Explorers Lodge is the newest hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland themed to adventure, and the tropical climates of Asia, Oceania, South America, and Africa. In this post, we’ll share room photos, discuss strengths and weaknesses, and offer our take on whether Explorers Lodge is worth the money.
As relatively little is known about Explorers Lodge, a lot of influences have been speculated: Aulani, Trader Sam’s, S.E.A., and even the Adventurers Club. While it’s possible I missed an Easter Egg or small nod to these, none of them offer significant inspiration in the design of Explorers Lodge.
Rather, this hotel is Animal Kingdom Lodge minus most of the cultural authenticity. As the name suggests, it focuses more generally on exploration, and while it’s faithful to that theme and , that’s accomplished via Disney characters and with a more caricatured style. Basically, Explorers Lodge is to Animal Kingdom Lodge as Jungle Cruise is to Kilimanjaro Safaris. Except, in the case of Explorers Lodge, minus animals–even the fake ones.
This isn’t to say Explorers Lodge is cartoonish or cheesy. To the contrary, it feels very lived in and has an aura of authenticity. To what, I have zero idea, but it somehow manages to evoke that rugged spirit of exploration. I think this is accomplished via a mix of the obvious along with the subtle. While the obvious details are things like trunks filled with Duffy or Goofy’s travel supplies, the subtle are authentic patterns on a strip of trim.
There are many instances of both the obvious and the subtle, and it’s pretty impressive how this all congeals into something that works remarkable well. Another comparison seems apt here, and that’s Adventureland. That land manages to graft real-world inspiration into a fictionalized locale, merging worldly with Disney in a way that largely works. (At least, in the versions of Adventureland that don’t have a giant Aladdin spinner dropped into their center.)
All of this is to say that Explorers Lodge is richly-themed, making it a joy to just wander and…explore. While similarities to Animal Kingdom Lodge abound both in terms of overarching design and visual motifs, Explorers Lodge is distinct and unique. In this regard, it is our unequivocal top thematic pick among the three hotels at Hong Kong Disneyland. Now, let’s see how it stacks up in other regards.
Namely, the rooms. I’ll cut to the chase: these are the nicest at Hong Kong Disneyland. They are also far and away the most spacious, to the point that you’ll wonder whether you were given a free upgrade when you enter the room. (Nope, that’s how large the standard room is.)
Once this initial excitement wore off (for me at least, because I have a knack for sucking the joy out of everything), I noticed that a lot of this space is wasted.
There’s ample room for a sofa or comfortable chair, yet none is present. Instead, there’s a large gulf between the beds, desk, and dresser/television. Great if kids need empty floor space to play and also nice from a psychological perspective if you don’t like cramped quarters, but of little functional value.
With that said, the rooms are wonderful. Theme is on the understated side, but decorations (like the awesome Mickey & Minnie masks), patterned carpet, and various fixtures offer enough to give the room the perfect flavor.
If you want rooms that beat you over the head with their theme, this is not for you (then again, none of the hotels at Hong Kong Disneyland do that). If you favor a balance of theme and luxury, Explorers Lodge will be a home-run. Even those who find Animal Kingdom Lodge’s rooms drab are likely to like these, as they are lighter and airier.
For being a hotel in Asia, the beds are surprisingly comfortable. They are not downright soft, but they’re not super firm, either. They hit the sweet spot somewhere in between, and having two queen-sized beds is excellent. We stayed here with a party of four adults, and found the room to be quite pleasant. (Part of that, admittedly, comes down to that “wasted” space.)
The bathroom is fairly unremarkable, with separate spaces for the sink and toilet/shower. This area is also a bit cramped, which stands in contrast to the rest of the room. While this is consistent with the other HKDL hotels, I could’ve gone for a layout allocating more space to the bathroom and slightly less to the main area.
In terms of other amenities, Explorers Lodge shines. Most notable among these is its wealth of dining options. There’s Chart Room Cafe on the counter service end, plus World of Color and Dragon Wind, both of which are mixed use (table service and buffet, depending upon the meal).
The dining scene at Explorers Lodge is incredibly ambitious. This is readily apparent even in Chart Room Cafe, which features numerous dishes and desserts with artful presentation and premium ingredients. With this counter service restaurant, I wonder if it’s a bit too ambitious. Presumably due to quality, prices are high and portions are small.
We enjoyed everything we ate at Chart Room Cafe, but left every meal hungry. This was particularly true at breakfast, where all of the dishes were way too small. Personally, I could go for something a bit more utilitarian and heartier to start my day, but maybe that’s just me. I will say that the food at Chart Room Cafe was excellent across the board–it just could use a bit better balance.
World of Color wowed us, and was a winner in pretty much every regard. We particularly enjoyed the weekend dessert/small plate buffet. The quality was very high, and we stuffed ourselves to the point that it was all we could do to make it back to our room and pass out. (Pro tip for Americans: buffets are where you win all your money back in the Asian parks.)
In terms of other amenities, the pool is a winner. It’s a nice size, has pleasant ambiance, and you’ll even see Goofy out mingling with guests throughout the day (or perhaps other characters–Goofy was the only one scheduled during our visit).
WiFi is included and works well throughout the resort–much better than the spotty WiFi in the park. There’s also a nice gift shop that (for now!) sells Explorers Lodge merchandise. I wouldn’t expect this to last long beyond the initial supply stays in stock, so definitely get to the hotel sooner rather than later if you’re keen on hotel-specific merch.
There’s also a complimentary shuttle service that runs between the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, Disney Explorers Lodge, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Even though it stops at all of the hotels, it’s pretty efficient since they’re all right next to one another.
There also seems to be a surplus of buses, so you should never have to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus. (We have either had absurdly good luck with the buses at HKDL or they are just that good–we’ve never waited more than 5 minutes.)
Walking to Hong Kong Disneyland is also an option, and I enjoy this tranquil stroll past Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and through the peaceful garden-like promenade, but the bus is definitely the more efficient, and feet-saving option.
In terms of cost, Explorers Lodge rack rates are around $300/night. Those prices can vary significantly based upon season and available discounts, with weekends being the priciest time to visit. (Disclosure: our stay was comped for the purpose of this review.)
Whether it’s worth those rates is in the eye of the beholder. I’d peg the value here at being below Animal Kingdom Lodge, as the overall strength of the resort is not as high (and there are no animals). Of course, comparing it to a hotel in Florida is not entirely practical, as they are not equally accessible to the theme park in Hong Kong.
If you can score a discount bringing its price down to the $250/night range, I’d say Explorers Lodge is a no-brainer. It’s definitely worth that much. If you’re looking at prices at or above $300/night, it’s a closer call. Relative to other hotels at Hong Kong Disneyland, Explorers Lodge is a great option. It’s priced between the flagship Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel, and I’d argue that it’s better than both.
Ultimately, that’s probably the salient point of this entire review: Explorers Lodge is the best hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland. Even though we said plenty of positive things about the other two resorts in our Disney’s Hollywood Hotel Review and Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel Review, neither one is this good. Explorers Lodge may start with the familiar concept of Animal Kingdom Lodge, but it brings plenty of originality to the table. The result of this is the most unique and compelling resort at HKDL. If you only have the chance to stay at one hotel during your visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, this should be the one.
Have you stayed at Explorers Lodge or any of the other hotels at Hong Kong Disneyland? What did you think of your hotel stay? Did Explorers Lodge stack up to Animal Kingdom Lodge (or other Disney resorts at which you’ve stayed)? Does this hotel interest you? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!