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Review: Thanksgiving at Aulani’s Makahiki Buffet

I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving day this year at Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa on Oahu with family and friends. Though we were staying on the other side of the island, we couldn’t resist the chance to make the drive to Ko Olina to check out Disney’s newest resort and enjoy a Hawaiian Thanksgiving sprinkled with Disney magic. First impression of Aulani: spectacular! The food, well, that’s another story…

Aulani offered a special Thanksgiving event with entertainment and character appearances ($85 per adult and $73 per child – ouch!). Our party, a mix of adults and kids, opted instead for the buffet dinner at Makahiki, which at $40 for adults and $20 per child is reasonably priced as Hawai’i resort dining goes, and we figured it would offer something to suit everyone’s taste.

I had high hopes for the Makahiki buffet, a spacious area with subtle and soothing tropical decor that opens to a sunny patio. But truth be told, the food was predictable, not much was memorable or worth seconds, (but luckily there was plenty to try!).

They served up dozens of offerings, including traditional Thanksgiving turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and marshmallow-topped yams, and a wide array of Asian-dishes and island fare, such as teriyaki beef spare ribs, tempura, sushi, Dim Sum and Pork Lau Lau. It was no surprise that Disney also catered especially to the keikis (that’s Hawaiian for “little ones”), with an offering of pizza, hot dogs and mac & cheese, served from a kid-height buffet table.

Most buffet items didn’t deliver on the “flavorful” description that is touted in Makahiki’s marketing. The turkey was dry and one of the kids at our table described the cheese pizza as “tasting boring in my mouth”. However, the Pork Lau Lau was definitely interesting. The chef described its preparation as a hearty portion of shredded pork wrapped in spinach and then bundled in taro leaves, which is then steamed. It was a novelty to unwrap the taro leaves, like a present, and the pork was fairly tasty. Dessert was where I discovered the one shining star – the Haupia (coconut) sweet bread pudding, which was moist and flavorful and so good I ate it before I could remember to take a picture of it for you all. But trust me, it was delicious.

Regarding Aulani’s service, we experienced nothing but top-notch Disney magic not only during our meal but as we explored the resort. Each Cast Member we encountered truly embodied the spirit of aloha.

So would I recommend Makahiki? For price and service, absolutely; if you’re a foodie you might want to try one of Aulani’s other restaurants (Ama Ama has good buzz). If you’re a Disney fan who has dined at any of the resorts, this will likely be in line with what you’ve experienced at the Parks, with the added bonus of being in a stunning tropical setting. So really, you can’t go wrong.

4 thoughts on “Review: Thanksgiving at Aulani’s Makahiki Buffet”

  1. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the Aulani for Thanksgiving. Our flight home was in the evening of Thanksgiving so we enjoyed the Thanksgiving lunch plate special at AMA AMA and it was delish. They served us turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry and salad for $24.00 per person. It was so much food and so good. We loved that we had a view of the ocean while dining too. Loved the Aulani!

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