These are the best hotels at Universal Orlando for 2023
For those looking for new and exciting roller coasters, a theme park that requires minimal advance planning or the opportunity to be immersed in all things "Harry Potter," Universal Orlando is increasingly becoming a destination all its own.
The Universal Orlando complex has two theme parks (with a third on the way), a water park, multiple themed hotels and the CityWalk entertainment and dining complex. Sure, there are plenty of other world-class theme parks in the area, but you can find enough just at Universal to keep you busy for several days.
If you’ve decided Universal Orlando is the right theme park pick for your family, the next big decision is probably where to stay.
While you plot out whether to start your day at Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure or Jurassic World VelociCoaster, we'll handle outlining the best hotels for your Universal Orlando vacation, with notes on which wins out in different situations.
Related: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal
- Best Universal Orlando hotel for included Universal Express Unlimited pass: Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.
- Best Universal Orlando midrange hotel: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando.
- Best Universal Orlando value hotel: Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
- Best Universal Orlando hotel for using Amex Platinum perks: Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando.
- Best Universal Orlando hotels for large families: Universal's Aventura Hotel's Kids' Suites, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort's Family Suites and Universal's Endless Summer Resort's 2-Bedroom Suites.
- Best Univeral Orlando hotels for easy access to the theme parks: Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando for Universal Studios Florida, Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando for Universal's Islands of Adventure and Universal's Aventura Hotel for Universal's Volcano Bay.
- Best Universal Orlando hotel pools: Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando.
- Best Univeral Orlando hotels for using hotel points: Hyatt Place across from Universal Orlando Resort, Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort, Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Near Universal Orlando Resort, Residence Inn near Universal Orlando, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Nearest Universal Orlando.
Why stay at a Universal hotel?
There are three compelling reasons to book an on-site hotel at Universal: proximity, perks and theming.
The most obvious pro of staying at a Universal hotel is how close you are to the theme parks — Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal's Volcano Bay — and the entertainment and dining hub known as CityWalk.
You can walk to the parks or CityWalk from several of the on-site properties. Or, you can take a complimentary shuttle bus or water taxi, depending on what’s available at the hotel you pick.
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Then, there are perks.
Guests staying at all of the Universal Orlando resorts get early access to select theme parks and theme park attractions each morning. Exactly which park(s) and attractions you get access to can vary by day, but you'll get a 30-minute head start at Volcano Bay and a full hour at Islands of Adventure and/or Universal Studios.
This can make the difference between a short 15-minute wait for Hagrid's and a less-magical 255-minute wait.
Next up, there are the Express Passes. Guests at Universal Orlando's Premier-level hotels get included Universal Express Unlimited passes. The three eligible hotels include Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. With this pass, you get to skip the regular line at participating Universal rides.
If you were to purchase the two-park Universal Express Unlimited passes by themselves, expect to pay $139 to $339 per person, per day in addition to the cost of regular theme park admission.
Finally, if your family loves special themes, these hotels can’t be beat.
Enjoy a taste of Italy at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a slice of the rock star life at the Hard Rock Hotel, relax at the "beach" at Endless Summer Resort, walk into 1950s Florida at Cabana Bay Beach Resort and lean into some Polynesian flair at Loews Royal Pacific Resort.
If you visit Universal during the winter holidays, you’ll be treated to extra special decor, entertainment and seasonal events at the on-property hotels.
Additionally, some rooms in the Premier-level hotels are outfitted with Universal characters. What little kid wouldn’t love staying in the Despicable Me Kid's Suites at Portofino Bay or the Jurassic World Kids Suites at Royal Pacific?
Universal’s on-property hotels
Universal’s on-site hotels are divvied up into four categories, with pricing ranging from budget to expensive.
The Value category includes Endless Summer Resort, which consists of Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites. You still get early admission to the parks, but there’s no water taxi to bring you to them. Instead, you’ll need to board a free shuttle bus to reach the parks and CityWalk.
Prime Value hotels
Aventura Hotel and Cabana Bay Beach Resort are known as Prime Value properties. Both are within walking distance of Volcano Bay, and you can take a free shuttle bus to the other theme parks and Universal areas.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is the only hotel that currently falls into Universal’s Preferred category.
It’s a nice option that is within walking distance of Volcano Bay. What largely sets the property apart from those previously mentioned is that it has both a free water taxi and shuttle buses to the theme parks and CityWalk.
However, while this is a nice choice, there is one noteworthy drawback: The resort's rates do not include Express Passes, which you'll receive if you stay at a Premier property.
For travelers that want the best at Universal, there's the Premier hotels category, which includes Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.
Only guests of Premier resorts get included Universal Express Unlimited passes, meaning they can skip the longer lines at participating rides like The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Revenge of the Mummy and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
These hotels also have a water taxi and shuttle buses to the parks.
Best Universal Orlando hotel for included Universal Express Unlimited pass
Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando
You have three solid options if your goal is to get Universal Express Unlimited passes with your lodging, but Loews Royal Pacific Resort takes this best-of nod for the overall experience it offers families. Here you not only get included Universal Express Unlimited passes for every registered person in your room, but you also get a South Pacific vibe, quick access to the parks via boat or by foot, themed pools and really fun family suites if you are looking to splurge and spread out.
Best Universal Orlando midrange hotel
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando
If you don't want or need Universal Express Unlimited passes but are seeking a nice blend of a convenient location, a fun pool and available credit card perks, consider staying at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
The rooms are nice (and make you feel like you're at the beach, according to TPG content operations editor Madison Blancaflor), and the resort is a quick boat ride away from City Walk and the parks.
If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express and book a stay lasting at least two nights via The Hotel Collection, you will be eligible for a $100 hotel credit to use toward qualifying resort activities like dining and spa services. You could also luck into a space-available upgrade at check-in, which could make booking this way that much more appealing, especially if the price is right. If you haven't used the Amex Platinum's $200 annual statement credit yet, you could apply it toward a stay here, too.
Best Universal Orlando value hotel
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
From the on-site bowling alley to the impeccably done midcentury modern beach theme, Cabana Bay Beach Resort strikes a sweet note that balances the overall experience with more value-oriented pricing.
You can make solid use of your downtime while staying here by enjoying activities like evening campfires and midday zips down the property's waterslide.
While your only option to get to the main theme parks will be a shuttle bus or an approximately 20-minute walk, you'll likely pay a couple of hundred dollars less per night than you'd spend at some of the pricier Universal Orlando resorts, so that may be a fine trade.
Best Universal Orlando hotel for using Amex Platinum perks
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
You can get some great money-saving benefits from the Amex Platinum when you stay at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, but you can get even more perks from that card when you choose Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and book it via the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program.
By reserving your room through the FHR program, you can use your Amex Platinum's annual $200 statement credit valid for FHR stays. You are also entitled to daily breakfast for two people, a $100 food and beverage credit for the stay, a guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout time and a space-available noon check-in. You'll be eligible for an upgrade at check-in, too, if one is available.
Stack that with with the Universal Express Unlimited pass that's always included when staying here, and you may end up getting more value than you might expect from a stay at one of Universal's pricier spots.
Related: How having the Amex Platinum saved me more than $200 on a hotel stay
Best Universal Orlando hotels for large families
Universal's Aventura Hotel's Kids' Suites
Aventura Hotel has a number of room types, but there is one that is fantastic for families of four or five who want a little bit of privacy from one another.
Here, the 575-square-foot Kids' Suites are uniquely arranged in a way that provides some personal space to every member of the family. The main bedroom features a king-size bed, a second room comes outfitted with two twin beds and a separate area offers a couch that can convert into a memory foam bed.
By leaning into each suite's angles and providing strategically placed curtains, the illusion of separation is created without the kids actually being very far away from their parents.
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort's Family Suites
Cabana Bay's Family Suites have separate areas for sleeping, eating and relaxing after a day at the parks or the hotel pool complex. You can even have pizza delivered directly to your room.
These 430-square-foot rooms sleep up to six people via two queen-size beds and a pullout sofa. They also include a sliding privacy partition and a compartmentalized bathroom that allows three people to get ready at once.
Universal's Endless Summer Resort's 2-Bedroom Suites
Both of Universal's Endless Summer resorts — Dockside and Surfside — have spacious two-bedroom suites that start at the budget-friendly price of around $140 per night.
The only noticeable difference between suites at the two resorts is the theming. Otherwise, you'll find similar layouts, with a main living area featuring a kitchenette, a picnic table and two queen-size beds, plus one full bath and a separate bedroom with one queen-size bed.
These suites are optimal for families with more than two kids or those looking for a little more privacy than a standard room can provide.
Best Universal Orlando hotels for easy access to the theme parks
Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando for Universal Studios Florida
With its endless displays of rock 'n' roll memorabilia and old Hollywood architecture, the Hard Rock Hotel hardly feels like a theme park hotel at all, but it's actually the closest property to Universal Studios Florida.
It's great for being first in line in the morning and also makes it easy to pop back over to your hotel room for an afternoon swim when the parks get busy (and hot).
The hotel offers complimentary bus and water taxi transportation to the parks, but the quickest way to get to Universal Studios Florida is to utilize the hotel's garden-lined walking path. If you walk with a purpose, you can get from the hotel to the park's main entrance in about five to seven minutes.
When you take the water taxi or walking path, you can use the Hard Rock's private security entrance and get into the parks quicker than you would if you used the main security entrance.
Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando for Universal's Islands of Adventure
While you can certainly hop on the free water taxi, in many cases, the fastest way to get to the gates of Islands of Adventure from Loews Royal Pacific Resort may be to log a few extra steps — less than 10 minutes via a nice walkway, to be exact. Either way, this is as close as you're going to get to Islands of Adventure.
Universal's Aventura Hotel for Universal's Volcano Bay
If you want a short, private walkway from your hotel to the Volcano Bay water park, Aventura Hotel is a great pick, as it offers just that. Volcano Bay practically sits in the park's backyard.
Best Universal Orlando hotel pools
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Cabana Bay Beach Resort has two pools, and one of them has a feature that no other Universal hotel can claim: a lazy river. There is a small stand at the entrance to the lazy river where you can purchase tubes and other flotation devices (complimentary life jackets are also available), but you are not required to have one to use the lazy river.
The lazy river winds through lush greenery and rocky outcroppings and past cascading waterfalls. The pool area also has a zero-entry pool, a sandy beach, a poolside lounge and snack bar (try the Honolulu hot dog), fire pits and plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas.
Cabana Bay's second pool has a splash pad, outdoor games, a waterslide and private cabanas available to rent.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel has three pools, more than any other hotel at Universal Orlando. The Beach Pool is the main pool and where most of the action and activities happen. Here, you'll find a waterslide designed to look like an ancient Roman aqueduct (a nod to the hotel's Italian village theming), a children's pool, two hot tubs and a bar and grill.
The Villa and Hillside pools are smaller and quieter, offering a bit more solitude if you prefer to lounge poolside with a book. The Villa pool has cabanas available to rent, too, as well as a bocce ball court, if you're feeling competitive.
Best ways to book Universal Orlando hotel stays
You have more options for booking Universal Orlando hotels with points than you do with Disney resorts.
If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points or Bilt Rewards, you can look for the Universal hotel of your choice in those respective travel portals.
Here’s an example of pricing — in cash and points — for a Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholder booking at Surfside Inn and Suites within Universal’s Endless Summer Resort.
With the Sapphire Reserve, you get a return of 1.5 cents per point spent on travel via the Chase booking portal, so a $107 room would cost about 7,100 points for the night with that card.
With Bilt Rewards, you'd be able to use your points at 1.25 cents in value each to book a Universal Orlando resort.
Or, you can use a card that awards miles you can use to wipe out the travel charge. For example, with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, travel charged to the card will net you 1 cent in value per mile earned. That means a $300 hotel stay charged to your eligible Venture card could be offset by redeeming 30,000 of your Venture miles.
Alternatively, if you are booking a stay at a Universal hotel with a Venture X card, you could earn 10 miles per dollar spent by reserving your hotel via Capital One's travel booking site, which is quite a good return on your money spent.
Best Universal Orlando hotels for using hotel points
On-site Universal hotels are a good bet for some families, but others may prefer to stay off-site for reasons like sticking to a tight budget. You can often score terrific cash prices for accommodations near Universal, especially if you’re traveling during the offseason. But if you'd rather save that cash, you can also redeem traditional hotel points or free night award certificates.
Related: Hotel credit cards that come with an annual free night
If you select a Universal Partner Hotel, you can stay off-property but still enjoy some Universal perks. Some partner hotels offer free transportation to Universal theme parks, plus discounts on some park merchandise and food and nonalcoholic beverages at select venues in the parks and at CityWalk. We’ll note below if a property on this list is a Universal Partner Hotel.
Here are some of our favorite points-friendly hotels near Universal Orlando. Keep in mind that if you want a more complete resort hotel experience, there are plenty of those in Orlando. We chose to focus on the hotels closest to Univeral that are a little more limited in service offerings.
Hyatt Place across from Universal Orlando Resort and Hyatt House across from Universal Orlando Resort
The Hyatt Place and Hyatt House outposts closest to the parks are ideal for a trip to Universal. These properties are each just a seven-minute drive to Universal, but if you’ve got energy — and about 15 minutes to spare — you can walk to the parks instead.
From both properties, you can also walk to International Drive, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants. Plus, both are designated as Universal Partner Hotels, so you'll have access to free shuttle service to and from the theme parks. Daily hot breakfast and Wi-Fi are complimentary at both properties as well. (Note: You only get the free breakfast at Hyatt Place if you book your room directly with Hyatt.)
Related: The best hotel credit cards
The Hyatt Place is a Category 2 property with starting rates that range between 6,500 and 9,500 World of Hyatt points per night, while the Hyatt House is a Category 3 hotel that will set you back 9,000 to 15,000 points per night for a standard room.
Related: What is Hyatt elite status worth?
Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Near Universal Orlando Resort
If you’re using Marriott Bonvoy points for your stay and your priority is to be as close to Universal as possible without staying on property, pick the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Near Universal Orlando Resort. This Universal Partner Hotel is 2 miles from the parks, so you’ll get free shuttle transportation.
Award prices here are typically between 20,000 and 30,000 points per night.
Residence Inn near Universal Orlando
Another Marriott option very close to Universal is the Residence Inn, which gets consistently solid reviews and is also a Universal Partner Hotel with an included shuttle.
Generally, you'll find points rates for a standard room here for 30,000 to 38,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, which makes the property bookable with a 35,000-point certificate (or with a 35,000-point certificate topped off with a few thousand extra points).
Related: What is Marriott elite status worth?
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando is a Universal Partner Hotel. The most compelling thing about the DoubleTree is that it’s within walking distance of the Universal theme parks. Added bonuses are the on-site Starbucks, gelato shop and restaurants.
Expect standard rooms at this member of the Hilton family to start around 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Related: How to use Hilton points for Disney vacations
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Nearest Universal Orlando
If you’ve got spare IHG One Rewards points, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, which is a short walk from Universal, is a Universal Partner Hotel worth considering. It serves a free daily breakfast to all guests — and it’s a pretty extensive spread. The hot entrees rotate between biscuits and gravy (you are in the South, after all), pancakes and the brand’s signature cinnamon rolls. Plus, all meals for kids 11 and younger are free when children stay as registered guests.
Award rates at this IHG-affiliated property vary pretty dramatically, but you can typically reserve a room for between 16,000 and 34,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Related: What is IHG One Rewards elite status worth in 2022?
Whether you decide to book one of Universal’s on-site hotels or use points at any of the nearby chain hotels, you’ll be well-positioned to make the most out of everything Universal Orlando has to offer. By choosing one of these best hotel options near Universal Orlando, you're bound to have a fun-filled vacation at Universal's theme parks.
Additional reporting by Andrea Rotondo.