Photography Tour of Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa in Oahu, Hawaii

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Aulani is a 21-acre resort located in Ko Olina, a seaside community made up mostly of other hotels and condos, located about 40 minutes from Honolulu.

Aulani is located in Ko Olina on the island of Oahu.

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Source: Ko Olina

I booked our trip two months in advance. At the time, the cheapest rooms, which usually start around $550 per night, were sold out. My cheapest option was an ocean view for $775 a night. Sequels, meanwhile, started around $1,500.

A view of the lazy river and hotel grounds, including the hotel tower and beach in the distance at Aulani Disney Resort.

Overlooking the Aulani estate, a Disney Resort & Spa.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


Source: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

With tax, two nights cost $1,826.06 in total, so I had very high expectations for our stay. Here’s how it went.

A family taking a selfie with a baby in an elevator.

Taking an elevator selfie in Aulani with my husband and daughter.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


I only had to wait a few minutes to be checked in and was encouraged to download the hotel app to find out more about the activities, like character meet and greets or art projects children who unfold every day.

A hotel check-in counter with a colorful backdrop and people waiting to be checked in.

The check-in queue was short at Aulani.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


Our room was on the 7th floor of the main tower. At 382 square feet with two queen beds, I was worried it might be too small for the three of us.

A hotel room with two beds, dresser, TV, coffee maker and ceiling fan.

Our ocean view room.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


When my family travels we prefer suites as no one sleeps well when we share a room. But due to the price, we decided to try the standard room. It was small but cosy, although we all had to adopt my daughter’s bedtime of 8pm.

Mom and her daughter are sitting in a hotel bed with a baby drinking milk.

Relaxing in bed with my daughter.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


I noticed a few design details meant to maximize space. The platform beds had storage underneath which kept our suitcases out of the way.

Two suitcases stored under a bed on the carpet.

Luggage stored under the bed.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


I also thought the bathroom was spacious with lots of shelving, a rain shower and tub, a large counter, and a separate toilet. It came with Disney’s own line of H2O toiletries.

A hotel bathroom with a single sink, tub-shower combo, and towels.

The bathroom in the hotel room.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


I expected the TV to come preloaded with Disney classics, including my daughter’s favorite movie, “Moana.” But the Disney+ streaming service was only available to existing customers or to purchase while there.

A child sitting on a hotel bed and watching TV while eating.

My daughter watches TV.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


On the balcony, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed by my view of the ocean. While I could see it in the distance, I thought it would be closer to my bedroom. My view was mostly facing the hotel pools.

A hotel room balcony with chairs and a table and a view of lush trees, pools and the ocean beyond.

The balcony.

Emily Hochberg / Insider


And there were several pools in this view. There were so many, in fact I thought the resort had a water park feel with a lazy river, paddling pools, zero entry lagoon, infinity pool, private snorkeling reef and waterfalls.

View of a lazy river and swimming pool at Disney's Aulani Resort.

The lazy river.

Emily Hochberg/Insider


The three of us also enjoyed the Waikolohe pool with its zero entry opening which meant my daughter could wade in slowly. I loved that almost all of the pools at Aulani were so kid-friendly, unlike many hotels we’ve stayed at as a family.

A man and his little girl play in a zero-entry swimming pool.

The entry-less entry to Waikolohe Pool.

Emily Hochberg/Insider


Of course, the biggest reminder that we were at a Disney resort was the daily character encounters. The program for these free photo shoots was posted every day at 8 a.m. on the resort’s app.

A screenshot of the Disney Aulani app with activities listed.

Every day, I was able to consult the schedule of character appearances on Aulani’s app, starting at 8 a.m.

Emily Hochberg/Insider


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