Day 5, Part 3: More Swimming, Exploring and Dining at Aulani

We went back to the room for a quick break before lunch and a trip to the beach below Aulani. There was a surprise waiting for us: Not only had our leis finally shown up, but our bed was covered in Aulani loot!

In addition to TWO of my beloved Aulani bathrobes, we got Mickey & Minnie plush, a tote bag, a baseball cap, a pin and two travel mugs. Best of all, Elena had written a very sweet note apologizing (unnecessarily) once again for the mixups. We were so touched by her thoughtfulness!

Later, after Jensey mentioned she’d seen the tote bag going for $60+ in the gift shop, we added up the value of our goodies and estimated it at more than 300 clams—not too shabby! But what’s nicer is that we still use most of those things a lot, and it’s a really nice reminder of our trip.

Before we hit the beach, we went looking for some lunch. Well, I did. Patrick was full of shave ice. I remembered reading in several Aulani trip reports about how great the sweet potato fries were at the One Paddle, Two Paddle quick-service place, so I thought that and maybe one of their mediocre burgers would make a good pool-day lunch…. Except when we got over there, we discovered it doesn’t open til 5pm!

This was absolutely confounding to me. What kind of pool-area snack bar is only open for dinner? That leaves Mama’s Snack Stop—with its boring menu of hot dogs and chicken tenders and NO sweet potato fries—as the only quick-service option for lunch. Oh wait, no, there’s a snack bar down on the beach that also doesn’t serve sweet potato fries…

So Patrick suggested I just get lunch at ‘AMA ‘AMA. And it was great! There was NOBODY in there, we got to try out the “modern” section of the restaurant, and they had sweet potato fries on the menu! And, since we split an order of the super-tasty Kālua-roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich in Steamed Rice Buns, we got outta there for around 20 bucks. Sorry I don’t have any photos—you’ll have to call on your memory of the 3,741 shots of ‘AMA ‘AMA I posted for the day before. Then it was off to the beach…

PHOTO BOMB!!!!

 

When we were there, there was only one path down to the beach. But when construction is finished, there will be two.

Little Opihi’s: A place to not buy sweet potato fries

 

We brought all our snorkel gear down to the beach and staked out a chair, then strapped our flippers on and flapped awkwardly backward into the water.

I was not as huge a fan of the real-water experience. I think a lot of it was cuz the sun was REALLY bright and squinty-making, and I was still flailing more than I was snorkeling, and there was hardly anything to see under the water. It didn’t seem worth coughing down gallons of seawater for… Instead, I tried just lounging on our beach chair, but the group next to me was smoking, and the sun was sneaking around the edges of the umbrella I kept hitting my head on, and BOO-HOO-HOOOO! I was stuck in crummy old Hawaii having a lot of first-world problems! (I did tattle on the smokers, though it was hard to find someone to tattle to. I settled for the guys running Aulani’s rental booth, who could not have cared less.)

Meanwhile, Patrick was splashing happily in the bay. He found somebody’s cell phone on the ocean floor and put it up on the floating jumping platform Aulani has moored there. I guess it was probably toast, but I grabbed it anyway and took it back to the guys running Aulani’s rental booth to see if they had a lost and found, discovering in the process that last time they actually could have cared less!

“Crap, she’s headed our way AGAIN—lock the roll-down door!!!”

 

After that it was back to Rainbow Reef, which was much calmer at that time of day. This was our last chance to snorkel for the trip and, lo and behold, I finally got the hang of it! When I’d had my fill, we went down the tube slide one last time and then headed back to the room to shower and change for dinner.

We did a little more exploring on our way to dinner.

Wallpaper!

 

I wanted to see if we could get some shots of Aulanis conference center (I mean, after staring at it every day for our entire trip, who WOULDN’T be desperately curious to know what was inside?) for my Disney weddings book, so I dragged Patrick over there. I’ll spare you, dear reader, but if you are curious, I have put all the photos HERE.

This is the Holoholo Tours and Travel Desk, where you can go to arrange for pricey excursions and car rentals.

In case you were curious about the snack selection in the gift shop…

Duffy’s all dressed for a day of being your mom in the ’80s…

 

How much you wanna bet that seashell was added at the last minute by a panicky Imagineer?

 

Painted Sky is the teen spa at Aulani, which comes complete with its own frozen yogurt bar, Internet cafe, and gift shop that stocks every hipster-baiting piece of merchandise youll find in the theme parks. If I were a teen, I would think this place was the cat’s pajamas, as the kids say. But there were no actual teens present when we visited.


Mix-your-own spa treatment bar

 

And here’s the “fitness center,” whatever THAT is….

For dinner, we were headed back to Makahiki Buffet so I could give it a well-rounded review.

Once again, we vowed we’d order off the a la carte menu to save money, and once again it was deadly dull. So once again, we emptied our wallets for buffet ($43 a pop!). You know the drill: Here come a TON of food photos with shots of their labels!

 

The A La Carte Menu

I declare Makahiki Buffet delicious!

A guitar duo was playing on the ‘Olelo Room’s patio

Oh yeah, we wore our leis to dinner, and they brought us a free congratulatory dessert!

Not content to stop at just five desserts, and in an effort to wring every last drop of value from the price of the buffet, I grabbed a few cookies and krispie treats for the road with the Grandma Hayward-approved Ziploc bag I smuggled in from our room.

After we’d sat around groaning for a while and debating whether to use Magical Express at WDW in a few days, we decided to get out and stretch our legs… by walking to the ice cream parlor across the street!

Two Scoops proved to be something of a disappointment. They only had eight flavors and nothing else: no shakes or sundaes or anything. They did inexplicably offer Philly cheese steaks, though!

I took two bites of my icy, flavorless Coconut Macadamia ice cream and dumped it in the trash. Patrick didn’t even try to fit any ice cream in!

Warning! This photo will make you really woozy if you don’t know what you’re looking at—it’s the roof over Makahiki’s patio, with the lazy river up in the top of the frame…

Then it was back to the room to pack for Walt Disney World! (Don’t worry, we still had a full last day on Oahu before our red-eye the next day.)

Oh yeah! Here are the candies and personalized menu that Alan Wong’s gave us! My heart always skips a beat when Patrick is given the wrong last name…

While we were packing, there was a knock on the door. It was private dining, bringing us more pixie dust! (I think this might be the “amenity” that Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings lists as part of the Memories Collection package… or maybe it was our planner at work again!)

Once we were mostly packed, we took a break to go sit in the infinity Jacuzzi again. Being out there at night was a revelation—if only we’d done all of our swimming after dark! No sunscreen, no squinting… no seeing the fish, though, I guess… Or using the water slide!

When everything was finally packed, we took three boxes to the Aulani’s concierge, who helped us ship everything home at USPS rates. It was still way more than we’ve ever paid to ship anything back from WDW. Lesson learned! We actually had a lot of fun chatting with the concierge—he’d grown up on the island, lived in LA, and chosen to come back to Oahu after school. It was fascinating hearing about life on the island and how much he enjoyed living there. He was definitely one of those enthusiastic cast members who makes your day a little brighter.

Up Next: Exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center + Saying Goodbye to Hawaii… and Hello to Florida!

 

28 Responses
  • Jennifer
    May 21, 2013

    How sweet of Elena for gifting all that swag to you guys! Aulani M&M are adorable!

    • Carrie
      May 21, 2013

      Yeah, I was really bowled over by her thoughtfulness!

  • Laura E
    May 21, 2013

    wow.. $21 for bow Tie pasta and no meat? Kills me to see the place so empty.

    • Carrie
      May 21, 2013

      I think you may have just ‘splained WHY it’s so empty! 😀

  • Eileen
    May 21, 2013

    Hey Carrie, no people pictures!

    I take it that there is no smoking allowed. Did the smokers ever leave or did you move?
    While you were there, did you see any of those singing birds they show on the commercials?
    Do you have a time limit for the buffet or can you stay all day?

    Love, Moma

    • Carrie
      May 21, 2013

      Hi Moma! 1) I moved, 2) Nope, 3) The restaurant closes between breakfast and lunch, and again between lunch and dinner, so you’ll have to hide in the bathroom each time if you really want to get your money’s worth. ;).

  • Hope
    May 21, 2013

    Elena rocks (but couldn’t she have added a little Hawaiian Duffy into the mix for one of your pals? 😉 )

    Both buffet options looked delicious. I think if we ever go, we’ll be hitting up that buffet often.

    I thought it was funny how you said that the snack bar was closed during the day. The same thing happened to us at the PPH last summer. We were upgraded to cabana rooms for our anniversary. They have a sliding door that leads to the roof top pool. It has an adjacent bar. So we made plans to unpack and get drinks and sit pool side. The bar was closed and when we asked a CM about it, they said they close it during the week because they consider it “winter hours”. They suggested we go downstairs to the lobby bar and we could bring drinks back up if we wanted. It was so odd because the pool was kind of busy and people were on vacation so you’d think that they would keep it open.

    Anyway, I’m glad you got pixie dusted on your trip in other ways!

    • Carrie
      May 21, 2013

      Dang! What’s the point of a cabana room then? That definitely woulda warranted a paragraph in my trip report…

      • Hope
        May 21, 2013

        Well we came prepared with our own libations and made use of our outdoor patio where we could still look upon the stairs to the pool, so we didn’t let the closed pool bar completely spoil our anniversary. 😉

        Btw, forgot to mention that that T-Rex goes everywhere! I guess the key to not becoming extinct is to vacation in Hawaii. 😉

        • Carrie
          May 22, 2013

          LOL!

  • Holly
    May 21, 2013

    Ah – pictures of the DVC owner tiles! Thanks for that – we have one of them but I haven’t seen any pictures of them til now. Now I know exactly where to look when we get there next week! 🙂

    Your TR has been so helpful in my final days of planning for our trip. Thanks for getting this far with it – I know how much effort it is to get pictures edited and posts written! My only outstanding question was if the Polynesian Cultural Center was worth the money, but I think we’ve decided to just do some more island exploring since my hubby has about 1,001 hikes he wants to do during our 7 day stay 😉

    • Carrie
      May 22, 2013

      Oh cool! It’s kinda like you were in my photo! So let’s see… I think the PCC is worth the money if you can spend more than just a couple of hours there. It has a sort of Epcot-y, late ’70s vibe that makes it feel like World Showcase if it were devoted to just Polynesian countries. But we burned through there in only a couple hours and didn’t have time to do the activities and demos that would have made it worth our money. If your husband is more into hiking, I think you can’t go wrong with that alternative. Have a great trip!

      • Holly
        May 22, 2013

        Awesome, thanks for your insight on the PCC, Carrie!

  • Claire/Chilly
    May 22, 2013

    Nice swag, seems you lucked out with a lovely planner. Jacuzzi by night is a great idea, wish i’d done that on our cruise although it may have been a bit chilly.

    • Carrie
      May 22, 2013

      Oh, that’s interesting! So they keep the pool area on the ships open at night, too, eh? I’ll have to remember that if we ever take a cruise.

  • Pigletyyz
    May 22, 2013

    I think the photo bombing dino is stalking you!! So hilarious!! Looks like quite a nice apology package from your planner and really cool it was filled with things you can actually use back in the real world.

    • Carrie
      May 22, 2013

      That guy!!! Just because he avoided extinction and survived all this time, he thinks he has the right to mess up our vacation photos!

  • Jordan
    May 22, 2013

    Girl you are my dessert soul sister! I don’t do cooked fruit and barely any coconut. I’ve also trashed something nasty instead of wasting my precious tastebuds. 🙂

    • Carrie
      May 22, 2013

      LOL! I love it!

  • jenn paul
    May 22, 2013

    Crap, Idk how I missed this! LOLOLOL at your love of food, I think that why I love you so so sooo much! Almost as much as I loved that you brought ziplocs! then bought ice cream! and HOLY pregnant woman jealousy at the buffet, I hate buffets, but i wanted to eat my screen just now! alas, I am eating a bowl of shredded wheat lol!

    • Carrie
      May 22, 2013

      Hee hee! Prolly better that way—glass is hard to pick out of your teeth!

  • Laura T
    June 5, 2013

    Hi Carrie! I have been reading through your trip reports and have been loving them!!! I can’t remember which report it was, but you mentioned what kind of camera Patrick uses (a bridge camera) and now I cannot find that post (it might have been in the Japan trip report….)! Can you link the kind of camera that he uses again? Thanks!!!

    • Carrie
      June 5, 2013

      At the time of our Tokyo trip, he was using a Sony DSC-HX1, and we loved it! But then it stopped being able to retract its lens, and the repair only lasted a few months. We got a Panasonic DMC-FZ150K for our new camera, but I don’t like it as much. You might look into the newer version of the HX-1, which is the Sony DSC-HX300.

  • Elizabeth
    June 25, 2013

    Seeing as I have taken pretzel bread out of the Biergarten in Germany in my purse…I see nothing wrong with a pocketbook full of rice crispie treats!

    Also…for some reason I read that as REST IN PEACE Swirl Yogurt Shop. *moment of silence*

    • Carrie
      June 26, 2013

      LOL!

  • Moma
    November 17, 2013

    Hey Carrie,

    When we stopped by Aulani for the spur of the moment photo shoot, we had trouble finding any place open for lunch. It seemed like no one working there knew the hours of the restaurants, because they would direct us to places that were shut down for lunch. I think it would be really helpful if somewhere in a local area (like the lobby) they posted all the restaurants and their times with a “you are here” type of map.

    We checked out a cafeteria type place to eat, (I don’t remember the name of it) but thought the food looked like it had been sitting out all week, so, we passed. We ended up eating the most expensive hamburgers we’ve ever had at ‘Ama’Ama. Thank goodness they were quiet tasty! And even though we told our waiter we were here celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary a “Happy Anniversary” was all we got.

    • Carrie
      November 18, 2013

      LOL! Yeah, I guess they haven’t improved the lunch options since we went. Interesting that you didn’t like the looks of the food in the quick-service place—it’s brand new!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *