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Exploring WDW's Polynesian Resort Hotel

Exploring WDW's Polynesian Resort Hotel

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Facts and Figures

The second of the Magic Kingdom's two original resorts, the Polynesian opened on October 1, 1971 as the Polynesian Village Resort. The Polynesian is styled in a south pacific islands theme, with each of its 11 "longhouses" and 855 rooms carrying in a lush, tropical decor. Palm trees, tropical foliage, and tiki torches highlight the 40 acres of beautiful and well-themed landscaping. The Great Ceremonial House is the central gathering point of the resort, housing the lobby, shops, and restaurants. The resort is home to two swimming pools, three restaurants, two bars, a marina, an arcade, and a child-care facility.

Many WDW veterans consider the Poly to be the lushest and the loveliest of all the Disney World resorts. But one wonders if they still would have felt that way if the Imagineers had gone with their original plan for the Polynesian. Which was an ultra-modern looking, multi-tiered affair that -- at its highest point -- would have been over ten stories tall. Something that would have looked right at home in downtown Honolulu circa 1965.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed at WED. And -- instead of building something that looked like it came straight out of "Hawaii 5-0" -- the Imagineers built the South Seas-esque paradise that we all know & love today.


Rooms at the Polynesian are located in one of 11 buildings or "longhouses". Each building is 2 or 3 stories tall and most rooms have private balconies (a few of the older buildings were constructed without balconies on the second floor to more closely mimic real Polynesian building styles. Guest complaints caused Disney to quickly add balconies on all rooms on all floors). Each longhouse has been named to represent a real Polynesian island, and the locations of the buildings are roughly correct to the actual geographic locations of the islands of Polynesia. Rooms at the Polynesian are generally a little larger than those at other resorts, and each is decorated with tropical colors and bamboo accents.

Closest to the Great Ceremonial House and the volcano pool are longhouses Tonga, Raratonga, Niue, and Samoa. Those most near the Ticket and Transportation Center are Tahiti, Rapa Nui, and Tokelau. Adjacent to the marina are Tuvalu, Fiji, Aotearoa, and Fiji. The longhouses directly on the beach of the Seven Seas lagoon are Tuvalu, Hawaii, and Tahiti. Non-smoking longhouses are Aotearoa, Fiji, Rapa Nui, Raratonga, Samoa, and Tokelau. Suites are located in the Tonga longhouse, and concierge rooms in the Hawaii longhouse. Rooms with the best view of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle, and the nightly fireworks show are located in Tuvalu, Hawaii, Tahiti.


The three restaurants of the Polynesian are located in the Great Ceremonial House. 'Ohana (and anyone who's seen Lilo & Stitch should certainly remember what ohana means) is located on the second floor, and serves a family-style Polynesian fare. A daily character breakfast is also served at 'Ohana, with visits right to your table from Mickey, Goofy, Chip, and Dale.

The Kona Café is also on the second floor, and serves fresh seafood, steaks, chicken, and salads. You'll probably never find more unusual (although tasty) desserts anywhere; most can truly be called works of art. Of course, Kona coffee is available both in the restaurant itself and from a coffee stand just outside the reception area.

Captain Cook's Snack Company is the standard WDW fast-food snack bar type of restaurant, and is open 24 hours. It features grill items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, deli sandwiches, salads, and other snack-bar fare. Food quality is Disney fast-food typical, which is to say not-great-but-not-too-bad-either.


The Polynesian is -- of course -- served by the monorail. The monorail station is located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House directly across from 'Ohana. Trains run to the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation center about every 5-10 minutes, with stops along the way at the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary.

The Ticket and Transportation Center is also accessible via a short walk down a dedicated pathway at the east end of the resort property. Accessible from the TTC is the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, the ferry boat to the Magic Kingdon, and buses to anywhere else in Walt Disney World.

Boat transportation is available from the marina with service to the Grand Floridian and the Magic Kingdom.

Bus stops at the Great Ceremonial House are available for bus transportation to Disney-MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Wilderness Lodge. These buses also service the Grand Floridian and the Wilderness Lodge, so be aware of the multiple stops and possible crowds on board.


There are two swimming pools at the Polynesian. Opened in 2001, the Nenea Volcano pool features a 40-foot high artificial volcano which houses a waterfall and waterslide. Underwater seating, hot water jets, and a zero-entry area from the beach are other features of this pool. Located adjacent to the Great Ceremonial House, the volcano pool is very popular and is often quite crowded. Between the Samoa and Tokelau longhouses you will find the Polynesian's quiet pool. Much larger than the volcano pool, this is the place to be if you want to relax with a quiet swim or simply sun yourself by the pool.

Water activities abound at the Polynesian's marina. Available for rent are sailboats, pontoon boats, and a fleet of "water mice." A water mouse is a small, one-or-two-person fiberglass boat with a 9.9-hp outboard engine.

A special feature of the Polynesian is the Neverland Club. This facility -- located right off the parking lot directly east of the Raratonga building -- provides supervised child-care services for kids ages 4-12. The club is open daily from 4pm to midnight, and includes a dinner buffet that your kids will love (I.E. Mac 'n cheese, pizza, chicken fingers, french fries, etc). It also geatures full-size arcade games, Nintendo, arts and crafts, a dress-up area, and -- of course -- Disney movies. The cost is $8.00 per child per hour. Reservations are required.

An arcade is located in the same building as the Neverland Club, and provides the usual collection of video games, pinball machines, air-hockey and pool tables. This is not - in my opinion -- one of WDW's better arcades. I found it to be rather pricey.

Several specialty shops and a general gift/sundries type shops are located in the Great Ceremonial House. Available for purchase are a wide variety of clothing, gifts, souvenirs, genuine Polynesian items, snacks, sodas, postcards, and other items.

Insider's Secrets, Tips, and Tricks

The Kona Cafe is the place to get a don't-miss delicacy of any WDW trip: Tonga Toast. Tonga Toast is thick-sliced sourdough bread stuffed with banana and served with cinnamon and sugar. It's similar to french toast but far more delicious. Also at the Kona Café - don't miss the macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi!

Take the time to rent a water mouse. They are a real kick to take out on Seven Seas lagoon and can even be driven across the water bridge to Bay Lake.

Tuesday through Saturday at 6pm is the torch lighting ceremony. These ceremonies, which welcome the evening, take place on the walkway leading to the Great Ceremonial House. A traditional Polynesian fire-dancer performs with torches and knives, and then lights the torches along the walkway. A very entertaining (and free!) show.

Did you know that there were once waves on the beach of the Polynesian? When the resort was first opened, the Imagineers thought it would be wonderful to have a gentle surf crashing on the shores of the Polynesian's beachfront. To achieve this effect, a wave machine was installed in Seven Seas Lagoon. And surf was up! ... at least for a while.

Unfortunately, the lovely atmosphere created by the resort's rolling surf was not enough to offset the major erosion that occurred daily in the Polynesian's beachfront area. Which is why - after only being operation for a few short months - the wave machine was turned off permanently in the Spring of 1972.

Strangely enough, Disney never got round to removing the Polynesian's wave machine. It's still located out in Seven Seas Lagoon, just a short distance away from the Poly's beachfront area. If you were to rent a water mouse, you can actually get within spitting distance of where the massive mechanism in located on one of the resort's off-shore islands.

The white-sand beach at the Polynesian is a great place to watch the nightly fireworks show over the Magic Kingdom. Find a nice spot on the beach, slip your shoes off, and wiggle your toes in the sand as you wait for the show to start. Also seen nightly from the beach is the Electric Water pageant, which consists of a series of small barges towed around Seven Seas lagoon. Each barge has a display of animated lights which illuminate to a musical soundtrack. This show performs nightly about 9 p.m.

The Neverland Club is child care done right. Should you want to slip away with your significant other for a quiet evening at Victoria & Albert's or the California Grill, you can rest assured that your little ones will be well-cared for and have a great time at the Neverland Club.

In fact, my experience has taught me that I'm the meanest dad in the whole wide world when I arrive to retrieve the kids at the end of the night. You'll never feel less love from your kids then when you tell them it's time to leave. Every parent is given a pager so that they can be immediately notified if there is any kind of problem, and the staff carefully records your evening plans so they know about where you will be at any time. The staff are wonderful and seem to truly care about making sure that all the kids have a great time.

For guests staying in buildings on the eastern side of the resort it's usually quicker walk the private pathway to the TTC and catch the ferry or the express monorail to the Magic Kingdom than to walk to the Great Ceremonial House for the resort monorail.

The Polynesian Dinner Luau Show is a great way to enjoy a very entertaining meal. It shows twice nightly, Tuesday through Saturday, at Luau Cove near the Aotearoa longhouse. The show includes a full luau-style meal along with entertainment consisting of authentic Polynesian singing and dancing.

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