Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground: Review and Guide

During one of our recent trips to Disneyland, we stayed at one of Disneyland's good neighbor hotels: the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. Read on to find out more about the hotel and my honest thoughts in this Howard Johnson Anaheim review and guide after staying there on our vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth.

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Overview of the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground

Fountain by lobby

The Howard Johnson's website lists their main facilities as including:

  • Mimi’s Cafe Restaurant
  • Complimentary iMac internet stations with printing
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi access in all rooms and public areas
  • Complimentary parking surrounding the entire property
  • 24-hour front desk
  • Games room, featuring electronic games as well as some classics like Foosball & Air Hockey!
  • Two coin-operated Laundromats
  • Water & soft drink vending machines throughout the property
  • Convenient shuttle stop & waiting area for all airport, tour and resort trolley busses
  • The Garden Pool – A secluded swimming pool surrounded by gardens and mature trees.
  • Castaway Cove– a water playground with slides, pirate ship with water cannons, and toddler play area.
  • On-site convenient store.

Their standard room amenities include:

  • HBO, Disney Channel, Nick Jr, ESPN & Golf Channel
  • Keurig coffee/tea maker
  • Free Wi-Fi internet
  • Free laptop safe
  • Hair dryer
  • Disney theming
  • Mini-fridge & microwave
  • Iron & board
  • Netflix, Hulu & Pandora
  • Double pillow-top mattress

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Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Review

Here is the full run down of my personal and honest experience with our stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground.

Check-In and Check-Out Process

The walkway from the lobby to the Castaway Cove playground (behind where I'm standing in this picture)

When we arrived at our hotel we were two hours early for our check-in time of 4PM. That was no problem at all and the friendly staff at the desk were able to check us in right away and give us our hotel key. This was a pleasant surprise as I was wondering if we'd have to store our luggage and kill time before check-in. Of course, early check-in is not guaranteed but it was a nice surprise.

I had requested a room with a pool side view through Get Away Today's site and we were indeed in a room facing the Castaway Cove water playground. My son was ecstatic- I was not so ecstatic once I realized how loud that made our room due to the noise by the pool. If I were to stay again, I'd prefer not to be by the pool. But my son was happy so that's half the point, right?

Check-out was an easy process even though it was quite busy when were checking out and had to wait in line. They desk staff got people out pretty quickly and we had no issues.

Our Hotel Room

When we stayed at the Howard Johnson it was prior to their room renovations that recently took place. Now many of their rooms are Disney themed and they've undergone a big face lift. We'll be sure to update this review when we see these renovated rooms!

Rennovated rooms with Mickey picture on the wall

One of their recently renovated rooms.

Our room was fairly in good shape when we stayed but I can see how a renovation was in order. You could notice some slight wear and tear in the rooms such as small stains in the carpet and outdated bathrooms.

Our balcony facing the Castaway Cove playground.

The rooms were bright and cheery with neat retro decor that just made me feel happy to be in them. The most important thing? They were clean and the beds were comfortable. That's always my two major necessities when I stay at any hotel for a Disney vacation.

Even though the website doesn't state a microwave in their list of room amenities, we had one in our room. So maybe it's not guaranteed for every room which is why it wasn't on the list. It was a pleasant surprise since I wasn't expecting one.

Overall, I enjoyed our hotel room and we found it to be inviting and comfortable.

Castaway Cove

Castaway Cove

This was definitely everyone's favorite part of our stay: the Castaway Cove water playground. My son absolutely loved this area- almost a bit too much! I could barely tear him away from it to go to the parks and that's saying something.

There's a big pirate ship that periodically dumps a bucket of water on the children that gather underneath which all the kids loved. You can climb up on top of the pirate ship and there are two water slides that come off of it. There are also water cannons surrounding the ship and water sprinklers to stand under.

The toddler area is large with a small wading pool and animal statues to climb on. Toddlers will have plenty to do here while parents relax.

The Castaway Cove also includes a hot tub which was heaven for me to rest my legs in after a long day of walking at Disney. The entire landscape of the Howard Johnson is lush and beautiful- the pool areas are no exception. We enjoyed this area- it was one of our favorite parts of our vacation.

Other Hotel Amenities

The Garden Pool

We didn't use the other amenities quite as often as we did the Castaway Cove but we did visit some of them.

Garden Pool

We only swam in the Garden Pool once during our stay but I can see why adults may prefer it over the Castaway Cove. This pool is in a much more secluded area of the hotel, away from the hustle and bustle of the lobby. It was quiet and calming. The pool has a shallow and deep end which allowed for more enjoyment for older kids and adults since the Castaway cove does NOT have a pool outside of the toddler wading pool.

Overall, we liked this pool for a nice break to relax in the afternoon from the parks. While Castaway Cove is great, it's also a bit chaotic and loud due to just the noise from the water playground and the laughter of the kiddos. The Garden Pool is an area for relaxing and it succeeded at that.

Market Store

We spent more money than I intended on originally in the Market Store. This well stocked gift shop/convenience store has everything you might need during your stay from food, alcohol, souvenirs, medicine, etc. Expect high prices for anything you buy in this store- everything was marked up heavily. That's not necessary a con of the Howard Johnson though, it's typical with most hotels especially in the Disney area.

I recommend finding a cheap store when you arrive to stock up on hotel snacks and drinks to avoid spending money in the market store.


We didn't spend too much time in the arcade but I was impressed by the time we did spend in it. All of the games were new and in working condition (which is not always the case with hotel arcades!) and there were also classics like foosball and air hockey.

The arcade is found across from the market adjacent to the lobby. What I liked about the arcade, as a parent, that it wasn't totally in plain view so I could sneak my kiddo around it if we were in a rush to get to the parks!

Jokes aside, it was a nice and clean arcade. We saw many families enjoying it and having fun.

Final Thoughts

Beautiful landscaping everywhere at this hotel.

Here are my general pros/cons of the Howard Johnson:


  • The Castaway Cove is a blast if you have kids. I could see some older kids, perhaps 12 and up being bored. But then again, we saw people of all ages playing not just small children.
  • The hot tub in the Castaway Cove was perfect for parents to enjoy while the kids played.
  • You can see the fireworks from the Castaway Cove playground area.
  • The landscaping at this hotel is amazing. Everywhere you look are beautiful palm trees, flowers, and more.
  • The hotel is within walking distance to the Disneyland front gates- about ten minutes or less.
  • There is an ART stop right out front if you want to rest your legs and take the buses to the parks.
  • The market had long hours which was helpful if we needed anything early or late in the day.
  • The rooms were clean and the beds were comfortable.
  • Our room had a small balcony which was great for hanging wet swimsuits, towels, etc
  • Price is reasonable for what you get with the Castaway Cove playground, very affordable for families.
  • Safety: we felt safe here and surrounded by families which is always a plus since I am a single mom traveling as the only adult with my child.


  • No on-site breakfast. Mimi's Cafe, their restaurant, is across the street and not too conveniently located to the rooms. We never ate there because of that and usually ate snacks on the way to the parks. Plenty of restaurants are located nearby.
  • We noticed that people often left the doors to the buildings open or propped up which worried me a bit in terms of safety. So if someone leaves the door open, anyone without a hotel key can get in the buildings.
  • The bathroom and room during our stay was a bit outdated. But now with their recent renovation this likely has been addressed.
  • Very popular- these rooms sell quickly through Get Away Today. Don't wait if you have your heart set on staying here!
  • If your room faces the Castaway Cove, it's very loud all day and night. The pool area stays open until 10PM so this was a bit inconvenient if we wanted to be asleep early to get up for the parks or if you have napping kids.

Giant chairs for photo ops.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. My favorite part about this hotel was the lush and beautiful landscaping all around the buildings. It really made you realize you were in on vacation in California! It was just stunning. My son's favorite part (you guessed it!) was the Castaway Cove. He was seven during our visit but he was still highly entertained by the water playground. I saw children as old as ten enjoying it so I don't think it's necessary just for small children. I was even chasing him around the pirate ship- it was a really enjoyable perk.

I would definitely stay here again- this hotel's beauty and fun atmosphere made this vacation extra memorable in our minds.

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About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the editor of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and writing Disney culture pieces on you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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