For the first three nights of our 25-day Florida trip, my kids and I stayed at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Disney Springs Area hotel. Overall, we loved the pool area and the hotel’s convenient location. But most of all, using Hilton Honors points to stay there for free was an economical way to get on-site Disney benefits during our stay. (See my previous post about Disney Springs hotels with on-site Disney benefits for 2018).
After we landed at MCO in the late afternoon, we took Lyft to the hotel for around $25. My kids sat in the lobby while I headed to the desk to check us in.
During check-in, the host explained the layout of the hotel, how the buses work and a bit about the other hotel amenities. I received a card to show for Extra Magic Hours at the parks. I was also given six free breakfast coupons to use during our stay since I’m a Hilton Honors gold member (only because I have the Amex Hilton Ascend card).
The hotel has two distinct sections: the tower and the island. We were assigned a room in the tower.
The lobby had a full bar with indoor and outdoor seating.
Our Room at Hilton Buena Vista Palace
Our room had two queen beds with plenty of floor space to set up an inflatable mattress for a child if needed.
The room had a desk with a rolling table underneath.
The bathroom was fairly modern.
We had a small balcony which overlooked the pool area and Disney Springs in the distance.
The only dining option we used during our stay was Citrus 28, a to-go convenience market on the first floor. It had drinks and packaged food as well as an array of pastries and sandwiches/hot items for lunch or dinner.
Near Citrus 28, there was both indoor and outdoor seating.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Letterpress, was located near the lobby. Letterpress has a Disney character breakfast every Sunday.
The pool area also had a separate bar and quick service restaurant. However, since Disney Springs was just across the street with a ton of great dining options, we didn’t feel the need to utilize the hotel’s restaurants.
The free breakfast coupons I received upon check-in for being a gold member were good for a continental breakfast buffet in Letterpress or a pastry, coffee and juice in Citrus 28.
Pool and Lazy River
The main reason I chose Hilton Buena Vista Palace over other Disney Springs resorts was because of its pool area. It’s the only one in Disney Springs with a lazy river.
The pool area did not disappoint! We used it every day, and it was never crowded. Since we had a room in the tower, we had a short walk across a bridge to get to the pool area.
We spent most of our time in the lazy river.
The main pool was large with varying depths. It had bench seating on both ends.
A zero-entry splash pad area was great for younger kids:
The pool area also had whirlpool hot tub, which my son sat in for a while, but it was just too hot outside for me to enjoy.
The tower section also had a quiet pool tucked away, but we didn’t see it until our last day.
I liked how there were water stations throughout the pool area:
This activity lawn next to the pool had soccer goals, corn hole and a giant Connect 4.
There were plenty of lounge chairs with umbrellas available, and several cushier chairs were scattered around the pool.
Fitness centers at Disney-area hotels don’t seem to get a lot of use since people are so tired from walking all day, but the fitness center was adequate.
Downstairs, there was an arcade:
The resort offered free DVD rentals, which we intended to try but never did.
The hotel also had a Disney store where you could buy tickets and have your park merchandise delivered.
Getting to Disney Springs
Even though Disney Springs is just across the street, it’s a bit of a hike to get there. From our room in the tower, we had to walk over the hotel’s covered bridge toward the island buildings. From there, we followed the sidewalk to pedestrian bridge.
The walk wasn’t a huge deal for us, but if you are tired from a long day at the parks, it could be painful.
The hotel had bus service to Disney Springs starting at 6 p.m.
Being so close to Disney Springs was convenient for going to other Disney resorts. On our first night, we walked to the Disney Springs bus stop and then took a Disney bus to the Grand Floridian hotel to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Easy peasy, and free!
Getting to Disney Parks and Using On-site Benefits
Buses to the Disney parks run every 30 minutes. The bus stop is covered, which is really important in Florida weather.
When we went to Animal Kingdom, the park had an Extra Magic Hour at 8:00 a.m. We got on the 7:00 a.m. bus, which only stopped at our hotel. Later in the day when we returned, the bus was emptier and stopped and two other Disney Springs area hotels.
The bus stop at Animal Kingdom for the Disney Springs area hotels was on the opposite side of the parking lot from the other Disney Resorts bus stop, but it wasn’t a longer walk.
Admittedly, the bus system is not quite as convenient as on-site Disney Resort buses that come every 20 minutes. But it wasn’t inconvenient, and taking the bus was certainly better than driving to the parks and paying for parking.
Using the on-site benefit of 60-day advanced Fast Pass + reservations scored us a ride on the new Avatar Flight of Passage ride at Animal Kingdom. The stand-by line was normally 90-120 minutes, so skipping that was a blessing. The ride itself was awesome!
By getting into the park an hour before the general public, we were able to get on six rides before the park opened. I’m glad we decided to revisit Animal Kingdom after all these years.
Using Hilton Honors Points
I used Hilton Honors points from my husband’s two Hilton Amex cards for our stay. Hilton uses dynamic pricing for award stays. Our dates in the summer cost 50,000 points per night, but I’ve seen rates as low as 36,000 points per night during off-peak dates.
Since our reservation was booked on points, we did not have to pay the $35 daily resort fee.
The American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card currently has a bonus of 100,000 points after spending $2000 in the first three months. The annual fee of $95 is not waived. If you and a partner/spouse each got the card, you could get
four (actually five if you combine your points, because the 5th night is free on points) free nights after paying $190 in annual fees.
The Hilton Buena Vista Palace was a great fit for me and my kids during our short time at Walt Disney World. The location was convenient, and the pool and lazy river were perfect for the hot afternoons.
If I didn’t have Hilton Honors points, I probably wouldn’t have booked this hotel on cash rates. The $35 daily resort fee adds up, and the cash price starts to reach levels of on-site Disney hotels.
However, the fact that we stayed here for “free” using points and were still able to get on-site Disney benefits made this a tremendous value. It was a great way to save money on our short Disney vacation.
Have you stayed at Hilton Buena Vista Palace? Are you considering staying at a Disney Springs area hotel in order to get on-site Disney benefits during 2018?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.
Harmony, Momma To Go says
This seems like a great place to stay, esp if you want to do a pool day! And with the points, no brainer!
@Harmony Yep, it was great for a pool day (or two or three) and a great value on points.
Looks like if you’re a family of 5 you can’t book a standard room. Junior Suites and up… 128,000 points for spring break. Which is the norm for most hotels. I swear, it’s like the entire hotel industry got together and said “if you’re not a family of four, let’s find a way to screw ’em.”
@projectx I totally feel your pain! The only way we made this work for us this time is that my husband had to work, so he didn’t get to go to the Disney part of our vacation and we were down to a “normal” family size of 4. Normally, I’m all for packing an inflatable bed and adding a 3rd kid to the floor. But in this instance, it may not work because we had to have four names attached to the reservation in order to feed over to the My Disney Experience app to reserve our FastPass+ 60 days in advance. If you’re willing to sleep a kid on the floor, you might try calling the hotel and see if they would be willing to add a 5th name to a standard room reservation.
I have no problem (and the kids don’t care either) packing a sleeping bag and having a kid sleep on the floor… unfortunately in my experience hotels have a problem with it.
Although it is always worth asking. Looking at hotels in Costa Rica one that I really like says a maximum of 4 people in a room. Surprisingly after emailing them they said they’ll provide a rollaway for us!
@projectx I’m glad you found a hotel in Costa Rica willing to provide a rollaway for a 5th person! Woohoo! (Is it the Hyatt? I’ve had good luck with Hyatts in that regard)
No, it’s a hotel near Manuel Antonio called Hotel San Bada.
Hilde H says
Did you have to have Disney tickets to take advantage of this?
@Hilde We had to have Disney tickets purchased in order to reserve FastPass+ at 60 days in advance and in order to get into Animal Kingdom park for the Extra Magic Hour. But nothing else required Disney tickets. We took the hotel bus and the Disney resort bus to other non-park Disney destinations to do free stuff (fireworks) without tickets with no issues.
Brian Ainslie says
Hi Nancy – Researching a trip to Disney and came across your helpful posts! Can you please clarify/confirm for me: I can reserve a room at a property like this one (good neighbor, etc.) using only points, purchase tickets using $, and still get all the benefits of the property (60 day Fastpasses being the main one)?
@Brian Yes! But it’s not just any good neighbor hotel. Right now, these benefits are only at the Disney Springs hotels (see this post https://milesforfamily.com/2018/12/05/should-you-use-points-on-disney-springs-resort-area-hotels-that-offer-on-site-disney-perks/) and the Hilton Bonnet Creek and Waldorf (see this post https://milesforfamily.com/2019/04/09/updated-disney-world-gives-two-more-hilton-hotels-on-site-benefits/). Make sure you have all family members listed on your hotel reservation, otherwise you won’t be able to link their park tickets. Once you buy your park tickets, link it to your My Disney Experience account and you will be able to get those 60-day fastpasses. It’s a great deal if you have some points you can use on the hotels!
It looks like a fantastic property and I’m tempted to splurge my Hilton points on a weekend stay here. That pool area is something else!
A nice thing about Hilton program is that you can now combine points for free. So, with two bonuses from Ascend cards it’s possible to get a 5-night stay due to Gold status.
@Leana Good point about combining the points and getting a 5th night free! My brain just didn’t go there, LOL. I added it to the post.
I’m not sure how this pool compares to Hilton Bonnet Creek or the Hilton near Universal Studios, which also both have lazy rivers. But out of the 3 Disney Springs area Hilton hotels, this did appear to have the best pool area.
I love lazy rivers. Sounds like a really nice stay especially since it was so close to Disney Springs.
@Stephanie I love lazy rivers! Especially when they’re not too crowded.
I really appreciate your comment about the walk to Disney Springs. We stayed at another DS location and from my mapping, it looked like a great idea. It IS a walk (a pleasant one, but if you’re not used to walking or the weather is uncomfortable, it’s long). We used the buses to connect to other parks and resorts via DS, but folks should be aware that the walk from the DS hotels to the far end where the buses are is another 10 minutes at least. The uber drop-off location (last time I checked), it on the total opposite side of DS from the hotel row – another 10 minutes! Our family of six ranged from 7YO-16YO and it was exhausting, but doable to use the bus system via DS. As a family, we consider 10-15-minute walks in any city to outweigh a $20 uber ride, so it has a lot to do with those dynamics.
@Carole Yep, I didn’t want folks to believe it’s just a short walk to Disney Springs. On the whole, nothing in Disney World is a short walk! Even staying at an onsite resort like Caribbean Beach Resort requires a heckuva lot of walking. Those Uber rides can add up, so we only used Uber once when we wanted to get to an early morning character breakfast.
Sue ann says
This is our go-to hotel when we head to Orlando for weekend competitions, knowing we don’t have time for the parks but still will have the energy for Disney Springs and swimming! We have always found the hotel clean and the staff helpful. And for us driving there, parking is easy and still free (unlike onsite hotels). I prefer staying in the tower as it is more convenient to the hotel food options and arcade. I think the walk to Disney Springs is not long, especially when compared to how much walking you do at a park. And the walk is so much safer and convenient with the new pedestrian bridge. Before that it would take 10+ mins just to cross the street (very busy and dangerous). I’m glad you enjoyed your stay!
@Sue Ann I’m glad you’ve had good experiences at this hotel! I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again in the future.
You might have seen my mom there! She’s a Disney cast member that works @ that Disney store and the Disney Store at the other Hilton down the street!! ????☺