Guide to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Since the earliest days of Walt Disney World, two resorts have hosted countless Disney fanatics. One is Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the first of the monorail resorts to join the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) lineup. The other is the topic for today. Here’s a DVC guide to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
A Brief History of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
The history of this resort exists at two times separated by four decades. The true history of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows circles all the way back to the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971. At the time, resort officials were petrified that reviews wouldn’t be kind to the new park, the one that Walt Disney hadn’t personally had a hand in building.
Since Uncle Walt had spent most of his fortune purchasing the land in Central Florida, his older brother, Roy, felt that much more pressure to get the Florida Project right. When reporters and corporate executives visited ahead of the park’s debut, Disney officials hosted them at the most welcoming place on campus. Yes, even in 1971, the Polynesian already stood out as the relaxation destination at Walt Disney World.
Over the years, not much has changed. The Polynesian has hosted countless celebrities, secluding them in plain sight in the Hawaii Building’s Club Level. John Lennon even famously signed the contract that ended the Beatles while he stayed at the Polynesian. Long-time cast members here can tell some amazing stories about the things they’ve seen and the guests they’ve hosted.
The DVC aspect of the Polynesian wouldn’t come for another 40+ years. In 2011, park officials confirmed that Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa would become the second monorail resort to join the DVC lineup. Once that happened, everyone realized that the Polynesian would welcome home members soon afterward.
Sure enough, DVC filed the permits for and later announced the Polynesian in 2013. A massive renovation of the property began at this time, leading to some controversial changes, particularly in the hotel lobby. A beloved fountain was removed to create better traffic flow at the Great Ceremonial House. Construction disrupted guests for a period of 30 months or so, as walkways to and from buildings would change seemingly by the day.
The changes were worth the aggravation, though. By 2015, guests could book DVC rooms at the Polynesian. Even the most critical members had to agree that the DVC studios were among the finest of their kind at Walt Disney World. After 44 years of waiting, guests could finally call the Polynesian their home.
The Style of the Polynesian
Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a beach somewhere on an exotic island. Your boss can’t get on your case here. Your co-workers can’t harass you into doing their jobs for them. Nobody steals your labeled food in the break room, either. No, you’re on vacation far away from the struggles of life.
This island vacation getaway fantasy is the impetus of the Polynesian. Imagineers carefully studied many of the most popular tourist destinations in the South Pacific. They paid particular attention to Hawaii, too. To wit, Disney enticed a dancer named Auntie Kau’i to leave the islands in 1971 to work at the Polynesian for a while. She’s still there today, having turned this hotel into a home for her family.
This kind of intimacy is important in evaluating the style of the Polynesian. Strangers will call you “cousin” here. Many of the cast members have worked here for more years than you’ve visited Walt Disney World. You’re an invited guest at a serene hotel predicated on the philosophy that everyone deserves a relaxing vacation.
Thanks to the lush vegetation and the adjoining Seven Seas Lagoon beach, you’ll have no trouble buying into the illusion that you’re in the South Seas. The theming here borders on hypnotic. When you enter the lobby, a cast member will place a lei around your neck. At this moment, you’ll appreciate that you’re at a resort unlike any other. The Polynesian provides the vibe of Aulani while residing only a couple of monorail stops away from the Magic Kingdom.
The DVC Aspects of the Polynesian Resort
The Polynesian is comprised of 12 different “Longhouses.” These buildings are the ones that host guests, and the campus includes the Great Ceremonial House, too. The primary DVC Longhouses are Moorea, Pago Pago, and Tokelau. These Longhouses are on the right side of the Polynesian campus, close to the Transportation and Ticket Center. In a way, this positioning is advantageous since DVC members have shorter walks to the direct monorail to Epcot.
Tikiman Pages, the foremost expert on Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, suggests that “Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Aotearoa” are possibilities, too. These Longhouses are on the left side of the Great Ceremonial House. Some of these rooms feature convenient access to the main monorail stop at the Polynesian. Others are closer to Luau Cove, home to Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show.
The advantage of staying on the left side is the view. Lakeview rooms here are more likely to have phenomenal views of Magic Kingdom. Plus, a connecting beach allows you to walk straight to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. You can enjoy the shops and restaurants there without boarding the monorail…although that way is quicker, just not as healthy.
Like all monorail resorts, the DVC Points Chart for the Polynesian is a bit pricey. The cheapest room during the cheapest time, Adventure Season, is still 16 points per weeknight for a Standard. Lakeview studios cost 20 points per weeknight. On Fridays and Saturdays, the cost is 19 points for Standard and 24 for Lakeview.
A full week is either 118 or 148 points, depending on whether you want the Lakeview. And there’s a catch with the rooms with the better view. The nighttime Electrical Water Pageant passes close to some of these rooms and, well, my wife calls them the “noisy boats” for a reason.
Some guests complain that the pageant is disruptive. Even people in standard rooms mention it as a negative at the resort. Alternately, some believe that it extends the Disney magic directly into your hotel room.
No matter the room type you choose, a basic studio at the Polynesian is decadent. It’s the second-largest studio in the DVC lineup, and the room layout is brilliant, too. It’s 447 square feet, with a queen bed, a pullout queen bed, a bunk bed, and two bathrooms.
One of the bathrooms has a shower/tub, a standard counter with sink, and a toilet. The other one is for romantics. It features a larger counter, giving large families two different places in the room to get ready in the morning. More importantly, it provides a walk-in shower complete with a rain shower faucet above. There’s even a seating area. Outside of suites, this shower is currently the best one in the DVC lineup.
Speaking of suites, that’s another minor quibble about the DVC aspects of the resort. There aren’t one- or two-bedroom suites here. Instead, the next step up from a studio is a massive jump in points cost. I’m speaking of the infamous Polynesian Bungalows. These are the most deluxe accommodations in the DVC lineup save for possibly the cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
The points chart says as much. The least expensive night costs 115 points. Yes, one night in a Polynesian Bungalow is only three points less than a full week at a DVC studio here. During Adventure Season, the cheapest part of the calendar, a week in a Bungalow is 841 points.
Should you want to spend Christmas week in a Bungalow, you’ll need 1,439 points. In other words, an extended stay in one of these suites is price-prohibitive to all but the diehard DVC members, the ones with AT LEAST 500 points’ worth of contracts.
Presuming that you can afford it, the Bungalows are truly special. Everyone’s favorite YouTuber, the Big Fat Panda, took this video of the room. You can watch it and start Disney dreaming about staying here one day. It’s the height of Walt Disney World vacation stays right now. Then again, for that points cost, it better be.
Most of the great amenities at the Polynesian are located at the Great Ceremonial House. Disney has two stores in this area, one of which is directly above the other. The bottom one is BouTiki, one of my favorites of any DVC resort. It features plenty of Hawaiian shirts and other island merchandise, allowing you to decorate your home with South Pacific flair.
The top floor is Moana Mercantile, half of which is the Disney equivalent of a convenience store. It has foods and beverages plus basic sundries, suntan lotion, and a large amount of candy. It’s akin to Fantasia Market at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in this way.
When you walk past the ATM, however, you’ll discover a larger store section that sells more merchandise. A LOT of it is Lilo & Stitch-based, although you’ll find a fair share of Disney landmarks-based items, too. A customer with the disposable income to spend can drop a lot of money in these stores…and I speak from (recent) experience here).
The restaurants at the Polynesian are among the best of any DVC property anywhere. The most famous of them is ‘Ohana, among the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. The food here is a series of courses, each of which is All You Care to Enjoy (AYCE), the politer way of saying “stuff your face”. You’ll eat some combination of pork, shrimp, beef, and vegetables, depending on what’s served that day. For my family, ‘Ohana is the best place for a Disney breakfast thanks to the Best Friends character meal starring Lilo & Stitch (plus Mickey Mouse). We do this at least once a trip.
For dinner, we prefer another restaurant on the same floor as ‘Ohana. Kona Café features some of the most delicious appetizers and desserts on the Disney campus. In addition, it’s a hidden gem that is an easy Advanced Dining Reservation to book. Plus, it has some sofa seats that make it one of the most comfortable Table Service restaurants at Walt Disney World. My family loves to sit here and watch the traffic flow in and out of the monorail station just past the restaurant. Oh, and their sushi is spectacular. At least that’s what I’m told. I’d never put uncooked fish in my mouth.
The Quick Service restaurant on the bottom floor is Capt. Cook’s. It features a lovely combination of grab-and-good meals and counter service delights. Many of the recipes here elevate basic food concepts. For example, I fell in love with pesto once when eating a ham and cheese sandwich here. Each of the subs here is better than you’d expect from a Disney Quick Service joint. Also, one of the breakfast items, Tonga Toast, is a popular item with Disney fans who visit here often.
The other storied establishment at the Polynesian is a bar. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is the place to go when you want a glow drink. Many of the beverages on the menu are illuminated, and some of the adorable tiki-style glasses are available for purchase as souvenirs.
This place first appeared at Disneyland in 2011. It was a huge deal when the Polynesian got its own version. The bar is wildly popular and somewhat small. You may need to wait for a table, but it’s totally worth the effort.
The Polynesian also has a counter service place called Pineapple Lanai. This place sells one product, but it’s one that you desperately want. The menu is comprised of variations of Dole Whip, the most beloved of all Disney dessert treats.
The main pool at the resort is the Lava Pool. Recently redesigned, it’s a wonderful and large facility complete with a play area and a huge waterslide. For most DVC guests, the Quiet Pool is perfect, though. It’s right in the middle of the three Longhouses that host a lot of DVC guests. So, it’s a short walk to a largely unheralded pool. Over the past few years, my family has spent a lot more time here than at the Lava Pool. From conversations with other DVC members, we’re not the only ones who do this, either.
The final important amenity is the one already mentioned. The Polynesian is a monorail resort. Due to its proximity to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), it’s terrific in terms of logistics. In fact, guests who stay at Pago Pago are just a short walk away from the TTC, making it a desirable location…as long as you don’t mind a parking lot view. I’m of the opinion that Tokelau is the best Longhouse for DVC members. It’s close enough to the TTC, the Great Ceremonial House, and the two main pools that you’re equidistant from everything that matters at the Polynesian.
Resort Pros and Cons
I feel that a confession is in order here. If you can’t tell from the glowing comments above, the Polynesian is my favorite DVC resort. For that matter, it’s pretty much my favorite hotel in the world. I spent a couple of days there last week, and it truly felt like I was visiting my second home, the entire purpose of DVC membership. I admit this so that you’ll know in advance where I stand on the resort’s pros and cons. I have stars in my eyes when I discuss the Polynesian.
The cons here are ones I find a bit trivial. Yes, the Electrical Water Pageant is sometimes aggravating, but it lasts for roughly 10 minutes out of the day. You might not even be in your hotel room when the show is performed.
Some DVC members aren’t crazy about the expansive nature of the resort. You will have to do some walking to reach the Great Ceremonial House or Transportation and Ticket Center, depending on where your room is. The Lava Pool is inconvenient to some rooms, too, although the Quiet Pool’s convenience more than counteracts that in my opinion.
The expansive nature of the resort is problematic to some. The lack of mid-term suites is a frustration to many. A lot of DVC members love having washer/dryers in the room so that they can do laundry during an extended trip. The only possibility at the Polynesian is in the super-pricey Bungalows. Plus, some of the room views are an extreme parking lot view in that you walk out of one and you’re at the parking lot. And the cost of a night’s stay here is on the high end of all DVC properties.
Everything else about the Polynesian is positive. Its monorail access gives you quick trips to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Studio rooms are the largest of any DVC property at Walt Disney World. The restaurants and shops here are in the conversation for best of any DVC resort. There’s a legendary dinner show onsite. You can buy a Dole Whip at the Great Ceremonial House, and the lobby itself is among the most relaxing places at Walt Disney World. This place is happiness incarnate.
Here’s my final comment on Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. When I was a kid, this place had the perception of being the most luxurious of Walt Disney World resorts. One day during a vacation, my older sister and I agreed that when we grew up, we wanted to live here. It was a ridiculous childhood fantasy with no chance of happening. Somehow, thanks to DVC membership, this impossible dream is somehow now a reality.
PS: As I write this, I’m wearing a hoodie with the Polynesian logo on it. That speaks volumes about where my allegiances lie.