Pop Century vs. Polynesian Village: Which Resort is Better?

Mickey and Bar football” by 35mmMan licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’re planning a visit to Disney World soon, then you likely know that determining which resort to stay in can be a difficult experience.  But we have you covered, as our in depth comparison of Pop Century vs Polynesian Village Resort will hopefully help you determine which resort best fits the needs of you and your entire family!

Pop Century vs Polynesian Village

Okay, let’s first begin this battle by digging a little deeper into the resort theming at the Polynesian Village.

Polynesian Village Resort Theming

Fountain” by Steven Miller licensed under CC BY 2.0

Affectionately known as “the Poly,” the Polynesian Village Resort is one of the original on-site Walt Disney World hotels. It is inspired by the early 20th century “tiki” theme (an idealized and fictional representation of a South Pacific paradise that was bolstered in part by returning servicemen from World War II) and has managed to retain its charm without getting kitschy or becoming culturally insensitive. It is simply a delightful resort with the right amount of tropical fantasy.

The Resort consists of sprawling walkways between individual longhouses that house the hotel rooms. My favorite time of day is in the evenings, when the torches are lit and the paths are flickering with light. The layout of the Polynesian is a great example of how Disney can create spaces that feel isolated, even though they are right next to another area. The sounds from the pool barely travel beyond the immediate area. Disney magic!   

Pop Century Theming

While the Deluxe resorts focus heavily on subtle atmosphere and mood, the Value resorts at Walt Disney World are much more in-your-face. Theming is mostly surface level and drives the images, music, and other details that you’ll see around the resort.

At Pop Century, the theme is American pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century. Pop Century is kind of like Toy Story Land in this regards – if you’ve walked around Toy Story Land and been hit with repeated bursts of “oh my gosh, I remember that!” then Pop Century may be the resort for you! 

Each building is decorated with one of the decades from the 1950s through the 1990s). Popular movies, foods, games, music, etc. from that decade are used as focal points and detailing throughout the building. The details are not subtle. If you don’t remember much from the 1960s, you will be quickly reminded of the most recognizable characteristics! 

Having come of age in the 1990s I was a little disappointed by the lack of flannel and grunge music, but was amused by the giant laptop computer pool and cell phone stairwell. Like I said, the details are in-your-face, while also tongue-in-cheek. The designers of the resort managed to pull together a motley collection of memorabilia that will bring a smile to your face, regardless of your personal life experiences during that decade. Wandering around the resort may not be as relaxing as a wander at the Poly, but it will definitely bring more reminiscent chuckles!

Theming winner: Polynesian. In my opinion, what makes Disney stand out is the constant attention to detail. And while they are often overlooked, the details are what make a theme stand out, even if you can’t quite identify why. Pop Century is fun, loud, and splashy.

The Poly is subtle, restful, and serene. Your tastes may differ, in which case Pop Century would be your pick. But for me, being transported to a tiki paradise is a perfect example of why I love Disney magic.   

Polynesian Village Resort Rooms & Amenities

As mentioned above, the Polynesian was one of the early Walt Disney World hotels and has a heavy focus on the four to five person traveling group. Most rooms have two queen beds with a pull-out sofa, or a king bed with sofa. All of the rooms have recently been redone with a Moana theme (think Maui’s tattoos with a splash of Hei Hei color). The hotel rooms at the Polynesian run $700 to over $1,000 depending on time of year and room view. 

You can also choose a room in one of the dedicated Disney Vacation Club (DVC) wings. At most DVC resorts you will find a variety of room configurations, however the Polynesian only has the Deluxe Studio. Compared to the standard hotel rooms, the Deluxe Studio swaps out the second queen bed for a queen pull-out sofa and a single pull-down bed. It also has a kitchenette with sink, toaster, microwave, full-size coffee maker, and a small refrigerator. 

The Deluxe Studios are some of the largest in the DVC lineup and include two separate bathing areas (a toilet/shower area plus a second full shower room with a rain shower head). I spent a week in one of these and it was amazing. While the number of people in the room is the same as a standard hotel room, if you plan to stay longer I would recommend the Deluxe Studio. 

The kitchenette and larger bathing options are worth it! If you’re on the fence about staying at a standard hotel room versus a Deluxe Studio, check out this article. It was written prior to the major remodels and redecorations of 2020-2022, but the direct room comparison is still valid. 

The Polynesian also offers three different suite configurations. If you are interested in the suite offerings, start here to check out prices, then go here to see Disney’s descriptions. The Poly also offers a Club Level, which includes access to the King Kamehameha Lounge. 

The Polynesian also offers the Bora Bora Bungalows, which are the over-water cabins with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, and living room with a pull-out sofa. They also feature a patio with plunge pool and hammock. They have gorgeous views of the Seven Seas Lagoon, and some of them have views of the castle and fireworks. They are quite pricey, however. One night in a bungalow will set you back $3,000 to $6,000 per night!

One final note about rooms: Construction has started on a new DVC tower at the Polynesian. Many are hopeful that this will lead to more variety in room layouts (one and two-bedroom villas). 

The Polynesian offers two pool areas. The feature pool has a fun volcano theme and has been recently renovated with a waterslide, splash area, and a wet climbing feature. A second more quiet pool is located a short walk away for those who need some quiet time.

Sticking with the theme, there is also a white-sand beachfront area (although there is no access to the water – do not enter inland waters in central Florida!). The beach has benches, hammocks, a volleyball court, and plenty of space to spread out a towel and play. My only real complaint about the Poly is the music that plays out here – it is repetitive. If you wander through often, or sit out for more than an hour, you will hear the same set of songs on repeat.

Pop Century Rooms & Amenities

Compared to the Polynesian room offerings, Pop Century keeps it simple. Each room has a queen bed and a queen pull-down bed that doubles as a small table during the day. These rooms are perfect for an individual or group of two. A family of four (if the kids are small) will also find these rooms functional. 

If you are traveling with a larger group, especially if there are four adults, I would suggest booking two rooms. Many of the rooms at Pop Century have an adjoining door, and a group of adults will definitely need the extra space. Four adults will work in the room if you just need a place to crash for 1-2 nights, but any more than that will definitely lead to some territorial behavior!

Prices for Pop Century rooms range from $175-$250 depending on time of year and room view. The room options are Standard Room, Standard Pool View, Preferred Room, or Preferred Pool View.  Preferred rooms are closer to the main lobby and dining and/or the Skyliner (more on that later).

I have only booked Standard Rooms, and have not found them to be lacking in any way, but I also don’t mind wandering through a resort on my way to dining or transportation. Once you’ve booked the room at your price level, you can choose location requests during the online check-in process, which I recommend you complete prior to arrival.  

Pop Century has three pools. There are no water slides, but there is plenty of room to spread out and splash around. This resort tends to draw more families, so the pool areas are generally louder and more chaotic than at the Deluxe resorts (but all resorts have a fantastic lifeguard staff and life jackets for those who want them).

Rooms & Amenities Winner: Tie. This category is hard to compare because the price differences are so vast. If price is a major consideration, then the hands-down winner is Pop Century. But if you are looking for different room configurations, or want to splurge on something unique, then the Polynesian is the way to go. 

Polynesian Village Resort Restaurants & Dining

The post-COVID dining options at the Polynesian are still in flux, so you’ll want to check the official website when making plans. The quick-service option is Captain Cook’s. It has a delightful array of dishes, notably the Thai Coconut Meatballs and the Pulled Pork Nachos (topped with a pineapple salsa). The menu also contains quick service dining staples such as burgers and chicken strips.

The Kona Café is the table service restaurant and has delicious offerings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Tonga Toast and the Macadamia Nut Pancakes top the list of popular dishes, but my favorite is the Poke Bowl. I also love the shot-glass desserts. When I’m not in the mood for anything to eat at the Magic Kingdom, I will hop the monorail or boat over to the Poly for lunch. *Note: Due to construction, the Kona Café is not available for dine-in service until fall 2022.

Pro tip: When standing on the dock at the Magic Kingdom, you can sometimes trigger the mobile order feature at Kona Café. You can then travel to the resort while waiting for your food!   

The other major dining option at the Polynesian Resort is Ohana. This fan favorite only recently reopened and is not yet hosting character meals. Again, the best bet before dining at the Polynesian is to check out the current status before you go. 

Important note: Because the Polynesian Village Resort is on the monorail line, it is a quick trip to any of the other monorail resorts. Utilize the Disney World app to search for dining availability at any of the other resorts, or just take a quick trip to the other quick-service dining options. 

Pop Century Restaurants & Dining

Value resorts are limited when it comes to dining. Each resort has a quick-service dining option as well as a pool bar for drinks and snacks. Kids and adults alike will find something they enjoy at Everything POP Shopping and Dining, but you’ll eventually want to seek options elsewhere.

And this is where Pop Century’s location stands out. Pop Century is along the Disney Skyliner route. Meaning that all of the resorts and theme parks along the Skyliner are there to enjoy! The Caribbean Beach Resort with Sebastian’s Bistro is a five-minute Skyliner ride away. Change at the Caribbean Beach stop to reach all of the offerings at the Riviera. 

Or, continue on to the Epcot stop to access the variety of options along the Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club. If you have a park ticket you can also enjoy any of the offerings in the Epcot World Showcase, or head to Hollywood Studios! Staying at Pop Century opens up nearly half of the dining options at Walt Disney World, all within a 30-minute trip! So while Pop Century itself is rather bland in terms of dining, the options along the Skyliner quickly make up for it! 

Restaurants & Dining Winner: Pop Century. Wait, wait! Let me explain! If I were just comparing the dining options on that specific resort’s property, then the Polynesian would win, no contest. But the ease in transportation means that the surrounding offerings of each resort need to be considered as well.

While there are plenty of options along the monorail loop, the Skyliner access at Pop Century opens up significantly more restaurants for your party. Not only that, there are more options at more price ranges. Therefore, the overall dining winner goes for more variety, as well as more price options. And that has to be Pop Century!

Polynesian Village Resort Transportation Options

Riding the monorail route around the Seven Seas Lagoon is a highlight for many Walt Disney World visitors. There are three monorail lines: The Resort Monorail makes stops at the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, the Ticket & Transportation Center, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. The Epcot Monorail leaves from the Ticket & Transportation Center for a direct trip to Epcot (with a scenic loop around Spaceship Earth). The Express Monorail travels back and forth between the Ticket & Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom, without stopping at the hotels.

The Polynesian benefits from two monorail stops, depending on where you want to go. The Resort Monorail stops at the main lobby, before continuing on to the rest of the stops on that line. But you can also take a short walk to the Ticket & Transportation center to access the Express Monorail to the Magic Kingdom, or the Epcot Monorail. 

In addition to the monorail, you can also take a boat to the Magic Kingdom and the Grand Floridian. This is a wonderful way to travel if you are not worried about time. This is a great opportunity to chat with other visitors and the water taxi operators – they have some great stories!

A final transportation option from the Polynesian is your own feet! In 2021 they finally connected the walking path from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, which then continues to the Polynesian and the Ticket and Transportation Center. It is now possible to walk from the Contemporary to the Ticket & Transportation Center, with a one-way distance of approximately 3 miles. Note that it is not possible to complete the loop by continuing to the Contemporary; you will need to either double-back on foot, or hop on the monorail to return. 

Bus transportation is also offered from the Polynesian to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs (as well as Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon). 

Pop Century Transportation Options

The main transportation feature at Pop Century is the Skyliner. Sharing a station with the Art of Animation Resort, the Skyliner offers quick transportation to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, as well as the other Skyliner resorts. This is a great option for those who want to avoid the bus system, however you don’t want to rely on the Skyliner if you are planning to reach the parks for early entry or rope drop.

The morning lines can be very long and requires a change at the Caribbean Beach station. If you are planning to rope drop, I recommend either an early bus, or an Uber/Lyft ride.

An additional note about the Skyliner: I love this method of transportation. But there are some drawbacks. This is essentially a cable car that travels in the air, over picturesque central Florida scrub brush as well as roads and some backstage area. If you are sensitive to heights you may not enjoy the trip. The gondolas are not air conditioned, which is not an issue when it is moving (seriously, the air flow is fantastic) but can be discomforting if the car stops.

And finally, the Skyliner does not run during thunderstorms, which are frequent in central Florida. I don’t personally feel that any of these drawbacks would keep me from staying at a Skyliner resort, but I want to make sure you have what you need to make an informed decision. 

Buses will take you to any of the other Walt Disney World destinations. Since the Value resorts have an overall larger guest capacity, it is not uncommon to have a bus fill up while there are still people in line. I have seen another bus immediately arrive, and I have also waited for another 20 minutes before the next bus.

This is one of the major downfalls of a Value resort, but also a reality of how they make it less expensive! (To be fair, this is also an issue I have faced with buses from the Deluxe resorts. I am personally a fan of renting a car at Walt Disney World).

Transportation Options Winner: Polynesian. Both of these resorts have fantastic transportation options beyond the buses. However, the Polynesian’s monorail access is just much smoother than Pop Century’s Skyliner option. I also prefer to have a walking option if I need to get away from the crowds. 

Disney Value Resort vs Moderate vs Deluxe

Lastly, let’s take a quick look, via this chart, of the differences between a Disney Value Resort, a Disney Moderate Resort, and Disney Deluxe Resort when it comes to price (and see where both the Pop Century and Polynesian Village Resort fall in this value chart, as well).

As you can see, Pop Century is a Value hotel, while the Polynesian is Deluxe. But that does not easily translate into which one is better. It depends on what you are looking for in your Walt Disney World vacation – and this guide will hopefully help you make the best decision for your travel needs!

Conclusion

I will admit, when I first looked at these two resorts, I was pretty sure it was going to be a no-brainer. I love the Polynesian, and am ambivalent to Pop Century. But breaking it down allows the benefits of Pop Century to stand out. The biggest difference in this Pop Century vs Polynesian Village comparison comes down to what is important to you. If price matters most to you, then your winner is clearly Pop Century. However, if a peaceful atmosphere is what is most paramount, then you definitely want to book a stay at the the Polynesian Village

If I were to pick between the two, it would ultimately depend on my traveling party. If I’m with my kids who want to spend time at the park and at the pool, then I will definitely go for Pop Century. If I’m by myself or with grown-up friends, we will go to the Polynesian. Either way, you will have a great experience at the resort of your choice and will never run out of things to do and experience!

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