I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts of vacation planning is the “oohing” and “aahing” over hotel options. For me, the hotel is a big part of the escape. This is certainly true when I visit Universal Orlando Resort. It offers five spectacular on-site hotels—with a sixth on the way, Universal’s Aventura Hotel!—that offer all the comforts of home, terrific theme park benefits and even a few thrills of their own!
With each of them so close to the theme parks and the fabulous dining, shopping and nightlife at Universal CityWalk, vacationers are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the fun. So no matter whether you enjoy the romance of Italy at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, unleash your inner rock star at Hard Rock Hotel, savor the South Seas at Loews Royal Pacific Resort, drink in the flavors of the Caribbean at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort or dive into the ‘50s and ‘60s Florida beach town vibes at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, you’re going to have a fabulous time.
But which one is right for you? We’ve got a few tips to help you decide!
1. Factor in the time of year you are visiting.
If you’re visiting during a busier time—such as summer or around holidays—we highly recommend you stay at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel or Loews Royal Pacific Resort. These hotels offer Universal Express access. Universal Express means you can skip the regular lines at participating rides and attractions as many times as you want.
Each person staying at the hotel room receives free Universal Express access for Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure (valid theme park admission is required). After you’ve checked in at one of the participating hotels, head to the lobby where you’ll find the Universal Express kiosk and print your passes. They are valid every day of your hotel stay, including the days you check in and check out.
No matter when you visit, take advantage of Early Park Admission, which is available to guests of all the Universal Orlando on-site hotels.
Hotel guests get one-hour early admission to select attractions at either Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It will also include one hour early access to Universal’s Volcano Bay, which opens May 25. Valid theme park admission is required.
All the on-site hotels at Universal offer additional benefits, including complimentary transportation to the parks—by bus or boat—resort-wide charging privileges, hotel or room delivery of merchandise purchased in the theme parks and more.
2. Factor in your party size and how long you are staying.
If you’ve got a larger family or are planning a longer visit, you may want to consider the family suites at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. These affordable family suites come with mini kitchenettes, double vanity areas, and separate toilet and bath/shower areas. Best of all, they sleep up to six! Plus, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort just added brand new standard guest rooms and event 2-bedroom suites that sleep up to eight in an expansion consisting of two towers at the south end of the property – where some overlook Universal’s Volcano Bay. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort also has a dedicated walking path that leads to Universal’s Volcano Bay, so when you are planning water theme park days, it’s the perfect choice.
All of the other resort hotels offer standard rooms that typically sleep up to five with a rollaway bed, so they’re quite comfortable for most families. There are also larger suites available for those looking to stay with more than five people.
3. Get ready to soak up that Florida sunshine!
When it comes to my family and picking a hotel, nothing is more important than the pool. We often plan pool time right after we check in, then do short “pool breaks” in between theme park time and maybe a little unwind, hot-tub time at the end of the night. If you’re also a family of water lovers, you won’t be disappointed by any of the Universal Orlando on-site hotels.
All of Universal’s hotel pools are perfectly family-friendly with various water features and poolside activities. Still each pool has a distinct vibe:
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel ushers in the refined elegance of Italy to its three pools. Kids will love the sandy beach and Aqueduct water slide at its Beach Pool.
- Hard Rock Hotel (my favorite!) takes the show outdoors with its rockin’ pool scene. Enjoy the underwater speakers, live music, DJs, sand volleyball and the zippy 260-ft. pool slide.
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort offers a dip into paradise with its white-sand beaches and lagoon-style pool. On select evenings, vacationers can gather round for a fire dance and torch lighting ceremony.
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort brings the colorful, Caribbean vibes to its resort-style pool (the largest on property!) and sandy beaches.
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort presents plenty of play and rest with its lazy river, two zero-entry pools, dive tower-themed water slide and oversized water playscape.
4. Decide what else is important to you.
One of the benefits of staying on-site at Universal Orlando’s hotels is that it’s super easy to hop from hotel to hotel via water taxi, shuttle bus or a short stroll. No matter where you stay, you can escape to the Mandara Spa at Portofino Bay or take the whole family bowling at Cabana Bay. Moms and Dads can leave the kids at one of the on-site kids camps and enjoy a date night out. May I suggest Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at Royal Pacific? Plus, there is a dining shuttle that will take you to any of the on-site hotel restaurants.
Here are a few of the major selling points for each hotel:
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel – Picturesque Harbor Piazza re-creates the famed Portofino and comes to life each night with music from Musica della Notte; a mix of upscale, full-service restaurants and grab-and-go options; on-site Starbucks; food stations, live music and wine pairings in the Piazza during Harbor Nights.
- Hard Rock Hotel Orlando – Music memorabilia throughout the hotel; Sound of Your Stay program which lets you rock out in your room; monthly cocktail concerts in the lobby for Velvet Sessions; it’s closest to Universal Studios.
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort – Tranquil orchid court; Emeril’s Tchoup Chop; weekly Wantilan Luau; wide selection of craft beer; Jake’s Beer Dinner offers a five-course meal paired with specialty brews; it’s closest to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort – Nightly rum tastings at Strong Water Tavern; Caribbean Carnaval dinner show every Wednesday night.
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort – Fabulous food court and on-site Starbucks; original Jack LaLanne memorabilia at the fitness center; bowling alley; closest to Universal’s Volcano Bay.