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The 411: Disney World’s Polynesian Resort Review

Inside this article:

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (a.k.a. Polynesian Resort) is one of the original Disney World hotels that opened in 1971 along with Magic Kingdom.

The Polynesian Resort is an iconic hotel developed at the peak of America’s (and Walt’s) love affair with Hawaii and Polynesian culture. As part of our Nerdy history lesson, Hawaii became a state in 1959, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room debuted at Disneyland in 1963 (showcasing ground-breaking Audio-Animatronic technology), Disney World was announced in 1965 and officially opened October 1, 1971. Today, the property is one of Disney World’s eight Deluxe Resorts.

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The Polynesian Resort is a tropical hideaway that transports guests to the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Okay…here we go with a Nerdy overview. At the time, traveling to Hawaii or anywhere in Polynesia (generally considered an area of more than 1,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean) was considered incredibly exotic and most Americans would have been lucky to even know someone who traveled to this region. So the concept of bringing the Polynesian experience in the form of a highly themed hotel to guests of Disney World would have been bold! In fact, Disney Parks Blog has an interesting article titled “Histories of Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts.”

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Guests staying at the Polynesian Resort have access to Magic Kingdom via the monorail system.

Although room rates have evolved from the +/- $28 range in 1971 to $500 or more today, this is a spectacular resort in an incredible location at the heart of the Walt Disney World Resort; a short monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom or Epcot.

Property Overview

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This map of the Polynesian Resort will help provide an overview of the property.

Upon arriving at the Polynesian Resort, guests are immersed in a tropical landscape and immediately see monorail running the length of the resort and, just beyond it, the towering structure that is the Great Ceremonial House reception area. Hotel arrivals have certainly evolved since 1971 (heck…since 2019!) and while guests can use MagicBands to go straight to their rooms, the Great Ceremonial House is worth a visit.

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The Great Ceremonial House is the center of activity at the Polynesian Resort.

Not only is the Great Ceremonial House the only way to access the Magic Kingdom monorail from the Polynesian Resort, it is the main hub for the property. It is here that Disney’s Magical Express Bust Stop will allow guests to disembark and where folks will find the Front Desk and Concierge, two stores (Boutiki and Moana Mercantile), two lounges (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tambu Lounge) and four eateries (Capt. Cook’s, Pineapple Lanai, Kona Cafe, and ‘Ohana).

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The Polynesian Resort is very well themed in every corner of the property and the Great Ceremonial House is a terrific example of the Imagineer’s work.
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Display window at one of two shops located in the Great Ceremonial House.

Just beyond the Great Ceremonial House is the Lava Pool with its Kiki Tikis Splash Play for the younger set. The Lava Pool features a waterslide, waterfall, pool side activities and entertainment.

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The Lava Pool is truly a tropical oasis.
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Views of the Lava Pool at dawn and well before the crowds arrive.
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The Great Ceremonial House is just off in the distance from the far side of the Lava Pool.

And set back ever so slightly, just removed from the chaos that is often a Disney Resort pool is a hot tub! The lounge chairs are all padded (a Deluxe Resort feature), towels are in ample supply and the entire pool experience is a great one.

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The Nerds recommend getting to the hot tub early before the crowds tire of the waterfall and waterslides. You can snag a surprising amount of “quiet time” here throughout the day.

On the other side of the Samoa building from the Lava Pool is the Oasis Pool with its Oasis Bar & Grill. Although still a large pool area that fits in with its surroundings, it lacks the magic of the main pool area…which means it is generally not very crowded and a great place to relax.

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Views of the Grand Floridian just past the Seven Seas Marina from the beach-lined shores of the Polynesian Resort.

On the west side of the property lies the Luau Cove where Polynesian Resort guests can reserve and join in a traditional Polynesian luau at Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. In typical Disney fashion, this is not your typical luau. Sure, it has Hula dancing and fire dancing, but it features Disney fun and is truly a unique experience. The two-hour Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show typically features two shows nightly with three different categories of seats with Adult prices ranging from $60-78 and children $33-48.

Just beyond Luau Cove is the walkway to the Grand Floridian Resort where a running trail map can help guide guests on a morning walk or run…just before getting in their 20,000 steps for the day!

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Polynesian Resort running trail map.

As we head east to explore the rest of the Polynesian Resort, we will find pathways curving  and winding through lush landscapes and past unique Polynesian statuary.

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Polynesian Resort

Polynesian Resort

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Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand, is one of a dozen hotel room buildings.

There are 12 buildings that house nearly 850 rooms at the Polynesian Resort in addition to the over the water Bora Bora Bungalows (where prices can easily reach $1500-2000 per night or more).

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The Moorea building, named after an island in French Polynesia, houses Disney Vacation Club guests.

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The Views along the shoreline of the Polynesian Resort are stunning with white sand beaches, the Bora Bora Bungalows and the spires of Space Mountain off in the distance.

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Views of the Bora Bora Bungalows (also named for islands in French Polynesia) from Sunset point and just beyond the Moorea building.

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Views of Magic Kingdom from the east side of the Polynesian Resort. One of the Magic Kingdom ferry boats on the right at the Ticket and Transportation Center.

On the far east side of the Polynesian Resort is a short pathway to the Ticket and Transportation Center and monorail service to Magic Kingdom and Epcot as well as ferry boat service to Magic Kingdom.

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It only takes a couple of minutes from the Moorea building to navigate the path to the Ticket and Transportation Center. From this vantage point, there are great views looking back at the Polynesian Resort.

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View of the Polynesian Resort from the Magic Kingdom ferry while docked.
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View of the Polynesian Resort from the Magic Kingdom ferry while underway to the theme parks.

The great thing about the Polynesian Resort is that every building is close to a coveted guest area. Buildings are either close to the Great Ceremonial House with food, shopping and monorail access, or close to the Lava Pool, or close to the Oasis pool or close to the pathway to the Ticket and Transportation Center with its monorail and ferry service. The Polynesian Resort is a terrific property to explore!

The Rooms

And now…on to the rooms! On this particular trip, we rented DVC points and secured a studio with a preferred view. You can read all about why we think we made a Nerdy mistake with the preferred view room here. However, our decision to stay at the Polynesian Resort was a great one because we love this property!

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The wide and well-themed hallways are a hint of what’s to come in this Deluxe Resort.

The main differences between the Disney Vacation Club studio and a typical room is that the DVC studio has a small wet bar and a second shower (in addition to the shower/tub combo) and sink. The amenities of both room types are very similar.

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Entrance into the studio from the front door.
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Bathroom with commode and shower/tub.
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Vanity with shower.
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Beautifully done shower with rock floor.
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Wet bar and closet.
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Super duper exciting inside of closet.
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Our studio had one king bed, pull out sofa and pull down day bed.
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The TV is above the pull down bed.
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It easily converts to a bed at night, complete with Mickey Mouse-inspired tropical scene.
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Sitting area with table, two chairs and Tiki lamp.

Overall, the Polynesian Resort is in a great location within Disney World, the rooms are well-appointed and deserve the “Deluxe” tag and it is one of those rare resorts that truly transports you away to another place and time. It is, without a doubt, one of our very favorites (you know us Nerds, if it had access to the Skyliner or served hot and fresh Mickey Pretzels daily, it would be a slam dunk for the top spot!). We will be back to the Polynesian Resort and we recommend you do the same.

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