O'AHU, Hawaii (KGO) -- Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, is known for its Disney characters adorning Aloha wear and guests spending hours laying out on the beach. But, for visitors who embrace the ingrained Hawaiiana of the space and become a part of the Aulani family, "the ohana," the resort truly comes to life.
ABC7 Mornings Anchor Reggie Aqui first visits Aulani employee Uncle Mahina recounting the traditional tale of Maui and Moana to an eager crowd. With the ocean as his backdrop, he extends his arms to illustrate a fish sailing through the air.
When asked about the importance of telling these stories, Uncle said, "Stories can excite your imagination. It can connect you to your home, to a place, to your family, to your community, to everyone around you."
Aqui then drops in to meet Moana, the adventurous teenager turned master way-finder. She is dressed in her signature outfit: a red Tapa top paired with layered skirt lined with seashells.
The next stop on Aqui's itinerary is the ultimate destination to relax and rejuvenate: Laniwai Spa.
Chasen Hasan, spa guest service manager, presents Aqui with a bowl of "pohaku maku mai's," sleek, gray stones engraved with Hawaiian words.
"We believe these stones have power or mana," Hasan said. "These are gonna be your focus during your stay here with us at Laniwai Spa."
Aqui picks out a stone with "lkahi" escribed on it - meaning harmony.
Hasan and Aqui walk into the room of "splendid light." A hallway opens to the serene room with a beam of light illuminating a shallow basin of water and rocks. A water droplet hovers above it in midair.
The scene "symbolizes the rain that will fall from the heavens down until it reaches the earth," Hasan said.
Aqui places his rock with the others, since Hawaiian culture teaches to return what is taken from the land.
The pair visit then stroll to the outdoor area of the spa, Kula Wai, or water source in Hawaiian. The area is complete with six rain showers that each respond to different reflexological points of the body, according to Hasan.
The true Aulani outfit consists of an Aloha shirt, shorts, slippers and for the Disney flair - ears.
At the Pau Hana Room, Aulani employee Michelle walks Aqui and his husband, Phil Heuring, through the process to make personalized, Hawaii-inspired Mickey ears.
To mimic their "extra" personalities, the couple picks out light-up ears and decorates them with flowers, leaves, bows and a turtle pin.
As Aqui ends his day, he asks Uncle about the message he would impart to Aulani's visitors.
He responds with, "I think it's to open your heart, to soften your heart, to slow down. To remember that Hawaii is not just a destination, it is a place, it is a home. This is someone's backyard, and so come and be a part of the family."
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