Disney’s Polynesian Resort stands as one of the first two on site hotels ever built at Walt Disney World. With its great location on the monorail, a tropical theme that makes you feel like you’re in paradise, and plenty of unique dining options, the Polynesian Resort often is viewed as one of the gold standards of Disney hotels. But having been around so long, has this resort started showing its age? Does it justify its high price point? We give our impressions of the Polynesian in 2018 and share our pros and cons for staying there.
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Polynesian Resort Basics
The Polynesian Resort is one of the original two on site hotels at Walt Disney World. This deluxe resort opened in 1971 and has been a favorite of Disney World guests for decades. The resort sits on Seven Seas Lagoon and on the monorail loop.
The resort has many different buildings and room types, from standard rooms to deluxe overwater bungalows – the most expensive rooms on property! The resort also has DVC rooms and studios.
What makes the Polynesian Resort Special
The Polynesian Resort has some of the best theming among all the Disney on site hotels. Like Animal Kingdom lodge, the Polynesian can serve as a destination in and of itself. (In fact, it did for us!) The Polynesian channels a tropical theme reminiscent of the name. Each of the buildings is named after a different tropical island.
The theme extends to the amenities around the resort. The Great Lodge functions as a lobby, a place to relax, a venue for free performances from various island dance groups, and hosts some of the best restaurants on property. There is a lovely beachfront where you can roast marshmallows for free and the great lawn offers free movies most nights. The Polynesian also has one of our favorite pools on Disney property.
The tropical island feel serves to make the Polynesian feel like a true resort. Disney World can be a hectic place, but everything about the Polynesian feels designed to help you relax. It will give you a small taste of Hawaii without the long flight, as Disney obviously has learned a lot from its success at Aulani. (Do note, however, that Florida’s humidity remains ridiculously oppressive compared to Hawaii!)
Polynesian Resort Location & Transportation
The Polynesian Resort occupies one of the best locations on Walt Disney World property. It’s both on the monorail loop and within walking distance to the Transportation and Ticketing Center. The Magic Kingdom sits a monorail or ferry ride away. To get to Epcot, you can walk to the TTC or take the monorail there. Either way, getting to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot is straightforward and quick.
Unfortunately, the Polynesian suffers from some of the same ills other Deluxe resorts suffer from when it comes to bus transportation. Buses sometimes are shared with the Grand Floridian and we often had to wait twenty minutes for a bus. Compared to the shorter waits for value resorts, the deluxe resort bus experience just doesn’t stack up in our opinion. That means if you plan on going to the Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, you need to build in extra time. The bus wait times on the app help on the outbound but we still had to wait a long time to get back from Hollywood Studios.
Still, overall we love the location of the Polynesian. Of special note is the fact that you can watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach. Disney pumps in the music and you can have a great experience watching the night show without even having a park ticket!
Polynesian Resort Rooms
For a top notch hotel like the Polynesian, the rooms disappoint to some extent. Although refurbished a few years ago, we noticed faded carpet. The rooms just don’t feel and look like a 5 star hotel. But you pay 5 star hotel prices to stay at the Poly.
On the positive side, the rooms are spacious. Many rooms have two queen beds and a sofa bed, so they sleep a family of five comfortably. The bathrooms are also spacious and have a separate door which can be useful for families with young kids. The DVC studios also provide a nice option.
Of course, we can’t mention the Polynesian without discussing their overwater bungalows – which go for $2000+ a night. While they look nice and offer a nice view of the Magic Kingdom, personally we’d save our money and fly to actual French Polynesia to stay in overwater suites.
Polynesian Resort Restaurants
The restaurants at the Polynesian Resort are definitely a highlight. Captain Cook’s, the quick service restaurant, has tasty Polynesian inspired food, including the well liked pulled pork nachos. (One of us may or may not have eaten a whole order by themselves). Captain Cook’s also offers healthier options which can be useful if you’re trying to get some vegetables.
Kona Cafe is a slightly overpriced table service restaurant that serves great food. We love the sushi there, though everything on the menu is pretty good.
Ohana, the Poly’s “all you care to eat” restaurant, is one of the most popular restaurants on Disney property. Unlike other popular restaurants, it’s reputation is mostly deserved. For brunch, Ohana serves a standard skillet breakfast but features great character meets. Dinner is where Ohana really shines – it’s island inspired cuisine is sure to be a hit with most families.
The Polynesian also offers a luau, the Spirit of Aloha. Frankly, the quality has dropped of late, but if you’re not going to Hawaii anytime soon you still might want to check it out.
Finally, the Polynesian features our absolute favorite bar at Disney: Trader Sam’s. It’s an experience you have to see to believe, but essentially, every drink you order gets delivered in a unique, fun, and hilarious way. Seats are tough to find, but well worth the wait! And hey, the drinks and food are pretty good, too.
Leslie and Joe give their impressions of the Polynesian Resort. They’re on record saying it’s one of their favorite resorts, but does it live up to its big price tag? What are the resorts strengths and weaknesses, what special features does it offer, and how useful is it to be on the monorail loop? As we do with all hotels, we end with why you should and why you should not stay at the Poly, plus a Polynesian centered Disney dos and don’ts!
If you like what you hear, please share the podcast with others you think might enjoy it. Also, we’d appreciate if you subscribed on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, PlayerFM, or Google Play (please leave a positive review if you’re enjoying the show), liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter!
You can also e-mail us at disneydeciphered AT gmail DOT com. Connect with Leslie @TripswithTykes on social media and Joe @asthejoeflies.
1:37 – Leslie’s background with the Polynesian
3:08 – Polynesian Resort location and transportation
5:28 – Theming and what makes the Polynesian unique
8:07 – Polynesian rooms
11:41 – Polynesian Resort restaurants
17:56 – Polynesian amenities
19:53 – Why you should and why you should not stay at the Polynesian
21:00 – Disney dos and don’ts
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