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09

From Aulani, An Even Bigger Splash

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Source & Image Source: Travel Weekly

Paddling a 10-foot standup surfboard over the glassy, early morning waters of a Ko Olina lagoon, I decided Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on the west coast of Oahu, didn't look all that different than it had a couple of years ago.

Viewed from the ocean, the 21-acre property hadn't changed much since my last visit during the fall 2011 grand opening. Maybe the palm trees fronting the beach were taller, and there certainly were more resort chairs and umbrellas on the broad ribbon of sand fringing the turquoise lagoon, but the place still radiated a welcomingly familiar feel.

Aulani has, however, undergone several alterations in the past two years and officially unveiled a major pool deck expansion only last month that officials are calling Ka Maka Landing.

According to Elliot Mills, the resort's vice president and general manager, the upgrade was needed to accommodate a guest population that adored the resort's existing seven-acre Waikolohe Valley, a central play area home to a lazy river, several pools, kid-friendly water features and two water slides.

Aulani, Ka Maka LandingIn fact, travelers liked what Disney had done out at Oahu's master-planned Ko Olina Resort area so much that they were spending more time around Aulani's various pools and water features than officials anticipated.

"We quickly figured out that we wanted to give them more of that to enjoy because they were staying on property a bit more than the normal [Oahu] guest," Mills said.

While Aulani's layout has been modified some since 2011, officials there have worked hard to simply offer more of what folks already enjoyed, integrating a new infinity-edge pool, hot tub and rock grotto into Ka Maka Landing along with much more pool deck area and an entertaining new water feature for smaller kids.

"We didn't really have a special place for our toddlers," Mills said. "So this splash zone at Keiki Cove is for them, [and] they can cruise around, hang out with each other. Plus it's a safe place for the parents to be right there, relax and have fun with their toddlers."

Another popular addition is Ulu Cafe, a new Aulani food-and-beverage outlet I made use of regularly during my recent stay. Mills described it as "fresh food fast," saying it fills a need not covered by the more upscale Ama Ama restaurant or the buffet-style Makahiki venue.

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