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Old 01-22-2019, 01:49 PM   #1
B'rer Karen
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Default Aulani\Hawaii Planning Questions

DH and I are making our first ever trip to Hawaii May 1 - May 11 to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We're staying in an Oceanfront Studio.

Having never been, I have lots of questions. I'm sure I'll have more in the coming months, but here is what I'm hoping fellow MOs can help with right now.

- What is good rate for a rental car? I currently have a mid-size car reserved with Alamo via Priceline for the full time we're there for $563.25. I see I can do better if I pre-pay, but didn't want to do that this far out. Should I? FYI, I do not have a Costco membership or anything like that.

- Where is the best place to get small grocery items (breakfast items, snacks, sandwich fixings, etc.)

- Where is the nearest place to Aulani to buy wine

- The day after we arrive is our actual anniversary. We would like to do a really nice dinner that night. Currently I have reservations at Ama Ama (mainly because I saw they were already nearly full), but where would you go for your anniversary dinner?

- What general dining recommendations do you have? Any hidden gems, especially those on the less pricey side?

- I understand that the Four Seasons and Marriott or on either side of Aulani. Is it easy to walk over and dine at one of those properties?

- Am I correct that Aulani takes Disney Gift cards?

- Does Aulani take the Chase Disney Rewards card?

- We have reserved an Oceanfront Studio – Can I\Should I put in a room location, and if so, how and what should I request?

- Can you book cabanas prior to arrival? If so, do you need to book prior to arrival or is there usually availability?

- We want to do an authentic Luau while in Hawaii. Is the KA WA‘A Luau at Aulani authentic, or would you recommend a different Luau?
o If you recommend something other than Aulani to get the authentic experience, would you recommend also doing the Aulani Luau as an additional experience?

- Do you recommend any of the excursions offered by Aulani?

- In looking at activities we want to do, I've come across the Go Oahu card. I can see how this would be advantageous, but I can also see how you could over spend. Any advice\opinions on the card, and thoughts on whether to go with the All Inclusive or Build your own? Is it easy to use the card? Some additional pertinent details:

o Some of the things we want to do in Hawaii are go to Pearl Harbor, hike Diamondhead, go to the Dole Plantation, check out Waikiki and North Shore. Some of these are part of the Go Oahu card and some aren't

o There are some other things that are part of the Go Oahu card that look interesting like the Sunset Dinner sail and the Rainforest, Waterfalls and Movie Sites hike

o We don't like to be over scheduled, and mostly are looking for a relaxing vacation, but we also don't know if\when we'll ever be back to Hawaii so we want to make sure we hit the highlights.


- Any other tips, hints or recommendations?

TIA

Karen
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Old 01-22-2019, 02:26 PM   #2
hilaw
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The majority of your questions can be answered with a yes.
You have a good, long stay with a car. This gives you many options off-site.
Don't worry, things will work-out if you plan to relax.
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Old 01-22-2019, 03:28 PM   #3
jsweeney
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Here's my trip report from Aulani last September http://www.mouseowners.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=131126. A couple things off the top of my head:

We used A1 Car Rentals through Expedia. It is run out of what appears to be a used car lot thats a quick shuttle from the airport. Our car ran great, and the other people we ran in to there had no issues at all, and it was significantly cheaper than anywhere else. Spent $150 for 5 days.

The Countryside Cafe in Waianae was our favorite place that we ate the whole time - about a 7-10 minute drive north of Aulani.

I would say Costco is your best place to get groceries nearby, but you said you don't have a membership. The market right across the street (forget the name) was not much more expensive than a grocery story on the mainland. Good alcohol selection there as well.

I'm 99% positive its a yes on Disney gift cards and the Disney visa.

We didn't do a luau this time, but our shuttle driver and a couple other locals told us that the Aulani luau is better than the luau thats right next door, and better than the Polynesian Cultural Center. Again, we didn't go to any of them, but some locals told us Aulani does a great job.

The Olelu Room during sunset hour and Monkeypod across the street during happy hour are both great places to eat. Other than that, Giovanni's and Matsumoto's Shaved Ice on the North Shore, and a place called Hibachi for poke in Lanikai. I also really enjoyed most of what Ulu Cafe had to offer, though I've seen mixed reviews of it on here. The pizza was big and saved well, and we only spent about $200 on food over our 4 days at the resort.

As far as resort activities, we thoroughly enjoyed all of the free tours they did around the resort. We went to one thinking we'd check it off the list, but ended up going on one every day because we enjoyed them so much.

Heres a website we found that had a lot of great hikes that we copied. The pink pillbox hike on the west side of the island was our favorite.

https://www.journeyera.com/best-things-to-do-on-oahu/

Hope this helps!
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Old 01-22-2019, 04:04 PM   #4
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I haven't used the Go Ohau card, but I used the Go San Diego card last summer and it was really easy to use. I printed out the cards for each of us rather and they just scanned it each place we went like they would have any other ticket. We only used for theme parks like LEGOLAND and seaworld so not sure how easy it is or isn't to use at smaller places or museums. I had checked the prices of what I knew we would be doing and found it to be a good value for us on that trip.
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Old 01-22-2019, 08:52 PM   #5
vek424
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Be sure and get your tickets for the Arizona Memorial ahead of time. All the info you need is here. http://www.pearlharborhistoricsites.org/plan-your-visit Tickets are free, but there is a small service charge.

Get to Diamondhead EARLY, as in when it opens! (I think it's 7am). There is limited parking and it gets crowded quickly.
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Old 01-22-2019, 09:25 PM   #6
richviii
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What is good rate for a rental car? I currently have a mid-size car reserved with Alamo via Priceline for the full time we're there for $563.25. I see I can do better if I pre-pay, but didn't want to do that this far out. Should I? FYI, I do not have a Costco membership or anything like that.

I would just keep checking back. I find rates really fluctuate and sometimes the drop as you get closer. I would not lock in a pre-paid rate. Do you need the car the entire time? Aulani has an on-site place if you just need a day or so.


- Where is the best place to get small grocery items (breakfast items, snacks, sandwich fixings, etc.)

There is a convenience store across the street but it is pricey. Target is one exit up (since you have a car) was where we got that stuff. I know you don't have Costco but that was a great money savings for us as well.

- Where is the nearest place to Aulani to buy wine

Across the street or at that next exit I mentioned. We bought at Costco but I am sure there is a legit liqour store there.

- The day after we arrive is our actual anniversary. We would like to do a really nice dinner that night. Currently I have reservations at Ama Ama (mainly because I saw they were already nearly full), but where would you go for your anniversary dinner?

Ama Ama or next door at the Four Season's if you want a change of scenery.

- What general dining recommendations do you have? Any hidden gems, especially those on the less pricey side?

Across the street our favorite was Monkey Pods. They have great specials and being East Coasters, we were always ready for an early dinner so it was easy to catch the specials. The outdoor place at the Four Seaon's had a great burger special as well (Burger and Shake for $20)

- I understand that the Four Seasons and Marriott or on either side of Aulani. Is it easy to walk over and dine at one of those properties?

Noted above how we used the Four Season's. Did not walk to the Marriott.

- Am I correct that Aulani takes Disney Gift cards?

Yes

- Does Aulani take the Chase Disney Rewards card?

Yes

- We have reserved an Oceanfront Studio Can I\Should I put in a room location, and if so, how and what should I request?

High Floor. We liked Ewa tour. Some argue each tower for proximity of certain things. We loved our Ocean Front Studio and would have been happy in either tower.

- Can you book cabanas prior to arrival? If so, do you need to book prior to arrival or is there usually availability?

I believe so but I also know many people end up cancelling if they feel like they don't want or need it.

- We want to do an authentic Luau while in Hawaii. Is the KA WAA Luau at Aulani authentic, or would you recommend a different Luau?

We did the one at the resort and loved it since it has that Disney feel. I can't speak to others.

- Do you recommend any of the excursions offered by Aulani?

We planned our own (even flew over to see Volcano National Park) but in the end, we canceled some of our plans to enjoy more of the resort and we are park commando on the go people so we actually relaxed.

- In looking at activities we want to do, I've come across the Go Oahu card. I

o Some of the things we want to do in Hawaii are go to Pearl Harbor

As others have said, get tickets early. You can't actually go on the memorial currently. We ended up not going to stay at the resort.

Dole Plantation

Don't plan on staying more than an hour or two at max. Glad we did it, don't need to go back.

o We don't like to be over scheduled, and mostly are looking for a relaxing vacation, but we also don't know if\when we'll ever be back to Hawaii so we want to make sure we hit the highlights.

We thought the same thing and as I noted, we ended up cancelling a lot. Like I said, we even hopped a flight over to see Volcano National Park but when we left, we just wanted to get back to the resort.

We said the same thing...we have committed to returning in 2020 we loved it so much.



- Any other tips, hints or recommendations?
We enjoyed a stopover to see Disneyland to break up trip since we were flying from the East Coast. I wish we did it in on the backend.

The time change was harder than we expected but things generally close early on the island anyway.

Waterproof phone pouches is a must.

Multiple bathing suits since you spend most days in some form of water.

We thought we would enjoy flying late on our check-out day (even with a lounge to change and shower) and it just felt like we were overdoing it.

You get a lei on check in but wish we had it for some of our sunset photos (and not after we had traveled). We got another at the luau and then did our pictures out at the beach.

We had such a great time.
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Old 01-22-2019, 10:03 PM   #7
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I would recommend Costco card. I think they will refund your membership fee if you don’t earn enough to pay for it. Eggs, bread, alcohol, meats bbq items, snorkel equipment, gas, pizza, car rental... is going to be a considerable savings and it’s about a 5 minute drive from Aulani depending on traffic.

I was thinking of booking a cabana but after arriving realized there’s so many places to be in sun/shade, quiet, beach, pool, that the cabana was not necessary.

We did the spa and it was absolutely fantastic. We had a late night departure. We did pool and beach after checking out of room and then spa with plenty of get ready time. It’s the nicest spa I’ve ever been to and we all loved it.

We (I) also did a lot of cooking. I actually used the bbqs almost daily so a person could have made due with bbqs and no full kitchen. The bbq utinsils are checked out and they have a great bbq setup. I was cooking for 5 hungry people so eating out all meals would have cost way too much. Granted we had a full kitchen in our 2 bedroom, but if only husband and I, I’d still have made most of our meals with bbq and kitchenette. If it’s just husband and I we usually do a bar happy hour appetizers or a roadside taco truck and call it a dinner. Hawaii food and eating out is very expensive and sometimes disappointing.

We ate at the onsite Aulani buffet one night but it just didn’t have the Hawaii ambiance and the food was a letdown.

I called down to front desk and had a blender delivered to villa which they’re happy to do. I had our adult kids pick out the bar setup (alcohol, mixers and fruit garnishes) at Costco and they had enough alcohol to keep them in fancy drinks. Glass isn’t allowed at pool so I brought from home plastic cups, stir sticks, little umbrellas for the drinks... and would run up to room and mix up a batch of whatever and deliver everyone poolside. That was a huge savings over $20 pool drinks.

A person can spend considerably more in Hawaii than on a wdw trip but if you watch a few things like alcohol and food, I’ve had enough in the budget for extra splurging on spa, shopping... we watched the aulani luau from our balcony and that was good enough for us. I think if we had the desire to go to a luau we’d have done the one next door.

Have a fantastic trip! The nice thing about Aulani is it doesn’t need much pre planning to have a great time. Biggest issue is rush hour traffic. Plan outings outside rush hours and getting places is a breeze. Make sure you visit some of the fantastic beaches. Aulani lagoon pales in comparison but it’s still a great place to watch a sunset and stay.

Last edited by littlelulu01; 01-22-2019 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 01-23-2019, 10:48 AM   #8
Presley
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I recommend taking into consideration the time change. When I go to Hawaii, I am usually up a few hours before anything is open anywhere. You may want to do a night or 2 somewhere on the way to start getting your body used to the time difference.

You can spend a lot of money in Hawaii, but it's a beautiful place with lots of free or low cost things to do, too. Spend a day over on the north shore where you can watch surfers at the world famous bonzai pipleine and just a little bit down the road from there is a spot where turtles hang out. Waimea Falls is on that side of the island, too. https://www.best-of-oahu.com/waimea-falls-park.html

Be sure to read reviews for any paid tours on several outlets before you fork over money for something that is basic or just a tourist trap.
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Old 01-23-2019, 11:13 AM   #9
Commish
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Thanks for this post - I have 4/6 nights needed for my June trip - flights booked -but haven't given a thought as to what to do when we get there - this helps!

Reserved car via Costco months ago
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:16 AM   #10
B'rer Karen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hilaw View Post
The majority of your questions can be answered with a yes.
You have a good, long stay with a car. This gives you many options off-site.
Don't worry, things will work-out if you plan to relax.
Thank you. I'm not worried, but I am one of those people who finds the planning of the trip to be as much fun as the trip itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsweeney View Post
Here's my trip report from Aulani last September http://www.mouseowners.com/forums/sh...d.php?t=131126. A couple things off the top of my head:

We used A1 Car Rentals through Expedia. It is run out of what appears to be a used car lot thats a quick shuttle from the airport. Our car ran great, and the other people we ran in to there had no issues at all, and it was significantly cheaper than anywhere else. Spent $150 for 5 days.

The Countryside Cafe in Waianae was our favorite place that we ate the whole time - about a 7-10 minute drive north of Aulani.

I would say Costco is your best place to get groceries nearby, but you said you don't have a membership. The market right across the street (forget the name) was not much more expensive than a grocery story on the mainland. Good alcohol selection there as well.

I'm 99% positive its a yes on Disney gift cards and the Disney visa.

We didn't do a luau this time, but our shuttle driver and a couple other locals told us that the Aulani luau is better than the luau thats right next door, and better than the Polynesian Cultural Center. Again, we didn't go to any of them, but some locals told us Aulani does a great job.

The Olelu Room during sunset hour and Monkeypod across the street during happy hour are both great places to eat. Other than that, Giovanni's and Matsumoto's Shaved Ice on the North Shore, and a place called Hibachi for poke in Lanikai. I also really enjoyed most of what Ulu Cafe had to offer, though I've seen mixed reviews of it on here. The pizza was big and saved well, and we only spent about $200 on food over our 4 days at the resort.

As far as resort activities, we thoroughly enjoyed all of the free tours they did around the resort. We went to one thinking we'd check it off the list, but ended up going on one every day because we enjoyed them so much.

Heres a website we found that had a lot of great hikes that we copied. The pink pillbox hike on the west side of the island was our favorite.

https://www.journeyera.com/best-things-to-do-on-oahu/

Hope this helps!
Thanks for sharing all of this information. Very helpful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by runner1219 View Post
I haven't used the Go Ohau card, but I used the Go San Diego card last summer and it was really easy to use. I printed out the cards for each of us rather and they just scanned it each place we went like they would have any other ticket. We only used for theme parks like LEGOLAND and seaworld so not sure how easy it is or isn't to use at smaller places or museums. I had checked the prices of what I knew we would be doing and found it to be a good value for us on that trip.
Good to know. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by vek424 View Post
Be sure and get your tickets for the Arizona Memorial ahead of time. All the info you need is here. http://www.pearlharborhistoricsites.org/plan-your-visit Tickets are free, but there is a small service charge.

Get to Diamondhead EARLY, as in when it opens! (I think it's 7am). There is limited parking and it gets crowded quickly.

Thank for both of those tips. As we know the Arizona memorial is a must do, I have no problem getting them ahead of time. As for Diamondhead, neither of us are morning people, but coming from the East coast, I'm thinking getting up that early won't be a problem at least at the beginning of our trip.
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