When it comes to choosing the right Walt Disney World hotel, pools are the difference-maker for many guests. In this guide, we’ll answer frequently asked questions, current policies & rules, and offer other info about swimming, water slides, hot tubs, pool bars, and more. (Updated March 6, 2022.)
While we personally prefer choosing a hotel on the basis of location, transportation, or theme, pools play an undeniably prominent role in many families’ vacation plans. The good news is that many Walt Disney World hotels with the “best” pools also are within walking, Skyliner, boat, or monorail distance of the parks.
There’s Stormalong Bay at Yacht & Beach Club–basically a mini water park complete with a sand-bottom and lazy river–which is a short walk from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation–it’s big, blue, and arguably overrated–which is within a Skyliner flight to both of those same parks. There’s the Lava Pool at Polynesian Village Resort–with great views, hidden coves, Kiki Tiki’s Splash Play Area, walking bridge, waterfalls, and 142-foot water slide–which is a monorail ride from Magic Kingdom…
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves and arguably off-topic with a value assessment of which pools at Walt Disney World are the best options. Instead, let’s focus on the general rules and info applicable to all (or at least most) pools at Walt Disney World.
We’ll start with what you currently need to know during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World including info about face mask rules (all gone!) and spring break crowds that have currently descended upon WDW’s hotels. Following that, we’ll cover the normal, universally-applicable policies…
2022 Pool Update FAQ
Are pools busy?
It depends. We’ve visited or stayed at every resort at Walt Disney World since reopening, and in our anecdotal experience, the busiest pools have been those at Yacht & Beach Club, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Caribbean Beach.
Generally speaking, leisure pools are not busy. This is also very much dependent upon weather, when temperatures are warmer, pools are busier. Expect pool popularity to increase as we approach summer.
Do pools still have capacity constraints?
In theory, there are always capacity constraints at pools and elsewhere.
However, there is no longer reduced capacity or physical distancing measures are in place to reduce the capacity of pools and spread out seating that resulted in occasional multi-hour waits to enter pools.
Is there a wait time to enter pools?
We have not seen this happen in the last 6 months or more.
It’s possible that demand will spike during spring break season–especially at big resorts like Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Pop Century, Art of Animation, or Yacht & Beach Club. It’s also possible that Disney Park Passes being unavailable for peak dates will drive more people to pools. But it should not be anywhere near as bad as last year, if there are ever wait times.
What is the procedure for pool wait times?
We’ve had two different experiences. When demand and crowds were shorter, we simply waited outside for pool chair availability to open up (capacity is determined on the basis of chairs). There were 2-3 other parties waiting at the same time as us.
On another occasion, names and phone numbers were being taken by a Cast Member at the pool gate, and guests would be contacted via text message when availability opened up. On this occasion, we obviously didn’t know how many guests were in line in front of us, but the wait was significantly longer.
What are pool hours?
Feature or main pool hours are 10 am until 10 pm or 11 pm daily, depending upon the season. (Expect warmer months to see longer hours.)
Leisure or quiet pools are once again open 24 hours per day. As always, operating hours are subject to change without notice (mostly due to weather).
Normal Pool FAQ
Do all hotel pools have water slides?
Water slides are considered a Moderate Resort and above amenity, meaning Value Resorts do not have them. All hotels above that tier have at least one water slide. Additionally, no leisure pool has a water slide.
What’s the difference between a feature pool and leisure pool?
Feature pools are Disneyspeak for the main pool. These are usually centrally-located, large, and have more lavish Disney theme and decor. Additionally, the ones at Moderate and Deluxe Resorts have water slides. These are the pools your kids will want to use.
Leisure pools are Disneyspeak for quiet pools. These are smaller, typically have understated design, and are better for lounging. They’re less attractive to kids (although anyone is allowed) and more aimed at adults.
Can you pool hop to different resorts at Walt Disney World?
For guests of normal hotels, the exception to this is anyone staying at a hotel with a ‘sister’ property. Meaning the various All Star Resorts, two Port Orleans Resorts, and any hotel with a DVC or Deluxe Villa.
Are pool hopping rules actually enforced?
It depends upon the resort.
The rules are strictly enforced at Stormalong Bay. Everywhere else, it’s more hit or miss. MagicBands are used to unlock the gates of feature pools, but this is sometimes turned off or gates are open. It works enough to be a sufficient deterrent to pool hopping, though.
Do you recommend pool hopping for eligible guests?
Even if you’re eligible to pool hop, we generally don’t recommend it for pools that aren’t within walking distance–it’s too much of a hassle. The big exception is Disney’s Riviera Resort guests, who should use the feature pool at Caribbean Beach. Bay Lake Tower guests should also consider a different pool, but unfortunately, none of the major players in the Magic Kingdom area are viable options.
With that said, we’ll “save you a click” as the obvious #1 is Stormalong Bay. It’s still worth reading the full list, as there are some sleeper picks and hidden gems.
Which hotel has the worst pools?
Even though they have water slides, our picks for this are Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower. These would be good leisure pools thanks to their views and natural serenity…but they are seldom serene due to crowds.
Are the feature pools loud?
At many resorts, pool views are considered a preferred or premium view category. Why that is absolutely confounds us–I’d rather have a view of the dumpster than of the pool. At least the dumpster isn’t constantly making noise.
Which pool areas are best for adults?
It really depends upon what you’re after, but we really like the pools at Disney’s Riviera Resort and Grand Floridian.
Two sleeper picks are Coronado Springs and the Swan & Dolphin.
What about hot tubs?
As with water slides, hot tubs are a feature at Moderate Resorts and above.
While there are a variety of boilerplate health rules and recommendations, all guests–including children–are allowed to use hot tubs.
Which resorts have the best hot tubs?
Totally our opinion based on atmosphere and seclusion, but at the Moderate Resort tier we’ll pick Coronado Springs and Port Orleans French Quarter.
Deluxe Resorts have a wealth of options, with the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht & Beach Club, and Grand Floridian being our favorites. Contemporary Resort–the worst pool area above–is actually a sleeper pick here thanks to its lakeside setting.
Are there pool bars or restaurants at the pools?
Every resort has a pool with a bar in its general vicinity.
The location and proximity varies from hotel to hotel, as does what’s served. Food-wise, it’s typically pretty basic fare–if you’re eating at the pool bar, it’s usually out of convenience not due to an exceptional menu.
Are towels provided at the pools?
Are the pools zero entry?
Not all of them, but an increasing number.
This is a relatively recent development, added to feature pools that are reimagined and to pools that are newly-built in the last decade or so.
What about water play areas?
Same deal as with zero entry.
This is a newer development, and you’ll find interactive water play areas or splash zones at a growing number of Walt Disney World resorts. It’s still not all of them, but it’s getting closer.
Do pools close due to weather?
In extreme cases, yes. While pools remain open no matter how torrential the downpour, if there is a lightning strike in the area, pools temporarily close until given the all-clear.
Pools are also open in the winter, and at temperatures where all but guests from the North while actively avoid them. However, pools will close on days when it gets really cold, much to the consternation of Canadians.
Do pools having diving boards?
What other common ‘amenities’ are Walt Disney World pools missing?
The big one is that Walt Disney World doesn’t have indoor pools, but that’s not really a pool amenity so much as a location.
Additionally, most Walt Disney World pools don’t have ‘athletic stuff’ like lap lanes (save for Coronado Springs) or water polo goals.
Do pools have showers?
There are both ‘simple’ showers for rinsing off and more traditional and private showers in the restrooms. The latter can come in real handy (see below).
Can pools be used before or after checkout?
If you arrive early in the day and your room isn’t ready, you can use the pool. Ditto after checking out, but before your flight. Those pool showers can also come in real handy in this situation if you want to clean off before or after your flight!
If the pool is too crowded can we swim in the lake or other random body of water at our resort?
Swimming is not allowed in the lakes, ponds, or other natural bodies of water at Walt Disney World.
One of our “favorite” Walt Disney World Urban Legends is that River Country Water Park closed because it used lake water, and a young boy died of a brain eating amoeba from the lake. (Sadly, the second part of the story is true but the first is not.)
The point still stands that random bodies of Florida water are less than ideal for swimming. They’re also home to alligators and who-knows-water kind of prehistoric monstrosities lurking in the abyss. When it comes to Florida’s critters, nothing surprises us anymore.
At 2,000+ words, I feel like we’re already over-complicating what should be a relatively straightforward topic. We’re happy to expand on this with answers to your questions that have a ‘unique wrinkle’ but a lot of this is common sense.
Don’t take beer into the pool. Don’t eat a footlong submarine sandwich while swimming. Don’t pee in the pool. No skinny dipping. (Save those shenanigans for Margaritaville!)
Have any Walt Disney World pool-related questions that we did not answer in this FAQ? Have you used the pools since Walt Disney World reopened? Have any feedback or thoughts about policies or crowds based upon your experience? Favorite or least favorite pools at WDW? Same question for hot tubs, water slides, splash zones, and poolside bars? Planning on using the pools during your next Walt Disney World vacation? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your pool rankings, other comments, and questions in the comments below!