Universal Orlando Resort, in partnership with Loews Hotels, offers a wide variety of “on-site” accommodations in terms of price and amenities. The area surrounding the Universal Orlando Resort property also contains numerous hotels for various budgets. This guide will explore the essential details you need to know to determine the best hotels near Universal Orlando Resort for your group.
Deciding which hotel makes the best option for your group can be challenging. For a Universal Orlando Resort vacation, a higher percentage of quality hotels near Universal Orlando Resort fit into people’s vacation budgets compared to all-inclusive overseas vacations or even at Walt Disney World Resort.
This article will break down the best hotels near Universal Orlando Resort. We will start with the less expensive, more budget-friendly ones. After that, we will explore moderate-level hotels followed by upscale or premier hotels. In addition, this resource will ponder the pros and cons of staying at a Universal Orlando Resort “on-site” hotel versus a nearby “off-site” hotel.
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort has grown from humble beginnings in 1990 to a full-fledged theme park resort. As a result, hotel accommodations around the Universal Orlando Resort property have become more popular.
However, in contrast to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort sits in the middle of the city limits of Orlando. As a result, many local businesses are within reasonable walking distance of the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks. That means you can stay at some off-site hotels and be closer to Universal Orlando Resort’s action than two official “on-site” hotels.
Universal Orlando Resort has eight official “on-site” hotels. They describe these within four levels: premier, preferred, prime value, and value.
The theme park resort also partners in various ways with 36 additional “off-site” hotels. Using Universal Orlando’s definition of hotels, the partner hotels include ten value-level hotels and 26 moderate-level hotels.
Those hotels allow you to stay there by booking a Universal Orlando Resort vacation package. By doing this, guests will receive extra perks for their vacation, such as discounts and possibly early park admission. Still, guests should be aware that several “off-site” partner hotels offer minimal shuttle service to Universal Orlando and could be over a 20-minute drive to Universal Orlando. When booking a vacation package, be careful that your partner hotel provides reasonable transportation to Universal Orlando Resort if needed.
We have divided the best hotels near Universal Orlando Resort into three categories for our purposes. Those include budget, moderate, and upscale hotels. All these suggestions involve clean rooms, a short distance from Universal Orlando Resort, and basic amenities for your stay. For our purposes, some excellent hotels fell off this list since the walk would be more than a 20-minute from Universal Orlando Resort.
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Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Budget Hotels
To make this list, these budget hotels must provide the best amenities and quality for your vacation budget money. Universal Orlando Resort also helps by classifying these for us using the term “value.”
These hotels work well for groups focusing on full days in theme parks. If your group is not concerned about having signature dining, a pool with every feature, or top-of-the-line common areas, then budget hotels could work well for you. Having stayed at almost every hotel near Universal Orlando Resort, we would include two off-site hotels and technically two Universal Orlando Resort hotels in this category.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort
Loews and Universal Orlando Resort operate these two “on-site” hotels. This resort divides into two sister hotels, Dockside Inn and Suites and Surfside Inn and Suites. The key reason we keep placing “on-site” in quotes revolves around these residing outside the main resort on International Drive. For example, you can take a short walk from these resort hotels to a nearby Walgreens store and several chain restaurants. We would not recommend walking from here to the rest of Universal Orlando Resort.
Despite that, these two hotels offer continuous shuttle service to Universal Orlando Resort. These bus rides take about 5 minutes. Both hotels provide solid value-level food courts, pools, on-site Starbucks, and an on-site guest Universal Orlando Resort travel planning desk. These hotels offer standard rooms and suites with three queen-size beds.
Comfort Inn and Suites Near Universal Orlando Resort
This hotel is in the Kirkman Road area near Universal Orlando Resort. Kirkman Road is a hectic road near the theme park resort. However, a tall walkway has been created to allow guests staying in that area to walk over the traffic to Universal Orlando Resort. A complimentary breakfast also comes with staying here.
The rooms are a reasonable size with the quality you would expect. Though a limited shuttle service is provided to reach Universal Orlando Resort, the walk will take 15-20 minutes.
Holiday Inn & Suites Across from Universal Orlando
This hotel sits closest to Universal Orlando Resort of any of the off-site hotels. A TGI Friday’s restaurant is located at this hotel also. This hotel provides all the standard amenities. Guests enjoy the outdoor pool area and kid’s splash zone area. Also, guests can enjoy the video arcade and fitness center. This hotel offers many different sizes and styles of rooms to accommodate all types of groups. As a partner hotel to Universal Orlando Resort, this hotel offers limited shuttle service in the mornings, late afternoon, and early evenings.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Moderate Hotels
The Universal Orlando Resort area contains many moderate-level hotels. These options provide far more amenities and convenience but fall below the upscale hotels near Universal Orlando Resort we will mention later. We stayed at every moderate hotel near Universal Orlando Resort. Though some excellent hotels exist in this category, many of them simply take too long to get to Universal Orlando Resort compared to our three suggestions. At this level of hotel, we recommend one off-site hotel and two on-site hotels.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
This Loews/Universal Orlando hotel resides on-site, literally next door to Volcano Bay water park. The incredibly family-friendly hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, offers guests standard rooms, family suites that sleep six, or two-bedroom suites that sleep eight.
This hotel utilizes a theme of 1950s and 1960s Florida beach hotels. The theming reaches the level of any hotel in the Orlando area.
Guests can enjoy the two pools, a lazy river, the bowling alley, on-site Starbucks, an excellent food court, and quality amenities throughout the resort. Like all Universal Orlando Resort hotels, this one provides free transportation to the theme parks. This hotel works very well for families with kids and teens. If staying here, we suggest taking a day (or at least a half day) just enjoying the resort.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando
Though this hotel is technically not as close to Universal Orlando Resort as the Holiday Inn and Suites, walking to Universal CityWalk Orlando will take the same time. This hotel compares in terms of quality and amenities to the higher-level on-site resorts at Universal Orlando Resort. This DoubleTree hotel greets you with a warm cookie at check-in.
The DoubleTree hotel contains a vast amount of convention and meeting space. Based on that, you can often find good deals here when convention bookings are low. The hotel provides several quick-service dining options and a table service option. The pool area presents guests with a great spot to relax. Charging stations for electric vehicles are also located at this hotel.
Universal’s Aventura Hotel
This hotel sits across the road from Cabana Bay Beach Resort. In contrast, Aventura lacks intense theming. This hotel resembles more of a modern style hotel. This hotel works well for adult groups. Each room comes equipped with an iPad to control room settings such as TV, lights, and sounds.
Aventura provides guests with a Starbucks in the lobby, an outdoor pool, a gaming area, and the impressive Bar 17 Bistro rooftop bar. In addition, the more straightforward check-in process and the short time it takes to reach your room make this an excellent option for Universal Orlando Resort visitors. Frequent Universal Orlando visitors dine at the Urban Pantry here for arguably the best theme park resort food court in the Orlando area.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Upscale Hotels
As you might expect, Universal Orlando Resort extends the option of more luxury-style hotels. The “Premier” level hotels provide guests with more amenities to cause them to feel like VIPs during their vacations. Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel are those three hotels. In terms of advantages and perks for a Universal Orlando Resort vacation, only the on-site hotels can extend this level of service and advantages.
These premier hotels vary in price and amenities. Still, they each offer a short walk to the theme parks and free boat transportation also. For comparison, these premier resorts provide similar services and features to the Disney Boardwalk and Disney Monorail resorts for a lower price on average.
Each premier hotel has a dedicated bus service to Volcano Bay entrance avoiding security in the CityWalk garage hub area. For anyone that has visited Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort’s excellent water park, this advantage means a lot. Also, these upscale hotels have dedicated security entrances to CityWalk, allowing guests to avoid the CityWalk security hub. This enables premier resort guests to avoid the CityWalk security hub, which saves time and potential frustration.
The premier resorts have larger rooms and higher quality dining than nearby hotels. Guests staying also receive priority seating at specific CityWalk dining options. Most importantly, guests at these hotels receive an unlimited express pass for their stay. It starts the day they check in and ends at the close of park operations on check-out day.
Universal Orlando Express Pass
For those unfamiliar with the magic of “Express Pass” at Universal Orlando Resort, it allows guests to enter a shorter queue for almost every attraction at Universal Orlando’s two theme parks. This works like the Genie+ system with several considerable advantages. You do not have to stress scheduling them in advance. With unlimited express, you enter the express queue anytime (and as often as) you desire. As the name implies, you can do these for an unlimited amount. You can do this if you want to ride the Incredible Hulk coaster six times in a row with a low wait. If your goal is to experience all the attractions at Universal Orlando Resort quickly, then an express pass would expedite that. Please be advised that Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure does not accept Express Pass at the time of writing.
Also, guests staying at these hotels can enjoy the Universal Orlando Resort “bubble” while enjoying excellent accommodations. The luxury of these nearby accommodations causes guests to feel like VIPs during their stay.
Loews Portofino Bay Resort
Portofino Bay makes an excellent quieter resort hotel on the Universal Orlando Resort property. This resort is considered more romantic with the Italian theming. Also, the Musica della Notte happens each evening (weather permitting) around sunset. This music of the night involves a male and female opera singer performing. Universal Orlando encourages guests to “Catch this impressive performance of classic opera, festive melodies, and ‘popera’ favorites to end your night on a high note.”
Portofino Bay Resort is the only Premier-level resort that has an official Starbucks, not just a coffee shop “proudly serving Starbucks.” This means you can use Starbucks gift cards and mobile app to pay for your coffee. Still, you cannot redeem Starbucks rewards, but you can earn “stars” to use when you get home.
The rooms are the largest on property at Portofino Bay Resort. In addition, the bathrooms provide wonderful amenities and most space for hotels at Universal Orlando. Also, the only spa at Universal Orlando Resorts resides at Portofino Bay Resort.
For all those reasons and more, this is the most expensive of the premier resort on most days. Some guests have been disappointed with the food options at this resort in terms of speed of service. Still, if you are looking for a high-value resort for noticeably less than comparable options in the Orlando area, Portofino Bay meets than desire.
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort
The Hard Rock Hotel empowers guests to stay and live like a rock star. With music videos playing in the lobby area and music memorabilia also, the idea of being a rock star looks apparent. This resort has well over $1 million dollars in rock music memorabilia to view.
Hard Rock Hotel offers some of the best dining on property. For example, the Palm Restaurant serves the best upscale meals at Universal Orlando Resort. The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel Orlando also serves excellent food and an acoustic brunch on Sunday mornings.
The Hard Rock Hotel provides guests with easy transportation options to the Universal Orlando theme parks. Also, guests can enjoy an easy walk to Universal Studios Florida with this hotel being less than ½ mile away.
As you might expect, it has themed pools with music even playing underwater. This resort brings fun for its guests. However, fun often means noise. The potential noise level at pools and lobby areas can be off-putting to some guests.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Loews Royal Pacific Resort usually costs the least of the Universal Orlando Resort Premier hotels. The rooms are slightly lower quality than the other two premier resorts with some guests complaining about small rooms. Still, the Polynesian theme is well done from the moment you step on property.
This resort has gone through some renovations over the past few years. One new renovation was the Tuk Tuk Market, which is a grab-and-go food area. This quick service location offers a resort-style freestyle cup program. This refillable cup program enables guests to enjoy unlimited refills from the Coke Freestyle machines at this hotel.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort will not be as close as the Hard Rock Hotel to the theme parks. Nonetheless, this hotel resides just as close to the Universal Islands of Adventure theme park. On days that Universal Islands of Adventure opens for guests for early park admission, this hotel provides an easy walk.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Honorable Mention
Depending on your needs and wants when enjoying a Universal Orlando vacation, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort hotel might be the perfect option for you. Still, in terms of the best hotels near Universal Orlando, this hotel falls into its own category. In fact, Universal Orlando defines this hotel as “Preferred.” Preferred level hotels at Universal Orlando Resort include only one hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort even provides some aspects that look better than the Premier hotels on-site. In terms of room quality, the rooms at Sapphire Falls provide better quality than some of the Premier hotels. The pool area at Sapphire Falls Resort consistently receives high marks from guests. We would declare the Sapphire Falls pool area as the best at Universal Orlando. Also, arguably the best bar on the property resides at Sapphire Falls. The Strong Water Tavern draws locals and tourists consistently for the experience and top of the line rums. Of course, if you grow bored with that lounge option, you can walk next door to Aventura for Bar 17 Bistro.
The location of Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort, near Aventura, provides a few more advantages. This Preferred hotel offers complimentary water taxi service just like the Premier hotels. In addition, based on its location, guests with cars can easily access Interstate Four from here to visit other area attractions.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort usually comes with a far higher price tag than the on-site and off-site moderate level hotels. Still, the price point should fall below the Premier on-site hotels.
Before you think Loews Sapphire Falls Resort sounds too good to be true, we have one important detail to stress. The quality of the hotel itself with a beautiful lobby, great amenities, and ease of transportation to the theme parks presents guests with valid reasons to choose this hotel. Especially if looking for a quiet on-site hotel, this one wins in that contest.
Despite those advantages, Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort does not extend Express Pass benefits to its guests. The lack of this significant perk leads to the lower cost. Experienced Universal Orlando Resort vacationers commonly express that if Sapphire Falls had Express Pass they would never stay anywhere else. Despite that, for those looking for an excellent on-site hotel, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort should be considered.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: The “On-Site” or “Off-Site” Debate
Discussing the pros and cons regarding staying on-site versus off-site usually involves cost. Still, when comparing most off-site hotels to Universal Orlando Resort’s hotel options, the cost difference will be less than you think. For example, when checking with travel advisors like Get Away Today, you might discover that an on-site stay fits your vacation budget.
Advantages of Staying at an On-site Hotel
Early Park Admission– All on-site hotel guests receive one hour of early admission to at least one of the theme parks. In addition, all Universal Orlando Resort guests receive early park admission to Volcano Bay, Universal’s waterpark. These privileges make a universe of difference for those wanting to experience the big attractions at Universal Orlando Resort. Also, Volcano Bay sometimes hits maximum capacity so that guests without one-day tickets for that day cannot enter. Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests receive access even under those conditions.
Free Transportation to the theme parks and Volcano Bay – All eight Universal Orlando Resort hotels offer free transportation to the theme parks. Also, each Universal Orlando Resort hotel has a continuous shuttle service to Volcano Bay or exists close enough for a leisurely walk. The advantage of being able to avoid parking at the CityWalk garage and then taking a bus to Volcano Bay might be worth the potential extra price all by itself.
Proximity to the theme parks – Every Universal Orlando Resort hotel is no more than a five-minute bus ride from CityWalk to enjoy your theme park adventure. Based on the current short driving distances between anything at Universal Orlando Resort, the bus service qualifies as very efficient. Several of the on-site hotels make it an easy walk to enjoy the theme parks. In fact, I am typing this article about the best hotels near Universal Orlando from the Hard Rock Hotel. It took me 5.23 minutes to walk from Universal Studios Florida theme park exit to the lobby inside the Hard Rock Hotel.
Advantages of Staying at an Off-Site Hotel
When I choose to stay off-site at a hotel near Universal Orlando Resort, I have a few main reasons. Sometimes it relates to the fact that I could not get the Universal Orlando hotels I wanted. However, some more practical reasons are:
Cost- Off-site hotels tend to cost less. However, this is not always true regarding hotels near Universal Orlando Resort. The Endless Summer Resort hotels tend to offer a competitive rate compared to other nearby hotels.
Nevertheless, one can often find a hotel option that is slightly cheaper off-site. If you stay for multiple days, those savings will add up. Also, staying off-site provides easier access to dining options outside the theme parks. In addition, access to groceries at a lower price will be more accessible when staying off-site.
More Options- If you are staying off-site, your group will find it easier to visit other theme parks and attractions in the Orlando area. You might also build in a day of your vacation to take a break and go shopping when staying off-site. Guests staying off-site are more likely to take an entire day away from the theme parks during their vacation.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Free Breakfast Options
Several hotels near Universal Orlando Resort offer complimentary breakfast for guests. None of the on-site hotels provide complimentary breakfast, however.
The closest hotels with complimentary breakfast are Hyatt Place Orlando and Hyatt House Orlando. These breakfast options serve several hot breakfast items. Both options function as Universal partner hotels. That means they provide limited shuttle service to the theme parks. Each Hyatt option is within a 20-minute walking distance of Universal CityWalk Orlando.
Though we would recommend these options less highly, the Best Western Plus Universal Inn and Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites also offer a complimentary breakfast for guests. If you are willing to stay a little farther away but free breakfast is vital to your group, we have another suggestion, the Drury Inn.
The Drury Inn and Suites Near Universal Orlando offers an excellent hot breakfast buffet. This Universal Orlando partner hotel provides a limited shuttle service to the Universal Orlando theme park. In addition to nice accommodations, this place also offers guests a “Kickback” dining option from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. nightly with a light meal and complimentary alcoholic beverages. For groups looking for a more relaxing vacation while staying off-site, this hotel provides that feel. The knowledge of knowing you have some meals already taken care of and the limited shuttle service to Universal Orlando Resort enhances that feel.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando Resort: Hotels for Larger Groups
Bringing a larger group on vacation means you must fit everyone in one room. Unless you are willing to pay for multiple rooms, the “togetherness” can be interesting. Most hotel rooms accommodate four to six people. What if you need space to sleep eight to ten?
The Holiday Inn and Suites Near Universal Orlando mentioned earlier has some suites that comfortably sleep that group size. If you want to sleep eight or fewer, the two-bedroom suites at Cabana Bay Beach Resort work very well.
My favorite option that sleeps nine would be the suites at Universal’s Aventura Hotel. These suites are designed for families with kids. The room arrangement allows the parents to sleep in a king-size bed with three smaller sleeping areas nearby. Other adults can sleep in their standard size room connected next door with this suite arrangement. Even though it is designed primarily for families with smaller children, I know from experience that many adults can stay in these suites for an enjoyable experience.
Best Hotels Near Universal Orlando: Partner Off-site Hotels with Best Scheduled Shuttle Service
Universal Orlando Resort partners with numerous off-site hotels. However, many of them offer one shuttle pickup or drop-off time if they offer shuttle service at all. Though these hotels are subject to change, as of June 2023, the following off-site partner hotels offer the best shuttle service for those staying off-site:
- Rosen Inn
- Comfort Inn and Suites
- Coco Key
- Rosen Inn International
- Drury Inn
- Rosen Shingle Inn
- Rosen Inn Pointe Orlando
- Hilton Orlando
- Avanti International
- Avanti Palms
- Rosen Center
- Holiday Inn Universal
- Hyatt Plaza
- Hyatt House
- Home2 Suites
- Homewood America
- Sheraton Four Points
- Clarion Inn and Suites
- Holiday Inn Express
- Residence Inn
- Fairfield Inn
These partner hotels currently provide three pickup times in the morning. They also have three pickup times at Universal CityWalk Orlando starting around 5:30 p.m., the latest being 8:00 p.m. The theme parks often stay open that late or later, so the shuttle service is nice, but other plans will need to be arranged if desiring to return to your hotel in the afternoon or late in the evening. These schedules may vary during your Universal Orlando Resort vacation.
For example, in 2019, the bus service for partner hotels made five runs each morning and evening. Also, remember this shuttle service must be scheduled in advance at your partner hotel. The return trip does not need to be scheduled. However, the return trip is first come, first served. This process will be less organized than the bus service for on-site guests
In contrast, the guests staying at the on-site hotels have constant free transportation until CityWalk closes. The partner hotels offer some advantages. The needs of your group will determine the best option for you.
Looking to Enjoy Universal Orlando?
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- Walt Disney World Parking Guide
- Beat the Heat at Disney World
Premier Hotels at Universal Orlando offer the most amount of perks for staying. With private security entrances, complimentary express pass to skip the lines, higher quality dining, and larger rooms, the Premier Hotels may be worth it as we discuss here.
As we detail here, the Loews Royal Pacific Resort is the most upscale and best for couples visiting Universal Orlando. The hotel is luxurious with a grand pool. The hotel is great for a romantic escape or couples vacation.
The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is the cheapest Universal Premier Hotel, but it is still expensive. The hotel starts around $250 per night.
The official Universal hotels do not have a free shuttle to Universal or vice versa. Using Uber or Lyft is typically best for getting between Disney and Universal hotels.
The walk from Loews Royal Pacific Resort to Universal CityWalk is only about 7 minutes. See the details on the hotel here.
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