We are all know the ingredients for the popularity of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels: impeccable accommodations, themed buildings, recreation options (including pools), dining opportunities, and the legendary Disney difference in service and detail. Knowing so little about Disney’s Hilton Head Island (HHI) Resort when we first arrived, I wasn’t sure if I could expect the same elements that make so many of us love WDW resort hotels. I am delighted to report that I discovered all were apparent at this beautiful waterside property.
Impeccable Accommodations: A Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property, Disney’s HHI offers options familiar to those who have experienced DVC in Walt Disney World: studios, one bedroom villas, two bedroom villas, and grand villas.
When arriving at Disney’s HHI, guests approach via one of the main highways in Hilton Head and turn down a busy side street, dotted with different hotels and time share properties. Crossing a small bridge, guests pull up at a security gate and buzz into the main building. After being promptly greeted via intercom, guests are welcomed to come into the main building, the Live Oak Lodge (pictured to the right.) Inside, Disney cast members greet guests and go through the usual check in process. Cookies and hot apple cider await guests in the cold months.
After check in, guests drive to their villa. A big difference here versus WDW DVC properties is that the resort is small (31 buildings), and the buildings are arranged along a winding path adjacent to numerous docks with gorgeous boats. Parking can be at a real premium, but similar to Old Key West and Saratoga Springs, guests usually can park in very close proximity to their room and not have to walk down never-ending hallways to their rooms (can we say Beach Club or Boardwalk?)
Even first floor rooms at HHI are accessed by going up a short flight of stairs. The buildings are elevated, one can deduce, given the resort’s proximity to the water and frequent hurricane corridor. As of this writing, Magic Bands have not yet found their way to HHI, so you can still count on using the old WDW Key to the World cards to access your room.
The rooms are somewhat smaller than those you find at Old Key West, but larger than what are offered at most of the other Walt Disney World DVC options. The decor is reminiscent of Old Key West crossed with the Wilderness Lodge, which helps to convey a low-key, relaxed aura. Depending upon their location, rooms overlook lush wooded areas, usually peppered with hammocks and horseshoe courts, or have a view of the pool and Community Hall. The amenities, bedding, and furniture within the rooms all are consistent with WDW DVC.
Themed Buildings: Disney’s HHI is themed around the concept of a seaside fishing village. While I will discuss the “Imagineering” behind the resort in a different post, the atmosphere, like all Disney Resort Hotels, is all-encompassing and allows you to escape to a different place and time. If willing to suspend disbelief, guests can forget they are in a busy east coast golf haven and believe they have been transported to a quaint fishing retreat. As in WDW, Disney achieves this sense of escape through decorations, signs, and names of locations, all demonstrated below.
In WDW, families easily can spend a day–or several–simply hanging out at their resort and taking advantage of the programming offered. At Disney’s HHI, the programming is creative and fun, yet relaxing–a little more laid back than having to keep up with wait times and Fast Passes in a park. At check in, guests are provided with a recreation activities guide–more detailed than what one usually receives in a WDW Resort, and reminiscent of the daily Navigator one receives on the Disney Cruise Line. I will go into more detail about some of the offerings in a later post, but there is a wide variety of fun planned–for families and for kids. You can see samples below (I will have linked PDF versions available later this week in my “No Parks, No Problem” post.)
In addition to the recreation offerings, Disney’s HHI offers some “old reliables”–a great heated pool with a “cool” slide, bicycle rentals, shuffleboard, ping pong, pool, movie rentals, and evening movies. Again, I will go into more detail about this later this week.
Besides the offerings at the main part of the property, the resort also has a Beach House, where another pool, restaurant, game room, and of course, the BEACH await. I will have a post discussing the Beach House also later this week.
For a veteran Disney Resort guest, this might be the biggest difference between staying at a Florida resort or at Disney’s HHI. Within the mainland property, there is only one dining location–Tide Me Over–which is located by the Community Hall. This location serves breakfast and lunch (you can see both menus below). The food is on the level with counter service locations in Walt Disney World. If you plan to stay several days, you will need to plan to either cook in your room (as long as you are not staying in a studio), order take out, or venture outside the resort. Disney offers plenty of dining resources at check in, and if you are a foodie, you will likely be delighted to explore a number of the restaurants in the area (though plenty of “chain restaurants” also exist within a short distance.) Disney has partnered with some “preferred” dining locations, which offer a 10% discount if you present your “Key to the World” card. A couple of these locations are within a short walking distance of the property, some deliver, and others require a drive.
The Disney Difference: There just is no mistaking a Disney resort hotel. The attention to detail, the story, the focus on family all provide an immersive experience for a family or for a couple seeking an escape from reality. This is NOT like going to a hotel with a nice pool or spa for the weekend to “get away.” It also is NOT like going to a cartoon-ish hotel (not that I would mind that), which is just for kids…. This is a Disney experience, one remarkably free of characters, yet one which leaves guests feeling appreciated and special. (I will discuss the “Evidence of Disney” later this week.)
That about wraps up this overview of the resort. As I mentioned earlier, I will elaborate on many of the points above in future posts this week.
Have you ever been to Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort? What was your experience like? If you haven’t, would you be interested in visiting? Comment below, and you could be chosen to win a Disney’s Hilton Head Island keychain!