All Articles Our go-to guide for Walt Disney World’s Monorail and Skyliner hotels

Our go-to guide for Walt Disney World’s Monorail and Skyliner hotels

From iconic resorts to modern new digs, we break it down.

Carly Caramanna
By Carly CaramannaMay 13, 2024 9 minutes read
Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom on sunny day
Image: Tripadvisor/Management

I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World for over 30 years—and to say I’ve done it all, would be a Dumbo-sized understatement. Along the way, I’ve discovered that there’s one easy way to make the most out of your time at the “most magical place on Earth”: sleep there. In my over 500 visits, I’ve stayed at every single hotel, most with repeat visits.

With more than two dozen on-property resorts, it's easy to find a hotel to suit your out-of-office style. But to really make it a breeze when visiting the Disney theme parks, nothing beats staying at one of the hotels located on its two specialty transportation systems: The classic Monorail train and the new Skyliner gondola.

The Monorail is Disney’s “Highway of the Sky”—an elevated electric train surrounding the Seven Seas Lagoon and connecting Magic Kingdom with three of the destination’s most popular hotel properties, all in the “Deluxe” category. The Disney Skyliner, the resort’s newest mode of transportation, is an innovative air-borne gondola system that connects Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios with surrounding hotel resorts. Resorts along this route range from Value (budget) up to Deluxe.

Here’s everything you need to know about Disney World’s seven resorts along the Monorail and Skyliner.

Monorail Resorts at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Outdoor pool next to lake at dawn
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

It’s hard to miss Disney’s Contemporary Resort: the iconic, oversize A-frame structure was designed so that the Monorail soars directly through it. This was Disney World’s first hotel, and it’s gone through some changes over the years—including a recent “The Incredibles”-themed guest room makeover—but its integrity remains the same. Bridging a futuristic design with modern touches, this feels timeless and holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of longtime Disney fans.

Who’s it for: For anyone with a train lover in their travel group, this hotel is a sure-fire winner. (Plus, since the Monorail goes through the hotel, you can jump on without having to step into Florida’s often steamy or wet weather. )

And with prime real estate just steps from Cinderella Castle, it’s an ideal location for families with kids that may want to spend the bulk of their time in the Magic Kingdom but reside close enough for that inevitable afternoon nap. Both a short walking path and Monorail provide direct access to Magic Kingdom while buses are provided for all other destinations.

Don’t miss: California Grill, perched sky high at the hotel’s rooftop, offers an eclectic menu of upscale eats (I especially like the sushi) and something truly unique: they pipe in the music of nearby Magic Kingdom fireworks. Pro tip: Hang onto your receipt because early evening diners can return for an unobstructed view of the fireworks from its floor-to-ceiling windows. You’ll also find me cozied up at the much easier to get into Steakhouse 71 with its famous cheeseburger and a perfectly crafted cocktail.

Travelers say: "This is a fabulous hotel with a perfect view of the fireworks! We loved having the monorail inside the hotel, and the walk to the Magic Kingdom was short and convenient." –@LizBRJ

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Guest room with Polynesian-style decor and patio overlooking green lawn and lake
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

For an idyllic vacation-from-your-vacation feel, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is like stepping onto a remote island … think flaming torches, lush landscaping, and tiki sculptures. It exudes South Seas paradise and is home to my favorite pool at Disney, the Lava Pool, backed by a giant 40-foot tall volcano complete with a winding slide. The hotel dates back to 1971 but a recent room renovation keeps guest spaces up to date while maintaining its vintage charm.

Who’s it for: The Poly, as fans call it, is equally popular for its access to the Magic Kingdom as it for its tropical theming, and it’s equally appealing to both families, who get to see Lilo and Stitch at breakfast and dive into a tropical pool, as it is with adults who gravitate to the fun tiki vibe. The Monorail and boats provide speedy access to Magic Kingdom while all other destinations can be reached via bus transportation.

Don’t miss: You won’t go hungry at this welcoming tropical oasis. I visit often for Disney’s most iconic eats and sips, including Dole whip (hint: the line for this sweet treat is typically much shorter here at the Pineapple Lanai than it is at nearby Magic Kingdom — and they can top it with rum!). Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Tiki Bar and its bounty of booze-forward, tropical cocktails is so popular that even after being open for 10 years it’s still one of the toughest spots to get into. ‘Ohana’s now famous noodles are worth a visit alone and the famous Tonga Toast from Kona Café lives up to the hype.

Travelers say: "Disney World Paradise! This perfectly themed and well maintained resort delivers aloha big time! From the low lodge architecture, beautiful landscaping, lush pools, and sweet Hawaiian music - The Polynesian is our favorite resort in all of Walt Disney World." –@TRVLtruth

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Outdoor children's pool with water feature next to white resort with red roofing
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

This is truly where Mickey rolls out the white glove treatment. Beckoning a bygone Victorian era, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s picturesque grounds feature several excellent pools, inspired on-site dining, and loads of old world glamour. It’s the whole package wrapped in a big luxurious bow. A recent room renovation that pairs modern furnishings with refined “Mary Poppins”-influence will ensure it remains Disney’s most iconic resort.

Who’s it for: When I’m seeking that distinctly Disney magic, this is where you’ll find me (and most likely in its grand lobby with a live pianist tinkering covers of animated film classics). It’s an escape from the theme parks while feeling very much Disney with theming tastefully woven throughout. Plus, you can’t beat being minutes away from Magic Kingdom via Monorail, boat, or footpath. Come fireworks time, I forgo the chaos of Main Street, U.S.A., and enjoy it from several viewing locations on site, including fine dining hotspot Narcoosee’s.

Don’t miss: The bona fide culinary hotbed of Disney World is home to a number of standout dining, including Victoria & Albert’s. The supper club that landed the mouse its first Michelin star is the ultimate Disney foodie bucket list. While that splurge may not be an everyday occasion, there’s a number of other drool-worthy upscale eateries, including Citricos, along with beloved casual spots, like the Grand Floridian Cafe.

Travelers say: "This resort is absolutely beautiful and so clean! They have the hardest working staff that I have ever seen. They were dusting the wrought iron fencing. The staff is extremely friendly and accommodating! This was literally the best experience I’ve ever had. It smells so good that I had to ask what scent that was lol then I bought candles and other items in the Basin on the 2nd floor. Make sure and wear comfortable shoes, it’s a huge resort." –@Misti F

Skyliner Resorts at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Riviera Resort

View overlooking resort grounds with pool next to lake at sunrise
Disney's Riviera Resort
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

You’ll swear a Mediterranean breeze is blowing your way at Disney’s Riviera Resort, inspired by Walt Disney’s love of European travel. The newest Disney Vacation Club resort, which takes inspiration from both France and Italy’s coastlines, oozes opulence laden in marble tiles and gorgeous detailing.

Both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be visited by the Skyliner. All other destinations, including theme parks and water parks, provide bus transportation.

Who’s it for: I consider this one of the most well-rounded resorts, ideally located convenient to parks but offering enough on-site wow in its relaxing grounds and inviting pools to make never leaving utterly tempting. It’s also the most luxury-forward property at Disney. And with just subtle touches of the mouse, best for those who may not want to commit all-in on the Disney experience.

Don’t miss: It’s a bevy of hidden gems, like the casual poolside hang Bar Riva that dishes some of the best quick bites on property and is open to any guest, room reservation not required. Le Petit Café is easily my favorite coffee shop and roasts a signature blend that’s exclusive to the resort (best paired with its expertly executed European pastries). If you’re looking to take part in a Disney rite of passage—character dining— I’ll forever gush about Topolino’s Terrace Breakfast A La Art with Mickey & Friends that trades the lackluster buffet for a plated meal, offering an elevated twist on the staple complete with can’t-miss rooftop views.

Travelers say: "This hotel is the perfect combination of elegance and Disney fun. Impeccable service, beautiful rooms, and subtle Disney theming everywhere. We loved the outside lawn area to play games and the walkability to the skyliner as well as the food hall at Caribbean Beach and when we wanted other food options - though the food here is delicious." –@Christine B

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Parents and two children walking around resort
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

With swaying palm trees, white sand beaches, and vibrantly colored buildings, you may forget you’re actually landlocked in Florida while staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. The impeccably themed, Moderate-level resort is priced more affordably than Disney’s Deluxe resorts, but there’s still plenty to do on-site. Fair warning. The property is massive and spread across six island-themed buildings, which means you may have to rely on its internal shuttle system to get around which can quickly add-up travel time and hinder convenience. But it’s okay, You’re in paradise, after all. Aside from the Skyliner, bus transportation is provided to other Disney destinations.

Who’s it for: I enjoy the resort’s enchanting, island feel, that also extends to its onsite dining full of Latin and Caribbean-inspired flair, a welcome respite from theme park fare. You’ll find what I deem one of the best bangs for family-friendly dining buck at Sebastian’s Bistro. It takes the cake with a menu of Caribbean eats served family style and a swoon-worthy bread pudding that’s priced easier on the wallet than some of Disney’s other spots.

Don’t miss: I can guarantee that you’ll have a hard time getting the kids to leave its Fuente del Morro Pool, just one of seven pools found here, complete with thrilling water slides, playscapes, and spacious hot tub.

Travelers say: "This resort is a wonderful “mid-tier” option for Walt Disney World visitors. We loved having access to the Skyliner with both the main hub and the Riviera Resort station a short walk away from our room. Being able to use the Riviera buses helped, too, as the Caribbean Beach buses can fill up quickly." –@Halie T

Disney’s Pop Century

Huge Roger Rabbit facing outdoor pool next to colorful buildings
Disney's Pop Century Resort
Image: klingon65/Tripadvisor

Budget-focused Disney’s Pop Century is in the mouse’s Value tier but don’t let that fool you, it makes up for it with its prime location on the Skyliner (bus transportation is also provided to destinations outside the Skyliner) and stellar theming. The resort is a cluster of several buildings themed to different decades of pop culture spanning the 1950s to the 1990s that are accented by larger-than-life set pieces, like Rubik’s Cubes and yo-yo’s. There’s also three on-site pools, including the sprawling Hippy Dippy Pool, and an adjoining pool bar.

While it lacks the bells and whistles of Disney’s higher level Deluxe resorts—most notably dining—I enjoy this option when I’m looking to spend the bulk of my time in the theme parks. And a guest room renovation in recent years makes this even more of an enticing option for the price tag.

You are limited to the resort’s quick service restaurant and its American eats (try its famous tie-dye cheesecake!), but a quick ride on the Skyliner will whisk you away in minutes to more dining options, including those at Disney’s Riviera Resort, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Travelers say: "Like other budget Disney hotels, there are numerous buildings with exterior entry only, the rooms are small but clean, and the restaurant, store and pools close at 11pm. The thing that sets this location apart is the skyliner gondola, only steps away from the main building. This smooth ride takes you into Hollywood Studios in 5 minutes, or Epcot in 15 minutes." –@Ronda J

Disney’s Art of Animation

Outdoor pool with family-friendly sea creature sculptures
Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Fun is at the forefront of Disney’s Art of Animation, which shares a Skyliner station with Disney’s Pop Century. The colorful, kid-focused resort is very Disney, with its grounds covered in larger-than-life depictions of beloved film scenes making for the perfect photo-ops. This is the epitome of the company’s excellence in storytelling and the immersive nature is felt throughout.

Who’s it for: Comprising mostly themed family suites that pay homage to classic films—including “The Lion King”—it’s the ideal resort for larger and multi-generational families looking for more in-room space post park time.

Don’t miss: Despite being a Value property, it has one of the best (and largest) pools on property. The “Finding Nemo ''-themed Big Blue Pool is zero entry with tons of water play features and may make you rethink just why you bought that extra day of park tickets. And it’s just one of three available pools. Dining here is solely limited to its food court, Landscape of Flavors, but like Disney’s Pop Century, a quick Skyliner ride opens up the palate to a copious amount of flavorful options nearby. Bus transportation is provided to other destinations, including Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.

Travelers say: "We stayed in the Cars suite and could not have been more thrilled. While it is not "top of the line" like the Grand Floridian, it is superb when it comes to space for the family, comfort and value. We had 2 teens and 2 adults and had plenty of space for all of our stuff and still enough room to spread and out without being on top of each other…" –@Jenn H

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Carly Caramanna
Carly Caramanna is a theme park and travel journalist who has spent her professional career in New York City, Nashville, and Los Angeles. An expert on all things wining and dining at theme parks, she knows where to find the best burrata in Walt Disney World (hint: it’s at Wine Bar George) or where to grab a nightcap after your day at Hersheypark. She has been visiting theme parks regularly for over three decades and uses that knowledge as host of the Attractions Magazine Podcast. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo Lifestyle, Hearst, Insider, Delish, The Points Guy, and more.