Answering Your Questions about Aulani Resort

I got more questions from readers and friends from this trip Disney's new Aulani Resort on Oahu than I have for any other trip. This is a new type of Disney experience, so it makes sense that we'd all be curious exactly how things work. Here are the most popular questions and answers.

View from my room at the Aulani Resort
View from my room at the Aulani Resort

How much does it cost to stay at Aulani Resort
There's no doubt that a trip to Aulani resort is a real splurge. Rooms without a beach/water view begin at $400 per night for a standard room with two queen sized beds. Here's what typical expenses might look like for a family of four (with kids over age 3) staying four nights:

Typical Costs
Standard Room (parking lot view) + Taxes: $1,818.84
Airport Transportation in a Taxi 2 ways (does not include carseats): $160
Rental Car + Gas for one day: $100
Character Breakfast for 2 adults and 2 kids: $100
50 minute massage for one parent: $160
Snorkeling in Rainbow Reef for 2 kids: $40
Continental breakfasts for 4 x 3 days: $100
Poolside lunch from One Paddle Two Paddle for 4 x 4 days: $168
One night dinner for two at 'Ama 'Ama (with 2 kids at $26): $150
Dinner for two kids from One Paddle Two Paddle $15
Dinners for 3 nights at Off the Hook: $225
Sodas, Juice and Snacks from Island Country Market across the street: $30
Childcare at Auntie's Beach House: Free
Starlight Hui, Evening Movies, Character Experiences: Free
Total Cost for a family of four staying 4 nights: $3066

What didn't I include? Airfare. Taxes. Cabana or Beach Umbrella Rentals. Outside excursions or experiences. Drinks. Snacks. Tips. Souvenirs.

Here are more tips for creating a budget for your family vacation

Childcare at Auntie's Beach House is included for kids who are 3+ and fully potty trained
Childcare at Auntie's Beach House is included for kids who are 3+ and fully potty trained

How Can I Save Money at Aulani Resort?

  • Bring your own snorkel gear and snorkel in the lagoon
  • Eat your breakfast in the room and enjoy a self catered lunch from Island Country Market across the street (all rooms include a small refrigerator and a coffee maker and teapot that you can use to heat water for oatmeal or morning coffee). Want a view? There's no reason you can't enjoy your meal at one of Aulani's poolside tables or on your balcony.
  • Aulani's late checkout facilities include lockers and showers for guests with late flights. If you have an early morning flight, consider spending a full day at the resort the day before you fly, using the lockers to stow your gear, and spend the last night at an airport hotel that has an airport shuttle
  • Use an airport shuttle instead of driving a rental car from the airport. When you rent at the airport, rental car rates are about $100/day for a compact car. Parking at Aulani is and additional $35/night. Instead of renting a car for your entire stay, take a taxi to the hotel and back (about $80 each way). If you'd like to take a daytrip, rent a car at Aulani, where the lack of airport taxes reduces the cost of a rental car by about $30/day. When you're completely done with the car, just return it to the valet and have them park it in Alamo's lot to avoid paying overnight parking fees.
  • Splurge on a spa day pass ($45) instead of massage or expensive treatment
  • Don't order dessert with your meal. Instead, enjoy poolside shave Ice as an afternoon snack ($3.75 poolside)
  • There are so many opportunities to meet Disney characters at Aunties Beach House and throughout the resort that you could forgo the character breakfast without too much drama.
  • Splurging on a fancy meal? Try lunch instead of dinner when prices are a bit cheaper.
  • Take full advantage of the included entertainment. With character meetings, dance parties, movie nights, the starlight HUI, some crafts and cultural activities included free of charge, it's unlikely anyone would get bored using only the included activities
  • If you plan to explore the island, consider making full use of the Aulani Resort for several days, and then using a less expensive hotel as your home base while you sightsee.
  • Be sure to bring everything you might need with you. Buying specialty items in Hawaii is a sure-fire budget breaker, and beach toys and snorkel gear are not included in the resort cost. Other items, like diapers or specialized snacks cost significantly more in Hawaii (and double that in resort areas) than they do on the mainland.

    Here are more ideas for saving money on a Hawaiian Vacation

    The takeaway window at One Paddle Two Paddle is a fast and reasonably priced alternative to a sit down meal.  Kids meals are $6.95 and include a drink and side dish.
    The takeaway window at One Paddle Two Paddle is a fast and reasonably priced alternative to a sit down meal. Kids meals are $6.95 and include a drink and side dish.

    Are Meals included at Aulani Resort?
    No. Meals are not included at Aulani Resort. To save money on meals, one option is to purchase groceries across the street at the Island Country Market. While there is no microwave in the room, there is a teapot and a coffeepot, meaning that you can heat water for oatmeal or noodle soup.

    How can I get from Honolulu Airport (HNL) to Aulani
    Aulani does not currently run a shuttle service from the airport to the Aulani Resort. A taxi from the airport to Aulani would typically be the most cost effective transportation for a family of four, and costs about $80

    Can I visit Aulani Resort if I am not a Hotel Guest? Can I buy an Aulani Resort Day Pass or a pool day pass?
    You can visit Aulani even if you are not a hotel guest. Parking can be validated for four hours or less when you spend $35 or more at the resort. As a non-guest, you won't be able to use the pools (hotel guests are required to wear a wristband to use the pool), nor will your kids be able to visit Auntie's Beach House (even for a fee). There is currently no option to buy a day pass that would give you access to Aulani's facilities without being a hotel guest.

    How much does it cost to park at Aulani Resort
    It costs $35 for hotel guests to park at Aulani Resort. Disney Vacation Club Members receive complimentary parking.

    Do Ko Olina Beach Club members get any special privileges or rates at Aulani Resort
    Nope, but you can walk over or take the Ko Olia shuttle and enjoy the resort instead of paying the parking charge.

    What Can I do at Aulani if I am not a resort guest
    As a non guest, you'll be able to enjoy the resort grounds, including the beach. You can eat at any of the resort restaurants, and a Character Breakfast might be particularly fun. Be sure to pick up the "Daily Iwa" (Aulani's daily activities schedule and newsletter) at the reception desk to find out about "Disney Friends Meet and Greets," shows, and other free activities that are happening during your visit. If you will be visiting Aulani without kids, I'd strongly recommend scheduling a spa treatment as this is one of the loveliest spas I've ever seen.

    Character Meet & Greets are available to non hotel guests too
    Character Meet & Greets are available to non hotel guests too

    Is the Aulani Resort wild with color, characters, and sound effects like Disneyland and Disneyworld?
    Aulani is a much more muted experience than the Disneyland Resorts and the company worked hard to bring Hawaiian elements to center stage, with the Disney characters taking a backseat. Still, this is Hawaii infused with the whimsey and sense of discovery that you're used to at the Disney Parks.

    The Aulani lobby is filled with Hawaiian materials, folklore and symbolism - and there's not a Mickey Mouse in sight
    The Aulani lobby is filled with Hawaiian materials, folklore and symbolism - and there's not a Mickey Mouse in sight

    Does Aulani have a Kids Club? Yes, "Auntie's Beach House is Aulani's Kids Club. Auntie's is available free of charge to resort guests at 3+ who are potty trained. Kids may stay for up to 12 hours per day, and the childcare closes at 11pm. Children under age 3 may visit Auntie's Beach House if a parent stays with them. At this writing, there is no childcare available for children under age 3, and parents may arrange to have an outside sitter provide in-room care.

    What can adults do Aulani?
    For me, a trip to Aulani would be for the purpose of enjoying it with my kids. That said, I talked with several adults who were staying at the resort without kids and enjoying it immensely. Here are a few of the activities that adults can enjoy at Aulani.

    • The Laniwai spa, with it's outdoor massage tables, rain water showers, and hydrotherapy garden and spacious lounges is one of the most stunning spas I've ever seen. If I weren't staying here, I'd be tempted to sneak over for a visit.
    • Daily exercise classes (some at additional cost) are also available. Some take advantage of Aulani's beach or poolside.
    • Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the main pool, you'll also find Aulani's quiet pool - secluded and shady it's an ideal place to hide away.
    • The nighttime Starlight Hui is a must for any age
    • Disney works with established local tour operators and their own guides to provide high quality excursions around the island.
    • Check out the craft and storytelling program in the Pau Hana room. Activities like the making of intricate Lei Hulu (feather lei) are designed to scale well from young guests to older guests.

      This jacuzzi, perched with a view of Aulani's lagoon is definitely a grown-up pleasure
      This jacuzzi, perched with a view of Aulani's lagoon is definitely a grown-up pleasure

      Are there rides at Aulani?
      Nope. Not unless you're planning to give someone a piggy back ride.

      Loads of splashing, but no amusement park style rides at Aulani Resort
      Loads of splashing, but no amusement park style rides at Aulani Resort

      Was the Weather Warm?
      Admittedly this question came from my Seattle questions. Over, and over and over. When you live somewhere that barely manages to get warm in summertime, it's hard to imagine that anyplace else is warm in fall. The temperature during our September stay was in the 80's. Just warm enough that you need to drink extra water, but not so warm as to keep you from being active. Here's a link to historical weather charts for Honolulu in general, temperatures rarely get much over 90 degrees, and nighttime temperatures are often above 70, but rarely below 60 degrees.

      Does Aulani provide an "authentic" Hawaiian experience
      This is a tricky question to answer. Aulani doesn't at all feel like a theme park transported to Hawaii, and the energy that Disney spent engaging local artists in the design and decor shows through in a big way. This is the only big Hawaiian resort I have stayed at where the Hawaiian influence runs deeper than the wallpaper, but still, it's not as if you'll have an unchoreographed locals experience here.

      Display for a craft class at Aulani Resort on Oahu
      Display for a craft class at Aulani Resort on Oahu

      Beyond the decor, I appreciated the effort that went into providing educational opportunities about Hawaiian history, folklore, and culture for both kids and adults. Hotel staff clearly take personal pride in explaining the stories behind the brilliantly colored murals in the hotel entrance and the Makahiki Restaurant. The resort's Pau Hana Room is dedicated to teaching Hawaiian Culture. I particularly liked the fact that many of the craft activities would scale well for whole families to do them together.

      Is Aulani close to Honolulu
      Aulani Resort is about 20 min from Honolulu airport, and about 30 minutes from Waikiki (though the drive can take as much as an hour with traffic). The relaxed North Shore, with it's famous surf towns and shave ice is about 30 minutes away. You'll also have access to the other parts of the Ko Olina resort, including Roy's restaurant, a small shopping center, and the Ko Olina Golf Course. That said, this is an area created for tourism and is a bit isolated from the areas that locals would normally frequent.

      Is Aulani quiet
      From our soundproofed room on the 9th floor, with the doors closed, we did not hear noise from the pool or our neighbors. Aulani isn't the sort of hotel where you would leave your door open to hear the sound of the surf at night, but if you're worried about hearing the type of noise that you might experience if you were sleeping above Disneyland, know that even the daytime sounds are muted and that things really quiet down after dark. There are no fireworks or other loud noises, and outdoor shows, like the Starlight Hui are situated away from hotel rooms.

      Will my kids put up a fight if I try to make them leave the hotel and explore other parts of the island.

      Probably. But you should do it anyway, Oahu is beyond lovely.
      House Without a Key, Honolulu, Hawaii
      House Without a Key, Honolulu, Hawaii
      Readers: As your questions about Aulani in Comments and I'll do my best to answer them
      Related Links
      What to do at Aulani Resort with a Toddler
      Honolulu and Greater Oahu with Kids (City Guide)
      Aulani Resort in Pictures (Part 1)
      Aulani Resort in Pictures (Part 2)
      The Littlest Mouse (Part 1: At Home)
      The LIttlest Mouse (Part 2: Aulani Resort)

      I was an invited guest on this trip, and Disney paid for most of my expenses, including our hotel stay, most meals, and my airfare. Disney did not request that I express any particular point of view, and my opinions are my own.

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      Comments

      1. Andrea Travillian

        http://hearthealthjourney.com/
        November 27, 2011 at 3:34 p.m.

        Thank you so much for these tips, we are headed there in 3 weeks. Your post is by far the best information I have found. There is a discount on private transportation from the airport if you prefer not to have a Taxi. Very happy to know there is a fridge an coffee pot.

      2. Bill McCarty

        February 7, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.

        What is the maximum number of guests allowed per room at the Aulani? Would Disney force us to rent 3 rooms for our 5 member family (2 adults and 3 children)? Or do they have "roll out" beds, so that we could get all 5 of us into only 2 rooms? Thank you for information on this question.

      3. Debbie

        February 7, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.

        Bill,

        The maximum depends upon which room you reserve.

        A standard (two double beds or one king) room accommodates four people (there's also a pack and play in the closet for an infant). Adjoining standard rooms would work well for a family of five, and my personal preference would be for one king room and one double room with the parents in one room and the kids in the other.

        Aulani's suites are all designed to accommodate 5 people, but nightly rates are significantly more than the cost of renting two standard rooms

        A third option is to rent a Disney Vacation Club Villa from an owner or directly through Aulani (no more than 60 days in advance) These suites would comfortably accommodate 5.

        Good luck on your trip!

      4. catherine garcia

        February 12, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.

        Is there public transportation from the Aulani to Waikiki or shopping mall?

      5. Irma

        February 20, 2012 at 10:53 a.m.

        Do you have Kamaaina rates? and Is there hotel provided transportation to-from Aulani to Waikiki free of charge?

      6. Debbie

        February 25, 2012 at 9:45 p.m.

        @Catherine

        There is a shopping shuttle that runs from Aulani to Waikiki in the morning and returns in the early evening. The shuttle runs 3 days per week and there is a fee to ride on it.

        There is also a public bus that runs from a bus stop near Aulani to Ala Moana center. Since schedules vary, it's best to ask at the hotel or use Google Maps to get the exact schedule and routing. The ride takes between 1.5 and 2 hours

      7. Debbie

        February 25, 2012 at 9:46 p.m.

        @Irma

        Yes, Aulani does have special Kamaaina rates. To get special rate information or book a Kamaaina rate, you can call (714) 520-7001.

      8. Tina

        March 22, 2012 at 4:13 p.m.

        Which type of room would be most convenient for pool use? Do the poolside rooms on ground level allow you to walk out to the pool from the room?

      9. Debbie

        March 22, 2012 at 4:32 p.m.

        @Tina At Aulani a ground floor room would be most convenient to the pool, but the rooms do not open directly to the pool and you would still need to walk around to an exit door.

      10. Traci

        March 25, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.

        Thank you for your report! We are going to Aulani in Oct. and I'm trying to understand what you are saying about renting a car on property. Our plan was to rent at the airport and just pay the $35 daily parking fee but it irks me to do so! So are you saying that if we rent on property they don't charge the fee? Can you rent for the week or would you have to rent daily and turn the car in each day? Can you come and go and just have the valet park in the Alamo lot?
        Thanks for your help.

      11. Debbie

        March 25, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.

        Traci,

        There is an Alamo counter on the property, and they store the cars in the Aulani lot. It's tricky though - if you rent the car for the week, you'd pay the parking fee each day. The only time you do not pay the fee is when you return the car.

        What I would recommend is renting the car only on the days when you need it - you'll want to spend a lot of your time enjoying the Aulani amenities (afterall, yo're paying for them) so maybe just plan a day or two of offsite activities.

      12. Michelle

        April 6, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.

        Hi Debbie,

        As a non-hotel guest, can we still rent umbrellas, kayaks, snorkels, etc from Aulani?

      13. Jessica

        September 19, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.

        I'm at Aulani right now and it's amazing. Definitely the best hotel on Oahu. Service is on par with Turtle Bay. The wrist bands change daily. We spent 5 days in Waikiki and was able to rent a car for cheap. You should definitely see the rest of the island and swim with the sea turtles. The lagoon is very small at Aulani and we had to dodge swimmers and kayakers in the small beach area we have. I'd recommend eating across the street for cheaper eats. Hawaiian BBQ has been a good alternative and so has the Island Store (similiar to ABC store). So far so good.

        My 4 year old loves going to Auntie's Beach House and making Goo with Stitch. The pools close at 10 pm and are heated!! These are the only heated pools in Oahu.

        We found our rates for $234 a night and go upgraded to partial ocean view. It's slower season right now in September so they are more flexible.

      14. Olivia

        February 24, 2013 at 7:39 a.m.

        We are a family of 6. However, 2 are infant twins. Do you think we could still get a standard room? One bed, pull out sofa and the pack-n-play?

      15. Debbie

        February 25, 2013 at 8:28 a.m.

        Michelle, yes, non hotel guests can use the public beach facilities, however the next lagoon over also offers rentals and is a bit less busy.

        Olivia, I would give the resort a call. I'm sure they could arrange to deliver a second pack-n-play to your room and have a way that they typically work with accommodations for twins.

      16. Gerardo Garza

        February 27, 2013 at 3:14 p.m.

        My family and I are spending new years eve 2014 in Honolulu. We are staying in a Waikiki Beach resort. Anyhow, Can we spend new years eve celebration event at Aulani resort by paying for the dinner/show event even if we are not guests???
        Thank you!

      17. Debbie

        February 28, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.

        Gerardo,

        Anyone can enjoy the restaurants at Aulani resort, however if you want to visit on New Year's Eve, I would make a reservation well in advance.

      18. Gerardo Garza

        February 28, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

        Debbie,

        I forgot to ask, What restaurant would you recommend to spend new years as I have never been at Aulani before?
        Thank you again

      19. Debbie

        February 28, 2013 at 9:24 p.m.

        Gerardo,

        Here is the page for New Years Eve information at Aulani. It doesn't look like they are taking reservations quite yet.

        http://resorts.disney.go.com/aulani-h...

        I like the fine dining restaurant, 'ama 'ama best for dinner.

      20. Janice

        March 25, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

        Thank you Debbie for this post!
        Answered all the questions I had about Aulani in one post! Great for planning our family trip.

      21. Jan

        April 10, 2013 at 2:25 p.m.

        DVC members do NOT have to pay the daily parking rate.

      22. Max

        April 10, 2013 at 10:28 p.m.

        Debbie, I will be at the resort as non-guest in Sep, and going to take my kids to Character Breakfast and the beach. Which day of week can we see the characters and cost is $100 right? Also, no fee to access the beach? Only costs me $35 for parking and $100 or breakfast?

      23. Alyssa

        July 29, 2013 at 11:36 a.m.

        Did you see the teen spa?

      24. Jennie

        August 4, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

        Hi,

        Is the beach area closed off as to block off dangerous sea life?

      25. Debbie

        August 6, 2013 at 7:57 a.m.

        Max, There is no fee to access the beach. All beaches in Hawaii are public. I believe the parking fee is waived with the purchase of the character breakfast, but call the resort to get information on the updated policy

        Alyssa, I saw it, and it looks great, but since I don't have a teen it's hard for me to evaluate with any depth

        Jennie, It is a public beach and has the same sealife as the ocean. In fact we once saw a Monk Seal beached at Ko'Olina

      26. Alyssa

        August 13, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.

        Thank you so much for all your information!!! It is very helpful in the fact of what to spend and what we can get from home or something! Leaving on Saturday! I will tell you how the teen spa was :) THANKS AGAIN!

      27. Angela

        August 27, 2013 at 10:54 p.m.

        Great info on your site! I just returned from Hawaii and did visit Aulani as a non guest and ate at the restaurant & played in the lagoon. However was disappointed to find out that taking pictures with characters were for hotel guests only. They let us take a picture anyway probably because our children had been waiting for so long for Stitch to come out.

      28. Ann Bui

        October 31, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

        Hi Debbie,
        Your info in this site is incredible and helping us lot. I will be staying in the Ko' Olina Beach Villas next door and I heard so much about Starlit Hui event. Will Disney's allow non guest to pay somekind of fee to enjoy this show with their guests?
        Thank you. Ann

      29. Debbie

        November 1, 2013 at 11:28 a.m.

        Ann,

        Sadly, the Starlit Hui is for registered guests only

      30. Veronica

        September 30, 2014 at 4:11 p.m.

        Thank you so much for the info! Really appreciated.
        Do you get a Luau at Aulani? We are debating about it. Thanks again!

      31. Cindy

        October 3, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.

        Hi! Can more than 4 people stay in a standard room if there are only 2 adults? For example, 2 adults and 3 children. There would be more than enough space for a family of 5 if it is comprable to the Grand Californian?

      32. Cindy

        October 24, 2014 at 1:03 p.m.

        Hi! Please see above question. If anyone knows the answer, that would be great!!

        Thanks

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