When it comes to choosing the right Walt Disney World hotel, pools are the difference-maker for many guests. In this guide, we’ll answer frequently asked questions, temporary changes & rules (like face masks), and offer other info about swimming, water slides, hot tubs, pool bars, and more.
While we personally prefer choosing a hotel on the basis of location, transportation, or theme, pools play an undeniably prominent role in many families’ vacation plans. The good news is that many Walt Disney World hotels with the “best” pools also are within walking, Skyliner, boat, or monorail distance of the parks.
There’s Stormalong Bay at Yacht & Beach Club–basically a mini water park complete with a sand-bottom and lazy river–which is a short walk from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation–it’s big, blue, and arguably overrated–which is within a Skyliner flight to both of those same parks. There’s the Lava Pool at Polynesian Village Resort–with great views, hidden coves, Kiki Tiki’s Splash Play Area, walking bridge, waterfalls, and 142-foot water slide–which is a monorail ride from Magic Kingdom…
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves and arguably off-topic with a value assessment of which pools at Walt Disney World are the best options. Instead, let’s focus on the general rules and info applicable to all (or at least most) pools at Walt Disney World.
We’ll start with what you currently need to know (through at least early 2021) during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, followed by the normal, universally-applicable policies…
‘Temporary Abnormal’ Pool FAQ
Are face masks required while swimming?
No. Here’s the full rule on face masks, via DisneyWorld.com:
“Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.”
What about while lounging in the pool area?
Officially, the rule is what’s stated above.
However, the unofficial official rule (if that’s a thing?) is that masks are not required within the gated boundaries of pool areas. We have confirmed this with multiple Cast Members at different resorts, and this has been the consistent and clearly-communicated answer. However, this is not posted on signage or written online in any rules. (Thanks to the readers who gave us heads up on this rule discrepancy.)
Do we need to wear masks while walking to and from the pool area, to use the restroom, or to get drinks from the pool bar?
You do need to wear face masks while walking anywhere outside the pool area, whether that be to your room, the lobby, or wherever else. Many pool areas have a Cast Member stationed at the gates to remind guests to put on masks while leaving.
If the pool bar is outside the gates, such as is the case with Banana Cabana, you need a mask while walking up to it to order drinks. If you’re seated at the bar, you do not need to wear a mask. (All of the wrinkles to this are confusing and convoluted, we know. It’s easy once you’re actually at Walt Disney World and not just reading abstract info online.)
Are all of the feature pools open?
Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts will reopen on August 24, 2020. Prior to this date, guests here may enjoy the leisure pool at Disney’s Beach Club Villas or Luna Park Pool and the leisure pool at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas.
What are pool hours?
Feature or main pool hours are 9 am until 9 pm daily, which is an extension of their original hours when Walt Disney World reopened.
Leisure or quiet pools are open 24 hours a day. As always, operating hours are subject to change without notice (mostly due to weather).
Are pools busy?
It depends. We’ve visited or stayed at every resort at Walt Disney World since reopening (except Pop Century), and in our anecdotal experience, the busiest pools have been those at BoardWalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Old Key West, and Caribbean Beach. The first two are likely due to Stormalong Bay not being open yet, whereas the latter two are busier due to the overall size of those resorts. (Plus the pirate pool’s “coolness factor.”)
Generally speaking, leisure pools are not busy. It’s also summer-time, which means ‘feels like’ temperatures over 100 degrees and limited park hours. Expect pool popularity to decrease as the weather becomes cooler and more comfortable.
Are pools crowded?
Your perception of that is going to vary by your comfort level being around other people right now.
Physical distancing measures are in place to reduce the capacity of pools and spread out seating. Even when at capacity, I’ve found the pools to be fine. On the other hand, they’re too crowded for Sarah’s comfort. Your mileage may vary.
Is there a wait time to enter pools?
As covered in our Caribbean Beach Resort Report, we encountered brief wait times to enter the Fuentes del Morro feature pool complex. However, this was only during peak hours on the weekend.
Normal Pool FAQ
Do all hotel pools have water slides?
Water slides are considered a Moderate Resort and above amenity, meaning Value Resorts do not have them. All hotels above that tier have at least one water slide. Additionally, no leisure pool has a water slide.
What’s the difference between a feature pool and leisure pool?
Feature pools are Disneyspeak for the main pool. These are usually centrally-located, large, and have more lavish Disney theme and decor. Additionally, the ones at Moderate and Deluxe Resorts have water slides. These are the pools your kids will want to use.
Leisure pools are Disneyspeak for quiet pools. These are smaller, typically have understated design, and are better for lounging. They’re less attractive to kids (although anyone is allowed) and more aimed at adults.
Can you pool hop to different resorts at Walt Disney World?
In some cases, but not in many others.
Pool hopping is allowed for Disney Vacation Club members with some pretty significant restrictions and blockout dates that are too numerous to list. (See this official, and regularly ‘evolving’ page.)
For guests of normal hotels, the exception to this is anyone staying at a hotel with a ‘sister’ property. Meaning the various All Star Resorts, two Port Orleans Resorts, and any hotel with a DVC or Deluxe Villa.
Are pool hopping rules actually enforced?
It depends upon the resort.
The rules are strictly enforced at Stormalong Bay. Everywhere else, it’s more hit or miss. MagicBands are used to unlock the gates of feature pools, but this is sometimes turned off or gates are open. It works enough to be a sufficient deterrent to pool hopping, though.
Do you recommend pool hopping for eligible guests?
Even if you’re eligible to pool hop, we generally don’t recommend it for pools that aren’t within walking distance–it’s too much of a hassle. The big exception is Disney’s Riviera Resort guests, who should use the feature pool at Caribbean Beach. Bay Lake Tower guests should also consider a different pool, but unfortunately, none of the major players in the Magic Kingdom area are viable options.
Which Walt Disney World pools are best?
We rank them in our Top 10 Pools at Walt Disney World.
With that said, we’ll “save you a click” as the obvious #1 is Stormalong Bay. It’s still worth reading the full list, as there are some sleeper picks and hidden gems.
Which hotel has the worst pools?
Even though they have water slides, our picks for this are Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower. These would be good leisure pools thanks to their views and natural serenity…but they are seldom serene due to crowds.
If you have an aversion to clowns, steer clear of the pool at BoardWalk Inn. That’s basically Walt Disney World’s IT pool…and we don’t mean that in the trendy way.
Are the feature pools loud?
At many resorts, pool views are considered a preferred or premium view category. Why that is absolutely confounds us–I’d rather have a view of the dumpster than of the pool. At least the dumpster isn’t constantly making noise.
Which pool areas are best for adults?
It really depends upon what you’re after, but we really like the pools at Disney’s Riviera Resort and Grand Floridian.
Two sleeper picks are Coronado Springs and the Swan & Dolphin.
What about hot tubs?
As with water slides, hot tubs are a feature at Moderate Resorts and above.
While there are a variety of boilerplate health rules and recommendations, all guests–including children–are allowed to use hot tubs.
Which resorts have the best hot tubs?
Totally our opinion based on atmosphere and seclusion, but at the Moderate Resort tier we’ll pick Coronado Springs and Port Orleans French Quarter.
Deluxe Resorts have a wealth of options, with the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht & Beach Club, and Grand Floridian being our favorites. Contemporary Resort–the worst pool area above–is actually a sleeper pick here thanks to its lakeside setting.
Are there pool bars or restaurants at the pools?
Every resort has a pool with a bar in its general vicinity.
The location and proximity varies from hotel to hotel, as does what’s served. Food-wise, it’s typically pretty basic fare–if you’re eating at the pool bar, it’s usually out of convenience not due to an exceptional menu.
Are towels provided at the pools?
Are the pools zero entry?
Not all of them, but an increasing number.
This is a relatively recent development, added to feature pools that are reimagined and to pools that are newly-built in the last decade or so.
What about water play areas?
Same deal as with zero entry.
This is a newer development, and you’ll find interactive water play areas or splash zones at a growing number of Walt Disney World resorts. It’s still not all of them, but it’s getting closer.
Do pools close due to weather?
In extreme cases, yes. While pools remain open no matter how torrential the downpour, if there is a lightning strike in the area, pools temporarily close until given the all-clear.
Pools are also open in the winter, and at temperatures where all but guests from the North while actively avoid them. However, pools will close on days when it gets really cold, much to the consternation of Canadians.
Do pools having diving boards?
What other common ‘amenities’ are Walt Disney World pools missing?
The big one is that Walt Disney World doesn’t have indoor pools, but that’s not really a pool amenity so much as a location.
Additionally, most Walt Disney World pools don’t have ‘athletic stuff’ like lap lanes (save for Coronado Springs) or water polo goals.
Do pools have showers?
There are both ‘simple’ showers for rinsing off and more traditional and private showers in the restrooms. The latter can come in real handy (see below).
Can pools be used before or after checkout?
If you arrive early in the day and your room isn’t ready, you can use the pool. Ditto after checking out, but before your flight. Those pool showers can also come in real handy in this situation if you want to clean off before or after your flight!
If the pool is too crowded can we swim in the lake or other random body of water at our resort?
Swimming is not allowed in the lakes, ponds, or other natural bodies of water at Walt Disney World.
One of our “favorite” Walt Disney World Urban Legends is that River Country Water Park closed because it used lake water, and a young boy died of a brain eating amoeba from the lake. (Sadly, the second part of the story is true but the first is not.)
The point still stands that random bodies of Florida water are less than ideal for swimming. They’re also home to alligators and who-knows-water kind of prehistoric monstrosities lurking in the abyss. When it comes to Florida’s critters, nothing surprises us anymore.
At 2,000+ words, I feel like we’re already over-complicating what should be a relatively straightforward topic. We’re happy to expand on this with answers to your questions that have a ‘unique wrinkle’ but a lot of this is common sense.
Don’t take beer into the pool. Don’t eat a footlong submarine sandwich while swimming. Don’t pee in the pool. No skinny dipping. (Save those shenanigans for Margaritaville!)
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have any Walt Disney World pool-related questions that we did not answer in this FAQ? Have you used the pools since Walt Disney World reopened? Have any feedback or thoughts about policies or crowds based upon your experience? Favorite or least favorite pools at WDW? Same question for hot tubs, water slides, splash zones, and poolside bars? Planning on using the pools during your next Walt Disney World vacation? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your pool rankings, other comments, and questions in the comments below!