Coronado Springs: What a Difference 20 Years Makes

by Everett Stephens
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 12, 2017 Issue #951 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

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.

Coronado Springs Resort

I recently attended a conference that was held at Coronado Springs Resort, a resort that I remembered from a visit nearly two decades ago. While I was excited for the events planned for the gathering, my excitement began to wane as my memories of a visit to Coronado Springs years ago came to mind.

I arrived at Coronado Springs and passed the large sign. I was immediately surprised. A massive chain link fence covered in green scrim blocked everything from sight. My only indication of having arrived at the correct location was the roadside sign I had passed, and a road leading to the security station. Two huge cranes loomed to my right, reinforcing the feeling I could be in a construction zone instead of a resort. The security officer at the checkpoint reassured me that I was in the right place, and I pulled into the parking lot to register. The spacious porte-cochere was welcoming, with the smiling faces of several cast members acknowledging my arrival. A quick check in process followed, and I was on my way. Sporting my new MagicBand, I headed to my room in the Casitas.

In case you have not visited Coronado Springs, it is a large moderate resort themed after old Mexico and the southwest US. Open since 1997, it has nearly 2,000 rooms and suites divided into three sections circling a nearly 20-acre man-made lake. From a land standpoint, it is the largest resort on property. The lake and rooms are located to the north of the main building, El Centro. The three neighborhoods are referred to as the Casitas, the Ranchos, and the Cabanas. All have slightly different styling. Coronado Springs is the only moderate with a convention center, which is also the largest convention center on property. The standard room size is 314 square feet, which is pretty typical of the moderates. Coronado Springs has a generous allotment of accessible rooms.

Getting around the property from one side to the other can mean a walk of up to 1/2 a mile. This is dramatically different than Port Orleans – French Quarter, or even Port Orleans – Riverside where things are much more compact. El Centro and the feature pool (known as the Dig Site) are separate, so you can request a room closer to either location. I was near El Centro in the Casitas and was less than a seven-minute walk to the Dig Site. As I walked toward the Casitas I met several surprises along the way. Relaxing fountains are scattered throughout the resort, providing a natural music that is quite pleasing. The isolated courtyards of the Casitas seem to marry perfectly with the style of the water features, creating a wonderful atmosphere. Everywhere I looked, mature landscaping complemented the earthy tones of the Casitas. The age of the resort has allowed the landscaping to mature nicely, providing an easy transition from the manicured fountain areas into the balconies of the Casitas.

Upon reaching my room, I opened the door with a bit of hesitation. Would the room be as I remembered? My previous Coronado Springs room was dark and almost dismal, awash in oranges and teals, with dark wood everywhere. Imagine my surprise after opening the door when I walked into a clean, stylish, newly renovated room with hard surface floors and pleasant contemporary stylings. Two queen beds were simply clothed in white sheets, providing a bright counterpoint to the other natural tones scattered around the room. The two large headboards and white linens brightened up the room significantly. A combination dresser/entertainment center covered in light wood provided plenty of storage without overpowering the room. The granite counter on it was inviting and open. A large flatscreen TV was wall-mounted thus saving counter space. A Keurig coffee maker with real coffee cups was nearby. On closer look, the huge granite top of the dresser was ideal with plenty of space to spread out, place a suitcase or a laptop. Multiple USB ports were placed above the counter as well as by the headboards to quickly charge small electronics. Moving to the bathroom, there were two large sliding doors providing privacy from the sink area. Two separate sinks on a granite countertop had a small but handy shelf above them. It was well-lit, which would make for easy shaving or makeup application. The shower and toilet were separate from the sink area and would be convenient for a family to use. Water pressure in the shower was very good, with both a fixed head and a hand-held unit. Towels were within easy reach in both sink area and in bath area. While many hotel rooms resort to carpet for comfort, I appreciated the clean lines of the hard surface flooring and realized that it would take much more of a beating than carpet would and still look good. The room remodel was definitely a win!

Coronado Springs Resort

My room was one of about 800 in the resort that had been remodeled within the last 16 months. Disney plans on completing the renovation in the next year to 16 months. One thing I did note was how quiet the resort was. My family's favorite resort is the Polynesian, but it can be quite noisy at times with the nearby monorail, central pool complex, and two very popular restaurants. Not so here. Standing on the third floor of my Casitas building, I looked out over the lake and soaked in the comfortable, sedate feeling. Perhaps it could be a result of the relative remoteness of the resort, but it also could be that many of the courtyards and public areas are surrounded by two or three-story buildings, which add some sound blocking. Even the nearby construction wasn't intrusive. Isn't that what a resort should provide?

After unpacking, I ventured back to El Centro for a quick bite. The Pepper Market is a multi-station food court similar to The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge, or the Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation. Several food stations offer a variety of counter service style selections, with many selections having a Mexican flair. A nearby bar offered cocktails to order. I enjoyed a quick bite here, then wandered further to check out the grab-and-go Rix Cafe. Many options here for those in a hurry, from light breakfasts to sandwiches for lunch and dinner. While well-stocked with sandwiches, quick service items and drinks, this area could get congested should a large convention be booked at the resort. The adjacent Rix Lounge offers the opportunity to relax and grab an adult drink in a tasteful and relaxed environment. At the end of the hall was Maya Grill, a southwestern themed table service with some impressive reviews. Maya Grill has even more of a Mexican flair than the Pepper Market, and can turn out some tasty fare. The range of dining offerings at Coronado Springs suggests some blurring of the distinctions between a traditional Disney moderate and a deluxe resort. Coronado Springs can be thought of as more of a "deluxe style" moderate but lacking the typical deluxe price. All WDW resorts designated deluxe have a "Signature Dining" restaurant, which the Coronado Springs lacks, but that may not be a determining factor for many guests.

Venturing back outside, I took a walk over toward the Dig Site. I passed a surrey bike rental and was tempted… but only for a moment. To my right were the cranes that had greeted me, working on the 15-story tower. Situated to the right of the resort entrance, it's projected the tower will add upwards of 700 additional rooms. This location will be ideal for convention-goers since it is adjacent to El Centro and the Convention Center. While a gondola system connecting Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios has been announced, no formal announcement has been made whether Coronado Springs will be included in the loop. Perhaps Phase 2 of the gondola system will include a station at Coronado Springs.

Coronado Springs Resort

After a minor bit of wandering, I found the feature pool. It is not the largest on property, but certainly not the smallest. A massive Mayan pyramid features a waterfall that cascades down into the pool. An awesomely landscaped 123-ft. long water slide wanders through the landscaping behind the pyramid and splashes into the water adjacent to the tower. The pool is accessible but lacks the zero-entry area that many deluxe resort have. Shame I didn't have time to take a quick dip! And yes, the pool is heated. At peak season the pool could get a bit crowded, but it was nearly empty on this Thursday. It feels like a large pool, but still seems smaller than Big Blue at Art of Animation or the Pop Century pools are. A sand pit nearby for the young and almost-young was a nice addition for entertainment variety. A small arcade was adjacent to the pool for those seeking some electronic entertainment. A sand volleyball court was just outside the pool deck, closer to the lake. A poolside bar beckoned me, but since I was driving to the parks later I had to take a pass. Both are adjacent to the pool deck and easily accessible.

As I walked back to the room I stopped to admire the lake and the serene setting. The entire lake is encircled by either paved walkway or bridge and would make for a nice run or bicycle ride. From my room, the walk to the pool area was not bad. Perhaps only a seven-minute walk, but not one I would want to make several times in case I forgot something. Getting around Coronado Springs internally is relatively simple. However, it may take up to 15 minutes to walk from the southern end of the convention center to the other end of the resort. There is no internal bus system. Disney bus transport has four stops; one stop each at the Casitas, Ranchos, and the Cabanas. The fourth stop is at El Centro. The circuit does take a while due to the multiple stops, so off times such as mid-day can result in longer waits. If you are brave enough to bring a car you will be rewarded with easy commutes to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and even Epcot. Magic Kingdom is the farthest away, approximately a 10-minute drive to the TTC.

I was more than pleased with how Coronado Springs has matured. Perhaps I feel like I have not given it the credit it deserves in my prior trips to the World. As I mentioned, Disney has seemingly begun to blur the lines between the traditional Moderate resort and Deluxe Resort. It has amenities usually reserved for the deluxes, but falls short of the price point of a Deluxe that can be a barrier for many.

Walt Disney World has announced ambitious plans for updating the World for its upcoming 50th anniversary, and we are the beneficiaries. I hope you have the opportunity to give Coronado Springs a visit soon and that you enjoy it as much as I did!

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Coronado Springs New Tower Concept Art

Coronado Springs Resort Info Page

Coronado Springs Resort Video Overview

Other AllEars® features by Everett Stephens:

The Great Water Park Dilemma

Comparing the Disney Fantasy and Disney Magic

Fantastic Diversions

Berthing at Stone Harbor

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Everett Stephens

Everett Stephens lives in Southern Indiana with his wife and two children. They enjoy escaping to the World as much as possible, preferably to the Polynesian. And after all these years they still take their Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin scores waaaay too seriously.


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.