Disney Explorer’s Lodge at Hong Kong Disneyland

By Mike Schiller
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the September 18, 2018 Issue #991 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.


I’ve written in the past about how I’m lucky enough to have a job that takes me around the world, providing me with the opportunity to visit all of the international Disney theme parks on a regular basis. I recently had the opportunity stay at Hong Kong Disneyland’s new Disney Explorers Lodge and thought that other All Ears readers might enjoy hearing about it.

I’ve also written about how I’m on a quest, decades in the making, to stay at every Disney-owned hotel around the world. I’m very close to achieving that milestone, so you can imagine my frustration when the Explorers Lodge opened a mere month after I last visited Hong Kong, in March 2017. (And yes, I’m aware that that just might fit the definition of a ‘first world problem’.)

So, I’ve been anxiously awaiting my next opportunity to return to Hong Kong, and that opportunity presented itself in August of this year. I was passing through on my way to other destinations and arranged to overnight there. It was going to be a short stay (less than 24 hours total at the resort before having to head back to the airport) but I was excited to check out the new hotel (plus visit the park, of course).

The Basics

Disney Explorers Lodge opened on April 30, 2017 and at 750 rooms is the biggest hotel in the Hong Kong Disneyland resort. It is physically situated in between the other two resort hotels – the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel. The three hotels are lined up in a row, with the front of each hotel facing towards the park (about a 10-20 minute walk depending on which hotel you’re occupying) and the back of each hotel facing Discovery Bay, providing a nice scenic view onto the water.

The property has a unique layout. Branching off from each corner of the lobby building is a long wing containing guest rooms. And then two of those wings (the ones branching off from the back corners of the lobby) further branch off into two additional wings of guest rooms. This means there are a total of eight wings of guest rooms, with four directly connected to the lobby.

The decor of each wing is themed to Asia, Oceania, Africa, or South America, generally depending on which garden it faces (more on that later). So overall there are four themes for eight wings of buildings, meaning there are two wings for each theme.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, ‘the story behind the resort hotel takes place in the grand era of exploration and tells of four explorers who built a lodge based on their adventures around the world, adding their own artifacts and specimens gathered during their lifetime of travels. The hotel is inspired by the explorers’ travels to an African savannah, a South American rainforest, a Polynesian island paradise and an area inspired by the natural beauty of Asia.’

The Lobby

Hong Kong Disneyland Explorers Lodge

Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately sold on the hotel. The lobby reminded me of two of my favorite Disney resort hotels – Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge. Like those two hotels, Explorers Lodge has a large, grand lobby (although admittedly not as large and grand as the two in Orlando), with a high ceiling and lots of sitting areas.  I guess if you put ‘lodge’ in the name of your hotel, the rule is you have to create this sort of lobby.  Works for me, and they can create as many lodges as they’d like.

My check-in experience was smooth and seamless, but that’s the advantage of checking in after 10p.m., when the lobby area is deserted and peaceful. The cast members were friendly and helpful and did a nice job of answering my questions and orienting me to the hotel. I did walk through the lobby the next day at check-in time and it was the opposite of deserted and peaceful. The line to check in was massive and the lobby was noisy and crowded. But that’s probably the case at 3p.m. at any Disney hotel. Explorers Lodge does provide an online check-in option, and I noticed that guests who had taken advantage of that option had a separate and much-shorter line available to them.

But getting back to the evening I arrived, after checking in and getting a quick bite to eat, I spent some time exploring the lobby. And there’s a lot to explore. Scattered throughout the lobby are multiple artifacts, ostensibly discovered during the above-mentioned explorers’ travels. You’ll find everything from Indian Nandi wooden temple toys to ceremonial paddles from Easter Island. There also are books from the explorers’ library, each containing clever puns in their titles and author names. If I had only been smart enough to take a picture of some of them, I might have been able to share some examples with you. But just pretend that I did and that you’re quite amused by their cleverness.

And you’ll also find steamer trunks that have been packed by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy, each containing items appropriate to their personalities. For example, Goofy’s trunk contains his flight instructors license, an old-fashioned aviator’s outfit (with Goofy-sized shoes), and a map of his route to Asia, which seems to not follow the most direct route. Inside Mickey’s trunk, you’ll find Duffy (his teddy bear), a captain’s outfit, and a framed photo of Mickey as Steamboat Willie.

Even the check-in area is interesting. Behind the counter is a massive map of the world, with markings and pictures indicating highlights from the explorers’ adventures. I’m sure the cast members enjoyed having me hover around them as I examined the map but they were nice enough not to shoo me away.

The hotel’s gift shop, the Trading Post, is located off of the lobby and contains your usual assortment of Disney merchandise, including some Explorers Lodge merchandise.

Finally, at the back of the lobby is an area referred to as Dreamers Spring. It contains some more artifacts, a table where I imagine there are kids’ activities during the day, some comfortable chairs, a big window overlooking the pool area, and what I’m guessing is Dreamers Spring: a rock outcropping containing water and featuring some audio and visual effects.

The lobby area gets a grade of A from me. It’s beautifully decorated and themed, comfortable, and contains lots of interesting details to explore and study.

The Gardens

Hong Kong Disneyland Explorers Lodge

One of the signature features of the hotel is the presence of four themed gardens that you can enjoy as you stroll the property. Just like with the various wings of the hotel, each garden has a theme: Asia, Oceania, Africa, or South America. Two are on one side of the hotel and two are on the other side of the hotel (with the pool area being directly behind the hotel). Each garden is named after a Disney character affiliated with that part of the world. If you take a birds-eye view of the hotel, we’ll start at the ‘top’ and work our way counter-clockwise.

That means our first garden will be the Asia Garden, also called the Hathi Jr. Garden (named after the young elephant from The Jungle Book). This is the largest of the four gardens, containing a large open grassy area with an ‘ancient’ statue from the region. Stairs take you up to a nice courtyard featuring a fountain surrounded by topiary Hathi Juniors, each spraying water into the fountain from their trunks.

Next is the Oceania Garden, also called the Little Squirt Garden (named after the small turtle from Finding Nemo). This is one of the two smallest gardens and, in my opinion, was the most nondescript. It contains some tropical trees and some surfboards sticking out of the ground.

After passing through the pool area, we come to the Africa Garden, also called the Rafiki Garden (for the simian from The Lion King). This is the second of the two smallest gardens and also my favorite garden. It’s made to look like an African Savannah, including a fire pit and some impala sculptures.

Finally we come to the South America Garden, also called the Kevin Garden (named after the bird from Up). This is the second largest of the four gardens and is a pleasant place, with clusters of trees surrounded by grassy walking paths. You can also see Kevin’s claw-prints embedded in the ground, allowing you to track where he has been.

The decor of the outside of the buildings changes as you go between the garden areas, matching the region of the world that you’re in.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring these gardens and thought they helped the hotel be an attraction in and of itself, as opposed to just being a place to stay. My only complaint was that you couldn’t walk around to the front of the hotel and make a complete circle. My walk reached a dead end when I got to the Asia or South America gardens, forcing me to double back.

As is typical for Disney, they also do a nice job setting the mood with music, with the soundtrack changing as you move between gardens. And as I was doing my initial exploration after my late-evening arrival, I also found out that they turn off the music at around 11:10 p.m. I was enjoying exploring the gardens, being the only person out there, and then halfway through my journey, all became quiet. It’s amazing how the music helps create the atmosphere and how different it seems once they turn it off. Fortunately I had time the next morning to go back out and explore the gardens in the daylight (and with music).

The Pool Area

Directly behind the hotel is the area containing Rain Drop Pool. This area reminded me of a scaled-down version of the pool area behind Aulani. It’s very pretty and is basically a fifth garden area (and in fact would be the largest of the garden areas), with walking paths leading through rock formations and caves. At night, the rocks are nicely lit with lanterns and twinkling lights. And if you walk all the way to the back of the area, you can walk through the hotel property’s rear entrance to the promenade along the Discovery Bay waterfront.

I didn’t experience the pool itself but it looked nice enough, with private cabanas on one side that I assume can be rented for the day.

The Guest Rooms

I stayed in what was called a Deluxe Room. As far as I can tell, being in a Deluxe Room just means you’re on the 2nd-6th floors. The 1st floor is apparently the location of Standard Rooms, I guess because they have no view. And then Premium Rooms are on the 7th and 8th floors. From the website, I can’t tell that there’s any difference between the different room categories beyond the location.

The room contained two queen beds and was of moderate size. It certainly wasn’t a suite, but it didn’t feel small either. The room contained the Disney theming touches that we all enjoy. For example, above each bed was an African-style mask, one of Mickey and one of Minnie. And the lights beside the beds appear to be gas-lit lanterns.

I also enjoyed exploring the hallways, where the theming changes based on which wing you’re in, such as the overhead lights in the Africa wings being decorated with Rafikis and the overhead lights in the Asia wings being decorated with Hathi Juniors. Also, at the intersections of the wings, you can find more artifacts from the explorers that founded the lodge. My favorites were African shadow puppets of Mickey, Minnie, and Donald.

Even the elevator car was themed, being made to look like some sort of steam-powered contraption, complete with various gauges and knobs (and hidden Mickeys).

Finally, I enjoyed the fact that the hallways near the lobby on the lower levels actually open up over the lobby, providing for a nice view.

The Restaurants

Hong Kong Disneyland Explorers Lodge

Explorers Lodge has three dining areas: two table-service and one quick-service restaurant, all right next to each other on the floor below the lobby level. During my short stay at the hotel, I was able to experience all three, to one extent or another.

Dragon Wind is their traditional Chinese restaurant (and one of the two table service restaurants). Per the website: ‘Savor the tastes of ancient wisdom with signature delights from rural and classical Provincial China, with culinary styles and layout inspired the Five Elements.’ The website also promises, ‘Taste the wisdom of ancient imperial China’. I mean, who doesn’t want to taste wisdom?  Count me in! All of that, plus their website had a whole section advertising the addition of ‘Dragon Wind Spicy Anchovy Sauce’ on February 1 of this year. Imagine my frustration had I been there on January 31…

I had a reservation set for 9 p.m. on my check-in day, giving me five hours of slack time should there be flight delays. Surely that would be plenty, right? But when flight delays caused me to check in at 10 p.m., I had missed my reservation and, given the short duration of my stay, thought I had missed my opportunity to experience the restaurant. But after checking in, I rushed downstairs, bags and all, arriving at their doors at 10:15 p.m. I saw that they closed at 10:30 p.m. but explained my heartbreaking story to them and asked if I could come in and just order a quick appetizer or something. They were impressively friendly and accommodating, inviting me in and saying that I was welcome to order a full meal if I wanted to. But having worked in a restaurant in my youth, there was no way I was going to do that to them, when I knew they were all ready to clean up and go home. But I appreciated the gesture.

The restaurant decor was nice, with the highlight being a Chinese dragon kite looping across the ceiling. One of the walls is decorated in traditional Chinese pencil and ink drawings of flowers and mountains and birds and such. And one side room has a dragon painting.

As for the food? Since all I ordered was a quick bowl of fried rice with chicken, I can’t really say. What I had was rather bland and I lost interest about halfway through. I was impressed that the cast members noticed that I didn’t eat that much and were concerned, approaching me as I was leaving and wanting to know if everything was OK. I of course didn’t want to make them feel bad so just gave the ‘no, no, it was great; it’s just a lot of food and I’m full’ line. (Hopefully they don’t read this newsletter, or my white lie will be for naught.) Seriously though, I was impressed by the friendliness and accommodating nature of the cast members.

The other table service restaurant is World of Color, and I had a reservation for breakfast there the following morning. Their website advertises: ‘Discover the tastes of new and old worlds, spice and herbs, ancient and new cuisines with textures and flavors from across the Seas, Islands and Continents.’

With a name like World of Color, I expected it to be themed to the old weekly Disney show. But there was no connection. The theme of the restaurant was related to colorful bugs and flowers and plants from around the world, with display cases located throughout the restaurant. Breakfast was a buffet with a large variety of food, including plenty of Mickey-shaped items (and after all, aren’t Mickey-shaped items the highlight of any Disney breakfast buffet?).  The food was good. The service, not so much. The cast members were the opposite of those at Dragon Wind. They all seemed bored and not one of them was engaging or friendly to the customers.

If they combined the cast member attitude from Dragon Wind with the food from World of Color, they would have one great restaurant. (Although again, to be fair, my food experience at Dragon Wind was so limited that I don’t really have an informed opinion.)

Finally, in between the two table service restaurants sits Chart Room Cafe, serving a variety of counter service items. Seating is in an open area between the three restaurants, with a view onto the pool area. My experience dining at Chart Room Cafe consisted of ordering and drinking a Coke prior to heading to the airport, after spending the day at the park. While the quality of the bottle of Coke they sold me was simply outstanding, it’s probably not enough to give me any insight into the quality of their food. I will say that they had various bakery items on display that were expertly decorated with fun Disney themes.

The Summary

While my stay at Disney Explorers Lodge was short (I literally checked out 11 hours after I had checked in), it was enough for me to have a new favorite Hong Kong Disneyland resort hotel. As nice as the other two hotels are, the combination of Disney theming and storytelling, along with there being plenty to do and explore, makes Explorers Lodge the place to stay when you’re in Hong Kong.

Disneyland Hong Kong's Explorers Lodge

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Several members of the AllEars® team have been to Hong Kong Disneyland over the last few years. You can read about their travels in our Hong Kong Disneyland blog archives HERE.

Asian Adventure: A Visit to Hong Kong and Tokyo

Other AllEars® Features by Mike Schiller:

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Iron Man Experience

A Preview of Tron’s Lightcycle Run

Tokyo DisneySea Nemo and Friends SeaRider

Mike Schiller


Mike Schiller is a frequent visitor to the six worldwide Disney theme park locations and is currently nearing the end of his long quest to stay at every Disney-owned hotel around the world (39 down, 3 to go). He lives in Dallas with his wife and two kids and is a published author as well as the Chief Information Security Officer at a Fortune 500 company. Mike also enjoys watching baseball in his spare time and has attended games at every major league stadium.



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.