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Disney World often gets all the attention, but if your amusement park of choice in Orlando is Universal Studios, you might be wondering where to stay when you visit. Simply put, what is the best hotel at Universal Orlando?
Whether you want to stay near Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal's Volcano Bay or the CityWalk entertainment and dining complex, we have suggestions that will put you close to the action, making them the best hotels at Universal Orlando.
This rundown will bring you to some great options for your next trip, no matter what your budget or preferred amenities may be. Here are our picks for the best hotels for Universal in Orlando.
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Benefits of Universal Orlando hotels
Why is it a good idea to look for the best hotels near Universal Studios Orlando? Certainly there’s a lot of lodging to choose from in the area. The answer is the best hotels at Universal Orlando offer a variety of perks that are only available to its guests, such as:
Ease of access. By staying close to Universal, you don’t lose time in transit — and the commute can even be fun. Many hotels offer complimentary water taxis to access the various parks, while others provide shuttle buses. And if you want to walk, paved paths are also available from many of the hotels on this list.
Early park entry. Another major benefit is that Universal hotel guests get early park admission, meaning they can enter before other ticket holders. Typically you’ll get a 30- to 60-minute head start before the park officially opens for the day. Note that the parks you receive early access to will vary based on where you stay.
Exclusive passes. If you book a Premier category hotel, you also get a complimentary Universal Express Unlimited pass. These are available with a qualifying reservation at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort properties and allow you to skip the line altogether.
» Learn more: How to travel to Orlando on points and miles
Best hotels at Universal Orlando for location
You can’t beat staying right next to the park, and the best hotels in Universal Studios Orlando are just a quick boat ride or stroll away.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
As its name suggests, this hotel offers a Polynesian-themed environment with palm tree-lined pools, a beach and island-inspired rooms. It may be considered a best Universal Orlando resort for its amenities alone: a lagoon-style pool, spa access and an onsite luau experience. Guests also receive a Universal Express Unlimited pass to avoid lines at Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. You can reach all of the parks by shuttle or water taxi.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
This hotel is a favorite for its Italian architecture, modeled after the seafront town of Portofino. With outdoor cafes and shops lining the main piazza, three pools — one with a Roman aqueduct-themed water slide — and multiple culinary offerings, you’ll get a taste of Italy while still on this side of the Atlantic. Guests at the Portofino also receive Universal Express Unlimited passes and can reach the parks by water taxi or shuttle.
Hard Rock Hotel
This hotel leans on the rock ‘n’ roll inspiration of the Hard Rock brand, and guests will find themselves sleeping amid popular pieces of memorabilia. When you wake up, enjoy the resort amenities, including live concerts, a pool with its own underwater music and classic American fare. You can also take advantage of the Universal Express Unlimited pass that comes with a qualifying stay here. Travel to the parks is by water taxi, shuttle or a short five-minute walk.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
With waterfalls, island-themed steel pan drum music and a beach area, this property feels more like a Caribbean resort, but with Universal park benefits. Guests here are treated to one hour of early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To get to the parks, you can take a water taxi, shuttle bus or follow a walking path to Volcano Bay.
» Learn more: How to purchase theme park tickets with points
Best hotel for Universal Orlando at a low price point
With the high price of amusement parks these days, saving money on your hotel is a great way to make your trip more affordable. These hotels may be a bit further away, but they all offer complimentary transportation to the parks at a lower cost.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort - Dockside Inn and Suites
This property boasts comfy rooms with hardwood floors that are large enough for families. Onsite amenities include two swimming pools, a food court and play areas for kids like splash pads and a game room. Guests here enjoy one-hour-early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A shuttle takes guests to Volcano Bay as well as the main parks.
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn and Suites
This beach-themed, budget-friendly resort includes a swimming pool shaped like a surfboard and plentiful umbrella-shaded seating by the pools. Many of the rooms here are two-bedroom suites, with space for as many as six guests. Like the Dockside Inn, guests here enjoy one-hour-early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a shuttle provides transit to Volcano Bay and the other parks.
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Best Universal hotels for families
Whether you’re traveling with the little ones or meeting up with extended family, here are some of the top options that are budget-friendly with ample space for everyone.
Universal's Aventura Hotel
The two-bedroom Kids Suites at this contemporary high-rise hotel are real winners for those looking to balance personal space with proximity to the parks. These suites have two bedrooms, one with a king bed and another with two twin beds. In the living area, there’s an additional sofa bed.
Guests can travel to Volcano Bay on foot or hop on one of the complimentary shuttle buses to reach the other parks, which are visible from the higher floors of this building. Those staying here can also access The Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the general public.
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The retro style of this hotel brings the feel of a 1950s and '60s Florida beach resort to life. Some of the rooms can sleep as many as six people, thanks to two queen beds as well as a sofa bed. Families will find the kitchenettes useful, as well as a compartmentalized bathroom that can be partially separated to allow for more privacy. Benefits of the hotel include a 100-foot water slide, a bowling alley and a lazy river.
The hotel is just a five-minute walk to Volcano Bay, with complimentary shuttles to all of the parks also available. Guests receive one hour of early park admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
» Learn more: The best credit cards for family travel
Best hotels for points redemptions
Of course, proximity is not paramount for everyone. If you’re looking for a good bargain while redeeming points, there are loads of options in Orlando. Among them are several familiar favorites.
DoubleTree by Hilton at the Entrance to Universal Orlando
Hilton Honors fans will love this property, which is literally at the entrance to the parks — and mentioned in the official name of the hotel. While redemption rates vary by night as part of the brand’s dynamic pricing model, it’s a great option for those who want to cut down on costs by using points, but who also prefer to reach the parks on foot.
Residence Inn Near Universal Orlando
At this hotel, you can count a free shuttle among one of the many perks for guests. Marriott Bonvoy members may already know that Residence Inn properties offer extra living space, in-room kitchenettes and living areas with sofa beds. Complimentary breakfasts are yet another benefit of a stay at this hotel, which also has a pool and fitness room.
Hyatt Place and Hyatt House, across from Universal Orlando Resort
The Hyatt Place and Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort are both great points redemption options. Hyatt Place is a category 2 property with rates starting at 6,500 points for a redemption night. Hyatt House is a category 3 property with redemption rates starting at 9,000 points. Both include free breakfast and a shuttle to the parks, which are also within walking distance.
Redeeming points this way can represent a big value for guests. If paying for a stay, consider using the World of Hyatt Credit Card to earn bonus points for every dollar you spend — up to 9x points on Hyatt stays.
The best Universal hotels in Orlando span across the board
Whether you want to stay at a luxury resort, a spot where you can redeem points or a budget- and family-friendly hotel, there’s a property for every kind of traveler near Universal Orlando.
These suggestions provide a brief rundown of hotels that meet several types of travel styles and budgets, but in the end, the best Universal hotel for you may just be the one where you enjoy time with the ones you love.
(Top photo courtesy of Universal Parks and Resorts)
How to maximize your rewards
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