Whenever I visit Hawaii, there is only one hotel that I will ever stay in, and that’s Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.
As you probably already know, I absolutely love Disney, so whenever there’s a chance to stay at a Disney resort, I do.
Over the years, I’ve stayed in 3 different rooms at Aulani (standard room, Disney Vacation Club Deluxe Studio, and 1-bedroom Villa) and I can tell you from a fact that the 1-bedroom villa is probably the best of the bunch.
This is especially true if you’re looking for plenty of space as well as some nice in-room amenities, such as a kitchen (with oven, fridge, and microwave), a tub, and a washer and dryer.
So when it was time to book a trip to Aulani during the late summer, I had to decide between the more affordable Standard Room or the pricier Disney Vacation Club 1-Bedroom Villa.
I had the Standard Room in my cart, but it wasn’t until I found out about the Disney Visa Card promotion that enticed me to book a 1-Bedroom Villa Poolside Gardens View, cheaper than a Standard Room with an ocean view.
Getting to Hawaii from Orlando used to always involve a stop in either Los Angeles, Dallas, or Atlanta. But in 2021, Hawaiian Airlines unveiled a new nonstop route from Orlando to Honolulu which was an absolute game-changer.
So we booked a roundtrip flight from MCO-HNL which was around 10 hours going and 9 hours back.
We actually lucked out because Hawaiian airlines suspend this service in September of 2022 so we were on one of the last roundtrip flights from Orlando.
Like most of our trip to Hawaii, we decided to rent a car from the airport.
I rented a Jeep through Hertz using my Capital One Venture X which gave me President’s Circle status, as well as rental car coverage.
Room rates at Disney’s Aulani Resort tend to start around $574 per night for a stand room with a standard view and $874 per night for a 1-Bedroom Villa with a standard view.
Thankfully, I lucked out because there was special Disney Visa Credit Card promotion that I was able to take advantage of. The promotion was 35% off any room (minus the 3-bedroom Grand Villa) when you stay 5 nights or more and pay using your Disney Visa Credit Card.
So I decided to book a 1-Bedroom Villa Poolside Gardens View.
One thing to note is that the villas are advertised as Disney Vacation Club, but anyone can book and stay in these rooms.
With taxes, my 6-night stay in an Aulani 1-Bedroom Villa Poolside Gardens View came out to be $4,710.90, which broke down to $665.60 a night. I saved about $278 a night using this promotion. The normal cost for this particular room is $944 a night.
My stay also included a $150 resort credit so I immediately took advantage of by booking a couples spa treatment at the Laniwai Spa.
There is so much to love about Aulani thanks to its beautiful setting, location, and included amenities.
- Perfect location right on a lagoon at Ko Olina
- 6 pool areas, including a lazy river, and two water slides
- Adults-only, two level infinity whirl pool
- A private beach
- Rainbow Reef snorkeling experience
- So many Character meet and greet opportunities
- Complimentary kids club activities
- No resort fees
- Incredible Disney service
There were only a handful of drawbacks during my stay at Aulani:
- It’s so expensive. Food is expensive. Drinks are expensive. Snacks are expensive. Merch is expensive. Parking is expensive.
- It being August, it was still very busy and almost impossible to find a good chair by the pools in the morning. Thankfully the crowds thinned out in the afternoon.
- Our room was located on the main floor same as the lobby (the lobby is technically on floor 3) and it was nearby elevator bank so it was pretty noisy.
Guest rooms are divided into two separate towers, Waianae Tower and Ewa Tower.
First thing first, one of the most important parts of any room, at least to me, is the view. Unfortunately, this view from this 1-Bedroom Villa poolside gardens room wasn’t amazing, but it also wasn’t bad.
The room faced the pool area but since it was on the 3rd floor (pool-side garden rooms are on floors 1-5), there was zero chance of seeing the ocean, which was a very tiny bummer. But we’re in Hawaii, it’s hard to complain.
The room is spacious, at 750 square feet, which included a separate bedroom and living area with full kitchen.
Here are all the amenities that this Aulani 1-Bedroom Villa included:
- two flat screen TVs (one in living room and one in bedroom)
- private balcony
- two ceiling fans
- washer and dryer
- kitchen with full-sized fridge as well as a microwave, dishwasher, toaster, full sink, coffee maker, rice cooker, stove, pots and pans, dinnerware, glassware, and utensils
- bathroom included a shower with rain head and a whirlpool tub
- robes and slippers
- two closets
- ironing board
- pack ‘n play
- high chair
- shampoo, conditioner, bath soap, facial soap, and lotion
I was so surprised just how stocked these kitchens were.
This was my 7th stay at Aulani and first time not staying in an ocean view room. And to be honest, I didn’t really miss it, only because I was almost never in the room.
Besides hanging out in the room for a couple hours during some rain showers, we were always by the pool or at the beach.
So would I stay in a 1-Bedroom Villa again? Absolutely! Because you really can’t beat the amount of space and amenities this room has.
Would I shell out almost $250 more per night just to see the ocean from my room again? Honestly, no. As much as I would love to be able to walk onto my balcony and see the beautiful Pacific Ocean, I could easily just head on down to the lagoon and take in the sunset up close and personal.
Food and Drink
Aulani is home to some fantastic snack and food options.
The main restaurant is called Makahiki which doubles as a character breakfast spot in the morning, and a casual, family-friendly preset 3-course dinner spot in the evening. Makahiki used to be a pretty good buffet pre-pandemic, so hopefully it returns to it’s former glory sometime soon. Dinner-wise, it was okay. Nothing spectacular and definitely don’t think it was worth $68 per person.
Connected to Makahiki is the Olelo Room which is an indoor and outdoor lounge inspired by the Hawaiian language, which features a full bar as well as sushi and chef-crafted appetizers. This is a great place to grab a drink, enjoy some pupus, while taken in some live music. I was in love with the Pua’a Kalua Gratin and the torched hamachi pacific yellowtail nigiri.
If you’re looking for something more upscale with a beautiful view, then Ama-Ama is your best bet. It’s a signature, open-air restaurant e that features classic Hawaiian cuisines with a modern twist. It’s open for both breakfast and dinner. But dinner will give you incredible sunset views. ‘Ama ‘Ama wasn’t open when we were there this time but it is now officially open after a renovation.
There’s also a poolside bar and restaurant called Off the Hook which is where you’ll find your burgers and fries, sandwiches, salads, and cocktails. My wife frequent this quite often for some fries and corn dog nuggets.
If you’re looking for coffee, then the Wailana Pool Bar was the best bet in the morning until 10:30 am.
In the middle of the pool area are two spots, Mama’s Snack Stop which serves fish and chips, tenders, and coconut shrimp; and Papalua Shave Ice which offers some refreshing Mickey-eared shave ice. I absolutely love shave ice, and although this wasn’t as good as Waiola, it didn’t disappoint. For $1, you can add Mickey Ears but I learned the hard way that these bad boys can fall off so easily.
As you head down towards the beach, there is Little Opihi’s which has Dole Whip, frozen treats, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Lastly is my favorite spot and by far the busiest spot is Ulu Cafe. Here you’ll find breakfast, plate lunches, Mickey Musibi, freshly popped popcorn, salads, grab and go selections, whole pizzas for dinner, and my personal favorite, build-your-own poke bowls for lunch! Plus, if you purchases refillable resort mugs, there were two Freestyle Coke machines that you can get unlimited refills at for the entirety of the stay.
Amenities and Services
The service is as you would expect at any other Disney Resort, outstanding. Whenever we interacted with a Cast Member, we were always greeted with a smile or an Aloha.
From the pool staff and front desk members, to the valet attendants and retail Cast Members, I’m glad to say that I didn’t have a negative interaction during this trip.
Our room was having issues getting cold due to an AC issue, so I called the front desk a maintenance guy came in about 5 minutes. And thankfully, he was able to resolve the issue.
Housekeeping comes every other day, but that didn’t really bother me because they always stocked us up with two days worth of fresh towels.
When it comes to amenities, Aulani offers many. Here’s a quick list of the more notable ones:
- 6 pools and a private beach
- Lazy river with tubes
- Character meet and greets
- Full-service spa that included a hydrotherapy garden
- 24-hour health and fitness center
- Live Hawaiian music
- Aunty’s Beach House and complimentary kids club activities
- On-site luau called Ka Wa’a
I could’ve stayed in the lazy river all day.
The overall, vibe at Aulani is relaxing. Minus a few of the kid’s pool areas, it surprisingly wasn’t that hectic. I saw a lot more craziness on my most recent Disney Cruise’s pool deck than I did during this stay.
I don’t really know how to describe how this hotel looked and felt, but I definitely knew I was at a semi-luxurious beach resort in Hawaii with all the dark Koa wood accents throughout.
It was a nice mix of families and couples of all ages along with some foreigners, all of which was great to see. I definitely didn’t feel like I stood out which is always nice, at least from personal experience.
During the evenings, it was very chill. Resort guests were dressed up for dinner while some were still enjoying the pool. And by the time 10 pm rolled around, it was pretty empty at the stores, lounges, and lobby areas.
There aren’t too many places that I’m actually so sad to check out of, but Aulani is definitely one of the few.
Aulani offers an express checkout at 11:00 am meaning that I didn’t have to stop by the front desk to officially checkout. My charges for the stay were listed on the Aulani app and I was able to view the folio with zero issues. It even included my breakfast charges from earlier that morning.
So if you’re looking for a room that has plenty of space and amenities and are okay with sacrificing ocean views for comfort, then booking a Poolside Gardens view Disney Vacation Club 1-Bedroom Villa at Aulani is a fantastic option.