Location: In the Epcot Resort area. Address: 900 Cayman Way, Lake Buena Vista, FL., 32830 Phone: (407) 934-3400 Fax: (407) 934-3288.
If you’re longing to combine your Disney vacation with a tropical island getaway, this resort may be for you. This massive 200-acre resort has 2112 rooms and consists of six “island villages” representing Martinique, Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, and Trinidad North and Trinidad South. Every village has its own swimming pool, white sandy beach, bus stop and laundry facility. Buildings and rooms are colorful with a Caribbean flavor, and the grounds are lush with tropical landscape. You’ll see the pirate theme throughout the resort, and in response to the success of The Pirates of the Caribbean movie, there’s even a section of pirate themed guest rooms.
The rooms accommodate from 2 to 4 people. They’re scattered in the 33 unconnected, brightly colored buildings around a beautiful 42-acre lake with white sand beaches and a tropical island connected by bridges. Caribbean Beach resort was the first moderate resort to be built on Disney property, and it’s apparent that Disney learned from this experience. The newer moderates appear to have had better planning and larger budgets, resulting in more convenient layouts, a more upscale feel, and more detail in the architecture, amenities and themes (not including Fort Wilderness, which was not originally built as a moderate). However some things have been improved over the years, such as the revamped main pool and the room furnishings.
With its less than stellar resort layout, some guests find it inconvenient and even physically challenging. There are NO ELEVATORS in the guest buildings, and the resort is so large that it’s the only Disney resort with its own internal transportation system. Guests without their own transportation will either be walking quite bit (not fun after a long day on your feet at the parks), or waiting for buses and riding just to get around inside the resort. Before you choose this resort, imagine having to walk a long distance or ride just to get coffee, a drink or meal, to visit Guest Services or the front desk, or to swim in the main pool. On the other hand, if you crave privacy, or have children who want to run, run, run, (without disturbing the other people down the hall) this could be just the spot.
Those with mobility issues and other conditions such as chronic fatigue may wish to consider another resort. If you still feel that this is the resort for you, we strongly recommend renting a scooter from an outside company so that you can have it while at the resort. Also consider keeping drinks and snacks in your room so that you don’t have to go to the food court as often. Lastly, consider bringing or renting a car.
Despite its issues, many people adore Caribbean Beach Resort. The peaceful quality of the grounds draws a lot of positive comments. With the pirate themed rooms and pirate pool there will be many a young buccaneer who will be thrilled.
The main building: The building where you check in is called Custom House, however it’s not the building that has all of the action. This is an unusual design for a Disney resort, and can be inconvenient at times. In addition to the check-in/front desk in Custom House, all you’ll find here is Bell Services and the Concierge.
The Old Port Royale building, which is also called Centertown, is where you’ll find the activities. This includes two restaurants, the Calypso Trading Post and Straw Market shop, the Goombay Games arcade, the main water park pool, and boat and bike rentals at Barefoot Bay Boat Yard and Bike Works. All of these activities are clustered in one side of the building. Old Port Royale does not have any guest rooms. The interior is bright and festive with a Caribbean flair.
Check-in: Check-in takes place at the Custom House. The building is designed in the style of Colonial architecture in the Caribbean, but we find it to be rather unremarkable and even on the dingy side. Of course guests won’t ordinarily be passing through here very often. You’ll only come back if you need to visit the front desk, Bell Services, laundry drop-off and pick-up, or the concierge. The wait to check in can be especially long here. As in most of the Disney World resorts, the lobby has an area for kids with a television playing Disney movies.
There’s no valet service here, but there’s really no place for it. Although you’ll be checking in here, you’ll most likely be parking much closer to your room (motel style) afterwards.
When you arrive at Custom House, Bell services will take your luggage and store it until you’re ready for it to be taken to your room. It’s a major journey from there to get to some of the guest rooms. Once your room is ready, they can drive you with your luggage to your room in a van, or if you have a car with you, you can drive yourself and meet them there. You can also take an internal bus or walk.
If Bell Services is especially busy, they may ask that you take the internal shuttle bus or walk to your room if it’s nearby. They’ll deliver your luggage as soon as they’re able. Guests are not permitted to carry luggage on the bus, so taking your own baggage is not an option if you’re using the Disney transportation to get to your room.
Some wheelchairs are available for loan at the check-in desk, with a deposit. You can’t reserve these in advance, so don’t count on one being available. If you’re having a wheelchair or scooter dropped off at the resort by an outside company, you’ll pick it up at Bell Services at Custom House. We were told that Bell Services can bring the scooter to your room after you’ve checked in, at your request. If you’re in a scooter, you may wish to ride it to your room if the weather permits. You can also use the internal bus system, or you can request the resorts’ accessible van. There are times when Bell Services is very busy and the van gets tied up. There are also times when it’s out of commission for service. If so, you’ll be asked to take the internal bus to your room.
If your room isn’t ready at check-in, they can store your luggage until it is. You’re welcome to use the pool, dine or to even go enjoy the parks. They’ll also store your luggage for you after check-out if you’re not leaving Disney World immediately.
Buildings and rooms: The villages are arranged around a lagoon with white sand beaches. Each village has its own heated pool. There’s a walking trail around the 42 acre lagoon that’s about a mile and a half long. Compared to the 15 acre lake at the Coronado Springs Resort, or the 0.7 mile trail around the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort wins the prize for the largest size.
If you’re staying at the far end of Trinidad South, or Barbados, and you need to walk to Old Port Royale building, it can take approximately 15 minutes from the farthest point. There’s a bridge that crosses the lagoon, making for a quicker walk from either Jamaica or Aruba. All rooms at these resorts have outside sidewalks with outdoor room entry, so all of the walking is potentially exposed to sun or rain, as are the bus stops.
The brightly painted buildings are two stories, and there are no elevators. Each village has a soda vending machine, and there are ice machines available in each guest room building.
Room Size Controversy: The rooms are approximately 314 square feet according to Disney. We’ve seen other publications state that the rooms here are 340 square feet, and that they have the largest size of the moderate resort rooms. Since we were seeing conflicting reports, we asked a Disney Engineer Service Manager at the Caribbean Beach Resort to measure the rooms for us (thank you so much Steve!). He remarked that it would be easy to make the mistake of thinking the rooms were 340 Square feet because the angles of the room make the math more complex. He re-measured, and confirmed that the rooms are 314 square feet, which is the same as the other moderate rooms (except for Fort Wilderness Cabins).
The standard rooms accommodate 2-4 people, and have an island décor mixed with Finding Nemo themed images. You’ll see brightly colored Nemo and friends prints on the wall paper borders and bedspreads. Most of the rooms contain two double beds. There are some kings as well, and the accessible rooms have king beds. In addition to the items mentioned in the Moderate Resorts Overview section, rooms have two sinks with vanities separated from the room by a privacy curtain, a separate bathroom with a shower and tub, table with two chairs, a dresser with a flat screen TV on it, and a bench that has gives extra storage space. Connecting rooms are available.
Trinidad South rooms have been converted to a Pirates of the Caribbean® movie theme. The rooms have the same basic layout as the Finding Nemo rooms, but the décor includes pirate-ship styled beds and buccaneers’ accessories including lantern lights, skeleton and crossed-swords printed privacy curtains, a treasure printed bedspread with gold coins and jewels, and barrel nightstands. There are wheelchair-accessible rooms.
As in all of the Disney resorts, the handicapped accessible rooms are scattered throughout the property. They’re not necessarily in the villages closest to the Old Port Royale. You’ll have to request that. We’ve heard that cast members will tell you that there are some “handicapped” rooms on the second floor, but these rooms have only shower and toilet grab bars. With no elevators to the second floor, full handicapped accessible rooms are limited to the first floor. Be sure to request a first floor full handicapped room if you need this. If you need a first floor room for health related reasons, but you don’t need a handicapped room, you can request this. They’ll give you priority over non-medical requests; however the only way that they’ll guarantee a first floor is if you’ve reserved a handicapped accessible first floor room.
The available views at this resort include a standard view, or a water view (extra charge), which has you facing Barefoot Bay or a pool. The standard views may face courtyards, woodlands or parking lots.
Tip: Looking for a room close to the action? Martinique and Trinidad North are considered “preferred locations” and cost extra because they are the closest to Old Port Royale where much of the resorts action takes place. At this resort we strongly suggest that those with mobility issues secure a preferred location. In Martinique the closest building is number 26, followed by building 25 and then 24. In Trinidad North, the closest building is number 31 followed by 32 and then 33.
Tip: If you want to avoid the extra fee of a preferred location, and don’t mind being a little bit further away, Jamaica 44-46 (45 is the closest) and Aruba 51-53 (51 is the closest) may be your next best bets. Although they’re across the lake from Old Port Royale, there’s a bridge that takes you straight across.
Tip: Looking for quiet? Trinidad South and Barbados are very far from the main buildings, and the longest walk. The farthest buildings in Trinidad South are buildings 37-39. The farthest buildings in Barbados are 11-16, with building 11 being the farthest. Though it’s far from Old Port Royale, it’s the closest village to Custom House. There tends to be some noise from traffic and people. If you’re looking for quiet and to get away from it all, Trinidad South may be your best bet! Of course that will always depend upon who’s staying there at the same time you are.
There’s a lot of tropical foliage, and in a few places it actually obstructs the room windows. This can be a plus or minus, depending on your point of view! We noticed that these rooms tend to be ones with courtyard or parking-lot views, so specifying a more expensive water view would probably get you an un-blocked window. You can specify that you want a room that does not have foliage blocking the view, and they’ll do their best to honor your request. Keep in mind that the foliage height and density may change somewhat depending on the season, most recent trim job, etc.
Unfortunately we’ve noticed that housekeeping can be hit or miss here. We hear about many great experiences where the rooms were very clean, but there seem to be almost as many complaints about cleanliness issues. On the positive side, we don’t see many complaints about noise here. Much of this resort tends to be quiet and peaceful. Of course there’s never a guarantee of this!
Resort shopping: The Calypso Trading Post and the Calypso Straw Market are located in Old Port Royale. Calypso Trading Post sells Disney and Caribbean Beach Resort clothing and souvenirs, sundries, and a small selection of snacks, groceries and drinks including beer, wine and liquors. The Straw Market has Caribbean Beach Resort and Caribbean island style clothing, sportswear, and beach related items including bathing suits, water toys and hats.
The shopping area is partly open and directly adjacent to the food court, and the bright toy displays can’t be avoided. If you have kids, this can be either a blessing or a curse. It can keep them occupied while they wait for food, or over-stimulate them.
Food & beverage: There are two places to eat at the Caribbean Beach Resort, located right next to one another in the Old Port Royale Building. One is the Old Porte Royale Food Court, and the other is Shutter’s at Old Port Royale, a full-service restaurant. There’s also a pool bar called Banana Cabana where you can get alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. For more details see the Walt Disney World Dining chapter of the book. In-room pizza delivery is available from Bluerunner Pizza and Meal Delivery from 4 PM to 11:30 PM.
Tip: Consider eating breakfast anywhere other than at Old Port Royale if your trip falls during a busy season. The dining hall will hold 500 people maximum and the Shutter’s restaurant is quite small. The resort can hold up to 8,448 people at full capacity. Breakfast can feel mobbed and uncomfortable, and can take a big chunk of your time. Another option is to keep light breakfast foods in your room such as bagels and cream cheese, or to eat in the parks or in Downtown Disney. Lunch and dinner is usually less of a problem, because most people are at the parks.
Transportation: The only Disney transportation offered here is the bus system. There’s an internal bus system and an external bus system here. The external buses go to all the major theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney. There are no buses to any other resort from here, but for details on how to transfer, see the bus section of the book.
If you plan on using the bus system, you’ll be able to find the closest stop to your room on the map that they’ll give you at check-in. Depending on where your room is located within your Village, it can be a surprisingly long walk. If walking is an issue, request a room near a bus stop.
Guests can use the external buses to get around inside the resort, but ask the bus driver to be sure he or she is going to your destination before leaving the resort grounds.
Internal bus system: With the distance between some sections of the resort from the Old Port Royale building, guests without cars can make use of the internal bus system to visit the front desk, grab a meal or use the main pool. The internal buses stop at each bus stop the external buses stop at, plus Custom House. These buses are dedicated to moving guests around within the Caribbean Beach Resort. The bus circles the resort, usually making stops in the following order: Custom House, Martinique, Old Port Royale, Trinidad North, Trinidad South, Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados and back to Custom House. This is subject to change. These buses are the same as the other Disney buses, and are wheelchair and scooter accessible.
Keep in mind that it can be a walk to the bus stop from your room, and then it can take a while to get to your destination. We’ve heard that it can take as long as 45 minutes from start to finish just to get somewhere on the grounds, though it can be shorter.
External bus system: These buses circle the resort making stops at all the villages and at Old Port Royale. They do not stop at Custom House. This resort does not share buses with other resorts. There are eight stops within the Caribbean Beach Resort, and it can take as much as 20 minutes or more just to get off of the Caribbean Beach Resort property. It’s also possible that a bus can have standing room only or that it can be completely filled by the time it gets to you. However we hear that most often this is not the case.
Some buses start their loop at Martinique and some begin at Jamaica. The following are the routes that are routinely taken by the bus drivers arriving at Caribbean Beach to pick up guests, though this may be subject to change.
- If you’re headed to the Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney or Typhoon Lagoon, the bus usually starts in Martinique, and then goes on to Trinidad North, Trinidad South, Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados and then it exits the resort and goes to your destination.
- If you’re headed to Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios or Blizzard Beach, the bus usually starts at Jamaica, then goes on to Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, Old Port Royale, Trinidad North, Trinidad South, and then it exits the resort and goes to your destination.
- Going back to Caribbean Beach is unpredictable. This is because the buses can change their destination on the way back. So for example, even though your bus is returning to Caribbean Beach from Hollywood Studios, it may be heading out to Magic Kingdom after it picks more guests up at Caribbean Beach. This means that you won’t be able to predict the order of the stops inside the resort.
The bus stops are covered, but there’s very little seating. Most people will be standing. During peak times it can get very crowded. As with most Disney bus stops, the buses come approximately every 20 minutes, give or take.
There’s plenty of parking next to each village, so you can park near your building. However those with mobility issues will find that it’s still a significant walk to some of the rooms. If you’re planning on having a car, you may wish to request a room near the parking lot.
We do strongly suggest that those with mobility or fatigue issues rent or bring their own car while staying at this very massive resort. Even those without these issues may find that it will make be far more convenient. This is especially true in the warmer months with the heat and frequent thunder storms when walking outdoors and waiting at outdoor bus stops can be uncomfortable.
Pools: Each village has its own pool, and there’s one main pool by the Old Port Royale building.
Village pools: These quiet pools are not themed, and they’re smaller than the main pool. You must bring your own towels from your room, but they can be left at the pool and will be replaced in your room. There are no lifeguards on duty, and they’re open 24 hours a day. Guests are asked to keep the noise down between midnight and 8 AM. They do not have zero entry, though some have transfer tiers. The Martinique pool area is more challenging to access for wheelchair users. The only ramp is placed in a less than convenient spot near the laundry building. Caribbean Beach guests can use any of the village pools as well as the main pool.
Main pool: The largest and most themed pool is the Old Port Royale Pool. For wheelchair and scooter users, we suggest using this pool since there’s zero entry and more convenient access around the pool area. The pool is designed to look like a Spanish Caribbean style pirate fort, complete with cannons. There are waterslides, waterfalls and two Jacuzzis. There is not much shade here. Keep in mind that the main pool tends to get the most crowded. For a quieter experience, you may wish to stay in your village’s pool. When the pool is opened in the morning, a live pirate usually comes out to greet the kids and open the pool. There are locker rooms at the Old Port Royale pool with showers, including an accessible shower. There are also lockers that take coins.
Kid’s pool & play area: The new Aqua Play Area is a pirate themed kiddie pool and play area next to the main pool that includes a kiddie size slide. In this play area there’s a giant bucket sitting atop a shipwrecked pirate’s boat. This bucket fills with water and eventually tips, pouring like a waterfall on anyone below. You can tell it’s about to happen because it makes a noise as it gets ready to dump. Even adults will enjoy this. Avoid this area if you’re uncomfortable with a lot of water being dumped on you.
Entertainment: Places to relax and enjoy the Caribbean ambiance abound. Around the villages you’ll find very pleasant courtyards with places to sit and enjoy the lush landscaping. Each village has its own white sand beach replete with chairs and hammocks strung on palm trees for sunbathing. However, as with all of the Disney resorts with natural water, swimming is not permitted.
Along with the attractions available on the grounds, every day a chalkboard goes up near the Barefoot Bay Boat Marina listing that day’s recreational activities such as a supervised children’s board game and coloring hour on a little cove of the Caribbean Cay Island, a water balloon toss, and a live Calypso band on the deck next to the Port Royale Pool.
Caribbean Cay: There is a one-acre island that looks like a tropical jungle right in the middle of the lagoon (it was formerly called Parrot Cay). It can be accessed by a bridge, which is also the shortcut that connects Old Port Royale to a spot between Jamaica and Aruba on the opposite shore. It’s a great place to relax! There’s nothing to do on the island but stroll around and hang out. There are hammocks strung from swaying palm trees, little paths leading to secret spots with picnic tables and benches, and so much lush vegetation that you could get lost. Most of the “secret” island paths are accessible by wheelchair or scooter. Though they’re a bit hilly, most of them are paved and smooth. You’ll find occasional steps, but there are always alternate, smooth paths. A few spots are covered in sand, and there are a few small raised gazebos that you must use stairs for, but they can be avoided.
The bridge has aging wooden planks. This might be somewhat rough for wheelchair and scooter riders. Also, on the side going to Jamaica/Aruba, the bridge arches a little, causing a mild incline and decline.
Walking trails: There’s a paved trail winding around the lagoon that’s over 1.4 miles. You can take a scenic walk, jog, or ride around it. There are seats and hammocks around so that you can relax and enjoy the view.
Bikes: Bikes and also Surreys which carry 2-4 adults are available to rent next to the boat dock at Barefoot Bay Bike Works.
Marina: If you want to explore the lagoon, visit the Barefoot Bay Boat Marina next to Old Port Royale. You can rent small motorized boats such as Sea Racers, canopy and pontoon boats, or non-motorized boats such as sailboats, pedal boats, and canoes. The marina is handicapped accessible and although they don’t disallow anything, they encourage wheelchairs on their pontoon boats only. You’re welcome to transfer from a wheelchair to a boat, but keep in mind that they can’t help you. The phone number for bike or boat rentals is (407) 934-2851. Fishing excursions are available from the marina, and as well as Children’s Pirate Cruises. See the Marina Activities section of the Disney World Resorts Overview chapter for details.
Games, sports and playgrounds: There’s a volleyball court on the beach in front of the Port Royale. There are three small playgrounds around Caribbean Beach Resort on the Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad sandy beaches. There’s a video arcade called Goombay Games inside Old Port Royale, right near the food court. It’s a decent sized accessible arcade.
Laundry and other amenities: There are Coin Laundromat facilities in each village near the pool area. The washing machines are top loading, and the dryers are side loading and stacked. You can also arrange laundry valet services through Guest Relations. Hair wrapping and face painting is available by the Old Port Royale pool.