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

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

It is time to decide which of Universal Orlando Resort’s five on-site hotels is best for you and your party: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, 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 and Volcano Bay
  • Transportation to all three parks and CityWalk (you can also walk from any of the hotels to CityWalk)
  • 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’s 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, 5:00 pm to 11:30 pm, and Friday through Saturday, 5:00 pm 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 an 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 have in common?

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, Royal Pacific, and Sapphire Falls is this: each one is an AAA Four-Diamond resort property. This means, regardless of which you choose, 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 2:30 am
    • 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, with the twin exceptions of during peak seasons and late at night. Then water taxi access is restricted to on-site guests, and the boats’ 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 resort 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: 2,200 – the largest of the five on-site hotels.
  • Room size: standard rooms are 300 square feet.
  • Price: standard rooms range between $144 and $239 per night.
  • Best match: Cabana Bay is a best match for any party traveling on a tight budget but that still wants to be close to the action (especially Volcano Bay)
  • Keep in mind: Cabana does not offer complimentary Express Pass access.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort

LOEWS SAPPHIRE FALLS RESORT

  • 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 square feet.
  • Price: standard rooms range between $199 and $314 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 isn’t interested in having Express Passes.
  • Keep in mind: Sapphire does not offer complimentary Express Pass access.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Waterfalls at Universal Orlando
Loews Sapphire Falls 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. (And the hotel recently updated its rooms, which you can check out here.)
  • Number of rooms: 1,000 – tied for second-largest of the five on-site hotels.
  • Room size: standard rooms are 335 square feet.
  • Price: standard rooms range between $269 and $474 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 resort to the park’s turnstiles than 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 properties receive positive reviews, we see the most about this one. It is also the venue 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 seventh floor of Tower 2, the sixth floor of Tower 3, or the seventh floor of Tower 3 (club level).
Wantilan Luau at Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Royal Pacific also features Universal’s only dinner show: Wantilan Luau

HARD ROCK HOTEL

  • Theming: California mansion, like the one featured on the front of the Eagles album Hotel California. It is true that this resort is fairly striking from the outside, and the pool area is a pleasure. When you move inside, however, 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 (for now).
  • Room size: standard rooms are 375 square feet, or 10 percent larger than Royal Pacific.
  • Price: standard rooms range between $314 and $554 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 CityWalk and the three parks, further adding to its immersive qualities.
  • Number of rooms: 750. It is worth noting that while Portofino Bay has fewer 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 $329 and $544 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 – Hard Rock, Royal Pacific, and Sapphire Falls only have one. It also has more restaurants and shops than the other four hotels. Perhaps more importantly, Portofino is tied (with Sapphire) for the largest selection of room types, including five separate suite categories. 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 any of the other properties, but it’s worth mentioning that this venue is also a very good match for families who want a break from the craziness of the parks. Royal Pacific and Sapphire Falls have a lot more rooms and only one pool each, so they can be hectic. Hard Rock is, well, Hard Rock. And Cabana Bay, with its staggering room count, is always crawling with people. 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 20-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 all the others. 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 Walt Disney World Resort’s on-site hotels, too, just for the record.) 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 for more than two days jump on the water taxis and tour the hotels.

That brings us to one important reminder: all on-site resorts charge for parking. And they charge more to day-guests than Universal Orlando’s main parking garage, so don’t 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 Resort, 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 properties operate their own shuttles, whether paid or complimentary, to Orlando International Airport (unless you’re a vacation package holder, that is).

What about the hotels’ cancellation policy?

Since all five on-site hotels are operated by Loews, they all feature the same cancellation policy: if you cancel your reservation six or more days in advance, you will receive a full refund. If it’s anything fewer than five days beforehand, however, you will be charged one night’s room rate, plus tax.

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