Vacation is a precious thing; it’s a thing that you’ll remember and cherish forever, and the key to a great vacation is choosing the right place to stay. Universal Orlando now consists of five stunning on-site hotels, each of which features their own distinct theme. While all of the resort’s hotels have amazing services, amenities, and themes, there is one hotel that is waiting for your arrival, and this guide will allow you to choose the perfect hotel for your needs.
During my many visits to Universal Orlando, I have only stayed at one on-site hotel — Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was truly breathtaking. This August I will be staying at the all-new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (I’m really excited to visit this resort). From my experience staying at an on-site hotel and at several different hotels in the Orlando area, I can without a doubt tell you that staying on-property truly adds to your vacation; it makes it more relaxing, enjoyable, and glorious because you’re in the heart of the excitement. Currently, Universal Orlando features four hotels: the new Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This guide is designed to help you decide which on-site hotel is right for you and your budget.
The newly opened Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is among one of the most breathtaking hotels on property. The hotel is themed after the Caribbean islands, featuring a cascading waterfall inspired by Jamaica’s iconic Dunn’s River Falls, stone turret, architectural ruins, and more; it truly transports to a leisurely estate where you can escape reality and relax with every comfort.
The 2-plus year old Cabana Bay Beach Resort is still one of Universal Orlando’s newest property. Featuring a 1950’s and 60’s theme, you’ll find classic cars parked upon your arrival, retro appliances (with today’s technology) and furniture, and even hear oldies music playing throughout the resort. Universal’s Cabana Bay is perhaps the most vibrant and lively hotel at Universal complete with a theme that many considered to be a good time period in America (culture wise that is).
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (one of my favorites) is based upon the famed Italian seaside village of Portofino. Complete with cobblestone streets, towering Italian cypress trees, Vespa scooters, and docked fishing boats, it feels like you’re actually in Italy. You can stroll through the village harbor, take a walk through the indoor alley, or take in the beauty of the hotel. It is because of this immersion that Portofino Bay Hotel is at the top of my list of Universal’s best on-site hotels.
Though on the smaller side, the Hard Rock Hotel is still amazing! At the Hard Rock Hotel, the volume is turned up on fun, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be livin’ like a rock ‘n’ roll superstar. The rockin’ hotel not only has fine decor but also displays of rock ‘n’ roll artists like Elvis Presley and Twisted Sister.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort is adjacent to the all-new Sapphire Falls Resort; it allows guests to experience the allure of the South Seas, providing a serene atmosphere that makes it the perfect place to relax and unwind. Just like every island paradise, Royal Pacific also consists of sand “beaches” and a plentiful amount of palm trees.
Offerings Loews Sapphire Falls Resort features up to four dining locations: New Dutch Trading Co. (grab-and-go options), Strong Water Tavern (lunch and dinner meals with daily rum tastings), Amatista Cookhouse (Caribbean cuisine), and Drhum Club Kantine (seafood and tropical drinks). You can also find a Universal Studios store selling sundries, guest necessities, magazines, and Universal and Sapphire Falls themed products. In addition to this, Sapphire Falls Resort has a 16,000 square foot swimming pool (the largest on property) with slightly varying depths to mimic the seafloor; a waterslide; a hot tub; an interactive water play area; sand beaches; a fire pit; a complimentary fitness center with a lounge area, dry sauna and showers; an arcade and more. Loews Sapphire Falls is a pet-friendly hotel. The hotel provides complimentary transportation to and from the theme parks and CityWalk via water taxi and shuttle bus, early theme park admission (valid theme park admission required), free scheduled transportation to Wet ‘n Wild, free Wi-Fi connection, resort-wide charging privileges, and even more.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort features a variety of quick service dining locations including Bayliner Diner, Galaxy Bowl Restaurant, Atomic Tonic, The Hideaway Bar & Grille, Swizzle Lounge, Delizioso Pizza, and even a Starbucks (talk about convenience)! And for you shopping needs there’s an on-site store selling Universal Studios and Cabana Bay themed merchandise, plus more. As previously mentioned, Cabana Bay is perhaps the most ‘lively’ hotel at Universal so you’d expect it to feature more activities — and it does. Not only does the hotel feature a swimming pool it features two (one with a waterslide)! Universal’s Cabana Bay also features a lazy river (the only hotel at Universal to feature one), interactive water play areas, a fire pit, a hot tub, an arcade, a bowling alley, a complimentary fitness center themed after Jack Lalanne, and so much more! With your stay, you can enjoy complimentary transportation to and from the theme parks and CityWalk via bus, early theme park admission (valid theme park admission required), complimentary transportation to Wet ‘n Wild, complimentary wireless connection, resort-wide charging privileges, and more.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel consists of up to nine dining locations: Mama Della’s Ristorante (authentic Italian cuisine), Bice Ristorante (exquisite Italian dishes), Trattoria del Porto (breakfast and dinner meals), Sal’s Market Deli (pizza, antipasto, and more), The Thirsty Fish (Italian wine bar), Splendido Bar & Grill (poolside eatery), Gelateria (gelato, biscotti, coffee, snacks), Bar American (alcoholic beverages), and a Starbucks. Portofino Bay also consists of five shopping locations selling Italian lines, gifts, photos, and themed merchandise. Here, you can enjoy up to three themed swimming pools (one with a waterslide) spread throughout the property, a water play area, two hot tubs, a complimentary fitness center, a spa, and even more. Loews Portofino Bay is a pet-friendly hotel. Guests staying at here can enjoy the same benefits as those staying at Sapphire Falls with an addition of free Universal Express passes (valid theme park admission required), which allow you to skip the lines at participating rides and attractions.
The Hard Rock Hotel has five eateries — The Kitchen (American cuisine), The Palm Restaurant (New York steakhouse), Velvet Bar (cocktails and appetizers), BeachClub (bar and grill), and Emack & Bolio’s Marketplace (ice cream and coffee) — as well as a merchandise store with music-inspired collections and exclusive hotel products. At the Hard Rock Hotel, you’ll find a 12,000 square foot swimming pool with a waterslide and interactive water play area, two hot tubs, and a complimentary fitness center. Guests staying here will enjoy the same benefits as those visiting Portofino Bay Hotel (e.g. free Universal Express, pet-friendly, etc.).
Loews Royal Pacific Resort consists of over six dining locations including Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (Asian/Polynesian cuisine), Jake’s American Bar (signature meals, appetizers, entrees, and cocktails), Wantilan Luau (authentic Polynesian cuisine), and Bula Bar & Grille (sandwiches, tropical drinks, and more) just to name a few. Royal Pacific Resort also has two shopping locations — Toko Gifts and Treasures of Bali — with sundry items, soft drinks, snacks, apparel, swim suits, jewelry, and themed merchandise for sale. Loews Royal Pacific Resort features a lagoon-style swimming pool, an interactive water play area, two hot tubs, a volleyball court, a complimentary fitness center, and more. Like Portofino Bay Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel, guests staying here can enjoy the same benefits.
Pricing Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is a preferred on-site hotel with prices ranging from the mid-$100’s and up depending on when you’re booking a stay. Sapphire Falls features standard rooms as well as a variety of suites.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a prime value priced hotel with prices beginning in the low-$100’s and up depending upon your visit. Cabana Bay Beach Resort consists of standard rooms and family suites.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is a premier priced property with standard rooms and various suites largely starting in the mid-$200’s and up depending upon your selected dates.
The Hard Rock Hotel is categorized as a premier on-site hotel consisting of standard rooms and a variety of different suites. Prices range from $200 during the slow season and up.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort is a preferred priced property with prices beginning at $200 during the slow season. Royal Pacific Resort offers standard rooms and themed suites.
If you’re looking to have an awesome and memorable vacation, all Universal Orlando on-site hotels are guaranteed to do just that! While the hotel themes may catch your attention, you should be attentive of the prices. If you’re on a tight budget, I recommend staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort because of its more affordable prices. However, at times Loews Sapphire Falls Resort’s prices almost match that of Cabana Bay’s. If this is the case, I would recommend staying at Sapphire Falls because of its incredible scenery and water taxi transportation. If you are able to afford the prices of Universal’s more upscale properties, Portofino Bay Hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort may be recommended for you. Guests staying at these hotels can enjoy shorter wait times at the theme parks because of the complimentary Express passes. Wherever you may stay, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have an awesome time! You can share your #UniversalMoments with us at Universal’s on-site hotels by tagging us in your posts via social media.
John is an avid theme park fan who has a passion for journalism, photography, videography, digital art, and website designing. His goal is to cover topics in entertainment and travel that universally matter.