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.
As one of Walt Disney World’s original hotels, the Polynesian has a rich history and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. Polynesian Village Resort is known to most Disney fans simply as “the Poly.” It’s considered a village because of its sprawling layout comprised of 11 longhouses, the Bora Bora Bungalows, and the Great Ceremonial House, which is the main lobby where the restaurants, shops, etc. are located.
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. As adults, we have spent a ton of time at the Poly despite never staying there. I even proposed to Sarah on the beach of the Polynesian during the fireworks back when we got engaged.
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. We’ve also stayed in the Disney Vacation Club units known as the Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.
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. As is the case with all Walt Disney World on-site hotels, Polynesian Village Resort guests receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations.
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, this is far and away my #1 resort 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 was getting up early and enjoying the resort with no one else around.
Both mornings we were there, I got up well before sunrise to walk around, take photos, and soak up the ambiance. If it weren’t for wanting to take photos, I think I could have just lied in a hammock listening to the relaxing background music for an hour or so as the sun came up.
If you do stay at the Poly, consider it our mandate that you get up at least one morning to enjoy the sunrise (we have no means of enforcement, but trust us…do it). The ambiance at the Polynesian is always great, but with no one around at sunrise, you only have the sounds of the background music, the monorails, and boats doing test runs, making it feel like the perfect mix of being away from civilization in the tropics and being at Walt Disney World.
The resort has a similar beauty at sunset, but the ambiance is not nearly as good. Since everyone else is awake, the resort is hustling and bustling. It may not sound fun to get up early on vacation, but try it sometime. I guarantee that it’ll be worth it!
We also enjoy simply hanging out in the Great Ceremonial House. The open air atrium gives it a relaxed, spacious atmosphere, but it used to feel a bit dated. Fortunately, the Great Ceremonial House has received a massive update during the refurbishment. On our recent visit, I did miss that 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, I felt the changes were a net positive.
Speaking of positives: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is now open. We love Trader Sam’s at Disneyland, but I have to say I enjoyed Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto a bit more when we visited a couple times during our recent stay. Other changes in the lobby have been more controversial, including the lobby redesign.
I think the changes in the bedrooms have been a resounding positive, though…
Above is how the bedding used to look. Below is how it looks 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. We’ve stayed in both the old rooms and the new rooms, and this review features both.
Above are the old bathrooms, below are the new ones.
As you can see, the Poly’s new rooms have light green walls, dual-sinks, and white bed comforters with tropical-print coverlets. They also received new carpet and minor design touches.
Overall, the new rooms maintain the same feel as the old room in which we stayed, but with a more modern look. The big upgrade in terms of design seems to be the bedding. We think the new rooms are definitely nicer.
Above are the old closets (the new ones look basically the same). below is a view of the TV and re-designed couch.
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 three options that we love in addition to the aforementioned Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto: Kona Cafe is an unheralded gem, Captain Cook’s is one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World, and ‘Ohana is one of Disney’s most popular restaurants. Plus, the new Pineapple Lanai window is the only place outside the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World to get a Dole Whip.
There’s also the popular Spirit of Aloha dinner show (which we have never done). While none of these are fine dining options, there are plenty of those at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary, which are a short monorail ride 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 the two “big” parks is a big plus.
While we really like the Polynesian, we don’t consider it the end-all, be-all of Walt Disney World hotels, as it’s frequently considered. Why? Let’s take a look at room rates. Discounted rates start at over $400/night and only go up from there. For the prices Disney charges for the Polynesian Village Resort, 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.
While the rooms are nice overall, even the newly refurbished rooms lack some of the luxury amenities and finishing expected at a hotel with this price-point. Some guests might overlook this, either feeling that the themed design compensates for it, or not knowing what to expect from a hotel at a luxury price-point.
It is a fair point to contend that the theming compensates, and 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 a castle visible in the distance, nor do they have a monorail whizzing past them.
In addition to the excellent rooms is the grounds. I love the remnants of the original “Vacation Kingdom of the World,” and while some of these disappeared during the overhaul of the result, much of the great 1970s kitsch remains, while the resort as a whole has a more modern feel.
As for the negatives, and this is a sticking point with us regarding all Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts, but a luxury hotel concierge should be able to get hotel guests into sold out shows and booked restaurants. The Walt Disney World concierges don’t seem to serve the critical purposes they have at “real world” hotels at which we’ve stayed.
Of course, you pay a premium for everything at Walt Disney World, and I think a lot of this is due to location and immersion of the on-site experience. We understand this, but that doesn’t make the prices any easier to swallow. Accounting for discounts, the lowest-priced discounted night at the Poly is going to run over $325/night, with prices regularly creeping over $500/night.
To put this into perspective, here are some rack rates for other hotels offering great locations: The Churchill in London is $341/night, Fairmont San Francisco is $249/night, Shorebreak Hotel (Huntington Beach, CA) is $209/night, and Waldorf Astoria Chicago is $279/night (the Orlando Waldorf is the same rate). With some effort, discounted rates for these other hotels could be found, too. Each of these hotels offers significantly better guest amenities than the Poly. For more on what might be right for you, check out our comprehensive On-Site v. Off-Site Hotels at Walt Disney World article.
Even with a generous discount (or, say, “free” dining), a Walt Disney World vacation that includes a stay at the Poly is still quite expensive. Granted, all of the Deluxe Resorts are pricey, but the only one as or more expensive than the Poly is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which made our list of the most overrated things at Walt Disney World, so you should know exactly where we stand on that.
The rest of the Deluxes are all less expensive, in some cases significantly less so. Two of our favorite Deluxes, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, would be around $225 each after discounts. Still expensive, but in line with what we’d expect for their location and quality.
I suppose this is probably the biggest sticking point–the Poly is over $100/night more than some of our other favorite Deluxe Resorts, without enough justification as to why. Sure, it has its advantages, and is arguably the “coolest” Walt Disney World resort-hotel, but $100+ per night of advantages? That’s debatable. (I know it’s certainly easier for us to justify following the big renewal, now that the Poly doesn’t feel so dated.) This doesn’t make the Poly a bad hotel by any stretch, but it’s just difficult for us to justify the price given the value for money we feel the hotel offers.
We still love its ambiance, but will probably rent Disney Vacation Club points to stay at the Polynesian Villas (which we prefer to the regular rooms, anyway) the next time we stay here. We won’t, however, be returning to the Polynesian Bora Bora Bungalows, where we have also stayed.
Overall, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a great option for those who want to splurge on a trip, for those who want this particular style of resort hotel and have budgeted for a Deluxe Resort, or if money is no issue. It is pricey, but other than that I don’t have major complaints (anymore). Its theme and ambiance are exceptional, and it’s a great place to simply hang around and wander. The Poly is an excellent Disney hotel with great history (to learn more about this history, check out the Tikiman’s site), and we’re excited to return to one of the Disney Vacation Club rooms.
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How do you feel about Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort? Do you agree that it’s a bit overpriced for what it is, or do you think it’s such an awesome place that it justifies the high nightly rates? Share your thoughts in the comments!