posted on September 09, 2011 15:45
Ko Olina: Hawaii's magic kingdom didn't wait for Disney
Jeanne Cooper, Special to SFGate
Friday, September 9, 2011
When Disney first announced its plans to build Aulani, the 840-unit hotel/timeshare resort in West Oahu made headlines as the company's first development not attached to a theme park. But those who'd already spent time at Ko Olina — the 640-acre resort in which Aulani recently opened as the fourth lodging option for visitors — knew there was already a Magic Kingdom vibe in place (not to mention the Wet'n'Wild Hawai'i water park just across the highway.)
With four artificially created lagoons blasted out of the rocky shoreline and rimmed with soft sand, an 18-hole golf course, a 330-slip marina, two luaus, two spas, captive hammerhead sharks and eagle rays in a courtyard lagoon, a Roy's restaurant and even a gourmet version of Hawaii's ubiquitous ABC stores, Ko Olina epitomizes a manicured, Disney-fied Hawaii for the moneyed set — it just didn't wait for Disney to create it.
Of course, as with anywhere in Hawai'i, there is a much deeper, richer history than might meet the eye. This "Place of Joy" (ko 'olina in Hawaiian), designed in the late '90s to become the "Wailea of Oahu," replaced the sugarcane plantations that James Campbell built on the 'Ewa Plain in the late 19th century. If you drive through Ko Olina on Sundays, watch out for the train — not a Disney ride, but the Hawaiian Railway Society's restoration of the old sugarcane hauling route from 'Ewa to Kahe Point Beach Park and back.