Luxury Awaits at Disney’s Aulani Hawaiian Resort and Walt Disney World’s New Polynesian Bungalows in Florida
Disney’s Aulani Hawaiian Resort & Spa is located on 21 beautiful oceanfront acres in Ko Olina, Hawaii, on the Island of Oahu. Aulani (pronounced ow-lau-nee) may have Disney’s name attached, but don’t expect thrill rides, or any rides at all, at this Disney destination. What you will find at Aulani is a distinct kind of magic for adults and kids alike.
Opening in 2011, Disney’s Aulani Hawaiian Resort & Spa is really a tiny microcosm of the whole island’s ecosystem. The architecture, landscaping and water features immerse guests in Hawaii’s history, culture, art, legends and stories. In order to provide an authentic Hawaiian experience at Aulani, Disney worked with local cultural advisers for everything from its architecture to artwork. In fact, the resort showcases one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the islands, all by local artists.
“Aulani is the gateway, the door that allows you to get to Hawaii and know what you are seeing by having come through this doorway,” says Joe Rohde, a Walt Disney Imagineering Senior Vice President who grew up on Oahu and who led the design work at Aulani.
The Hawaiian Islands are all about the sea and so is Aulani. The resort features a nine-acre, crystal blue lagoon, white sand beaches, an infinity pool, lazy river and family pool with a misty grotto, and a Rainbow Reef, a 3,800 square-foot snorkel lagoon where guests can get up close and personal with fish that inhabit the waters in and around Hawaii. There’s also a kid’s splash zone with images of tidal pool creatures and hidden Menehune, the legendary little people of the islands who can be spotted through chinks in the rocks.
Aulani is billed as a family destination with a variety of accommodations, including standard rooms; one-or two-bedroom luxurious ocean-view suites; and one-to three-bedroom villas that feature just-like-home amenities. The resort offers exciting programs and activities for all ages, including Aunty’s Beach House for kids ages 3-12, tweens and teens programs including Painted Sky, the only teen spa on Oahu. Aulani is also a wonderful destination for couples. Compared to most Disney parks this resort offers quiet luxury in spacious and beautifully designed accommodations, outstanding cuisine, and a world-class spa.
The resort offers several restaurants, but be sure to visit their signature one, ‘Ama ‘Ama, named for a local fish. The restaurant serves seasonally fresh American dishes with an island twist. Hawaiian sunsets are truly amazing, so enjoy dinner and live Hawaiian music in their open-air seating.
While visiting Aulani, I spent a day at Laniwai (lah-nee-vai) Spa, which means “Freshwater Heaven.” The 18,000 square-foot-indoor spa area includes a fitness center, treatment rooms, steam rooms, dry saunas and relaxation rooms. But the 5,000 square-foot-outdoor Kula Wai Hydrotherapy Garden, featuring vitality baths, herbal pools, a reflexology path, and six Waterfall Rain Showers was for me the most luxurious feature of their spa.
“Laniwai embraces the cultural and even the spiritual significance of anuenue, or rainbows, by combining elegantly reflected light, brilliant color and healing water features,” says Lucia Rodiguez, Laniwai’s spa director.
I began my spa day with a Hana Pohaku LomiLomi Hawaiian Massage with hot stones, followed by indulging in delicious chocolate-covered blueberries and raspberries during my manicure and pedicure. Before leaving, I mixed my own customized body polish/scrub with Plumeria essential oils and rose petals at the Pula Bar mixology station to take home with me as a souvenir of my wonderful spa day.
In every way, Disney’s Aulani’s Hawaiian Resort & Spa is a unique expression of Disney Magic and a luxurious experience for families and couples alike. (For more information visit: http://resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-hawaii-resort/)
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows at Walt Disney World
Can’t make it to Hawaii? Don’t despair! Disney has succeeded in bringing some of the spirit of the islands to the states with their newly renovated AAA Four Diamond Polynesian Village Resort. Especially luxurious are the new Bora Bora Bungalows. These 20 over-the-water bungalows are the first ever created by Disney.
Located on the white sand beach of Seven Seas Lagoon, Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, while only a quick monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom Park, feel like an oasis amidst the bustling park atmosphere. I had the privilege of touring the bungalows just before they opened in April 2015. These two bedroom, two bath accommodations sleep eight and feature a fully equipped kitchen with rock-inspired counters, washer and dryer, a queen size sofa bed and a hidden pull-down bed.
Add to that a private deck that runs the full width of the bungalow, complete with tropical lanterns, lounge furniture including a hammock swing, and a private plunge pool and you have Luxury—spelled with a capital “L.” I could just imagine myself soaking in that pool, tropical drink in hand, with a front row seat to the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom (by the way, the speakers on the deck are designed to play the soundtrack in sync with the fireworks!) These luxurious bungalows feel like a home away from home.
Just steps away is the Polynesian Resort itself with its newly designed lobby (the Great Ceremonial House), complete with a large welcoming Tiki Statue that sits on a lava water feature, and a chandelier inspired by Polynesian native navigational instruments, including bamboo finishes and glass globes.
The resort also offers 360 Deluxe Studios located in “longhouses,” which are named for islands on the Polynesian isle map. I was privileged to be one of the first guests to experience the luxury of these new accommodations that sleep up to five guests. There’s a queen-size bed, queen-size sleeper sofa and a pull down bunk. They also have a kitchenette, a split bath design with a walk-in shower in one and a tub/shower combination in the other and a private porch or balcony.
Other upgrades at the resort include a re-imagined Lava Pool, an Oasis Pool and the Kiki Tiki’s Children’s Wet Play Area. Adults will enjoyTrader Sam’s Grog Grotto, reminiscent of a South Seas hideaway. Only a limited number of guests are allowed in the Grotto at a time, so get in line early to enjoy one of their handcrafted Tiki cocktails served in souvenir mugs. Try the Polynesian Pearl, Nautilus or Shrunken Zombie Head! While you wait to enter the Grog Grotto, enjoy some pork sliders or sushi and pan-fried dumplings on the patio overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon.
And before you leave the tropical island setting—either in Hawaii or in Florida—the world-famous Dole Whip soft serve treat is a must!
(For more info on Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort see: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort/)