Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

InsightLast week’s opening of the Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, on Oahu’s west coast adds another first-rate accommodations option to Hawaii’s already impressive collection of family-friendly properties, offering kids and their parents a host of superb facilities, activities and entertainment.

“It’s a family resort; there’s no doubt about it,” Elliot Mills, managing director at the Aulani, told me during a recent visit. “What we’ve tried to do is make the resort friendly for all ages, so no matter what age, whether they’re teenagers or whether they’re just toddlers, they’re going to enjoy their stay here.”

The 21-acre beachfront property features so many kid-friendly options, in fact, that children may have a tough time deciding what to do first. Within the resort’s Waikohole Valley, a re-creation of a traditional Ahupuaa or ancient Hawaiian land division, guests will find a 321,000-gallon lazy river; two thrilling waterslides twisting down the imposing Puu Kilo lava rock formation; the 2,200-square-foot, interactive Menehune Bridge water play area; the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon, featuring 1,500 tropical fish; and the Makai Preserve, where guests can interact with and feed stingrays — minus the stingers.

Another Aulani highlight is the Aunty’s Beach House kids club, an expansive facility where children ages 3 to 12 can enjoy everything from arts and crafts projects to interactive touch screens and video games, watching movies in a room with simulated thunderstorms and even dressing up in an array of costumes for impromptu performances.

“The kids don’t want to come out of there,” Mills reported. “They just love it. … And we’re going to be opening up our outdoor yard area for the kids in September, and that’s another 5,000 square feet of outdoor play space where they’ll have Hawaiian games and a play area. It’s much different than anything anybody has in Hawaii right now.”

The resort’s 18,000-square-foot Laniwai Spa, the first spa ever operated by Disney, not only boasts a range of options for adults but also features family treatment rooms and the Painted Sky teen spa for 13- to 17-year-olds. Interested teens can take advantage of the facility’s yogurt bar, Xbox Kinect fitness games and a customizable perfume station along with a collection of treatments designed specifically for their age group.

Loaded with Hawaiian cultural activities, performances, artwork, architectural and design elements, the Aulani also offers guests an outstanding chance to learn about the Islands’ host culture and history. And travelers hoping to spend a little time with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy can squeeze in photos and face time with the legendary Disney characters at a number of scheduled appearances across the resort each day.

Around 285 hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas were available to guests after Aulani’s Aug. 29 opening. The property, which fronts a nine-acre ocean lagoon at the Ko Olina resort development, will feature a total of 359 hotel rooms and 481vacation club villas when work on the project’s second and third phases is complete next year.

Rates for an oceanview room at the Aulani begin at $549 a night.

Agents interested in more information about the resort should visit the recently overhauled

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