The Polynesian Resort is one of WDW's originals. It opened when the Magic Kingdom did, back in 1971, and remains one of the resort's most popular hotels. It was expanded in the mid-1980s to increase guest capacity, and was overhauled a bit over the last 10 years; most notably, when the old "grotto pool" was replaced with the all-new "volcano pool."
Seen from the Grand Floridian Resort across Seven Seas Lagoon, the resort is obviously a beach-front tropical paradise. The A-frame buildings, each one just a little bit different from all of the others, are the guest buildings.
Polynesian Resort's beach, viewed from the Grand Floridian.
White sand beaches line the waterfront all along Seven Seas Lagoon. The swaying palms, hot afternoon sun, and cool breezes off the water are icing on the cake. [By the way, you can see the Grand Floridian in the background of the following picture, too.]
Beach in front of the Tahiti building at the Polynesian Resort.
Tthe towering spires of Cinderella's Castle can be seen in the distance directly across the Lagoon.
You can see the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella's Castle across Seven Seas Lagoon.
In addition to the great themeing and lovely atmosphere at the Polynesian, one of its greatest draws is its closeness to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, the resort is well-known as one of the three resorts that the monorail stops at, with express service to the Magic Kingdom and transfer service to Epcot. [The Studios, Animal Kingdom, and other locations can be reached via bus from the Ticket and Transportation Center, which is located directly next to the Polynesian.]
The monorail zips through the station on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House.
Magic Kingdom ferries on Seven Seas Lagoon run between the Ticket & Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain is in the background to the far left.
Magic Kingdom ferry docked at the Ticket & Transporation Center. The Center is right next tot he beach in front of the resort's Tahiti building.
Now, moving way over to the other end of the resort, in the picture below, the very large building to the far right with the open roof is the Great Ceremonial House. This picture was taken from the Grand Floridian, like the one above.
Polynesian Beach Resort from Grand Floridian.
The front of the Great Ceremonial House, which is the main resort building, is less impressive than the water view. The check-in lobby, shops, restaurants, and other central services are located mostly in this building.
The Great Ceremonial House.
Walking into the Great Ceremonial House just adds to the atmosphere. The lush vegetation, the pools filled with koi (Japanese carp), and the strains of South Sea Island music begin to work their magic as you arere transported from Central Florida into the lush tropical paradise that is the Polynesian Resort.
Great Ceremonial House Entrance.
The check-in area is to the right as you enter the building.
Lush vegetation and waterfalls form the nucleus of the building. Scattered around, too, are comfortable sitting areas like the one below.
Lobby Sitting Area.
Here are some examples of the guest buildings.
Beach-side view of the Tahiti building.
Here's a view of Tahiti from inside the resort. The lush tropical plants do a great job of setting the stage for the resort's atmosphere.
Resort-side view of the Tahiti Building.
The Tokelau building is very similar to the Tahiti, but there are subtle differences in color and details.
Captain Cook's Snack Company is a small counter service place located across from the Polynesian Princess Shop on the first floor of the Great Ceremonial House.
The serving area of Captain Cook's Snack Company.
The food here is typical hamburgers faire, and nothing to write home about. The seating area is terribly small for the traffic, and tends to suffer from a lack of upkeep with lots of trash and tables that need bussing.
Captain Cook's Seating Area.
Kona Cafe, on the other hand, is a fabulous restaurant. Located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House just around the corner from 'Ohana, Kona Cafe is an upscale, but not oppressive, ala carte restaurant.
The Kona Cafe, a fabulous ala carte restaurant on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House.
The food at Kona Cafe is excellent, and the desserts are fantastic. Just be prepared for some steep prices, because a meal here doesn't come cheap.
The food and desserts at the Kona Cafe are excellent.
The Kona Cafe's chocolate dragon on display.
The Kona Cafe's white chocolate pegasus.
The item on the stone slab, second from the right in the front row, are Kona Cafe's famous Ko-Ko Puffs.
Desserts at the Kona Cafe.
The entire restaurant is bright and airy; a very nice place to have a great meal.
Just around the corner from Kona Cafe is 'Ohana. This all-you-can eat table service restaurant grills up shrimp, steak, and salmon.
'Ohana Grill, located just around the corner from Kona Cafe.
The seating area is very large, and the restaurant is filled up throughout the evening. We arrived for a rather early dinner, it's still quite light outside and there is still some open tables here and about, but by the time our meal was over, the place was packed out.
Enjoy these photos as you read an excerpt from my October 2000 trip report:
"We walked in and made a beeline for 'Ohana, since we were just a few minutes before our seating time. By the way, had I been more careful, we could have eaten before 6:00pm to get the "free desert or child's meal" special, but we were seated after 6:00 because of my ignorance.
"Dinner at 'Ohana is a feast! They first bring you a collection of appetizers including a salad, pork dumplings, chicken wings, and a relish with a fish sauce on it.
Then the bring the main meats including smoked salmon,
and grilled shrimp,
turkey, pork, and steak. It's all you can eat, and they bring it to you on huge skewers as often as you ask for more. The food is just incredible!
"I enjoyed this meal much more so than the last time we were here (when we were foolish enough to have a large lunch on the same day). It was really good food.
"I almost forgot! During the meal, Allan was given the opportunity to join a coconut race in which the kids push coconuts around on the floor with brooms. He was a bit bashful, though, and declined. Later, though, when a hoola hoop contest was announced he really wanted to try. He was less than successful, though, but was pleased enough when daddy tried and couldn't do very well either. I'm just glad no one with cameras was around for that one!
"Dessert was fresh pineapple with a caramel dipping sauce. It topped things off nicely."
Just outside of 'Ohana, conveniently located for waiting diners, the Tambu bar serves up adult beverages with a Polynesian twist.
The Tambu Bar.
The Polynesian is not as great a shopping destination as the Grand Floridian, or even the Contemporary Resort. It has a handful of stores, mostly oriented toward providing the things that a guest would really need to buy while on vacation.
Downstairs in the Great Ceremonial House, almost directly behind the waterfall from the check-in desk, is News From Civilization. I don't even have a picture of this little shop, but suffice to say, it peddles magazines, newspapers, books, small snacks, and resort trinkets.
Much more upscale are the Polynesian Princess...
Trader Jack's rounds out the resort shopping district. Located upstairs in the Great Ceremonial House directly above the check-in desk, Trader Jack's is the place to go for the typical resort stuff. If you need snacks, T-shirts, mugs, or other Polynesian Resort logo or character merchandise, Trader Jack's will cover you.
I still think that one of the coolest details in all of the Polynesian Resort is the King Kamehameha Mickey located up high on the wall in Trader Jack's. It's the kind of detailing that make the Disney resorts so special... you just have to keep your eyes open to find them.
King Kamehameha Mickey.
The Polynesian Resort has some great recreational facilities. Besides the lush atmosphere of the gardens, the resort now boasts a great new volcano-themed pool. The resort also has a marina and arcade, and is the host site of WDW's Neverland Club. [Note: The resort is also the site of Luau Cove and the venerable Polynesian Luau dinner show. You can read more about the luau at MousePlanet's WDW Restaurant Resource.]
From the Great Ceremonial House, follow a small stream through and around the buildings. Small rope bridges provide access across the stream.
A wide walkway runs along the stream. From here, you can see the volcano in the background.
The pool is quite a bit larger than the old grotto pool that was in this same location Of course, the volcano provides a great place for water slides, and adds significantly to the themed atmosphere.
The stream dumps into the volcano pool.
Nestled in between the Samoa, Hawaii, and Tokeliau buildings is the resort's quiet pool. Although this pool still gets fairly busy during hot afternoons, especially in the summer, it's also quite a bit less crowded than the volcano pool.
Nestled between the Samoa, Hawaii, and Tokelau buildings is the resort's quiet pool.
All kinds of water craft can be rented in the marina. Here you can see a row of gleaming white water mice, just ready to be taken for a spin on the Lagoon. These small boats are a blast! I highly recommend renting them for a half hour, even though they are a bit pricey.
All kinds of watercraft can be rented in the resort's marina.
Next to Rarotonga, this building houses the resort's guest laundry, arcade, and Neverland Club, and is the location of the former Tangaroa Terrace. Tangaroa Terrace is no longer operating as a restaurant, and is now used only for special, paid events.
The services building, site of the former Tangaroa Terrace.
The Neverland Club is themed to be a little bit of Darling nursery along with a little bit of Neverland. If you bring your children here, be prepared for a hefty bill. However, it's a great way to have an evening out without them.
Neverland Club entrance.
The kids can climb through the window to get in the club, if they don't want to go through the door.
The Darling's Window... the kid's entrance to the Neverland Club.