Your guide to what each of Universal Orlando Resort's hotels offers to see, eat, and do

Universal Orlando Resort, as its name suggests, offers more than just theme parks. With five hotels and its own shopping and dining district, it's an all-inclusive vacation destination. Want to stay at a refined villa on the Italian Riviera? A white-sand beach in the South Pacific? A relaxed island hideaway in the Caribbean? A retro 1960s American beach resort? Or maybe it's finally time to live out your rock 'n' roll fantasy? Universal Orlando makes all this possible in one place, and we look at what each resort offers its guests so you can find the best fit for you and your family. 

Benefits you'll find at every hotel

The benefits of staying on-site at Universal Orlando go beyond simple geographic proximity. 

Early admission to theme parks

Stay at any of Universal Orlando’s hotels and you’ll receive early admission to all three theme parks an hour before regular guests. This includes The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and select attractions at Volcano Bay water theme park. You’ll still need to have a valid theme park ticket.

Free water taxi & shuttle service

All the resorts are within walking distance of Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, but if you'd rather save your legs for the parks themselves, try one of the free transportation options. Portofino Bay, the Hard Rock, the Royal Pacific, and Sapphire Falls are connected by a shared waterway, and guests can embark via water taxi on a short journey into the heart of CityWalk, where the theme park entrances are. At Cabana Bay, the complimentary transit is provided by shuttle bus instead.

Stay at one, play at all

Want to stay at Sapphire Falls, but still go bowling at Cabana Bay? Or maybe you're staying at the Hard Rock, but your kids want to try the Roman aqueduct slide at Portofino Bay's beach pool. No need to worry: Staying at any one of Universal Orlando's hotels entitles guests to the pools, restaurants, and other services at all of the others. There's even a dining shuttle that runs on a continuous loop between 6 and 10 p.m. so guests can have dinner at any restaurant at any hotel.

Universal Express at Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, & Royal Pacific

In addition to all of the above, guests at Portofino Bay, the Hard Rock, and the Royal Pacific receive free Universal Express Unlimited, allowing them to skip the regular line as many times as they like at most theme park attractions. This is particularly useful on the Hogwarts Express train between Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure, making it faster and easier to move between the two parks. (The only other way is to exit one park's front gate and re-enter through the other's.)

Rest assured with AAA's Diamond ratings

All of Universal Orlando's hotels are AAA Diamond-rated properties, meaning each one has passed a strict in-person AAA inspection for quality, cleanliness, service, and value.

 

Four Diamond hotels:

  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

 

Three Diamond hotels:

  • Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

The concept

Built to resemble the seaside Italian Riviera it borrows its name from, Portofino Bay is as close as you can get to a Ligurian villa without going to Italy. Universal Orlando considers it one of their two higher-end "premier" hotels, along with the Hard Rock, and it's not hard to see why. There are three pools: the sandy-shored Beach Pool, complete with a Roman aqueduct slide; the Villa Pool, with private cabanas and lounge chairs; and the Hillside Pool, which offers a quiet adults-only area to take a swim.

 

Every night features Musica della Notte (Music of the Night) performances at the harbor, and guests can try their hand at lawn bowling at the bocce courts near the Villa Pool.

The rooms

Portofino Bay's beauty isn't confined to the exterior. The indoor common areas feature marble and velvet, carrying the Mediterranean theme from the outdoors all the way through to the private accommodations. Once in the room, teal accents hint at the harbor outside, and the liberal use of Italian phrases reminds guests where they are.

 

Guestrooms feature either one king or two queen beds with 300-thread-count cotton sheets, while suites add a Murphy or sofa bed. All rooms include a coffee maker, mini fridge, iHome docking station, HD television, and free Wi-Fi

The dining

Half the fun of visiting Italy is eating the food, and Portofino Bay is no exception. Start the day with a breakfast buffet at Trattoria del Porto, where one of the main attractions is an automatic pancake maker; push a button and it'll griddle two fresh flapjacks as you watch. For lunch, stop by Sal's Market Deli for an Italian sandwich or a brick oven pizza, then cross the harbor piazza for a scoop of gelato at Gelateria.

 

At dinner time, take the family to Mama Della's Ristorante, known for its home-style Italian specialties (the lasagna and chicken carbonara are excellent) and virtuoso strolling musicians. Or make a reservation at Bice Ristorante and experience haute Italian cuisine with modern flair, such as homemade pappardelle and pan-seared venison.

Hard Rock Hotel

The concept

The Hard Rock Hotel is all about living, eating, playing, and sleeping like a rock star. To that end, everything is about bringing music and the musician lifestyle to life. Mission-style architecture and swanky interiors channel the aesthetic of a VIP's California mansion, except here, the VIP is you. The hotel describes its pool as "T. rex-size," but the real stars are the submerged speakers that keep the music playing even underwater.

 

One particularly cool feature is a simulated amphitheater near the lobby: Stand on the black star, precisely in the center, and your voice will be reflected back at you from every surface, creating the sensation that you're onstage. 

The rooms

Every rock star needs a break from the action, so the Hard Rock's rooms are a posh retreat, complete with "Quiet, please" and "Be nice" embroidered pillows. Guestrooms feature either one king or two queen beds, and all rooms include a coffee maker, mini fridge, iHome docking station, HD television, and free Wi-Fi.

 

The coolest feature? The mirror in every room has a height chart where guests can compare their stature to that of a range of famous musicians, from the towering Snoop Dogg all the way down to Shirley Temple's height from her child acting days.

The dining

Breakfast (as well as lunch and dinner) is served daily at The Kitchen, a casual establishment. Unique to this eatery is the Chef's Table, where actual legendary rockers can occasionally be seen cooking meals during their stay. Speaking of real rockers, the hotel's Velvet Bar hosts monthly Velvet Sessions where guests can sample themed cocktails and catch a show from real hitmakers who've included, in the past, Eddie Money, Blue Öyster Cult, and many more.

 

For a truly VIP experience, make a reservation at The Palm, which brings its New York City flair to Orlando, complete with its famous caricatures on the walls. The menu is perfectly tuned for Big Apple movers and shakers with items like broiled Nova Scotia lobster and wagyu ribeye steaks.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

The concept

Take the water taxi a few minutes down the river from the Hard Rock and you'll find yourself in an island paradise, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. The hotel takes its cues from the South Pacific, not any one island in particular, so guests will see decor inspired by Thai, Indonesian, Polynesian, and Hawaiian art.

 

In keeping with the theme, the Royal Pacific's pool features white sand to complete your Bora Bora fantasy, as well as the Royal Bali Sea, a miniature water park where kids can spray one another with water cannons. Upstairs, by the lobby, guests can enjoy a quiet moment by the fountains in the Orchid Court.

The rooms

The Royal Pacific has recently completed a renovation of all its guestrooms, so the accommodations are modern in both form and function. Flowers adorn the walls, and the accent pillows in each room match the color of the flowers, which differ from room to room. Since this resort is all about the South Seas, every room has a water view: either the pool or lagoon in back, or the river out front. 

 

Guestrooms feature either one king or two queen beds, and all rooms include a coffee maker, mini fridge, iHome docking station, HD television, and free Wi-Fi. The resort's Club Level Rooms offer access to the Club Lounge, which means more luxury without having to go all the way and book a suite. 

The dining

The dining options at the Royal Pacific cater both to those who want to take their South Pacific experience all the way, and those who may already be a little homesick. Islands Dining Room hosts the daily breakfast buffet, which offers familiar staples along with island-inflected options like Tahitian French toast a l'orange. For lunch, stop by Jake's American Bar, a venue featuring the sort of mid-20th-century memorabilia you'd expect an American expat to have. (It also has strangely hypnotic horizontal ceiling fans.)

 

For dinner, return to Islands Dining Room for a pan-Asian experience, from island dishes like Filipino shrimp adobo and Singapore-style noodles to more familiar fare like Korean barbecue and pad thai. 

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

The concept

Right next door to the Royal Pacific is Universal Orlando's newest hotel, Sapphire Falls Resort, which puts its own spin on the "paradise island" theme by moving it to the Caribbean. An idyllic waterfall with palms and a water wheel sets the tone if you arrive by water taxi, while the lobby features an enormous wicker chandelier in true Caribbean fashion.

 

Befitting a sun-soaked locale, Sapphire Falls makes liberal use of its bright blue color scheme and enormous windows that let in lots of natural light. The theming is most evident in the central spiral staircase, with its wrought iron steps and stone walls evoking a colonial rum distillery: At the bottom, guests will find barrels, a wagon, and other rum-making implements.

The rooms

Every room at Sapphire Falls has a view of either the garden, the lagoon, or the hotel's centerpiece pool. There's a view of "water" inside the rooms, too: The blue carpeting and cream bedsheets evoke the image of boats on the sea, something kids and their imaginations tend to notice before adults. Guestrooms feature either one king or two queen beds, and all rooms include a coffee maker, mini fridge, iHome docking station, HD television, and free Wi-Fi.

 

As part of an emerging trend in the hotel industry, most of Sapphire Falls' guestrooms (70 percent) feature only a shower, with no bathtub, so you'd prefer a tub, be sure to request one. 

The dining

Sapphire Falls' Amatista Cookhouse, on the ground floor, is the best venue at Universal Orlando for waterfront dining. It's also the venue around which dining revolves; unlike some of the other resorts that serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner at different eateries, Amatista serves all three. The kitchen is designed as an open exhibition, providing a show along with your meal, and authentic Caribbean dishes include seafood sofrito, West Indian curry, and cooked plantains. 

 

Other food options include New Dutch Trading Co., which offers grab-and-go options; the ceviche bar and tapas at Strong Water Tavern; and fresh seafood at the poolside Drhum Club Kantine.

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort

The concept

Universal Orlando's resorts all take guests to another part of the world, but only Cabana Bay Beach Resort can transport them back in time. Bold primary colors and midcentury modern architecture take guests to the 1950s and '60s; one wing is styled as a retro motel, while the other features a geometrically minimalist approach. There are two pools, plus a water slide and a lazy river, and if that's not enough entertainment, the hotel has its very own bowling alley. 

 

Midcentury modern designers sought to make their creations affordable to the masses, and Cabana Bay does the same as Universal Orlando's first "prime value" hotel, aimed at families looking to get the most bang for their vacation buck. 

The rooms

Midcentury touches in each room include brightly colored sheets, geometric decor, and wood accents. As a family-oriented resort, all of Cabana Bay's rooms have at least two queen beds; there are no single king rooms. Bigger families can opt for the suites, which add a pull-out sofa bed, kitchenette, and larger bathroom area, sleeping up to six guests. Small groups (or large families) who need as much space as possible can avail themselves of the two-bedroom suites, which sleep up to eight people and feature views of the Volcano Bay water park. 

 

All rooms include a coffee maker, mini fridge, and some decidedly non-retro (but welcome) perks like an iHome docking station, HD television, and free Wi-Fi.

The dining

Dining at Cabana Bay centers on the Bayliner Diner, a food court where options range from reliable options like pizza and chicken tenders, to more adventurous fare like California chipotle chicken flatbread and Brazilian beef churrasco. There's entertainment, too: Four screens in the dining area play real retro TV commercials from the '50s and '60s.

 

Atomic Tonic and the Hideaway Bar + Grille each serve one of the hotel's pools, while Swizzle Lounge is the resort's watering hole, offering vintage cocktails right in the lobby. Galaxy Bowl, the bowling alley, doubles as an eatery serving casual favorites like burgers and chicken wings. Or, for an all-American room service experience, the hotel has its own in-house pizza delivery place, Delizioso Pizza. 

Book a travel package through AAA & enjoy exclusive benefits

AAA members receive exclusive pricing and special benefits when they book a Universal Orlando Resort vacation package through AAA, including activity credits, priority seating, in-park discounts on food and merchandise, and more. Packages can be booked online or at a AAA branch

Behind-the-scenes info on Universal Orlando's theme parks

Now that you've checked out the hotels, it's time for the main event: visiting the theme parks. We've put together a guide to what that shouldn't be missed, hidden sights, and fun tidbits at Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Read our guide.