7 Best Universal Orlando Hotels Ranked, Pros and Cons for Each

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I’d bet that there are few people who, like myself, have had the pleasure of staying at all seven Universal Orlando Resorts. That’s right – I’ve spent at least one night at all of them. And I have to say, each has pros and cons. However, you might be relieved to know that I’ve never had a bad experience with any of them. But I have had better experiences at some over others.

Universal in my (possibly unpopular) opinion, simply offers a better overall resort experience for their guests when compared to other nearby theme parks. Like – *ahem* – Disney. Sure, there are no on-site character dining experiences and not as many in-park perks. But overall, Universal Resorts are nicer, newer, more well-kept and more affordable. Which, for my money, is a win every time. One resort, in particular, has become my go-to when traveling to Orlando to cover the parks for this blog – but more on that later. Below, I will rank my favorite – and least favorite – Universal Orlando Resorts and list the pros and cons of each.

Editor’s Note: Each Universal Orlando Resort comes with early park admission (with a valid admission ticket) and shuttle bus transportation to CityWalk, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Guests also enjoy resort-wide room key charging privileges and complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to the hotel.


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colorful cabana bay resort room
The Cabana Bay is one of the more affordable Universal Resort hotels (photo by Alaina O’Neal/HeyOrlando.com)

7. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort ($)

I’ve only stayed at Cabana Bay once. Like every Universal Resort hotel I’ve been to, I was quite impressed overall. But with that said, it’s my least favorite in the bunch. Sure it’s affordable, but it’s not always the most affordable option. It’s usually tied with Aventura for the accolade of second cheapest in the bunch. Sometimes it can even be a bit more than Aventura, making it the third cheapest. However, if unique family-friendly amenities – like lazy rivers and bowling alleys – are important to you, the slight extra expense might be worth it.

Pros: Universal’s Cabana Bay is one of the most affordable resorts on Universal property. It’s also family-friendly with unique amenities like a bowling alley and a lazy river with cascading waterfalls. And, it offers the shortest walk to Universal’s Volcano Bay of any of the resorts.

Cons: Cabana Bay is an economy hotel, so it’s lacking in extra perks like water taxi transportation (although bus/shuttle transportation is available). It also lacks the free Universal Express Pass perk that you’ll find only at Hard Rock, Royal Pacific and Portofino (which is why it’s half the price). And the rooms are pretty basic.

At the time of this writing, Cabana Bay averages between $272-$639 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Cabana Bay on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

The entrance to Dockside Inn and Suites (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Endless Summer Resort ($)

Endless Summer Resort is two hotels in one: Dockside Inn and Suites and Surfside Inn and Suites. They are both similar to one another with the same in-park perks like free shuttle transportation and early park admission (with a valid park ticket). And both also offer 2-bedroom family suites. Surfside is the smaller of the two. There are fewer rooms available, only one pool and fewer on-site dining options. Dockside, by comparison, has double the amount of dining options, two pools and more amenities like a games room and a children’s splash pad play area. This is why, for my money, I usually prefer Dockside.

Pros: Endless Summer Resort is usually the most affordable resort at Universal. True two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes are abundantly available which makes traveling with a larger group surprisingly comfortable. And, at the time of this writing, it’s the newest resort on the property – and it shows. Everything is modern and clean.

Cons: If you want a hotel that’s conveniently located near the parks, this isn’t the resort for you. It’s the furthest away and separated from the other resort properties by Interstate 4. Park transportation is still offered in the form of a shuttle bus, but walking simply isn’t going to be an option. It will, fun fact, be the closest resort to Epic Universe when that opens in 2025, for what it’s worth.

At the time of this writing, Endless Summer Resort averages between $222-$252 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Endless Summer Resort on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

5. Hard Rock Hotel ($$$)

Now we are getting into some of the more premium resort options – but never fear – I’m saving my favorite budget resort, and favorite mid-range resort for my number one and two picks, respectively. There are three premier Universal Orlando Resorts: Portofino, Royal Pacific and of course, Hard Rock.

The premium resorts have the most in-park benefits including one perk that none of the mid-range or budget resorts have: Free Universal Express Unlimited Passes (a value of $129 per person per day). They also offer multiple ways to get to the park including shuttle buses, water taxis and walking paths, as well as priority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort. However, because these premium hotels can sometimes be $300-$400 more than their budget-friendly sister resorts, it’s usually not worth it to stay at a premium resort unless you have at least 3-4 people in your party.

I’ve even heard tales of some families booking a couple of nights at one of the premium resorts, getting in a full park day with Universal Express Passes, and then moving to a more affordable hotel. The Hard Rock Hotel is the second oldest resort on the property. It originally opened in 2000. It’s admittedly been a while since I stayed at Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel. For instance, I last stayed before I had this blog – which is why I don’t have many photos to share. But it’s pretty similar to every other Hard Rock Hotel. If you’ve never been to a Hard Rock Hotel, just imagine a Hard Rock Restaurant with beds.

Pros: The biggest pro, of course, is the free Universal Express Unlimited Passes for the entire family which help you skip the line at both Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The Hard Rock Hotel also boasts the shortest walking distance to the theme parks. And, Hard Rock Hotel features upgraded room options like club-level rooms and themed kid suites.

Cons: Like all of the premium hotels mentioned in this article, it’s only a bargain if you have more than two members of your party who wish to benefit from the Express Pass.

At the time of this writing, The Hard Rock Hotel averages between $461-$923 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Hard Rock on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

4. Loews Royal Pacific Resort ($$$)

The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is the newest of the three premier options. Originally opened in 2001, it features a peaceful South Seas theme with a lagoon-style pool, two hot tubs and a water play area. It also features all of the same premier perks mentioned above: Universal Express Pass tickets and multiple forms of complimentary park transportation. Also like the others, Royal Pacific offers upgraded themed kids’ suites and club-level rooms.

To be honest, all three of the premier options are fairly similar to one another as far as quality is concerned, so ranking Royal Pacific against Hard Rock and Portofino comes down, for me, to theming and dining. And for me, after a long park day, “rock and roll” just doesn’t sound as relaxing as a South Sea retreat. This is why I’m ranking this resort just a step above the Hard Rock.

Pros: The biggest pros are the premier hotel park perks like Express Passes and multiple options for park transportation.

Cons: It’s not the Portofino …

At the time of this writing, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort averaged around $845 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Royal Pacific on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

The Portofino hotel
Me and my husband at the Portofino in 2007 (archive photo HeyOrlando.com)

3. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel ($$$)

Here we have my personal favorite premier hotel, the original – the Portofino. The Portofino gives Universal goers a little taste of Italy. Opened in 1999 – this was the first Universal Resort I ever visited. And let me just say – I was completely blown away. It’s not just one of the best hotels at Universal. It’s one of my all-time favorite hotels, period.

Yes, it has all of the same premier perks that I’ve mentioned before (Express Passes, multiple park transportation options, upgraded club-level rooms and kid suites). But it also has something the other two premier resorts don’t have – Mama Della’s Ristorante. Mama Della’s is an Italian restaurant with an old-world feel complete with strolling table-side musicians who serenade you as you dine. It looks like something straight out of a movie. It also holds a special place in my heart. It was the first place my husband and I ate on our first-ever vacation when we were still dating. It was also where my sister and her now husband had dinner after getting engaged inside Ollivanders. Plus, Mama Della’s serves some of the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my life.

Every few years, when visiting Universal, whether I’m staying at the resort or not, I try to make a point to hop on a water taxi and make it out to this incredible restaurant. And because I visit this resort often, I can also proudly report that the Portofino, despite being the oldest hotel on resort property, has also been holding up fairly well over the years. Better than I have, at least.

Pros: The biggest pros are the premier in-park perks, Mama Della’s Ristorante and the on-site Mandara Spa.

Cons: Like the other premier options, the Portofino can be quite expensive.

At the time of this writing, The Loew’s Portofino averages between $723-$884. Check current availability and pricing for the Portofino on Expedia and Hotels.com.

loews sapphire falls
The entrance of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort ($$)

That brings us to Loews Sapphire Falls – the best of both worlds. Loews Sapphire Falls is far newer than the premier resorts having just opened in 2016. And, usually, it’s available for about half the price of the premium options. It also features all of the same amenities as the premier resorts – including access to the water taxi – minus the complimentary Universal Express Passes (which is what makes it notably more affordable). Loews Sapphire Falls Resort was also my go-to resort for years. That is, until, they built Aventura (more on that later).

Pros: At Loews Sapphire Falls Resort you get (almost) all of the same perks as the premier hotels for a considerably smaller price tag.

Cons: No complimentary Universal Express Passes.

At the time of this writing, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort was running a 2024 special at $295 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Loews Sapphire Falls Resort on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

rooftop at aventura
The rooftop at Aventura (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Universal’s Aventura Hotel ($)

And finally, we have the second newest resort on the property – Universal’s Aventura Hotel. This hotel has become my new go-to. It’s just almost as affordable as Endless Summer and it’s much closer to the other premier resorts. Why is it beneficial to be close to the premier resorts, you ask? Well, you get to walk across the parking lot and take advantage of the water taxi. Specifically, the water taxi at Sapphire Falls is located right next door. One day, I expect them to make a rule banning this practice. But for now, this little Universal transportation hack seems to be fair game. And in some cases, even common practice.

Additionally, there are no rules while on the property about hotel hopping. After all, the water taxi system is the best way to explore dining options – like Mama Della’s – at the other resorts. Plus, Universal Aventura features Relay the Robot – an autonomous little robot that will bring small amenities like towels, cups or a toothbrush. And I gotta tell you – that robot is stinking adorable. Finally, Aventura also features a gorgeous 17th-floor rooftop bar – which makes for a great adult hangout spot.

Pros: This hotel is usually one of the most affordable resorts on the property. And I love its proximity to the water taxi and walking paths.

Cons: It will take just a tiny bit of extra effort to enjoy the water taxi and walking paths because you’ll have to exit the hotel and walk to another.

At the time of this writing, Aventura averages between $294-$334 per night. Check current availability and pricing for Aventura on Booking, Expedia and Hotels.com.

Which of the above is your favorite hotel at Universal Studios Florida? Let me know if you agree with my ranking in the comments below.

Photo of author


Morgan Overholt

Morgan is the founder Morgan Media LLC, a graphic design agency and the co-founder of TheSmokies.com LLC – a media company that specializes in regional travel sites including HeyOrlando.com.

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