Trip Report: Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa Offers a Safe Tropical Getaway Following Hawaii’s Reopening Protocols

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, reopened on November 1st following Hawaii’s reopening guidelines that went into effect on October 15th. I arrived late on that first day for my first visit to Disney’s Hawaiian vacation destination to share the experience for anyone considering making a trip in the near future. Getting here is a little tough, but once you’re here, it’s breathtakingly beautiful.

Hawaii requires visitors from out of state (and even from other islands) to have a negative COVID-19 test result from a trusted testing partner within 72 hours of their flight. You have to have everything set up through before you land in order to receive a unique QR code that allows you to not have to quarantine for 14 days. Government officials are waiting for you in the airport terminal and you have to present your QR code and photo ID upon arrival. We had some stress related to slow processing of our results, but thankfully we got them just in time. When you check in at Aulani, or any hotel in Hawaii, you are required to show your QR code again in order to be cleared to do anything, including enjoy the pools and restaurants.

I will do another post just about the resort rooms, but similar to Walt Disney World, Aulani has enhanced cleaning signs in the rooms to keep you informed of the many ways in which they’ve altered their cleaning practices to help keep Guests safe. The biggest notable difference is that remote controls have been wrapped and Housekeeping doesn’t service your room during your trip, but will stop by to swap out your towels and restock amenities every couple of days.

The resort is decorated for the holidays, but comparing trip reports from previous winters, this year has been reduced to just garlands (no Christmas trees).

Hand sanitizing options are available throughout the resort, including by the elevators on every floor, at every restaurant, gift shop, and anywhere a Cast Member is stationed, such as at the Disney Vacation Club preview centers.

Both of Aulani’s table service restaurants are not operating, one of which was a buffet. Guests looking for table service can experience the pool bar called Off the Hook, open for lunch and dinner, and the ‘Olelo Room, an outdoor lounge that offers small plates, cocktails, and sushi.

The ‘Olelo Room is the only place we’ve seen live entertainment at the resort, which offers live Hawaiian music during its operating hours of 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Plexiglass barriers divide the two musicians for their safety when their masks are off. Most of the other locations in the resort, including the pool, gift shop, and quick service location close by 8:00 pm.

The pools and beach are open. Nomenclature on the resort’s website scared us with descriptions of reduced capacity and Guests possibly being turned away, but the pool area has felt very low in attendance during our entire stay. The adult pool has been opened up to families to provide more swimming options while social distancing, but there is an 18 and up spa area overlooking the ocean.

You need to get a wristband each day to use the pool and on your first day, they verbally give you all of the rules about social distancing, not moving lounge chairs, and that masks must be worn outside of the pools except for when you’re actively eating or drinking. There are two water slides and we were told to have masks on when waiting for the slides but to take them off while riding. However, we noticed that nobody was doing this in practice and lifeguards weren’t enforcing it. The queue for the slides have social distance markings and the week started with just one slide being open per hour, alternating between the two. But later, they changed this policy and both slides open at the same time, but with just one queue for both.

The lazy river opens with the pools at 8:00 am, but closes two hours earlier at 6:00 pm. There are two entrance points to the lazy river, with all others marked “Exit only.” This allows lifeguards to control how many Guests are in the lazy river at a time.

Most of the food or snack stands in the pool area are closed, the exception being Papalua Shave Ice, where you can upgrade yours to include Mickey ears, ice cream, and coconut sauce, all of which I highly recommend.

The quick service location, Ulu Cafe, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a diverse menu of hot and cold options. You can also get a refillable souvenir popcorn bucket and local snacks. Since poolside food locations are closed, this is also home to Dole Whip at this time. Servers are walking around the pool area to deliver drinks and food, which comes from the Off the Hook bar menu, and QR code menus are on signs throughout the pool area. The Wailani Pool Bar offers a diverse menu of coffee drinks in the morning, but is only accessible to poolside servers after 10:30 am.

The interactive Menehune Adventure Trail experience is available around the pool area. Indoor parts of the experience have been deactivated and roped off.

Two of the gift shops are open and I will do another story all about Kalepa’s Store, which has most of the Disney-themed souvenirs. The poolside Lava Shack is also open, where Guests can get Sundries and beach essentials. The upscale Hale Manu shop, which offers luxury goods, was closed during our entire stay.

Like the theme parks, characters aren’t available for meet & greets. But Mickey and Minnie have been spotted multiple times throughout our stay, waiving to Guests at the pool from balconies throughout the resort, spreading a little Disney magic to this beautiful island getaway.

I hope this look at the recently reopened Aulani Resort has been not only fun to see, but helpful in determining if the risk and reward of making the trip is right for your family. With discounted room rates, including Hawaii local specials, the cost of this vacation paired with the safety enhancements made us feel very comfortable and gave us a rare chance to change our scene and getaway to Disney’s Hawaiian paradise, something I’ve wanted to experience since it opened. Mahalo!

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