You can’t replicate steamy Pacific Islands without a relaxing atmosphere. If the three Disney hotels on the main monorail system were clothing, the Grand Floridian would be formal attire, the Contemporary would be a business suit, and the Polynesian would be casual Friday. Polynesian room sizes and amenities, on average, compare similarly to the other two. Service equals out, but the Polynesian feels more like a relaxing getaway. It’s a picture postcard of white sand beaches (faked) and hammocks (real). Tiki torches, cooled lava rocks, stone Tiki gods, and exotic flowers border walkways. Colors are bold yet warm, unlike the other nearby hotels.
Beyond theme, the Polynesian has an ideal location across the lake from the Magic Kingdom. At night, fireworks frame the far-away spires of Cinderella’s Castle and reflect in the rippling water. Disney pumps the same music heard within the Magic Kingdom into some sections of the Polynesian, so the effect, while much smaller, is the same. Travel to the Magic Kingdom is extremely easy and even fun; travel to Epcot almost as fast. Separate buildings are two- or three-stories tall, and many rooms have a balcony.
Many returning Disney guests shy away from the Polynesian in favor of newer resorts and fresh experiences. For some visitors, the resorts are mini-theme parks, and if last year was a fake trip to the great American West (Wilderness Lodge), they might opt for an African safari (Animal Kingdom Lodge) this summer. That lowers demand somewhat for the older Polynesian, but the hotel still deserves a lot of respect because “old” doesn’t mean decrepit. Constant refurbishing keeps the Polynesian as youthful a Disney’s other resorts.
The Polynesian is the top resort for guests with kids who want fast access to the Magic Kingdom, especially those seeking to escape the pretense of The Grand Floridian. The pool offers more than the Contemporary, and it’s the only truly themed hotel on the monorail loop. A bonus: In the middle of a steamy Central Florida summer, the Pacific island theme feels more real than fake.
Who should stay here
It’s a top choice for people with kids who want convenience (the nearby monorail) and deluxe accommodations. Guests who love the Polynesian want their Disney trip to be a vacation. Kids love the volcano-themed pool and adults appreciate the Pacific island beauty.
Who shouldn’t stay here
If you don’t have kids, the Polynesian may not be a top choice. It’s not that the rooms offend adults, just that families are drawn to the Polynesian, and so it has, by default, a lot of children around. Even the upscale restaurant’s (Ohana) host breaks the silence at times by encouraging young patrons to dance or shuffle coconuts across the floor. In addition, other Disney resorts that are not on the main monorail system have less exciting transportation options, but that also means they have fewer rank-and-file tourists wandering around.
The main monorail loop whisks Polynesian guests to the Magic Kingdom, the Epcot monorail, and nearby resorts. Guests may also walk to the Epcot monorail to cut down on transfers, and direct access to the Epcot monorail is even preferable for those staying in one of the buildings on the eastern side of the Polynesian. Limited boat transportation is also offered, with other spots connected by bus.
Questions to ask when booking
To maximize quiet, request a room on the western side. To maximize ease of transport (walking to Transportation and Ticket Center), request a room on the east side. To minimize walking to pool, restaurants, and services, request a room in the center. Rooms on the south side generally have fairly close view of the monorail (and riders staring at you) and the massive Magic Kingdom parking lot cannot be considered scenic. A view of the lake generally costs more.
Disney website: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort