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Opens For Hawaii Pre- & Post-Cruise Stays
By Georgina Cruz
2011: Diamond Head volcano to climb, “hula” steps to
learn, “luaus” to enjoy. Few cruise embarkation points merit a pre-
and/or post-cruise stay more than Honolulu, on the island of Oahu in
Hawaii, due to the ocean of natural beauties and exotic Polynesian
cultural riches it offers.
Honolulu, with a backdrop of undulating green-clad mountains –that
call to mind dancers in grass skirts doing a traditional “hula”
dance – boasts diverse panoramas of beaches, a world-famous extinct
volcano, waterfalls and canyons with an abundance of greenery and
flowers, including jasmines and gardenias that perfume the air with
their delicate fragrances. Crystalline waters for snorkeling,
surfing and other water sports beckon travelers as do the pleasures
of culinary delights (including pork roasted underground for a
Polynesian “luau” feast), the “lomi lomi salmon,” and the “huapia”
or coconut pudding that are served in the restaurants of
cosmopolitan Honolulu). Shops and boutiques around the city sell
local handicrafts and such tempting products as chocolate chip
macadamia nut cookies, Kona coffee and tropical fruit jams and
Hawaii’s mixture of cultures including the Polynesian (Polynesians
were the first to arrive, it is believed in 400-500 A.D.) as well as
people from Asian cultures, Europeans and North Americans who came
throughout the centuries and settled on the islands, is another of
Hawaii’s charms, giving rise to what is often referred to as “the
golden race” of Hawaii. Added to all this is the islands’ “aloha
spirit.” “Aloha” means “love,” “hello” and “goodbye,” but it mostly
translates as a warm welcome to visitors.
And now visitors, including cruise passengers looking for pre-
and/or post-cruise stays, have a new option for family and couples’
vacations in Hawaii: Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, a property on
the quiet west coast of Oahu that just opened its doors on August 29
and that my husband Humberto and I were lucky to call home for five
days in mid-September. Its name means “messenger from a higher
authority,” said Joe Rohde, senior vice president, Walt Disney
Imagineering, and the resort, located on 21 oceanfront acres in Ko
Olina, 17 miles from the Honolulu Airport and half an hour from
world-famous Waikiki, is inspired in the natural beauty and the
traditions of Hawaii.
The new resort boasts typical Hawaiian architecture and décor. “Aulani
celebrates the best of Hawaii and represents a new way of enjoying a
family vacation with Disney,” said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt
Disney Parks & Resorts. Aulani is a destination resort, not
connected to a theme park, but filled with its own natural, cultural
and just plain nifty attractions including water fun at pools,
slides, lazy river, and a snorkeling lagoon.
Disney contracted local architects, artisans and historians and
combined their talents with the magic of Disney Imagineers to create
the resort –weaving legends and local color throughout. To cite some
examples: guests can enjoy the statues of “menehunes” (the legendary
little people of Hawaii) hidden in multiple corners of the property,
and they are able to join in Hawaiian storytelling sessions at a
fire pit in the evenings and enjoy an island show with typical music
and dances. These activities are, by the way, complimentary.
resort’s two towers house 359 hotel rooms and 481
two-bedroom-equivalent villas from the Disney Vacation Club (the
villas have kitchen, washer/dryer and other home-away-from-home
amenities, are a time-share property available for short-term
rental, and they feature angled glass doors and terraces for optimal
views of the sea and mountains). Guests can enjoy a quintessential
tropical paradise spending days swimming and sunning themselves at a
spectacular white sand beach. Other amenities include an 18,000-sq.
ft. spa with multiple treatment rooms (including two for couples and
one for families), steam room, fitness center and an outdoor
therapeutic pool garden. There’s a spa for teenagers with treatments
for them, a yogurt bar and computers; two table service restaurants
and other eateries; a children’s club with organized activities;
surprise appearances by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Chip and Dale and
other Disney characters; a wedding lawn (this is an ideal spot for
tying the knot and honeymooning); and sunset-facing whirlpools.
After enjoying the beach, the sun and amenities of Aulani, guests
can arrange onsite for optional excursions including kayak tours,
Hawaiian cooking lessons, hikes on nature trails, catamaran sails
and horseback rides. There is even a teens-only tour to a surfing
school and there are adults-only excursions as well.
Guests can also opt for tours to Honolulu and the rest of the island
or explore independently, perhaps to take in Waimea Falls, a cascade
that drops down 45 feet into a pool in Oahu’s North Shore. Aulani’s
excursions are ideal for families as they include Hawaiian lore,
feature knowledgeable local guides, offer lunch or snacks (depending
on the itinerary) and have good cultural content. They can be
combined with independent sightseeing by car to Honolulu and
Naturally, few people leave Oahu without taking in some of its
points of interest in and around Honolulu, which include the Iolani
Palace (one of only two royal palaces on U.S. soil with the other
one being in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii); the King Kamehameha
Statue (he was the king who united the Hawaiian Islands); the moving
Pearl Harbor Monument, commemorating the victims of the Japanese
attack during World War II; and extinct Diamond Head Volcano
(serving as a dramatic backdrop to Waikiki Beach, and you can climb
to its 750-foot-high summit, a 1.4-mile roundtrip hike).
Other must-sees in Oahu include the “Blow Hole” (a natural
“fountain” caused by water shooting through a hole in the coastline)
in Halona Point, and Pali Lookout with its views of the Ko’olau
Mountain Range. The Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie
(approximately an hour away from Honolulu) is an ideal spot to learn
about seven Polynesian cultures: Fiji, Hawaii, Marquesas, New
Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.
And after returning from our explorations each afternoon, Humberto’s
and my favorite activity was enjoying the dramatic sunsets, with the
sun painting the Pacific and the sky in orange and scarlet tones,
from one of Aulani’s whirlpools – with a cold tropical drink in one
hand and smiles on our faces.
IF YOU GO: Aulani introductory rates start at $399 per room. For
additional information, visit
Guide & Cruise
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