by Christine Koubek
The Polynesian Village Resort was one of Walt Disney World’s first resorts, opening in October 1971 (along with the Contemporary Resort), to coincide with the debut of Disney’s first Florida theme park — Magic Kingdom. The Grand Floridian followed in 1988, Wilderness Lodge in 1994. Now all four make up what is considered the Magic Kingdom area resorts. While all are in close proximity to Disney’s flagship park, each has its own distinct vibe.
The Polynesian is a colorful island casual to Grand Floridian’s crisp white Victorian-era elegance; warm to the Contemporary’s cool; and spread out across nine longhouse buildings instead of vertically designed from one central soaring lobby, as is the case at Wilderness Lodge.
And speaking of spreading out, the Polynesian’s 409-square-foot standard guestrooms are larger than almost all other Disney resorts (Wilderness Lodge standard rooms, for example, are 340 square-feet).
The resort’s lobby, guestrooms, and kids’ club underwent an extensive refurbishment — or re-imagination as the Disney folks like to call it — that began in 2013 and is in its final stages with the renovation of the property’s smaller East Pool.
One of the first things repeat guests will notice (Polynesian has one of the highest guest return rates of the Disney resorts) is that the place has become a whole lot brighter, from lighter bed linens and room accents, to the now sun-filled Great Ceremonial House, home to restaurants, shops, and check-in.
For decades, a massive tropical garden occupied the center bulk of the Ceremonial House and condensation from the foliage and trees often darkened (and dirtied) the glass ceiling. Not anymore. The new lobby is breathtaking, with colorful nautical bulbs suspended from the clear glass ceiling, a smaller tropical hibiscus garden center stage and seating areas with oversized rattan chairs and plump sofas.
In addition, two of Polynesian’s former longhouses were completely gutted and transformed into 360 deluxe studio villas. Those villas, combined with the newly constructed 20-over-the-water two-bedroom Bora Bora Bungalows form the new Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, Disney’s newest Vacation Club Resort.
While parents will appreciate the resort for its spaciousness, we originally fell in love with it for its volcano pool, meandering pathways and streams (where you frequently spot lizards, rabbits and ducklings), and large soft-sand beach.
Our Editor Loves
- Bright guestrooms
- Fun entertainment venues
- Easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Thanks to the transfer of two longhouses to the new Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, the number of Polynesian Village resort rooms decreased from 847 to 484, all housed in the buildings closest to the Grand Ceremonial House and located in two-to-three-story "longhouses," and accessed through interior corridors. First floor rooms offer private patios and upper floors have balconies. Inside you'll find a nice new tropical motif with exotic prints balanced by new solid white comforter covers, bamboo-style fixtures, and nice "rain" style glass on interior doors.
The majority of the resort's standard rooms have two queen-size beds and a day bed, sleeping five. Thirty-three rooms were converted to Polynesian's first king-bedded rooms during the refurbishment. They're perfect for couples or families traveling with one child.
Additional room amenities include an armoire with a flat-screen TV, desk, full-size hair dryer, coffeemaker, small refrigerator, safe, free Wi-Fi, and use of playards. Rollaway beds are not available. While most of the rooms are identical, the views are not and pricing depends on the views.
These rooms have the widest variety of views, some -- gardens, pool, marina -- better than others. They are located by the monorail or parking areas.
Lagoon View rooms overlook Seven Seas Lagoon.
Theme Park View
These overlook Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, and many feature views of the nightly fireworks show.
Once you've selected a view (price) category from above, a building preference can be noted -- although not guaranteed -- in your reservation. Tips: For a room with a pool view, request the Samoa building. Rarotonga and Niue are closest to the Ceremonial House and a short walk to pools, too, and many rooms in Fiji are priced at standard view rates, but have partial views of the lagoon or marina.
Tonga longhouse is home to all suites including the Honeymoon Jr. Suite, one-to-two bedroom suites that can accommodate up to six people, and the King Kamehameha two-story suite, two-bedroom suite. Suites offer assorted extras like whirlpool tubs, clock/iPod docking stations, two to three bathrooms, mini-kitchens and dining room areas (in the larger suites). Access to the concierge club in Hawaii longhouse, as well as Tonga's own club lounge, is included.
Concierge Club Rooms
These are located in Hawaii longhouse and similar to the other resort rooms, however, club level guests receive added perks, such as complimentary newspapers, evening turndown service, a flat-screen TV with DVD player, and access to the King Kamehameha Club concierge staff who help arrange everything from pre-arrival itinerary planning to restaurant, golf and spa reservations. They're also a great resource for park and restaurant advice.
The club itself has a loft and offers a fantastic view of the Magic Kingdom's fireworks with the soundtrack piped in. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., it serves continental breakfast each morning, afternoon snacks (think tea sandwiches, cheeses, veggies and cookies), and wine, beer, after-dinner drinks and dessert in the evening.
Note: All rooms are non-smoking. Designated smoking areas can be found outside and on a few decks adjacent to longhouses.
We stayed at the Polynesian during Marathon weekend. My daughter was running the half marathon, and we wanted quick access to the monorail to get to Epcot on race morning. We had stayed at the Polynesian 24 years ago and LOVED it. Interestingly, I didn't feel much had changed in 24 years. Don't get me wrong. Staying at this resort is VERY nice, but I felt some of the buildings and rooms are starting to look dated and could use an upgrade. At $600 per night, I expect five stars. What we got was a standard room with two beds. Some of the outlets in our room didn't work or were sticky. Toilet was showing its wear. Toilet paper holder was broken. It was the little details. On the positive side, it was exceptionally quiet. I slept well and didn't hear a peep from any other guests at night There are many other perks too....the monorail to Magic Kingdom and Epcot is so convenient. The ferry ride to the magic kingdom is another great option. Watching fireworks at the Magic kingdom on your beach at night is great, and we were thrilled to see the musical parade on the lagoon still active 24 years later. Don't miss it if you stay at the Polynesian. Customer service was top notch...every Disney employee were encountered met or exceeded our expectations.
Our family of 5 (kids ages: 19-15-9) made a quick stop at Disney on our way home. We stayed at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. We had a room with 2 queen beds, sofa sleeper and a pull down bed from the wall. If we go again I will definitely get another room for us. The room had 2 bathrooms-that was a huge plus for us. The hotel was very clean and the service was excellent! We ordered room service a few times and the servers were extremely friendly. The food on the room service menu was delicious. The crab cakes and cheesecake were some of our favorites! The pools were clean and the staff was friendly. We had a great 2 day here and it was a great way to celebrate the New Year!
The Lava Pool, located between the Great Ceremonial main house and the beach, is often the kid-favorite due to its "volcano," waterfall, and 142-foot-long waterslide. A zero-depth entry slopes into the pool that reaches a depth of 4.5 feet. A variety of games take place each afternoon from 1 to 5 p.m., including water balloon and Hula Hoop games, relays, Disney trivia, and the newly added "Disney Junior Pool Party," with sing-alongs and activities inspired by favorite Disney Junior shows.
Nestled between longhouses and landscaping, the East Pool closed in mid-July 2015, and is undergoing an extensive renovation. The pool is scheduled to reopen in the spring of 2016 with a new gradual-entry entrance.
Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pool hours and lifeguard availability change seasonally. Swim diapers are required for children who aren't toilet trained and are available at Moana Mercantile in the main house. Be sure to study the monthly Recreation Calendar (given at check-in) for pool hours and activity times.
Kiki Tikis Splash Play
Designed for children 48 inches tall and shorter, this shallow water play area has two small slides, a bridge to climb and cross, and tikis squirting water.
A night out at Lilo's is a bit like going to a fun birthday party, complete with take-home goodie bags filled with stickers, kazoos (depending on theme), and other treats. Here, kids age 3 to 12 play in castle- and pirate-themed play areas inspired by the six classic Golden Book tales framed in the center's entrance: "Peter Pan," "Alice in Wonderland," "Pinocchio," "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp," and Winnie the Pooh's "Grand and Wonderful Day."
Activities include everything from costume dress-up to arts and crafts, and catching rings from a Captain Hook style hand. The center is open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. The rate is $15 per hour, per child, and includes dinner choices from Kona Cafe. Meals are served at 6:30 or 8. While the center can accommodate up to 45 kids -- served by four to five counselors -- the space books up with children from other Disney resorts, as well as the Polynesian. Reserve a spot in advance by calling 407- WDW-DINE.
The court is located on the beach between the Hawaii and Tahiti longhouses. Volleyballs are available (complimentary) at Seven Seas Marina.
Learn About Polynesian Culture
Learn to "Yaka Dula Keiki Hula" (hula dance) in the lobby, Tuesdays through Saturdays at 3:45 p.m. Auntie Kaui, a hula dancer and instructor with 50 years experience, is loved by repeat guests and leads many of the classes. That same front corner of the Ceremonial House is dedicated to kids with mini tables and chairs for coloring, and a TV showing Disney flicks.
Movies Under the Stars
Disney movies (rated G or PG) are shown each night at 9 p.m. at the beach. Check the Recreation Calendar for show listings.
Seven Seas Marina
Here, you can rent a Boston Whaler 170 Montauk ($45 per half hour for six guests), a 21'-foot SunTracker family pontoon boat ($45 per half hour for up to eight guests) or a Sea Raycer mini powerboat, which teens can operate ($32 per half hour or $45 per hour).
You can also book a captained pontoon specialty cruise. The 21' SunTracker family pontoon boat ($299 for up to 8 guests) or a 25-foot that accommodates up to 10 guests ($349) includes snacks and soft drinks service. Additional private dining is available for an extra fee. These cruises run morning, afternoon, and evening. Prices vary based on time. Evening cruises allow you to drop anchor and watch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks show. Water skiing, tubing and wake boarding are also available. Visit the marina for more information and reservations.
Pirate Adventure Cruise
Kids can board the pirate ship at the Grand Floridian Marina, then visit "ports of call" along Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon to follow clues and discover treasure. Voyages run Monday through Saturday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and include a snack and drink. The Pirate Adventure Cruise is geared toward potty-trained kids ages 4 to 12.
Arcadia Games (Located at Grand Floridian)
Once the Mouseketeer Club, this former kids' club area has been transformed into an arcade filled with classic games, such as Donkey Kong and Star Wars, plus air-hockey and the "claw," the arcade game made popular by "Toy Story"; this one is full of plush Disney characters for the claw to attempt to grab. Arcadia is open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Bou-Tiki (main floor, Great Ceremonial House), is filled with island themed Disney paraphernalia. The store won a National Merchandising Award for its unique design based on Polynesian tiki lore. According to the legend, tikis were mischievous thieves (a sort of leprechaun cousin) and were said to "freeze" at the first sign of the sun's rays. The story goes that one night the sun came up very early while the tikis were prowling the store and now here they are -- "frozen" -- in various states of mischief.
Located on the Great Ceremonial House's second floor, Moana is the place to buy toys, treats and necessities of all kinds, from boxes of Entenmann donuts and Ritz crackers, to pints of Haagan Daz ice cream, yogurt, and milk. The mini pharmacy-like section has rain ponchos ($10), a good selection of adult and children's medicines, shampoos, lotions, pony-tail holders, and other odds and ends.
The resort's dining options range from grand-and-go outlets to a family-friendly cafe, plus a restaurant that's home to character breakfasts. While there aren't any new or particularly romantic restaurants, Grand Floridian offers several more excellent dining options just a 10- to 15-minute minute stroll away, along a lakeside path (or a short boat ride across the lagoon). See our review of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort review for restaurant information.
Cap N' Jacks
Cap N' Jacks serves sandwiches, ice cream, and pizza 24 hours a day. Both hot and cold breakfast items are available, and you can get Kona Cafe's popular banana stuffed Tonga toast here, too. Lunch and dinner options include pulled pork nachos, yummy fish tacos, a Polynesian salad with sesame soy dressing, and a pho noodle bowl with shrimp or beef. Kid fare (for ages 9 and under) includes usual favorites (chicken nuggets and PB&J), plus chicken and pineapple skewers. The restaurant's interior is decorated with colorful posters of the Polynesian islands the longhouses are named for -- Pago Pago, Moorea, Rarotonga. The adjacent outdoor seating area overlooks the pool.
Barefoot Pool Bar
Located beachside, behind the pool's "volcano," the pool bar serves wine, beer, sangria and drink specialties, from a Captain's Mai Tai to a coconut rum drink named Banana Cabana. Non-alcoholic Lava smoothies and Orange freezes are available for non-drinkers and kids. Unlike some Disney resort pool bars, Barefoot does not serve food, however, Cap N' Jacks does and is located on the other side of the pool.
Coffee-loving parents can start the day with a fresh pressed-pot of Kona coffee at Kona CafÃ©, the resort's casual eatery. Be sure to try one of Disney World's best-known breakfasts, the delicious "Tonga Toast" -- banana-stuffed sourdough bread, rolled in cinnamon sugar, then fried. Steak and Eggs, pancakes, and delicious omelets round out the breakfast choices. Kona CafÃ© has a Pan-Pacific flavor to its lunch and dinner menus offering pot stickers, Kona-coffee rubbed pork chop, sesame seared sea scallops, sustainable fish options, and a 'Big Kahuna" burger. Be sure to watch the sushi chefs hand roll sushi in the open sushi kitchen.
Open mornings from 6:30 a.m. to noon, and evenings from 5 to 10 p.m., this quick-service, walk-up food outlet is located on the second floor near Kona Cafe's entrance, serving coffee and pastries, and made-to-order sushi, sashimi, and sake in the evening.
Located on the Great Ceremonial House's second floor, Ohana offers a character breakfast frequented by Lilo and Stitch (be sure to reserve in advance), a family-style Polynesian feast (eggs and bacon for breakfast; meats and seafood grilled over an open fire pit for dinner), as well as a large, albeit a bit dated, bar area, Tambu Lounge (noted below).
Located at Ohana's entrance, Tambu has a square-shaped bar with additional high-top seating areas for sipping tropical drinks and noshing on Hawaiian-inspired appetizers. Of the two bars (Tambu and Trader Sam's), this one is more sedate and better for watching games on TV.
Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
This is an interactive bar, where quirky servers tell tall tales inspired by erupting volcanos and passing storms. The bar is based on the popular themed lounge at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim and founded by Adventureland's famous "head" salesman, Trader Sam. The Walt Disney World Resort version has some similarities to the original Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, but the theming reflects its new Polynesian resort location.
Cocktails are served in mugs that are more like ceramic sculptures and range from the Polynesian Pearl, to a Nautilus ship (meant for two). The menu consists of small plate options, such as chicken lettuce cups with hoisin ginger sauce; Hawaiian poke with Sriracha aioli and wonton chips; kalua pork tacos with shredded cabbage and pickled vegetables; and pan-fried dumplings with soy-sesame dipping sauce. Open 4 p.m. to midnight, the lounge has 50 seats inside and 82 on the patio overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon. Come early -- the bar is popular with guests and locals alike, and there's often a wait for inside seats.
This restaurant recently opened on the back side of the Ceremonial House on the pool pathway and is home to the very popular Dole Whip soft serve and floats. This walk-up window is the only dedicated spot for the Dole Whip outside of the Magic Kingdom.
Room service is available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Menus feature seafood and steakhouse options, plus casual eats, like burgers and sandwiches.
Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
This popular show is part food, part entertainment. This lively luau show is set in a waterside open-air theater and features traditional music and dancing from Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii and more. The three-course family-style feast includes things like pulled pork, BBQ ribs, roasted chicken and honey-lime slaw, pineapple-coconut bread, and warm pineapple bread pudding with caramel sauce for dessert. Children's choices range from mini corn dogs with tater tots, to grilled chicken or mahi mahi with rice and green beans.
Shows are offered Tuesday through Saturday evenings, with seatings at 5:15 and 8 pm. Reservations highly encouraged; call 407-WDW-DINE.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Independent childcare provider Kid's Nite Out offers one-to-one babysitting in resort rooms and villas. Most sitters do arts and crafts, read, and play games with kids ages 6 months to 12 years.
Kids and adults alike receive a lei (made of fabric) at check-in and a special button if it's their birthday. Honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries receive the real deal: fresh flower leis.
The fitness center, part of Grand Floridian's Spa, is about a five-minute walk along the lakeside path toward Grand Floridian. The facility has a full circuit of Life Fitness equipment, treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights, and is open to both Grand Floridian and Polynesian resort guests 24 hours.
Located in the same building as Grand Floridian's fitness center, this full-service spa offers massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and other perks, such as a back or scalp facial. Kids ages 4 to 12 have their own spa menu that includes a 25-minute manicure or pedicure. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The spa is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A 24-hour, self-service laundry room is available near Lilo's Playhouse. Credit and debit cards are accepted for washers, dryers and soap vending, and the best part is you can request a text message when your laundry cycle is complete.
Parking is complimentary onsite.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
January to mid-February, late July to October, and post-Thanksgiving through mid-December are typically when you'll find the best pricing, as well as smaller crowds and shorter waits for rides and restaurants at the parks. There are discounts available for active and retired military members, as well as resident discounts (typically for Florida residents) at various times of the year.
Disney's complimentary Disney's Magical Express service allows you to check your bags at your hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at Orlando International Airport and take Disney's comfortable motor coaches to the resort (while you watch classic Disney short flicks and test your Disney trivia knowledge). Once you arrive, your bags "magically" appear, albeit a while after check-in.
The service must be booked in advance and is not available with all airlines. If your airline is not a program participant, you can still take the complimentary bus; just claim your bags in baggage claim, then head to Disney's Magical Express airport desk for your bus assignment. Note: Return service pickup is typically three hours prior to flight time.
For those renting a car, the resort is 24 miles from Orlando International Airport.
It's easy to navigate Disney World from the Polynesian. Not only is there a monorail station right off the lobby's second floor, a walkway to the far side of the resort leads to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you can catch a monorail to Epcot. The monorail (no fee) travels in a one-way loop from Polynesian to: Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, and the Ticket and Transportation Center (Epcot connection) before returning to Polynesian. In addition, bus service to all parks is available in front of the Great Ceremonial House and a complimentary boat service to Magic Kingdom, or Grand Floridian Resort, departs from the marina.
For Mom and Dad
After dinner at Kona Cafe, grab a bottle of wine from Moana Mercantile (in the Great Ceremonial House) and head for the quiet beach on the back side of the Tuvalu building. There's a single wooden bench swing for two, and you can sink your toes in the sand and look out over the water.