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Disney’s Aulani Is Now Open. But There’s a Catch

All Photos Courtesy Of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Unless you can show Mickey proof of residency, you’ll need a negative COVID-19 test result to visit the Hawaiian Mouse House.

After closing in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, is open again for sun, sand, and all the Mickey-shaped shave ice. The 21-acre, beachfront resort on Oahu started a phased reopening November 1 with limited capacity, limited amenities, and rules that are far more strict than Walt Disney World’s reopened hotels. Because, unlike Florida, you need something to get into Hawaii: a negative COVID-19 test result.

Aulani’s reopening is part of Hawaii’s new pandemic security for all passengers flying to the islands. It replaces a more stringent policy, but there are still logistics to juggle, and Aulani won’t look the same once you get there. Like other Disney destinations currently open, popular amenities and activities at Aulani have been modified or canceled for health and safety. But the beach, the Disney magic, and the aloha spirit are all still there. If you’re thinking of visiting, here’s everything you need to know for Aulani’s reopening, from what’s open and closed to the records you’ll need to fly to Oahu.

Visiting Hawaii in a Pandemic

This year, the Aloha State has been iron-fisted on travel, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine policy for all tourists. And it’s working. Hawaii’s cases are significantly less than most of the country. Currently, the state is fourth in the nation for the lowest case count and Hawaii is one of only four states with positive cases under 2% per 1,000 people. It’s reassuring to know that if you visit, you’re not visiting a hot zone. But the state of Hawaii wants some reassurance, too.

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Instead of a 14-day quarantine upon arrival, travelers from the mainland now have the option to get tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of a flight. Tests, which are required for all travelers ages five or older, must be an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test or NAAT. It’s part of the new Safe Travels program, which is kind of like going through customs.

Related: How to Get a COVID Test Before Traveling

Adults 18 and older must enroll in Safe Travels before flying. Once you have your negative test result, you upload it to your Safe Travels account. There’s also a health questionnaire that you have to answer 24 hours before your flight. Once completed, you’ll receive a QR code to show at the airport when you land in Hawaii. Additionally, at the airport, travelers will have a mandatory temperature check. If you pass, you can head to Aulani. If you don’t, you’ll need to get another COVID-19 test and quarantine until you have the results. The Hawaii Tourism Authority has a super handy graphic for all requirements. They even have an answer for what to do if your COVID-19 test doesn’t come in before your flight—you can still fly to Hawaii, but you have to quarantine until you get your results uploaded.

Creating a Resort Bubble

While not testing before flying to Hawaii is still possible, it’s not ideal as you’d have to book an additional 14 nights at Aulani to comply with the state’s mandatory quarantine policy. And if you only booked a standard room, that’s a lot of days with just a mini-fridge and a coffee maker. And no room service. Technically, you could hole up for two weeks ordering Instacart or Grub Hub, but you wouldn’t be able to go to the lobby yourself to collect. A bellman would have to deliver the orders to your room. Disney has confirmed this is an option, but it’s an expensive one as rooms start at more than $500 a night this month. To stay on the property without quarantining, guests must have either proof of Hawaiian residency or a negative COVID-19 test result. This is one of several rules that makes Aulani more thorough in its pandemic reopening compared to Disney World or its international parks. Aulani’s two reservation-only dining spots, ‘AMA‘AMA and Makahiki, are currently closed, but when they reopen, unlike other Disney hotel restaurants, temperatures will be taken at the door. According to the resort’s website, “Those with temperatures 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above will not be allowed entry; those in their party will not be allowed entry either.”

Masks are required for all guests ages two and older. And masks must be worn at all times throughout the resort. The three exceptions are eating, drinking, and swimming. Even lounging poolside means a mask. Social distancing reminders are on display around the property and Aulani has added additional cleaning measures, too. Guests will see a new sign in their room identifying 11 high-touch spots that have been disinfected. And towel and trash service are limited to every other day.

As for crowds, capacity is limited, and rooms are filling up fast—by locals. For the reopening, Disney is offering a 50%-off discount for Hawaiian residents and military (Oahu has major bases for the Army as well as the Marines, Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force) through December 22. Some of the locals taking advantage of the deal are Disney Hawaii Moms. The two Instagrammers (who wish to remain anonymous) cover Aulani, and during non-pandemic times, visit the resort every week. “We love Disney. And we love Aulani. And the mix of Disney and Hawaii. It’s so beautiful,” they said. But without a discount, they’re not so sure it’s worth it right now.

Modified Magic: Not Everything Is Reopening

Amid the pandemic, several of the most popular experiences aren’t available: the Laniwai Spa is closed, ukulele and hula lessons are unavailable, and in-person events such as chef tastings and photo tours aren’t happening. But the good news is most of the outdoor activities are still a go, such as the Waikolohe Stream lazy river, Rainbow Reef snorkeling, and the Tubestone Curl and Volcanic Vertical water slides. However, capacity is limited for social distancing, and according to the resort’s website, “reservations will be required for most activities with reduced capacity.” All of these spots plus pools and whirlpools will have reduced hours, too.

INSIDER TIPSpeaking of pools, there’s one change that couples dreaming of a getaway should know before getting that COVID-19 test: the Wailana adult pool is all ages right now.

Another big part of Aulani is the food, from Minnie Mouse-shaped musubi to mac nut cinnamon rolls, but a lot of dining isn’t available. The famous breakfast buffet at Makahiki is closed. In fact, the only eateries open are quick-service locations such as Ulu Cafe and The ‘Ōlelo Room. Character breakfasts are canceled, too, though Mickey, Minnie, and friends will make scheduled appearances throughout the resort from a distance.

There’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking of visiting. In some ways, Aulani is more strict than Disney parks right now, making it a safer Disney experience. But in some ways, it’s missing a lot of its value. That’s likely because Oahu and the islands of Hawaii are trying to balance an economy dependent on tourism against the health and safety of its people. Aulani is reopening at a dark time in the Disney community. Tens of thousands of cast members (Disney lingo for employees) were laid off last month, Disneyland is still shuttered, and Disneyland Paris just closed—again—as Europe braces for another surge in cases.

When asked how Hawaiians feel about mainlanders coming to visit in a pandemic, Disney Hawaii Moms replied, “It’s mixed because we don’t want the virus to spread anymore, but at the same time people need to go back to work.” Some of those people going back to work are the crew of Hawaiian Ocean Adventures. The Hawaiian-owned company operates canoe tours for Aulani (which Disney Hawaii Moms says it’s an absolute must-do) and will resume operations—with masks—on November 3. On the company’s Instagram account, they posted about finally raising their sails after eight months and signed off with “Malama Kekahi I Kekahi,” which means “Take Care of One Another.”

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