Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Review

Caribbean Beach Resort is a Moderate hotel at Walt Disney World with a tropical theme. This review features new room photos, thoughts on the reimagining, Skyliner gondola transportation, pool & dining info, plus details on amenities offered by Riviera Resort, the sister DVC property to CBR. (Updated July 20, 2020.)

During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, Caribbean Beach Resort will be the first Moderate tier hotel to reopen. In fact, Caribbean Beach will be the only Moderate Resort operating for a few months. Coronado Springs isn’t scheduled to reopen until October 14, 2020 and even that might just be Gran Destino Tower. Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter have no scheduled reopening date, period.

In other words, if you have a Walt Disney World vacation booked with a Moderate Resort stay between now and the remainder of 2020, even if you’re booked elsewhere, there’s a very good chance you’ll be moved to Caribbean Beach. That may not be ideal if you prefer the themes of Coronado Springs or the Port Orleans Resorts, but we think Caribbean Beach has more going for it than any other Moderate. Here’s why…

The advantages of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort basically come down to three things. First and most importantly, the Disney Skyliner gondola. Caribbean Beach Resort is the hub for the Skyliner, with two stations offering access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, plus Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Riviera Resorts.

We use the Skyliner often, and are huge fans. During the “temporary abnormal” of Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, the Skyliner is operating with only one party per cabin. (Read our Skyliner Gondolas Review: Disney World’s Most Magical Flight on Earth for everything you need to know about this new transportation system.)

Second, Disney’s Riviera Resort is now open, meaning construction on this new Disney Vacation Club property adjacent to Caribbean Beach is finished. That’s one plus for fans of the tranquil and serene atmosphere that CBR offers.

The other advantage is the amenities Disney’s Riviera Resort offers. While Caribbean Beach Resort guests cannot pool hop to Riviera (CBR’s feature pool is better), you do have access to almost all other amenities. You can also take a leisurely stroll around the grounds, as the pathway that circles Barefoot Bay passes by both resorts.

Dining is the big thing, as Disney’s Riviera Resort has some great options. We are fans of the upscale dinner options at Primo Piatto, one of which is a top 5 entree in of all Walt Disney World counter service. Likewise, Le Petit Café, Bar Riva, and the pool gelato stand are all solid options.

We also love Topolino’s Terrace–both the Signature dinner and the Physically-Distanced Character Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends. For more info about the sister property to Caribbean Beach, consult our Disney’s Riviera Resort Review.

Finally, Caribbean Beach’s is the most modern of the Moderate Resorts. Prior to the opening of Disney’s Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach underwent a massive and multi-year reimagining to enhance and improve its amenities and design.

The Old Port Royale lobby area and check-in, Centertown Market, Banana Cabana, and Sebastian’s Bistro are all totally new or redone. 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.

If you want an idea of just how good these projects 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!

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 Disney’s Riviera Resort. We’ve stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort several times in the past year, and this trio of additions are all largely positive, even if they have eroded some of the secluded and lush tropical vibe of the resort.

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.

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.

Because of this, we usually use Uber to get to and from those parks, and it costs $8-15 per trip. It’s something worth considering if you find yourself frustrated with the bus service at CBR.

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 years 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:

Each has a few can’t-miss, signature items that we highly recommend checking out. (Like the glorious Caribbean Pull-apart Rolls with Guava Butter, Mango Chutney, and Jamaican Jerk Oil pictured above!)

There’s another new quick service restaurant adjacent to the quiet pool in Trinidad: Spyglass Grill. We absolutely love this counter service spot for both breakfast and lunch/dinner.

Unfortunately, neither Spyglass Grill nor Sebastian’s Bistro will operate during he first phase of Caribbean Beach’s reopening–only Banana Cabana and Centertown Market will be open until further notice.

If those options are insufficient, you can have alcohol and food to prepare for breakfasts brought to you for a much cheaper price–see our Tips for Grocery Delivery at Walt Disney World post for more info.

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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 more.

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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?

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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:

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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. If this resort sounds good to you and you’re craving even more info, see our Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

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.

Your Thoughts

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!


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