Saratoga Springs vs Polynesian: Which Resort is Better?

Disney’s Saratoga Springs” by Jason Pratt licensed under CC BY 2.0

In this battle between Disney’s Saratoga Springs vs Polynesian Village Resort, we examine what both resorts have to offer guests in terms of price, theming and decor, dining options, transportation and much more!

Saratoga Springs vs Polynesian for Theming

For this comparison, based all around theming and decor of both resorts, let’s begin by diving a bit deeper into Saratoga Springs.

Saratoga Springs Theming

Designed to evoke the exclusive horse-racing New York locale of the same name, Saratoga Springs was built with tranquility in mind. The sprawling grounds invite you to take a healthy stroll, and the pools are inspired by the “healing springs” of its namesake.

Disney’s Saratoga Springs is made up of five guest areas (six if you count the Treehouse Villas) over 16 acres. One of the big draws to Saratoga Springs is that it is connected via walking path or boat to the Disney Springs entertainment and dining district. Overall, Saratoga Springs is an oasis of serenity and calm in an otherwise bustling trip.

Polynesian Village Resort Theming

Decor in Trader Sam’s” 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. (For a really interesting read on the history of the tiki theme, check out this article from the Smithsonian Magazine). The Polynesian is not as spread out as Saratoga Springs, but you have the same ability to stroll along the meandering paths between buildings. 

I want to highlight one significant difference between Saratoga Springs and the Polynesian: the pools. The Lava Pool, the main feature pool at the Poly, was redone in 2020 and is a delightful experience. There is a climbing and splash area, large pool with a water slide and grottos, and multiple hot tubs. Saratoga Spring’s pools are nice. The feature pool also has a slide, but it lacks the “theme park” aspect that is at the Polynesian.

  • Theming winner: Polynesian

While Saratoga Springs usually wins my personal “tranquility” vote, in this case I have to go with the Polynesian. Strolling along the pathways after dark with flame torches overhead and gentle island music softly playing…*contented sigh.* And that pool is fantastic.

Saratoga Springs Rooms and Pricing

Saratoga Springs was planned as a Disney Vacation Club Resort, therefore the rooms are designed with their signature “Welcome Home” villa layouts as opposed to a traditional hotel room. For Saratoga Springs you can choose either a Standard or Preferred location. The Preferred buildings are The Springs (close to the main pool and lobby) or Congress Park (close to the Disney Springs walkway). 

Saratoga Springs has the three main room layouts found at most DVC properties:

Deluxe Studio: These are similar in size to larger hotel rooms. They feature a queen-size bed, sleeper sofa, kitchenette with microwave, sink, refrigerator, toaster, and coffee maker. These rooms comfortably sleep two, and can work for a group of four (or five if you are able to snag a 5-person room) if you’re not planning to spend too much time in the room. These rooms run approximately $450 – $750 depending on the season and your room location. 

1 Bedroom Villa: There is quite a jump from the Deluxe Studio to the 1 Bedroom Villas. These can sleep five people (two in the bedroom and three in the living room) and include a full kitchen. They have one full bathroom with shower and a separate toilet room (accessed through the shower room) and a large jetted tub in the master suite. A 1 Bedroom Villa runs between $600 and $1160 per night.

2 Bedroom Villa: There are two options for 2 bedroom villas at most DVC properties. You can choose a “Dedicated 2 Bedroom Villa” or a “2 Bedroom Villa – Lockoff.” To put it simply, a Lockoff is just a 1 Bedroom Villa that has an interior connecting door to a Deluxe Studio. In contrast, a “Dedicated” 2 Bedroom Villa is designed with only one exterior door, an extra bathroom, and two queen beds in the second bedroom (instead of the bed and sleeper sofa). 

The second bedroom gives up the kitchenette in exchange for a generous closet. Your preference for these two rooms will depend on your traveling companions and traveling style. If you have varying morning & evening routines, you might want the extra exterior door that the Lockoff offers. 

Note: You may need to call if you want a choice between Lockoff or Dedicated. DVC members can choose from their booking portal, but this option is not available as a choice when booking through the main site. A 2 Bedroom Villa runs $860 to $1890.

Grand Villa: If you’re looking for a very large space for multiple families, the Grand Villa will be the way to go. They are not cheap (the nightly rate is $1850 to nearly $3300) but they are gorgeous. At Saratoga Springs, the Grand Villa is a two-story layout. The first floor hosts the master suite, living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a full kitchen and a formal dining room. 

The open staircase to the second floor leads to an overlooking loft area, and two more bedrooms, each with two queen-sized beds. There are total of three full bathrooms and one half-bath. The second floor also has its own entrance. Disney says these can sleep 12 if you utilize the sleeper sofa. 

Treehouse Villas (unique to Saratoga Springs): While not part of the main resort area, Saratoga Springs also offers a Treehouse Villa option. Disney describes them with room for nine people. They offer a full kitchen and range from $1070-2010 per night. While I have not personally experienced the treehouses, I have been told that they are awesome. 

The caveat is that you will want a car. The bus system requires a transfer at the main Saratoga Springs stop (The Springs) which will add a considerable amount of time at the end of a long park day. The Treehouse Villas do include their own pool area and would be a great option for a more resort-centric trip.

Polynesian Resort Rooms and Prices

Since it was originally designed as a standard hotel, most of the rooms at the Polynesian retain that configuration. Most 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). I have not yet seen them, but since Moana is my favorite of the recent films (shh…don’t tell Encanto), I anticipate a trip sooner rather than later. The hotel rooms at the Polynesian run $700 to over $1,000 depending on time of year and room view.

You can also book one of 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 offers a Club Level, which includes access to the King Kamehameha Lounge. 

The Polynesian also offers the DVC Deluxe Studio configuration (there are no one- or two-bedroom layouts available) 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. The rest of the Deluxe Studio is similar to the Saratoga Springs description above. 

The Polynesian equivalent to a Grand Villa is 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). 

  • Room and Pricing Winner: Saratoga Springs 

Since it was intentionally designed for DVC villas, there are ample rooms for every group size and configuration. The rooms at the Poly may be larger overall and nicer, but the majority are limited to groups of 4 or 5, and not conducive to larger groups who want to stay together. The suite options quickly become too expensive many potential visitors. And the cost for a bungalow is just downright cost prohibitive. Rooms at Saratoga Springs are less expensive in terms of dollars and DVC points. If price is a significant priority, then Saratoga Springs is the way to go.

Alternate Booking Option

Since Saratoga Springs and the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows are both Disney Vacation Club properties, another option is renting Disney Vacation Club points. Disney Vacation Club owners have a set number of points that must be used within a certain amount of time.

Third-party companies such as David’s Vacation Club Rentals will with owners to rent out unused points. Instead of booking a Deluxe Studio or Deluxe Villa directly through Disney, you can rent the points necessary and book at either resort. The cost can be considerably cheaper. 

For example, a DVC point is worth roughly $19-21, depending on the resort and season. The Polynesian’s location demands a premium, so for this comparison I’ll use $21 per point.  A standard view Deluxe Studio for one week at the Polynesian in February requires 146 points. If each point is valued at $21, this room would cost $3066 (DVC rooms are not charged occupancy taxes). An equivalent room on the resort side during that same week would be $5497 – renting points could save you over $2,000! 

Saratoga Springs rental values are generally closer to the $19 per point, and it requires fewer points overall. So the same week at Saratoga Springs for next year would use 102 points, for a week-long stay total of $1938! Another bonus is parking: When staying at a DVC resort and using points, the nightly parking fee is waived. If you’re staying in the same room but booking directly through Disney you are subject to a $25 per night parking fee (the parking fee for Value and Moderate resorts is less).

  • Alternate Booking Option Winner: YOU

There are many DVC rental options out there. I have personally used David’s Vacation Club Rentals numerous times, but the DVC Rental Store is another well-respected source. Make sure to understand the process, and you will be pleased with the savings!

Saratoga Springs Dining

Saratoga Springs boasts the Turf Club Bar and Grill for the sit-down crowd, and The Artist’s Palette for quick-service options. Full disclosure: I have not eaten at the Turf Club. I will someday, but every time I stay at Saratoga Springs I go back to the Artist’s Palette for the same thing: the Margherita Pizza. I am embarrassed to admit that I have eaten that pizza twice in the same day. (I had also just finished running a 10k and a Half Marathon over two days. Don’t judge me). 

The rest of the quick service lineup is delightful, and not what you’re going to find at every other location. The breakfast offerings are pretty standard, with a few unique dishes thrown in. Either way, you’ll be able to find something you enjoy on any of the menus. 

Don’t forget that Disney Springs is a short walk from Saratoga Springs. As a massive dining destination you are sure to find something for each member of your party!

Polynesian Village Resort 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. 

  • Dining Options Winner: The Polynesian

Saratoga Spring’s offerings are good, but nothing exceptional (you have to go to Disney Springs to find the good stuff!) while the Poly boasts some of the most sought-after dishes at Walt Disney World! 

Saratoga Springs Transportation

The only Disney-provided transportation options to Saratoga Springs are the buses. Due to the sprawling layout of the resort, I usually rent a car when staying there (and is highly recommended when staying in the Treehouses). You can walk or take the boat to Disney Springs, but otherwise you are restricted to wheels for any other park or dining access. 

The other thing to know about the sprawling layout is that there are multiple bus stops throughout. There is an internal bus system, and the resort buses will also make stops at each part of the resort. It will help to have clear priorities when making your reservations: choose a resort location that fits your party’s needs. 

Each of the “neighborhoods” has benefits and drawbacks. The Springs is closest to dining and the main pool but is the last stop for the park buses. The Grandstand is the first stop for park buses, but it would be a very long walk to Disney Springs (take the boat).

Congress Park is closest to Disney Springs but is one of the last stops for the park buses. The Carousel is the farthest from everything. The layout of The Paddock means that some parts are convenient to different areas of the park; I usually book here as it falls under “Standard” for DVC points and is therefore cheaper.  

Again, the Treehouses are in a completely different location and require an additional bus that leaves from The Springs bus stop. 

Polynesian Village Resort Transportation

In addition to beautiful theming and delicious dining, the other reason why the Poly commands a price premium is because of its location. It is one of the three stops along the Resort line of the monorail, which stops at the Contemporary, the Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian before reaching the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC). 

You can walk (or take the monorail) to the TTC to catch a direct monorail to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom. Or you can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the Seven Seas Lagoon with the recently finished footpath that connects the Contemporary, Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and the TTC. The path has been there for years – it was only in 2021 that the Magic Kingdom path was connected to the Grand Floridian path. I hope they plan to make it a full circle by connecting the Contemporary and the TTC at some point – more options for RunDisney races! 

If you need to get directly to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom, you will need to take the bus. I would also recommend driving to either of those parks as well. You may have noticed I am not a fan of the bus system; waiting makes me cranky!

  • Transportation Winner: Polynesian

Now that the Epcot line from the TTC has reopened, the Polynesian is a clear winner for transportation. Even better if you have a car! 

Conclusion

So, at the end if the day, when it comes to the battle between Saratoga Springs vs Polynesian Village, the question of which resort is better now has an answer: the Polynesian.  The Polynesian Village Resort comes out on top in terms of theming, dining, and transportation. Saratoga Springs may be better for groups due to variety in room configurations and overall price. But it has a lower price because of the things it lacks

I am not saying you would regret staying at Saratoga Springs (I bought my DVC contract at Saratoga Springs!). Just that if you are splurging on a Deluxe resort at Walt Disney World and need to decide between Saratoga Springs or the Polynesian, you will be completely happy with the Polynesian Village Resort.   

This article was written by Shelley and edited by Michael.

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