Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is a Moderate Resort hotel at Walt Disney World with a tropical theme. This review has been substantially updated with numerous new room photos and thoughts concerning the new rooms and other changes at the resort based on our recent stay here.
Suffice to say, a lot has changed at Caribbean Beach Resort, and will continue to change throughout 2017. Based on the upgrades at Caribbean Beach, it’s now at the top of our Walt Disney World Moderate Resort Rankings. Despite that, if you’re planning a visit for the remainder of 2017, you might want to look elsewhere, particularly if you like dining at your hotel. Before the bulk of this review, we’ll offer a slew of updates about Caribbean Beach Resort.
May 19, 2017 Update: Caribbean Beach’s re-imagining has now begun, with the Shutters and Old Port Royale Food Court now permanently closed, and construction underway throughout Centertown. With these restaurants closing, new (temporary) ones have opened. Think of it as the circle of life, Walt Disney World style…
The first of these temporary dining options is Martinique Island Market, which is literally a repurposed hotel room offering grab and go options in the Martinique area of the resort. We’ve seen some photos of the items here, and given those, we wouldn’t recommend this location–there isn’t even a refillable mug station (despite the room, err “market” selling refillable mugs).
On a more positive note, Banana Cabana (the pool bar) remains open…for now. A temporary bar is being constructed in the Old Port Royale parking area, and when that’s finished, it’s expected that Banana Cabana will be closed, and that whole area swallowed by construction walls. Eh, maybe that’s not-so-positive. (Our tip: skip the lovely “ambiance” of the parking lot and have alcohol brought to you for a much cheaper price–see our Tips for Grocery Delivery at Walt Disney World post for more info.)
On an actual positive note, there’s a tent with a buffet set up for both breakfast and dinner as well as a food truck all day. The buffet is nothing glamorous (and the theme of the buffet seems to be “FEMA tent”), but it does offer an array of unique hot options for both meals and is only a counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
This instantly makes the dinner buffet the objective-best use of a counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan. We can’t speak to quality, but the menu looks intriguing. It’d be nice if Walt Disney World did a bit to improve the aesthetics given that this is a multi-month refurbishment, but at least the price (in credits, at least) is right. Plus, it’s pretty much unprecedented for a ‘temporary’ dining option to be a buffet, so we’ll take the weak theme (and $75 gift card!) and not complain too much.
That’s all on the temporary dining and construction progress as of right now, we’ll keep you posted as more changes occur!
March 19, 2017 Update: The $75 gift card offer for bookings during the construction has ended. Guests already booked will still receive the $75 booking, but new bookings made starting today will not qualify for the gift card.
In other words, this gift card will not be offered to new bookings during the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion–it’s unclear how modified bookings will be treated, though. If you already have a booking at Caribbean Beach during a potential Free Dining window, we’d recommend taking a wait and see approach with it.
March 4, 2017 Update: The guest room renovations are finished, but Caribbean Beach will be starting another re-imagining starting in May 2017 that will overhaul the Centertown area to add a waterfront shopping and dining district that will open in late 2017. In the meantime, Old Port Royale Food Court, Shutters, Banana Cabana Pool Bar, and Calypso Trading Post will close. During their closure, grab-and-go options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be available at pop-up markets in Aruba, Jamaica, and Martinique.
If you are visiting Walt Disney World anytime through June 2018 (other construction projects will start after Centertown work is finished), you might want to consider choosing a different resort if these amenities matter to you. If they do not matter to you, you should strongly consider staying here, as Walt Disney World is offering guests $75 gift cards per night (per room) for staying at Caribbean Beach during the construction.
Walt Disney World has notified guests who are affected by these inconveniences, and will relocate those who request an alternate request. (Our top alternative recommendation at this time would be Port Orleans Riverside–click here read why we recommend it.)
Before we get to the new rooms and other changes, let’s start with a bit of background. Located near Epcot, Caribbean Beach Resort has decent proximity to the theme parks, although guests of this resort must rely upon bus transportation or their own vehicles. There is no boat or monorail transportation from Caribbean Beach Resort to any of the theme parks or Disney Springs.
This re-imagining is being undertaken because Caribbean Beach Resort is the oldest of the Moderates, and there have been complaints that its facilities are beginning to show their age. These upgrades should help Caribbean Beach Resort maintain its place as the best Moderate Resort, and give it upscale amenities (including the rumored gondola skyway) for when Disney Vacation Club is added to the resort.
Let’s take a closer look at Caribbean Beach Resort and its new rooms…
Before we get to the rooms, let’s cover the grounds and common areas of the resort. Although the rooms were gutted and totally redone during the refurbishment, the structure and layout of the resort are unchanged.
Likewise, the Pirate Rooms remained unchanged. You can read about those in our Caribbean Beach Resort Pirate Rooms Review (we strongly do NOT recommend them).
In the center of Caribbean Beach Resort separating most of the guest room buildings from Old Port Royale is Barefoot Bay, a 45-acre lake. Running around the lake is a 1.4-mile path, with additional paths leading to all guest rooms. It seems like the perfect resort for a morning run…or racing around to photograph the sunrise, if you’re like me. In the center of all this is, Caribbean Cay, which is an island with a lush picnic and play area. It also breaks up the walk across the huge lake.
The resort itself likely benefits from its age, as its twenty plus years in existence have given the greenery at the resort a chance to become quite lush and mature. Within this tropical paradise, rooms are spread among 6 villages: Trinidad North, Trinidad South, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica. It’s a really spread out resort.
The size coupled with the number of bus stops can make transportation at Caribbean Beach Resort a real hassle. The resort generally has a solid number of buses for each park with little delay in between, but the issue is how long it takes on the bus within the resort. Because of this, we typically used Uber on our recent stay here to get to and from the parks, and it cost $8-10 per trip.
The Resort’s Main Lobby is called the Custom House. It’s located a bit out-of-the-way, although you probably won’t head here except for check-in and Disney’s Magical Express pick-up (unless you order groceries during the middle of your trip and foolishly decide to walk to get them).
It’s actually quite a hike from many rooms, but a shuttle is available to take you from the Custom House to your room.
Along with Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is one of the most sprawling resorts at Walt Disney World. My personal take is that this gives it more of a true “resort” feel with more to explore, but reasonably minds could certainly differ on that one.
It’s quite a trek from the most remote rooms to Old Port Royale, meaning it could be a hassle to get breakfast or refill your mug. On the plus side, this will help you walk off the calories from that Coke and make you less likely to eat those instant-eggs and rubber-bacon! (Aren’t I the optimist…)
Caribbean Beach has a nice marina near Old Port Royale, which rents out boats and bicycles. There also are playgrounds, an arcade, volleyball, sand beaches, and other standard Moderate Resort amenities available at Caribbean Beach Resort.
As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is fully integrated in the MyMagic+ system, which means that guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations. Learn more about this in our MyMagic+ FAQ.
The pool at Old Port Royale is pretty awesome. You might as well call it Old Fort Royale, as it is reminiscent of the Spanish forts under seize at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Everyone knows that anything pertaining to pirates is unquestionably awesome, so Caribbean Beach Resort scores serious points for the pool.
It’s a really cool pool–I consider it to be one of the best at Walt Disney World. Kids (and immature adults like me) would really enjoy “playing pirate” in its many forts, complete with authentic working (eh, probably) cannons.
For those adults who are more mature, you can always “play pirate” by chugging a bottle of rum and staggering around on one of the white sand beaches at Caribbean Beach Resort while bemoaning the fact that the rum is always gone. What could go wrong?
Okay, now the guest rooms. This used to be a divisive topic issue (see some of the comments below concerning the old rooms) as some guests felt they were a clashing, assault on the senses. Below is how they looked pre-refurbishment.
Whether this style is ‘fun and colorful’ or ‘Finding Nemo clown barf’ is a matter of personal preference and opinion, but it’s all moot, as here’s how the rooms look now…
As you can see, it’s a pretty dramatic difference. I’ll be honest: I liked Caribbean Beach’s rooms before. Yes, they were bright and loud and not how I would decorate my own house.
However, for a vacation, they were fun and had that eclectic style that you might find at your kooky aunt’s beach house. With that said, the old look definitely felt tired and in need of modernizing.
Here’s a slightly wider look from the same vantage, this time with the pull-down bed under the television opened and the table visible.
In addition to the design of the rooms totally changing, the beds changed, too. These are now queen beds in the 5-person rooms, and to us they seemed substantially more comfortable and plush than the older beds at other Moderate Resorts.
To me, the new room is an absolute home run. It looks like the Polynesian-lite. It still has a tropical motif, albeit a much more restrained one. Part of me does wonder if it’s a little too restrained–almost as if the designers over-corrected the look of the previous room while trying to tone it down. I say part of me because that’s really a minor quibble, and there’s still plenty of island styling to fit the theme.
Make no mistake, I am incredibly pleased with how the redesign turned out. It’s not just my favorite room at any Moderate Resort now, it’s one of my favorite rooms in all of Walt Disney World. A room that’s Poly-lite at a resort that’s a fraction of the cost of the Polynesian Village Resort is a great thing.
I think we can all agree that the biggest missed opportunity of the redesign was failing to put a giant close-up of this shot of Captain Barbossa and Jack the Monkey on the inside of the pull-down bed instead of Mickey and Pluto. That would be the perfect nightmare fuel!
The pull-down bed is a really great addition, though. This means the room can officially accommodate 5 adults (I fit on the pull-down bed just fine, but it’s probably best for kids or smaller adults), making it a great option for leveraging the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion.
The bathroom has similarly been redone, with more cosmetic changes in keeping with the rest of the room. The biggest addition here is the sliding doors separating the sink area from the beds. It’s a nice feature in case someone wants to sleep while others are getting ready.
Even if you liked the “character” of the old room, I think there’s little contesting that the new rooms are at least of a higher quality now. From the head boards to the light fixtures to the dresser and beyond, the finishings are nicer, with greater texture and detail giving the room a classier look. There’s a lot more depth to the room now, and it doesn’t feel cheaply done. Disney did a really nice job with this refurbishment, and I’d say these are now the nicest rooms at any Moderate Resort.
Overall, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is a very nice place to stay, especially if you enjoy the theme. Don’t believe anything you’ve read about it being dated, as that simply is no longer true. It’s now a resort with a lot of upside–solid dining options, plenty of recreation options, and beautiful grounds to enjoy. Then there are the new rooms, which are the best in their class, rivaling some Deluxes. The outcome determinative factor as to whether Caribbean Beach Resort will be for you is probably how you view the size of the resort. If you want a place to jog or explore, it’s great. If you want something more compact so you don’t waste time ‘commuting’ around the resort, it’s not so great. I was already a fan of Caribbean Beach Resort, but now that it’s basically a “Poor Man’s Polynesian” it’s my favorite Moderate. While the may not be as nice as its tropical cousin, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, it does offer significantly better value for money thanks to its solid amenities and excellent rooms.
Not sure which Walt Disney World hotel is right for you? Check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel, plus links to our reviews and photo pages for every hotel we have reviewed. Looking for comprehensive Walt Disney World vacation tips? Make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
What do you think of the new rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort? Are you planning on staying at Caribbean Beach Resort during the big 2017-2018 refurbishment? Have you tried the temporary buffet or food trucks here? Do you miss the old style of CBR? What about the spread out nature of the resort–is that a strength or a weakness for you? Share your thoughts or any questions you have in the comments!