Polynesian Village Resort is a deluxe hotel at Walt Disney World themed to retro tiki culture and the South Pacific, with monorail access to Magic Kingdom. This review features room photos, thoughts on the amenities, and whether this expensive resort is worth the money. (Updated July 7, 2020.)
During Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, Polynesian Village Resort (or “the Poly” as it’s known among fans) will be among the first non-Disney Vacation Club hotels to reopen. The Poly will resume operations on August 12, 2020, which is one month and a day after Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopen.
It’s worth noting that the Disney Vacation Club villas at the Polynesian have already reopened. This means that, effectively, the resort is already partially operational as the lobby, shops, and many restaurants have already reopened. However, more will return in August 2020, and as such, we thought it’d be worth revisiting the resort and refreshing this review…
As one of Walt Disney World’s original hotels, the Polynesian has a rich history and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is considered a village because of its sprawling layout comprised of 11 longhouses plus the over-the-water Bora Bora Bungalows, which radiate out from the Great Ceremonial House.
The Great Ceremonial House contains several restaurants, shops, an atrium lobby with many species of tropical plants, and access to the monorail station that services Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), Grand Floridian Resort, and Contemporary Resort.
Outside the Great Ceremonial House, you’ll find the Poly’s marina and feature pool, plus outdoor seating areas for a handful of the resort’s restaurants. There’s also a path that connects the Polynesian to Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show luau, Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
Later in 2020, this path will also connect to Magic Kingdom, making it theoretically possible to walk from the Poly to Magic Kingdom (it’ll be about a mile-long walk–definitely doable in the winter months, but probably not ideal during the summer). This path actually starts at the TTC, meaning you could theoretically walk from the TTC to Magic Kingdom. If you enjoy strolls, it’s actually quite lovely–but we digress.
We have long been fans of the Poly. For me, it dates back to when I was a kid, walking from Shades of Green to the Poly for the monorail, and going to the Neverland Club while my parents went to Pleasure Island. We’ve since been back numerous times for dining and other purposes, and have stayed at the Poly both before and after the big “renewal” of the resort, on both the hotel side and DVC side of the property.
While there were some loses during that renewal (such as the lobby water feature) and DVC expansion, the Poly is still an excellent resort and one that now feels nicer and modern. Let’s start by taking a look at the positives…
The Poly is just a flat out cool resort. It has a ton of incredibly detailed tikis scattered around the grounds that were carved by Oceanic Arts in California. I could spend a morning just wandering around looking at these, and their cheeky designs always make me smile.
In general, the Polynesian has a very enjoyable ambiance thanks to its many details and the general island ambiance that is so well conveyed, even if the resort is more a lighthearted caricature (not at all in a bad way) of island life than it is an attempt at authenticity. The feel of the Poly is a definite X-factor. In terms of theme and atmosphere, this is one of our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World.
In terms of layout, I think the Polynesian Resort will satisfy a variety of guests. I’ve stated in numerous reviews that I like resorts that are spread out, giving me plenty to explore in the mornings. I think this has perplexed a lot of commenters, who generally seem to favor compact layouts for the efficiency’s sake.
The Poly is not as spread out as Coronado Springs or Caribbean Beach Resort, making it easy to walk to the Great Ceremonial House in the morning no matter the longhouse in which you’re staying. Despite this ease of access, there’s still a lot to explore, making those who prefer the sprawling “resort” layout (like me) happy. The only resort that does a better job of striking this balance is probably Wilderness Lodge (Grand Floridian also does it well).
Exploring the Polynesian is a ton of fun, too. I’ve long held the opinion that sunsets at the Polynesian are more beautiful than sunsets anywhere else at Walt Disney World, and I’m convinced that the same is true of sunrises. One of the great things about staying at the Poly is getting up early and enjoying the resort with no one else around.
Whenever we stay at the Poly, I get up well before sunrise to walk around, take photos, and soak up the ambiance. If it weren’t for wanting to take photos, I could just lounge in a hammock listening to the relaxing background music for an hour or so as the sun comes up.
We also enjoy simply hanging out in the Great Ceremonial House. The open air atrium gives it a relaxed, spacious atmosphere. Around dinner time, it can get loud in here, but it’s generally pretty calming. We do miss the waterfall that used to be in the middle of the lobby, but aside from this and the removal of some of the streams behind the Great Ceremonial House, the changes made to the Poly in the last few years have been generally positive.
Speaking of positives: the redesigned guest rooms are another resounding positive…
Above is how the guest rooms used to look.
Below is how they look now.
The rooms are a big plus at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and these might be some of the nicest at Walt Disney World now. Rooms now feature white bed comforters with tropical-print coverlets. They also received new carpet, a soft goods refresh, and minor design touches.
These do a great job of balancing theme and luxury, offering an upscale vibe of the tropics. They utilize textures and patterns nicely, without being overly busy or chaotic.
Above are the old bathrooms.
Below are the new ones.
As you can see, the Poly’s new bathrooms have light green walls, dual-sinks, and back-lit mirrors. Both in terms of form and function, there are some clear upgrades.
Overall, the new rooms maintain the same feel as the old room in which we stayed, but with a more modern look.
In terms of commonalities between the old and new rooms, both are spacious, sleeping five adults with plenty of room to roam, and have space to sit, along with a desk for working and balconies with a table and chairs.
Even these “old” rooms were fairly recently refurbished (mid-2000s, I believe), so they are still fairly nice.
In terms of dining, the Poly has four options that we love (click the link for our full review of each):
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – One of the best bars at Walt Disney World
- Kona Cafe – Table service restaurant that’s an unheralded gem
- Captain Cook’s – A good to great (depending upon what you order) counter service restaurant
- ‘Ohana – One of Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants…but perhaps (controversial opinion incoming) a bit overrated.
Don’t get us wrong–we really enjoy ‘Ohana. But the price has increased exponentially over the past several years and the quality has decreased in that same time. It’s still a ton of fun and if money were no issue, we’d highly recommend it.
In addition to these favorites, there’s Barefoot Pool Bar, Oasis Bar & Grill, Tambu Lounge, Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (luau), and a few snack spots. Most notable of these is the Pineapple Lanai window, which is one of the few places outside the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World to get a Dole Whip.
While none of the aforementioned restaurants are fine dining options, there are plenty of those at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary, which are a short monorail ride or walk away.
Fine dining in the Polynesian would be nice, but given the proximity of the other options, we aren’t penalizing the Poly for its lack of fine dining.
The pools at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort used to be simply fine, but are now top notch. The main pool with its volcano slide was totally re-done, and now looks more authentic, while containing more areas that–I think–feel relaxing.
It’s not just a loud, family pool. The quiet pool is nothing special, but it’s not bad. The refurbishment has pushed the Poly to the head of its class in terms of Deluxe Resort pools near the Magic Kingdom.
Transportation is a complaint we have about every Magic Kingdom-area and Epcot-area Deluxe Resort, and that these high-priced hotels share buses while Pop Century (a Value Resort) does not continues to puzzle us. We feel this is a serious fault of all of these Deluxe Resorts, and something that Disney should correct.
Fortunately, the Poly has convenient monorail or boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom, and many longhouses are a short walk from the Ticket & Transportation Center, which also offers monorail service to Epcot. Getting to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the water parks is less convenient, but the convenient access to two theme parks is a huge plus.
Far and away the biggest downside of the Poly is pricing. Discounted rates start at over $400/night and only go up from there. For the Polynesian Village Resort’s room rates, it should be a luxury-class hotel. Although the theming is fun and as a fan of Disney history I love all of the little details, the Poly isn’t on par with similarly-priced real world hotels.
However, this is a common refrain we have when it comes to Walt Disney World hotels, especially on the Deluxe end of the spectrum. It only becomes more pronounced with the most expensive hotels. Some nights, the Poly is double the cost of the Four Seasons Orlando or Waldorf Astoria–and it does not offer commensurate luxury.
It is a fair point to contend that the location, monorail transportation, and theming compensates for the lack of luxury. Historically, Walt Disney World hotels have gone for themed design rather than upscale amenities.
It’s also fair to say that location plays a huge role in price–most real world hotels don’t have Cinderella Castle visible in the distance, nor do they have a monorail whizzing past them. (If you want the best of both worlds, see our King Kamehameha Club Level at Polynesian Resort Review.)
Conversely, if you’re trying to do Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on a tighter budget, your best option is unquestionably renting Disney Vacation Club points.
This will give you the chance to stay at the Polynesian Villas (which we prefer to the regular rooms, anyway) at less than half the price of the main hotel. If you have a larger party and want something novel and fun, consider the Polynesian Bora Bora Bungalows (we didn’t love our one stay in those, but we had an ‘unfortunate incident.’)
Overall, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a great option for those who want to splurge on a trip, but want a resort with a more laid back and relaxed tropical vibe as opposed to an opulent and luxurious one. The Poly is pricey, but other than that we don’t have major complaints about the resort. Its theme and ambiance are exceptional and very much to our tastes, and it’s a great place to simply hang around and wander.
Beyond that, the Poly scores major points from a functional perspective. The rooms are among the best at Walt Disney World, the pools are great, and the dining options are diverse and fun (minus the lack of fine dining). Walkability and transportation also cannot be overstated–the ability to conveniently catch a monorail to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot is huge, an advantage you may not fully appreciate until having experienced it. All in all, these factors are why the Polynesian Village Resort ranks so highly on our List of the Best & Worst Deluxe Hotels at Walt Disney World.
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How do you feel about Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? Do you think it’s overpriced for what it is, or do you think it’s such an awesome place that it justifies the high nightly rates? What are your pros & cons for the Poly? Thoughts on transportation or dining here? Do you agree or disagree with our resort review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!