I was not expecting to say this about our stay at Explorers Lodge at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, but here I go: I felt like I was in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii. And our two-night stay was so relaxing and fun that going into Disneyland park sometimes felt like an add-on. Yes, an add-on.

See this lobby? It’s six floors high and the air inside gently whispers into your ears as you float to the check-in counters. It says, “You’re safe, you made it. You’re on vacation now…”

A note about the current protest situation in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is located on the same island as Hong Kong International Airport, so we simply took a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport to Disneyland, and vice versa on our way home. We didn’t go into the city.

Explorers Lodge still has that fresh new hotel smell. It opened just a few years ago in April 2017 and it’s the newest and biggest hotel in the resort.

The other two hotels are Disneyland Hotel, which has a classic Victorian style, and then there’s Hollywood Hotel, which has a 1930s Hollywood theme. Both of those properties opened back in September 2005.

It took me a minute, but I quickly got used to seeing this stunning view outside our hotel room window.

We took a taxi from Hong Kong airport directly to Explorers Lodge. The ride is only about 15 minutes. Can you believe this was just four hours door-to-door from Taipei? It can take that long just to get from my place to Kenting and the resorts there are nothing like this. My gosh I wish they were.

You can pay a little extra for a room with sea views, but the garden view is beautiful as well. I mean, c’mon, look at scenery. It makes me feel instantly relaxed.

Our hotel room had some cute touches that made it known we were staying at a Disney hotel with an explorer theme, but they weren’t cutesy or over the top. FYI for those traveling with small babies, Explorers Lodge doesn’t offer cots, but they will install a bed guard for you.

I’m not a fan of little bottles for toiletries, but I appreciated the complimentary metal tin it came with. The shampoo and conditioner are from H2O+ (it’s like spa quality, yo) and they’re made in the US. Like a good guest, I took it all home. The tin is now storage for a bunch of my daughter’s color markers.

I’m not sure about the environmental math of a dedicated zip lock bag for used soap, but I’m a big believer in bar soap, so of course I took that home too.

Hello, Rain Drop Pool. Is it weird to say I found a swimming pool breathtaking? Because I might have actually gasped. If you think that’s odd, it’s very possible I’ve lived in Taiwan for a long time without access to a beautiful pool.

There’s a roped off shallow section for little kids. Plus lots of pool toys, children’s life jackets and even pool-side service for sandwiches and drinks. If you’re there in the afternoons, a Disney character comes out to join the kids for a pool party.

There are plenty of lounge chairs and cabanas too. Since Hong Kong Disneyland park doesn’t open until 10:30am, the pool was very popular in the mornings. One of the cutest things I saw was all the Disney character stuffed animals sitting on the chairs while their owners were swimming.

I loved thoughtful touches like bug repellent underneath beach umbrellas, and the mini bathrobe in our room for the kid.

This probably won’t shock you, but the best food we ate on our trip was in Explorers Lodge, not inside Disneyland park. There are three restaurants in the hotel.

Chart Room Cafe on the lower floor is a casual dining lifesaver. They serve a small menu of items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Below: braised beef short ribs with mushrooms off the dinner menu ($150HK). So comforting and filling after a long day of rides and walking. Here’s their menu.

On our third and last day, we sat down for a proper lunch at the stunning World of Color restaurant. They have an a la carte menu but sadly no visits from Disney characters. Below: my roast chicken with couscous and roasted vegetables ($288HK). Here’s their menu.

To see Mickey or his buds in a restaurant setting, you’ll need to dine at Dragon Wind instead. As special as it would have been to have Mickey drop by our table, we just didn’t feel like having Chinese buffet. Maybe next time.

Chart Room Cafe also has fridges with necessities and healthy snacks you can pick up and take back to your room or to the pool. This is so crucial I can’t even tell you. Seeing these shelves actually made me emotional.

There’s milk and yogurt for the kids. Fresh sandwiches too. For the adults, there’s beers, wine and spirits. Plus fruit cups and salad cups. The grocery section has Pocky, chips and other snacks.

You can also order specialty cakes to enjoy in the restaurants, but you’ll need to do it 48 hours ahead of time. When my daughter saw the irresistible Duffy chocolate mousse cake below ($450HK), she pointed at it, she nodded her little head and simply said, “yes”.

I didn’t realize this until our first day, but Hong Kong Disneyland park doesn’t open until 10:30am in the mornings, and it closes at 7:30pm/8pm in the evenings, so your days aren’t crazy long.

For those morning and after-dinner moments when the kids absolutely have to run free and burn off energy, Nemo’s Recreation Reef is a fantastic indoor space inside the hotel to let them go wild. Tip: bring socks for everyone to wear inside the playroom, otherwise you’ll need to buy some on the spot.

The kids will also love the Trading Post gift shop. The stuff sold there is the same as most of the merchandise sold inside the park, plus you get some $10HK vouchers as hotel guests.

We didn’t pack a swimsuit for my girl (rookie mistake), so we bought one for her here. I also picked up some Hong Kong Disneyland cookie tins that were 50% off. Apparently I’m a Disneyland tin box collector now.

Explorers Lodge is located in between Disneyland Hotel and Hollywood Hotel, and you can reach both neighboring hotels by taking a stroll along the waterside path. They’re about 15 minutes in each direction.

If you have the time, I suggest checking out all the properties and the activities for kids they have throughout the day. Hollywood Hotel has a piano-shaped pool and Disneyland Hotel has a garden maze.

But honestly, on clear days with good air quality, nothing beats a lovely stroll around the gardens at Explorers Lodge…

Some serious Hawaii vibes, am I right? Even Minnie thought so.

Thanks to the team at Hong Kong Disneyland for arranging our stay at Explorers Lodge. We paid for an extra night ourselves and will absolutely be coming back. All opinions are mine.