One of the great things about Disney Aulani Resort is that there is so much to do right on the property. Whether it’s poolside activities, snorkeling in the Rainbow Reef or having fun at the beach during the day Disney Aulani has it all. At night you can enjoy various types of dining, listening to live music, strolling the waterfront or catching a show after the sun goes down. No matter what you feel like doing, this resort is jam packed with a seemingly endless list of activities and best of all most of them are free and included in your room rate.
Still, if you’re on a Hawaiian vacation, you’ll be doing yourself an injustice not to venture off-site for any number of excellent excursions that you can book at the resort or directly on your own. While there are many great things that you can see and do on Oahu, here are my top three recommendations for offsite family excursions and adventures while staying at Disney Aulani Resort & Spa.
SURFING LESSONS WITH SURF HNL/GIRLS WHO SURF
If anyone in your family is at all adventurous and loves water sports, surfing in Hawaii is a must-do. This is one of many things that the islands are famous for and lucky for you there is an excellent surfing option located very close to Aulani. Here you can experience surfing in Hawaii with confidence even if you have never set foot on a surfboard before (which is likely the case for most visitors to Hawaii).
Surf HNL/Girls Who Surf is a Honolulu-based outfit that offers lessons at a gentle surf break very close to Aulani — near Kapolei (they also have a location closer to Honolulu). Surf HNL offers private lessons and group lessons, for kids and adults, male and female. So there’s no excuse for anyone not to take part. The instructors are knowledgeable, skilled, friendly and great at working with surfers of all ages. Our six-year-old daughter Amelia had a private lesson and it was the time of her life and one of her favorite memories from the trip.
We booked our excursion directly with Surf HNL/Girls Who Surf (from our hotel room using WiFi), but you may be able to arrange it through the Aulani tour desk in the lobby as well. Since we had a rental car, we chose to drive to the location on our own, but Surf HNL does offer shuttle service if you do not have a car. Once you get to the beach, you’ll be greeted warmly by your instructors and it won’t be long before your lesson begins and you hit the surf. All equipment is supplied, so just come prepared with swimwear, sunscreen and a towel. This is a highly recommended experience that can really complete your Hawaiian vacation. Surf HNL/Girls Who Surf also has a photographer onsite in case you wish to purchase some great photos of your surfing experience and there is branded swag for sale as well. If you have been thinking about learning to surf, this is one Hawaiian adventure that you should definitely add to your list.
CATAMARAN EXPERIENCE WITH HAWAIIAN NAUTICAL
Another recommended water adventure is the Catamaran Experience with Hawaiian Nautical. This sailing adventure is exclusive to guests of Disney Aulani Resort and runs several times each week. You will take a 15-minute shuttle ride from the resort to the boat’s location. From there, you will enjoy a fantastic journey up the coast of Oahu on a beautiful new 65′ catamaran, complete with restrooms, bar, food service and a super friendly and knowledgeable crew. On our journey we saw flying fish, spinner dolphins and sea turtles — and that was before we even stopped to go snorkeling! The journey travels along a less developed part of the island and the scenery is truly spectacular. The boat will ultimately set anchor at a snorkeling spot offshore where you will be outfitted with complete gear including masks, snorkels, fins and life vests (which you can inflate fully or not at all). A guide will take you to key locations where you can enjoy the underwater life of Hawaii.
Even if you don’t plan to snorkel at all, this is a journey worth taking. There were several guests on our cruise who were simply there for the sailing experience — and still got the opportunity to see lots of sea life in the natural environment. You can book this adventure right in the lobby of Aulani at the excursion desk, so it is very convenient on all fronts.
PARADISE COVE LUAU
What would a Hawaiian vacation be without a luau experience? There are several options from which to choose on Oahu when it comes to luaus, but if you are staying at Disney Aulani in particular, nothing beats the value and convenience of the Paradise Cove luau. Located literally just a 10-minute walk from the resort, the Paradise Cove luau is everything that a luau should be.
You arrive at Paradise Cove a couple of hours before you will eat to enjoy the wide variety of family fun activities including lei making and many other Hawaiian craft stations, custom temporary tattoos, spear chucking contests, waterfront activities and much more. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the Hawaiian oceanfront setting while enjoying cocktails and browsing the gift shop locations.
When it’s time to eat, you will be summoned to the dining area and take your place. I highly recommend the Deluxe package, which will give you table service dining, several complimentary photos and drinks, and other special commemorative gifts. Plus, you will have reserved seating in the section closest to the stage. We enjoyed the food and the show was excellent — all the performers were top notch and very engaging with the crowd. Yes, you and your little ones will have a chance to learn to hula and take your spot on the big stage to become part of the extravaganza yourself!
I had read several mixed reviews for just about all of the luaus on Oahu, so I was very pleased that the Paradise Cove Luau turned out to be quite an enjoyable and well-run adventure. It is worthwhile no matter where you are staying, but if you are a guest of Disney Aulani, it is a must-do for your activity list. You can book the luau online in advance (recommended) or simply drop by when you are onsite.
Have you visited Disney Aulani? What are your favorite recommended excursions?
~ Mike Belobradic