When guests of Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii are looking to experience even more luxury beyond the resort’s beautiful rooms and grounds, they can consider booking one of the premium seating options found in several locations among the various pools, whirlpools, winding lazy river, and play areas of Aulani’s Waikolohe Valley.
Whether renting one of these upgraded seating options is worth the price is a highly individual decision based on factors such as budget, how much time you are likely to spend enjoying the premium seating, the ages and interests of people in your party, and what other activities are planned during your stay. If you are considering splurging, read on for details about prices, what is included, locations, and views for each option.
One benefit to note before looking at each option individually . . . all of them guarantee your party a home base for a day at Aulani’s extremely popular pool and beach area. The resort’s pool complex has proven to be so popular that it was expanded only two years after the resort opened, and many guests claim poolside lounge chairs early in the day. Knowing that you have a guaranteed seat will give you one more reason to savor that cup of Kona coffee on your balcony before heading to the pool.
The Options in Brief
Aulani’s premium seating options currently include six casabellas on the beach, two casabellas on Ama Ama’s upper veranda and three on the lower veranda, one executive lanai, and eight cabanas. (Note that the number and locations of some of these options have changed from time to time.)
All premium seating guests can order food and drinks from Aulani’s Poolside Menu and of course visit any of the quick service locations in Waikolohe Valley. Cabanas have a dedicated Cabana Dining Menu that has a more upscale presentation, but its offerings are virtually identical to those on the Poolside Menu.
These two-seat loungers have an awning and a small table surface between the chairs. They can be found in two locations:
- Six beachside casabellas are located on a grassy area directly fronting Ko Olina beach. They rent for $45 per day, from 8 AM to 5 PM. To get back to Aulani’s pool area, guests must cross a walkway, go through Aulani’s gate, and up some stairs. It’s a bit of a walk to the pool, but if you want to be right on the beach and are looking for the least expensive way to enjoy some upgraded seating, the beachside casabellas could be perfect for you.
- Five Ama Ama casabellas located on the veranda in front of Aulani’s Ama Ama restaurant overlook the beach. Each level of the veranda rents as a unit, and the price per day for the two casabellas on Ama Ama’s upper veranda (accommodating four people total) is $90, while the price for the three casabellas on Ama Ama’s lower veranda (accommodating six people total) is $135. The hours for these casabellas are 9 AM to 6 PM. The Ama Ama casabellas are at the farthest end of the veranda and so are also a bit of a walk to the pool area. However, they are very private (I had to ask where they were after looking around a bit). The veranda decking can get hot in the sun, but that seems like a small price to pay if you are looking for a day of quiet and relaxation at a reasonable price.
While the Ama Ama casabellas can be reserved in advance, the beachside casabellas can be rented only on the same day by visiting Makiki Joe’s on the beach starting at 8 AM. Also, guests can check if there has been a cancellation for the Ama Ama casabellas on the same day by visiting Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon (near the Menehune Bridge play area) starting at 8 AM. If you are planning to enjoy the Ama Ama casabellas, it is worth reserving them in advance—more on the need for advance reservations later.
At the opposite end of the Ama Ama veranda from the veranda casabellas, closer to the main pool area, is one executive lanai. This lanai is spacious, with two casabellas (each seating two people), two chairs with a table and umbrella, and two lounge chairs with an umbrella. The setup allows for eight people to relax (six people in the lounge chairs and two at the table and chairs). The executive lanai can be reserved in advance from 9 AM to 6 PM for $275.
The executive lanai has a locking drawer/cabinet and includes bottles of water and delivery of a fruit platter. It has no electricity and so does not include a refrigerator. As with the Ama Ama casabellas, the decking of the lanai can get hot in the sun. Also, it is located next to a gate and stairs that lead from Aulani’s pool area to the beach, so foot traffic could be an issue for some people. Still, the lanai offers far more personal space than sitting in the regular lounge chairs around the pool, and it seats more people than the more expensive cabanas.
Aulani’s eight cabanas each accommodate six guests, with two chairs, a loveseat, and a table inside the cabana and two lounge chairs outside. The cabanas, which can be reserved in advance from 9 AM to 6 PM, are the highest-priced premium seating option, at $325 per day. They are located in three areas:
- The busy (and noisy) Menehune Bridge play area is home to two cabanas. The location of these cabanas would appear to target young families who appreciate being able to keep an eye on their little ones while still achieving some level of relaxation in a cabana. These are also the cabanas closest to the lazy river and water slides.
- The Ka Maka Grotto has three cabanas that are a short distance from the main pool and a bit further away from the lazy river and water slides. In fact, the last cabana in the row is next to a stone wall separating Aulani from the Marriott hotel next door. Still, they offer a respite from the action and are close to the family infinity pool.
- The Wailana Pool has three cabanas. These cabanas are situated at Aulani’s adults-only pool and so are not an option for families with children younger than age 18. The Wailana Pool is very quiet, and these cabanas are at the quietest end of that pool. So if you are looking for quiet in an adults-only area, these cabanas are for you.
By renting a cabana, you will enjoy several additional amenities that do not come with the other premium seating options. Like the executive lanai, cabanas have a locking drawer, but they also include a refrigerator stocked with water, ceiling fan, and flat-panel TV. Along with the fruit plate that comes with the executive lanai, Disney Vacation Club members renting cabanas receive a complimentary dessert tray. The fruit plate is served around 11 AM, and the dessert tray arrives around 3-4 PM.
We rented one of the Ka Maka Grotto cabanas for two days and were quite happy with the location and service both times. A placard welcoming the “Graffam Ohana” when we arrived was a nice touch. Our server appeared frequently to ask if we wanted to order more drinks or food. In addition, other Cast Members came around a few times to provide new towels. We had the middle cabana of the three, which I thought would feel less private, but letting down the canvas sides not only provided sufficient privacy but also some noise abatement.
Premium Seating Tips
- Check in for the veranda casabellas, the executive lanai, and cabanas is at the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon at 9 AM. The policy is that a no-show by 10 AM is considered a cancellation, though I observed parties arriving later than that time.
- Poolside servers will keep a running tab of any food or drinks you order during the day. You can add a tip to the bill.
- Although rentals can be up to 6 PM, poolside service ends at 5 PM and servers make a last call around 4:30 PM.
- Disney Vacation Club members receive a 10% discount for all beach rentals, which include casabellas and the executive lanai, as well as for the cabanas.
- During the week I spent at Aulani in August, I checked several times to see if there were any veranda casabellas or cabanas or the executive lanai available to reserve in the next few days. In all instances, they were already booked, and I heard more than one guest wish they had booked an additional day ahead of time. If you think you might want to enjoy premium pool seating during your stay, I recommend that you reserve it as soon as possible. The cancellation policy is generous enough for you to make a decision just before or when you arrive. I was notified that my cabana rental could be cancelled up to 12 hours in advance. This way, after experiencing one day of luxury, you won’t be disappointed if there is no more availability during your stay. Also, requests for specific cabanas or cabana areas are granted based on the order in which cabanas are reserved.
Like many people visiting Aulani, you will likely find that experiencing the pools, water slides, and lazy river of the Waikolohe Valley is a focus of your visit. The resort’s various premium seating options offer an excellent way to enhance your vacation.