Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Going to a Disney resort for a spa retreat may not seem like an obvious choice, but the Mouse House is working hard to change that perception. This past spring, I visited Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu to check out and report on its relaxation offerings. The idea is to make spa and fitness a family affair, but trust me when I say that you can easily escape to Laniwai and feel worlds away from screaming kiddos (yours or anyone's).

In fact, at no point in my visit did I feel overrun by children or "Disney," for that matter. I think the resort is beautifully designed...definitely an island vibe, but it doesn't feel kitschy. You can have the full Disney experience if that's what you want - there's a "character breakfast" every morning where Mickey and gang hang - but, in general, Disney Aulani is just a really nice resort. So many places for adults to escape for some quiet time.

It was my first time experiencing the hospitality machine that is Disney...everything that you've heard is true. I had a nightmare of a flight from the East Coast and my travel day ended up being 19+ hours. By the time I finally got to Aulani at about 1 a.m. local time, the overnight concierge, somehow aware of the day's flying mishaps, whisked me right past front desk check-in straight to my room...which was dimly lit and quiet, and obviously prepped for a weary traveler who was ready to crash in a big, comfy bed.

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Throughout the rest of my stay, resort employees I came across at the restaurant, on a property tour, and in the spa would greet me with things like, "We're so glad you finally made it after that flight!" and "I hope you were able to get some rest...heard you had a long trip!"

Let me just say that this subtle, but super-effective, level of hospitality doesn't happen without a very organized workflow and careful attention to detail. It makes a big, big difference in a guest's world.

Even with travel delays, I managed to fit in a couple of quiet hours on the beach the next day before the rest of my group got in. Aulani's beach is a quiet cove, lined by a scenic path that's connected to a handful of other resorts in the area. It makes for a really fantastic morning walk. (Two of my favorite snaps from this walk below.)

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

ANY WAY: The spa! "Laniwai" translates to "freshwater heaven," so naturally there's a big h2o theme. You'll find an outdoor hydrotherapy garden - adults only - where you can dip in and out of vitality pools, minerals baths and rain showers. (Side note: It's also a perfect place to enjoy lunch and maybe even some champagne...OK, definitely champagne.)

You can also book a private 30-minute vitality bath, which includes a personalized DIY body scrub and colorful salts purposely chosen to aid whatever is ailing you. (Jet lag, maybe?) I had a traditional Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage and a custom facial. What I really like about Laniwai is that the treatments feel like a treat, but they're also designed to be effective. There are no over the top, weird ingredients for the sake of attention...just really good, trusted products and results-oriented techniques and ingredients.

That being said, it's definitely a destination spa. Between your appointments, the outdoor hydrotherapy garden, a really nice salon, delicious lunch and wine, and an all-around calm setting...you could spend an entire day here. Some treatments are pricey, even by Hawaiian resort standards, but you really do feel like you're experiencing a special escape that you won't find elsewhere.

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

For families, there's The 'Ohana treatment, which is designed for 3 to 6 people and includes a Lomi Lomi massage for all in a private room with its own garden patio. There's also the Painted Sky Teen Spa where kids can get facials, manis and pedis, and dig into some frozen yogurt while mixing up their own scrubs and face masks at a hands-on station. Think of Painted Sky as more of a relaxing teen hangout where they can kick back in their beach gear and "chill" with their friends. (By the way: LUCKY KIDS!)

If you visit Disney Aulani, the early wake-up call for beach yoga is totally worth it. Just get your butt in gear - you'll be happy you did, I promise!

After a few days of surprising quiet and grown-ups only fun, I had to give in to my inner child and take a few photo opps with everyone's favorite power couple. It's their vacation home, after all! What kind of a guest would I be if I didn't say hello?

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Oahu: Disney Aulani Resort & Spa - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Disney Aulani

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