Let’s say you don’t like a lazy river, or that water slides are passe, and your choice of secluded hot tubs is just too mainstream of a decision (this is all complete nonsense though, because you love all those things, right?) Just in case, Disney’s new Aulani Resort has even more fun ready and waiting.
Swimming with Stingrays
How about swimming with native Hawaiian brown stingrays? At Aulani’s Makai Preserve you or your kids can glide into the water to pet and feed the stingrays! Oh, don’t let that blood pressure spike, stingrays, according to Jeff Sedon, Animal Programs Manager at Aulani, are gentle. They don’t have teeth, just plates that grind up food. Stingrays eat clams, lobster, shrimp, basically the same things you like to eat from the ocean. Something you have in common: neither you nor sting rays like to eat people. The brown stingrays are manicured to keep any barbs under control and provide a great way for kids to understand more about a misunderstood creature. All proceeds go to Disney’s conservation and research fund to protect Hawaiian animals and their habitats.
I love the idea of this contained reef in the Waikolohe Valley of Aulani. Your little people can try out snorkeling with tropical fish without the buffeting of the open ocean. The Rainbow Reef has over forty species of fish and the tank holds 1100 fish. Although the water is cold (you’re in the fishes’ home) kids have a guaranteed true snorkeling experience. There is an entrance fee, or you can get a pass for as many times as you like during your stay. If you’re my parents and are extremely cheap, the reef has windows that offer an underwater view to any passerby.
Honestly, I could just walk the grounds of Aulani and be happy. Loads of hidden pools and walkways to explore. The koi pond below the waterfall is beautiful. The hidden Menehune to spot. Director of Landscape Architecture for Walt Disney Imagineering, Jeff Morosky, explained how they spent two years just looking for trees. Trees! They worked locally and tried to use plants that are found on Oahu, reaching out to neighboring islands as needed.
The entire concept is based on ahupua’a, the Hawaiian tradition of land ownership based on watersheds. The lobby and entrance represents the mountains, so the vegetation is like the tree canopy. The Waikolohe Valley parallels Hawaii’s valley trees and plants, with the grounds thinning out as you near the sea. Huge lava “rock” flows with tunnels and spouts of water punctuate the landscape. It took four years to design, construct, grow and source the grounds, working within the Hawaiian tradition to tell a story with just a little Disney magic.
Want to learn how to surf? Go out to sea on a catamaran? Horseback riding? Tours? I mean, you could sit by the pool and keep an eye on the splash pad, or you could drop the kids of at Aunty’s Beach House and really get out and experience Hawaii.
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Sea kayaking, canoeing, standing paddle board? Rent snorkeling or other beach fun equipment? Yeah, Aulani’s got that.
Traditional Hawaiian storytelling, the sunset ceremony, Disney movie night out on the lawn with the ocean breeze and a gigantic screen? Character breakfasts? See, you don’t have to don a swimsuit and get soaked to have a great time.
If you’re like me, the TV situation is always important. Yes, I’m that guy, the guy who goes to Hawaii and watches TV. You have at least one flatscreen HDTV in your room with a full compliment of cable shows. TV in paradise smells like coconut, FYI.
(Oh, and if you’re super die-hard, Aulani has private cabanas located poolside with 32″ TVs, ceiling fans, fridges, and snacks. Yup.)
What was my favorite activity?
Sitting in the ocean.
I mix it up by sitting on the beach.
What would you like to try?