You’ll find artwork everywhere you turn at Aulani. Photo: Courtesy Walt Disney World

By Jill E. Cooper

If I have one regret from my college years, it would be that I didn’t find time in my schedule to study art. To a biology major with two minors and too little time, art history classes seemed frivolous and self-indulgent. Only later in life, as I started to explore the world with my son, did I fully grasp what an effective vehicle art can be for understanding cultures unlike our own. Fortunately, Disney’s Imagineers recognized early on how vital art would be to the telling of the story of Hawaii and her people. As they laid out the plans for Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa on the leeward coast of Oahu, they commissioned numerous artists to prepare works for the resort’s guests to discover. Currently, Aulani hosts one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the world; you’ll find more than 50 sculptures, paintings and wood carvings on resort grounds. A glimpse into the art of the islands is an essential part of the Aulani experience.

  • Take the guided tour, “Maka’ika’i, The Art and Culture of Aulani,” soon after you arrive. While you’ll easily discover much of the prominent artwork at this resort (like the breathtaking, two hundred-foot long mural by famed Hawaiian artist Martin Charlot that adorns the ceiling of the main lobby), there are many hidden treasures you may need help finding. For instance, don’t just dine at Makahiki on the ground floor of the resort; wander along its back wall to study the series of elegantly composed, jewel-toned murals that depict the island’s annual harvest festival. As you dine at a table in the center of this buffet restaurant, look overhead at the extravagant glass art installation. It playfully mimics the fish and fruit that would be consumed as part of the ancient festival feast. After dinner, make your way to the most charming pub I’ve ever experienced—the Olelo Room. Inspired by the “streamline moderne” aesthetic of the 1940s found in roadside diners throughout the Hawaiian islands, the walls of this charming retreat are lined with lustrous wooden shadow boxes, each showcasing everyday objects with their proper Hawaiian names. Can’t pronounce something? Just ask the friendly bartenders. Each Cast Member assigned to this space is fluent in the island’s native tongue.
  • Even the guest rooms come alive with the art of the islands at Aulani. Kapa cloth, produced from tree bark by generations of natives, served as the inspiration for the beds’ elegantly embossed duvet covers. Look closely at your headboard, bathroom door, and night stands to discover the clever butterfly joints used by Hawaiian artisans to repair their prized wooden calabash bowls. Accent pillows are made from retro Hawaiian floral print fabrics popular on the islands back in the 1930s and ’40s. The carpet leading out into the hallway mimics Polynesian makaloa mats, easily identified by their tightly woven surfaces accented by bold geometric shapes. You’ll feel like you’re inhabiting the coolest Hawaiian art museum anywhere!
  • And my favorite: you really need to see this! If I were asked to reveal my very favorite work of art at Aulani, I would take you directly to the registration desk. Behind it you will find a work of photographic art that takes my breath away. Composed of 138 separate photographs of Hawaii taken by children ranging in age from elementary school to high school, the collage draws in passers-by with its vibrant rainbow of colors. During my stay, I discovered something different to enjoy every time I walked by it.

So enjoy the sweeping ocean views, the glistening sandy beaches, and lush tropical foliage of Oahu when you visit Aulani, but be sure to take time to bask in the glory of Hawaiian art as well. Aloha!

Jill Cooper is a member of the 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel.
Panelists have received/will receive a Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disneyland Resort or Disney Vacation Club vacation for panelist and up to three family members and/or park tickets for their participation on the Walt Disney World® Moms Panel. The views expressed in the Panel are those of the panelists, who are independent contractors. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, its affiliates, its management, its agents or its employees and have not been reviewed or approved by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online prior to posting.

Tagged: Disney Insider


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.