Hau'oli Makahiki Hou from Disney Aulani Resort

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Hau'oli Makahiki Hou from Disney Aulani Resort

Mountain View of Disney Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year in Hawaiian) from the island of Oahu and specifically, Disney's Aulani Resort! Some of the forum members will remember me from my prior two trip reports which you can find here:

http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/forum/mele-kalikimaka-wdw-adventure-2015-completed

http://www.wdwforgrownups.com/forum/mahalo-disneyland-60-magical-years-completed

For this trip report (although technically, I didn't leave the island), I wanted to share some photos and thoughts from Disney Aulani Resort! There won't be much reporting on the activities and events at the hotel as I was there for barely a day. My good friend is a DVC member and she invited me to spend some time with them. Since I arrived at Aulani in the late afternoon, most of the evening was spent shooting sunset and long exposure images. I did a lot of interior and people shots on my last visit, so there won't be much of that for this report. Hopefully, you'll get a feel for the overall ambiance and theming of the resort told through my pictures and words. But again, not much first hand reviews or anecdotes about dining, swimming, or all the other cool stuff one can do at Aulani .

Let's start with some photos of the resort area just prior to sunset and at sunrise. Aulani is located at the Ko Olina Resort & Marina in Kapolei. Situated on the west side of Oahu, it's about a 45 minute drive from Waikiki (up to 2 hours during peak traffic hours). While it's pretty obvious the hotel is immaculately designed and up to Disney standards, the area its located in is nothing to sneeze at either! With its pristine beaches and a skyline overlooking the mountainous landscape, the resort truly feels unique and apart from the daily lifestyle of most local residents.

Disney's Aulani Resort-the Golden Hour by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Good Morning @ Disney's Aulani Resort Christmas 2016 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Sunrise Near the Pool Side @ Disney Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

I live in east Oahu, so I rarely make it to this side of the island. Because everything is new and mostly unexplored, it almost feels like I've traveled to another part of the world. While I remember initial resistance to Disney building a hotel in the area, I never doubted that the Imagineers would do a respectful job of integrating Hawaiian culture into the fabric and theme of the hotel. It's obvious they did their research and worked with local experts to get the details right. I was lucky to encounter Imagineer Joe Rohde when the hotel first opened. He was walking the grounds early one morning so I ventured forward to ask for a picture and we talked a bit about the design process. Joe is obviously an extremely talented artist who takes great care and pride in his work.

Mountain View of Disney's Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Tiki Torch Below the Moon @ Disney's Aulani by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Lobby Lookout @ Disney's Aulani Resort Christmas 2016 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Aulani Resort Christmas 2016 21 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Lobby Lookout @ Disney's Aulani Resort Christmas 2016 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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Front Entrance @ Disney's Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

The two towers, impressive in height, never seem to overwhelm or stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the property. Each and every element works in smooth harmony with the others to incorporate a breathtaking, yet natural vista. Much thought was also put into the surrounding attractions and eating establishments. "Makahiki" is clearly the centerpiece restaurant of the resort, with its traditional Disney character breakfast and buffet. I ate there when Aulani first opened and thought it was a mixed bag. Some of the food, especially the local cuisine (lau lau, kalua pig) seemed a bit bland, but I chalk it up to the kitchen staff getting their feet wet and finding that right mixture of flavor and taste. I'm sure the dining experience has much improved by this time.

Stores Closed for the Evening @ Disney's Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

The Lava Shack @ Disney's Aulani by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Entrance to 'Ama'Ama Restaurant @ Disney's Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Aulani Resort Restroom by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

While it's hard to make up for the absence of a Disney park down the road, the Imagineers worked up a little magic in the form of a mini water park. From the active volcano that serves as a base for the water slides, to the lazy streams running throughout the property, children (and many adults) will find the poolside areas the highlight of the stay. I'm particularly impressed with "Keiki Cove', a play zone for kids. The design work allows this attraction to seamlessly integrate with the resort while providing its own unique taste of Disney. While I was photographing the area after midnight, voices of menehunes (strange, magical creatures) were still being piped throughout the area (reminiscent of the snoring bears at Disney's Frontierland).

Nighttime @ Disney's Aulani Keiki Cove 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Nighttime @ Disney's Aulani Keiki Cove 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Nighttime @ Disney's Aulani Keiki Cove 03 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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Disney's Aulani Resort Lobby Christmas 2016 Pano 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

One of the biggest surprises for me on this visit was the overall subtlety of the Christmas decorations. Part of it maybe a conscientious decision not to overwhelm the Hawaiian motif with tons of lights and Christmas decor. But after experiencing the beautiful lobby trees of such fellow Disney resorts as The Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge, not seeing a huge tree was somewhat of a disappointment to me. Thinking to how the AK trees were plussed with ornaments that paid tribute to the local culture and arts, I could see something similarly done for the lobby here at Aulani. There were two small trees placed at the ends of the ground floor, but they were rather pedistarian and something you would find on display at your local Walmart store.

Disney's Aulani Resort Lobby Christmas 2016 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Disney's Aulani Resort Corridor Christmas 2016 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Christmas Corridor to Hale Manu @ Disney's Aulani Resort by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Carved "Ki'i" (representing the 3 Brothers of Maui) Grace the Entryway @ Disney's Aulani Resort 02 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Carved "Ki'i" (representing the 3 Brothers of Maui) Grace the Entryway @ Disney's Aulani Resort 01 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

Lobby Entrance @ Disney's Aulani Resort Christmas 2016 by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

For a kamaaina (local), the cost of a night makes it prohibitive for most to stay at the resort. Being a visitor, and especially if you're a Disney fan, I can see how this place would be a destination point regardless of the high costs. So if you're thinking of planning a trip to Hawaii, Aulani should definitely be on your radar.

Mahalo for joining me on this short (and photo heavy TR) and wishing everyone "Hauoli Makahiki Hou"! Please come back again in late 2017 for my report on Tokyo's Disneyland & Disneysea (as well as Osaka's Universal Studios). Until then, take care, stay safe, and God bless us all!

Disney's Aulani from the 12th Flr Ewa Tower by JUNEAU BISCUITS, on Flickr

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Your pictures are beautiful Len. I visited Oahu in 1987 but would love to visit the islands again. Have a happy new year to you and your lovely wife.

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Your photos are lovely, but how did you manage to get photos with no people in them? Were they all taken before dawn?

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PirateGirl wrote:
Your pictures are beautiful Len. I visited Oahu in 1987 but would love to visit the islands again. Have a happy new year to you and your lovely wife.

I hope you'll visit us again soon PirateGirl! A lot has changed since 1987 so I'm sure it will be a whole new experience. Thanks you for the well wishes...Happy New Year to you and your family too!!!

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crazycatperson wrote:
Your photos are lovely, but how did you manage to get photos with no people in them? Were they all taken before dawn?

Unlike the the hotels at WDW and Disneyland (where I usually wake up at 3:00 am to photograph the lobby and immediate surroundings), I was able to take pictures without guests at a little past 11:00 pm. I think the fact that there is no Disney park has something to do with it. People will naturally head to bed earlier...LOL!

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Great pics as usual! This is on my short list of places I must see as soon as I get over the flying thing!

Thank you so much for sharing! Happy new year!

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JMed wrote:
Great pics as usual! This is on my short list of places I must see as soon as I get over the flying thing!

Thank you so much for sharing! Happy new year!

Mahalo JMed! I'm rooting for you to make it out here! Happy New Year to you and your family too!

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Beautiful pictures. I am hoping to return to Hawaii someday.

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So gorgeous! Definitely on the bucket list!

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JoAnn C wrote:
Beautiful pictures. I am hoping to return to Hawaii someday.

Hoping for you to get back JoAnn!

Allie wrote:
So gorgeous! Definitely on the bucket list!

Would this be your first trip to Hawaii Allie?

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It would be. I've never been!

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Breathtaking photos as usual. absolute delight to read and see thank you so much for sharing and I can not wait for your trip to Tokyo yay

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Absolutely stunning look at Aulani. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures with us. Aulani is on my bucket list, and hopefully one day I'll get to see this beauty in person.

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danijrod wrote:
Breathtaking photos as usual. absolute delight to read and see thank you so much for sharing and I can not wait for your trip to Tokyo yay

Mahalo danjirod! Hope you're having a great new year. Fingers crossed that the Tokyo trip goes as planned!

Kristen K. wrote:
Absolutely stunning look at Aulani. Thank you so much for sharing your pictures with us. Aulani is on my bucket list, and hopefully one day I'll get to see this beauty in person.

Thank you for this wonderful site where I can share my stories and pictures! I'll be rooting for you to get out to Aulani in the near future!