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Home OI Universal Center On-site hotels at Universal Orlando: Overview and rates Comparing Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels: Royal Pacific, Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, Sapphire Falls, and Cabana Bay

Comparing Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels: Royal Pacific, Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, Sapphire Falls, and Cabana Bay

Comparing Universal Orlando’s three on-site hotels – which one is right for you?

So it is time to decide which of Universal Orlando’s five on-site hotels is best for you and your party: Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, or Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.

Let’s start with what is the same about all five hotels.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel: Universal Orlando’s flagship resort.

What do all Universal on-site hotels have in common?

All Universal Orlando on-site hotels have select “universal” features. These include:

  • Early Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • transportation to both theme parks and CityWalk (you can also walk from any of the hotels)
  • resort-wide charging privileges
  • delivery of merchandise purchased
  • character appearances
  • non-smoking rooms with:
    • flat screen TVs
    • hairdryer
    • safe
    • iron and ironing board
    • coffee maker
  • free wifi, with premium available for fee
  • heated themed pools with lifeguards on duty
  • game room
  • complimentary fitness center
  • laundry services
  • supervised children activities
    • All hotels offer supervised children’s activities such as arts and crafts, story time, computer play, movies, and more so parents can explore all that the resort has to offer.
    • Supervised children’s areas are open Sunday through Thursday: 5pm to 11:30pm, and Friday through Saturday: 5pm to midnight. Times are subject to change
    • There is a supervised children’s area at most of the on-site hotels, but availability may only be offered at one hotel per night on a rotating basis. On-site guests are welcome to bring their kids to the on-site hotel offering availability even if it’s not the hotel they’re staying at.
    • Kids must be age 4 to 14, and they must be potty-trained.The fee is $15 per child, per hour, plus meals.
    • For reservations and more information, contact concierge or star service at your hotel.
    • IMPORTANT: This is not a one-on-one babysitting service. Concierge can arrange a third-party sitting service if desired.
  • access to Mandara Spa at Portofino

What do all Universal on-site hotels except Cabana Bay in common?

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, Royal Pacific, and Sapphire Falls is this: Each one is a AAA Four-Diamond resort property. This means, regardless of which you stay at, you will be staying at a higher end hotel with detailed theming and upscale amenities including large pool areas, fine dining restaurants, game rooms, supervised kids activities, and business centers.

These four hotels all feature:

  • water taxi transportation to Universal theme parks
    • Each hotel offers water taxi service that begins 30 minutes before Early Park Admission and runs about every 15 minutes until 2:30am.
    • Water taxis are assigned to a particular onsite hotel and go directly from that hotel to the CityWalk drop-off area and back. They do not pick up at multiple hotels before going to CityWalk.
    • Water taxis can be used by general park guests as well, besides during peak seasons and late at night. Then water taxi access is restricted to on-site guests and the Captains may ask to see room key cards.
    • both water taxis and all other transportation options are ADA accessible.
  • individual suites
  • pets allowed
  • valet parking
  • concierge desk
  • business center
  • 24-hour room service

To learn more about the specific amenities and room types at each of Universal Orlando’s on-site hotels, use the navigation links above to view the individual hotel properties.

How are Universal’s on-site hotels different?

There are four primary characteristics that differentiate the five hotels from each other: theming, number of rooms, size of the rooms, and price. Ultimately, these four characteristics combine to make each hotel a good match for particular groups. Let’s take a closer look.

CABANA BAY BEACH RESORT

  • Theming: Splash back to the 1950s & 60s. A vintage look pulled right from the blockbuster TV show Mad Men (with a dash of Old Florida).
  • Number of rooms: 1,800–the largest of the five on-site hotels.
  • Room size: Standard rooms are 300 sq ft.
  • Price: Standard rooms range between $124.00 and $209.00 per night.
  • Best match: Cabana Bay is a best match for any party traveling on a tight budget, but still want to be close to the action.
  • Keep in mind: Cabana Bay does not offer complimentary Express Pass access.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort.

LOEWS ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT

  • Theming: The South Seas. It has a tropical, festive feel to it, with a mix of relaxation and excitement. If you are someone who really enjoys immersive theming, you should be pleased with Royal Pacific. The hotel recently updated their rooms, you can check out the new look here.
  • Number of rooms: 1,000–tied for second largest of the five on-site hotels.
  • Room size: Standard rooms are 335 sq ft.
  • Price: Standard rooms range between $244.00 and $419.00 per night.
  • Best match: Royal Pacific is a best match for families with young children. And, as Universal Orlando’s most economical hotel that still offers complimentary express, it is the best bet for travelers during a peak season on a budget.
  • Keep in mind: Royal Pacific is the closest of the three hotels to Islands of Adventure. It usually takes less time to walk from this hotel to the turnstiles at IOA then it does to take the water taxi. In general, Royal Pacific is the third of the five on-site hotels to sell out. While all Universal on-site Universal hotels receive positive reviews, we see the most about Royal Pacific. It is also the hotel that has treated us the best in our hundreds of stays.
  • OI tip: Royal Pacific has a number of rooms that look out directly toward Islands of Adventure, giving you a clear view of Hulk, Hogwarts Castle, and more. If you’d like one of these rooms, be sure to request a “park view” room on the 7th floor of Tower 2, the 6th floor of Tower 3, or the 7th floor of Tower 3 (club level).
Wantilan Luau at Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Royal Pacific also features Universal’s only dinner show: Wantilan Luau.

LOEWS SAPPHIRE FALLS RESORT – Now Open

  • Theming: A paradise where shoes are optional, blue waterfalls cascade across lush grounds, and the invitation to cool relaxation is everywhere.
  • Number of rooms: 1,000–tied for second largest of the five on-site hotels.
  • Room size: Standard rooms are 321 sq ft.
  • Price: Standard rooms range between $179.00 and $259.00 per night.
  • Best match: Sapphire Falls is great for meeting and convention attendees. In addition, it may be the perfect fit for a family looking for additional accommodations over Cabana Bay, but are not interested in Express access.
  • Keep in mind: Sapphire Falls does not offer complimentary Express Pass access. Sapphire Falls Resort is Universal Orlando’s newest hotel, opening July 14, 2016. It has quickly become our favorite on-site hotel.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Waterfalls at Universal Orlando
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Waterfalls at Universal Orlando

HARD ROCK HOTEL

  • Theming: California mansion, like the one featured on the front of the Eagles album Hotel California. It is true that this hotel is fairly striking from the outside, and the pool area is a pleasure. When you move inside, the story changes. The clean white walls and modern styling come off as rather boring. If you are not looking at a piece of Hard Rock’s collector memorabilia, you will probably feel like you are just in another hotel.
  • Number of rooms: 650–the smallest of the five onsite hotels.
  • Room size: Standard rooms are 375 sq ft, or 10 percent larger than Royal Pacific.
  • Price: Standard rooms range between $278.00 and $479.00 per night.
  • Best match: Hard Rock is about image and attitude, and who in the family does that remind you of? Yes, Hard Rock is a big hit for families with teens. Younger couples also find their way here, searching for the free spirit of the Rock ‘n Roller. Despite what we noted in the theming section about the interior spaces, Hard Rock does have an energetic atmosphere, but it comes from the guests hanging out and looking for a good time.
  • Keep in mind: In case you are at all concerned that Hard Rock may be a little too “hard” for your impressionable kids, you need not worry. It is a very family-friendly property. Because of its smaller size and popularity with teens (which, coincidentally, is a huge demographic for the Universal Orlando theme parks), Hard Rock is almost always the first hotel to sell out. If you want to stay here, book your room now!
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort
Hard Rock Hotel features over $1 million in rock ‘n roll memorabilia.

LOEWS PORTOFINO BAY HOTEL

  • Theming: Modeled after its namesake, the famous fishing village in the Italian Riviera. As Universal Orlando’s flagship hotel property, Portofino Bay features the most impressive theming of the five on-site hotels (although Royal Pacific is not too far behind). The property is also somewhat offset from Universal CityWalk and the two (soon to be three) theme parks, further adding to its immersive qualities.
  • Number of rooms: 750. It is worth noting that while Portofino Bay has less rooms than Royal Pacific, the physical layout of the hotel is more expansive. It is not unusual for guests to feel a bit lost the first time they walk around. However, this is not a frustrating sensation–in the case of Portofino Bay, it only helps to elevate the theming and the sense of having been swept away to an exotic Italian retreat.
  • Room size: Standard rooms are 450 square feet. That is 25 percent larger than Royal Pacific and about 15 percent larger than Hard Rock.
  • Price: Standard rooms range between $304.00 and $494.00 per night.
  • Best match: Portofino Bay, as we mentioned earlier, is the flagship resort at Universal Orlando. Not only is it the most impressive in terms of theming, it also features the widest selection of amenities. For example, it has three pool areas–Royal Pacific, Sapphire Falls, and Hard Rock only have one. It also has more restaurants and shops than the other two hotels. Perhaps more importantly, Portofino Bay has the largest selection of rooms types, including five separate suite categories. (Sapphire Falls also has five separate suite options.) All that we have described makes Portofino Bay the obvious choice for older couples or parties in the mood for romance.
  • Keep in mind: Portofino Bay may be designed for guests who are looking for a more upscale experience than Royal Pacific or Hard Rock. However, it is worth mentioning that this property is also a very good match for families who want a break from the craziness of the parks. Royal Pacific and Sapphire Falls has a lot more rooms and only one pool each, so it can be hectic. Hard Rock is, well, Hard Rock. But Portofino Bay, with its expansive property layout, larger number of amenities, and secluded location away from the theme parks, offers plenty of peace and quiet. Also, Universal Orlando’s full-service spa is at Portofino Bay!
Portofino Bay Hotel Pool
Can’t you just feel yourself sinking into the warm water for a swim…

Staying at a 16-star resort

Many guests are delighted to find out that by staying at one of the on-site hotels, they have complimentary access to the amenities at the other on-site hotels. This is particularly useful to know if your hotel of choice is sold out. Most common scenario: A family with teens wants to stay at Hard Rock, but there are no more rooms available. Well, they will most likely be able to stay at Royal Pacific and save a little bit of money, and they can still hang out at Hard Rock’s pool (be sure to bring your room keys!).

Even if you are not staying on-site at Universal Orlando, you can visit the hotels too!

Theme park veterans know this already, but just in case you are a first-timer we will let you in on a little secret: anyone can visit the Universal Orlando on-site hotels. The same goes for all of Disney World’s on-site hotels too. Now, you do not necessarily have access to all the amenities–don’t plan on bringing your swimming trunks–but you can still visit, check out the theming, and grab a meal. We highly recommend that anyone visiting Universal Orlando for more than two days jump on the water taxis and tour the hotels. That brings us to one important reminder: All on-site hotels charge for parking. And they charge more to day-guests than Universal Orlando’s main parking garage, so do not think you can skip the parking fee by grabbing a spot at a hotel like you can at Disney World. Speaking of pricing…

Get ready for extra fees…

If you are going to stay on-site at Universal Orlando, please be aware that the hotels charge for many things guests usually assume are included with the room, such as parking. We should also mention that none of Universal’s on-site hotels operate their own shuttles to Orlando International Airport outside of for Vacation Packages – paid or complimentary.

Do you have a question about staying at Universal’s on-site hotels? Please let us know by posting in our Universal Community Facebook group.

OI Universal Center » On-site Hotels