An artist rendering of the new pool and water-play area at Aulani // © 2013 Disney
Despite its great success as a travel hospitality company, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, the first Disney property not associated with a theme park, represented a new challenge for the brand. As with any new resort, sometimes a bit of tinkering is needed after it is opened in order to improve the experience for guests, so Aulani, which opened in August 2011 in Ko Olina, Hawaii, has been undergoing a property expansion that is scheduled for completion this June.
During a visit last December, I was able to see the construction at Aulani first hand. While the work caused virtually no disruption in services, the finished product promises to provide an even better experience for families. The expansion plans called for eliminating the adult pool and manta ray habitat and replacing an event lawn. The new offerings will include a family pool, a splash zone water-play area, additional deck space and new food outlets.
The new pool will extend to literally the edge of the property — with the pool’s infinity edge overlooking one of Ko Olina’s famous lagoons. A highlight of the pool will be the misty grotto from which swimmers may view the sunset. After dark, a starscape of glimmering lights will appear on the grotto ceiling and the floor of the pool.
The nearby kids’ splash zone water-play area will be designed to resemble tidal pools, and it will feature rainbow water jets, images of tidal pool creatures on the pool floors and other surprises.
Additional deck space, chairs, chaises and cabanas will surround both new water features.
Also coming to Aulani will be two new food service locations. The first will be located next to the water-play area, where it will serve continental breakfast as well as a lunch and dinner menu with a selection of sandwiches, salads and snacks. Here, guests can sit in the adjoining outdoor patio and enjoy ocean views. A second quick-service eatery will be located beachside, offering grab-and-go snacks and easy access for beachgoers. These expanded eateries will be welcome additions and should ease some congestion at the other dining venues.
Along with the water-play and dining additions, the expansion will provide a larger lawn location for events, weddings and the nighttime Starlit Hui show. There will also be additional merchandise space and a protective awning over the patio of Makahiki restaurant, home of “Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration,” featuring breakfast with Disney characters.
As with any new project, growing pains are part of the process. However, after these additions, Aulani should be even better poised for making families’ vacation dreams come true.