Review: Disney’s Polynesian Resort



By Dave Shute

DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

Boat Dock at Disney's Polynesian ResortThere’s a lot going on right now, or soon, at Disney’s Polynesian Resort:

  • Room renovations, which are complete
  • Additions of Disney Vacation Club rooms, both new and in renovated spaces in Tokelau, Tahiti and Rapa Nui
  • Related and other work: a re-do, in stages, of the Great Ceremonial House, the main pool, and the area between them. During this work, the main pool will be closed from late July 2014  into March 2015

Most of what I know about the changes comes from Steve’s Tikiman Pages website dedicated to the Polynesian. Also check out his Facebook page for more frequent news. I’ll keep this page on renovations at the Polynesian updated with what I learn from Steve as well.

Pool Slide at Disney's Polynesian ResortAnyway, our most recent stay in one of the newly-refurbished rooms confirms what this site has recommended since the day it was launched: for those who can afford it, Disney’s Polynesian Resort is the best place for first time family visitors to stay.

However, the construction–especially that from late July 2014 into March 2015–will make the resort less attractive. How much less so? Well that depends on you. Disney’s Magic Kingdom was under construction for much of the last few years. But only a fool would have suggested not going there because of construction–because Magic Kingdom had so many other positives that outweighed the negatives.

And the Poly still will have delightful theming and great convenience.  Each will be lessened because of the construction–and the closing of the main pool from late July into March 2015 will be a dealbreaker for many. But the Poly’s smaller quiet pool will be open, and with so many rooms closed for DVC conversion or during construction, the capacity of the resort will shrink enough that the smaller pool may serve OK.

So here’s my thought.  If you have any doubts at all, don’t stay at the Polynesian until construction is complete.  For my recommended alternatives, see this. If you are open to staying there–and I would in a heartbeat–read the rest of this review, then decide.

You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort hotel.

However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World who can afford it should stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a deluxe resort, and that those who can’t should stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.

(It also suggests that first time visitors should avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. See this for why.)

Compared to other Walt Disney World owned and operated resorts, the deluxe  resorts are distinguished by having (on average)  the most amenities, nicest views, best dining options, best transport options, largest rooms, best service, and highest prices.

(See this for much more on resort distinctions by price class–value, moderate, deluxe, etc.)

STANDARD ROOMS AT DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

Floor Plan Disney's Polynesian Resort from yourfirstvisit.net
Standard rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Resort are particularly nice.

The rooms sleep five–two each in two queens, and a fifth on the couch, which converts into a daybed.  You can add to this capacity of five a child younger than three who sleeps in a crib.

Bed Side at Disney's Polynesian ResortThese rooms largely completed refurbishment in 2013. More on the new rooms later in this review!

DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Resorts are ranked on this site for first time visitors based first on their kid appeal, and then on their convenience.

On this basis, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, a monorail resort, is far and away the best resort for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World who aren’t worried about the major construction there. 

Kid Appeal.

The kid appeal of the Polynesian Resort comes from its sense of exotic adventure.

Niue from Samoa Disney's Polynesian ResortThe architecture of the resort recalls the villages of the South Pacific, and is reinforced by touches such as flaming torches, spectacular gardens,  leis-festooned staff (and guests!), hula lessons,  etc.

Convenience. Disney’s Polynesian Resort is the most convenient of the Disney Resorts–at least for trips centered on the Magic Kingdom, as they are on first time visits.

It is one of three “monorail resorts” on the Magic Kingdom resort monorail line.

TTC Monorail and Disney's Polynesian ResortIt is more convenient than the other two because it is also the only resort within easy walking distance of the Epcot and express monorails.

This means that the Magic Kingdom is two stops away when going there, via the resort monorail, and one stop back, via the express monorail.

This better than either of the Contemporary (4 stops to, 1 from) or Grand Floridian Resorts (1 and 4), the other two resorts on the resort monorail.

Moreover, at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian, going to Epcot means taking the resort monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), and then the Epcot monorail.

From the Polynesian, you simply walk to the TTC and the Epcot monorail.

There’s also a boat from the Polynesian to and from the Magic Kingdom–that’s what you see in the image at the top of this page. Shared with the Grand Floridian, it’s more fun than fast.

BEST PLACES TO STAY AT DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms. This is because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms. The single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.

Map of Disney's Polynesian ResortRooms in Disney’s Polynesian Resort are found in eleven 2 or 3 story “longhouses,” each with an elevator (or access to an elevator in a nearby building). (See the map.)

What used to be the best options–Rapa Nui, Tokelau, and Tahiti–are being converted into DVC rooms. Among the rest, the most conveniently located is Raratonga–close to the Great Ceremonial House and its restaurants and resort monorail, to the quiet pool, to the bus stop, and to the walkway to TTC and the Epcot monorail. Like the rest of the non-DVC longhouses, second floor rooms at Raratonga don’t have balconies.  First floor rooms have patios, and third floor rooms have balconies.

Ideally, you’d request a third floor room for both better views and more quiet.

Polynesian Room Request FormBut the current room request form looks like this (click to enlarge).

You can request any longhouse, and request a balcony (handy for the older longhouses)…but not the third floor…maybe because some of the longhouses have only two floors…

BEST FOR:

Any first time family visitors who can afford it.

WORST FOR:

Families too large to fit into even its 5 person rooms. See this for more on large families at Walt Disney World.

PHOTO TOUR OF A REFURBISHED ROOM AT DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

This review continues here.

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48 comments

1 Kuleen @ TheDisneyKids { 06.17.13 at 2:53 pm }

We got married at the Poly way back in 1995. It is still my sentimental favorite resort at Disney.

2 Dave { 06.18.13 at 7:05 am }

Hiya Kuleen, what a great place to get married!

3 Jennifer M { 06.18.13 at 5:56 pm }

Hi! We are booked to stay at the Poly in October. Do you anticipate any pool, beach, or longhouses being closed?

4 Dave { 06.19.13 at 12:23 pm }

Jennifer, I’m not now anticipating that anything important will be closed then–a longhouse or two may still be undergoing renovation, but if so, no one will be booked into it…

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5 New girl { 07.29.13 at 8:56 pm }

Hello! Love your site…I want to stay at The Poly 10/22-10/27 but they don’t have a standard room available for the 24th. Would you suggest moving to the standard club level for one night (24th) or stay at The Wilderness Lodge? I can’t seem to justify spending the extra $$ on the lagoon view for all 5 nights…help!

6 Dave { 07.30.13 at 8:01 am }

Heya New Girl and thanks!

I don’t think the value is there for for club rooms compared to the cost, and like your WL option. However, with a 3p check-in and 11a check out…there’s an argument to stay in the cheapest room that fits your family for that first night–e.g. one of the values–since you just won’t be there that long…

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7 Raul { 08.02.13 at 12:40 am }

Just reserved stay @poly. For beginning of dec.2013. First timer to Disney with wife and 3yo. Concerned of all the comments on how old resort is. Which longhouse would u suggest if my main concern is updated room? Will Tahiti be updated/renovated as nice as Tokelau ?

8 Dave { 08.02.13 at 10:20 am }

Hi Raul, right now the renovation of Tahiti seems ot be on hold. Check back with me in a month or so..

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9 Bill { 08.26.13 at 1:12 pm }

Just booked a Dec 16 thru 23rd trip for family of 5. Our third time to Disney but first inside the park. I am a little concerned about the renovations being an issue while we are there. Are both pools open? Any suggestions on getting a renovated room even though we booked a standard unit for 5 people? If we can request an area when we check in where is the best? Any additional tips appreciated. Thanks in advance for your reply.

10 Dave { 08.27.13 at 7:59 am }

Hi Bill, the rooms will be pretty much done by your visit. I recommend requesting Tokelau, for the reasons noted at the end of this page. There’s no official word on any other renovations in December–they may be going on, but it isn’t known for sure…

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11 kt { 09.03.13 at 7:02 pm }

Can you elaborate on the room renovations, ie are they being gutted or just updated with new furniture? I’m going during Halloween week and just received the same letter everyone else is getting. I was initially annoyed, but the idea of a new room is nice, as I love new/clean bathrooms. However, I read something on another site that mentioned only furniture was being updated, not hardware items such as bathroom fixtures. This was specifically concerning Tokelau renovations (which I requested). Can you help clarify?

12 Dave { 09.04.13 at 7:20 am }

Kt Tokelau is done, I stayed there in August, and will be posting a photo tour of the new room tomorrow.

13 Lindsey { 09.09.13 at 7:29 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are going January 25th-February 1 and are booked at pop century. However this is our third time going and I’ve always wanted to stay at the Polynesian. It’s significantly more expensive but this go round I will have a 2 year old and 5 month old in addition to my 6 year olds. I’m thinking the convenience of the monorail might be worth the money. What are your thoughts?

Thanks as always!!!

14 Dave { 09.10.13 at 9:42 am }

Well, Lindsey, I’m not gonna try to talk you out of the Polynesian! That’ll be just about the least expensive time of the year, and there may also e a room rate deal out,making it an even better time to stay there. On the other hand there may be some construction–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/09/04/renovation-and-construction-at-disneys-polynesian-resort/

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15 Lindsey { 09.10.13 at 10:23 am }

Thanks Dave!

I feel that consulting you,( my disney expert), I might be able to justify the cost for staying there. I’m gonna keep my reservation and hope they come out with a room deal. Thanks for you help!

16 Dave { 09.11.13 at 6:38 am }

You bet Lindsey!!

17 Morgan { 09.19.13 at 9:43 am }

Hi, Dave! Have loved doing research for our first trip on your site. We’re thinking of taking our 2 children next Oct (’14), and we had decided on the Poly. However, our planner just notified us that there will be renovations (I believe two or three of the longhouses will be turned into villas, as well as new construction of villas over the water?). So, now I’m worried that this might not make for a pleasant stay. Now considering the Contemporary. What do you think about our 1st and possibly only trip to Disney, staying at the Poly while renovations/construction is going on? Thank you!

18 Dave { 09.19.13 at 1:14 pm }

Morgan, I myself don’t think the construction will much matter to the quality of the overall Poly experience. But if you want to avoid it, I’d put the Wilderness Lodge well ahead of the Contemporary as the next best choice. See http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-stay/next-best-resort-choices/

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19 Morgan { 09.19.13 at 2:16 pm }

The WL looks wonderful, and we did consider staying there. I even got rates, etc. Since our kids will be 4 and 5 when we go, however, I decided we needed the monorail for the stroller and overall convenience. I actually just got off the phone with the planner and reserved our room for 10/2/14-10/7/14 for the Poly. I asked for the Tokelau longhouse! Just praying for no pool closings. Again, have loved perusing your site. Thanks!

20 Dave { 09.19.13 at 5:20 pm }

Great, Morgan! Let me know how it goes!

21 Matthew { 10.21.13 at 12:52 pm }

Hi Dave! We went to Disney in Feb. 2013 (our first trip, planned with significant help from you) and stayed in Tahiti, 2nd floor with a MK view. We LOVED every aspect of our room, including the view, the quiet (except for the ferry horn) and especially the 4 minute walk to the TTC. (we have stroller age kids and we spent most of our time at MK) We are planning on going back in May 2014 and I was bummed to see that Tahiti is being converted into a DVC. Do you know if it will be under construction in May? If so, where which longhouse would you recommend if we wanted MK view and close to TTC? With Tahiti out of the mix, is it even worth paying for a MK view? Thanks very much for your help!!

22 Dave { 10.22.13 at 7:43 am }

Hi Matthew, I’m so glad the site helped! I suspect Tahiti will be out for quite a while–well beyond May. That doesn’t really leave any great choices for an MK view and close to TTC except for the concierge rooms in Hawaii…which are quite expensive…

23 Matthew { 10.22.13 at 10:22 am }

Hi Dave, thanks very much for your response! After scouring Steve’s Polynesian FB page, I’m strongly leaning toward booking at the Contemporary. The good possibility of the pool being closed and reasonable possibility of the walking path to the TTC being closed are probably going to be deal-breakers for me, MK view or not. We really loved the Polynesian, but just don’t think we can risk no pool and maybe no path to TTC. With kids who will be ages 5, 3 and 10mo. at the time of our trip, monorail/MK convenience is top priority. We are also looking for something that is reasonably quiet, although I understand that Disney properties are fairly noisy 18 hours/day. This is our second trip, and we’ll likely make more. Any thoughts on the Contemporary, and requesting rooms that are quieter than others (particularly at night)? In your experience, is the Bay view much quieter than the MK view, given no parking lot/buses/trains? Would you still recommend the Polynesian to us given our circumstances and the construction issues? I guess I could always change reservation closer to the time, but I need to book soon so I can get my castle dining reservation in 180 days beforehand. Thank you very much for your help! PS – planning on using your recommended travel agent, so hopefully they’ll sprinkle some extra pixie dust your way! :)

24 Dave { 10.23.13 at 7:06 am }

Matthew–just a quick not on the Poly before I turn to the Contemporary–the quiet pool (at minimum) will still be open!

Noise in the Contemporary comes from the interior, and equally affects both views. In the tower, the way to limit it is to ask for a high room on the opposite of the Chef Mickey side. The Garden Wing is also worth considering–while a bit of a hike, these rooms are very quiet! They also cost less.

25 Mike { 11.12.13 at 9:14 pm }

Hi Dave-
My wife and I are taking our two children (3 & 4) to DW from 1/4/13-1/7/13 and all of the talk about renovations has made me think twice about the Poly. We’d love to be on the monorail, but if it’s not the Poly, we’d probably go to the Wilderness or Art & Animation. As of today, do you have an idea of what renovations will be happening? If it’s significant, it might not make sense to spend the extra $. Many thanks for all that you continue to do.

26 Carol { 11.12.13 at 10:05 pm }

I am a grandmother bringing my daughter and two children ages 7 and 10 girl and boy. We were thinking of staying at the poly., but now rethinking. We were liking the location and the kid appeal. Now I am wondering with construction, etc…. We should maybe think of another spot. One child will want to go to MK, the other to Epcot, Yankee game and universal. Any advice would help a ton. Thanks in advance.

27 Carol { 11.13.13 at 9:12 am }

Forgot in the above msg. Dates we will be able to be in Disney: arrive March 22 at 10:30 am and depart Friday at 9:40 am.
Thanks for your help, Dave.

28 Dave { 11.13.13 at 10:10 am }

Mike the material renovation (at least to me) would be the main pool. That is widely rumored, but not confirmed…we won’t know for sure til it starts…

29 Dave { 11.13.13 at 10:11 am }

Hi Carol, the next best choice would be the Wilderness Lodge. See http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/08/25/review-disneys-wilderness-lodge/

30 Carol { 11.13.13 at 7:19 pm }

Many thx. Your site has been so very helpful. Cd

31 Amy { 11.23.13 at 8:56 pm }

Leaving for Poly on Dec 7th. Any updates about the construction going on? I have requested the Tokelau long house for our 8 day stay. Any suggestions if the construction will affect our stay?

32 Dave { 11.24.13 at 3:34 pm }

Amy, no real news–just some work on the shore near Tahiti, and between Rapa Nui and the TTC…It doesn’t look like it will affect much…

33 Viki { 11.24.13 at 5:34 pm }

Hi, I’ve just (by accident ) stumbled onto your site we’ be traveling w/ 7 people, I’ve booked 3 rooms (price not an issue ) that are supposed to have a view of the castle & lagoon ( actually I’ve been working with my travel agent) we’ll be cruising on the Fantasy from Dec 21-28 & checking into the Polynesian on the 28th – Jan 1 2014 but as I was reading I ran across a lot of worry about construction issues , do you happen to know if there will be issues during the time we’re there ? Also I haven’t received my reservation # so I don’t know where they have put us & wouldn’t know if it is what I’m paying for or not thank you for your time. viki PS just for my personal info what rooms are the best for the view of lagoon & castle

34 Dave { 11.25.13 at 6:34 am }

Hey Viki, the Poly has both Lagoon View and Theme Park View rooms. The theme park views also include lagoon views, but not vice versa. If you can, avoid Tahiti–where a lot of these view types are to be found. It’s right in front of the construction, and has not been renovated. The Poly is perfectly livable right now–the construction is having only a aminor impact.

35 Melinda { 12.30.13 at 11:58 pm }

We are planning on staying at the Poly during Christmas week of 2014. Will the renovations to the resort (pool area/beach access) be complete?

36 Dave { 12.31.13 at 7:10 am }

Melinda, sorry, but no one knows.

37 Kara { 02.12.14 at 1:08 pm }

Hi Dave, We stayed at Parc Soleil Hilton last year, here is our post http://peekabootravel.com/blog/?p=91 and it had separate rooms from the living space which was awesome for our napping kids! However next time I go back I want to try this resort because driving to Disneyworld,parking, tram, monorail with a little kids is ridiculously time consuming! Thanks for the review!

38 Patricia { 03.11.14 at 1:54 pm }

Hi. Coming to Disney and staying at the Polynesian second week of May 2014 for our honeymoon! Will the construction make it worth staying here? Want to be sure it is the place to be for this special celebration! Please advise what unit we should try to request to still have the best location and if this will affect the monorail going to the Magic Kingdom. Thank you for any tips and comments about our stay in May!

39 Dave { 03.12.14 at 6:03 am }

Patricia, there will be construction then. The monorail and pools should be fine–although there’s some minor pool work that will be going on whose schedule is unknown. The overall look and feel, especially on the west side of the resort, should be fine. If you don’t like construction, don’t stay there…Tokelau is still the best longhouse, but Raratonga has some of its advantages but is further from the construction. The west side longhouses are even more isolated from the construction–but also further from transport.

40 Candice { 03.19.14 at 7:34 pm }

Hi, Just wanted to thank you so much for your site. I used it to schedule our trip. We visited the Poly the first week in March, it was great. 1st visit for us and Lilo and Stitch is our family Fav so it only made sense:-)The construction was not a big deal at all, didn’t really notice. The monorail schedule didn’t make a difference. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, sure makes it easy to take a sleepy 2 and 10 year old back “home” quickly by the monorail. We stayed at Tokelau. It was a good location for us, the standard room was perfect , larger than I had expected for the four of us. Ohana was awesome at dinner. We almost couldn’t get a reservation because I didn’t make it soon enough. I got a tip from the cast member taking my phone reservation to try again 2 days before I want to make a reservation and there are always people who make changes and an opening will come up. It worked! We watched the MK fireworks through the window from our table while enjoying our meal, Awesome! My only regret is not hanging out more at the resort by the pool. Next time! Thanks again!

41 Dave { 03.20.14 at 7:57 am }

Hi Candice, and thanks for the follow up! I’m so glad the site helped, and it sounds like you had a wonderful trip…

42 Ginger { 03.21.14 at 3:26 pm }

Hey Dave,
We are going to Disney last week of April. We have a club level room (is this worth the food)booked at the Rara Tonga. I will be taking my three children (5, 3, 14mos) and wanted something close to MK. As I have been reading your site I am second guessing my plans and thinking about changing our reservations? I visited three years ago with my two year old and one on the way, we stayed at the Caribbean resort. I did not like how long it took to get back and forth to the park due to us leaving for naps. I was thinking of the pools at the poly would be a great resource during my one year old’s afternoon naps, but if they are under construction I might try to book another resort.
So my question is pay club level( we are not doing meal plan) and stay there or go to the art of animation , even though it take longer to get to the parks?
Pool and RaRa Tonga rooms under construction?
Thank you so much for your site!

43 Dave { 03.22.14 at 2:42 pm }

Hi Ginger! A couple of responses. First I thought that all the club level rooms were in Hawaii, and the views from Hawaii are the most affected by the construction. Second, major pool construction won’t start til late July at the earliest–though there’s always the chance of minor rehabs. Third, if you decide no Poly, I’d go to the Contemporary as an alternative, not AofA. The Contemporary is even more convenient to MK than the Poly…

44 Joy { 05.19.14 at 8:38 am }

We are planning to go to Disney in Sept 2015, and are considering staying at the Polynesian Resort. We want a Standard Room, and would like to know what building would you recommend. We would like to be in the middle of everything if possible, with a amazing garden view with balcony. Thank you so much for your help.

45 Dave { 05.19.14 at 11:51 am }

Joy–2015 right, not 2014? There’s a lot of construction going on at the Poly between now and March 2015. Check back with me much later this year and I’ll have a better point of view…

46 Steve { 07.29.14 at 4:55 pm }

Great site Dave. June 2015, 3 kids b/t 2 & 7 yrs old. 7 days. 1st but not last visit to WDW. Poly or AoA suite? Split? Thanks!

47 Dave { 07.30.14 at 7:00 am }

Steve that’s a really tough call. AofA has more kid friendly theming and much more and more livable space. Poly wins on convenience and dining. I’m a fan of split stays–I’d start with the Poly and and the MK and Epcot focused part of your trip, then AofA and the rest of the parks.

48 chris { 07.30.14 at 6:24 pm }

my family of four kids ages our 9,11 to disney and want to stay at the polynesian restort in may 2015 for four days this will be our first time my kids love disney i know construction will be going on do you know what will be closed off and restricted at that time and what room would you recommend with out a lot of walking with two kids will they still have the dinner entertainment g0ing on thank you

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