A SIDE TRIP FROM
Yesterland
Disney Goes Hawaiian, Part 26:
Aulani Guests: Will Walk for Food

Usually, I write about things that are gone from Disney parks. But not always. This is my 26th article about Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai‘i.

Today, we’ll take a quick look at 15 restaurants in walking distance from Aulani.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, June 6, 2014

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Crossing the street to the restaurants of Ko Olina Center and Ko Olina Station

There are good places to eat on-site at Aulani, with plenty of variety. Options range from quick refreshments to signature dining:

  • Resort counter service at Papalua Shave Ice, Rip Swirl Yogurt, Mama’s Snack Stop, Lava Shack, and One Paddle Two Paddle;
  • Beach counter service at Little ‘Opihi’s;
  • Grab-and-go at the Ulu Cafe;
  • Spa food at Laniwai Spa;
  • Poolside dining at Off the Hook;
  • Pupus (appetizers) at the ‘Ōlelo Room and its lanai;
  • Character buffets or casual dining at Makahiki;
  • Fine dining at ‘AMA‘AMA Contemporary Island Cooking.

But you’re not limited to the on-site restaurants of Aulani. All it takes is walking across the street or along the pathway that connects the nearby lagoons.

Aulani, the 21-acre Disney resort, is part of the 642-acre Ko Olina Resort development on the west coast of O‘ahu. There were already other restaurants at Ko Olina before Disney arrived on the scene. As Aulani neared completion, more restauranteurs saw an opportunity to serve hungry guests staying at the Disney resort.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Map data © Google; map edited by Werner Weiss

Map of the Ko Olina Resort, with Aulani marked by the number 1

The red numbers on the map above correspond to the numbers in captions under the restaurant photos below.

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to what’s available, along with some quick observations. For detailed opinions about each eatery, you can check “Kapolei, HI” in Yelp, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, and other online resources.

Let’s start the tour…

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Just Tacos at Ko Olina Center (location 2 on map)

Just Tacos is the third location of the Hawai‘i-based taqueria chain. The name is misleading because the menu actually offers a full spectrum of Mexican dishes—not just tacos. Its tequila bar offers 300 different types of tequila. Despite the full menu, it feels more like a drinking spot than a place for families to dine.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Sushi YuZu at Ko Olina Center (location 2 on map)

Aulani does not have a Japanese restaurant, so it’s natural that a sushi place opened across the street. Named after an Asian citrus fruit, YuZu emphasizes organic ingredients.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Pizza Corner at Ko Olina Center (location 2 on map)

Pizza Corner makes New York style pizza with all the traditional toppings you would expect from pizza of the Empire State. If you want your pizza to reflect the Aloha State, you can order Kalua Pork Pizza—kalua pork with fresh mango salsa, mango chutney, mozzarella, and green onions.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Ko Olina Hawaiian Bar-B-Que at Ko Olina Center (location 2 on map)

All over Hawai‘i, quick-service chains and local spots offer something called a “plate lunch,” which is typically Asian-influenced chicken, seafood, or beef served with two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

At Ko Olina, the “plate lunch” place is Ko Olina Hawaiian Bar-B-Que at Ko Olina Center. Try the BBQ chicken or grilled fish. If all that white rice and macaroni salad seems like too much starch, have one or two scoops of brown rice instead.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman at Ko Olina Station (location 3 on map)

Chef and restaurateur Peter Merriman is a culinary legend in Hawai‘i, and a meal at his Monkeypod Kitchen demonstrates why. The busy two-story eatery offers a wide range of choices—such as wood fired pizza, hamburgers, tacos (try the Bulgogi Pork Tacos), noodles (try the Saimin), or fresh seafood (try the Organic Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi)—with a wide range of prices.

The value is good for a Hawaiian resort area. In fact, it can be a bargain during Happy Hour, with specially-priced menu items and drinks from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 to 11:00 p.m. every day.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Island Country Market at Ko Olina Station (location 3 on map)

At Waikiki, ABC Stores seem to be on every block. In fairly small spaces, these convenience stores sell a wide range of souvenirs, groceries, alcohol, pool and beach toys, grab-and-go food items, health and beauty items (notably sunscreen), and macadamia nut gift packs. Prices are far more reasonable than at hotel-operated shops.

At Ko Olina, ABC operates a single larger, more upscale store. Along with an expanded grocery and wine selection, there’s an attractive deli offering sandwiches and prepared foods. Although there are a few tables outside, your best bet is to take your meal back to your room or villa, and enjoy it on your lanai.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlor at Ko Olina Station (location 3 on map)

The scoops at Two Scoops are Dave’s Ice Cream, a local favorite made on the island of O‘ahu. Oddly, there’s also an English tea room inside.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Island Vintage Coffee at Ko Olina Station (location 3 on map)

At Island Vintage Coffee, the emphasis is on gourmet 100% Kona coffee—brewed or packaged—but you can also get breakfast or lunch. One popular breakfast choice is the Acai Bowl with fruit, and honey, and granola.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Ushio Tei at JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa (location 4 on map)

Opened in 1993, the Ihilani was the first—and for a long time, the only—resort hotel at Ko Olina. Branded as a Nikko Hotel for most of its early years, it switched to the JW Marriott brand and a new owner in 1999.

Ushio Tei, the resort’s Japanese restaurant offers an authentic, high-quality Japanese buffet four nights per week.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Naupaka Terrace at JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa (location 4 on map)

Naupaka Terrace, the casual restaurant at the JW Marriott Ihilani, is a dependable choice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Choose from a mealtime buffet or the ala carte menu. The breakfast/brunch buffet is spectacular. The “Sunset Dinner Specials” menu provides great values—at least by Hawaiian resort standards—if you arrive between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (not available Saturday).

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Azul at JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa (location 4 on map)

Azul is the fine-dining restaurant at the JW Marriott Ihilani. The cuisine is Italian, while the ingredients are often local. This is one of three fine-dining restaurants at Ko Olina. The other two are ‘AMA‘AMA at Aulani and Roy’s at the Ko Olina Golf Course.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Starbucks at JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort & Spa (location 4 on map)

Aulani guests who want their Starbucks coffee fix don’t have to go far. The best part of this Starbucks is that you can enjoy your coffee and baked goodies in the beautiful lobby of the JW Marriott Ihilani.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine at Ko Olina Golf Course (location 5 on map)

Roy’s at Ko Olina is one of celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi’s six restaurants in the 50th state. (There are also a bunch of Roy’s locations on the mainland, but those are run by Bloomin’ Brands, Inc., best known for Outback Steakhouse.)

Chef Yamaguchi, Hawai‘i’s first-ever James Beard Award winner, pioneered Pacific Rim cuisine, bringing together Hawaiian seafood, Asian flavors, and classic European techniques. Roy’s at Ko Olina offers inventive sushi too.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Chuck’s Steak and Seafood at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club (location 6 on map)

Chuck’s Steak and Seafood is on the ground floor of the central tower of Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club. Most diners are probably staying at the Marriott timeshare resort, but Chuck’s is open to everyone.

The emphasis at Chuck’s is on beef, fish, and shellfish prepared in a straight­forward way—such as grilling or broiling—accompanied by a traditional side, such as french fries, rice, or a baked potato. A classic 1970s-style salad bar lets diners build salads with their favorite ingredients, as well as serving themselves soup, breads, and fresh fruit.

Sounds good, right? Simple can be better that complicated. Straightforward can be better than “too chefy.”

The promise of Chuck’s has kept me coming back, but I can’t say it’s ever really lived up to its promise for me. Maybe next time.

Restaurants near Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, at Yesterland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Longboards Bar & Grill at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club (location 6 on map)

Longboards (formerly Kolohe’s) is the other table service eatery at the Marriott timeshare resort. This unpretentious outdoor restaurant with great views of Lagoon 3 is a place to get something like a fish sandwich with fries or pupus and a tropical cocktail.

This concludes your tour. Did it make you hungry?


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Updated June 13, 2014.