Travel Bucket List: Endless Family Fun at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii

Overlooking Ko Olina’s picturesque beachfront cove on the coast of Oahu, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa offers the ultimate family getaway that’s equal parts kid-friendly and luxurious. Employing Disney’s signature attention to detail to create an immersive and distinctly Hawaiian experience, this resort blends Hawaiian history and culture, top-notch dining and recreation, and a healthy helping of Disney magic to keep every member of the family endlessly engaged. Room choices range from a standard hotel room sleeping four all the way up to a jaw-dropping three-bedroom grand villa that sleeps up to 12. One- to three-bedroom villas help families feel right at home with a full kitchen, dishwasher, washer, and dryer, while breathtaking views from the balcony make it hard to leave the room.


Splash the day away at the Waikolohe Valley pool area, an intricate network of pools, waterslides, and a lazy river. Kids will love spotting the native animals carved into the volcanic-rock-like formations throughout the Valley and just might bump into Mickey, Goofy, or Moana in the process. At Rainbow Reef, get up close and personal with local tropical fish without even leaving the pool area. Here, you can snorkel in a private lagoon teeming with native Hawaiian fish in a calm and protected space that’s perfect for first-timers.

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Aulani’s Waikolohe Valley is an aquatic playground of pools and waterslides. (Photo courtesy of Disney.)

Just steps from the pool is a tranquil cove and sandy beach with plenty of chairs, umbrellas, and paddleboards and beach toys for rental. Be sure to head back down to the beach at sunset for storytelling by the firepit and unforgettable family photos.


At The ‘Olelo Room, learn to speak Hawaiian over cocktails and light bites like sushi and the must-try, surprisingly exotic Popcorn Fries; join Mickey and pals for a relaxing character breakfast or dinner alfresco on the terrace at Makahiki; and watch the sun set over the cove at beachfront ‘Ama ‘Ama, where the views are rivaled by succulent center-cut king crab legs and truffle macaroni and cheese. (If you’re smart, you’ll come back in the morning for the buttermilk pancakes with macadamia nut–Tahitian vanilla sauce.) Cool off by the pool with authentic Hawaiian shave ice in exotic flavors like coconut, guava, and lillikoi — be sure to add Mickey ears and a topping of sweetened condensed milk for maximum fun and deliciousness.

Travel Bucket LIst Aulani Shave Ice
Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald.


Parents, ready for some grown-up time? From 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. drop your kiddos off at Aunty’s Beach House, a secure, sprawling, and free kids’ club so fun kids beg to return, while you sneak away to relax at the Laniwai Spa, take a dip in one of several adults-only pools and spas, or enjoy a cocktail at the pool bar.

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa
Disney’s PhotoPass photographers take sunset family photos on the beach. (Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald.)

Round out your family’s immersion at Ka W’aa, Aulani’s luau, where kids will have a blast learning to play the ukulele, getting “tattooed,” and stringing their own floral bracelets before feasting on roast pig and watching a lively traditional Hawaiian show (with a side of Mickey and Minnie, of course).

Travel Bucket List: Luau at Aulani
Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald.

Read more in our Travel Bucket List series.

Editor in Chief of Better, Brooke Geiger McDonald is a Chicago native who has worked for O, The Oprah Magazine and Shape magazine in New York and for various book publishers in London. Back home in Chicago, she’s outnumbered by her husband and two sons, and the four of them are certifiable Disney and Star Wars fanatics, always counting down the days to their next Disney vacation. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram: @brookegmcdonald