Hawaii Holiday Vacation, The Ultimate Gift

Genie Davis December 15, 2011 No Comments

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If you asked your children where they wanted to go for a vacation that was also a holiday present – what would they say? Well, many kids will just follow the magic mouse and say “Disneyland.” And many parents, if asked, would say, oh, some place relaxing and warm – like Hawaii.

Ohau West Side

Rock out croppings on Oahu's West Side make for wonderful wave watching

If you’re looking to combine the two into a kind of ultimate Christmas present vacation for parents and kids alike, it’s actually doable these days on the west side of Oahu. The beautiful new Aulani resort combines Disneyland style fun and imagineering with its warm Hawaiian setting and true Hawaiian style. Not an inexpensive vacation retreat, it nonetheless offers great beauty and great child-friendly attractions in a neat package with a great view.

With both hotel rooms and time share units to choose from, the Aulani offers luxurious, spacious accommodations, a calm beach, and plenty of Disney fun.

The Disney vibe has absorbed rather than distorted the laid-back Hawaiian feeling island travelers love, and has also worked with Hawaiian heritage to replicate architectural and cultural themes throughout the property. Of course, your children probably won’t care about any of that. They’ll be too busy having fun.

We loved entering through thatched roof huts, and being greeted with flower and kukui nut leis. The lobby is visually stunning with a high ceiling from which light that look rather like jelly fish dangle in fishing nets. Best of all was a mural of island life that rings the lobby. The room itself was well designed, with Hawaiian sea-life designs on the furniture, headboard, and in the bathroom, but it was honestly a bit compact for our taste. And we probably could’ve done without the Mickey Mouse characters hidden, Waldo like, in the pattern of a quilt with a pineapple design. However, that’s me the curmudgeon, talking. The small children in our party loved finding Mickey. The hotel has suites and adjoining rooms available for larger families.

But who’s going to spend a long time in the room when outside is the grand ocean, and several wonderful, kid-friendly pools. With a saltwater pool for snorkeling lovely stocked native fish, an enormous pool with water-park amenities, and spas geared for both the young and adult travelers, there’s plenty of outdoor activities available and accessible for all ages.

Aulani Resort Room

An elegant, well appointed, but compact Aulani room

We loved the way the pool featured a faux volcanic rock plateau with sea life carvings part of the rock. The kids loved the water slides, including one that began on the crest of the volcanic rock for inner tube rides. For my taste, the best part of the pool was the long “lazy river” that traverses the resort grounds. However, voted best by kids of all ages was the saltwater snorkeling lagoon. This is a safe and delightful environment to experience snorkeling, and the stocked fish are colorful and profuse.

Children from ages four to ten will enjoy the kids club, Aunty’s Beach House. There were hula lessons, lei making, and supervised pool play. Older kids will enjoy the star gazing nights and pool parties at the Painted Sky Spa.

For the holidays though, you may just want to relax with your family around you – and the Pau Hana room offers craft making and games for the entire family. Also for everyone to enjoy: the Menehune Adventure Trail. Check out a GPS rigged cell phone and follow the clues on a hunt for menehune, the Hawaiian equivalent of leprechauns. There are over three hundred tiny, gnome like statues scattered about, on the grounds, in elevators, and around the pool. The modified cell phone activates mechanized menehune to emerge from hiding places behind rocks and bridges, and trigger an LCD TV lava flow. Crafted with all the Disney skill the kids could see at Disneyland itself, this was a great addition to the trip and added a lot of value to the resort’s Disney experience.

Yokohama Bay State Park Oahu

We loved walking along the soft sand of uncrowded Yokohama Bay State Park on Oahu's west side.

Paddleboarding and surfing lessons are also available in the relatively calm waters off the resort’s coast for parents and older children, and if you’re looking for more adventure, take the half hour drive up the West coast of Oahu to the end of the island’s paved road at Yokohama Bay State Park. This beautiful, wild enclave has lush green mountains, fine white sand, and completely uncrowded beaches, plus picnic areas, changing rooms, and friendly lifeguards. The surf can be tumultuous here, and we use this beach for walking rather than swimming. One rocky point mid-beach offers mini waterfalls cascading down its sides as the waves come in, and gave us a great excuse to linger and watch the sunset. One caveat here: outside the park there are unregulated encampments; you won’t want to explore there, nor will you want to stay in the state park itself too long after dark.

But then, why would you? You’ll want to drive back to the resort and enjoy a family-friendly movie floating in an inner tube in the pool; or a torch lit dinner at one of the hotel’s many, excellent restaurants. And take a little time congratulating yourself on creating the ultimate vacation holiday gift: Disneyland and the Hawaiian Islands – all rolled into one.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions

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