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Popular Excursions and Day Trips from Disney Aulani | 2024

Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is located in Ko Olina on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It’s a fun destination for families and Disney fans alike, offering a mix of relaxation with just a little bit of pixie dust. The resort features a beautiful white sand beach, multiple pools, a lazy river, and a water slide. Plus, the resort is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, making it a great place to unwind and soak up some sun. Here are the best excursions and day trips to consider if you are staying at Disney Aulani.

day trips from Aulani Hanauma Bay
Samantha S./ Unsplash

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The Very Best Excursions from Disney Aulani

Byodo-In Temple

Byodo-In Temple is a non-practicing Buddhist temple located in the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The temple is a replica of the 900-year-old Byodo-In Temple in Uji, Japan, and was built to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple features a large, gold-plated statue of the Buddha and is surrounded by a beautiful garden with koi ponds and cascading waterfalls.

The temple is open to visitors and offers a serene and peaceful environment. Visitors can also ring the temple’s large bell, which is said to bring good luck.

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Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay is a place for snorkeling and swimming in a protected marine ecosystem. The views are stunning but a warning, Haunama Bay’s new reservation system can be frustrating. It was a bit pricy to reserve the spot at $25 but it was worth it and the money goes to preserve the bay. Reservations open up 2 days before at 9 am PST and they go very quickly. You are able to book up to 5 people per reservation. The price does not include parking.

You are able to rent snorkel gear on-site and they have showers and bathrooms. Hanauma Bay Sea Life Park is free for locals. There are a few food options at the top of the hill but we recommend bringing a picnic lunch down to the beach instead.

While not mandatory for adults, life jackets are highly recommended for children, non-swimmers, and anyone venturing beyond the calm inner bay. Currents can pick up outside the designated area, making a life jacket your safety net.

Remember, the concession stands don’t rent life jackets, so either pack your own Coast Guard-approved jacket or grab one from a snorkel tour operator. And most importantly, supervise kids closely, respect the signage, and swim within your limits. 

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is a historical site related to the attack on Pearl Harbor and marks the US entry into World War II. The most popular attraction at Pearl Harbor is the USS Arizona Memorial, which sits above the remains of the ship that was sunk during the attack and serves as a memorial to the sailors who lost their lives. Visitors can take a boat tour to the memorial and watch a short film about the attack before taking a self-guided tour.

day trips from Aulani pearl harbor
Robert L. / Unsplash

Overall, visiting Pearl Harbor is a sobering but powerful and educational experience that gives a glimpse into the tragic events of December 7, 1941, and the impact they had on the world. Be prepared for long lines, so make sure to book the tickets online in advance.

North Shore

The North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, great food, world-class surfing, and laid-back atmosphere. Some popular activities and things to do include:


The North Shore is famous for its big wave surfing, and during the winter months, surfers from all over the world come to catch some of the massive swells at spots like Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset Beach.

Hiking on the North Shore

There are many great hiking trails on the North Shore, such as the Ka’ena Point Trail, which offers stunning views of the coast and the chance to see Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles. There are two trails here, one being close to the water and one driving trail. If you’ve got time and want to enjoy the scenery, take the coast trail. If you’re looking to get to the point, and your time is limited, walk the road.

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is a fairly easy hike good for a trail run or to take pets and kids along. Parking is available at Sunset Elementary as well as along the main road and near Pipeline Beach Park. Root systems can be a tripping hazard but if you take it slow, even inexperienced and young hikers can have rewarding views at the top!

Food on the North Shore

The North Shore is known for its delicious food trucks and stands, where you can try local favorites like poke bowls, shave ice, and acai bowls. Our favorite places to get acai bowls are Crispy Grindz and Haleiwa Bowls.

For shave ice make sure to stop by Matsumoto’s Shave Ice. Another favorite of ours in Ted’s Bakery. Known for its delicious pastries and pies, Ted’s Bakery is a popular spot for breakfast or dessert. They are famous for their chocolate haupia cream pie.

While in North Shore Hawaii make sure to visit some of the iconic shrimp trucks in the area. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck and HONOS Shrimp Truck are our favorites! Additionally, you can also find shrimp and poke at the Haleiwa Farmers Market, which is open on Thursdays from 2 pm to 6 pm.

Visit the Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation is a popular tourist spot on the North Shore, where you can take a train tour of the pineapple fields, taste samples of pineapple products, and even try the world-famous pineapple Dole Whip. Curious about the journey of this tropical treat? Dive deep with a guided tour. Top it all off with a delicious island-inspired meal and refreshing Dole beverages at the Country Store. It gets crowded but we think it’s fun to see it just once.

day trips from Aulani dole plantation
Ashley H./ Unsplash

Dole Plantation is generally open from 9 am to 5 pm, the hours may vary seasonally.  Dole Plantation us just a 40-minute drive (22.6 miles) from Disney Aulani Resort.

Kualoa Ranch

Kualoa Ranch is a 4,000-acre ranch located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is a perfect day trip from Disney Aulani and is known for its scenic beauty and diverse activities, including horseback riding, ATV tours, and movie tours. The ranch has been featured in numerous films and television shows, including Jurassic Park, Lost, and 50 First Dates. Additionally, Kualoa Ranch offers a variety of outdoor activities such as zip-line, rock climbing, and hiking. The ranch also features a working cattle ranch and a cultural center that tells the history of the ranch and the area. 

Make sure to bring water and closed-toe shoes for whichever activity you participate especially any horseback ride or off-road ride in an ATV on Kualoa Ranch.  Kualoa Ranch often has muddy conditions so bringing an extra change of clothes is recommended.

Diamond Head

Day trips from Disney Aulani need to include Diamond Head. Diamond Head is a volcano located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It is a popular tourist destination known for its scenic hiking trail and views from the summit. The trail to the summit is a little less than a mile long and leads to the rim of the volcano, where visitors can see panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean. The hike is considered moderate in difficulty and takes about 1-1.5 hours round trip. Make sure to be prepared for steep inclines and staircases so sunscreen and a bottle of water are necessary.

Make sure to check trail conditions especially if it is raining on the island.  The trail is open from 6 am to 6 pm daily and there is an entrance fee to access the trail. At the summit, there is also a military bunker built in 1908 that visitors can explore. No need to join any hiking tours, visitors can hike up the stairs on their own after paying the entrance fee.

​Mokulua Islands

The Mokulua Islands, also known as the Twin Islands, are two small nature reserve islands off the coast of Oahu’s windward side and a short drive from the Kailua Beach Center. To get there from Aulani, you’ll need to book a boat tour launching or you can kayak from Kailua Beach or other windward spots, which is about a 1 hour drive from the resort. 

Pack water, food, sun protection and wear swimwear and snorkel gear to enjoy swimming, snorkeling and exploring the islands’ rocky shores and scenic viewpoints. 

Moku Nui is larger and requires some climbing across the rocks to see fully, while Moku Iki has a small beach for swimming and turtle spotting. Take care not to disturb the wildlife and nature. Sea conditions can change quickly, so pay close attention to tour operator safety guidelines and return times.

The Mokulua Islands make for a fun excursion from Aulani Resort. Booking with a qualified tour operator is a must. Come prepared for full days of swimming, snorkeling and light hiking. Keep safety in mind, and treat the fragile islands with respect. With the right preparations, a visit to the Mokulua Islands will make for an unforgettable Hawaiian adventure and a highlight of any Aulani Resort stay.

Popoia Bird Sanctuary (Flat Island)

This seabird sanctuary can be accessed by kayak or paddleboard from Kailua Beach. There’s a small sandy beach on the island where you can relax in the sun. However, the beach is not very big and can get crowded, especially on weekends. There are no amenities on the island, so be sure to pack everything you need, including food, water, sunscreen, and a hat. It’s also a good idea to wear shoes that you can wear in the water, as there are some sharp rocks around the island.

Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley is a 1,875-acre nature park and botanical garden located on Oahu’s North Shore, about a 40-minute drive from the Disney Resort. To visit, exit out the Ko Olina Resort, take H-1 West to H-2 North, and exit at Likelike Hwy to Kamehameha Hwy North to Waimea Valley Park.

The valley offers beautiful hiking trails, swimming at the waterfall, Hawaiian cultural activities like lei making, and exhibits on native plants and archaeological sites. Wear closed-toe shoes for hiking and bring water, sun protection, swimwear, and a towel. Visit the waterfall area for swimming and cliff jumping. Take a guided botanical tour or cultural class. Walk through the Hawaiian village replica and see shrines and canoe sheds. We recommend allowing 3-4 hours to see key exhibits and activities. Dining options include snack bars and a cafe. 

Waimea Valley offers stunning natural scenery and a unique look at Hawaiian culture. It makes for an enjoyable excursion from Aulani Resort.  Wear appropriate gear for hiking, swimming, and exploring the valley. We recommend partaking in cultural experiences and appreciate the preservation of Hawaii’s native ecosystem and heritage. Before you go, make sure to check trail conditions especially if it is raining on the island.

Circle Island Tour

Oahu’s Circle Island Tour is your chance to cruise around the whole island in one day, hitting up all the must-see spots and hidden gems. Kick-off this tour with epic views from Diamond Head, then snorkeling with colorful fish in Hanauma Bay. You’ll see the water spouting sky-high at the Halona Blowhole, gasp at the dramatic Pali Lookout, and find inner peace at the Byodo-In Temple (think Japanese gardens, not gym class!) 

Depending on the company you pick, you may be able to stop at the Dole Plantation. Check out the North Shore beaches and shrimp trucks, and if you’re feeling fancy, dive into Polynesian culture with a luau add-on. Comfy coach, expert guide, stunning sights – this tour packs it all in, leaving you stoked on Oahu’s chill vibes and diverse beauty.

Downtown Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu is another amazing excursion from Disney Aulani.  Witness the opulent reign of Hawaiian royalty at the Iolani Palace, then get lost in the vibrant tapestries of the Honolulu Museum of Art or the Bishop Museum. Guests can seek out and sand in awe beneath King Kamehameha’s towering statue.

Crave livelier experiences? Sway to local music at the historic Hawaii Theatre, or shop for hidden treasures in Chinatown’s labyrinthine alleys or nearby shopping centers. Visitors wanting a slower pace can visit Foster Botanical Garden or relax on the warm sand of Ala Moana Beach Park.

Foodies can indulge in a hearty lunch or dinner at local eateries and bakeries. Those seeking adventure can feel the ocean’s pulse by catching a wave at Waikiki Beach, or explore the underwater world with a stand-up paddleboard adventure. The beaches near Downtown Honolulu are a great spot to catch a sunset cruise.  From history buffs to art lovers and beach bums, downtown Honolulu offers a unique blend of culture, nature, and adventure waiting to be discovered.

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