Disney Does Hawaii


Disney Aulani

Although it’s a year away, Disney Aulani’s opening is one of the most anticipated in Hawaii


It won’t open for nearly a year, but the Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko’Olina, Hawaii, has been generating more buzz than just about any other new-build property in the Aloha State in recent memory.

“The new Aulani will be our first mixed-use, stand-alone family destination resort,” says Djuan Rivers, vice president of Aulani. “That is, it will be a combination of traditional hotel rooms as well as Disney Vacation Club villas.” In all, the resort will have 359 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom villas.

Families—and groups—will have a range of accommodation options. The hotel’s Parlor Suites will sleep up to five people (two in the master bedroom, three in the parlor). With one full and another half-bathroom, it’s ideal for families who need to get ready all at once. The suites have a private balcony or porch and flat-screen TVs in both the parlor and bedroom.

The Two-Bedroom Dedicated Suite, on the other hand, can accommodate nine, and has a whirlpool tub, full kitchen (with everything families need for a meal, including a dishwasher), washer and dryer, and a private porch or balcony.

While hosting big families (or parties), the Grand Villa can sleep up to 12, and has three full bedrooms, three bathrooms and three full bathrooms (the master bath has a whirlpool tub). Nice touch: For a proper family dinner, the Villa has a dedicated dining room with a full table and chairs.


Aulani lobby

An artist’s impression of the Aulani lobby


Family Fun

Like many in Hawaii, the resort will have plenty of water-based activities for families. However, unlike other resorts, Aulani will have both a snorkel lagoon—Rainbow Reef—and conservation lagoon, as well as a tube-floating watercourse.



Hawaii in Numbers

It’s been a rough few years, but Hawaii’s tourism economy continues to show positive gains following seven months of increased visitor arrivals and spending. Efforts to drive demand and boost short-term arrivals have resulted in visitor expenditures increasing 10.2 percent over 2009 to $6.4 billion and total arrivals increasing by 9 percent.
July was a strong month for Hawaii’s convention, meetings, incentive (CMI) market with 11,924 visitors, a 78.9 percent increase over 2009, arriving specifically to attend several large conventions, including the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Baptist World Congress.
“Airlift continues to be the key component to the rebounding of Hawaii’s tourism economy,” said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). “Following the addition of direct flights from the U.S. West to the Neighbor Islands, we have seen a healthier distribution of visitors to all islands, resulting in heavier visitor traffic and spending and contributing to their communities.
“While we see many positive indicators, we are mindful that the global travel industry, including Hawaii, has not fully recovered from successive years of lower consumer and business spending,” McCartney added. “It will continue to take a collective effort from HTA, our marketing partners, our experience and program providers, as well as the collective goodwill of our people toward visitors to drive demand...in support of our tourism economy.”



In Rainbow Reef, guests can dive in and swim with different species of fish, and in the conservation lagoon, guests can gently stroke the backs of manta rays while sitting on the deck. (Humane touch: All proceeds from the conservation pool and Rainbow Reef will support wildlife causes around the world.)

Most notably—and most recognizably Disney—Aulani will also have a signature kids’ club, Aunty’s Beach House, where kids can explore Hawaiian culture through fun and games (including interactive-touch table games) and arts and crafts. Other cool features of the beach house include an “enchanted fireplace” and a screen that makes it seem like it’s a rainy day outside (setting a great mood for storytelling).

More unique experiences will be available to kids, but they’re still in the planning stages.

For grown-ups, the resort will have an 18,000-square-foot spa, though the company is keeping mum on the details. Dining options at Aulani will emphasize farm-to-table cuisine and local flavors.

“`AMA`AMA and Makahiki restaurants will serve foods unique to Hawaii, with ingredients from local farmers and fishermen,” Rivers says.

It’s not just the food.`AMA`AMA will also have fantastic views of the sunset along the Leeward Coast. At the Makahiki buffet restaurant, with lighting that reflects the transition from day to night, families will be able to dine in with Disney characters.

As of now, Disney has room-only and vacation packages available for when the resort opens.

“We are pleased with the initial pace of reservations,” Rivers says. “The Disney sales team is currently working with a selection of wholesalers to develop product for sale through those channels. We have wholesaler and travel agent training, and sales resources available on www.disneytravelagents.com.”


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