Coronado Springs

by Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the July 8, 2003, Issue #198 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

I love trying new things -- I look upon it all as an adventure, even if it's something as simple as trying a new laundry detergent. OK, maybe that's a bit extreme -- I'm not THAT pathetic... yet. But I do like experiencing something different, so I was anxiously anticipating my family's stay at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. I was a little worried that staying here might be inconvenient -- I've been spoiled by staying so often in the centrally located Epcot resort area, where walking to Epcot, the Boardwalk, and even Disney-MGM Studios, is as easy as can be. But I wanted to see if a stay at Coronado Springs was as pleasant as my previous short visits to dine there had implied.

We arrived very late our first night, and, unfortunately the building we'd requested wasn't available. Could we spend one night in the Casitas? the Cast Member asked. And then we'd be moved to the Cabanas as we had hoped for the next day. It was late, and we really didn't have much choice, so we agreed. It turned out that this room, Casitas 1, Room 1347, was "smoking optional". This wasn't a great start -- we're three nonsmokers -- and I immediately began to think we might regret our decision.

So, after this slightly rocky start, how did our stay at Disney's Coronado Springs turn out?

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Coronado Springs is a sprawling resort of nearly 2,000 rooms, with three themed areas of accommodations situated around a 15 acre lake known as Lago Dorado. The main building, El Centro, is located on the south side of the lake. Moving clockwise around the lake, the building areas are the Casitas, which represent the urban areas of the Southwest and Mexico; the rustic Ranchos, themed to reflect rural areas of the Southwest; and the Cabanas, characterized by their sandy shorelines along the beach of the lake. During our four-night stay, we saw only rooms in the Casitas and Cabanas areas.

Although we only spent one night in the Casitas, we thought the location was great. Building 1 was a short walk, perhaps five minutes, from El Centro, the main area that houses Registration and Guest Services, Panchito's Gifts and Sundries, and the restaurants. The Palm Courtyard leading to our Casitas room was lovely, the lights twinkling off the inviting fountain. The room itself had two double beds, a television in an armoire with three drawers, table with two chairs, single sink vanity, and bathroom. Other amenities in the room included a four-cup coffee maker with regular and decaf coffee packets, a wall-mounted hair dryer, an iron and ironing board, and a small wall safe.

We changed rooms the next day -- we simply stowed our bags in the Luggage Storage area just to the right of Panchito's before heading out for the day, then retrieved them and were shown to our room in the Cabanas when we returned from the parks that afternoon.

Our rooms in the Casitas Building 1 and Cabanas Building 9B were nearly identical. The floor plan and furnishings were the same -- more than adequate for a family of four. The decor of the rooms was slightly different, however. In the Casitas, our room was decorated with the traditional colors of the Southwest -- shades of burnt oranges, dark greens, blues and browns. The headboards were more angular in shape, with almost an Aztec feel. The four-story Casitas buildings are accented with lots of lush palms and courtyards with inviting fountains.

In the Cabanas, we found a similar color scheme, with a slightly heavier emphasis on the blues and turquoises, which tied into the area's theme of representing Mexico's coastal regions. Our ground floor room, like many of the rooms in the Cabanas buildings, had a water view, although instead of fronting the gorgeous Lago Dorado, we overlooked the smaller offshoot of the lake that faced more toward El Centro. Just a few hours in two-story Building 9B quickly revealed why this is the most requested cluster. We were a mere 144 steps from the main bus stop (according to my 11-year-old son) and just a few more steps beyond that brought you to El Centro.

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The Maya Grill is the sit-down restaurant at Coronado Springs, and, as the name indicates, its decor is marked by Mayan and Mexican influences. Tall columns topped by faux flames give the spacious restaurant an almost majestic air, and the combination of tables and booths provide adequate intimacy in an open space that could easily seem cavernous and cold. Rich earthtones add warmth to the room, enhanced by the colorful border that runs around the perimeter of the room.

The menu, however, reflects the fact that this restaurant services the convention trade that frequents this resort -- don't come here expecting typical American-Mexican restaurant fare of fajitas, burritos or even chicken mole. Steaks, steaks and ribs is what you'll find, with a seafood entree, a "catch of the day", a grilled pork shop and a chicken entree to appease those who aren't looking for a big hunk of meat.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I love a good steak.

For my complete review of this restaurant, please visit:

NOTE: The Maya Grill also serves a standard breakfast buffet (waffles, cereals, pancakes, and eggs) every morning from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., $11.95 for adults, $6.95 for children.

The Pepper Market is the more casual dining option at this resort, and the way it operates is somewhat different from conventional food courts. Upon entering, each diner receives a card. Diners then visit the various food stations that are situated around the restaurant and choose what they want. There are stations for entrees, side dishes, beverages, and so forth. As the diner receives an item from the station, the card is stamped. After dining, the diner takes the card (or cards, if there were several guests in the party) to a cashier who tallies the bill total. A 10 percent service charge is automatically added to the bill, since there are Cast Members who set and bus tables, as well as fill water glasses. Some folks find this objectionable, but it doesn't seem out of line to me.

Food selections at Pepper Market range from the ordinary -- like omelets at breakfast and pizzas at dinner -- to the ethnic burritos and fajitas served at lunch and dinner. Food quality is above average, and prices are very reasonable.

We found the Pepper Market to be a bustling place - one night at 8 p.m. the line to get in was so long it extended nearly into the main lobby. (Trust me, that's a pretty long line.) But we also passed by at breakfast when there was no one in line at all.

La Tienda, the convenience store tucked into a small space adjacent to the Pepper Market, is the perfect place to grab a quick bite or drink. One day, when we didn't want to take the time for a long lunch, we found perfect box lunches in La Tienda -- ham and cheese sandwich with fruit ($5.50) or a chicken Caesar tortilla wrap with chips ($5.99). (There was also an assortment of salads and other sandwiches.) In the mornings, there's a sampling of cold cereals, fruit, milk, juices, sweet rolls to take away. Just pick up what you need and then head back to your room to eat in air-conditioned comfort, or go outside near the Marina to eat at one of the umbrella tables overlooking Lago Dorado.

Finally, if you need to nibble while you're at the main pool, Siesta's Pool Bar and Grill features the usual hot dogs, cheeseburgers and nachos, as well as a variety of beverages and ice cream.

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Wandering around the grounds of this sprawling resort reveals all sorts of little secrets -- there are beautiful red, yellow and pink hibiscus at every turn, hammocks scattered around the lake's sandy beaches, quiet pools tucked in the center of each of the three main sections.

More obvious is the well-known impressive main pool complex called the Dig Site. The focal point is the Lost City of Cibola pool, which features a Mayan Temple, from which water cascades on sunny days. The pool's water slide is closely guarded by a jaguar who has been known to spit at passers-by. A spacious hot tub (spa) sits on one side of the pool, a shallow kiddie pool sits on the other, with a spouting fountain in the center. To the left of the temple is the Explorer's Playground for the little ones, featuring a sand pit, a jungle gym, slide, swings, and a stone Mayan head to crawl around. The Iguana video game arcade features the latest in high tech games, while the nearby volleyball court awaits the more active. Tucked behind the pool is a short Nature Trail amid trees and other plantings that's worth exploring, too.

Back at El Centro, there's another arcade for kids -- Jumping Beans. And if you want to get a little more active, you can stop by the Marina for a variety of choices. There are bicycles and surrey bikes to rent, as well as canopy boats, kayaks, pedal boats, and water mice for cruising around the lake. You can even get a cane fishing pole, to lazily sit lakeside and hope for a nibble.

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My 11-year-old, Alex, enjoyed his stay at the Coronado Springs as much as his parents did. As he said, "It's like being in Mexico while you're in Florida. You almost feel like you're in the time of Coronado."

He spent some time checking out the arcades and rated them first-class, but, sadly, didn't get much pool time -- there's always just TOO much to do at Walt Disney World! He thought the theme of the Dig Site was great, and loved strolling around the grounds, looking at the "scenery" as he put it, and just checking things out -- especially the little lizards! He even noticed something that I had overlooked: the ambient Mexican-style music that's played in the El Centro area, adding to the theming in a subtle way. He rated the restaurants "excellent" with a good variety of food and nice atmosphere, and thought the rooms were "superbly" decorated and more than big enough to lounge around in. Although there are no planned activities for children, Alex said he had a terrific time at Coronado Springs and found plenty to keep him occupied. He said he'd love to stay there again so that he could have some more time in the "cool pool" and maybe try a pedal boat.

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I found the staff at Coronado Springs to be exceedingly helpful and accommodating of even some strange requests, and I did not feel that the conventioneers interfered with my enjoyment or detracted from the Disney Magic in any way. In fact, four nights was just not a long enough stay to take advantage of all the amenities this lovely resort has to offer. I never had the chance to try La Vida Health Club, for instance, or have a drink at Francisco's, the spacious lounge located in El Centro. As for my concerns that Coronado Springs' location would be inconvenient, that was definitely not the case -- bus service here was extremely efficient, and getting around was not a problem.

Coronado Springs is beautiful resort, with plenty to do, plus a few benefits (the health club, beauty salon, water activities on the lake) that you don't get at the other moderate Disney resorts.

I would say that families considering this resort for their next stay do so without hesitation -- I'll certainly consider it for my next trip.

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As you may recall, I asked ALL EARS® Readers for questions about this resort before I left. I tried to answer as many as I could:

Muriel wondered: Do all of the staff at this resort, particularly in the Market restaurant area, speak Spanish? Or conversely, do you have to speak Spanish to work at this resort?

ALL EARS: No, according to several Cast Members I spoke with, Spanish is not a requirement to work here, although a number of Cast Members are from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries.

Peg asked: I had been told by a Florida resident friend to avoid Coronado Springs, as it was very noisy due to it being a convention type resort. Is this the norm? or was it just a one time thing that she experienced? It looks like a beautiful place. Thanks for any info.

ALL EARS: There were several fairly large groups convening during our visit -- the National Barbie Collectors of America, the Alabama State Bar Association -- but we didn't find it to be noisy at all. I would imagine that it could be noisy in the restaurants or bar area if there were a large gathering, or that the pool area might be noisy if there were a sudden influx of conventioneers, but we didn't find noise to be an issue at all.

Rush checked in with several questions: The distances from the main building to the rooms seems to be quite distant -- any shuttles, water taxis, etc.? Does this really have some of the most punctual/convenient bus service to places on property? At the Poly, they "Aloha" you, at the Animal Kingdom its "Jambo", is it "O-la" all the time here?

ALL EARS: First of all, there are no water taxis at the resort, but Cast Members will be happy to take you from Registration to your room via a nifty little golf cart. As far as Disney transportation goes, we found it to be very efficient from CS to the theme parks, and never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus. And yes, just about everywhere I went I was greeted with a cheery, "Hola!"

Kathy T. and many others were worried about distances around the resort: We have a trip booked for Early October and are staying at Coronado Springs. My husband, our two children and I are meeting Grandma and my sister there. Grandma is in her mid-70s so I am looking for easy walking to bus stops/food court/and quiet pool if possible. Bus and food court are the most important. I you can give us any advice it would be appreciated, especially by Grandma's feet!

ALL EARS: I took a stroll around Lago Dorado one night, clocking distances with my trusty pedometer. Walking strictly along the trail that follows the water's edge, I measured the perimeter to be about 1.1 miles. I'll admit my pedometer is not 100 percent accurate, but other distances I measured:

From El Centro moving clockwise around the lake to:
Casitas 3 = .16 miles
Casitas 4 = .24 miles
Casitas 5 = .27 miles
Ranchos = .46 miles

From El Centro to the Dig Site, via the bridge near the Cabanas = .35 miles

From El Centro moving counterclockwise around the lake to:
Cabanas 9B = .16 miles
Cabanas 9A/8B = .22 miles
Cabanas 8A = .31 miles

I'd suggest that you request a building in Cabanas 9B or Casitas 1 or 3 to be near El Centro and its bus stop; request Casitas 4, Ranchos 6A or 7B, or Cabanas 8A to be near the other bus stops.

EHBerube also had a number of queries: How does The Dig Site Pool compare to other WDW resort pools, especially Stormalong Bay? Are the food options at the food court & restaurant able to satisfy small, picky eaters (namely children under 15 years)?

ALL EARS: The Dig Site is smaller than Stormalong Bay (at the Yacht and Beach Club resorts), but it is a very beautiful pool complex. As mentioned in the article above, there is a fun water slide, a gorgeous temple at the center, a hot tub, and a separate kiddie pool area. I like it better than other resort pools, but, obviously, if you like Stormalong Bay, it's not quite going to measure up exactly.

My 11-year-old son is reasonably easy to feed, but I don't think that even picky eaters will have trouble at the CS restaurants. The Pepper Market in particular has such a variety of foods -- from traditional Mickey waffles and eggs for breakfast, to pizzas and hot dogs for lunch and dinner -- that I don't think young diners will have trouble.

Rose B. from Albany, NY: Could you find out which buildings are closest to the main building and offer a water view?

ALL EARS: The ideal location for your needs seems to be Cabanas Building 9B - most rooms have water views and it is just a few minutes' walk to El Centro, which houses Registration, Guest Services, Panchito's gift shop, and the restaurants. Be sure to request a water view when you make your reservations.

K. Abell asked: Does the resort offer any evening child care at the resort? Are there any special activities that the resort is willing to assist with to celebrate a special event, such as our 10th anniversary?

ALL EARS: Even though this is a convention resort, it is still a moderate resort, and as such does not offer any child care facilities. You may, of course, hire a babysitter to come to your room or use one of the Child Care centers located at one of the deluxe resorts. See our Child Care FAQ ( for more information about child care solutions. As to your second question, most Disney Cast Members are happy to play a part in special celebrations -- the best thing to do is to ask upon your arrival.

Caroline M., from Lakeside, Connecticut voiced the concerns of many readers: I am staying at CS mid-August with my nephews who are 5 and 7. I have been to WDW about 15 times but never have stayed on-site or gone with children. Do you have any suggestions on what building to stay in and anything special for the boys to do while they are there?

ALL EARS: My 11-year-old found plenty to keep him amused during our down times at the resort. Aside from the amazing Dig Site pool complex, there are quiet pools in each of main sections of the resort. There are also two video game arcades -- one in El Centro, the other near the Dig Site -- so bring plenty of quarters! There are also surrey bikes and regular bikes available to rent, as well as other water craft and fishing poles at the Marina.

AllisonG and several others asked: Is it truly as hot and 'desert-like' as some people say? I live in South Florida and am used to the heat, but not the lack of humidity. Will it be that uncomfortable? unbearable?

ALL EARS: There is PLENTY of greenery around this resort -- it's very beautifully landscaped. Red, yellow and pink hibiscus are everywhere, as are numerous other plantings (I wish I knew all the names!). The only area that might be considered "desert-like" is that of the Ranchos buildings, which are themed to represent the more arid, rural areas of the Southwest and Mexico. I walked around the lake several times -- in the early morning, in late afternoon, and at night -- on days when the temperatures and the humidity were in the 90s, and I never found it to be any hotter than any other place in central Florida under those same conditions.

Elizabeth asked: I've heard that Coronado Springs has a few suites available. I'd like to know more about them: cost, size, number of rooms in each, how many are available, what they look like, their amenities, etc.

ALL EARS: There are executive suites available at Coronado Springs, but I was not able to tour any this trip. According to the resort literature, though, they each have among their amenities a whirlpool, fax machine and wet bar. The rates are as follows: Double Junior Suite, $275-$410; King Junior Suite, $300-$440; Double One-Bedroom Suite, $560-$750; King One-Bedroom Suite, $560-$750; Executive Two-Bedroom Suite, $835-$1105. I found some nice photos of a Coronado Springs Junior Suite, essentially two connecting rooms, at this site:

Angela Nightingale wondered: I would like to know what the commute times are like to the parks.

ALL EARS: I very carefully checked the times between the parks from CS:

to the Disney-MGM Studios: less than 10 minutes
to Epcot: about 10 minutes
to Animal Kingdom: about 20 Minutes
to Magic Kingdom: about 20 minutes
to Blizzard Beach: about 5 minutes
NOTE: A side trip to Blizzard Beach is often added to the Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios routes - this will add at least 5 minutes to the trip.

Susan Snyder: I'd like to know if there are vegetarian options at the Maya Grill. It sounds like a place we'd like to eat at, but we've never made the trip over there because we didn't see anything on the posted menus.

ALL EARS: Well, there's nothing specifically vegetarian on the menu -- it's really a meat and potatoes kind of place. But there is a note on the menu that says, "Please ask server for vegetarian alternatives," so it sounds like they'd be willing to accommodate you.

Charles F. Waters: My questions are about the handicap accessibility of the Coronado Springs: Number of rooms available, services offered for wheelchair-bound people.

ALL EARS: There are about 100 rooms accessible to disabled guests. All the pathways are fairly even, and there are ramps for wheelchair access around the walkways and in the main building. The main Dig Site pool, as well as each of the quiet pools, are also wheelchair accessible, with a place for wheelchair users to enter the pool, with an additional railing.

Fran asked: We are staying at Coronado Springs next month. Last time we were there, there was a bus from Coronado Springs directly to Boardwalk and then on to Downtown Disney after 4 p.m. I guess they had that bus for the conventioneers after their daily workshops. Is that bus route still available? If not, what is the easiest bus route to those locations? Also, do they still have breakfast items available at the snack shop at the Dig Site?

ALL EARS: There is no longer a direct bus to the Boardwalk, unfortunately. To get to the Boardwalk from CS, the best thing to do is to take the bus to the Disney-MGM Studios and either walk (it's not quite a mile) or take a bus. There is a bus to Downtown Disney throughout the day -- until 2 a.m. To answer your last question, Siesta's at the Dig Site is only open for lunch and light snacks, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Carol asked: We stayed at Coronado Springs about 5 years ago for one night and absolutely loved it. We have always wanted to stay again. I would like to know if they still have someone near the pool area with a telescope, teaching astronomy. My husband and I stopped and spoke with the gentleman for a few minutes and it sparked an interest and my husband bought a telescope when we got home.

ALL EARS: Cast Members only recall this type of activity quite a while ago, during either a holiday or special event.

Kelly queried: The one thing I've wanted to know is whether there are bridges (for shortcuts) over some of the water areas. Or do people who are staying in the Casitas have to walk ALL the way around the lake to get to the themed pool?

ALL EARS: The answer is yes, they have to walk, but there is one "shortcut" -- it runs from the Cabanas area over the lake to close to the Dig Site. If you're staying in the Casitas and walking clockwise around the lake to get to the pool, you're in for a 10-minute walk (around a mile).

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Related Links
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For more about Coronado Springs, check our updated Resort Fact Sheet:

For some recent photos, be sure to visit our resort photo gallery:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.