I love Polynesian culture and specifically Tiki culture. I do not know if it was seeing a replay of Blue Hawaii at a certain age, or watching that Gilligan’s Island special when I was very young. You may remember it, or not, but it was an idea that the group of stranded islanders returned to modern society and opened a resort together. That resort had a lot of tiki decorations and art.
So, going to a resort with a Tiki theme excites me.
Video by Florida and Beyond
Day One Travel & Arrival at Diamond Resorts Liki Tiki Village
Today I drove from another resort extending my working vacation like a boss coming to this Tiki-themed resort. This is the kind of thing to help me relax and unwind. When checking in, I enjoyed everything having that Polynesian feeling and the staff was very nice and professional.
Sometimes you get to a resort and you can tell the staff has been through it that day. Here, the team looked genuinely happy. Which was nice to see and feel. Warm smiles, engaging little conversation, and attention to detail were all available to the staff.
Now I was already relaxed because I was, in effect, just transferring from another Diamond Resort to this one. From Kissimmee to Winter Garden is kind of like going from your hometown to the city or town right next door. It was very close.
If you are driving in from Orlando International Airport, here are the easy directions. Get on FL-417 Toll S from Jeff Fuqua Blvd. Follow FL-417 Toll S to W Osceola Pkwy in Osceola County. Take exit 3 from FL-417 Toll S. Get on FL-530 W/US-192 W. Merge onto FL-530 W/US-192 W. Turn right onto Bali Blvd.
Once I got to the room again, I was happy to see everything as it should be. I booked one of the 2 bedrooms because that is what is on offer here. I often feel guilty about all this space for myself. But such is the life of a travel writer getting on the road without much notice to bring family or friends along.
These rooms all have a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. I like having the washer and dryer in the room when I am on longer trips because I may want to wash my clothes a few times so I do not have to carry as much with me. Also, I love being able to get into a dry bathing suit the next day I go to the pool. The cold of a wet bathing suit in the AC is not an end-of-life experience, but it is nice to avoid that together.
You have a king-size bed in the master bedroom, two twins in the 2nd bedroom, and a pull-out bed as well. This means you can easily accommodate up to 6 in a villa here.
The kitchens have been updated, some with appliances that work fine, but are not last year’s model. I found everything in tip-top shape and in fine working order, and that is what is most important to me on a vacation. I want to be able to make breakfast, and another meal just as I would at home.
Also, given how expensive food can be in theme parks if you have the family with you, it can save a small fortune to cook one or more meals a day in the villa. Breakfast and dinner work well for that, then you can just snack in the parks or out and about.
Here the outdoor pools, especially the kids’ pool, are well-designed and built for hours of fun in the sun. That can be nice when you are on more of a budget this vacation as well. You do not have to go to a major theme park every day, spending hundreds per person. When you are here for a week that adds up. Instead, plan some pool days. This resort also has mini-golf, fishing, tennis, and a nice game room for the kids. So, there is plenty to do onsite.
- Cable TV
- Coffee Maker
- Ice Maker
Then the resort itself offers all of these options.
- Free WiFi
- Outdoor Pools
- Fitness Center
From check-in to check-out, we had such a great time and experience. The Front Desk staff was amazing and welcoming. The security guards were so friendly. We had a three-bedroom (adjoining room) and it was nice and clean and had everything we needed. The staff at the bar was great as well the pool for the kids was kept up nicely and the lifeguards were very attentive. We absolutely enjoyed our stay and cannot wait till our next visit!
I came here this past weekend with my 6-year-old son and we had a blast. I don’t really understand the bad reviews. The place is a paradise, especially if you have young kids. It was spacious and comfortable. I loved that we had a full kitchen and could prepare our own meals and coffee for me. The pools and amenities really made us feel like we were on vacation. We had so much fun playing mini-golf and the slides. The restaurant was good too. I loved the deep bathtub, which I enjoyed once my son fell asleep. The only thing I noticed was hair in the drain, which made it drain slowly. But with the crazy workforce situation at the moment, I am not going to take stars off for that! We will definitely book again.
We stayed at Liki Tiki for 7 days and had a blast. The rooms were clean and spacious. We had a 2 bedroom with a pullout couch. These condos are perfect for kids because they are upstairs/ downstairs. The 2 bedrooms are upstairs, the living room is downstairs. The only thing I would suggest is giving families more trash bags. We had 6 people and 1 bag for the week. We ended up just buying some. The resort has grills, mini golf, and 3 pools. The main lagoon pool has water slides that the kids loved, with lifeguards on duty. The other 2 pools have no lifeguards but did have smaller baby pools and hot tubs. Overall we had a blast and would recommend it, especially for families with children like us!
Day Two Wild Florida
Today I wanted to experience something other than the major theme parks. I really enjoy them a ton, but when you are in Orlando, there are a lot of alternatives as well.
Wild Florida is about 45 south of the resort and down I4 and offers many unique experiences. You can take an airboat ride or a drive-through safari. When you book the drive-through safari, you also get access to gator park.
My trip reminded me of my first trip to Florida with my father in the early 70s. Bush Gardens Tampa started largely as a drive-through nature park much like this safari. Here, there are over 150 wild animals that roam freely in giant enclosures and parts of a park. I was a little shocked that the drive-through charged per person rather than by vehicle, but the price was $33 for adults and $23 per child. You can also stop and feed the Giraffes for an additional $5. For me, the experience was less than $40. It would be a bit more for the entire family.
At least you know the money goes to supporting the animals in part and paying for their care.
You do get the gator park access as well and that was fun to see those powerful animals up close (but not too close). The park is open most days from 9 AM-6 PM with the last vehicles being allowed into the safari at 5 PM.
Day Three Sea World
Since I was in nostalgia mode remembering a trip, I took with my father, I decide to visit Sea World. Our trip when I was a child included Sea World and Bush Gardens in Tampa as well.
So, I thought it would be fun to spend today in Sea World and enjoy it all as a walk down memory lane as well.
SeaWorld Orlando is the forgotten child of the major theme parks in Orlando. This park doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. While this park can’t compete with the theme of Disney or Universal, it’s still a very nice-looking park with some elite attractions. And it has a big advantage over the big 2 lines. If you’re in Orlando and hate waiting, you may want to consider SeaWorld.
After the success of their San Diego and Ohio parks, SeaWorld wanted to build another park in the bustling Orlando market. Just two years after Walt Disney World opened, SeaWorld Orlando opened in 1973. It had the traits of their other parks- lush landscaping and lots of sea creatures.
The park was mostly about animal exhibits and shows.
In 1989, Anheuser-Busch purchased the SeaWorld parks, and they began their evolution into more traditional theme parks. SeaWorld Orlando kept the animals and shows, but they started adding mechanical rides in the 1990s. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch was acquired by Belgian-based In-Bev. This included all of Busch’s properties, including the Busch Entertainment theme park division. InBev quickly sold the theme park division to the Blackstone Group, which renamed Busch Entertainment as SeaWorld Parks.
I worked a summer at Bush Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia and it was a good childhood work experience.
The shows were modified to be more education and preservation based. SeaWorld Orlando also turned Shamu’s Happy Harbor into a Sesame Street area to utilize the chain’s most lucrative intellectual property.
But most importantly, SeaWorld Orlando started adding more rides, particularly roller coasters. And another is on the way in 2023 with Project Penguin, which is expected to be the first B&M surf coaster. SeaWorld Orlando is right in the middle of Walt Disney World and Universal, so it’s easy to access as part of an Orlando vacation. Many hotels have shuttles in the park. Or you can call an Uber or drive.
If you drive, know that you’ll have to pay $30 to park… unless you have a season pass. SeaWorld Orlando is one of the pricier parks out there, costing upwards of $120 per day without any discounts.
But if you buy in advance online, you can save $35-40.
I love this park’s appearance. It starts with the main entrance; you pass this picturesque lighthouse on the water and rocks. And it continues as you get deeper into the park. The park is bright and colorful.
Rides often sport fresh and vibrant paint schemes.
The park is extremely well-landscaped as well, with plenty of flowers, tropical trees, and a giant lagoon in the center of the park. I think it’s the best-landscaped park in Orlando. The park also compliments the natural beauty with some of the themes. While it can’t match Disney or Universal, it only adds to the already strong atmosphere. And several of the signature rides have musical scores pumping through the area as well, which is a really nice touch.
SeaWorld Orlando is a large park spanning 200 acres. The park is fairly easy to navigate since it mostly forms a giant loop around the lagoon. But there are two small downsides to the layout. One, there are a few narrow pathways that can get clogged up on busy days, particularly the bridge cutting across the lagoon. Two, the park is known to close off entire sections at once as construction and repainting are taking place.
Now let’s talk about the operations. Employees here are usually friendly and dispatches are usually pretty quick. I want to call out Mako’s crew in particular.
They have some of the fastest dispatches I’ve seen on any coaster and routinely roll trains.
The one coaster that has notoriously slow operations is Manta.
That ride always stacks, and the line moves at a snail’s pace. SeaWorld will usually run multiple trains on busy days, but they will sometimes run one train on quieter days outside of peak season. There are two downsides to this park’s operations. First, the park no longer publishes its annual maintenance schedule in advance. The park will update the rides page to state when an attraction is closed for a refurbishment, but you’ll have no notice if you’re planning a trip in the future.
You also need to pay attention if a ride is being repainted. With Manta earlier this year, the ride was open on weekends, but it was closed during the week for painting. There was no mention of this on the website. I only knew about it from some enthusiastic friends in the area.
Second, the park has staggered opening times.
In the past years, Mako would open an hour late. Mako now opens with the park, but their two newest rides Infinity Falls and Ice Breaker both open an hour late since they’re in the back of the park. Even on days when this park is swamped, ride lines are manageable if you have a good strategy.
The shows suck a lot of people out of ride queues. Most people head to Manta first, since it’s at the front of the park.
This is the coaster that routinely gets the longest line and it spikes early in the day. If you want to get a ride on Manta with no wait, you need to be one of the first people in the park. Otherwise, it’s smarter to return in the afternoon when the line dies down. I would then make a loop hitting Journey to Atlantis and Kraken. Kraken has a manageable wait most days because of its capacity, but the journey to Atlantis can generate a lengthy wait on a warm day.
I would then hit the Antarctica penguin exhibit since that is the one animal exhibit that can and often builds a line.
Once done, head towards Mako. If the back section hasn’t opened yet, ride Mako until it does. If the back section is open, I’d come back to Mako later since it usually has one of the shortest waits in the park because it’s a people-eater. Once the back section opens- again, it’s usually 1 hour after the rest of the park- I strongly recommend riding Infinity Falls as soon as possible.
This rapid ride routinely has the longest line in the park and it is prone to downtime. This line can often hit the hour mark if it’s a hot day, so this is your best time to ride it with a minimal wait. Lastly, you can then hit Ice Breaker. Despite being the new coaster, it has had manageable waits in my visits since it almost always has run two trains to this point, even on quiet days. You can then leisurely enjoy the rest of the day enjoying the shows, and exhibits, and re-riding your favorites.
If lines are an issue, you can purchase a Quick Queue skip-the-line pass. Prices fluctuate wildly.
They can be as low as $15 or as high as $100 depending on crowds. And if you have a Platinum Pass, you can get 50% off. Just note if your home park isn’t SeaWorld Orlando, you need to buy the Quick Queue in-person or over the phone to get the discount.
But if you’re pressed for time or visit on a busy day, this will get you onto most rides in a flash.
Come see Sea World all for yourself. Just stay at a great price on your accommodations through Tzort.