The Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Hotels
So you’re here looking for a Guide to Universal Orlando hotels. You’re in the right place; we’ve stayed in all of them!
As you plan a fabulous vacation at Universal Orlando, you must make a few decisions. One of those decisions will include choosing the best hotel for your family. There are eight different hotels at Universal Orlando. This guide to Universal Orlando hotels should help you find the perfect one for your family!
Of course, I couldn’t write a guide to Universal Orlando hotels and only include basic information. So, be prepared to learn which Universal hotel is best. And which Universal hotels have express passes. I’ll even throw in a couple of the most often asked questions I have heard over the years.
When you’re done here, don’t miss our 2023 Universal Orlando Planning Guide.
First, though, let’s start with the names of the different Universal Orlando hotels.
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Universal’s Aventura Hotel
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
- Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites
Wow, that’s a lot of hotels! And we’ve stayed at them all!
Some of those hotels fall in the premier category. Other categories are preferred, prime value, and value. Let’s dive in and learn a little more about each Universal hotel.
Do I need a car in Orlando?
You’ll definitely need a rental car if you’re flying into Orlando. I recommend renting a car from Discount USA Car Rental. Whenever I need to rent a car, I use Discount USA Car Rental, whether I fly into MCO, SFB, or even Tampa. They have the best prices, and you don’t pay until you pick up your car.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is one of the premier hotels at Universal Orlando. An Italian theme is everywhere at this beautiful hotel on the water. When you are not at the theme parks, your time will be spent wandering along the cobblestone walkways. Or you might find yourself sitting under an Italian cypress tree.
And at night, it is all about the gelato and espresso, as live music plays in the Harbor Piazza.
The Italian theme continues in the suites and guest rooms at this Universal Orlando hotel. All the suites and rooms are quite spacious. You can look out towards the bay or the garden when reserving your accommodations.
The eight restaurants and lounges are great spaces to relax and unwind. Fun is everywhere at this hotel. However, the three themed swimming pools take the fun to the next level. One of those pools even has waterslides.
The kids will love the children’s activity center. And you will love to get a workout in at the fitness center unless you decide to be pampered at the Mandara Spa.
One last thing to note about this Universal Orlando hotel is the transportation options to the theme parks. You can easily walk to City Walk or take a water taxi there. If you are heading to Volcano Bay, you must take the bus.
Hard Rock Hotel
This is another one of the premier hotels at Universal. Hard Rock Hotel at Universal will have you thinking you traveled all the way to California, thanks to the Californian theme. That theme is carried into all the rooms and suites.
Families are encouraged to book the club-level rooms or suites. They offer extra perks like breakfast, snacks, and even drinks for the adults! If you have kids, you know that getting food included is worth a lot!
Each room overlooks either the garden or swimming pool. You get to choose, so you have the views you desire.
There are a few different restaurants at Hard Rock Hotel. Quick snacks and coffee can be found at Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace. And you don’t even need to leave the pool area when you’re hungry, thanks to the Beachclub.
Room service is also an option at this Universal hotel. So, when you are too tired, simply pick up the phone and have food delivered.
The pool at Hard Rock Hotel
The swimming pool features an underwater sound system. It is considered the best pool out of all the Universal hotels. Add in the waterslide, hot tubs, and volleyball court, and you have instant fun! There are also numerous poolside games held each day.
Staying healthy is easy at the Hard Rock Hotel. Bodyrock fitness center has all the equipment you need for an excellent workout. There are also walking and jogging paths you can explore.
The most popular activity at this Universal hotel is the “Velvet Sessions” rock concerts. They are held approximately once a month. Finger foods and cocktails are available. Please note this activity is only for those over the age of 21. Plan accordingly!
Getting to the theme parks from Hard Rock Hotel is easy. You can simply walk over to City Walk or take the bus to Volcano Bay.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Loews Royal Pacific Resort is the last of the premier hotels at Universal Orlando. This gorgeous hotel offers a South Pacific theme directly on the grounds of Universal Orlando. The entire resort is filled with palm trees, sand, and sunshine!
There are more than one thousand guest rooms, including suites, at this hotel. Each one is spacious and filled with all the comforts of home. You will even love the little office workspace in the rooms. It will come in handy if you need to get a little work done while on vacation.
The entire family will love the lagoon-style swimming pool. And the younger kids will enjoy spending time in the kids’ play area on the beach.
Transportation to the theme parks is similar to the other hotels at Universal Orlando. The bus will take you directly to Volcano Bay. And it is a quick walk to City Walk. You can also take the water taxi to City Walk if you want to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
The only preferred hotel at Universal Orlando is Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Many people will tell you that this hotel has a Caribbean theme. Well, since this is my guide to Universal hotels, I am saying the theme is simply paradise! Rushing waterfalls are tucked away amongst the lush tropical grounds.
The thousand guest rooms, including suites, offer all the comforts of home. Yet they all offer so many more conveniences, you will really feel as if you have arrived in paradise with no worries at all.
It is important to note that all the restaurants offer stunning views of the water.
Your family will love walking on the soft white sandy beach, as you head over to the pool. The waterslide only adds to the fun. For the best experience, I recommend renting a cabana for the day.
Getting to the theme parks is easy from this Universal hotel. Either walk or take the water taxi to City Walk. And Volcano Bay is a quick bus ride away from your hotel room.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
One of the two prime value Universal hotels is Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This retro-style resort will have you traveling back in time. Every inch is designed to look like a Florida beach resort from the 50s and 60s.
The rooms are spacious. The suites have the most space though and are a must-have for families looking for privacy. There is even a kitchenette in the suites, which is perfect for midnight snacking.
The four restaurants at this hotel will have you eating whatever you crave. A quick stop at Starbucks in the morning is necessary for coffee. And pizza is only a phone call away with Delizioso Pizza.
When it comes to activities at this Universal Orlando hotel, you almost have too many options. Although, that is probably because of the Lazy River. That area is the most popular. People love to spend all their time there, despite everything going on.
You can also slide down the waterslide at the Cabana Pool. And don’t forget about all the poolside games and activities.
When you’re ready for more family fun, head over to Ace the Arcade or Galaxy Bowl. A few hours of playing arcade games or bowling is guaranteed to have everyone laughing.
What is the best Universal hotel for Volcano Bay access?
Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the best Universal hotel for when you are spending most of your time at Volcano Bay. You can easily walk to Volcano Bay. Check out 15 Amazing Volcano Bay Tips for everything you need to know about the water park.
Getting to City Walk will require a bus. Unless you decide to walk over to Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and take the water taxi from there.
Just beware, the hotels are directly across the street from each other but you have to walk down to the very end of the road to the crosswalk that goes over the road, and back. Do not cross the road directly!
The last prime value hotel at Universal is Aventura. This hotel is quite modern. And since it is a high-rise, your family can enjoy views of all three theme parks.
The standard rooms are spacious enough and filled with every amenity you could possibly want. If you choose to stay in one of those, it is best to upgrade to a Skyline View. You won’t regret it for a moment.
As for the suites, they offer even more space. Again, choosing a Skyline View is your best option. You know you want to see the theme parks from above!
If you have picky eaters, you won’t need to worry at Aventura Hotel. The Urban Pantry is a food hall that has almost every food you can think of. So, let your picky eater choose what they want, while you dine on what you’re craving.
There are not as many activities at this Universal Orlando hotel. The pool and kids’ splash zone will keep your family entertained for hours though.
A quick bus ride from this hotel will have you at City Walk. You can also take the water taxi from Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. And if you are heading over to Volcano Bay, simply put on your walking shoes.
If you’re trying to decide between Aventura vs. Cabana Bay, I have a blog post for that too!
Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
It is all about surfing at Surfside Inn and Suites, which is a value hotel at Universal Orlando. This is a fabulous hotel if you want a relaxed vibe during your vacation.
The rooms and suites offer a beach vibe with lots of room. Getting a suite is the best option if you want a kitchenette and a picnic table to eat your meals.
You don’t have to cook or dine in your room at all at this hotel though. You can easily grab a drink at the sand bar. And the Beach Break Cafe has all your family’s favorite meals. Surfside pizza delivery is also available for those nights you don’t want to leave your room.
The swimming pool at this hotel is shaped like a surfboard. The kids might be persuaded to get out of it, but only to play ping pong or another poolside activity. You may even be able to entice them to visit the game room to play a video game or two.
Riding the bus to any of the theme parks is a must when you stay at this Universal Orlando hotel.
Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites
Dockside Inn and Suites have a coastal vibe. It is another value hotel, but that doesn’t mean you will miss out on any amenities or perks. The 2-bedroom suites are quite spacious, just like over at Surfside. You can check out the full Dockside Inn and Suites Review here!
Pier 8 Market is the best place to grab a bite to eat. Although, the pool bar will beckon to you when you are thirsty. There is also pizza delivery service at this hotel.
The two large swimming pools offer enough space for hours of swimming. There is also a sandy beach and children’s playground. Your kids may not know what to do, so plan on bouncing between them all for a while.
This is another Universal Orlando hotel where you will need to take the bus to any of the theme parks.
These are all eight of the Universal Orlando hotels. You may be thinking you know which one you are staying at during your next Universal vacation. But there are still a few things you must learn before you can make your final decision.
So, let’s continue with my guide to Universal Orlando hotels.
Which Universal Hotels Have Express Passes?
This is a very important question to ask before you book your hotel at Universal. The Express Passes are one of the perks you may not be able to live without.
An Express Pass will allow you to skip the line at certain rides and attractions. You can purchase a basic Express Pass or Unlimited. The basic pass will allow you to skip the line once for each ride. The unlimited is just how it sounds. Unlimited skip the line for participating rides.
When you stay at any of the premier Universal Orlando hotels – Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific, or Loews Portofino Day, you receive an Unlimited Express Pass for every day of your stay. And yes, it is for every member of your travel party!
Are There Perks to Staying at a Universal Orlando Hotel?
Absolutely! There are almost always going to be perks to staying at a hotel at a theme park. The main perks of staying at a Universal Orlando hotel include:
- Early admission into the theme parks – 1 hour before the general public
- Complimentary transportation to the theme parks
- Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased at the theme parks
- Charge purchases with your room key throughout the theme parks
The premier resorts, as well as Loews Sapphire Falls, are also a walkable distance from City Walk via The Garden Walk. This is a nice perk if the busses or even water taxi has a long wait!
Can You Resort Hop at Universal Orlando Hotels?
This is another easy question, because you can definitely resort hop here! All the restaurants are open to the public. So, you can easily head over to another hotel to try one of the restaurants there.
As for the swimming pools, you can use any of the pools at the hotels. The only exception is those guests at the Endless Summer hotels. Those guests can only go swimming at their hotels’ pools.
Which Universal Hotel is Best?
It can be so difficult to determine which Universal hotel is best. The reason for this is everyone has their own must-haves for vacations! What appeals to one family may not appeal to another.
However, if I had to guess which hotel was my favorite, it would be a three-way tie. If you have the budget for Hard Rock Hotel, it’s pretty incredible! From the giant guitar to the memorabilia to the impressive pool, Hard Rock Hotel is pretty epic.
Sapphire Falls is another favorite of ours. The 2-bedroom family suites are just enough room to sleep 4 comfortably with a little extra room. The pool is another favorite. Lastly, Aventura is great for adults or older kids, and the view is the best at any Universal hotel!
Hopefully, my guide to Universal Orlando hotels was informative! Use it wisely, as you plan your dream Universal vacation in Orlando.
A guide to Universal Orlando Hotels
If you’re still planning your Universal Orlando vacation, I highly recommend buying your tickets through Undercover Tourist! There are many scammy sites, so make sure you’re booking through an approved partner (like Undercover Tourist.) You can also book through a Universal Travel Agent – like me – but please keep in mind that I only take on a select number of theme park clients. Contact me via my Travel Agent website here.
Check out the links below for the prices of all of the Universal hotels during your dates:
- Hard Rock Hotel
- Loews Portofino Bay
- Loews Royal Pacific
- Aventura Hotel
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
- Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Universal Endless Summer Resorts – Dockside Inn and Suites and Surfside Inn and Suites.
We also have a post about Marriott Cypress Harbour Villas Review near Universal and Disney if your family needs a larger place to stay. I also have tours for every single Universal resort on YouTube.
Planning an Orlando vacation?
If you’re planning an Orlando vacation, make sure to check out more theme park tips and tricks:
- 25 Free Things at Disney World
- Star Wars Land vs. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- 30+ Movies to watch before going to Universal
- Where to find Dole Whip at Disney World
- How to eat vegan at Universal Orlando
- The 20 Best Beaches near Orlando for Families
- 7 things to know about the Disney Skyliner
- Worst rides for motion sickness at Universal
- The problem with Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! And as you may have guessed by this guide to Universal hotels, we really love Universal Orlando! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here.
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