Guide to Disney World Pools: Rules, Info & FAQ
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?
In some cases, but not in many others.
Pool hopping is allowed for Disney Vacation Club members with some pretty significant restrictions and blockout dates that are too numerous to list. (See this official, and regularly ‘evolving’ page.)
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.
Which Walt Disney World pools are best?
We rank them in our Top 10 Pools at Walt Disney World.
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!)
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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!
We stayed at GF Villas and were not thrilled with the pool. We should have gone over to the main GF pool but that trip was fairly cold so we didn’t swim much.
I agree 100% that the Bay Lake Towers and Contemporary pools are not great.
Can you hop to Poly?
I know why stormalong bay is popular but the lazy river does nothing for me and in general I like those. Our last week at Disney was at Beach Club and we only went to Stormalong twice. We were at the leisure pool EVERY DAY.
I wish Disney had a quiet/leisure pool at more resorts (GF, BL, AK, etc). Nicer for actually swimming not just standing around in the zero entry pools.
Even when pool hopping is permitted for DVC members (currently it is not) they cannot hop to the Polynesian. GF does have a leisure pool; it’s the courtyard pool. No slide. BLT has one pool, but guests there can use the lake side pool at the CR (no slide there). AKV only has the two pools.
Which pool is the picture of showing a blue “tower” with a Mickey? Looks like there are 2 water slides? If it’s the contemporary I haven’t been since I was a kid. 2 slides is better than 1! Thanks in advance.
I think you mean BLT pool. You must be a guest of BLT to swim there. Staying at the Contemporary won’t get you in. There is only one slide.
We have been going back and forth about whether to go to a waterpark or the Contemporary pool on our rest/pool day, 3/25/21. We won’t want to wait to get into the pool but also, won’t want to be there first thing in the morning when it is still cool. Would you suggest a waterpark since there may be a wait for the pool?
Sadly, you’ll probably want to remove this line:
“If you have an aversion to clowns, steer clear of the pool at BoardWalk Inn. That’s basically Walt Disney World’s IT pool…and we don’t mean that in the trendy way.”
Can guests get free drinking water in the pool area, or do I need to purchase water?
What do you mean by “zero entry”? I may have missed it.
Also, we are planning a stay at AoA in July. We have a three-year-old with a skinny wrist. If we remove the magic band for swimming, we he be able to get in with us? Is it just a gate that unlocks or is someone actually screening. I guess I could wear two, but tan lines, you know!
Zero entry means you can walk right into the pool without going down a ladder or steps. Gently sloped entry.
If your child has any looped item on his suit like a string, belt loop or something like that you can thread the magic band through that looped. I’ve seen guests attach the magic band around their strap on their bathing suit.
Remember, that in July you won’t get any free magic bands any more. You’ll have to pay for the generic ones or buy a specialty one.
Very helpful article, thanks so much! My family is headed out in a couple weeks and was hoping to get some insight on pool toys. I was thinking rafts or “donuts” were not allowed? But wondered if diving toys were allowed or we could bring any pool toys with us?
Thanks for any feedback and so apologize if I have missed this info somewhere.
You can bring diving toys, Banzai balls to throw around, also pool noodles at yacht club 🙂
I’m not sure that it’s consistent yet. We were recently at the Beach House pool at HHI. I left my table to go to the walk up window (about 10 yards away and still within the pool deck) to order a beverage and was asked very politely if I had a mask. I had been under the impression that once we on the pool deck we could keep them off, but that’s not always the case. In any case, I didn’t cause any trouble, I simply retrieved my mask. It may depend on the CM. Also: 2nd the use of pool on check out day! The showers were nice and had the usual supply of soap/shampoo/conditioner on the wall along with plenty of towels.
We stayed at Copper Creek about a month ago. The main pool at Wilderness Lodge did not open until 11am. The quiet pool at Boulder Ridge was a little crowded since that was the only option before 11– mainly kids playing, but a bit harder to maintain distance. At 11:00 we moved over to the main pool. It was practically empty and quite enjoyable.
Also someone posted about the water temperature being quite warm. This was true at the end of the day; however, in the morning the water was cool and comfortable.
We were in Disney World the first week in August and stayed at Saratoga Springs. Beautiful resort and villas but the pools were almost hot. Was told they are not pumping cold water into them because of cutbacks. Kids didn’t care but not refreshing at all after a long, hot day. Also, one evening we were at the leisure pool around 10:30 and a security guard came in and we talked with him quite a bit. Nice guy. We said we had never heard of a pool open 24 hours. He was stunned. Said he had been a security guard many years and had never heard that and that he would be talking to the resort and his bosses. He said security stops checking pools around 11:00. We found the mask rules very lenient at all the pools. When at the parks we quickly lowered masks to take pictures and were never approached. But we made sure we were far apart from anyone else.
I swear when we were at the leisure pool at the Beach Club in 2019 there was some sort of hours. (It might have been information in the room packet.)
But our first trip with the kids was 2006 and it was HOT. We were ground floor facing the quiet pool. At night my daughter and I would take a swim to cool down after we got back from the parks (it was late). It was great since there was typically no one there.
I hadn’t thought about the security guards checking the pools.
I know the quiet/leisure pools do not have life guards.
We are currently at GF, and the courtyard pool closes @ 11, per the sign on the gate.
Last year there was a scheduled maintenance for the Big Blue Pool at AoA this fall. Do you know if that is still going to occur? Or could we book that resort in Mid November knowing that the Big Blue Pool will be open?
I read a lot of blogs but yours is the most concise and up to date .. thank you for simple fact info without a Lot of fluff !!
Ps. Don’t know why I read The rest !
I think its very sad that there is not an opportunity to get a pic in front of the castle with your mask down:(
Has anyone tried a clear mask?
If you have a cute mask, I don’t think it really matters. Disney Aces has a lot of really cute Disney themed masks. You will have lots of photos in your mask, that’s just the type of year we are having. I’ve heard clear mask windows fog up, but you can definitely buy them.
I agree it’s a shame you can’t pull your mask down for a quick photo as long as you aren’t near anyone. I know some people don’t mind mask photos (maybe they get to go more often?) but as someone who only gets to go once every few years, I don’t need any photos of us at Disney with masks on no matter how cute they are 🙁 The photos I want from a vacation would be of all the smiling faces. Still desperately hoping things are better by the time our trip comes up!!
Last week I booked a blind Priceline hotel deal and ended up getting Yacht Club. I was pleased, but at that time, I thought we would have to use the Beach Club Villas pool or the Boardwalk Inn pool, so I wasn’t ecstatic. After reading your post saying Stormalong Bay will be open as of 8/24, now I’m extremely ecstatic! It also makes me feel like my blind Priceline deal was AMAZING! Thanks for getting my Thursday morning off to a great start Tom. Also – I wouldn’t have known about Priceline’s blind booking deals if it wasn’t for your blog so a lot of this upcoming trip’s awesomeness is because of you!
Wow, that would be a dream come true for me. Fantastic! Such a beautiful resort with an amazing-looking pool. I’m happy for y’all!
Question about food at the pools right now, it’s all mobile order at the moment, correct? The pool bars are just drinks? Thanks for the info!
I don’t think I saw you mention that feature pools have lifeguards. Many parents may be interested in that distinction! Forgive me if it’s already there.
Are Riviera guests officially allowed to swim at CBR? Or are you just implying don’t ask don’t tell? 🙂
Only if they are DVC members staying on their own points and pool hopping has not been blacked out for the time they are there. They have to follow the pool hoping rules for DVC.
since when are towels not available at value pools 😮
Did a little more digging, and it appears my info was outdated. Value pools used to offer towels, then stopped doing so several years ago, began phasing towels back in as of 2016, and completed that as of last year.
Long story short–all tiers now offer towels at the pools. I’ve updated the FAQ accordingly!
They have been available in our recent experiences…
We stayed at AoA in January 2021 and they did not have towels at the pools….
Are the showers at the pool still closed?
Yes per current policy.
However, I’m not 100% sure they all are actually closed. I could’ve sworn I saw the ones at Contemporary open yesterday, but I forgot about this change and didn’t think to actively check.
I stayed at Riviera recently and the showers were closed (door to them locked).
One exception to the “sister resorts” rule. Guests at BLT can swim at the CR pools, but CR guests cannot swim at the BLT pool (because it is small).
Thanks for the clarification–in all of our stays, I’ve only even used the BLT pool once. (I didn’t even realize this was the policy.)
I always enjoy your posts and thank you so much for all your insightful and witty comments, love them. We are planning a trip mid October and staying off property via ABNB. Curious as to what the weather will be like as I am thinking of doing 2 parks; Magic Kingdom and Hollywood studios. It would on the weekend unfortunately as both my girls will be doing online school virtually on the weekdays. Just trying to determine how it will be wearing masks all day in the park. Also do you see guests removing masks when taking pics?
At present, guests are not allowed to remove masks for photos. That’s been the rule since reopening, but it was just added to the in-park audio spiel as of this week.