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The Pros and Cons of Every Universal Orlando Resort Hotel

Hogwarts in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Resort Orlando.
Solarisys/Shutterstock.com

If you’re planning a Florida vacation this year, a visit to Universal Orlando is most likely on the agenda, especially if you or your kids are Harry Potter fans. If you haven’t yet decided where to stay, we’ve narrowed down the pros and cons of all the Universal Orlando Resorts to help you choose the best one for your family.

In addition to planning how you’ll spend your time while you’re actually at a theme park, you also have to wade through countless accommodation options. If you’re considering booking a stay at a Universal Orlando Resort, we’ll help you figure out which would be the most convenient and budget-friendly for your family.

Value Hotels

Universal Orlando recently built a new resort that will fit the budget of many travelers. They also both have a beach theme, perfect for vacationing in Florida. It consists of two hotels built across the street from each other, and here’s what you need to know about each.

Dockside Inn and Suites

Thanks to the beach theme at the Dockside Inn and Suites, you’ll instantly feel like you’re sitting by the ocean at sunrise or sunset. The hotel has over 2,000 rooms, and over 1,000 of them are two-bedroom suites, which are ideal for families.

Dockside certainly ticks a lot of boxes, so it’s sure to fit the bill for a lot of travelers, so check out the breakdown below.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly: Standard rooms start at just $91 per night, and suites at $136 per night.
  • Several on-site dining options: There is one casual on-site restaurant, two pool bars, a lounge, and a Starbucks. Pizza delivery is also available during limited hours.
  • Some amenities: Again, there are two large pools, a children’s play area, a fitness center, and a game room.
  • Park perks: Guests enjoy ​​early (up to one hour) admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Free transportation: Guests also have the option of complimentary shuttle bus rides to and from the parks, as well as Universal CityWalk.

Cons:

  • Amenities are limited: Although it does have a few, overall, they’re pretty sparse compared to other higher-priced hotels.
  • Few transportation options: Several other Universal hotels offer multiple methods of transportation to get to the parks. While the shuttle buses are handy, you might end up running late if you have to wait for one that isn’t full during peak season.

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Surfside Inn and Suites

Surfside Inn and Suites is similar to its sister hotel in many ways, but the most noticeable is the beach theme. However, Surfside creates more of an illusion that you’re actually on the beach. It’s also quite a bit smaller than Dockside, with only about 750 rooms.

However, there are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about booking a stay at Surfside.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly: Like Dockside, standard rooms start at just $91 per night and suites start at $136.
  • Park perks: Guests of this hotel also get ​​early admission (up to one hour) to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Free transportation: Hotel guests can also catch a ride on complimentary shuttles to and from the parks and CityWalk.

Cons:

  • Few dining options: Only has one on-site casual dining option, although it also has a poolside bar, Starbucks, and pizza delivery.
  • Limited amenities: Only one pool for guests, along with a fitness center and game room. You can use the amenities at Dockside, but it isn’t very convenient to cross the busy street.
  • Few transportation options: Again, while the shuttle buses are handy, you might end up running late if you have to wait for one with enough empty seats.

Prime Value Hotels

If you’re looking for more amenities and convenience, the prime value hotel tier might have just what you’re looking for if your budget allows.

From on-site arcades to entire food courts and bars, these locations are closer (within walking distance) to the parks than the value options and offer more convenience.

Universal’s Aventura Hotel

If you’re looking for a cool, classier place to stay during your Universal Studios vacation, check out the Aventura. Its conveniently close to the parks and offers views of all three. It’s the perfect hotel for adults or families with older children.

But we’ll give you an idea of what you can expect if you decide to stay at the Aventura.

Pros: 

  • Excellent price for the location: Standard rooms start at $132 per night, which is actually excellent considering how close the hotel is to the parks.
  • Variety of room options: Both standard rooms and larger suites are available.
  • More on-site dining options: There’s a rooftop restaurant, casual food hall, Starbucks, and a lobby and pool bar.
  • Park perks: Like all of the other hotels we’ve covered so far, guests who stay here also receive one-hour ​​early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Convenient location: Guests are only a short walk away from Volcano Bay and only about a 20-minute walk from the other parks.
  • Free transportation: Those who don’t want to walk also have access to free shuttles.

Cons:

  • Limited amenities: For a pricier hotel, the amenities are similar to the Surfside Inn and Suites we covered previously in the Value Hotels section. The Aventura also only has one pool and a fitness center.
  • Muted theme: While the sleek design is fine for adults, young children might find it boring.

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Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

If you’re looking for a moderately priced hotel that also has a theme kids will enjoy, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort might be the perfect fit. Modeled after a 1950s beach resort, its bright, retro vibe is attractive and fun. It’s also conveniently located near all of the Universal parks.

If a resort with on-site activities and dining is more your style, the lists below should help you decide if this is the place for you.

Pros: 

  • Good price: Standard rooms start at $132 per night, with family suites starting at $172.
  • Variety of room options: Both standard room options and larger family suites are available.
  • Lots of on-site dining: There are tons of places to eat at this resort. In fact, there’s an entire food court, two bar and grill locations, and a lounge. There are even more food options in the resort’s on-site bowling alley.
  • Plenty of amenities: This resort has two pools, a lazy river, cabana rentals, a fitness studio, an arcade, and a bowling alley.
  • Park perks: If you choose to stay here, you’ll also get up to one-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Convenient location: It’s just a short walk to Volcano Bay and about a 20-minute walk to the other parks.
  • Free transportation: Those who don’t want to walk also have access to free shuttles.

Cons:

  • High noise level: This is a popular choice for families, so this resort can be especially noisy, especially if you book a room close to the pool.

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Preferred Hotel: The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

The only hotel on the preferred tier is the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. The first thing you’ll notice about this level is a price jump of about $50 per night, but there are a few more amenities and transportation options.

For adults who prefer something a bit more upscale, this is an ideal pick. The island theme offers a tropical/Caribbean vibe throughout the property. Although this option is the priciest on our list, it does offer a few more amenities than the other locations that might be worth the extra cash.

Pros:

  • Most convenient location: It’s about a five-minute walk to Volcano Bay and a 15-minute walk to the front gates of Universal Studios.
  • Different room options: This hotel features both a variety of standard hotel room options, as well as suites for families.
  • On-site dining: This resort has one large restaurant, a coffee shop, and two bar/lounge areas. It also offers room service.
  • Plenty of amenities: You’ll find a large pool, poolside activities, a fitness center, an arcade, walking paths, and a five-course dinner event.
  • Park perks: Guests of this resort also get up to one-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Several free transportation options: In addition to free shuttles, guests who stay here can also take complimentary water taxis along the waterway that connects several Universal resorts and the two main parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Cons: 

  • Higher price: With standard rooms starting at $184 per night and suites starting at $268, this hotel might not suit the budget of many travelers.

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Premier Hotels

These hotels are on the top tier of our list, so, as you’ll no doubt expect, they’re also the priciest. However, they also boast more amenities and are much closer to the parks.

Additionally, when you book a room at any of these resorts, you also get a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass for every hotel guest. These passes allow you to skip the regular line on many rides at the parks, which can save you a ton of time. For some visitors, that alone might make these resorts worth the extra expense.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort

If you’re looking for a tropical escape, book a room at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This beautiful location will make you think you’ve stepped onto a Polynesian island. Surrounded by palm trees, white sand, and island dining, it’s the cheapest on the premier tier and a great pick for families that can splurge on their trip.

Below are a few things you can look forward to, as well as a few things to consider before you book.

Pros: 

  • Convenient location: It takes less than 15 minutes to walk to any of the Universal parks. Guests can also take a free water taxi to several of the other resorts and the two main parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. A free shuttle bus is also available.
  • Different room options: This hotel features a variety of standard hotel room options, suites for families, and club-level rooms with even more amenities.
  • Lots of on-site dining: You’ll find two restaurants, both a sushi and pool bar, a grab-and-go market, and room service.
  • A beautiful theme: This resort is so stunning, you might find it hard to leave to go to the parks (which could be considered a con, but we’re going with listing it as a pro).
  • Plenty of amenities: Not only is there a large lagoon-style pool, there’s also a fitness facility, poolside activities, an arcade, shopping, and occasional special dining options.
  • Park perks: Like guests at all the other Universal resorts, you’ll receive one-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, guests at this resort also get a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass for every night of their stay.

Cons: 

  • The price: Of course, all those Pros come at a cost. Standard rooms at the Loews Royal Pacific start at $272 per night, suites start at $384, and club-level rooms start at $364.

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The Hard Rock Hotel

There are Hard Rock Hotel locations all over the world, but Universal Orlando managed to secure one right next to their two main parks. The Hard Rock Hotel sits just off the CityWalk, giving guests access to a plethora of restaurants and shops just a few steps from their rooms. And, of course, there’s a Hard Rock Cafe nearby, as well.

If the Hard Rock sounds like your kind of place, you can check out the detes below.

Pros: 

  • Convenient location: Literally steps away from the entrance of Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk.
  • Different room options: This hotel features standard hotel rooms, larger suites for families, and club-level rooms with additional amenities.
  • Tons of dining options: This resort has two high-quality restaurants on-site, as well as a lounge, pool bar, a casual marketplace, and room service. There are also tons of restaurants right outside along the CityWalk.
  • Music-themed amenities: Everything at the Hard Rock is about music, so you’ll get to enjoy live concerts, music-focused games in the arcade, and a pool that has an underwater sound system.
  • Park perks: One-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass for every night of your stay.
  • A more adult theme: If no young children are in your party and you love music, you’ll love the theme and memorabilia scattered throughout this resort.

Cons: 

  • Not so convenient for water park visitors: It’s a good 35-minute walk to Volcano Bay from this resort. However, there is a free shuttle service to the water park.
  • Higher prices: Standard rooms start at $312 per night, club-level starts at $408, and suites start at $532.
  • A more adult theme: While music memorabilia is fun for adults, kids might not find it all that exciting.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel

The final hotel on the Universal Resort property is also the most luxurious. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel was inspired by the picturesque seaside village of Portofino, Italy. Thanks to the elegant, Italian accents everywhere, you’ll truly feel like you’re in another country.

If you don’t quite have the cash for a trip to Italy, but a visit to Universal Orlando is doable, why not combine both and stay at this resort?

Pros:

  • Convenient location: It’s about a 20-minute walk to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure. However, free water taxis and shuttles to the parks are also available.
  • Beautiful theme: Again, this resort looks and feels like Italy. From the restaurants and shops to the entertainment and ambiance, its European appeal is undeniable.
  • Different room options: This hotel features standard hotel rooms, larger suites for families, and club-level rooms with additional amenities.
  • Lots of on-site dining options: There are three Italian restaurants on the property, along with an Italian deli, two bars, a gelateria, a Starbucks, and room service.
  • Upscale amenities: This hotel features three beautiful pools, poolside activities, an arcade, a shopping center, a spa, and traditional music played in the evenings.
  • Park perks: One-hour early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass for every night of your stay.
  • A more adult theme: If you won’t have young children staying with you on your visit, this stunning resort will be a real treat.

Cons: 

  • High price: Standard rooms start at $324 per night, club-level rooms start at $424, and suites start at $600.
  • Not so convenient for water park visitors: Volcano Bay is a 40-minute walk from this resort, so if you didn’t drive to Orlando, you’ll have to rely on the hotel’s free shuttle service.
  • A more adult theme: This resort is absolutely gorgeous, but young children would likely have more fun at one of the cheaper, more colorful beach-themed resorts.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal Orlando, choosing where to stay can be a challenge. Whether you’re traveling with other adults or young children, on a tight budget or not, our pros and cons will help you choose the perfect resort for your stay.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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