The Best Universal Orlando Hotel: Complete Pros and Cons Guide

universal-orlando-resort-hotels

The Best Universal Orlando Hotel: Complete Pros and Cons Guide

Your family has made the big (and exciting!) decision to have a Universal vacation and now it’s time to find the best Universal Studios Resort Hotels to accommodate your best vacation ever. While we like to say every Universal Studios’ hotel is the best Universal Studios hotel, we know that every family and every visitor has different preferences and needs.

We hope you find this post helpful in searching for the best Universal Orlando resort! No matter whether you’re looking for the best universal hotel for families, the best universal hotel for adults or a Universal hotel that will meet both criteria. There is something for every family at Universal Orlando.

We hope you find this post helpful, and if you are planning a trip to Universal Orlando be sure to check out our other FREE vacation planning tools. Our goal at The Park Prodigy has always been to help you save time on your next vacation and money on your next vacation. This includes finding the best Universal Orlando ticket deals and of course amazing Universal Orlando vacation packages! 

So if you’re ready to learn more about all of the amazing Universal Studios Resort Hotels read on!

SPECIAL NOTE: If you are looking for the absolute best time to visit Universal Orlando be sure to check out our crowd calendar!

 Universal Crowd Calendar

The Best Universal Orlando Hotels 2021

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September 2021: All hotels have resumed operations at this time! Certain restaurants or perks may be suspended due to the current health situation. To stay up to date on hotel reopening’s and safety guidelines, check the Universal Hotels Safety Information website.

Universal Orlando breaks its resort into four different categories. Let’s take a quick peek to see where the current eight Universal resorts fall in those categories.

What are the best Universal Resort hotel categories?

  • Premier (Universal Deluxe Hotels): Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Preferred: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
  • Prime Value: Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Aventura Hotel
  • Value: Endless Summer Resort’s two constituent hotels- Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites

Perks of Staying at one of the Best On-site Universal Studios Hotel

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Before we break down the best reasons to stay at each of these resorts, let’s look at some important perks that apply to all of the Universal on-site hotels. And there’s a LOT of perks to even the most affordable Universal Resort. (Please keep in mind that some of these services and/or perks may be suspended or reconfigured for the current health crisis and regulations.)

What are the Benefits of Staying Onsite at Universal Orlando?

  • Early Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay (get in before all other guests to avoid long lines!)
  • Transportation to all three parks and CityWalk, which are also in walking distance (Note: Face coverings are required for all guests using resort transportation. Wait times may be longer than normal due to limited capacity on all shuttles and water taxis.)
  • Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card and delivery of merchandise purchased
  • Character appearances
  • Non-smoking rooms with flat-screen TVs, hairdryers, safes, irons and ironing boards and coffee makers
  • Free basic Wi-Fi
  • Heated, themed pools with lifeguards on duty
  • Game room
  • Fitness center
  • Laundry services
  • Supervised children’s activities

As you can see, these Universal onsite hotel benefits are pretty spectacular in and of themselves! Now, let’s help you determine the best Universal hotel for you by looking at each resort separately. Because we truly see the benefits of each resort, we’re going to review them from least expensive to most expensive and let you decide which is the best resort at Universal Studios for you.

Value Resorts – Best Universal Orlando Hotels

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Universal has two brand new hotels to choose from when comparing the best value resorts in Orlando!

What are the best Universal Orlando value resorts? 

  • Endless Summer Resort’s Surfside Inn and Suites
  • Endless Summer Resort’s Dockside Inn and Suites

Surfside Inn and Suites

Surfside Inn and Suites is the smaller of the two sister resorts and we love its look! This resort is decorated in with a laid-back beachside vibe and plenty of surfboards for a photo-op. Surfside Inn and Suites is perfect for the family on a budget! With bright, open rooms starting at only $88 a night (and family suites starting at $131 a night), you’ll be able to spend your money on other things – like wands from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or an extra night stay or two.

This resort is located away from the parks on the other side of Interstate 4, but a quick bus ride will take families to the hub of CityWalk for access to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Another bus will take guests directly to Volcano Bay. Dining here is quick and easy with a food court, pizza delivery and coffee/pool bars. For non-park fun, dive into the surfboard shaped pool, play a few games in the game room or workout in the fitness area.

Dining Options at Surfside Inn and Suites

Dockside Inn and Suites

Dockside Inn and Suites is the larger of the two value resorts, boasting more than 1,500 rooms! Like Surfside Inn, its rooms are value priced to make sure you get the best deal for your dollar. There are many different room options for whatever your party needs are. Prices range from $88 for a standard double queen room to $147 for a double queen suite with a pool view.

Inspired by sand, sea and beautiful sunsets, this resort will make any family feel like they’re staying in at a coastal hotel that has a theme park across the street!

Amenities include a pool and splash area for the kids, with a beach bar and lounge for the adults wanting to unwind.

Dining Options at Dockside Inn and Suites

Want to see a review of Universal Endless Summer Dockside Inn and Suites? Be sure to check out our complete room review to one of the best value resorts at Universal below!

If you’re looking for the best hotels in universal studios Orlando for travelers on a budget (or travelers who only need a place to sleep after being in the parks all day), either one of these will fit those requirements.

Prime Value Resorts – Best Hotels on Universal Property 

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Universal has two fan favorites to choose from when comparing the best prime value resorts for your next Orlando vacation!

What are the best prime value resorts on Universal property?

  • Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Aventura Resort

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a favorite among many with its incredible theming and great pricing. It won’t take you long to feel like you just stepped back in time to the glory days of the 50s and 60s. Everywhere you look, you’ll see retro and iconic amenities and décor brought into modern-day conveniences. Here, standard rooms start at $132 a night (or $172 for a family suite), and are decorated to look like classic resorts from another time, but with modern amenities such as plenty of USB ports and flat-screen TVs.

This resort has a lot of great food options, too. From a classic diner to bar and grill as well as a lounge, you’re sure to be able to belly up to some good, hearty delicious food. If you’re looking for a fun stay-at-the-resort day, you’ll love either soaking it all up outside at the Cabana Pool and Lazy River in a rented cabana, or lacing up your bowling shoes for a fun round of bowling inside.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Dining Options

Aventura Resort

Aventura Resort is one of Universal’s newer resorts. This stylish and modern resort is a favorite for couples and families on a budget. Of all of the Universal Studios onsite resorts, this one boasts clean and simple décor, meant to help you just chill out and relax while taking a break from the parks. Its rooms provide amazing sweeping views of all three parks and provide plenty of room to move around. Starting at just $132 a night, it fits into most budgets. It also has a fun kids suite with bunkbeds starting at $232 a night and what kid wouldn’t love sleeping in a bunk bed while on vacation?

The “high” light of this resort is its spectacular rooftop bistro with commanding views of all three parks. It also has a food hall with enough different food options to please everyone on vacation with you.

Aventura Resort Dining Options

Preferred Resort – Best Universal Studios Resort Hotel 

What is the best preferred resort on Universal Property? 

  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort 

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is a great midrange resort offering a few extra amenities while not breaking the bank. Inspired by the islands, you’ll find yourself walking by waterfalls and palm trees while listening to steel drums as your stroll around. You’ll feel like you’re at an island paradise. Rooms start at $181 a night.

One of the great perks of Loews Sapphire Falls Resorts is the water-taxi available to and from CityWalk. This resort also has incredible food options, including the well-reviewed and fan-favorite, Strong Water Tavern. Hang out here while the kids enjoy the 16,000 square foot pool with sand beaches, water slide and children’s play area.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Dining Options

With its reasonable price and fun amenities, many families consider this the best hotel to stay at in Universal Studios Orlando for families.

Premier Resorts – Best Universal Studios Hotels 

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Before we dive into each resort that falls in the Universal deluxe hotels category, let’s talk about the main reason your travel party may want to reserve your perfect vacation stay at one of these resorts. Guests who stay at these premier resorts receive two incredible perks that other resorts’ guests do not receive with their stay.

Benefits of the Best Premier Universal Studios Hotels

  1. Free Universal Express Unlimited Ride passes for each guest, for each day of your stay. The Universal Express Unlimited Pass allows guests access to skip the ride lines for most rides at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and can cost around $100 per person per day. If you have a larger party and especially if you are visiting during a high peak time, this benefit alone can make it worth the higher price of a room.
  2. Priority seating at select restaurants and first-available seating at others. If there are popular restaurants that are a must-do on your vacation, this perk will help you get in the door and seated.

Now that you know that incredible information, let’s look at each premier resort choice.

Lowes Royal Pacific Resort & Lowes Royal Pacific

Lowes Royal Pacific Resort is ready to take you away to a Polynesian paradise. It’s incredible lagoon-style pool is just one of the benefits of staying at Lowes Royal Pacific. Whether you’re relaxing in your cabana with a tropical drink or playing in the interactive water area, you might actually forget about going to the parks. With kids camps and a torch lighting ceremony, there’s always something fun going on making it one of the best Universal Studios resort hotels. 

Rooms at this resort start at $252 and have beautiful garden views. When you’re ready to have a meal or enjoy a drink, you’ll find a wide array of options, from American fare to Pan Asian food and even a sushi bar.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort Dining

The Hard Rock Hotel

The Hard Rock Hotel is definitely the most popular kid in his class. With its edgy, music-driven décor, anyone who’s anyone will want to stay at this resort. Where else in the world can you sit in the same love seat as John Lennon or see the booth where Elvis recorded his first song? Rooms are spacious and begin at just under $300 a night, not too bad for a rock star! As a guest, you can even request having a guitar sent to your room to jam the night away making it one of the best Universal Studios resort hotels. 

For families with tweens to young adults wondering which hotel at Universal Orlando is best, they might decide this one tops their list with music memorabilia on display throughout the resort as well as the ability to listen to music even when under the water in its 12,000 square foot pool.

Hard Rock Hotel Dining Options

Loews Portofino Bay Resort

Did we save the best for last? That’s up to you to decide! The Loews Portofino Bay Resort will definitely take your breath away. This expansive resort, designed to make you feel like you’ve traveled abroad to Portofino, Italy, with its outdoor cafes, cobblestone streets, and shops along the harbor, will charm its way into your heart. This resort has the most pools, the most restaurants and the most shopping venues so if you stay here, you’ll want to allot the time to explore all the different areas and amenities.

Rooms begin at $300 a night, with the ability to upgrade to Club Level or Suites. And these rooms are like no other. Standard rooms have 450 square feet making them some of the largest rooms on property and come with pillow-top beds. This resort is great for families seeking an upscale, luxury place to stay while on their Universal Studios Vacation.

Loews Portofino Bay Resort Dining

Pros & Cons of All Universal Hotels

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Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort

Rates start at: $252.00
Transportation: Boat, Shuttle, walkway

  • Pros: In our opinion, guests receive the best amenities at this resort for its price point. For the same price as one of Disney’s Moderate Resorts, you have access to an enormous lagoon pool, a variety of restaurants, and free Universal Express Unlimited.
  • Cons: Due to its close proximity to Islands of Adventure, this resort can get quite noisy at night so this may not be the best option for those traveling with babies or young children.
  • What’s the vibe? An upscale Southern sea escape, with tropical wonders and a Polynesian paradise.

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Universal’s Loews Portofino Bay Resort

Rates start at: $300.00 per night
Transportation: Boat, shuttle, walkway

  • Pros: This resort has the largest amount of guest rooms on both Disney and Universal property. Guests also receive the Universal Express Pass, which lets you skip the regular queue lines. The resort is massive with plenty of dining and entertainment options.
  • Cons: The restaurants are a bit pricier than you will find throughout most of the other resorts and even at Universals City Walk.
  • What’s the vibe? Romantic and picturesque relaxation in a the beautiful city of Portofino, Italy.

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Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel

Rates start at: $287.00 per night
Transportation: Boat, shuttle, walkway

  • Pros: This resorts Rock n Roll theme makes it a great choice for those who love music. It is the only resort where you can actually listen to music while underwater at the pool! There is also supreme culinary establishments unlike any of the other Universal Orlando resorts.
  • Cons: This is one of the more lively resorts, so this is not the resort for you if you are looking for a more quiet and relaxing vacation.
  • What’s the vibe? Posh, rock n’ roll luxury with vibrant and exciting musical theming.

On-Site Universal’s Preferred Hotels

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Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Rates start at: $181.00 per night
Transportation: Boat, shuttle, walkway

  • Pros: The resort is home to The Strong Water Tavern, a one of a kind restaurant. They offer a variety of rare vintage rums to make you feel completely immersed in the Caribbean vibe.
  • Cons: This resort does not include the complimentary Universal Express unlimited pass, which is included with the premier resorts.
  • What’s the vibe? Contemporary Caribbean with scenic views.

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Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Rates start at: $132.00 per night
Transportation: Shuttle

  • Pros: An affordable, fun family resort with unique theming. This resort has its very own bowling alley, Galaxy Bowl!
  • Cons: Wait times for the shuttle can be extremely long depending on what time you leave the resort, so plan accordingly.
  • What’s the vibe? Vibrant retro, beachy family fun

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Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Rates start at: $132.00 per night
Transportation: Shuttle

  • Pros: This resort has its own virtual reality game room, so it is a great option for those traveling with kids!
  • Cons: There is no Universal Express Pass offered. There is also not as many pools as other value resorts.
  • What’s the vibe? Modern, stylish and sleek with cool technologybest-budget-hotel-universal-orlando

Universals Endless Summer Resort 

Rates start at: $88.00 per night
Transportation: Shuttle

  • Pros: Very affordable pricing with incredible room designs
  • Cons: Farthest resort from the Universal Orlando Resort parks, which comes with a long shuttle wait.
  • What’s the vibe? Sand, sea and sunsets at an affordable price

We truly believe all Universal Studios on site hotels have great reasons that they may be the best Universal Resort hotel. If you’re still having trouble deciding which is best hotel to stay at Universal Orlando, let us know. We’d be happy to help you make the best choice for you!

Universal Hotels FAQ

Q: Which Hotel at Universal Orlando is Best?

A:  There is no right or wrong answer when picking the best Universal Orlando hotel. The reason being there are so many different perks and benefits of staying at each of the Universal hotels. That’s why we put together our pros and cons list!

Q: Which Universal hotels include Fast Pass?

There are three on-site Universal Orlando hotels that offer complimentary Express Passes: Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel.

Q: What is the cheapest Universal Hotel?

As of May 2021, both of Universal’s Endless Summer Resorts – Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites – are the cheapest Universal Hotels. They both start at $88 per night.

Q: Which Universal hotel is closest to the parks?

All of the on-site resorts are super close, but Royal Pacific is the closest – at least to Islands of Adventure. The hotel actually offers rooms that look out directly to Islands of Adventure, and on average it takes less time to walk there from this specific resort.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Universal Orlando?

Our Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar is the best tool to help you get the most out of your time in the parks. We breakdown the park crowds, park hours of operation, ticket prices by day, and average temperature.

Are You Ready to Plan Your Next Universal Orlando Trip?

If you’re ready to plan your trip to Universal Studios, be sure to check out our Universal Orlando Tickets! All Park Prodigy Universal Orlando tickets will get you into the park one hour before regular park guests with Universal Early Park Admission!