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Unforgettable Details of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: Imagineer Joe Rohde on Design and Inspiration

posted on June 27th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Rohde, creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, about his inspirations for the design of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Joe’s career has included such iconic projects as Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Expedition Everest; Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa; and the upcoming AVATAR-inspired land at Walt Disney World Resort. Today, Joe shares some of the magic and tradition behind what makes Aulani unlike anywhere else in the world.

What is the significance behind the arch logo for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa?

The curved arch is based on a traditional Hawaiian canoe house as echoed in the framing of the Maka‘ala lobby as well as in the resort’s physical layout.

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What was the inspiration for the Maka‘ala lobby?

Maka‘ala does several things all at once. It is a warm and welcoming place that expresses the spirit of aloha, acceptance and inclusion. But it also announces that this place – where you have arrived, Hawai‘i – is a special, unique and important place, and that there are stories to be learned here that you may not know … and LOTS of them. Lastly, it also suggests a feeling of elegance and artistry, which is consistent with true Hawaiian culture.

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What was the inspiration for the overall shape and design of Aulani and the Waikolohe Valley?

The resort was designed to reflect the sense of a Hawaiian valley opening out toward the ocean from highlands to lowlands. This organization has many connotations. One is the ahupua’a, the traditional organization of land that followed a watershed from the mountains to the sea and knitted all members of the community together in a working relationship and a functional sustainable relationship to the land.

Another is a Hawaiian concept of time itself as flowing – like fresh water – from the past, which is in the mountains, to the future, which is in the sea. The architectural statements of Aulani tend to follow this organizational layout.

You know, of course, that Waikolohe means “mischievous water.” That name is simply meant to connote the playful aspect of the springs, which spray you from unexpected directions, and the presence of the Menehune. It is true that, along this part of the O’ahu coast, fresh water comes from springs, and we wanted to reflect that but in a fun, mischievous way.

Hawaiian canoes are seen throughout Aulani. Why are canoes such a key aspect of the design?

We wanted to use little clues here and there to celebrate the great canoe tradition of Hawai`i, because these canoes are at the very heart of what makes Hawaiian culture Hawaiian. Without these canoes there would be no Hawaiians at all. They express the highest form of artistry, engineering, symbolic meaning, purposefulness and social cooperation that Hawaiian culture stands for. In particular, we wanted to celebrate the Hokulea, the canoe that awakened the Hawaiian cultural revival in the 1970s and continues today on its worldwide voyage.

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Learning at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: Educational Activities for the Whole ‘Ohana

posted on June 11th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


There are opportunities for every member of your ‘ohana to learn or even pick up new talents during a vacation to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa! One of my favorite activities is Ho‘okani Pila – Learn to play the ‘ukulele. I was amazed at how easy it was for me to learn such a unique instrument. I spoke with Daniel Hee, Family Program Manager at Aulani, to ask which activities offer a fun learning experience for the whole family.

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  • Ho‘okani Pila – Learn the ‘Ukulele: Families can learn how to play a song or two on the ‘ukulele and also learn how the instrument became so popular in Hawaii. Even if you have never played an instrument before, this introductory lesson is simple and perfect for beginners of all ages!
  • ‘Ohana Hula: For me, it wouldn’t be a trip to Hawai’i without a lesson in hula dancing. Aulani features a weekly lesson about hula – Hawai‘i’s unique dance. During this activity, your ‘ohana will learn fun hula moves like the ‘ami hip roll and more. Some of the classes include Premium Experiences that teach you even more about the Hawaiian culture and the tradition of hula dancing.
  • Disney Family Fun Animation: Disney animated films have delighted generations. While at Aulani, your family can learn how to draw a favorite Disney Character and even take home your very own masterpiece. Trust me, I’m not an artist, and was pleasantly surprised how simple each step was while creating my own piece. Don’t forget to sign your sketch when you’re finished!

TIPS: When you check in at Aulani, a cast member will give you The Daily ‘Iwa, a listing of the wide variety of activities taking place around the resort, which will help you plan your day. Keep in mind that some of the activities do require reservations. The Daily ‘Iwa also lists activities for specific age groups, like the Teen Ho‘okani Pila (just for teenagers at Aulani) and Keiki Hula (just for kids)!

What is your ‘ohana’s favorite activity at Aulani? Leave your answer in the comments below!

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Kailee Kauai Jewelry Sparkles Like the Ocean at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

posted on June 5th, 2014 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


I love discovering hidden treasures. Recently, I did just that. In fact it was a collection of hand-crafted jewelry from Kailee Kauai which is available in Hale Manu at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.

What started as a hobby, and gift-giving idea to family and friends for over a decade, quickly turned into a something more for designer Yunah Lee Joseph.

“The collection is named after my daughter, Kailee. In the Hawaiian language, ‘Kai’ means ocean, while ‘Lee’ derives from my family name,” says Yunah. “It is my daughter’s love of our beautiful, pristine ocean, and the life that inhabits it, that lends inspiration for each unique piece.”

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One of the things I love most about the collection of earrings, pendants and bracelets is that each bead and stone has been carefully chosen to represent the striking blue and green tones of the ocean, while each shell has been hand-picked from the beautiful shores of Hawai`i.

One of the most popular pieces that can be found at Hale Manu is the Twist Oval Aqua Chalcedony.

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I hope that on your next trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, you discover a treasure to add to your own collection!

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Unforgettable Details of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: Kapa Name Tags

posted on May 27th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


Today we continue our look at some of the unforgettable details at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, with an iconic tradition passed down by Walt Disney himself – cast member name tags. Starting with Disneyland park, Walt wanted to make sure every guest was on a first-name basis with cast members. Distinctive details make each of the name tags worn at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the world a little different. I met with Aulani Cultural Advisor Kahulu De Santos to ask her to share with me what makes the name tags at Aulani unique and special.
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The name tags worn by cast members at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa are inspired by kapa, traditional Hawaiian barkcloth. An intricate design process of creating and decorating Hawaiian bark cloth makes each kapa distinctive. Designs may be unique to an ‘ohana or linked to other significant ancestral traditions. At Aulani, name tags featuring kapa designs are an extension of the story and traditions passed down through the ‘ohana – family — of cast members working at the resort.

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If you look closely, you’ll notice differences in colors and designs between the men’s and women’s cast member name tags. They feature two different sections of the same kapa. For female cast members, the name tag has a unique design with a brownish-reddish color and the shapes are more round and smooth. The male name tags have more sharp and jagged shapes, and incorporates blue. Another distinctive feature of the Aulani name tag is the ‘Olelo Hawai`i language designation, worn by cast members who are fluent in the Hawaiian language.

What is your favorite name tag you have seen at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts around the world? One of my favorite details of cast member name tags was the “Class of … “ during the 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Disneyland Resort. Leave your answer in the comments below!

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Five Hawaiian Expressions to Know for Your Visit to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

posted on May 13th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


Aloha! Are you ready for your trip to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa? One of the travel tips my mom passed down to me was to always learn five key expressions that are used in the place you are visiting. In that spirit, I asked Aulani Cultural Advisor Kahulu De Santos to recommend the five most useful expressions that every Aulani guest should know.

1. Aloha – “Hello”

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Say Hello from Ka Maka Landing at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

Aloha is the Hawaiian word I used most during my visit to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. From the moment you arrive, the spirit of aloha is alive in every cast member interaction. A fun tip about this Hawaiian word is that also can mean “goodbye.” So, you can start and end a conversation with aloha!

2. E komo mai – “Welcome”

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Just as Walt Disney said at the dedication of Disneyland park, “To all who come to this happy place: Welcome,” a welcoming spirit is the foundation for all Disney Parks & Resorts, and Aulani is a beautiful example of that spirit.

3. ‘Ohana – “Family”

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There are so many activities available for your entire family to enjoy. A few of my favorites include Disney Family Fun Animation, ‘Ohana Hula and of course, the Aulani Starlit Hui.

4. Keiki – “Child” or “Children”

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Disney Characters, Aunty’s Beach House and Keiki Cove are just three of the options available for your keiki (pronounced kay-key) to enjoy at Aulani. Even as keiki grow older, there are daily tween and teen activities that allow every member of your ‘ohana to meet new friends and take home treasured experiences.

5. Mahalo – “Thank You”

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Mahalo was another Hawaiian word I used frequently during my visit. You’ll often hear cast members thanking you for visiting Aulani by saying, “Mahalo!”

I hope these expressions help you and your ‘ohana feel at home during your visit to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa! Do you have any other Hawaiian words or phrases to recommend to new visitors? Leave your answers in the “Comments” section!

Aloha!

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Point of View: Rainbow Reef at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

posted on May 7th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


Recently my fellow Disney Parks Blog author, Erin Glover, went under the sea in Rainbow Reef at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, to try the Supplied Air Snorkeling (S.A.S.) experience. Today, I invite you to visit the only private snorkeling lagoon on O`ahu again, but this time from the point of view of one of the nearly 50 different types of sea life that live in the reef!

I also want to pass along this helpful tip I learned about Rainbow Reef: You can purchase a one-day experience or, if your ‘ohana wants to explore the lagoon throughout your vacation, a length-of-stay experience is also available.

And here’s a bit of trivia for you … at one point in the video above, we spot the state fish of Hawai`i. Do you know its Hawaiian name? Leave your answers in the “Comments” section!

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Little Ones Enjoy Makeovers at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

posted on April 29th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


Getting pampered at the Laniwai Spa was by far one of my favorite experiences at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. During my visit, I met with Spa Director Lucia Rodriguez and she gave me a tour of the wide variety of offerings available for the entire ‘ohana. Some of the most magical treatments I learned about were the options available for the keiki, or little ones! As with any Disney experience, little touches of magic are pixie-dusted throughout the Kids’ Services at the Laniwai Spa, and they also include some aloha style! After all, this is a Hawaiian vacation. Take a look for yourself!

Have you or your keiki had a chance to visit the Laniwai Spa? If so, what was your favorite part of the experience?

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Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, is a Great Place to be Green

posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Todd Apo, Director, Public Affairs, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa


Malama means to care for, to protect and to maintain. April is Earth Month, and Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii, has many ways to practice malama. Last week, Aulani was recognized for those efforts by the American Resort Development Association (ARDA).

At its annual awards banquet, ARDA presented Aulani with four awards, including the Green Sustainable Program within a Resort and the ACE Project of Excellence Award for being the “best of the best.”

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During Earth Month, we celebrate these awards and touch on the green, sustainable programs at Aulani. As we announced last year, Aulani became the first Hawaii resort to be LEED certified, achieving Silver Certification. The effort began from day one, as much of today’s success started with the planning of Aulani back in 2007. As we continue into our third year of providing a deep Hawaiian cultural experience to our guests and Disney Vacation Club Owners, our efforts continue around energy savings, recycling and being good stewards of the aina – the land.

A few final notes on being green at Aulani:

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa Features Local Ingredients in Luscious New Desserts at ‘AMA ‘AMA

posted on April 16th, 2014 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer


When you cook on an island paradise, using delectable local ingredients only makes the food taste better. And Chef Ron Viloria at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawai’i, gets creative with sweets on his new dessert menu at beachside ‘AMA ’AMA – Contemporary Island Cooking restaurant.

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“We’re using native mamaki tea for the panna cotta, and lavender with tart kalamansi (a citrus fruit also known as calamondin) for the semifreddo,” says Chef Ron. The fragrant lavender comes from Ali’i Kula lavender farms in Maui, and the kitchen also is sourcing local honeycomb for the semifreddo, a “semi-frozen” dessert.

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Cocoa is another Hawaiian product, and Chef Ron is using Kokoleka chocolate for his “Chocolate with Aloha” dessert that’s made with chocolate from Waialua Estate (cacao and coffee beans) on O’ahu’s North Shore, where the nutrient-rich volcanic soil, abundant rainfall and plentiful sunshine produce some of the world’s best cacao.

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Chef Ron also added a modern representation of Hawai’i’s traditional mochi cake, a tender, soft, chewy dessert made with rice. And he’s using lemongrass and coconut in the lemongrass crème Catalana, an island version of the classic French crème brûlée made with fresh coconut.

“Of six desserts on the menu, five are new,” says Chef Ron. (He kept the popular chocolate cake, now called “Mocha Chantilly Cake.”) Guests seems to love the lemongrass crème Catalana too, he says. Hopefully you’ll get to visit Aulani soon – Chef Ron changes the desserts about every six months.

“It was so much fun sourcing products locally to make some delicious desserts for our guests at ‘AMA ‘AMA,” says Chef Ron. “Giving diners a taste of Hawai’i makes their vacation extra special.”

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Unforgettable Details of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa: Traditional Lei

posted on April 11th, 2014 by Tyler Slater, Public Relations Manager, Disney Destinations


The unforgettable details woven throughout Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, make the resort a destination unlike any in the world. Let’s begin this new series the same way your Aulani vacation would with a warm welcome, or e komo mai, and a traditional lei.

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Upon my arrival at Aulani, I noticed cast members waiting with lei at their side and large smiles on their faces. One of those cast members greeted me with my own personal lei. Talking with her, I learned that each member of the ‘ohana, or family, receive this symbol of aloha – the gift of a lei. Women receive an orchid and tuberose lei, while the men receive a kukui nut lei. I was then escorted into the breathtaking Maka’ala Lobby where the same cast member told me the significance of receiving a lei. The lei has been an important part of the traditional Hawaiian culture for centuries, as well as the modern local culture of Hawaii today.

I wanted to learn more about this tradition, so I asked Aulani Cultural Advisor, Kahulu De Santos. She shared many stories about lei, such as the beautiful feather lei worn by the aliʻi, the royalty of traditional Hawaii. In addition to being a symbol of aloha, the lei also symbolizes the importance of connections. Just like the flowers or kukui nuts are linked together, the lei embodies the connections to places and relationships we have with those around us.

It is through the spirit and magic of Aulani that you will establish new connections or strengthen existing ones during your stay, and your lei will help you remember those memories when you travel home.

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Once I checked into my room with my lei still around my neck, I could not think of a better way to begin a Hawaiian vacation. The warm greeting, the lei, a personal escort through the Maka‘ala Lobby and the gentle breeze – it made me realize that my magical journey was only just beginning.

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