Onaha on Oahu Hawaiian culture, not Mickey Mouse, takes center stage at the new Disney resort on Oahu. Guests who first set foot on the 21-acre oceanfront grounds of Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, expecting theme park rides or a lei greeting from Goofy may be disappointed: At this Oahu property, which opened in 2011, it’s all about Hawaiian heritage. But what Aulani (delightfully) lacks in cartoon kitsch, it makes up for by respectfully honoring the Hawaiian culture, from its décor and cuisine to its lush setting.
A Disney resort, Aulani naturally beckons families, offering young guests several ways to learn about ancient traditions: hula lessons at Aunty’s Beach House (the complimentary kids’ club), legend-telling around a fire, or bracelet weaving in a welcoming community room. Adults aren’t left out of the fun, though; in The ‘Olelo Room lounge, objects are labeled with Hawaiian terms, and bartenders greet patrons in Hawaiian.
Activities include two water slides, a lazy river, a zero-depth-entry pool, an 18,000-square-foot Laniwai Spa, a fitness center filled with top-of-the-line equipment, and paddleboards and kayaks. A paved recreation path connects neighboring lagoons in the quiet Ko Olina resort community on southwest Oahu, about a 45-minute drive from Waikiki (in minimal traffic).
When completed in 2013, Aulani will comprise 359 rooms and suites and 481 Disney Vacation Club villas. Blending Hawaiian heritage with Disney’s attentive customer service, Aulani offers multi-generational guests a magical vacation in a serene tropical setting. Just leave your mouse ears at home.
Worth the Wait The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort opened in November as Tobago’s newest resort in more than a decade. The 200-room oceanfront hotel features five dining options, an 18-hole golf course, expansive beachfront, and multiple swimming pools, including a free-form pool with cabana beds. All 200 guestrooms, ranging from doubles and kings to one- and two-bedroom suites with private Jacuzzis, feature a private balcony or terrace with an ocean view and private baths with deluxe amenities. Magdalena Grand’s activities include the 18-hole Tobago Plantations Golf and Country Club, an expansive fitness center, a diving center and training pool, tennis, cycling, jogging, and numerous attractions and adventures. Rates start at $270 per night. Those booking from January 5 to April 14 will receive a 15 percent discount.
Divine Diving Captain Don’s Habitat on Bonaire, in the Southern Caribbean about 50 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela, unveiled 12 newly built deluxe oceanfront junior suites in the fall of 2011. The suites are outfitted with flat-panel TVs, clock radios with iPod docks, and laptop safes. Additional features include full baths with tubs and hairdryers and mini-bar areas finished with granite-topped bars, sinks, small fridges, microwaves, and coffee makers. Each suite’s private patio or balcony has outdoor furniture designed for relaxing or lounging, and a small breakfast table. Guests enjoy oceanfront dining, a bar and pool, and a day spa; they can stay connected with free WiFi service. The oceanfront resort also caters to scuba divers and features a new and expanded full-service PADI 5-Star dive center. Divers can partake in boat dives daily to pristine reefs and enjoy 24-hour unlimited shore diving.