You might have heard a bit about the expansion at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa located in Ko Olina, Oahu. But there are so many more stories to tell about this amazing vacation destination. Disney Insider had the chance to chat with a few of the cast members who’ve been at Aulani since its opening in 2011. Here are a few of the hidden secrets we uncovered:
1. Pay close attention to the rockwork all around the Waikolohe (Hawaiian translation: mischievous water) Valley. You’ll find carvings of hidden animals, fish, shells, and other native Hawaiian features.
2. The wall inside the entryway at Makahiki restaurant is made entirely from the inside of coconut shells.
3. Cast members working at the bar in The ‘Ōlelo Room are required to speak fluent Hawaiian.
4. Aulani has one of the largest collections of Hawaiian artwork anywhere in the world. Over 60 local artists were commissioned to create the original pieces found all over the resort.
5. The Kalepa store is inspired by mom-and-pop shops across the state of Hawaii. In fact, there are photos of actual local stores featured on the walls around the shop.
6. Approximately 90% of the merchandise found inside the shops at Aulani is exclusive to the resort and cannot be found anywhere else.
7. The compass rose located inside the entrance of Aulani is unlike a traditional compass. Instead of north, south, east, and west, the compass points mauka (to the mountains) and makai (to the sea).
8. The photo collage behind the registration desk is made up of images taken by Hawaiian school children.
9. Many cast members at Aulani are of Hawaiian descent.
10. Menehune Bridge, situated in the heart of the Waikolohe Valley, is the place for water-filled adventures. As Aulani legend has it, the Menehune built the bridge at the same time Aulani was being constructed. The mischievous creatures work at night and aren’t always able to finish their projects, which is why there are so many leaks and wobbly bridges.
11. Speaking of Menehune, there are over 300 statues hidden around the resort. Our favorite is the one hiding in the elevator.
12. Every New Years Eve the community of Ko Olina and guests of Aulani enjoy one of the largest fireworks shows over the ocean. This is the view:
13. The hot tub at Alohi Point is the best place to take in a Hawaiian sunset over the cove.
14. The piko stone is a large rock found inside the Waikolohe Valley. Piko literally means belly button or the heart of a space. Members of the Aulani’s Cultural Committee identified the area as having a special energy and designated it with this special honor and, along with lead Imagineer Joe Rohde, selected this stone to commemorate the location.
15. The feathered sticks located inside the lobby are called Kahilis. These are normally made with bird feathers and represent a family crest. Disney’s own kahili is made of red, black, and white feathers to symbolize an important member of our family, Mickey Mouse.
Bonus: No Disney Resort would be complete without a few Hidden Mickeys scattered around. At Aulani, you’ll spot the familiar silhouette in the carpets, wallpaper, bedspreads, and even on the artwork inside each guest room.