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Your Guide to Selecting The Best Universal Hotel

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Your Guide to Selecting The Best Universal Hotel
Credit: Universal

Are you heading to Universal Orlando and looking for the perfect place for your travel party to stay? Here is a guide to Universal’s hotels to help.

Universal Orlando Hotels

Credit: KtP

Planning a vacation to Universal Orlando can be so much fun, but it can also be a little daunting. Once you have selected your travel dates, you are probably going to want to begin looking for lodging.

You might consider staying off-property, which potentially has the benefit of saving a little money including avoiding the parking fees charged by all Universal hotels. However, you might prefer to stay at one of Universal’s 8 official hotels and enjoy the perks of being on property!

If so, there are several factors for you to take into consideration. The first, of course, is your budget. The next step is determining which perks you want to take advantage of. Finally, you might consider resort theming and amenities.

Perks of Universal Hotels

Credit: Katie

All of Universal Orlando’s hotels have awesome perks. It may make an on-property stay very enticing.

First up, Universal Orlando Hotel Guests receive Universal Early Park Admission. This means that you can enter one of Universal’s parks: Universal Volcano Bay, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal Islands of Adventure up to one hour before opening.

The offerings do change periodically, so be sure to check Universal’s calendar to see which parks will be available.

Universal Water Taxi
Credit: Universal

Next, getting to the parks is easy! Each hotel offers free transportation via water taxis or shuttles for Universal Orlando Hotel Guests. It makes the trip so much more relaxing when no one has to drive anywhere.

Also, many visitors love that Universal offers Universal Orlando Resort Delivery for hotel guests. This means that when you stay at a Universal Orlando hotel, the staff can deliver your purchased merchandise right to your hotel free of charge.

Resort Delivery is a perk that many Walt Disney World Guests miss at Disney resorts.

Early Entry
Credit: Katie

It is important to note that if you do use this service, your merchandise will not be available until the next day at luggage services or at the front desk for you to pick up. This means you can not utilize the service if you are planning to depart on the same day.

Finally, those staying at a Universal Orlando Hotel can also use their room key cards to charge purchases directly to their rooms. There is no need to keep up with an additional form of payment.

Special Perk for Premier Hotels

Hulk
Credit: Katie

Premier Hotels come along with a special perk. Each guest receives Free Universal Express Unlimited! What is Universal Express? You can read all about it HERE. The gist of it is that it allows you to skip the lines skip the regular lines for select attractions at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Many consider this perk to be a substantial value. In fact, it is a value of $164+ per person per day depending on your travel dates.

Credit: Universal Orlando

If you were not planning to purchase Express Pass, this might not be such a big deal to you. But if you DO plan to purchase it, you might STRONGLY consider looking into a Universal Hotel.

In fact, some people even stay for just one night at Premier Hotels and then move to a lower-tier hotel. Then they get the benefit of Universal Express Unlimited, which is valid on both check-in and check-out day.

Hotel Tiers

Credit: Universal

Universal’s 8 hotels are broken into 4 tiers: Value, Prime Value, Preferred, and Premier. The biggest distinguishing factor among them is price point. Of course, as the price increases, so do factors such as convenience to the parks and quality of the hotel amenities.

Value Hotels

Universal Endless Summer Dockside Value pool
Credit: Universal

The value resorts are both part of a complex called Endless Summer Resort. It offers two properties: Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites. The two resorts do have access to one another, so Guests of either can enjoy both. They are the most affordable Universal hotels with pricing that starts at around $119 per night.

These resorts are the furthest from the parks – about 10 minutes from the main hub. They offer only shuttle transportation and no water taxis.

Surfside Inn and Suites

Credit: Universal

If you are looking for a bright, beachy hotel, Surfside Inn and Suites may be just the ticket. The rooms are beach-themed and have a clean look to them.

You will find great amenities including a basic swimming pool, garden, game room, fitness center, and the Universal Store. In terms of dining options, Guests will enjoy an in-house Starbucks, a quick-service cafe, and a drinks-only pool bar. Pizza delivery is also available.

Dockside Inn and Suites

Dockside Hotel Endless Summer Universal
Credit: Universal

The other value resort is Dockside Inn and Suites, which is the larger of the two value resorts. The rooms are beachy with touches of sunset theming.

Amenities include 2 basic pools, a game room, a fitness center, and the Universal Store. In terms of dining, there is an in-house Starbucks, a quick-service eatery, and three drinks-only bars. You can also have pizza and fried chicken delivered to your room.

Prime Value Hotels

Credit: Universal

Next, Universal offers two Prime Value Hotels: Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Aventura Hotel. They start at $145 a night.

Several factors distinguish Prime Value Hotels from Value Hotels. One is that they are closer to the theme parks. Guests can use shuttles or walk to the parks. However, there is no water taxi for these.

Cabana Bay Room
Credit: Universal

A more important factor is Prime Value hotels offer dedicated private entry into Volcano Bay, Universal’s water park. If you plan to visit Volcano Bay, this could be VERY important for you as it saves a lot of time.

Finally, the amenities are infinitely better. In fact, you will find there is plenty to do without ever leaving your resort.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Credit: Universal

Cabana Bay offers comfortable standard rooms and family suites that sleep up to 8 people. But, the amenities leave the lower-tiered hotels in the dust.

This is because Cabana Bay has 2 massive pool complexes. One of these is a 10,000-square-foot complex in Atomic Courtyard with zero entry pools, a sandy beach, a 100-foot water slide, and plenty of poolside activities.

The other is a 6000-square-foot complex in the Lazy River Courtyard. It features zero-entry pools, a sand beach, and a lazy river!

Credit: Universal

Of course, there is a fitness center and a Universal Orlando Resort Store. You will also find an in-house Starbucks.

It offers plenty of dining options such as the quick service option Bayliner Diner food court or enjoy dining in Shakes Malte Shoppe. If you are up for bowling, Galaxy Bowl also offers full-service dining! Finally, there are two outdoor dining locations: Atomic Grill and Hideaway Bar and Grill.

Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Universal Adventura pool
Credit: Universal

Adventura is a sleek and modern, high-tech hotel featuring amenities such as a Virtual Reality game room. Each room is equipped with a tablet that controls the lights and climate control and allows guests to communicate with housekeeping or order room service.

Also, Adventura is home to some unique room categories, including kids’ suites that sleep 5 and have a dedicated bunk room. Moreover, it offers AMAZING views of all three Universal theme parks.

Credit: Universal

Amenities include a pool with a splash pad, a fire pit, a fitness center, and a VR game center as well as a Universal Store. Of course, there is a dedicated Starbucks.

Dining includes quick-service food hall Urban Pantry. There are also three bars, including an impressive roof-top bar on the 17th story.

Preferred Hotel: Sapphire Falls Resort

Credit: Universal

Universal currently has only one Preferred Hotel: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Preferred and Premier hotels are where you start seeing the divide between hotel and conference centers. Rooms begin around $262.

The island-themed resort is close to the parks. Guests can easily walk to City Walk and the parks or access them via Water Taxi.

Credit: Universal

This resort offers fabulous amenities including an impressive 16,000-square-foot pool with sand beaches, waterfalls, a waterslide, a children’s area, hot tub, and plenty of activities. You can also enjoy a fitness center, walking trails, game room, and Universal Store.

Dining options include a table-service option, the Caribbean-inspired Amatista Cookhouse. There are also plenty of Quick-service options. You can also enjoy tapas and rum tastings at Strong Water Tavern.

Premier Hotels

Credit: Universal

Universal Orlando is home to three Premier Hotels: Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort. All three are AAA four-diamond award winners. Moreover, all three offer walking access to the parks as well as water taxi services.

These are the only ones that qualify for the free Universal Express Unlimited benefit. Additionally, you will also enjoy preferred seating at restaurants. The rooms are slightly larger and the resorts have specific themes for one-of-a-kind experiences.

Royal Pacific Resort

Royal Pacific
Credit: Universal

Loews Royal Pacific Resort is themed to the South Seas. It is the sister resort of Saphirre Falls and has a covered walkway between the two. Nightly rates start at $406.

This resort is heavily themed and features a large zero-entry heated pool with sand beaches and water features. There are plenty of pool-side activities including “dive-in” movies!

You will find a sit-down dining option as well as quick-service dining and lounges. Most impressive is the Wantilan Luau, which is a dinner show held on Saturdays.

Portofino Bay Hotel

Credit: Universal

Portofino Bay is themed to none other than the famous fishing village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. It is easily Universal’s most luxurious resort. Rooms here start at $484 per night.

Portofino Bay is unique in that it is home to Harbor Piazza. Here, Guests will find shops and restaurants and catch performances of “Musica Della Notte,” a showcase of classic opera. Lucky Guests will be able to attend Harbor Nights, a quarterly wine-tasting and jazz event!

Credit: Universal

There are three distinct pools including Beach Pool with its white sand beaches and Roman aqueduct-themed waterslide. Or, enjoy an up-scale exclusive experience at Villa Pool or a quiet dip in the smaller Hillside Pool. Guests can also enjoy a spa.

Portofino Bay has three Table Service restaurants to choose from: Trattoria del Porto, which is a melding of Italian and American offerings, Mama Della’s Ristorante, a more authentic experience, or Bice for an elegant dinner. There are also plenty of quick service options and places for drinks.

Hard Rock Hotel

Credit: Universal

Hard Rock Hotel has distinct mission-revival architecture reminiscent of the Eagles’ Hotel California album cover. It is decked out in over $1 million worth of rare rock memorabilia! Rooms start at $453 per night.

Enjoy two table-service restaurants including The Kitchen and The Palm. Or, grab something quick at Bolio’s Marketplace. Don’t forget to enjoy Velvet Bar, too.

Credit: Universal

The zero-entry pool is heated and features rock music under the water! Enjoy the white-sand beaches and a 260-foot slide. You will often find DJs or live bands as well.

You can also enjoy a fitness center and shopping and walking trails. Interestingly, Hard Rock Hotel is home to a serene butterfly garden as well.

Overall, Universal has an offering for every budget and a wide variety of interests. And, with the introduction of Epic Universe, we will see even MORE accommodations emerge, so stay tuned. Have you ever enjoyed one of Universal’s hotels? Which is our favorite? Let us know in the comments! And be sure to share this with anyone you know planning a trip to Universal Orlando so they know where to stay.


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