Which Universal Hotel is Right for You?
Updated: May 12
I've been lucky enough to stay at every onsite hotel at Universal Orlando Resort and one of the things I love most about them is that they appeal to such a wide range of needs, interests, party sizes, and budgets. But choosing which of these 8 properties is right for you can feel a little daunting, so allow me to give you a quick guide on the best Universal onsite resorts for each type of traveler!
For Travelers on a Budget
Universal has 2 value resorts and 2 prime value resorts for those who want the convenience and perks of staying onsite but don't want to break the bank. Endless Summer Surfside and Endless Summer Dockside are Universal's value resorts and they both offer standard 2 queen rooms which accommodate 4 and 2 bedroom suites which accommodate 6. The Endless Summer properties have fewer amenities including smaller pools, only quick service dining options, and smaller standard rooms. They also are the furthest away from the parks requiring a 5-7 minute shuttle ride to get you there. However their competitive price point makes them a great option for those who are looking for a good deal without sacrificing convenience.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Aventura Hotel are Universal's prime value hotels and they offer a better location (with an even shorter shuttle ride to the parks) while also offering standard rooms and a variety of suite options for larger parties. Cabana Bay even has its own bowling alley as well as a walking path right into Universal's Volcano Bay Water Theme Park (with valid admission). Aventura boasts technological advancements such as tablet room controls and robots that bring you things from the front desk, and it is also home to a great rooftop bar overlooking downtown Orlando. Not only do these hotels have nicer pools than the value hotels but they also get to participate in the Universal pool hopping program, allowing guests to visit the pools at the preferred and premier resorts if they choose. These added benefits come at a slightly higher price point than the value hotels but are still affordable.
For Pool Lovers
The pool hopping program is available between all prime value, preferred, and premier onsite resorts so essentially every resort (excluding Endless Summer Surfside and Dockside which are not part of the program) is a great resort for pool lovers. However, if you want to have one of the best pools on property at your home resort, then I would recommend Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort, or Sapphire Falls Resort. Cabana Bay Beach Resort has 2 great pools, 1 of which is home to a lazy river and the other is home to a water slide. Hard Rock Hotel also has a great water slide along with underwater speakers, meaning the music doesn't have to stop even when you're going for a swim. Royal Pacific Resort doesn't have a water slide, but its fun ship-themed splash pad more than makes up for it. And if you're looking for the overall largest pool on property, then Sapphire Falls is the choice for you. This gigantic pool also has a great water slide and is home to some of the best dining at Universal with Amatista Cookhouse nearby.
Speaking of Amatista Cookhouse, this amazing Caribbean inspired restaurant is one of the main reasons I put Sapphire Falls Resort at the top of my list for foodies. This restaurant is one of my favorites onsite but there are also some really great eats to be found at Sapphire Falls' Strong Water Tavern and New Dutch Trading Company. Another great resort for foodies is Portofino Bay Hotel. This is my overall favorite onsite resort at Universal and that's in no small part due to the plethora of amazing dining options to be found there. Everything from Mama Della's to Bice to Sal's Market Deli: you will not go hungry at this Italy-inspired premier resort. And if you choose to stay Club Level you'll be treated to even more delicious items at the continental breakfast, evening hors d'oeuvres, and nightly dessert bar.
For Pet Lovers
If you can't imagine a vacation without your beloved pet, then you'll want to book your stay at one of the Universal onsite hotels that participate in the Loews Loves Pets program: Sapphire Falls, Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay. At these properties, all pets receive their own gifts including a pet tag, bowl, and a special treat to kick off their vacation. A one-time fee of $100 per stay is charged and a maximum of two pets are allowed to stay.
For Those Who Value Convenience
Convenience is always my guiding principle when choosing an onsite resort hotel so I typically book my family vacations at the premier onsite resorts because they include Unlimited Express Pass in the cost of your stay. Unlimited Express Pass allows you to skip the regular lines at most rides and attractions in Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Royal Pacific, Hard Rock, and Portofino Bay all offer this perk, but Unlimited Express Pass is not the only way a stay at these properties adds to the convenience of your vacation. These hotels are also the closest onsite properties to the parks (within walking distance) and they also offer convenient water taxi service to the 2 main parks and bus shuttles to Volcano Bay. With a host of other amenities they are, in my opinion, well worth the extra investment.
I hope you've enjoyed learning a little more about the Universal onsite hotels. If you got value out of this post please consider subscribing to the blog and subscribing to my YouTube channel where you'll find detailed tours of most of these properties as well as restaurant reviews and other helpful tips. And if you'd like FREE help planning your vacation, feel free to fill out my no obligation quote form. You'll pay the same price to book through me as you would pay to book directly through Universal, yet when you book with me you get concierge level vacation planning services for no extra fee!