Hawaii 2023 Trip Report Part 3 - A Day at Aulani

As our Hawaiʻi trip in June 2023 continues, we spend a day at the Aulani resort. Well, mostly. And if you have not done so already, you might want to read the previous part.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

I had set an alarm on my phone for 7:00 AM, because I did not want to sleep the whole vacation away. I had woken up during the night a time or two around 2:00 AM, because that was 7:00 AM back home. But I was able to go right back to sleep after that.

After getting up and getting showered, we joined the Riedels on their balcony for breakfast. Because there were only two chairs on the balcony, we carried out the two chairs by the table in their room. The only slight problem was that it was sunny on their balcony (and on ours) in the morning, but we stayed in the shade as much as we could.

The girls on the Riedels’ balcony at Disney’s Aulani
The girls on the Riedels’ balcony

Our first order of business for the day was to go find some more substantial and lower priced groceries. Our breakfast of champions from the Aulani gift shop was good, but we figured we could be a little more thrifty with our money. A nearby target of Target was located on the map, and we piled in the car to make our way there.

Along the way, Brant spotted a pickup truck that was sporting the Green Bay Packers colors, of which Brant is a big fan. As we got closer, we saw that the truck even had a Packers license plate frame, so those colors were intentional. And then we saw a garbage truck that was also green and yellow, and we laughed about that being a Packers garbabe truck every time we would see one for the rest of the trip. Have I mentioned that we have good times together?

Target had enough of what we needed. Breakfast stuff, snack stuff, bottled water, soft drinks. We were set for several days with all of that. As the rest of us were loading the car, Laura ran into the nearby TJ Maxx, but she did not find anything worth buying. So we headed back with our purchases to Aulani. Side note: a package of water bottles can get heavy, but it was worth it to have water to drink.

By the time we got back, it was only around 10:30 AM, so we were not quite ready for lunch yet. We decided to walk around the hotel grounds a bit to try to familiarize ourselves more with the place since we had not done much of that the previous day. That also meant getting lots of photos with my camera, because that is what I do. While we were out, we stopped in Hale Manu, the clothing store down the hall from Kālepa’s Store, where we had gone the night before, just to see what they had to offer, too. But for now, we were just looking and not buying.

Laura at the overlook at Disney’s Aulani
Laura at the Aulani overlook

The girls at the overlook at Disney’s Aulani
The girls at the Aulani overlook

Now just the Burnses at the overlook at Disney’s Aulani
Now just the Burnses. We must have taken a Riedel version with Karen’s phone.

All of us at the overlook at Disney’s Aulani
And all of us together.

Laura and Karen in a spot in the Disney’s Aulani pool area that looked perfect for a photo
Laura and Karen in a spot in the pool area that looked perfect for a photo

Next, we decided to head over to the shopping center across the street from Aulani. It was a short walk, even with having to wait to cross the street. I was interested in the railroad tracks that we crossed that ran parallel to the main street, because we had not yet seen a train of any kind. And besides, it was a narrow gauge track, so there would not have been any major rail traffic through there. Railroad tracks always interest me.

Cool railroad tracks in the Ko Olina resort area near Disney’s Aulani
Cool railroad tracks in the Ko Olina resort area near Aulani

One of the biggest stores there was the Island Market, which was actually an ABC Store. Laura and I had done lots of shopping at ABC on our previous trip, so we went in this one as well. They did have good prices on some t-shirts, so I went ahead and got one of those. And we found one of our favorite snacks, chocolate-covered pineapple, so that went with us as well. In the fresh food section, we found a selection of sandwiches and wraps, and we decided to select from those for our lunch for the day, since we already had snacks and drinks back in our rooms.

A view of Disney’s Aulani as we walked  back to the resort
A view of Aulani as we walked back to the resort

Once we had paid, we headed back across the street and up to our rooms for lunch. We once again went out on the Riedels’ balcony. I am not sure how theirs got to be the balcony of choice, but it was. We again pulled two more chairs out there and enjoyed our sandwiches, chips, and drinks, with a little chocolate-covered pineapple for dessert. And while we were eating, a rain shower came through. That slowed us down just a little and gave us more time to sit out there, since our balcony was covered, and since our next stop was to be the pool. So we waited around a bit for the rain to pass, enjoying the views that we could not get at home.

The rain appeared to have stopped, so we got changed for our first swimming adventure of the trip. We headed down to Waikolohe Valley (the courtyard between the two hotel wings, where the pools and such were located) to get our wristbands and towels… and could not figure out where to go. The check-in lady had told us it was the Kāwele Korner tent in the center of the pool area, but that eluded us. So eventually we found a tent and asked if we were in the right place, and we were. Yay! Although, as it turns out, it was not the main tent, but rather the tent near the snorkeling pool, as there are two Kāwele Korner locations. But either way, they gave us our wristbands for the day and a towel for each of us, and we were good to go.

The next obstacle was finding a place to put our towels. We read a sign about how chairs are not supposed to be reserved, and that they would be checked every hour. But there were still no empty chairs that we could find around the pools. So we went out to the beach and found four chairs there, two of which were under an umbrella in case we needed shade. We left our things there and went out to try Waikolohe Stream, the lazy river. A lazy river always sounds good to me, after all.

We found an entrance to the Stream, and we found two 2-person tubes, so we hopped on and tried to stay together. That eventually meant that one person from one tube held onto a handle on the other tube. We sometimes blocked the way of others who were trying to go faster, and who evidently did not understand the concept behind a lazy river. But we were not too worried about it, and everyone who wanted to was usually able to get around us. We were trying to dodge the waterfalls along the river to keep from getting entirely soaked, which was a bit ironic since we were in a river, after all. But we could not dodge the rain that started falling. And that rain water was colder than the river water and waterfall water. Instead of abandoning ship (or rather tube), we kept on floating along lazily, and the rain eventually stopped.

When we had gotten back to our starting point, we got out, thinking that it might be a good time to go check on our stuff and make sure it was mostly dry. Laura disappeared around that time, while the rest of us went out to the beach. Laura had actually grabbed a single tube and had gotten in line for the water slide. By the time we caught back up with her, she and I grabbed a two person tube, and then we lost the Riedels. So we went down the slide and then looked for them. Once we had found them, they had gone down the slide a little bit behind us. And then we all took another trip down the slide for good measure. I think the cast members were starting to recognize us by that time.

We then checked out the adults-only two-level hot tub (if it had a fancy Disney Hawaiian name, I don’t know what it is), which was nice and warm, especially after the rain. When we had heated up, Laura and I went and got in the ocean water for a bit while the Riedels enjoyed our beach chairs. The ocean water was slightly cooler than the pool water, but it was not too bad. And then we repeated all that we had done one more time - the lazy river, the slide, the ocean, and the hot tub.

Somewhere in there, Laura and I checked out the main Waikolohe Pool as well. We were checking out all its twists and turns, and we found where the body slide ends into the pool. About that time, a girl came down the slide, splashed into the water, and came up splashing and saying, “Help!” Immediately, the lifeguard jumped in while blowing his whistle, and pulled her to the side. Just then people came out clapping and yelling, and one had a large sign that read, “Lifeguard Test” to let us know what we had just seen. Apparently, the lifeguard had passed with flying colors since he did not hesitate at all. Well done! But it all happened so fast that it took us a moment to process it.

As we were leaving to head back to our rooms, we saw that a hula demonstration was going on near the Waikolohe Pool. And then the main hula lady invited Mickey Mouse to come out and do a hula dance with them. Mickey had some good hula moves! But we did not stay around for long, since we were ready to get changed and go eat.

For dinner, we decided to go back across the street to the small shopping center and give Mekiko Cantina, a Mexican restaurant, a try. I was expecting a wait, but they took us right in and had a table for us. I got some shrimp and fish tacos, and they were good. Everyone seemed pleased with their meal. And as always, we had a good time just sitting and talking. That never seems to get old with the four of us.

After we ate, we decided to check out some of the shops that we had missed on our visit earlier in the day. Crazy Shirts is like a magnet to us Burnses, so we were drawn into the store like a moth to a flame. But again, we were just looking for now. We also went in a couple of the other shops there, just to see what they were offering.

We then went back to our rooms at Aulani and then out for another evening stroll, just as we had done the night before. However, this time we went to our left once we reached the lagoons. We kept going past Sunset Point, where we had stopped the night before.

Laura and the sunset
Laura and the sunset

Disney’s Aulani in the distance as we walked in Hawaii
Aulani in the distance as we walked

There are actually four lagoons along the shore at the Ko Olina resort area, and Aulani sits on the fourth. So in addition to seeing another gorgeous sunset with the ocean, palm trees, and clouds working together to create some amazing views, we also got to see the other resorts as we passed by them. And then once we reached the end of the walkway, we turned around and saw them again as we made our way back to Aulani.

Taking sunset photos, because it was too good of a sunset to resist
Taking sunset photos, because it was too good of a sunset to resist

Just one of the many sunset views from this night near Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii
Just one of the many sunset views from this night

Laura and Karen at sunset. It was a little windy.
Laura and Karen at sunset. It was a little windy.

One more sunset view near Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii, although I have lots more to share.
One more sunset view, although I have lots more to share.

Back at Disney’s Aulani, a look at Pāpālua Shave Ice, which was closed at that time but always did a big business when it was open.
Back at Aulani, a look at Pāpālua Shave Ice, which was closed at that time but always did a big business when it was open.

We then went up and spent a little time on the Riedels’ balcony before going back to our room to go to bed. Either we had a really full day, or we had not fully adjusted to the time change yet, because we were going to bed by around 9:30 PM, which is a bit early for us. Whatever the reason, sleeping was not a problem at all. And it had definitely been a great day!

Next, a morning at the beach in part 4. Check the Hawaiʻi 2023 page for more about our trip!

More posts from this day:
Waikolohe Valley at Aulani in Hawaii


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.