The Polynesian Village Resort was one of Walt Disney World’s first resorts, opening in October 1971 (along with the Contemporary Resort), to coincide with the debut of Disney’s first Florida theme park — Magic Kingdom. The Grand Floridian followed in 1988, Wilderness Lodge in 1994. Now all four make up what is considered the Magic Kingdom area resorts. While all are in close proximity to Disney’s flagship park, each has its own distinct vibe.
The Polynesian is a colorful island casual to Grand Floridian’s crisp white Victorian-era elegance; warm to the Contemporary’s cool; and spread out across nine longhouse buildings instead of vertically designed from one central soaring lobby, as is the case at Wilderness Lodge.
And speaking of spreading out, the Polynesian’s 409-square-foot standard guestrooms are larger than almost all other Disney resorts (Wilderness Lodge standard rooms, for example, are 340 square-feet).
The resort’s lobby, guestrooms, and kids’ club underwent an extensive refurbishment — or re-imagination as the Disney folks like to call it — that began in 2013 and is in its final stages with the renovation of the property’s smaller East Pool.
One of the first things repeat guests will notice (Polynesian has one of the highest guest return rates of the Disney resorts) is that the place has become a whole lot brighter, from lighter bed linens and room accents, to the now sun-filled Great Ceremonial House, home to restaurants, shops, and check-in.
For decades, a massive tropical garden occupied the center bulk of the Ceremonial House and condensation from the foliage and trees often darkened (and dirtied) the glass ceiling. Not anymore. The new lobby is breathtaking, with colorful nautical bulbs suspended from the clear glass ceiling, a smaller tropical hibiscus garden center stage and seating areas with oversized rattan chairs and plump sofas.
In addition, two of Polynesian’s former longhouses were completely gutted and transformed into 360 deluxe studio villas that comfortably fit families thanks to a cleverly-designed hideaway bed that looks like a dresser, but is actually a pull-down bed. They take the place of a rollaway and can be found in Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (and in Grand Floridian Villas).
Polynesian’s villas, combined with the newly constructed 20-over-the-water two-bedroom Bora Bora Bungalows form the new Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (review here), which opened earlier this year as the newest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property.
While most parents appreciate Polynesian Village for its spaciousness, we originally fell in love with it for its volcano pool, meandering pathways and streams (where you frequently spot lizards, rabbits and ducklings), and large soft-sand beach. More information and tips on best room locations, dining, and family activities, can all be found here in my full Polynesian Village resort review at FamilyVacationCritic.com.