This may be the most underrated must-stay resort in Walt Disney World

The Dolphin may not get as much press as other Walt Disney World resorts, but there are good reasons why this place is the perfect spot for vacationers!
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a resort hotel designed by...
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a resort hotel designed by... / John Greim/GettyImages

Whenever Walt Disney World resorts are mentioned, most look at the big, flashy ones by the monorail or other spots. There’s the theming, the amenities, and even the cost, which all come into play. Yet somehow, one of the best WDW resorts keeps getting overlooked. 

The Dolphin.

I will fully admit to some bias here, as the Dolphin has been my family’s go-to WDW resort for years. That includes a 2022 visit my mom made there with her grandkids as we just enjoy it. We’re not alone, as the resort has a lot of fans who enjoy its location, its benefits, and more. Here are just a few reasons why the Dolphin should be better considered among the top WDW resorts!

A short history

First, a quick history. The Dolphin, with its sister resort, the Swan, opened in June of 1990, part of the massive resort expansion of Disney World. Both have similar looks with bold coloring, especially aqua-blue triangular roofs. Originally, the sloped roofs were to have fountains flowing, but it didn’t take long for Disney to realize the wind sent it splashing down on passersby, so it ended fast.

Both spots were built by Disney wanting to expand on convention halls for events. As part of that deal, they partnered with Sheraton and so, technically, the Swan and Dolphin are Sheraton resorts so folks who belong to the rewards programs with that company get special deals. 

While the Swan is nice, the Dolphin is really the star of the two resorts and little wonder it’s continued to attract guests almost 35 years later. 

The Look is beautiful

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a resort hotel designed by...
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a resort hotel designed by... / John Greim/GettyImages

The Dolphin just stands out with that architecture, highlighted by the massive Dolphin statues on the roof and the triangular tower bisecting the wide wings (which, ironically, would have better fit the Swan). The towers by the main entrance are also impressive, as well as the stunning fountain by the main entrance. 

The lobby is dominated by the fun fountain and a nice makeover, making it feel more vibrant, and the aquatic theme is top notch. There’s plenty of plush seating for anyone who wants to get a drink or some computer work, and it makes it among the more comfortable Disney resorts. It doesn’t have the massive character theming yet the Dolphin’s laid-back ambiance is a wonderful experience.

The rooms aren’t too fancy

Most of the Dolphins 1157 rooms are mostly standard, not too fancy but comfortable. The suites are terrific, often linking two rooms together with the Presidential and Governor’s suites as top-notch as any other Disney resort and the views are tremendous. The rates aren't too bad either as Shearton members can get a discount to make it a nice way to splurge on a deluxe resort.

The location is perfect

It’s the location that makes the Dolphin such a must-visit. It’s flawlessly set between Epcot and the Hollywood Studios, as guests can take a water taxi to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot or even walk there. Likewise, there’s a water taxi to the Studios and a short walk to the Skyliner for further access to the other parks. 

There’s also easy walking to the Boardwalk for some fun eats and nighttime entertainment and a prime spot for the fireworks. The bus shuttles to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs are easy to use, as well as great parking. In short, it’s the perfect central location to plan your WDW trip around. 

The pool and spa are stunning

The Dolphin shares a pool area with the Swan and while it may not be at the level of some Disney resorts, it’s pretty great. The main three-acre grotto pool has a gorgeous cave area with a waterfall that kids love to explore and the lush foliage adding to the appeal. The waterslide is the topper with a nearby children’s pool is smaller yet fun with an adult pool not as busy for fun swimming.

The Mandara Spa is just the place to unwind with an Eastern Asian theme, from massages to tea garden, manicures and more. There’s also plenty to do with jogging trails, a health club, and an arcade, making it a great spot.

There’s so much for the kids

There’s a lot to offer the younger sect at the Dolphin. Camp Dolphin is a center for 4 to 12-year olds are given some great activities from artwork to special Disney movie nights and games. It’s the perfect place for the parents to drop off the kids while they enjoy a Disney date night.

There’s also a playground, arcade and it’s right by the Fantasia Gardens miniature golf course for some fun mini-golf. The Dolphin is seriously underrated in terms of kid-friendly WDW resorts. 

The dining has something for everyone

No matter what your dietary likes are, the Dolphin has something for you. The big push is Shula’s Steak House, named after legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, which boasts some of the best steaks in Disney World. The nearby bar is just the spot to watch your favorite sports games. 

Picabu (originally Tubbi Checkers) is an interesting mix of a cafeteria and sundries shop, the perfect place to get both a fast breakfast and snacks for the parks in the morning. The Garden Grove is a breakfast/lunch spot that’s modeled after New York’s Central Park, complete with a tree in the middle of the dining room and the resort’s character meal spot. For a fancier New York experience, try Il Mulino and its Italian dining in a setting straight out of a Manhattan eatery.

Kimono’s has won praise from the Orlando Sentinel as having the best sushi in the city, along with other Japanese treats. The Fountain is all about ice cream and some of the best float drinks in WDW. Todd English’s bluezoo has the renowned chef offering lovely seafood in an intimate atmosphere. For Mexican food, the Rosa Mexicano may have shifted its name a few times over the years but still has some great Mexican eats while Amare has some good Mediterranean food. 

There’s also the various bars and quick service of Grounds, Stir, Tangerine, Chil, Fuel and the Splash Pool Bar and Grill. Granted, the prices may be a bit higher but the quality is worth it. In short, guests at the Dolphin don’t need to find another place in Disney World to dine as this one resort is enough for any foodie. 

There are the usual Disney perks like early park access although you can’t charge to the room. Yet from the ambiance to the location, the dining options and the awesome views of the Epcot area, the Dolphin should be higher on the lists of the best Disney World resorts and make a trip to the parks even better.