Polynesian Paradise at Walt Disney World

Polynesian Paradise at Walt Disney World

It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t find any information about any aspect of Walt Disney World from your phone. In pre-internet days, you used a guidebook or found information from a travel agent or magazine. So, the information that you found was very limited and purpose-driven.

The Spring 1980 issue of Disney News: Official Magazine for Magic Kingdom Club Families featured a two-page article on the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World. Specifically on the atrium of the resort. Why would they publish an article just on the lobby of the Polynesian Village Resort?

In this case, the article was promoting one of the unique and well-loved features of the Polynesian. At the time, it was also the largest collection of tropic plants in Florida. The article was also a way to entice people to stay at the Polynesian and to promote how unique Walt Disney World was.

Special thanks to RetroWDW for providing the photos of the lobby of the Polynesian.

Polynesian Paradise

Welcome to an island paradise. Listen. You’ll hear the soothing sound of a cascading shower of cool spar­ kling water splashing down over steps of feather rock lava, settling into a crystal clear pool below. Breathe in. Smell the fresh, sweet fragrance of a brilliantly-hued orchid nestled beneath the towering Coconut Palm stretching upward to the warm after­ noon sun.


Though this kind of paradise was once exclusively for Robinson Crusoe­ like beachcombers now it’s even closer than the South Seas. At the Walt Disney World Vacation Kingdom, landscape artists have re-created a tropical jungle paradise in the atrium of the Great Ceremonial House in the center of the Polynesian Village Resort Hotel.

Bidding all guests a friendly “aloha;’ this extensive collection of lush foliage carries you off to a South Seas island with your first step into the building. The focal point of the Polynesian Village, this miniature rain forest is one of the largest indoor collections of tropic and sub-tropic plant life in Florida.

More than seventy-five different species of plants thrive in this two hundred fifty-square-foot jungle. The largest of these are the five species of palm which reach to just inches away from the glass-domed ceiling. Tower­ing nearly forty feet from the floor is the large Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) called the “Tree of Heaven” by islanders since its fruit provides-a source of food, juice, butters and oils. The Coconut Palm can be found in virtually all the tropic and sub-tropic regions of the world, while the Areca Palm (chrysalidocarpus lutescens) and the Travelers Palm (Ravenala mada­gascariensis) are native only to Madagascar and the Kentia Palm (Howea forsterana) and the Queen Alexander Palm (Ptychospermom elegans) are found in Australia.

In the shade of the palms’ graceful crowns of feathery leaves grow several species of smaller ground cover plants. Forming a carpet of lush greenery are a number of Prayer Plants (Maranta leuconeura), Creeping Philodendrons (Pathos aurea) and Spider Plants (Chlorophytum cosmosum).

Painting the atrium with vivid colors are the blossoms of several flowering species such as the Flower­ing Banana (Musa coccinea), the Gardenia (Gardenia grandiffora) and members of the anthurium family. Several species of the Bromeliad including Ornamental Pineapple (Ananas striatus, M.B. Foster) are planted in this garden, dabbing more color throughout the greenery. And scattered in planned casualness are species of Ginger (Hedychium), White Flag (Spathyphyllum) and species in the orchid family.

The large rocks which form the cascading waterfall in the center of the atrium are authentic hardened lava identical to that found on vol­canic Polynesian islands like Hawaii.

Some twelve to fifteen hundred plants thrive in their nearly·perfect climate of a constant 70°-78° F. An underground irrigation system sup­plies the plants with an ideal amount of water and the continually flowing waterfall provides just the right level of humidity. The large glass-enclosed roof allows all the foliage ample opportunity to bask in the Florida sunshine.

Planned as a warm island wel­come for visitors to the Polynesian Village, this landscaped splendor offers a taste of paradise, seldom so easily accessible.

Do You Have Any Memories of the Lobby of the Polynesian?

Check out this video on the construction of the Polynesian Village Resort!

FTC Disclosure: In some cases, a copy might have been provided by the company for the purpose of this review (but not on this post). This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

One thought on “Polynesian Paradise at Walt Disney World

  1. I got to finally visit the Polynesian in January 2014, just before the big atrium remodel. The first thing that hit me was the smell. My mom worked at the Disneyland Hotel in the late 80’s-early 90’s, and the smell instantly brought me back to the lagoon and waterfall smells of that hotel. I literally had to sit down and take it in.

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