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Disney’s Aulani Experience After Reopening

Disney\’s Aulani resort on the Hawaiian island of Oahu reopened on November 1 after being closed since mid-May. Hawaii\’s strict restrictions on visitors meant that resorts and hotels in Hawaii have taken even longer to reopen than in other parts of the country.

On many forums and Facebook groups, Aulani has come under heavy fire from guests for a number of reasons including lack of dining availability, very long waits (up to 90 minutes) for quick service orders, heavy crowds, no available chairs at the pool or on the beach, and lack of services that were available previously. Additionally, the restaurants immediately across the street have not reopened yet leaving guests with very few options for meals without driving into the town of Kapolei.

However, our guest blogger spent the last week at Aulani and had a completely different experience! She has visited Aulani multiple times and currently lives on Oahu. With her extensive understanding and familiarity of the resort before and after COVID, she gives us a positive and affirmative viewpoint of her family\’s recent visit:


Kids viewing the fish in Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon.

All three kids were in hysterical tears for bath and bed tonight.

Sir M, \”I\’m sad, Mommy, that we\’re not at Aulani right now.\”

Me, too, buddy. Me, too.

I watched the negative comments and forums fill with disappointment after disappointment from this past weekend (Aulani\’s first full weekend open since closing in March), and I was so worried the magic would be missing. It just wasn\’t. We saw characters–on balconies and on stages. Different from before, but still a highlight. We had amazing meals both in our room (kids love eating on the balcony), poolside, and one restaurant meal. (Yes, I meal plan for staycations, and we took 80% of our food with us)

We took our time enjoying each part we wanted to soak up without rushing to the next best thing. This gave us maybe two major things to tackle each day so we could thoroughly enjoy the amenities. We found chairs (clustered in twos, threes, and fours) with relative ease and used that to determine which pool we would enjoy for that morning or afternoon.

We stuck to our checkout day tradition of getting a poolside cabana because it comes with snacks. We could relax under cover no matter the sun\’s position. We had a TV for chill moments, so kids would actually take appropriate breaks from swimming. We had a place to lock up the items we didn\’t take to the car and swap out wet gear before loading up the car to head home. NOTE: For parents of littles, we also use this to help us stay until sunset on checkout day because they can nap in the cabana.

Cabana snacks!

We let the kiddos stretch their normal limits on the things we\’ve done a time or two in the past, and we saw them gain confidence, try new things, and brush up on (and sharpen) their swimming skills.

Were there things missing? Sure.

Mama\’s Snack shack was closed; we have only used them once and it wasn\’t our favorite anyway, but they are rumored to open back up soon. We weren\’t greeted with leis at the valet (also only self park for now), we didn\’t have cute little plumeria clips and Mickey head towels in our room or slippahs and robes (we didn\’t need these things). All but 1.5 restaurants were closed still (see above, not an issue for us). MonkeyPod, one of the popular local restaurants across the street was still closed across the street, but they are reopening on November 18.

All drinks are better with a view and a flower!

Refillable drink cups are not available either. They are rumored to be going away altogether. However, the refillable popcorn is still available at Ulu Cafe–cost is $1.50 or free for DVC members. Additionally, some other in-room items like a toaster must be requested now in the villas. Previously these items were in the villas as part of the amenities. We also always request a stool for the bathroom so kids can wash their hands a little easier.

And, the one we were most worried about, Aunty\’s Beach House was closed. This is the kids club where our kids have danced and crafted with characters for all kinds of holidays and events. We usually use this time to grab a meal as just us adults or sneak off to the spa for some rejuvenation while they enjoy the festivities. But, the spa was still closed and see above on meals, so we almost didn\’t notice it except that Sir M. mentioned it on the way home.

This was a make-up trip for our twins\’ fourth birthday, and it was what our \’ohana needed. All in all, 10/10 we will do it again.

Guest Blogger: Sheila Johnston lives on the island of Oahu with her husband, three adorable children, and a sweet doggo. As a military family stationed in Hawaii, they have had the opportunity to visit Aulani many times. They are also DVC members and love the magic of a Disney vacation.

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