Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa: Adventures by Disney excursions

During a stay at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, families have the opportunity to participate in something very unique: authentic Hawaiian excursions run by Adventures by Disney. As a huge fan of what Adventures by Disney does–expose families to a region’s culture and history in an adventurous way–I was eager to sample some of what they offer Aulani guests. I was fortunate to participate in two: Aulani’s Catamaran Experience and Kailua Sea Kayaking Experience.

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The Catamaran Experience began on-board a 53-foot Gold Coast Catamaran, as we set sail from a nearby harbor (transportation time was less than 15 minutes). For this excursion, Adventures by Disney works with a local tour operator crew who did a wonderful job making us feel right at home on the boat. Not only was the entire catamaran at our disposal (daring guests can even sit on the mesh at the aft of the vessel as the boat glides through the tropical waters), but we had on-board entertainment in the form of expert information and ukulele music. Food was provided, and the catamaran takes families to one of the best snorkeling locations on the coast. During our sail, dolphins were spotted, and many photo opportunities were taken. Kids as young as four can participate, and you won’t worry: the Hawaiian Ocean Adventures crew were professional, fun, and educated about their beautiful coastline!

The Kailua Sea Kayaking Experience takes place on Oahu’s lush windward side of the island; families shouldn’t leave Oahu without seeing it. The drive time to the stunning Kailua beach where the kayaking begins (consistently voted one of the top five most beautiful beaches in the world) is about 45 minutes, but you won’t notice: the scenery is absolutely stunning (and some guests might recognize it as the location where the TV show Lost was filmed). Once in Kailua, guests meet up with Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks, who bring you beachside where your kayaks await you. After instruction, you set out across crystal-clear water (never more than 10 feet deep!) to the bird sanctuary at Flat Island, where their guides (one a marine biologist) teach you about the Shearwaters (sea birds) who nest here as you hike the small island. Once back onboard kayaks, families catch the current back to shore. I loved being on the water–we even saw a sea turtle swim by!–but the unexpected highlight was definitely the nature walk and education about this unique area.

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The logistics: For all Adventures by Disney excursions, guests meet guides in the open-air lobby of the Aulani, where transportation is provided for them. Adventures start at approximately $150 per adult (less for kids), and vary by excursion. Reservations can be made in advance (the website lists which days each excursion takes place) or once families are at Aulani, by stopping by the Holoholo Tours and Travel Desk.

I strongly believe in families exploring their surroundings and getting to know local culture while on vacation, and I’m convinced that Adventures by Disney excursions are the absolute best way to do this. There is tremendous value in the level of both customer service and local knowledge on Adventures by Disney excursions, which is why I highly recommend budgeting at least one during an Aulani vacation. If one is all your family’s budget allows for, it’s still easy to explore more of the island: in addition to their nine Adventures by Disney excursions, Aulani’s Holoholo desk can book dozens of publicly offered excursions directly through local Hawaiian tour operations. The difference is that families will not be attending as part of an Adventures by Disney tour, which means it will not include transportation, snacks, and the full treatment of educational components. It will, however, include peace of mind: the operators are all fully vetted by Disney, and families can still expect a quality experience away from the resort. On the other end of the price-point scale, families can book three-day Adventures by Disney Explorer package, which include three full days’ worth of Adventures by Disney excursions (running Tues-Thurs.), with virtually everything taken care of for your family.

When considering additional, non-Adventures by Disney excursions at the lower price point, I suggest renting a car for one day (available through Aulani on-site for approximately $30 cheaper per day than airport pricing). Just be sure to return the rental car in the evening (again, conveniently at Aulani), even if you’ve reserved it for 24 hours, to avoid the overnight parking fee.

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About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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  1. what fun!! i love the photos – they make me want to go!

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