Caribbean Beach Resort is a Moderate hotel at Walt Disney World with a tropical theme. This review has been updated with new room photos and thoughts on the recent re-imagining and newly-opening Skyliner gondola transportation. (Updated October 3, 2019.)
The big news is that the Skyliner is now open! We’ve already used it countless times, including a couple of times from Caribbean Beach for Extra, Extra Magic Hours and to rope drop Epcot. Read our Skyliner Gondolas Review: Disney World’s Most Magical Flight on Earth for everything you need to know about this new transportation system for getting from CBR to Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and other resorts.
In addition to the Skyliner, Caribbean Beach’s re-imagining is also finished. This isn’t a brand new development, but it’s worth noting in case you haven’t visited this year. The Old Port Royale lobby area and check-in is open, as are Centertown Market, Banana Cabana, and Sebastian’s Bistro. We’ve stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort several times this year, and have updated this review with some quick hit thoughts as of October 2019…
As big fans of Caribbean Beach, we had a good amount of trepidation regarding the resort’s re-imagining, plus the additions of the Skyliner and Riviera Resort. So far, two of these three additions have been very positive, even if they have eroded some of the secluded and lush tropical vibe of the resort.
Walt Disney World hotel refreshes have been very hit or miss in recent years, with a move away from highly-themed spaces and towards bland, generic styles. The ‘update’ at Caribbean Beach was far more substantial than a standard refurbishment, and it was handled excellently, as you can read in our Photos & Thoughts: Re-Imagined Caribbean Beach Resort post.
The redone lobby is incredibly tasteful, while still having enough splashes of color and architectural details that evoke the Caribbean. The menus at the counter service and table service restaurant are ambitious, and the food is delicious. The new pool bar is a significant upgrade, with live performers on select evenings.
If you want an idea of just how good this whole project went, check out our revised Polynesian v. Caribbean Beach Resort Comparison. Keep the price difference between the two in mind when reading that; the Poly is at least double to triple the cost of Caribbean Beach!
With that said, construction isn’t totally done at Caribbean Beach Resort. Along the perimeter of the resort, work continues for Disney’s Riviera Resort, the newest Disney Vacation Club offering (See our Disney’s Riviera Resort Construction Update: Fall 2019 for the latest photos of the progress). This new DVC resort will open on December 16, 2019.
Getting down to the business of the resort review, let’s start with an overview. Located near Epcot, Caribbean Beach Resort has decent proximity to the theme parks. Thanks to the Skyliner, there is now also a novel and efficient mode of transportation between CBR and two parks.
This re-imagining was 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 re-assert Caribbean Beach Resort’s place as one of the best Moderate Resorts. It now has upscale amenities and superior transportation for when Disney Vacation Club opens next door in December 2019.
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, Barbados, Martinique, Aruba, and Jamaica.
One of the biggest downsides of Caribbean Beach used to be that 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.
However, the new Skyliner gondolas totally eliminate this issue when it comes to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Caribbean Beach is the only Moderate Resort offering non-bus transportation to Walt Disney World’s theme parks. This is huge, and the advantage it offers cannot be overstated.
Getting to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs from CBR can still take some time due to the resort’s internal bus loop. This internal loop can added ~10 minutes to transit times, and also mean the bus arrives to your stop nearly (or totally) full during peak times.
Caribbean Beach Resort’s main lobby and guest check-in is now located in Old Port Royale.
If you’ve read elsewhere that it’s in the Custom House, that info is outdated, as Custom House permanently closed over a year ago.
The consolidation of the lobby and check-in in Old Port Royale is a definite improvement. This area is convenient to many guest rooms, whereas Custom House wasn’t convenient to anything.
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 reasonable 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. On the plus side, this will make you less likely to eat those instant-eggs and rubber-bacon! (Aren’t I the optimist…)
On the dining front, some good news is that during the resort re-imagining, Coke Freestyle machines and smaller ‘Island Marketplaces’ were added throughout the resort, and you should have one of these ~5 minutes from your room. The resort map you receive at check-in will indicate where they’re located.
At Centertown, you’ll find a trio of dining options including a table service restaurant, food court for quick service dining, and poolside bar. Here are our reviews of each:
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 My Disney Experience, which means that guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations.
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. Although the rooms were gutted and totally redone during the last refurbishment a few years ago, they were mostly untouched during the more recent Old Port Royale re-imagining. Likewise, the Pirate Rooms remained unchanged. You can read about those in our Caribbean Beach Resort Pirate Rooms Review (we do NOT recommend them).
Below is how the standard guest rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort looked about 5 years ago, pre-refurbishment:
Whether this style is ‘fun and colorful’ or ‘Finding Nemo clown barf’ is a matter of personal preference and opinion.
It’s all moot, as here’s how the rooms look now, post-refurbishment…
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.
(Note: two more recent changes have been made to Caribbean Beach’s rooms; the bed runners have been removed and the televisions have been replaced with larger flat screens. Both changes are reflected in the photo above. Otherwise, everything is the same.)
Overall, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is a very nice place to stay, especially if you enjoy the theme and the sprawling resort grounds. It’s now a very balanced hotel with a tremendous amount of upside: a diverse slate of restaurants, plenty of recreation options, beautiful grounds to enjoy, and efficient Skyliner transportation to Epcot and DHS.
Between the new dining, other amenities, and this gondola transportation, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has some of the same selling points as Deluxe Resorts. (At this point, about the only thing it lacks is interior hallways.) I was already a fan of Caribbean Beach Resort, but now that it’s basically a “Poor Man’s Polynesian.” 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 now that the big re-imagining is finished? Have you tried Centertown Market, Banana Cabana, or Sebastian’s Bistro? 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? Any questions about this Walt Disney World resort hotel? Share your thoughts or any questions you have in the comments!