Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Review
The Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs is a hidden gem of a hotel. This review covers my recent stay at the hotel, featuring photos of rooms and hotel amenities. Buena Vista Palace dates back to the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village days of Walt Disney World, making it a “Vacation Kingdom of the World” relic. Despite its age, the hotel is most certainly not a “relic,” with recent refurbishments making it one of the nicer hotels in all of Walt Disney World.
This is undoubtedly a shocking proclamation given that the hotel is “only” a third party hotel official partner hotel near Disney Springs. There are numerous Disney Deluxe hotels that cost exponentially more and should be trendier, but I think it’s a fair statement. Moreso in terms of the rooms, which feel modern and well-designed, than in the common areas, which feel mixed in terms of age.
Actually, upon approaching Buena Vista Palace from Disney Springs, you are greeted by a tall art deco-ish building that definitely looks like something out of a bygone era (I mean the 1980s…not 1920-40s). Walking along the trails to the lobby you see Recreation Island, with both a large pool but also buildings reminiscent of that era. Then there’s the main building, which is also a mix of old and new. The lobby is nice and looks like it was refreshed in the last few years, but other areas look older. Up to this point, it feels like the hotel is a bit of a mix of old and new.
UPDATE: Buena Vista Palace has been rebranded as Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace. We stayed here in January 2018 and found that many of the common areas have been dramatically improved, with the most notable upgrade being the pool, which now has a float lagoon (lazy river). This area was really nice before, but it’s even better now.
It appeared to us that guest rooms are unchanged, which is fine as they were refurbished only a few years ago. We’ll update this review completely in the near future. Suffice to say, we think that the best Disney Springs hotel has gotten even better.
My impression of the guest room was unabashedly positive, and based on what I saw, they quite clearly have been refurbished in the last couple of years.
Everything from the design style and flourishes to the walk-in shower (YES!) suggests a design that can’t be more than a few years old.
The bedding is incredibly comfortable, with a plush pillow-top mattress, great pillows, and high-quality sheets. Of the beds I’ve tested at Walt Disney World, I think only the fancy new beds at the Swan & Dolphin surpass this. No Disney-branded hotels are this good.
Likewise, the couch in my room had a sleek, modern design that worked well and was comfortable. As an added bonus, there was an odd, abstract photo of a leaf on the wall. Abstract “art” like this is a key indicator that you’re staying at a classy place.
The desk, chair, television, and dresser all were similarly nice. All of this plus the light and simple color scheme brought the room together and gave it a lot of appeal.
With its high-rise location on the outskirts of Disney Springs, virtually every room on a higher floor offers a great view. No need to pay for one of those expensive balloon rides or go on the Orlando Eye for a view of some parking lots.
I am not often impressed with hotel room bathrooms, but when I am, it’s usually for 4 reasons: 1) futuristic in-mirror lighting, 2) shower toilets, 3) vessel sinks, and 4) tubless, walk-in showers. Given that this hotel is in America, #2 is pretty much out of the question. As for the remaining 3 reasons, it basically has them all, with the vessel sink in this case being recessed into the counter rather than above it.
The only thing preventing this bathroom from being a total home-run is that American toilet. Stupid American toilet.
The common areas of the hotel are mostly on the nice and modern side as well, with a sleek, minimalistic look. There are a lot of amenities here that you’d expect of a high-end hotel, such as basketball & tennis courts, mini-market, restaurants (character breakfast on Sunday), theme park transportation, and business center, among other things.
The biggest of these “other things” is probably the spa. I did not use the spa here, but it looked pretty fancy. However, I admittedly have no interest in spas and am actually a bit intimidated by the service menus with foreign terms, so almost every spa strikes me as fancy. Suffice to say, my superficial opinion on this spa is virtually meaningless.
What isn’t meaningless is my opinion on Recreation Island. It’s awesome. It’s a literal island accessible via bridges, which alone has a certain “cool factor” to it, and then contains play areas, a large pool, and pool bar, among other things.
This pool is huge, and the whole area has a great feel to it. While there is a bit of an 80s vibe to it (more on that below), it is well-maintained and the light color scheme surrounded by lush palms emanates a sense of relaxation. I especially like the waterfall between the buildings by the pool bar (you can vaguely see it in the photo above). About the only thing this area is missing is a lazy river. That would really put it over the top.
Now, the “mixed” part of Buena Vista Palace. There are some areas like the Disney Store, Arcade, and other common parts of the hotel that felt decidedly 1990s. There are even some spots, like the buildings around Recreation Island, that had an almost 80s aesthetic (those will probably make Vacation Kingdom fans giddy–they reminded me of Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village). The areas looking like they were out of the 1980s actually worked pretty well, and all were crisp and well-maintained.
I’ve fixated on how the hotel is a mixed bag of modern and dated, but that is really overstating the point here. The dated areas are minimal, and aren’t things that really will matter to most. I mean, let’s be honest, aren’t hotel arcades almost inherently dated? I’d venture that 95% of arcades found in hotels are dated–the very concept of an in-hotel arcade is a thing of the past. The vast majority of the hotel that actually matters is pretty current.
Then, there’s the ugly. As part of a growing epidemic plaguing Orlando hotels, Buena Vista Palace charges a resort fee. This one is a doozy, at $28 per night after tax. Perhaps you think that’s reasonable, as this is a palace, but I could find no evidence that there’s any royalty residing on-site. Here’s my million dollar idea for Disney CEO Bob Iger, who I’m sure is a big fan of this blog: buy Buena Vista Palace, add some light accenting to the high rise exterior to make it look icy, and rename the hotel as “Disney’s Elsa’s Ice Palace Resort & Spa.” Feel free to Paypal me a consulting fee for the brilliant idea, Bob.
My lame jokes aside, this is a normal resort-hotel, and the exorbitant resort fee is merely a way of keeping those eye-catching rack rates low and alluring to customers. This resort fee is a real black eye on what is otherwise a hotel that I really like. The total nightly rate is still (including the fee) around $125-140/night from what I see, which is really competitive given the quality of Buena Vista Palace, but not nearly as the advertised $99*/night starting rate. As a reminder, the FTC agrees with me that this practice of charging resort fees is unfriendly to consumers, and has admonished some hotel owners for the practice. (In the interest of full disclosure, my stay at Buena Vista Palace was comped.)
Overall, the good of Buena Vista Palace far outweighs the slightly dated elements found in places. In most ways, Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa is a far more ambitious hotel than you’d expect. It’s a hotel you don’t hear much about, and I’m not really sure why. Perhaps because the room refurbishment was just completed? I don’t know how else to explain it. It has an impressive slate of amenities, is an easy walk to Disney Springs, and has some of the absolute best rooms at Walt Disney World. It’s certainly not perfect, and the nightly resort fee is absurdly expensive, but even considering that, this has to be among one of the best ‘bang for buck’ hotels at Walt Disney World. I would certainly stay here again, and once Disney Springs is complete, I think it will be a very attractive hotel.
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.
Does the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa look like an intriguing option to you? Have you stayed at Buena Vista Palace? Planning on staying here someday? Share your thoughts in the comments!
When you expect the level of service to match the price you are paying for your stay but you get mediocre service and subpar hospitality. The Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace was our hotel of choice for over 5 years. Now we are searching for a new hotel that wants our business. The hotel is in need of upgrades and repair. the restaurants are ok at best in service and food quality. The prices for food and drinks are expensive especially for the level of service you are going to receive. Hotel management will ghost you and remain unresponsive, the Director of the front end is a SNOB, Arrogant and Rude. his Assistant remains a person to be seen. and the Hotel Manager will NOT speak with you but communicate only through the people at the front desk.
It is so disappointing that we are ending a relationship of 5-6 years with this hotel, but the level of integrity, honesty and ethics followed by QUALITY and Care are hospitality terms that this hotel seems to not practice nor understand. As a guest you have a choice as to where you want to spend your hard earned money, don’t settle for mediocre when you can find quality hotels in the area for the same price that will actually treat you like a welcomed guest. What is even worse is that when you reach out to the corporate office guest relations, and executive management team they are as non responsive as the management team in the hotel. It starts at the top as they say. BEWARE and find other places that want your business and will treat you like a true Welcomed guest.
Although we usually stay at the Yaght Club during our yearly trip to WDW, we have stayed at the Buena Vista Palace several times on extra trips. I agree with Tom, it is a gem in some ways, especially as it is SO much less money than many of the actual Disney hotels. We loved the fact that it is in walking distance to Disney Springs, as we go there often at night. As Hilton Honors members, we also got a contential breakfast in the nice restaurant. The pool looked great (didn’t use it), and the pool bar was very nice. As for the rooms: we stayed in the big tower one trip. The room was nice, great view, but really small. The other two trips we stayed in the older tower and they upgraded us to a suite due to Hilton Honors status. This was great, even though we didn’t have a good view and building was old…room was fine. The only main drawback for us was the lack of transportation. We took a bus to one of the parks (can’t remember which one), but I waited forever for transportation back from transportation center. We ended up using an Uber for water parks, and walking over to Disney Springs at times to catch buses to other things. But overall, for the price and location in relation to Disney Springs, I liked this hotel.
I wish this review included something about transportation to the WDW parks… as the hotel mentions there is a shuttle. I can’t find any information about how often it runs or if it’s more of a pain than it is a convenience. Right now, I’m torn between staying on property for an extra $400 or staying here… and it really comes down to access to the parks for me. I can’t find much info about that.
Hi Kelsey. The only non-Disney properties who provide Disney bus transportation is The Swan and Dolphin. While Disney transportation is not without its faults, third party hotel transportation does not run with the frequency of Disney buses. I also cannot recommend the Buena Vista Palace. Although Tom disagrees, I prefer the Hilton across the street. Keep in mind, the non-Disney buses deliver you to the transportation center, not the Magic Kingdom, so you will have to take the monorail or ferry to get to the park. When we stayed at the BVP in September, we caught a bus from Disney Springs to the Boardwalk and entered EPCOT through the back entrance. Much preferable to entering the park from the front. You can call the BVP to get the bus schedule.
I’m impressed by your writing. Are you a professional or just very knedwelgeablo?
Just to update you…………the resort fee is now $35 per night. ugh
Holy balls this hotel was bad. I think disneytouristblog either stayed at a different hotel or was paid for this review. Nothing about the rooms description above matches ours. The room was small and cramped. Mold smelling. Multiple cracks and peels and rips around. Blood or feces stain on the sheets when we pulled them back. It was horrible and we are Hilton diamond members – this was the best room they had for us?! We complained and they sent up housekeeping but did not change our room. The lazy river was very nice. The grounds are all bare and full of trash – he talks about beautiful landscapes in the review above???? This makes me question anything I read from disneytouristblog which is sad because I really do enjoy their blog. Plus they say new bathrooms? Ours was a moldy tub, peeling wall and an air filter that said change every 6 months that was obviously never changed in years. Definitely the worst Hilton have ever stayed at.
We have never been paid for any posts on this blog.
I think the photos on this post fairly well speak for themselves in terms of the quality of the room we had. Did you consider the possibility that maybe not every room has been equally maintained before questioning our judgment/credibility? We’ve stayed at plenty of hotels where we got a “bad” room and other reviewers reported something significantly nicer–it didn’t make me question those people, but the overall consistency of the hotel.
True point, but our room was so bad…with mold and dirt. I looked on trip advisor and saw many of the same reports and pictures. My tripadvisor report is titled – Over 200 stays in Hilton hotels and this is the worst by far…When we looked at other rooms in our area they all looked similarly bad. You must have gotten very very lucky. This hotel was a complete dump.
True point, but our room was so bad…with mold and dirt. I looked on trip advisor and saw many of the same reports and pictures. My tripadvisor report is titled – Over 200 stays in Hilton hotels and this is the worst by far…When we looked at other rooms in our area they all looked similarly bad. You must have gotten very very lucky. This hotel was a complete dump. You mention you have never been paid for any posts which is awesome….but did you pay for your room, or did they provide that for you. That may explain how you got lucky!
Hi Tom. Love your blog. I’m afraid our experience was more reflective of Donald’s experience than yours. We have stayed on multiple occasions at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista across the street and feel it is far better than this property. It was your glowing review that encouraged me to book there. I had read your review of the Disney Springs hotels/resorts that are now offering Disney hotel benefits and was surprised you ranked the other Hilton last. The area of the hotel we stayed at Buena Vista Palace was very dated, a fact we noticed as soon as we stepped off the elevator. Unfortunately we didn’t receive the room with the renovated bathroom and we also noticed a smell when entering our room. When I was asked about our stay, I was honest with the staff that I felt the hotel was overdue for refurbishment.
We much prefer to stay on Disney property, but as you know, they appear to be at capacity, based on the room rates they are charging, and we have access to both Florida resident and Passholder rates. We did recently stay at the newly renovated Pop Century (first time at a value resort) and loved that property. Perhaps staying in a room which was like new on our last trip made our experience this past weekend at the Buena Vista Palace that much worse.
Stayed in April 2018. The Hilton Buena Vista Palace seriously needs to upgrade their rooms, especially bathrooms. Mirrors are pealing, toilet seat stained with no grab bars in tub. The room refrigerator was so cold that our food froze and we had to throw away. No settings on fridge. It does not deserve 4 star rating.
How is the transportation? Or the walk to DS to catch a bus?