I’m at Aulani, the new Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu, this week with dozens of other travel writers, mom bloggers, broadcast journalists and radio reporters. This much-anticipated Hawaii resort opened to the public August 29, and this week celebrates its grand opening with a media blitz and over-the-top festivities. I’ll have lots to detail about the kid-friendly nature of the oceanfront property in the coming weeks here on TheVacationGals.com — the family-centric guest-room amenities, the out-of-this-world water-play and pool area, the Aunty’s Beach House kids’ club combine to make this one of the best family resorts in Hawaii, for sure. But I couldn’t go another day without highlighting one aspect of Aulani that focuses on adults: its spectacular Laniwai Spa. The signature treatments, the thoughtful facilities, the warm Cast Members (don’t call them spa employees at a Disney resort!), and the incredible outdoor hydrotherapy garden make it one of the best spas in Hawaii, hands down.
I flew overnight to Oahu, arriving at the property at 6:30 a.m. yesterday. I knew I would be feeling a bit wrecked from the red-eye flight, yet too wired and excited about being in Hawaii to go to sleep right away, so I’d booked a decadent, 80-minute signature treatment — the Magical Nui, a coconut body scrub/mask with coconut oil scalp massage — for 9 a.m. I arrived at the spa at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until almost noon! Yes, it’s that good. Once you set foot into the soothing sanctuary, after being waited on hand and foot by gracious spa attendants (“Can I get you some hot tea, Ms Williams?”) and soaking in outdoor mineral tubs, it’s really hard to leave.
The entrance to the spa is light and airy, with a pretty illuminated rainbow feature behind the welcome desk:
Before you enter the spa treatment area, you select a “wishing stone” that will be your thought that you will focus on for the day — mine was “Happiness.” Words are printed in English and Hawaiian on the smooth river rock:
Then you walk down the dimly lit “transformation corridor,” leaving your cares and worries behind:
In the circular core of the spa, you return your stone to a shallow pool, which is filled via a nifty teardrop-shaped water feature from above:
I was led through the spacious women’s locker room (with eucalyptus steam room and dry sauna) and shown the Relaxation Room, where I was to wait for my practitioner. Later, when I did return to sit for a few minutes before my treatment, attentive spa hosts came by with fresh pineapple water, plus with warm compresses for my neck and eyes — so soothing:
Laniwai Spa’s piece de resistance is Kula Wai, the outdoor hydrotherapy garden, with two herbal pools ( a green one infused with seaweed to help purify the body from toxins, and a blue one with eucalyptus to help soothe sore muscles and prepare them for treatments), a jetted hot tub, a cold plunge pool, a reflexology foot path and six phenomenal outdoor rainshowers. With a number of lounge chairs, plus attentive staff members who check on guests and bring them ice water, hot tea or cold orange juice (or mimosas or any room-service food items), it’s easy to spend a lot of time in the outdoor sanctuary. You can stay as long as you like before or after your treatment, but once you leave Laniwai Spa for the day you cannot return.
Finally, spa guests can blend their own complimentary Hawaiian body polish at the mixology station called Pulu, which means “to make soft, soak, moisten, saturate.” My lovely spa attendant Beccah had me smell a variety of different aromas — including hibiscus, plumeria and pineapple — then she mixed drops of the essence I chose (the maile flower) with soft cane sugar and olive oil and put the scrub in a to-go container for me to use in the indoor shower at Laniwai or take home with me:
Laniwai Spa is not just for adults. Guests can enjoy Ohana Massage, where 3 to 6 family members are schooled in the art of lomilomi massage in a special family suite. Also, Painted Sky is an adjacent facility just for teens. It features a do-it-yourself mixology station (see photo below), where teen guests can make their own body polishes, perfume and face masques, as well as special treatment areas for manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. It’s also a teen hangout spot with computer stations stocked with video games. Anyone can drop in to the Painted Sky yogurt bar for soft-serve yogurt and candy mix-ins!
If you are vacationing at Aulani with your family, I highly recommend taking the time to relax, rejuvenate, get balanced and get happy at Laniwai Spa. Truly, it is a very special place, and one worth saving your pennies for. Indeed, services are expensive — my Magical Nui body treatment cost $260. But I know any true spa aficionado would appreciate fully the amenities, gracious service and excellent treatments at Laniwai.
If you’re not convinced, here’s a great overview video from Disney. Spa Director Lucia Rodriguez Amasio details what a guest’s journey at Laniwai entails:
Thanks to Disney’s Aulani for hosting me at the resort and subsidizing the cost of my meals and spa treatment, er, treatments — I have a lomilomi massage scheduled later this week!