minutes long and we got off and walked into the Memorial. There were a lot of people there, and many people were putting their leis on the placard displays and also releasing some of the orchids into the water. You could still see the oil coming up on the surface of the water and there were a ton of fish swimming around.

After about 20 minutes, we got on the next boat back and then stopped by the gift shop one last time so that Angela could get a pair of earrings. We headed back to the hotel after that and changed. A friend of Ellen's that was there agreed to come and take our pictures. We took several on the beach and by the pool and then in the lobby.

We then changed back into our swimsuits and went to ‘Ama ‘Ama for lunch. I had a chicken salad sandwich with pesto, Ellen had a chicken Caesar salad, Beth had a crab and lobster roll, and Angela had some pulled pork tacos. All the food was delicious and came with sweet potato fries.


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We once again got right into the pool. After a while, Angela and I decided to head down to the beach. I recorded some of the lagoon and we watched the runners for a little bit. There were a few young men in Speedos and swim caps who were running the length of the entire lagoon, then they would get into the water and swim across and then do that again. I would say the lagoon was a good mile and a half long. I couldn't believe it, but that is definitely a great workout! I took a picture of them as they ran past us, and I think it boosted their egos a little bit.

We went back up to the pool area, then Beth went to the Lava Shack to see about getting an ice cream sandwich. There was only one left, so we ended up splitting it four ways. They sold more in the main gift shop, so we decided to get more later on.

We went back up to the room to shower and change and then we went down to dinner at Makahiki. The dinner buffet was delicious! The seating was once again outside. Some of the offerings were fresh seafood, sushi, several varieties of tempura, lumpia, spareribs, and then 6 different kinds of desserts. I had to try a little of each. There were macaroons, chocolate lava cake, bread pudding, and pineapple cobbler. All of the food was amazing!


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After we were stuffed to the brim, we went back up to the room and relaxed before bed. It had been such an amazing day of food and getting to see Pearl Harbor.


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September 8, 2011

A Sneak Preview of Aulani, Part 1

by Jennifer B.
AllEars® Guest Blogger

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The Cast:
• Jennifer " 31 Years old
• Ellen " 29 Years Old
• Beth " 30 Years Old
• Angela " 31 Years Old

Introduction: This is a girl's weekend/reunion trip. We met and were roommates on the Disney College Program back in 2001. We have remained close over the past 10 years, so this is a perfect way to celebrate our friendship and have a reunion. We are leaving our kids and husbands behind and just having a girl's weekend. We all live in different parts of the country, so it is so nice that we are all able to get together.

Planning: Really all I needed to do for this trip was book my plane ticket. I found some great flights on United, but due to the arriving flights of the other girls, I went ahead and paid a little more so that we could all land around the same time. I chose to connect in LA rather than take the nonstop flight, just because I am not a huge fan of flying, so I wanted to break up the day. With tax, my plane ticket came out to around $718.00.

We booked the rental car that we would all share through the Disney Travel Company. I believe the rate we got was $180 through Alamo for a midsize car for the four days.

I am also lucky in that one of my sorority sisters who is from Hawaii is now working at Aulani, so we will get to see her a few times while we are there.

Day One " Wednesday
The Plan: Fly to Hawaii and Check into the Resort

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My flight to LA was fast and not bumpy at all. The best part was that I had all three seats to myself! We landed in LA on time, and then I got off the plane to look for the gate that I needed to connect to.

I walked for about 20 minutes to another terminal and I finally made it to gate 63. When I got there, there was no reader board saying where that flight was headed. So I checked the monitors again. Still no gate listed. By this point I am not only mad, but slightly worried that I am in the wrong spot.

A few minutes later, four flight attendants walk by and ask another passenger where we are headed. A woman answers “Hawaii”, so it was only then that I was finally able to confirm that I was at the right gate.

Once I got on the plane, and went to my seat I found a gentleman in the middle and a woman in the window seat. Both were very friendly. and were on their way to Hawaii for work. We talked through most of the flight there.

When I got to the baggage claim, Beth was already there waiting for me. She had been in Maui since Sunday, and flew in just before I did. I got my bag, and then we sat and waited since the baggage claim for Ellen and Angela's flight was right next to mine.

Finally Ellen and Angela arrived, we got the bags, and then caught the Alamo shuttle. While we were waiting, Beth gave us some yellow flowers for our hair. They looked like the ones we put in our hair at Epcot on one of the first nights we met.

The shuttle took us about 10 minutes away to the rental place. We had reserved a midsize car, but when we asked where to get one, one of the workers offered us an SUV upgrade free of charge. So that was nice! We picked a Dodge Charger and it had third row seating. We loaded up the bags and were on our way!

To start the trip out right, we of course turned on Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from Lilo and Stitch. The resort was about 30 minutes away, but it was a quick and easy ride. We saw the resort before we got to Ko Olina and I snapped a picture. We got to the entrance and checked in with security there. We told them we were checking into Aulani and they said "Welcome Home" and told us how to get there. It was nice that they told us that, seeing as they were obviously not Disney cast members.

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We drove about 1/4 mile and the hotel was on the right. There was a cast member at the entrance and we told him the last name. We curved around to the top of the porte cochere, and we were greeted by several bellmen and valets. One bellman loaded up our luggage on a cart, while another cast member named Jeremy gave us all leis. Apparently when you check into the resort, the women will all get leis (real ones), the men get the beaded necklaces, and children will get a necklace with a menehune on it.

As we walked in, the bellman followed us, while Jeremy told us about the resort and took our pictures. This was the start of cast members offering to take our pictures for us. It honestly felt like everywhere we went, cast members offered to take our pictures for us. We absolutely loved that! It's always nice to be able to get everyone in the pictures.

In the lobby, everything was open, and it is in the shape of a cross. The wind was blowing through and it felt wonderful!


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There was a large rainbow collage behind the front desk. Each picture posted was one taken by a local Hawaiian and they were told to focus in on one color and capture the spirit of Hawaii in it. It was beautiful. There was also a kid's check-in area next to the front desk with stools and a TV set.


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After a few more minutes with Jeremy, we left with the bellman to go up to our room. Ellen had done the online check-in, so she just had to grab our packet and then we went upstairs. We saw Djuan Rivers who is the Vice President and General Manager of the hotel. I had seen him in a few interviews about Aulani in the past, so that was great to get to meet him in person.

We took the elevator up to our room, which was a studio on the 7th floor. We did not face the ocean, but the mountains on the other side of the resort, as well as the conference area. It was a beautiful view. I think it was considered a standard view, but we all thought it was still great.

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We took a few pictures of the room, and then I called Arynn (my cast member friend), who had just gotten off work. We met her in the lobby and then she took us around the resort and we just went exploring.

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We went downstairs and stopped by The Oleo Room, which is a bar. They had beautiful wood carvings all around and the Hawaiian word for it underneath. For the Tiger, it was a wooden carving of Tigger. It was great to see the small, subtle, Disney details.


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We stopped by the pool, the beach, the restaurants, and then Aunty's Beach House, which is the kid's area. The kid's area is wonderful! Everyone must wash their hands when entering, and then we went into a large room that had racks and racks of Disney princess dress-up clothes in various sizes. They also had some boys dress-up clothes for Buzz and Woody. Aunty was also in there at the time, and she was sitting on a couch. It looked like she was reading a story.


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In the next room they had a ton of toys, a kitchen area, and two large interactive tables. We were saying that they were like giant iPads. There were a few kids in there, and a ton of counselors. I think the ratio of counselors to kids will be very good in there. Next we went into a room that was a movie theater and The Princess and the Frog was on. There was also another room full of computers and a Wii for the older kids. There were areas to color as well. They had two large windows with TV screens in them. They looked real, as if you were looking outside a cliff. It was a great effect. Aunty's Beach House is free of charge to guests, as long as the child is 3 or older, and also needs to be potty-trained.

We also stopped by the Rainbow Reef, which is where you can snorkel. It's a pretty big lagoon, and I read somewhere that Disney put more than 2,500 fish in there. We looked through the glass windows and could see quite a few. They also have chairs you can sit in while you look, as well as a guide of what kinds of fish are inside.

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After that we were ready to hit the pool, so we said goodbye to Arynn (cast members cannot swim at the hotel) and we went back up to the room to change. I had brought my waterproof camera with me, so I took that to the pool with us. We stopped to get towels first -- we needed to show them our room keys for each person to get them. The towels were huge and thick, which was nice.

There were water stations set up throughout the resort, free of charge. The water was delicious, and ice cold! The water at the front of the resort had orange slices, while the stations out by the pool were just plain ice water. Arynn was telling us that they triple filter it, which is why it tastes so good.


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We spent a lot of time on the lazy river, and then Angela and Beth went on both water slides. One was on an innertube, and the other one was in the dark. After that we went down to the beach and sat in the lagoon for a while. The beaches there are all public, so there were other people there that were not staying at the resort. The beach was also shared with the JW Marriott, which was right next door. Disney did have a cast member standing at the gate checking wristbands to get let back into the pool area to the resort.

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We stopped by the gift shop to peruse the items. They had a lot of Aulani merchandise, but some things that we didn't see that we wished they had were horizontal frames (they only sold one vertical one) and scrapbooks. They had the usual fare of t-shirts, clothes, and several Dooney & Bourke purses. There was a small food section and toiletries. The prices were in line with the Disney World prices. They also had a PhotoPass section in the store. We also stopped at the Lava Shack, which is the gift shop in the pool area. We noticed that they sold the Nestle Tollhouse ice cream sandwiches, which we love!

We went back up to the room and relaxed and showered before dinner. Dinner for us was at 8 p.m. that night, which was midnight to me, 1 a.m. to Angela, and 2 a.m. to Ellen. We were all super tired, but excited to have our first meal there.

Dinner that night was at ‘Ama ‘Ama. When we got there, they were running a little behind, so we went to the bar to have a drink since it was right next door.

The bar is called Off the Hook. Beth and Angela ordered drinks, and Ellen and I skipped out. About 20 minutes later, we were seated in the restaurant. Our server was Johnson and he gave us some cold oshibori towels (chilled wet towels with a hint of citrus) when we were seated.

Once seated, we were offered the gift of bread. I can't remember exactly what it was, but I remember there was green tea in it. We were given unsalted butter and then two different types of sea salt. One was black and the other was pink. A little bit went a long way.

For our appetizers we got the Crispy Curried Chicken Fire Cracker with Mango Salsa, and the Heirloom Tomato, Buratta Cheese, with a White Corn Vinaigrette. The chicken was just all right for us, but we all loved the tomato salad! It was delicious!

For our entrees, Angela and I both got Grilled Angus Filet of Beef. It came with potatoes and swiss chard. Ellen got Grilled Lobster with Vanilla Sauce and a Korean Pancake, and Beth got the Sustainable Catch of the Day.


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For dessert we shared a Hawaiian Chocolate Cake with Kau Coffee Cream and Caramel Chard and a Lilikoi Mousse Meringue with Caramelized Bananas. The chocolate cake was delicious, but none of us cared for the Lilikoi Mousse. It was just very tart. One bite was all you needed. And when they said bananas on the menu, they should have said banana. It was one slice.


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After dinner we were all stuffed and exhausted. We went back up to the room and read for a little bit and chatted while we were all trying to settle in for the night. Turndown had been done, which I was surprised at since we were staying in a DVC room and they typically only do housekeeping every four nights. They left us a towel that had been folded into a flower and there was an Aulani bookmark and single orchid placed in it. It was very pretty. I think we went to bed sometime after 11 p.m. Ellen had been up for more than 24 hours, and Angela and I had just made it there. It had been a long day, but it was a wonderful start!


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July 26, 2011

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

The newest Disney Vacation Club resort, Aulani, continues to move towards completion and the opening date of August 29, 2011.

This blog, courtesy of DVCnews.com includes an update on the new Child Care area and a video of the resort.

Aulani Beach House no ordinary childcare facility

In creating Aunty's Beach House at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, designers have taken a page out of the Disney Cruise Line playbook.

One feature shared by many Disney Vacation Club resorts is the Community Hall--a play-space where families can break from the Disney parks to engage in light activities ranging from foosball to ping pong to light arts and crafts projects. Community Halls tend to be rather bland in their design, indistinguishable from child care facilities found at a local supermarket.

Aunty's Beach House is no Community Hall.

Disney Imagineers have infused Aunty's Beach House with its own backstory and theme, resulting in a space that is more reminiscent of the Oceaneer's Club and Lab found on the Disney cruise ships.

According to legend, "Aunty" is an island local who has lived in this location her entire life. She is beloved by all and regarded as an expert on Hawaiian history and culture.

The Beach House itself is designed to blend into its island surroundings. From the piles of straw hats and flip-flops on the front porch to the seashell collection on the fireplace mantle to the overgrown back yard, the space faithfully adheres to the backstory developed by Imagineers.

One expects Aunty herself to appear at any moment to tell the tale of the mischievous Menehune or other island folklore.

The Beach House is a 5,200 square foot facility with a host of familiar activities including video games, arts and crafts, a Disney movie room and so on. But Disney has also included a number of interactive elements to enhance the experience. An enchanted fireplace, rain windows in the movie room and "magic portals" with ever changing imagery are just a few examples.

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For the rest of the story, visit the DVCnews.com.

Disney has released a more extensive Behind the Scenes video.

The clip runs nearly 3 1/2 minutes and has a similar feel to the Disney theme park or Disney Vacation Club promotional videos. It features a nice overview of the resort itself, resort activities, character appearances and more.

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