The word is out: family time in the 50th state is always quality time. Even Mickey has decided to explore the islands for the first time with an April 2012 itinerary aboard the Disney Wonder—sold out by press time—and a brand-new resort in Oahu.
Less than a month old, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa is located on 21 acres of oceanfront within Oahu’s Ko Olina Resort Community & Marina. This property is specifically built for families and designed to engage both children and adults, with a 7-acre water playground that includes a tube floating watercourse, body slides, snorkel lagoon, conservation stingray touch pool and other amenities.
“I’m confident there is no other resort like it on the island of Oahu,” says Ed Fouche, senior v.p. of travel industry sales, Americas for Disney Destinations. “We’ll look for families who have always wanted to take their children to Hawaii, but might have been reluctant. Now we can offer an exciting new destination for them to visit—and they can do it with the leader in family travel experiences. We believe that Hawaii repeaters, who are looking for an entirely new experience, will enjoy Ko Olina. They’ll love it for its peaceful location, for its protected coves, for the unusual creative elements throughout our resort, and for the chance to learn of the rich stories behind Hawaiian culture.”
While adults retreat to the resort’s heavenly spa, perhaps spending time in its rainfall room, teens can hang out at the Painted Sky, their own relaxation area with computer access, adolescent-friendly treatments and a yogurt bar. Meanwhile, Aunty’s Beach House, Aulani’s signature kids’ club, is a 5,200-sq.-ft. Disney-themed activity center where the little ones can take hula lessons, go on treasure hunts, engage in interactive touch table games and more. There is also an “enchanted” fireplace near a movie-watching area where rain falls on command around them. Guests can also sign up for a cooking class, learn to surf or go on a nature hike. In the evenings, the Starlit Hui offers a music-filled show designed to celebrate the resort’s tone of Hawaiian culture and Disney fun.
With Hawaii already enjoying strong support from the western U.S., Fouche says they believe the major cities in that region will also remain key markets for Aulani. “We know that we have a strong brand and a reputation for quality and value among families who have vacationed with us in the past,” he explains. “So, we’ll be leveraging the power of the Disney brand and reaching out to families who are predisposed to enjoy Disney vacation experiences.”
Room rates at Aulani start at $399 per night. A family of four comfortably fits in a standard room in either two queen-sized beds or a king-sized bed and a queen sleeper sofa, while suites fit up to five or six guests.
starwood on the islands At The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, director of fun Jack Stone has come up with a slew of activities for young and old, such as stand-up paddling lessons at one of several pools—part of the property’s huge aquatic playground, which includes a 128-ft. waterslide and a swim-through grotto.
“The Westin Maui Resort & Spa offers five pools to enjoy a relaxing day or if you prefer an active day, we have poolside activities including slide races, family boat making, frozen T-shirt, minute-to-win-it, balloon toss, family relay race and so much more,” says Stone. “Of course, being right on Ka’anapali Beach, we encourage families to snorkel in the warm waters or experience a snorkel or sunset cruise on a catamaran that docks right on the beach.”
The resort also has a 2.5-hour oceanfront Polynesian luau, complete with authentic song-and-dance performances, a fire knife dance and Hawaiian dinner. Kids are welcome, but if parents want to enjoy a night off they can take advantage of The Westin Club Evening Camp.
Stone has a wealth of fun suggestions for families to indulge in, both in and off the property. Near the resort, he explains, there are a number of offsite sights and attractions, including a visit to Whalers Village Museum, which is within walking distance and which kids will love as it takes guests back in time through the eyes of an ordinary sailor or “whaleman.”