By Steve MacNaull
Hawaiian vacation includes snorkeling, a luau and bunking at a Disney resort.
A half a kilometer off the west coast of O’ahu, Matthew Solomona is in the midst of an esoteric explanation of why the water is so blue. It has something to do with the Pacific Ocean being a prism that captures and concentrates the wavelengths of all the azure in the visible light spectrum. It’s very informative. But really, all we want to do is submerge ourselves in this aquarmarine stuff. So, my wife and I and our 15-year-old daughter grab the snorkel gear provided on the Hawaii Nautical catamaran tour and take the plunge.
The water is warm and clear as clear with a coral reef five metres below teeming with tropical fish, yellow tangs, triggerfish and surgeonfish. Our guide, Matthew, is soon by our side. However, with the mouthpiece of the snorkel in he can’t spout any more science speak. He makes due with diving down to the reef to retrieve starfish, octopus and pencil urchins for us to have a closer look at. He points out green sea turtles and more colourful fish. All in all, it’s an idyllic way to spend day No. 3 on O’ahu.
We’re on vacation at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Ko Olina on the leeward side of the island, west of Honolulu. While Aulani is a spectacular 1,000-room-and-suite oceanfront hotel with a palm-fringed crescent beach, pools with lazy river and waterslides and myriad options for eating, drinking and entertainment, the resort recognizes people may want to occasionally stray to see other parts of O’ahu.
That’s how we find ourselves signed up for Aulani’s Holoholo Tours’ half-day catamaran outing with Hawaii Nautical. Hololholo also offers excursions like horseback riding at Kualoa Ranch and surfing lessons. Other than the catamaran foray, we’re more than content to stay put at Aulani. The resort bills itself as Hawaii first, Disney second. As such, Aulani features Disney’s quality hospitality in a Hawaiian setting.
To amp that up, Aulani recently launched the four-times-a-week Ka Wa’A Luau, a traditional feast complete with full roasted pig and poi and authentic hula dance show. The pounding pahu and ipu drums, fire torches, shimmering dance and storytelling is not only eye candy, but culturally accurate.
Before Hawaiians had a written language, hula was a way connecting to the land, water, sky and gods and expressing everything from history, genealogy and mythology to harvest, beauty and love. As such, hula can be anything and everything from demure to sensual. The dance was almost stamped out by missionaries who thought it unreligious. Fortunately, Hawaiian King David mandated it restored in 1874. Since this is Disney, Mickey and Minnie do make a quick appearance at the beginning of the show to show off their hula skills. But in keeping with the Hawaii first, Disney second mantra, the only other place you’re likely to find the pair is at the daily Character Breakfast at the Makahiki buffet restaurant.
The other Disney-Hawaii tie in is the 2016 animated flick Moana. An actress costumed as the strong-willed daughter of a Hawaiian chief can frequently be seen roaming the resort, always willing to have her photo taken with you. The Disney touch also means the resort caters to everyone from families with kids of all ages and multi-generational groups to couples and singletons. So Aunty’s Beach House, named after a favourite Hawaiian relative, provides child care with culturally attuned programming including hula lessons, lei making and fish feeding. Even the spa is family-friendly.
Our ‘Ohana Means Family’ experience at Laniwai Spa features lomilomi massage for all three of us featuring the masseuse’s hands working in a hula pattern, foot massages and time in the outdoor hydrotherapy garden hopping between a dozen plunge pools and showers of differing temperatures and pressure. The most memorable meal of the week is off the new menu at high-end Ama Ama where the catch-of-the-day hapuupuu fish is perfect with lomilomi sauce, so named because its butter and tomatoes are combined by hand using a hula motion. Check out DisneyAulani.com.