Today in Disney History, 1998: Kona Café Opened at the Polynesian

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Disney History, Walt Disney World Resorts, WDW Blog

Kona Café opened on November 23rd, 1998 at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Resort.

Today we celebrate what may be the easiest to find, but also somewhat forgotten gem located right smack in the middle of the Polynesian Village Resort. 

While your friends and family may be refreshing their app every five seconds trying to find a reservation for Ohana, there is another, just as magical spot—just a short distance away!

Where is it, you ask? Well, if you were looking for Ohana, then you’ve already seen it!

Found on the terrace of the Great Ceremonial House, we are celebrating this hiding-in-plain-sight masterpiece of magic, the Kona Café which opened on Nov 23rd, 1998!  

What is Kona Café?

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Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

For those who may not have had the chance to visit, Kona Cafe is a table service location in the Polynesian Village. 

Formerly known as the Coral Isle Cafe, It often gets overlooked due to its location right next to Ohana, but the Cast Members at the Polynesian still put the same amount of magic into every inch of Kona that they do everything else. 

The menu transports you to an Asian-infused Island experience, with both value and convenience in mind. 

They are most known for Tonga Toast but they also have incredible selections: sushi, stir-fry, teriyaki beef salads, drinks ( though a bartender is only on hand in the evenings), and what is commonly referred to as an “on-stage” sushi kitchen.

Missing that famous Tonga Toast? Try our recipe to make it at home today!

If you don’t want to sit down, look across the way! There is an additional kiosk (much like in Animal Kingdom) which serves coffee and pastries in the morning.

And expect some changes—considering the location of Kona Café, you can also expect the upcoming Moana renovations to (possibly) affect Kona’s theming or menu items! We can’t wait!

What’s Changed in 2020?

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Tonga Toast at the Kona Cafe. Photo by Brett Svenson

Since COVID has altered the function of the parks, so has it altered how restaurants operate. We do feel the need to mention what you can expect to see and not see. 

Similarly, the Polynesian Village is also undergoing construction in the Great Ceremonial House until 2021, so please plan your visit carefully!

Kona Café is now offering an online reservation system, as well as a digital menu you can download through QR code. 

If you have the My Disney Experience App, you can also peruse the menu through there. Similarly, some menu items have been temporarily removed, and some of the seating around the sushi bar is no longer available. 

But If you were a big fan of their eclectic menu a year or two ago, you may not find some of your favorites—but fret not, Disney has you covered. The menu may be limited, but you are still sure to find a favorite.

And, if you find yourself longing for the island experience but unable to make it to the parks, you can bring Kona home! 

Kona Café got its name from the culture it embraces. Kona is not just a blend, it’s the region in which the coffee is grown. The Kona District is found near Mauna Loa on Hawaii.

It seems only fitting that Kona Café offers it’s own specialty French Press at the café. You can even purchase your very own Joffery’s bag to brew a pot at home!

Watch Your Step!

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The pool at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Photo by Courtney Reynolds

When a Cast Member says “watch your step,” they are usually letting you know about uneven ground. If your Kona Café hostess tells you to watch your step, be sure to look down.

You will see something very special on the carpet—hidden Mickeys concealed in plain sight in the center of their island design flowers. 

You can find another hidden Mickey by simply placing a sushi order. That’s right—rolling sushi is an incredible skill, and Disney ups the game by having some of their chefs trained in putting hidden Mickeys inside the roll! 

And if you think we’re talking about placing two smaller rolls around a larger one—nope. We mean they actually roll individual seaweed rolls within the rice. It can be quite stunning and surprising when it arrives at the table!

Vegan Options

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Photo Courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

In addition to sushi rolls referred to as Ener-G rolls with vegan Earth Balance Butter (this is the brand, not the name of a menu item) and various already vegan desserts, Kona Café welcomes Vegans of all types with their Dashi Bowls.

A Dashi bowl is essentially a soup bowl with more noodles than broth. The dish comes with shredded carrots, umami tomatoes, diced pineapple, green onion and pineapple tofu.

Be sure to order carefully as the non-vegan options includes fish-flakes!

Kona Café

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Photo by Cliff Wang

Disney’s first goal is to make everyone feel like they’re at home. Whether they are in the parks or in a resort, that goal drives them to create the best of the best and add the most magic possible. 

While Kona Café goes largely overlooked due to it’s more popular neighbor, we can promise that you will get the same magical experience here that you would anywhere else.

There’s a reason this café is a classic at Disney since 1998 and continues to remain a favorite for many! 


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Posts by Britta Stephens

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Britta Stephens is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine, Disney blogger, hairstylist, and dog mom x2. The first book she ever read was Hans Christan Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and she's been a fan of Disney endings ever since. When she’s not fostering kittens, she can be found reading literature from a dog’s perspective and singing the opening of The Lion King to her greenhouse plants.
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Authored by
Britta Stephens

Britta Stephens is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine, Disney blogger, hairstylist, and dog mom x2. The first book she ever read was Hans Christan Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and she's been a fan of Disney endings ever since. When she’s not fostering kittens, she can be found reading literature from a dog’s perspective and singing the opening of The Lion King to her greenhouse plants.
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