Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hotel Review: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

On our recent Disney Cruise vacation, we had the opportunity to stay at the Polynesian Village Resort for two days prior to our cruise at a deep discount. We have visited this resort many times for dining reservations, but we had never stayed as overnight guests. I could not pass up the opportunity to stay at this iconic hotel. We had the chance to stay at Contemporary Resort last July (also at a deep discount convention rate), and it was interesting to compare the two resorts (see also my review of the Contemporary Resort).

The Polynesian Resort Hotel has an interesting history and stunning landscape that can be seen on fan webpages like this one.

Checking in:

Since I had completed online check-in a few days before, I requested to receive a text-message when our room was ready. As I was on the Magical Express bus that morning, I received a text letting me know our room number. When we got to the hotel, I stopped at a desk to pick up a map to figure out where our room was located. The staff gave us Hawaiian leis, just like at Aulani in Hawaii. It was a nice touch.

Our room:

During check-in, I was allowed to request our longhouse building. I requested and received the Samoa building, which is convenient to the lobby and the main pool.

We were assigned room 1605 on the ground floor.

Love the lamps in the hallway!

The layout of our room was very similar to our room at the Contemporary Resort.

It had two Queen beds:

And a sofa that converted into a single bed:

Two closets and a refrigerator in the entryway:

The bathroom:

Love the tiki lamp!

Our room had a patio with furniture. In this resort, the 2nd floor rooms have no balcony (just a window) but the 3rd floor rooms have balconies.

We made good use of our patio during our stay. It was nice to have extra space.

I let the kids play out there since I could see them from inside.

The volcano pool was directly outside our room.

And when we stepped outside and looked to the right, we could see the castle!

Since the pool closed at 8 p.m. during the winter, our room was pretty quiet at night (except during the Electrical Water Pageant, which had surprisingly loud music!)

Restaurants at the resort:

'Ohana restaurant is a big draw. It has a family-style character breakfast in the morning and a meat-skewer restaurant for dinner.

We have had breakfast here 4 or 5 times before (when we weren't staying at the resort) and it's our favorite place! I love how we don't have to get our food from a buffet, the food comes right to our table. And of course the unlimited POG juice is a huge hit!

Characters at breakfast:

Capt. Cook's is a quick-service restaurant downstairs.

The menu is nothing special, but we ate here for lunch one day.

It has tables inside and outside.

We had dinner at the Kona Cafe on Friday night. I always hear about the Kona Cafe for breakfast, but had never read anything about it for dinner.

The food was excellent. Our server brought us a sweet bread with macadamia nut butter that was so delicious! And these potstickers were also excellent.

The hotel has a counter out back with pineapple Dole Whips if you're into that:

We did not try Sam's Grotto bar, which gets great reviews, or the Spirit of Aloha dinner show (luau).


The volcano pool is visually stunning and reminded me of a smaller version of the pools at Aulani in Hawaii.

The view from the top of the volcano (which contains a waterslide):

The volcano with the waterfall:

The zero-entry area:

The kids' splash park with two slides:

The pools at the Polynesian are some of the best of all the Disney resorts, in my opinion. They have great theming and are perfect for all ages. While the pools at the Contemporary were nice, the Contemporary pools did not have a zero-entry area and the splash pad was a lot smaller.


In addition to the activities at all the Disney resorts (marshmallow roasting, outdoor movies, pool parties, etc.), the Polynesian Village Resort has a few unique activities.

Every afternoon there is a free hula lesson in the lobby. I took my daughter on Friday afternoon, and I couldn't believe that we were the only ones who showed up for the lesson! She got her own private lesson, complete with a lei and hula skirt, taught by a native dancer and accompanied by a ukulele player.

On Friday night we attended the torch lighting ceremony. It started in the lobby with a call/howl through an instrument to gather people, then it continued outside with a fire dancer and some drums. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was very entertaining to watch.

The Polynesian Village Resort is one of the resorts around the lake that gets the Electrical Water Pageant. I saw this when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge two years ago, and again at the Contemporary last year. It's worth seeing!

The Polynesian has arguably the best beach and fireworks viewing area of all the resorts. It has plenty of beach chairs plus a few porch swings scattered throughout the beach.

The beach is directly across the lake from the castle and the fireworks. We arrived about 10 minutes prior to the show and had no problem finding some chairs. It was so peaceful to watch the fireworks from here, and then walk 2 minutes back to our room instead of fighting the crowds inside the park.


This is where the resort shines! There is so much artwork and detail throughout the lobby and each building.

Lobby from the 2nd floor looking down:

Lobby ceiling:

Artwork everywhere!

Disney films connected to Hawaii/Polynesia:

Photographs of construction of hotel:

Nothing beats the ambiance at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort at night, with the tiki torches and a view of the castle right outside the lobby. My photos don't do it justice at all. I had the chance to walk around at night and take photos by myself. It was so peaceful!

The pond near the lobby entrance:

*  Location, location, location! The resort is on the monorail loop with easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Can't beat the transit time!
*  Atmosphere! The landscaping, art work, torches and architecture really make you feel like you're in Hawaii. It's immersive. The atmosphere is a huge advantage over the Contemporary (but that is subjective).
*  Rooms--they are large and fit 5 people easily.
*  Food--great restaurants that are unique with tasty food.
*  Pools--volcano theme, waterslides, zero-entry, splash park.
*  Beach--the best resort to see fireworks.
*  Unique activities--the hula lesson and torch lighting ceremony were great!

*  Price. Ouch. But I can see why people pay it. The resort is awesome!
*  The quick service restaurant (Capt. Cook's) did not have as many choices as the Contempo Cafe (at the Contemporary Resort) and other Disney resorts we have visited.
*  The shops were smaller and had a smaller assortment than other resorts.
*  No rain cover--when it rains, you have to walk outside to the main building or to the bus stop where there is no cover for rain. At the Contemporary, there were covered walkways so that you didn't have to get wet.

We are grateful we had the chance to stay at the Polynesian Village Resort. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!

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