Disney's Polynesian Village Resort - Theme Park View - Review

When it comes time to picking your Walt Disney World hotel, few families completely skip over Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. With its stunning design, great location, and popular bars and restaurants, most people at least include Polynesian on their bucket lists. We’ve stayed at Polynesian multiple times and are happy to share our experiences, so read on to learn all about staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort!

Basics of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Polynesian was one of the original Walt Disney World resorts, the other being Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Like Contemporary, Polynesian is a Magic Kingdom area resort, connected to Magic Kingdom by monorail and boat transportation, which we cover in more detail below.

Polynesian is a deluxe resort at Walt Disney World. These are Disney’s best hotels. If you’re considering Polynesian, you may want to read reviews of the other deluxe resorts. Here are our reviews of all the deluxe resorts (links open in new tabs):

In 2019, room rates at Polynesian start at $546 per night. It’s not uncommon to see Polynesian’s lower room rates sell out, leaving it as the most expensive option some nights at Walt Disney World.

Because of its beautiful theming and great location, Polynesian is a bucket-list resort for many families. Keep in mind that you can always pay a visit to the resort even if you’re not staying there, something we recommend if you’re considering it for a future trip.

Booking Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

We booked our most recent visit to Polynesian through our choice Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Lauren Quirk at Enchanted Escapes Travel.

We paid $824.40 per night for our Club Level Theme Park View room using a Walt Disney World annual passholder deal. The rack rate for the room was $1030 per night, which put our discount at 20% off.

Some sample Gift of Magic Offer rates

Some sample Gift of Magic Offer rates

As we mentioned above, the lowest rates in 2019 start at $546 and these rates often sell out. Booking while Disney is offering a discount is one of the best ways to save at Polynesian, as you will occasionally see 20% to 30% discounts.

To save on hotel costs, we’re big advocates of doing a split stay that includes Polynesian (or another monorail resort). Spend two nights here for the easy access to Magic Kingdom, and then spend the remaining nights at a value resort.

Arrival and Check-In at Polynesian Village

We arrived at about 2PM via Uber from our nearby apartment. Most guests will arrive via Disney’s complimentary airport shuttle service, Disney’s Magical Express.

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As guests of the King Kamehameha Club Level, we were happy to see a dedicated check-in desk. Like most other check-in experiences, this one was largely boring, but I want to take a second to highlight the poor state of the My Disney Experience system. This is the third of my last five reservations where I’ve needed to provide all my contact information at check-in.

I could understand this if I made the reservation via Expedia and never linked it to my account, but it was made directly with Disney and has always appeared on my account—how does Disney not even have my address on file? I even was asked to set the PIN on my Magic Band.

This is a small thing for an individual, but a huge thing in aggregate. Long lines at check-in only get longer if Disney has to ask every guest for this information even though it’s already on their reservations.

Polynesian Village Grounds and Theming

Polynesian is a large campus, with a central “Great Ceremonial House,” 11 hotel buildings, two pools, and 20 Disney Vacation Club bungalows along the water.

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The theming of Polynesian Village is—obviously—Polynesia. Polynesian is not "Hawaiian" themed. Polynesia is a broader area covering many other cultures. This may seem insignificant, except Disney does have a Hawaiian themed resort, Aulani, in Hawaii.

The Great Ceremonial House is where you’ll find most of the hotel amenities. Polynesian has an open lobby, but it’s not as gigantic as the lobbies at Wilderness Lodge or Animal Kingdom Lodge. The centerpiece of the resort is a tiki statue of Maui.

Adjacent to the lobby you’ll find all the stores and restaurants. Also on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House is the monorail stop for Polynesian. As with all monorail resorts, you’ll pass through security before boarding.

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Outside the back of the lobby, you’ll immediately see Pineapple Lanai, a spot specializing in pineapple dole whip, before encountering the feature pool—the Lava Pool—and its accompanying play area Kiki Tikis Splash Play Area.

A secondary pool sits among the eastern buildings of the property.

Past the feature pool you’ll find the marina and launch for boats to Magic Kingdom. You can walk to both Transportation and Ticket Center (5 minutes) and Grand Floridian (10-15 minutes) from Polynesian. Along the path toward Grand Floridian, you’ll pass the Spirit of Aloha show building.

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The theming across the Polynesian grounds is excellent. By really creating an environment, Disney has created a place you really want to be.

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This might be why we swing by Polynesian pretty regularly just to take in the environment. You can grab a coffee at Kona Island or a drink at Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace and really soak in the “island living” feel.

Our Room at the Polynesian

For our most recent stay at Polynesian, we booked a Theme Park View room. We have a post Comparing Theme Park Views of Magic Kingdom at the Monorail Resorts if you’re set on a special view. As guests of the King Kamehameha Club Level, our room was in the Hawaii building.

Polynesian’s rooms were last refurbished around 2015, leaving them with a somewhat muted aesthetic and carpet.

The finer points of the room are good, including many outlets and USB ports. Though I’m still disappointed anytime a deluxe room doesn’t have a Keurig.

The bathrooms are, disappointingly, single rooms. As far as I’ve experienced, these are the only rooms in Walt Disney World where the vanity shares a single room with the toilet and shower (though I don’t doubt there are others).

I just can’t bring myself to enjoy these rooms, and they’re among my least at Walt Disney World. To me they show where the muted design trend can really go wrong.

The Theme Park View was amazing. They play Polynesian music from the speakers during the day, making this balcony an absolutely ideal spot to relax for a bit.

The speakers also play the music for Happily Every After. I’ve watched that show from Polynesian before, but it’s always nice to be able to do so from your own room.

Food & Drink at Polynesian Village Resort

Polynesian has one dinner show, two table service restaurants, two quick service restaurants, four bars, one dole whip stand, and a small cafe-style restaurant.

The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show is an all-you-can-eat Luau held nightly at Polynesian. It requires two table service credits for those on a Disney dining plan. Here’s a review from Josh at easyWDW.

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Table Service Restaurants at Polynesian Village

The two table service restaurants, ‘Ohana and Kona Cafe, both sit off the second floor of the lobby. ‘Ohana is the most popular table service restaurant at Polynesian. Breakfast at ‘Ohana is a family-style character breakfast with Lilo and Stitch. Dinner is also family style, but is not a character meal, instead having fun and activities themed to Polynesia.

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Kona Cafe is the casual table service option at Polynesian Village. Kona Cafe is probably most known for its Tonga Toast at breakfast (we’re also fans of the Bloody Mary flight). The restaurant recently revamped its dinner menu.

Just outside Kona Cafe is Kona Island, which does not participate in the Disney dining plan. This is a coffee shop in the morning, but changes into a small dining spot in the afternoon, specializing in sushi.

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Quick Service at Polynesian Village

The main quick service option at Polynesian Village is Captain Cook’s. Captain Cook’s is a 24-hour quick service option that serves a mostly standard quick service menu throughout the day. One highlight is that you can get Tonga Toast here if you don’t want to get a table at Kona Cafe. The late night menu is just grab and go items, so don’t have any big plans for 2AM.

Oasis Bar and Grill, by the Oasis Pool (the secondary pool) is an alternative quick service option with a very creative menu including fish tacos, spinach and watermelon salad, and crispy fried calamari.

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Getting Dole Whip at Polynesian

Polynesian likes to remind guests that it’s the only hotel that services dole whip (pineapple soft serve). You can purchase dole whip at Pineapple Lanai, right behind the lobby, outdoors next to Captain Cook’s.

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Bars at Polynesian Village

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is probably the most famous Disney bar and a personal favorite of many guests, including us. It’s mostly a very good tiki bar, but there is a nice touch of Disney fun thrown in that makes it a must-experience for adults and families alike.

Just outside the Grog Grotto is Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace. This is a beautiful spot with good ambiance and tasty drinks. If the Grog Grotto is full, you’ll want to grab your buzzer and grab a seat on the Tiki Terrace.

Tambu Lounge is the bar at ‘Ohana. If you’re looking for a more traditional Disney hotel bar, this is the spot to visit. It’s good for grabbing a drink before your meal or after getting in from the parks.

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Barefoot Pool Bar is the pool bar at Polynesian’s feature pool.

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Recreation at Polynesian

Polynesian maintains a standard schedule of activities, including things like trivia, movies under the stars, and campfires. From the marina, you can rent boats for fishing or just exploring Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Shopping at Polynesian

Adjacent to the lobby you’ll find two stores—BouTiki on the first floor and Moana Mercantile on the second floor. BouTiki is more the spot to find nicer clothes, Polynesian gear, and housewares.

Moana Mercantile is more for snacks, toys, and some simpler apparel.

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Transportation At Polynesian

One of the perks of staying at Polynesian is the easy access to the Magic Kingdom. You can take a monorail two stops (about five minutes) to Magic Kingdom. Alternatively, you can take a boat from the marina to Magic Kingdom, which also takes about five minutes.

Coming back from Magic Kingdom, you’ll be the third monorail stop, so the ride will take closer to 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can take the boat with one stop at Grand Floridian, also about a 15 minute trip.

To get to Epcot, you’ll have to take the monorail from Transportation and Ticket Center. You can either take the resort monorail 15-20 minutes to TTC and then transfer, or you can walk 5-10 minutes over to TTC.

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Bus transportation will get you to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Springs. It’s not uncommon for buses at Polynesian to be shared with the other Magic Kingdom resorts during the middle of the day.

These days, we use (and endorse) Uber when we need to get to rope drop or are in any other sort of rush. We spent $12 to get from Polynesian to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner, for example.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort - Conclusions

Polynesian is a really hard resort to draw clear conclusions about. What’s ironic is that its biggest strengths—theming and location—can sort of be its biggest weaknesses. Let me explain…

One of my most “Magical” Disney memories is sitting on the beach outside Polynesian and watching Wishes across the Seven Seas Lagoon with my family.

One of my favorite birthday surprises I’ve ever given Emily was a visit to the then-new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.

And there’s definitely something nice about grabbing a press pot from Kona Island, sitting in the Polynesian lobby, and enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds of a busy Disney morning.

But here’s the thing…all of those are things I did when I wasn’t a guest at Polynesian. You don’t have to pay in excess of $600 per night to enjoy the best that Polynesian has to offer, you just have to spare a few minutes to take the monorail or boat from Magic Kingdom (or pay for an Uber from your hotel).

By paying for Polynesian’s rates, most of what you’re getting is (1) their mediocre rooms (2) access to their good pool and (3) the easy transit to/from Magic Kingdom.

I love a walk through Polynesian as much as everyone. Heck, if I’m staying at Grand Floridian I’ll get off the monorail at TTC and walk across Polynesian just for the scenery. I just don’t love it enough to believe it’s worth an entire, say five-night stay.

Our choice monorail resort remains Contemporary because of the walking path to Magic Kingdom. But Polynesian is a worthy competitor and beats Contemporary on every front other than rooms and transportation.

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That said, like Contemporary we endorse split stays at Polynesian. On an ideal trip where we’ll need a lot of Magic Kingdom time, we’d stay two nights at one of these two hotels and the remaining nights at a value resort.

Polynesian has a lot to offer, but its high prices demand you be strategic in deciding How and when to visit!

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