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.