8 Polynesian Village Resort Facts You Should Know

Amy BizzarriBlog

Walt Disney World Resort’s iconic Polynesian Village Resort, situated on the southern shore of the manmade Seven Seas Lagoon, has been transporting guests to Oceania via Orlando ever since it began operation on October 1, 1971.

As one of Walt Disney World Resort’s first two on-site hotels, the South Seas-themed resort has long been a favorite of WDW enthusiasts, thanks to its ideal location on the monorail line and the picture-perfect views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from its sandy shores. 

Here are eight curious Polynesian Village Resort facts you might not know:

1. It Had a Moldy Problem

The resort was designed by Welton Becket and Associates and originally opened with 492 rooms and was constructed by US Steel Realty Development using innovative techniques for the time. The steel frames of the resort’s traditional longhouses were erected on-site, and pre-constructed modular rooms were lifted directly into these frames via crane.

There was one big problem, however: guests began complaining of a moldy smell in their rooms and mold was indeed later detected in the spaces between each modular room. The spaces were filled in, rectifying the mold situation. When it came to future expansion, WDW stuck with conventional building techniques.

Polynesian Resort Walt Disney World

The Polynesian Village Resort lobby welcomes guests. Photo: Amy Bizzarri

2. Each Longhouse is a Polynesian Island

Each of the resorts 11 two and three-story longhouses is named after an actual an island in Polynesia, a subregion of Oceania, made up of more than 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean.

The original eight longhouses include the Bali Hai, Bora Bora, Fiji, Hawaii, Maui, Samoa, Tahiti and Tonga. Oahu joined the crew in 1978; Moorea and Pago Pago in 1985. Twenty luxurious, over-the-water Disney Vacation Club bungalows were added between 2013 and 2015.

Perhaps the best perk of staying in the bungalows? You can enjoy the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks spectacular while soaking in a private plunge pool located on the back deck.

3. It’s Where the Beatles Officially Broke Up

A music-related historical event took place at the resort: On December 29, 1974, John Lennon signed the paperwork that broke up The Beatles once and for all.

John, Julian, and I (May Pang) left New York the following day to spend Christmas in Florida. On December 29, 1974, the voluminous documents were brought down to John in Florida by one of Apple’s lawyers. He finally picked up his pen and, in the unlikely backdrop of the Polynesian Village Hotel at Disney World, ended the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in history by simply scrawling John Lennon at the bottom of the page.

— May Pang, Instamatic Karma (St. Martins, 2008)

Dole Whip at Polynesian Village Resort

Dole Whip soft serve and floats can be found at Pineapple Lanai. Photo: Walt Disney World

4. It’s Home to a Famous Frozen Treat

The Polynesian Village Resort is also the home of an iconic WDW treat: The Dole Whip. Head to the Pineapple Lanai, located right outside the back entrance of the Polynesian’s lobby to indulge in this cult favorite. It’s a smooth, sweet, dairy-free pineapple-flavored soft serve swirl, also available in a vanilla and pineapple swirl.

The dessert appeared in 1976 in Disneyland’s Adventureland, when Dole, the pineapple empire, first began sponsoring the Enchanted Tiki Room and arrived at Walt Disney World in 1986.

5. And Home to a Snack You’ve Got to Try

Another only-at-the-Polynesian treat: Tonga Toast! Think rich sourdough bread stuffed with bananas, battered and deep-fat fried then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. You can find this indulgent treat at both the resort’s upscale Kona Cafe and the casual Captain Cook’s. Rumor has it that Tonga Toast packs a whopping 3,000 calories!

6. It Has a Run With a View

The best place at the resort to burn off those Tonga Toast calories? The resort’s New Balance Running Trail. The starting point is located on the boardwalk just outside the resort entrance near Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and runs winds through the tiki-studded resort property, circling the luau grotto and running beside the monorail tracks to the Grand Floridian.

Shrunken Zombie Head drink

The Shrunken Zombie Head drink at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Photo: Walt Disney World

7. Trader Sam’s is More Than Drinks

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is packed with exotic treasures from “head” salesman Trader Sam, who you might already know from the World Famous Jungle Cruise.

Sit on the bar stools and you may notice you get taller and shorter as the evening wears on…or is it the cocktails tricking your mind? Order the Nautilus, reminiscent of the hit Disney movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which arrives filled to the brim with rum and tropical juices…with a few surprise special effects…

8. The Polynesian Resort Had a Wave Machine

Once upon a time, in 1971, a wave machine sent ocean-style waves onto the Polynesian’s beach. Ambitious Disney Imagineers imagined that guests at the resort could actually surf the Seven Seas Lagoon! The waves were surf-worthly but about one year later it was obvious that erosion from the unnatural waves was affecting the beaches of the man-made lagoon. If you’re sailing the high seas of the Seven Seas Lagoon today, you might spot the remnants of the wave machine on the island to the northeast of the resort.

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About the Author

Amy Bizzarri

Amy Bizzarri is a Chicago-based freelance writer and the author of The Best Hits on Route 66 and 111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss. When in Walt Disney World, you’ll likely find her sipping a Nautilus at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto or riding the People Mover in repeat with her two kids.