Two Moderate Resort hotels at Walt Disney World–Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs–are currently in the midst of significant construction projects, and vacation planners might wonder which one they should choose during this work. This head-to-head smackdown between the two answers that question. (Last updated June 3, 2018.)
Beyond the construction, a choice between Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs is likely to be a common one for those visiting Florida. These resorts are among the largest at Walt Disney World, frequently have the best discounts, and both have a lot of objective selling points.
Despite this, each hotel caters to substantially different demographics. Caribbean Beach Resort is a popular choice with families, particularly ones wanting a tropical getaway (we’ve been calling it the “Poly-lite” recently and have recommended it as a Polynesian-esque experience on a tighter budget). By contrast, Coronado Springs Resort is frequently used for conventions, and often has a disproportionate number of business travelers.
What this post will seek to address is whether you should choose Coronado Springs even if you’re a family, or if it’s better to stick with family-favorite Caribbean Beach. With that in mind, we’ll compare theme, cost, dining, pools, and other amenities to help you determine which is right for you…
Construction Impact: Coronado Springs – Rather than have this bleed out into other categories, we want to isolate this here so it’s easier to update this post once the construction is over. Walt Disney World has announced construction projects at both Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort, plus the construction of the Skyliner Gondolas and Disney’s Riviera Resort, a new Disney Vacation Club project.
The official project at Caribbean Beach Resort is a redesign of Old Port Royale Centertown that will conclude in Fall 2018. Current projections place the work’s completion date around early October, but it has already been delayed twice in the past, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not finished until even later than that.
In addition to this Caribbean Beach project, the addition of Disney’s Riviera Resort and the Skyliner gondola station are both being added at the perimeter of Caribbean Beach–both very close to the resort’s guest buildings. While these projects are not technically at the resort, they certainly are audible and visible from within Caribbean Beach. Neither of these projects will be finished until some point in 2019.
The main project at Coronado Springs is the announced high-end, 15-story tower, with other beautification projects and room renovations around the resort. The addition of this tower to Coronado Springs is very similar in nature to Riviera Resort being added near Caribbean Beach, at least in terms of guest impact. The difference between the two is that Coronado doesn’t also have a Skyliner Station being added, or major changes taking place to its main amenity areas.
For now, at least. Beginning Fall 2018, the Dig Site will be closed for refurbishment (from September 4 until December 12, 2018). This includes the feature pool, volleyball court, playground, Iguana Arcade, and Siestas Cantina. Given the scope of this project and delays on pretty much every hotel renovation project in recent memory, we would not be surprised if this large project takes longer, and is not done until Early 2019.
Without question, the bigger impact on guests will be at Caribbean Beach Resort. While both are dramatically transforming and upgrading their facilities, the difference is that Coronado Springs’ changes are mostly self-contained in the tower that is being added to an empty plot of land.
The Dig Site will be a big blow this fall, but that’s still insignificant as compared to Centertown. At least Coronado Springs has other pools, and its El Centro, where its restaurants, check-in, and other major amenities are located, is in no way impacted by construction.
By contrast, most of what’s going to happen at Caribbean Beach is not a new build. It’s a matter of upgrading, converting, and rebuilding existing facilities all with the aim of bringing Caribbean Beach up to Disney Vacation Club standards. There’s a lot of work to be done to get it to this level, and closures to amenities will likely occur in phases, with the most significant and high-impact ones first.
We anticipate that although construction will be occurring at both resorts through 2019, by around Spring 2019, most of it will be inside the two towers, and thus won’t be noticeable to guests staying at either resort. If you’re booking a trip for 2018, and for some reason must have one of these two resorts, we’d recommend forgoing the rest of this article and choosing Coronado Springs.
If you’re booking a trip after around March 2019, read on and choose based upon how the other amenities stack up to one another (although this is an incomplete assessment since we can’t yet consider the new additions to each). For Late Spring or Summer 2019 trip planners, we wouldn’t be too worried about construction at either resort.
Theme: Caribbean Beach – Both of these resorts are underrated from a thematic perspective, we think. At Coronado Springs, there are three different architectural influences at the resort: Ranchos, Cabanas, and Casitas. These styles transition from urban to countryside as you wander the resort (somewhat akin to Port Orleans Riverside). They also vary in vibrance, with ranchos being pretty neutral, whereas the cabanas are vibrant, almost reminiscent of Mexican beach resorts.
Caribbean Beach Resort is a beach resort by name, but could almost pass for a port city in the caribbean (so long as the trees obscure all of the room doors!). In some ways the details and architecture are not as fully-fleshed as Coronado Springs, but it still does the job in conveying an island theme. Additionally, it does an exceptional job of conveying the essence of vacationing in the tropics. The grounds are lush (Caribbean Cay is a gem hiding in plain sight), there are some beautiful beaches, and it all culminates in a relaxing environment that is a ton of fun to explore.
I love wandering Caribbean Beach Resort resort late at night or in the early morning–something I cannot say for Coronado Springs. The environment is just more pleasant and inviting at Caribbean Beach.
Rooms: Push – Caribbean Beach Resort’s recently redone rooms are shockingly nice, and are why we dubbed the resort “Poly-lite” in the first place. These new rooms no longer feel like budget motel accommodations, and now feature a lot of nice details befitting of a higher caliber resort. Thematically, Caribbean Beach Resort has the best rooms of any Moderate.
Coronado Springs are equally impressive, but for different reasons. These are the highest quality rooms of any Moderate, with upgraded bedding, a nicer desk for getting work done, and subtle details that just make it seem nice. This is all undoubtedly to make it more appealing to business travelers. We’d describe Coronado Springs rooms as tasteful and high quality, but not the paramount of theme (they aren’t poorly-themed, either).
Basically, it comes down to whether theme or quality matters more to you. Both do each pretty well, but the scale tips to Caribbean Beach in terms of theme, and to Coronado Springs in terms of quality.
Over at Caribbean Beach Resort, Old Port Royale Food Court is one of the most underrated counter service options at Walt Disney World and Shutters is considered by many as a sleeper dining pick. Still, these don’t measure up to Coronado Springs.
Of course, with all of the construction taking place at Caribbean Beach, none of its previous dining options are open. Only the new Spyglass Grill is open (of the permanent options) plus a tent buffet and some food trucks.
Cost: Push – On average, room rates are either identical or within $10 of one another almost every rate season of the year for standard rooms. Prices are a bit less predictable once you get into the higher tiers of rooms, but it still goes back and forth quite a bit (and honestly, if you’re looking at a $275/night room at either, you should just be looking at Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge).
Discounts are also pretty consistent between the Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Caribbean Beach (both are among the best), so that does not help settle this, either.
Pools: Caribbean Beach – On our list of the Top 10 Pools at Walt Disney World, Fuentes del Morro Pool (aka “Pirate Pool) at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort ranked #3 and The Lost City of Cibola Pool ranked #9. The Pirate Pool scores serious points for its Spanish colonial fortress style, fortresses, cannons, and general pirate appeal. It’s an awesome place to pretend you’re a pirate, and who among us doesn’t want to do that?!
Even though these rankings make it seem decisive, the Dig Site pool and recreation area at Coronado Springs has a lot of range that might make it appeal more to you. For kids, there’s the 123-foot water slide, Mayan temple ruins, arcade, play area, and 50-foot tall pyramid. For adults, there’s the large Siesta’s bar, volleyball court, and largest hot tub at Walt Disney World. Dig Site is a very solid, well-rounded pool area.
Transportation: Push – Transportation is the achilles heel of both of these resorts. Since these are both sprawling resort complexes, each have multiple bus stops within the resort. This means a shorter walk to your bus stop than at some other resorts, but the downside is that it takes longer to get to the parks.
In fact, on average, both have among the longest room-door to park-entrance time of any resorts at Walt Disney World (on average). Couple that with there being no boat or monorail transportation to any of the parks or Disney Springs means that you either need a rental car or are going to be in for a lot of long bus rides. As we’ve said before, there’s nothing magical about riding a bus (even one that says “Disney” on the outside), and this can get old over the course of a trip.
Verdict: Caribbean Beach – We are declaring Caribbean Beach the winner here, but at the same time add the significant caveat that there are a lot of Deluxe-caliber amenities at Coronado Springs superior to Caribbean Beach. However, we think that if you have the time at the resort to enjoy all of those amenities, you also have it to explore the resort, which is a more satisfying experience at Caribbean Beach.
On a personal note, both of us are pretty entrenched in the pro-Caribbean Beach Resort camp on this one. Coronado Springs scores some well-earned points, but ultimately, it’s not a resort that we find ourselves eager to revisit. In fact, there have been times when Coronado Springs is the only Moderate Resort available with a good discount (once the standard rooms are sold out at Caribbean Beach and we’re left with only Pirate Rooms…), but instead of booking it, we’ll look at rates for Pop Century.
Our issue with Coronado Springs is probably that it’s just a bit blah. So many neutral colors and common design elements just make it not stand out in our memories. To be sure, there are splashes of vibrance, an awesome pool area, and we really like Pepper Market, but we’d still choose Caribbean Beach Resort every single time when the two are comparably-priced.
That’s just us, though and your mileage may vary. When you analyze Coronado Springs ‘checklist style’ it really does have a lot going for it, so maybe we have some misplaced bias against it. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and also this poll:
Considering theme, rooms, dining, pools, & other factors, which of these two Walt Disney World resort hotels do you prefer:
We’re guessing a lot of you agree with us, albeit maybe for different reasons, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will claim a victory via the poll. Aside from the All-Stars, it’s the Walt Disney World resort we hear the absolute least about, and doesn’t seem to have nearly as many fans as every other hotel at Walt Disney World. A big part of this could be simply because the resort targets business travelers, who probably aren’t as like to form attachments to Walt Disney World hotels as us Disney geeks. 😉 In any case, we’d really love to hear your rationale for your pick in the comments.
Especially during construction at both resorts that will continue in various stages through 2019, other factors will come into play. What is closed and impacted during your trip might be a big deal, as will available construction-related discounts that may (or may not!) end up being offered. Important amenities, recreation, and other variables might going to matter differently to you. Our goal is for this post to be helpful in offering a head-to-head comparison of the most crucial elements of each Walt Disney World resort experience, but we suggest supplementing this with our full review of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort(if you haven’t seen the new rooms, it’s definitely worth checking out just for that) and our Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Review. With that said, what do you think…did we choose the correct hotel here?
Do you agree or disagree with our verdict in this Caribbean Beach v. Coronado Springs head-to-head? What about our conclusions in each category? Is there something we missed or got wrong? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!