I just returned yesterday from a stay at Walt Disney Worlds Polynesian Resort. Although I have been on many, many Disney vacations, I had never previously stayed at this hotel. After watching me drool over the Polynesian year after year, Mom surprised me this year by switching our five night stay there. Thanks Mom! Im thrilled to report that the Polynesian delivered everything I hoped, and more. This hotel is a little pricey but delivers more Disney magic for your buck than any other resort Ive tried.
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The Polynesian Resort is one of Disneys two original on-site resorts. It opened in October of 1971 and is still going strong after several expansions and renovations. All the available rooms have recently been renovated except for the building of Tahiti, where renovations are currently in progress. The Polynesian Resort room total currently rests at around 850, where it will likely remain.
This hotel is located in the Magic Kingdom Resort area along the Seven Seas Lagoon. It shares this area with the Contemporary and Grand Floridian resorts as well as the Wilderness Lodge, which is not on the monorail. Prices at the Polynesian tend to start around $350 per night, making it the second most costly hotel on site after the Grand Floridian.
We checked in on a Tuesday at around 1:00 p.m. Hotel staff in tropical print shirts greeted us with a big aloha and purple leis. We were offered baggage help curbside. Service at the Polynesian was consistently friendly from the time we stepped out of our taxi until we left the hotel to travel home. Guests enter the hotel through a lush jungle of fountains and tropical plants. The line for check-in was short and we were able to get a room a couple of hours early. If a room is unavailable when you arrive, the hotel will gladly hold baggage for families wanting to visit the parks in the meantime.
Long House buildings are clustered around the grounds. Each holds a hundred or so rooms. All the buildings are similarly decorated in shades of brown, pink, and red. Provided you do not reserve a suite, differentiation in room rates is based primarily on view, not room quality. The long houses are named Tonga, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tuvalu, Hawaii, Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga, Tokeleau, Tahiti, and Rapa Nui.
I actually got to sample two different longhouses during my stay. Upon check-in, we agreed to a first floor room at Tuvalu. After two nights my mom realized she really should have held out for a balcony because she loves sitting outside and drinking coffee. The Polynesian staff gladly transferred us to a second floor room in Rapa Nui. This change was great because the new building was the closest to the Transportation and Ticket Center and we had a nice garden view. I dont really think there is a bad room at the Polynesian. All the buildings are close to something, whether it be the beach, pool, lobby, or TTC. That said, I strongly recommend a balcony room on the TTC side of the property. It is really nice to have a short walk home from the monorail station after a long day at the parks. In the future we will be requesting Tokelau, Rarotonga, or Rapa Nui again.
Both the rooms we stayed in were extremely nice and surprisingly large, especially our second room. Six people could have slept there comfortably. South Pacific touches are incorporated throughout the room, from tiki god lamps to a drum shaped table. Artwork throughout the room is tropical and tasteful. We found the beds extremely comfortable. Both of our rooms offered a coffee maker, refrigerator, and plenty of closet space. The bathrooms were equally nice, especially the Rapa Nui one which had two sinks. Everything looked brand new in both the bathroom and bedrooms. Despite the full hotel, the soundproof walls kept our room constantly quiet. We were actually surprised how much more spacious and well-maintained these rooms were than those at the pricier Grand Floridian, where we stayed a couple of years ago.
Every public area at the Polynesian incorporates the South Pacific theme in clever detail. Even better, Polynesian music plays pretty much non-stop both indoors and outdoors. The Great Ceremonial House is the resorts lobby and centerpiece. This two story atrium offers high ceilings with a giant waterfall in the center. Tropical plants and flowers fill the area. Shops, restaurants, and seating areas surround the waterfall.
Boutiki was my favorite gift shop at the Polynesian. Merchandise in this store has a tropical flare, which is a nice change from the traditional Disney fare. Trader Jacks can be found upstairs and offers more traditional Mickey ears and post cards. Samoa Snacks sells cookies, donuts, beer, wine, soda, and other food and beverages. We bought beer and cokes here to keep in the fridge and drink on the beach at night for reasonable prices. Finally, a Wyland Gallery full of beautiful marine art rounds out the selection of shops. Fun to look at, even though I cant afford anything in the store.
The Polynesian has several great places to sunbathe and swim, including the Nanea Volcano Pool. This main pool has a zero-depth entry, slide, and plenty of beach area. The view from this area cant be beat and includes Cinderellas Castle and Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom as well as the Grand Floridian and Contemporary resorts. A Quiet Pool is located nearby and provides a good place for sunbathing adults. The waterfront area of the resort also allows guests to rent paddleboats and outrigger canoes for a fee. My only complaint about this great outdoor recreation facility is the lack of a hot tub. It appears there used to be one near the volcano pool, but it has since been filled in with concrete.
Dining and Drinking
The restaurant and bar facilities available are a big reason the Polynesian tops my list of places to stay at WDW. Disney did the food thing right at this resort, with lots of options and fun theming. The Kona Cafe remains my favorite full-service restaurant at the Polynesian. Bright, contemporary decor and consistent food and service make this cafe a must-do for my family each visit. The Asian-inspired noodle bowls are particularly tasty. Ohana has a set menu and family-style service, making it a good choice for a large group. The Polynesian also boasts an elaborate dinner show, the Spirit of Aloha luau on the beach complete with flame dancers and live music.
A quick, inexpensive meal can also be found at the Polynesian. Captain Cooks fast food shop offers hot dog and chicken strip fare as well as some more exotic options like banana tonga toast and flatbread sandwiches. This facility was temporarily moved to the Tangaroa Terrace conference facility during our stay. I was actually pleased with this, as it was closer to our room. It also was connected to Moana Mickeys arcade, allowing kids a place to burn off steam while parents ate. However, the original location at the Great Ceremonial House will reopen in a month or so and surely be nicer than ever.
For a drink, stop into either the pool bar or the one in the Great Ceremonial House. Fun fruity drinks abound. In the future, though, I will be avoiding the rum-based Lapu Lapu.
Getting Around WDW from the POLY
Presumably, you will not be staying at this hotel if you are not visiting the touring parks. The hotels biggest advantage is its primo location in the heart of WDW. For those considering a stay here, a quick rundown of getting from place to place may be helpful
1. To the Magic Kingdom - Take a monorail from the hotels lobby or a boat ride across the lagoon.
2. To EPCOT Walk five minutes to the TTC and hop directly on the monorail, or ride the lobby monorail there and then transfer lines.
3. To the Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island and the water parks Hop aboard a bus near the lobby.
4. To other resorts Take the monorail to the Grand Floridian or Contemporary. For the rest, walk to the TTC and board a bus.
Tips for making the most of your stay at the Polynesian Resort
*Take a night to enjoy the beach and the Electrical Water Pageant, complete with the Magic Kingdoms fireworks in the background. This lighted boat show starts around 9:00 behind the volcano pool.
*Make dining reservations for the hotels table service restaurants in advance. They fill up with Magic Kingdom tourists, especially for dinner. Call 1-800-WDW-DINE as far as 180 days ahead of your visit.
*Request your desired building over the phone, and again at check-in. Have a couple in mind.
*Take advantage of Disneys free Magical Express bus service to and from the airport. The ride back is especially speedy, as the Polynesian is the last stop before the airport. This service will save $60 each way in taxi costs if you arent renting a car.
*Kids can get a pirate themed dinner buffet at the Neverland Club child care facility, while parents enjoy a dinner out. The club starts accepting kids at the age of four. I recommend the California Grill at the Contemporary for amazing views and tasty food, or Victoria & Alberts at the Grand Floridian for a once in a lifetime meal.
Staying at the Polynesian was a dream come true for me. The resort remains in amazing shape and feels like my idea of the South Pacific. Staying on the monorail line cuts transportation time in half, and the views are unbeatable. Yes, after all these years, I have a new favorite WDW resort!
*Planning a trip to WDW? These other reviews might be helpful...
Top Ten Things You Must See on a First Visit
Top Ten Restaurants at WDW
Magic Kingdom for Adults
Epcot Center's Hidden Treasures
Animal Kingdom - One Day Touring Plan
Downtown Disney Marketplace
Caribbean Beach Resort
See the complete list in my profile!
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