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Ever wonder just how close the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando is to the theme parks, how good the pool is, if it is heated, or what the beds feel like after a long day in the parks? Find out all that and more so you can decide if this is the Universal Orlando resort for you…
While I’ve been to Disney World a number of times and can speak first-hand to many Disney resort hotels and experiences, I’m a Universal Studios newbie. Since I now have some Harry Potter wizards-in-training on my hands, we have our first Universal Studios Orlando trip penciled in for this upcoming summer. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn about all things Universal as quickly as possible. In the middle of this planning process, I was invited to be on a panel at a JetBlue conference in Orlando that just so happened to be held at the Universal Orlando Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. This meant that JetBlue would pick up the tab for a night at the hotel, which was the cherry on top of the invite since I was itching to get a sampling of the Universal Orlando lifestyle before going all-in on a family trip.
During my one-night at the property, my excitement for a real Universal Orlando family trip only grew because the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort was nice, bright, clean, modern, well organized, and the location makes getting to the Universal parks an absolute breeze. I’ll save a deep dive into Universal until our family trip this summer, but I can’t wait any longer to share five things to know about the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort based on my short, but very enjoyable recent trip.
The Loews Sapphire Falls is new, bright and pretty
I didn’t really know what to expect going into my first stay at Universal Orlando resort, but even if I had some expectations, I think they would have been surpassed at the Loews Sapphire Falls. This 1,000 room hotel just opened in 2016, and it still felt very new and fresh. This is in contrast to some Disney Resorts that I love, but that certainly don’t still have that new hotel feeling after being around for a few decades.
The hotel has a fun Caribbean theme and uses lots of natural light throughout the property.
With 1,000 rooms, on-site conferences, and busy families throughout, this hotel obviously gets a bunch of foot traffic, but thus far they are doing a great job keeping up with the maintenance as the property still feels very fresh and comfortable.
The Loews Sapphire Falls rooms are amazing for sleeping
There is nothing you want more at the end of a long day in a theme park than a night of fantastic rest for everyone. I was traveling by myself on this trip, but I think everyone in my family would have loved the comfortable bed and insanely effective air conditioner in the Sapphire Falls room. I hate when you can’t get hotel rooms as cool as you want, but that was not a problem here at all. You can crank down the air and curl up in the comfortable bed to get some much-needed sleep.
The toilet and shower is in a separate area from the vanity, which is good for families, but from what I understand most of the rooms here have showers instead of tubs. This was great for me, but for young families, it could present some bathtime challenges, so be sure to let the hotel know if you need a bathtub in advance of your stay.
Staying at Loews Sapphire Falls makes it easy to get to the Universal theme parks
We walked from Sapphire Falls property (circled below) to dinner at the Palm Orlando at the Hard Rock Hotel, which was tasty with great service but certainly not budget-friendly. Had we not detoured a bit on our walk, I think it would be no more than 15 – 20 minutes from door to door. I would not do that walk with really little kids if I could avoid it, but it is not a bad walk for adults or older kids to get from Sapphire Falls to Universal CityWalk and even to the entrances to Universal Studios.
However, you can skip the walk and just take a complimentary boat ride from the Sapphire Falls’ docks right to the CityWalk area!
Kids will actually think the boat ride is another fun attraction, so you save some steps and keep everyone entertained with a cruise along the water. To board the boats, be ready to go through some airport-style security which you will also experience if you travel on foot to the CityWalk area near the theme park entrances.
Staying at Loews Sapphire Falls does not get you included Express Passes, but…
Staying at some of the Universal Orlando hotels scores all registered guests in the room very valuable Unlimited Express Passes which means you can skip some of the regular lines at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. You can purchase this benefit without staying at an eligible hotel, but it can cost up to $129 per person! The on-site hotels that convey this perk are the Hard Rock Hotel, the Loews Royal Pacific and the Loews Portofino Bay. Unfortunately, staying at the Sapphire Falls resort does not get you included Express Passes, so factor that into your equation when deciding between Universal resorts. For this reason alone, we plan to stay at the Loews Royal Pacific on our family trip this summer instead of the Sapphire Falls.
However, staying at Sapphire Falls does get you into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and select attractions at Volcano Bay one hour before the normal park opening times, so there are some perks of staying here over a non-Universal hotel.
Schedule time to play in the Loews Sapphire Falls’ fantastic pool
If you are going to stay at the Loews Sapphire Falls, you need to be sure and allow for time in the pool, as it is a 16,000 square foot gem of the property.
This pool is the largest of any at the Universal properties and features a sand beach area, zero entry sections, a children’s play area with pop-up jets, an oversized hot tub, and even a waterslide. I also loved that there were lots of lifeguards stationed around the pool just in case someone needs assistance. There are also complimentary life jackets you can use while swimming if necessary.
On the morning of my April visit, I put my feet in the pool to test the temperature and it felt warm, so I have no doubt that there were some heaters in use to make for more comfortable swimming during some of the slightly cooler months. If you plan to make a day of it at the Sapphire Falls pool, there are cabanas available for rent for an additional fee.
Join the Loews Hotels YouFirst Rewards program
While the Loews Hotel chain is pretty small, it does have a loyalty program called YouFirst that begins awarding benefits such as late check-out and room upgrades after just two stays – and stays longer than five nights count as two stays. You can hit their top-tier status with just ten stays within a rolling 12-month calendar. Their top-tier Platinum status awards members perks such as a $100 property credit and a suite confirmable at the time of booking if available.
The Loews YouFirst website states that the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort do not qualify for YouFirst benefits, but it does not have that same disclaimer for the Universal Sapphire Falls Resort, so be sure you register and include your YouFirst account number in your reservation.
I wish that staying at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort gave you Universal Express Passes, but other than that detail, it really is an outstanding property given that there are around 1,000 rooms and they cater largely to convention and theme park travelers. I would not hesitate to return to this property in the future, and next time I would have to budget appropriately for the impressive Harry Potter section in the hotel gift shop!
If you have stayed at the Universal Loews Sapphire Falls, I’d love to hear all about your experience!
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