I had the opportunity to visit Disney's new Hawaiian Resort & Spa, Aulani last week. It is a gorgeous resort that was much more Hawaiian than Disney, but a little Disney magic thrown in for good measure. The decor and ambience pays homage to the Hawaiian culture, without being over-the-top or kistchy. There isn't a tiki bar in sight (which is not authentically Hawaiian anyway), nor is there an anthropomorphized animal wearing a grass skirt and doing the hula at every turn. Instead, it's a restful, rejuvenating place where familes can relax and have fun, while learning a little about Hawaiian culture along the way.
The standard room with two queen-sized beds is big enough for a family of three or four to enjoy without tripping over themselves. There was a folding crib in the closet and an empty mini-fridge that you could fill up with your own snacks and drinks. Each room comes equipped with a DVD player, so you can bring along your favorite Disney movies to enjoy when you need a little down-time. It's those little touches that make this family-friendly resort even more friendly to families traveling with small kids.
The decor is fairly simple, with accents of koa wood, batik-style prints, and Hawaiian quilt patterns. The only noticeable Disney reference was a cute Mickey Mouse lamp, carved out of wood and distressed to blend in with the rest of the room's Hawaii-centric theme. It reminded me more of upscale version of the Volcano National Park Lodge than the Disneyland Hotel.
My room had a balcony with a "partial ocean view", meaning the ocean was right behind the parking lot. Luckily, the room was on a higher floor, so the view of mountains and ocean were not obstructed when I sat out on the balcony.
As if Hawaii itself were not enough, the main attraction of the resort is the incredible pool/waterpark within the resort itself. Fashioned to look like lava tube structures, the xxx square foot pool features a giant slide through the rock structures, a climbing structure and a "lazy river" where you can float around in a large innertube.