Disney has done a wonderful job of creating a resort designed to reflect authentic Hawaiian culture and history, minimizing the more generic “polynesian” theme that can pervade the islands.  The lobby is stunning and features a beautiful mural depicting the history of the state.  The rooms here are pricey, but quite nice.  All food and beverage is a la carte, and at the time of the tour no meal plans were being offered.

A Double Queen room

A Double Queen room

The resort just opened in Aug. 2011, and appears to be adjusting to the surprise of having guests remain at the resort all day.  They are having to add food and beverage services to accommodate.  At the completion of Phase III in 2013, the resort will have over 800 rooms.  Room design is very considerate of family needs, with 80% of the rooms connecting; for larger families The Parlor (1 bedroom) Suite, will sleep three kids in the living room with a pullout sofa and trundle/murphy bed.

Look for the hidden Menehune instead of Mickey's here!

Look for the hidden Menehune instead of Mickey’s here!

Many of the interactive “exhibits” around the grounds teach Hawaiian history, and the resort takes the opportunity to teach the Hawaiian language.  There are activities for all ages included throughout the day as well as complimentary childcare for ages 3-9 at Aunty’s Beach House.

The pools are lovely, with some slides for the kids, plus for an additional cost, a snorkeling tank filled with native fish and a stingray experience.  The hotel also features a man-made beach lagoon (built by previous owners, not Disney) which is shared with adjacent property owners, but has a nice beach and calm swimming waters as well as a regularly visiting sea turtle.  At the time of the tour, there was no beach service offered; however, plans are being considered for additional food and beverage options in this area.

6-station, motion-activiated Shower Experience

6-station, motion-activiated Shower Experience

My favorite part of the hotel was the zen-like spa which is quiet, gorgeous and soothing.  The outside relaxation garden with hot tubs, massage cabanas, and a 6-station shower is over the top luxury.  A private soaking tub allows for custom-blended scented soaks.  There is even a multi-person family service room with a private changing room, three massage tables and a private garden with three foot treatment stations.  This would be wonderful for a mom & daughters trip.  In addition, there is a completely separate but open spa for teens with lounging areas.

This property is appealing to many people with younger children, as the word is the kids stay busy and the parents can relax and enjoy some downtime.  For my clients staying elsewhere on Oahu, I would recommend a day trip to the spa; one 50-min treatment gives you access to the entire spa area and garden all day.