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When we decided to splurge this summer and stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort we did it with the full intention of not just using the room as a place to lay our heads at night. Instead, the resort itself was to play an important role in our Disney vacation. From the lava pool, to the Kiki Tikis splash play area, to the character breakfast at ‘Ohana and more, we wanted to take the time to enjoy the amenities at Disney’s Polynesian. After all, I had only been wanting to stay here for about three decades…
This strategy of playing where we stayed was not only very well aligned with our toddler’s stamina and schedule, but it also saved us money by keeping us busy at the resort part of the time instead of needing a Disney Parks ticket for every waking moment.
Before I get into my five favorite activities and amenities at Disney’s Polynesian, here is a post warning you not to stay here (because you may not ever want to stay elsewhere), and also one comparing a Polynesian standard room and the Disney Vacation Club studio suite. To give you an even better glimpse into what it is like to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village, we also put together a short video clip of our time at the resort.
Now onto the five must-do activities at Disney’s Polynesian….
5. Eat (or drink) a Dole Whip
Disney Dole Whip soft serve ice cream has a bit of a cult following including its own line of bumper stickers, t-shirts, and more. I think its fanclub comes from it not only being a tasty and affordable treat, but being one that instantly reminds you of all your fun Disney memories of past, present, and future. The only place to get Dole Whip outside of Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland is at the Pineapple Lanai located right outside the back entrance of the Polynesian’s lobby.
You can order the pineapple flavored soft serve, or a swirl with both vanilla and pineapple, or you can order it as a float served with pineapple juice. The price is only around $5, and in exchange you get a sweet, sugary, and iconically Disney treat.
When you enjoy a Dole Whip at the Polynesian you can also eat it in shade and often without a wait…which is a huge plus and makes it a don’t miss in my book. In fact, get two. Sometimes sharing is a dangerous sport when ice cream is involved…
4. Swim and Splash the Day and Night Away
This is an obvious must-do activity at pretty much all of the Disney resorts, but swimming is indeed a highlight at the Polynesian Resort. First, there is the large lava pool complete with a pretty long and fun 142 foot water slide that starts at the top of the ‘volcano’ and empties right into the pool.
Next, there is the relatively new Kiki Tikis splash play area that a perfect match for our almost-two-year old as it allows for fun in the water without the ability to swim. This section also hosts a small toddler slide and a longer dark water slide that was too much for my toddler, but perfect for my seven year old.
While the lava pool may be the crown jewel, we also really enjoyed the smaller and calmer oasis pool that stayed open later until 11PM at night. We did a night swim in this zero entry pool every night of our trip, and we even bonded with a family of ducks that also swims in the pool.
It is safe to say our swimsuits virtually never dried out during our three nights at the Polynesian!
3. Eat at ‘Ohana
‘Ohana is one of my absolutely favorite Disney restaurants thanks to its Pacific Island theming, family style portions, Polynesian inspired cuisine, and fun child-friendly activities. Getting dinner reservations here either requires a good amount of luck or OCD style planning 180 days in advance, but the character breakfast reservations can be a little easier to come by.
I 100% recommend either a multi-course dinner at ‘Ohana, or if you have little kids, then the character breakfast can be a solid substitute. The food isn’t quite as exciting at breakfast as dinner in my view, but starting your day with multiple Disney characters coming right up to your table to say hello is pretty magical.
The kid’s parade that they do around the restaurant at breakfast is also a ton of fun for everyone and a perfect way to kick-off a Disney day. At dinner the kids can do coconut races, hula hooping, and more. You can also see the evening Magic Kingdom fireworks from your table if you get on near the windows close to the fireworks starting time.
Do be aware that eating at ‘Ohana isn’t cheap if you don’t have a Disney Dining Plan as breakfast is roughly $32 per adult, $19 for children, and thankfully free for those under three. At dinner the prices climb to about $46 per adult, $26 for kids, and still free for the under three toddler crew. There is no menu so you can’t just order a coffee and call it good. Everyone at the table is charged those rates.
At breakfast they serve scrambled eggs, island-style fried potatoes, Hawaiian pork sausages, smoked bacon and a variety of fresh fruits, breads….and of course, Mickey waffles.
At dinner there are skewers of sweet and sour chicken, oak-grilled shrimp and steak, as well as dumplings, stir-fried vegetables, lo mein noodles, salad, and last but not least, the infamous ‘Ohana Bread Pudding with ice cream! Note that you can also order this meal from room service at the Polynesian if you can’t get into ‘Ohana for dinner. You won’t get the whole experience eating in your room, but at least you can get a taste of the fun.
While I am on the topic of ‘Ohana, I have to mention that when I was nursing Baby S and on a very restrictive diet a couple years ago we ate dinner there and while I was sad to miss the usual menu items on that trip, the allergy chef met with me and did an outstanding job creating a dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free, but not fun free meal that I very much enjoyed. Disney in general does a phenomenal job with food allergy and sensitivity issues, and ‘Ohana was no exception on our previous visit.
On a longer trip I could see doing both a breakfast and dinner at ‘Ohana, but given the price, time commitment, and quantity of food, on a shorter trip of just 2-3 nights I think one meal at ‘Ohana is probably a solid decision unless you aren’t spending much time in the parks and have a very healthy appetite.
If you miss dinner at ‘Ohana, there is always the amazing Hawaiian sweet bread at nearby Kona!
2. Catch the Monorail to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT
Okay, this is cheating a little because the proximity of the hotel to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT isn’t exactly an on-site activity or amenity, but it is still so fantastic I have to include it. While the Disney monorail can have its delays and issues, when it works correctly, it just can’t be beat for comfort, price (free!), and convenience. You can take the air-conditioned monorail right from the second level of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian the few minute ride to the Magic Kingdom.
They do your security screening where you board the monorail, so you don’t even have to deal with that at the parks. When you get off the monorail you are ready to have your Magic Band scanned, enter the gates, and start having fun straight away!
The fastest monorail to EPCOT from the Polynesian is actually the one from the Transportation and Ticketing Center that is located right next to the Polynesian on the right-hand side of the resort, assuming you were standing at the front entrance to the Great Ceremonial House. If you want to get to EPCOT from the monorail that runs to the second level of the Great Ceremonial House without walking the 5 – 10 minutes to the TTC, then you will have to take that monorail to the TTC and change trains, which will almost always be slower than just getting on at the TTC.
For us the monorail isn’t just a good way to get from Point A to Point B, but we really enjoy the ride around the Seven Seas Lagoon. It isn’t quite as fun as riding Mine Train, but it is really fun, especially when you score a window seat and can enjoy the view.
1. Watch the Evening Fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant
Part of the magic of staying within eyeshot of Magic Kingdom is getting to be a part of the evening fireworks show without being a part of the mass of humanity that gathers around the castle at that time. Not only can you see the fireworks very clearly from the beach at the Polynesian, but at certain points around the resort they even pipe in the music that goes along with the show. I highly recommend getting near one of those speakers as the show is 3x as good when you know the story and music that goes along with it.
If you want to really impress your seven year old, you can even swim in the lava pool and watch the fireworks from there! Another campy but fun thing you can see from the Polynesian is the evening Electrical Water Pageant that comes by just before the evening fireworks start. This is something you can’t see from inside the Magic Kingdom, but it is the perfect way to warm up for the fireworks display at one of the original Disney Resort Hotels.
Beyond those five of my favorite activities and amenities at Disney’s Polynesian there are other awesome things you can do, eat, and enjoy including the Spirit of Aloha Luau, make leis or take afternoon hula lessons in the lobby with the legendary Auntie Kau’i, (who has been there almost since the resort opened!), or watch an outdoor movie on the lawn as the sun disappears.
Honestly, the resort truly is a destination by itself even without the proximity to the Disney Parks. However, add in the reality that you are about as close as you can get to Cinderella’s Castle without staying in it and the Polynesian Village Resort becomes almost perfect. At the very least, it was the perfect backdrop for our family to play, laugh, eat, swim, and create fantastic Mickey flanked memories.
What are your favorite things to do at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.