When Walt Disney World opened the Polynesian Village Resort in 1971, the world was a much smaller place. Tiki bars were popular because they offered a taste of the islands when most people had no idea what the Polynesian islands were like. This is why restaurants like Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale have been able to offer people a taste of Polynesia, which, while being not 100% culturally accurate, might be the closest people will get to visit any of these islands. If you’ve never seen this show, it’s amazingly similar to the Luau at the Polynesian (which opened 20 years later).
Here are the building names from when the Polynesian Resort opened in 1971:
- Bali Hai
- Bora Bora
- Maui (renamed Maori in 1978)
Oahu was added in 1978 and Moorea and Pago Pago were added in 1985.
By 1999, people began to realize that Disney was presenting an idealized vision of Polynesia so the buildings were renamed to more accurately represent the cultures of the islands. The names were also reassigned to more accurately represent the islands geographic positions:
- Rapa Nui
In 2015, with the DVC addition of the Bora Bora Bungalows, the Tahiti and Rapa Nui buildings were changed back to their original names, Moorea and Pago Pago respectively.
While it might have been difficult to visit all of the islands of the original resort since Bali Hai is a fictional location from South Pacific, it’s totally possible to visit all of the islands named in the resort today, but it won’t be easy.
I put this together but I’m sure there are a number of possible ways to visit all of these islands.
The trip would start in HNL (Hawaii) and end in RAR (Rarotonga). If you’d prefer, there are many more options to fly home from PPT (Papeete, Tahiti) which would require one extra flight.
You’ll start in Honolulu (HAWAII – HNL). Of all the locations, this is the easiest to get to. If you’re from the U.S, you don’t even need a passport, which is pretty incredible if you think about it.
From there, you fly to Apia (SAMOA – APW) on Fiji Airlines.
While in Samoa, this will be your best opportunity to get to Tokelau. If you choose to do this, you’re way more into this than I am. Why Disney Imagineers named one of their buildings after an isolated atoll, I have no idea.
Transport to and from Tokelau is by sea on fortnightly boat services from the closest port in Apia, Samoa. The boat travels to all three atolls, taking approximately 24 hours to reach the southern most atoll of Fakaofo. It is a further 3 and a half hours from Fakaofo to Nukunonu and a further 6 hours to the northern most atoll of Atafu.
The next stop is a quick hop back and forth to Pago Pago (PAGO PAGO – PPG), flying on Inter Island Airways.
Once back to Apia, you’ll connect to Fuaʻamotu International Airport (Tonga – TBU) on Talofa Airways.
After your visit to Tonga, you’ll be headed to Nadi International Airport (Fiji -NAN) via Fiji Airways.
From Fiji, you’ll take a side trip to Tuvalu, traveling to Funafuti International Airport on Fiji Airways (Tuvalu – FUN). Don’t you want to go to an airport named FUN?
After heading back to Fiji, your next stop is Aotearoa. That sounds exotic but it’s actually the Maori name for New Zealand. That’s a place worthy of its own visit but since we’re on an island hopper trip, it’s helpful to be able to use (Auckland Airport – AKL) as a mini-hub. Thank you, Disney Imagineers. 🙂
From Auckland, you can fly to (Niue Airport – IUE) on Air New Zealand, the only airline and route that flies to the island.
You’ll have to head back to Auckland for your next destination, (Fa’a’ā International Airport – PPT) which is located near the town of Papeete on Tahiti. While not a destination on the journey, the city does have a connection to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The restaurant Papeete Bay Veranda opened with the resort in 1971 and provided a Polynesian themed dinner experience for guests until it closed in 1994 to reopen the following year as the amazingly popular restaurant, ‘Ohana.
After flying back to Papeete, the next flight of the trip is a quick 15-minute hop over to Moorea and back on Air Tahiti (Moorea Airport – MOZ). The final stop from Papeete is Rarotonga (Rarotonga Airport – RAR), the gateway to the Cook Islands, on Air Tahiti. I think this looks like a wonderful place to end an epic trip.
Rarotonga has once weekly service to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand but it might be easier to get home by flying to PPT and getting a flight with Air France or Air Tahiti Nui.
While I can’t imagine how much a trip like this would cost, it seems like any of these locations would be an amazing place to visit. I am particularly interested Pago Pago since it’s in American Samoa and the home to the National Park of American Samoa, the only park where the U.S. Government leases the land instead of owning it outright. That would be one heck of a park to check off my list.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary