OK, who wants to see 6.5 bazillion photos of Aulani?
Today was our last full day in Hawaii but only our first day to really explore the resort with absolutely no other obligations, and we spent about 70% of it in the water. (The other 30% was spent eating.) Originally we’d planned to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center, or maybe some of the other sites in Honolulu that we’d missed (like the Alfred Shaheen dress exhibit at the Bishop Museum). But yesterday hadn’t felt like enough time to really take advantage of all Aulani had to offer, so we scrapped those plans and stayed in.
Patrick had pretty well adjusted to the time difference by then, but I was still springing awake before dawn, so today I decided I might as well get to see the sunrise. I thought I’d take the iPad and go read in the chairs near the elevator lobby on the top floor of our tower, overlooking the beach…. until I remembered that, you know, the sun can’t rise and set over the same beach!
So instead, I headed out front to porte cochere to see it rise. No dice—mountains in the way. I needed to get up higher, so I walked over to the valet parking garage, which is on the opposite side of the resort from the self-park and adjacent to that convention center we had such a primo view of from the Ewa tower.
It was 5 minutes before I realized I still wasn’t high enough to see anything cuz of all the pesky trees planted by those $^#%@! humble fishermen who built Ko Olina.
The iPad was telling me that sunrise was imminent, so I booked it back through the lobby to the Waianae tower, thinking I could view the sunrise from the windows in the elevator lobby on the top floor.
But the dang Ewa Tower was in the way! And since there are no windows overlooking the front of the resort in the upper-floor public spaces, I finally had to accept that, unless you get a high-floor, island-view room in Ewa, Aulani is a sunset-only kind of place. I trudged dejectedly back through the lobby to see if Patrick was awake yet so we could beat the crowds to breakfast at Makahiki Buffet. He wasn’t, but that was soon remedied!
Makahiki is on the ground level by the main entrance to Waikolohe Valley (a.k.a., the pool). They offer a choice of buffet or a la carte dining, with a character breakfast every day except Monday and Thursday during the winter; in the summer, Monday’s the only character-free day.
We took one look at the buffet prices ($32/adult, $18/child) and asked for the a la carte menu.
There is seating indoors and out; apparently the awnings over the patio, which seem like a no-brainer, were only recently installed. It was still shady enough out that we solarphobes decided to sit outside.
If you’re there for the character breakfast, they divert you to the patio of the ‘Olelo Room first to get a picture with Mickey. That leaves just Minnie and Goofy to make the rounds inside the restaurant. (Maybe it was a slow day?)
While Patrick was taking these photos for me, I made the mistake of investigating the buffet. You know how I’m always on about the soggy, cold, overcooked and picked-over food at Disney buffets? This was a whole other ballgame. The minute I spotted a Japanese-style soup and salad station on the breakfast buffet, I was transported back to our Tokyo trip and instantly smitten with Makahiki—dang the financial consequences!
(I’monna do this the lazy way and just post a photo of each station’s label instead of retyping everything…)
OK, admittedly, clammy cold cuts are one of my top Disney buffet complaints, but wait til you see what ELSE they had!
Aw, I remember this guy! He was having so much trouble ordering an omelette cuz he only spoke Japanese. I wished mine had been good enough to help him out, but I’m pretty sure he already knew where the bathroom, train station and beer were…
Makahiki doesn’t have an ocean view, but its patio is awfully pleasant.
When “Auntie” showed up to kick off the character portion of the breakfast, my heart sank a little. But, once again, this was not like your typical Disney buffet. It was all very laid back—not your usual cacophonous character frenzy. This is prolly only because the restaurant was barely 30% full, but I’m going with “the magic of the islands”…
Goofy had so little to do, he decided to go fishing… for SHARKS!
Our table was practically perfect!
The food was good—really fresh, with lots of interesting choices mixed in with traditional favorites.
Now I don’t have a lot of experience with this, but I think this particular Goofy was pretty awesome at getting his picture taken…
There were these aDORable little girls in kimonos in Auntie’s parade through the restaurant….
Boy, Patrick sure took a lot of pictures of this restaurant… he must’ve been trying to avoid picking up the check…
The adjacent ‘Olelo Room is the resort’s bar, and I love the sort of neo-tiki theme. You could probably spend an hour in there just looking at everything in the shadow boxes (and pick up a little Hawaiian while you’re at it!)
Even though Patrick was itching to get in the water, he dutifully accompanied me to the Disney Vacation Club’s model room on the top floor of the Waianae tower so I could have photos for PassPorter’s Disney Vacation Club Guide. This is a one-bedroom unit like the one I was gonna rent to share with Nate & Jensey, till I discovered that it only has one bathroom (unlike the 1-bed, 2-bath units at another new DVC resort, Bay Lake Tower), and the toilet part is separated from the tub part by only a slatted door—yikes! I mean, maybe that’s OK, if you’re all a family, but for two couples traveling together… no thanks…
My absolute favorite thing about the Disney Vacation Club is the tubs with sliding doors so you can see the view from your bubble bath. I got a little misty thinking of what could have been….
….And here’s what you pay the big bucks for!
On our way out, we remembered to peek in the closet and found… [Psycho music cue] OFF-MODEL MICKEY!!!
Like what you see? Just step this way to sign your life away to the Disney Vacation Club…
Then it was back through the lobby to go change into our swim… mies? Have I made that a word yet?
Here’s some more of the lobby for you. I think this has to be THE nicest Concierge desk at any Disney hotel.
Ah-ha, it’s the humble fishermen catching the fish with the golden golf club in its mouth that inspired them to build Ko Olina…
Gee, we’re rapidly getting so much farther away from the lobby, I half-expect the next shot to be from space!
This is the self-park. I think we have more shots of it later (cuz we’re just that thorough) but if I forget, the hot tip here is to park on Level 4 so you can walk straight to the lobby without using the elevator—nobody seems to catch on!
The gift shop has a decent amount of surprisingly tasteful merchandise at unsurprisingly steep prices, plus lots of boxed omiyage for the Japanese to take home to friends and family at twice the price of similar items at the convenience store across the street.
Jensey and I both thought this coverlet would make a great souvenir if it weren’t $200+. It seems like such an obvious idea to sell fixtures and accessories from the guest rooms, but so few Disney resorts do it.
Patrick eventually ended up choosing this as his souvenir cuz it reminded us of the figures we saw at Tokyo Disney, like the fish-biting Stitch we brought home.
OK, I know I haven’t even gotten to the pool part, but this update is already HUGE, so I’d better break it up…