After brunch, Patrick and I went back to the room to change into our swimmies (is this a word? The later it is, the more garbled my journal entries get…) so we could try out the pool until it was time for our spa treatments.
(Side note: As I was writing this installment, something I Googled brought up a long post on an independent timeshare owners’ message board devoted to this very room at Aulani and how crappy the view was! Everyone was advising the guy to try to get compensated for having to stay in the now-infamous Room 457…)
I found a message on my phone from Rev. Kimo apologizing for the mixup with the ceremony, which was nice.
We didn’t have too much time at the pool, but that was OK cuz we were planning to spend the whole day there Tuesday. We floated down the entire lazy river, swam in the main pool, and sat in the very Jacuzzi where we’d just renewed our vows. It looked totally different, kinda the way Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion has never ever felt the same to me as it did on our wedding day.
This is the Pau Hana Room, Aulani’s version of the Community Hall found at many Disney Vacation Club resorts. If you get bored with swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, spa-going, boating, or exploring the rest of Oahu’s natural wonders and fascinating history, you can go here to play board games, do crafts and learn to hula.
Or, if you’re like me and you think that “free laundry” should get its own page in the activities section of the resort brochure, you can while away a few hours down here!
I think Aulani wins “Nicest Laundry Room View”
Patrick wanted to go up to the top floor to take some overview shots of the resort.
In case you’re curious how far along construction was on Feb. 4, 2013…
The water slides are hidden in this peak.
Off to the spa!
Laniwai Spa is located in the Waianae Tower, on the other side of the lobby from our room in the Ewa Tower, but there doesn’t seem to be any interior way to get there from the lobby—you have to go outside through the pool area. I know this because I criss-crossed the resort in my cozy Laniwai bathrobe so I could fetch our camera to sneak pics of the spa for you. Trying to get there via halls to and through the lobby proved impossible—at one point I had to climb over the “Restricted Access” gate in a fire stairwell that I remembered from my visit to our wedding planner’s office in the bowels of the resort!
Hmmm… do my two lousy photos of the check-in desk make one good photo?
There are the robes. I was smitten! They’re super-soft microfiber on the outside and even softer terrycloth on the inside. Just wish the colors were a little more interesting…
I filled out our pre-treatment waivers while Patrick fell in love with this rock wall…
After you check in, someone meets you in the lobby and explains Laniwai’s deal before leading you back to the dressing rooms. They do this thing where you pick out a smooth stone from a basket, and whatever Hawaiian word is on your stone is the quality you will focus on while you’re there. Then you chuck the stone into a pool halfway between the lobby and the changing rooms.
The stone-chucking pool.
Hang a left and you have your entrances to the men’s and women’s locker rooms on either side of this hall. The glass is the other side of the waiting area where you can relax before and after your treatments.
Through here is the Kula Wai hydrotherapy garden.
The ladies’ locker room was empty, so I grabbed these shots.
Laniwai Spa tells you to check in for your spa treatments at least an hour early so you’ll have time to hang out in the hydrotherapy garden. The locker rooms open directly into the garden for those who don’t need to get their macaron-muffin fix on the way there. The first thing you see when you leave the women’s locker room is the Pulu Bar, an aromatherapy mixing station where you can try out the spa’s signature scents and have an attendant mix you a custom body polish for your treatment.
The garden has a couple of different kinds of pools to soak in. This one must be for hydrophobes…
A word of warning about these: The bottom of the pool is lower than ground level, so if you step into it expecting your front foot to land at the same level as your other foot, you will pitch face-first into the shallow water and instantly be swarmed by concerned cast members armed with splints and wheelchairs and copies of your signature on the admission waiver while you slowly die of embarrassment. Not that I would know…
There are 6 rain showers, but good luck getting all of them to work. We finally had to track down an attendant when no amount of stomping, clapping or waving of body parts seemed to activate some of the sensors. Apparently it takes faith, trust and, oh yes, pixie dust….
Just for you, dear reader, Patrick demonstrates each of the rain showers, which he has also helpfully named:
There was only one other couple there while we were in the garden, and we each kinda tiptoed around the other to make sure we weren’t intruding. As they left, the guy—the guy!—came over to us and told me my vow renewal hairdo looked “awesome”—LOL!
Eventually somebody came looking for us because it was time for our treatments. Choosing a treatment had been a bit overwhelming since they have so many different versions and combinations of the same three things: massage, scrub and moisturize (I decided to skip facials, manicures, and other salon services that I felt I could probably get done better for less in LA). I’m also sorta leery of spas in general, since they seem so overpriced for what you get. And Laniwai is definitely at the eye-popping end of the price spectrum, which they try to downplay by keeping the price list in a separate PDF rather than printing prices next to the treatment names. So it took a lot of comparing of the menu with the price list to figure out what was what and how many mortgages I’d need to afford a spa day.
Usually I skip the couples’ treatments because it seems like spa services are so much a personal, individual experience that you’d barely be aware of another person in the same room— let alone share some kind of romantic moment as you’re both flayed alive by a pair of hefty ex-Special Forces masseuses named Olga and Helga. But with you, dear reader, in mind again, I bit the bullet this time because a couples treatment seemed like the kind of thing one would do on an anniversary. When none of the couples combos on the website sounded like they fit both of us, I phoned the spa and learned that you can do pretty much any combination of treatments in the same room with your significant other. So I signed Patrick up for the 50-minute traditional Hawaiian LomiLomi massage and me up for the Waiwai Body Cocoon Volcanic (signature exfoliation, moisturizing and detoxifying body cocoon).
There were two attendants waiting for us in the room. First they had us sniff the customized scents we’d created out in the hydrotherapy garden, then they left the room so we could get under the sheets on our beds. When they came back, they had us choose from four different types of background music. The first three all sounded like variations on the same theme (“Cat Sleeping on a Synthesizer”); the fourth was traditional Hawaiian music. Traditional Hawaiian music it was!
Patrick loves massages, and this one was no exception. I got scrubbed and cocooned in volcanic mud, then sent to our private restroom to wash off before getting moisturized. I don’t remember much of this cuz I actually fell asleep, I was so relaxed. For once I wasn’t thinking ahead to the next activity on the list!
Eventually it was time to leave. Our attendants gently woke us and gave us a few minutes to fumble into our robes. When they came back, we blinked groggily, barely comprehending as they offered to take our picture.
I’d forgotten to bring a change of clothes and didn’t want to get back into my soggy bathing suit (Patrick was the only one who recognized the bathing suit dryer in the men’s locker room; I thought ours was for polishing rocks with Hawaiian words on them), so they let me wear my spa robe back to our room. We floated out to the reception area to settle our bill and make impulse buys.
When I have my wits about me, I never buy the products they foist on you at salons and spas because I can almost always find them cheaper on eBay. In my dazed state I was talked into a pricey tub of Maile Coconut Vanilla body polish, but fortunately Laniwai was out of the Ola Coconut Lemongrass lotion I liked. I picked it up for half price on eBay when I got home, and I have to say this little combo of lotion and scrub is probably my favorite souvenir of Hawaii—the scent instantly transports me!
Also, they do give you a tiny sample of your custom scrub to take home, plus a packet of bath salts.
We’d made one of the earliest reservations for dinner at ‘AMA ‘AMA so we’ would be done in time for Aulani’s Starlit Hui, where we were meeting the Roots, so we went back to our room and changed. I’d been expecting to find the leis from our vow renewal package in the room then, since they hadn’t been delivered before the ceremony, and we were planning to wear them to the hui. But they never showed.
We were shown to a table just a few down from the one where we’d had brunch that morning—a front-row seat for the sunset. Patrick wasn’t crazy about the sun glaring in our eyes for most of the meal, but I kept insisting it would all be worth it when we got to watch it set.
They bring you taro rolls and… wheat rolls, maybe?… to start, plus butter and two kinds of Hawaiian salt.
Patrick solved the sun-in-the-eye problem by abandoning our table to shoot a bazillion photos of the restaurant.
(This is the “new” part of the restaurant, added by the descendents of the penthouse-dwelling, golf-course-developing fisherfolk who started ‘AMA ‘AMA to feed the hordes of Perrier-swilling tourists who descended on Ko Olina after its creation from blood, sweat and millions and millions of dollars.)
We were prepared for the sticker shock of ‘AMA ‘AMA’s menu and mindful of those first dreadful reviews. So it was a pleasant surprise to find our meal well prepared, with fresh ingredients and interesting flavor combinations.
We started with…
… and declared it tasty!
Then we split…
… which was not as small as pictured—the kitchen split it for us. This was also tasty, if a tad pretentious with that silly foam.
For dessert, Patrick had….
I ordered my dessert off the kids’ menu:
It was just OK; I made Patrick drink the banana milkshake. But then they surprised us with a free anniversary dessert!
I think that if we hadn’t had the memory of Alan Wong’s restaurant so fresh in our minds, we probably would have been over the moon for ‘AMA ‘AMA. But it dampens the enthusiasm a bit to pay the same prices for food that’s not at the same level. I did wish we’d been able to eat another dinner at ‘AMA ‘AMA, just to have some comparison, but I wanted to try Aulani’s other restaurant for those dang dear readers of mine…
The best part of this meal, of course, is the show:
This guy was telling stories and singing down by the firepit.
We had a bit of time to kill before the Starlit Hui, so we pulled up a chair at the firepit and listened to some traditional stories…
OK, I’m gonna stop here and see if the Roots are able to get their photos of the Starlit Hui to me in time for the next installment!