There are plenty of great places to stay when you visit Universal Orlando, but where you will want to stay will depend on whether you are traveling as a family, a group of adults, if you have pets, and what your budget is. Sometimes it’s tough to decide which hotel or resort is best for you, and that when a travel agent can come in handy. I always use The Vacationeer whenever I need help planning my Universal trips.
Now, let’s dive into your options!
Staying at a Universal Hotel
Is it worth it to stay at a Universal Orlando hotel? Yes. You will pay a bit of a premium to stay in a Universal hotel compared to surrounding hotels in Orlando, but there are plenty of benefits that come with your room that more than justify the extra expense. There are plenty of benefits to staying in a Universal Orlando hotel like early park admission, free transportation among the parks, complimentary merchandise delivery, and more. We will go into these perks in more detail in the next few paragraphs. Also, one of the most important reasons why I like to stay at Universal Hotels is purely because of their prime locations. All the hotels are within walking distance of the theme parks and that saves a ton of time and hassle.
Now let’s take a closer look into some of the benefits that make booking your vacation at a Universal Hotel such a good decision.
One of the biggest perks is Early Park Admission. This means that if you are staying at a universal hotel you are able to enter into the parks you purchased tickets for an hour before the general public. This will give you access to some of your favorite rides without having to deal with massive lines. Only certain rides are available for early park access each day, but Universal Keeps a Rotating List that you can easily check and plan ahead.
The second huge benefit of staying in a Universal Hotel is Free Transportation around the parks and CityWalk. Many of the hotels are already within easy walking distance and have paths available to get to wherever you want to go, but if you would rather take a shuttle or a water taxi, that option is always available to use!
You also have cool perks like the ability to charge purchases to your hotel room, get wake-up calls from Universal characters, and if you purchase something in a theme park you get free delivery to your hotel!
The last main benefit is that if you stay at one of the “Premier” level resorts you get a free Universal Express Unlimited Pass. This perk comes with a price tag because staying at these premier resorts tends to be significantly more expensive. But if you are looking to plan your vacation in style then this could be a great option for you! You also have access to exclusive seating at select restaurants throughout Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk.
Are Universal Hotels Expensive?
Yes and no. Theme parks are certainly not cheap to visit and neither is the accommodation that comes along with them. But, there are a variety of options to choose from that can fit almost any budget. Universal hotels are generally less expensive than Disney. The good thing about Universal is that there are a variety of ‘tiers’ of hotels that range from value hotels to premier hotels, meaning that you can select the budget that works best for you. We will go over these options in more detail in a few sections.
What are the best Universal Orlando hotels? That depends on your budget, interests, and size of your family. Let’s get into it!
What are the best Universal Orlando Hotels for Adults?
My top pick for the best hotel at Universal Orlando for adults is the Hard Rock Hotel. This classic-rock-themed hotel takes you on a journey through the greatest artists and bands of all time like the Eagles, Elvis, Bon Jovi, and more as you walk through its hallways.
The hotel offers a complimentary Sound of Your Stay service that lets you use musician equipment for free throughout your stay. The program has everything from guitars to vinyls and is a must-do if you are staying here.
If you are a lover of rock this is a must-try!
What are the Best Universal Orlando Hotels for Families?
My favorite hotel to stay at when travelling with family is the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. There is so much to do for adults, teens, and kids it’s the perfect place to relax after a long day at the theme parks or if you just need a break from the action.
The hotel has a great pool area, a lazy river, a bowling alley and more. Sometimes you even get appearances from your favorite characters at night!
Lazy river at Cabana Bay
The hotel has everything from small rooms to family rooms that can fit up to six people.
I also highly recommend the Universal Aventura Hotel. The hotel is similarly priced to the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and has a great modern look. There is a path straight from the Aventura to Volcano Bay, and you get some special benefits with your stay like Early Park Admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Aventura Hotel | Image © Universal
Which Universal Hotels are Pet-Friendly?
Do you want to plan a Universal vacation but you are worried about leaving your four-legged-friend alone at home or with a relative? Well, you don’t have to! Universal Orlando has four pet-friendly hotels that take dogs and cats for a one-time fee. This option costs $100 and is only available for certain rooms within the hotels, so make sure you book the correct room before you plan to bring your pet. The hotels are:
- Hard Rock Hotel (only Garden View rooms)
- Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (only Garden View and Bay View rooms)
- Loews Royal Pacific Resort (only Standard rooms)
- Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (only Standard rooms)
The hotels all have a limit of two pets per room. You are going to need to provide vaccination information for your pet and keep them supervised at all times. Follow these rules and your pet will enjoy their stay just as much as you!
What are the Best Value Hotels at Universal Orlando?
The best value hotels at Universal Orlando are Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Aventura Hotel, and Endless Summer Resort.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort
You already know about Cabana Bay and the Aventura Hotel: not only are they great places for families they also are some of the best value hotels in Universal Orlando.
The Endless Summer Resort is made up of two hotels: Dockside Inn and Suites, and Surfside Inn. The rooms can start at as little as $91 per night. Both hotels have pools, cocktail bars, a food court, nearby Starbucks and more. They are a great place to stay if you are looking to save some money!
Premier Universal Orlando Hotels
If you are looking to treat yourself and your family while enjoying some great perks, then the Premier Universal Orlando Hotels are for you. Universal has three premier hotels: Loews Royal Pacific Resort, The Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Each provides a unique theme and experience, and comes with complimentary Universal Express Unlimited Passes along with Early Park Admission.
We already discussed the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando earlier in this article, but in case you missed it the hotel is classic rock-themed and is filled with jaw-dropping memorabilia, photos, and music. You can even book complimentary guitars to use during your stay!
Loews Royal Pacific Resort has a tropical theme and is the closest premier hotel to Islands of Adventure. Relaxing at the hotel makes you feel like you are on a remote island retreat, and there are great restaurants, pools, and activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Royal Pacific | Image © Universal
Pro Tip: This hotel is often priced slightly slower than the other premier hotels
Lastly, we have the Loews Portofino Bay; a beautiful premier hotel that is themed after Portofino, Italy. The hotel has beautiful architecture and makes you feel like you are relaxing on a beach in southern Europe!
It’s no secret that there are off-site options that allow you to stay near Universal without being on Universal property. The rooms will likely be cheaper than the on-site hotels, but you’ll be missing out on all of the on-site perks I mentioned above.
You’ll also need to factor in additional travel time to get to the parks. Some of these hotels offer shuttle service to Universal, but be sure to check the schedules to make sure they work for your trip plans (some might only offer one or two departures per day).
None of this is to say that staying offsite is necessarily an inferior choice; many guests do so and are perfectly happy. We simply recommend you get all the info so you can decide if the savings are worth the tradeoffs.