REVIEW: Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Orlando
By Helen Wright
- Location On the Universal Orlando Resort, five minutes from park gate
- Bed comfiness 7/10
- Pool Two pools
- WIFI Free
- Parking Free with some packages or $12 per night
- Best thing? Retro design and Early Park Admission
- Worst thing? Long line for check in desk
- The all-important plug by the bed? Yes
Universal’s Cabana Bay is one of those hotels that seems to have been designed purely to brighten your day. When visiting sunny Florida from the UK, this is exactly what you are hoping for and one of the reasons I love staying at this hotel. Cabana Bay Beach Resort is one of Universal Orlando’s on-property hotels – just minutes from the theme park gates and Universal’s entertainment area, Citywalk. Guests staying at Universal resort hotels enjoy free transport to and from the parks and exclusive park access at certain times. To help you decide which hotel is right for your budget and stay, Universal, who partner with Loews for their hotels, split their resorts into different bands depending on star rating, price per night and additional perks. I explain more about this in my post on how to pick the best Universal Orlando resort for your holiday here.
Universal’s Cabana Bay review
Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort is one of Universal’s Prime Value category hotels, along with the newly opened Aventura Hotel. With room prices starting from $116 (£90) per night, Cabana Bay, along with Aventura, are currently the most budget-friendly hotels at Universal Orlando. In 2019, a new Value category will be added and this will include the new Endless Summer Surfside Inn and Suites, open at Universal in June 2019. Sister hotel, Endless Summer Dockside Hotel and Suites is then due to join the offering in 2020. One of the biggest perks to staying at a Universal Orlando hotel is access to Early Park Admission – entry up to an hour before official park opening time to either Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park. This is a pretty big deal, especially if you are staying during peak times.
The fun and funky Cabana Bay is definitely Universal’s most family-friendly resort with a choice between standard guest rooms and family suites which are only $44 extra per night and worth the extra spend if you are looking for family accommodation in Orlando. On top of that, the hotel has so much on offer for families, including a ‘beach’, two pools, a water slide and its own lazy river. It’s safe to say there aren’t many beach hotels in Orlando, so if you like to stretch out on the sand it’s worth taking a serious look at our reasons to stay at Cabana Bay.
The hotel has an eccentric mid-century vibe, dominated by 50s colours and quirky shapes. The theme runs right from the entrance to the car park, through to the guest rooms, grounds, restaurants and shops. The bedrooms are fun with brightly coloured linens, walls and prints. We were staying in a Family Suite, which was a large room, divided into two parts – a bedroom area with two queen beds and a living room/diner area that had a little open-plan kitchen. A clever panel divides the rooms while still allowing light in. I found it really useful that there were plenty of light options (main lights or bedside lamps) and a number of plug chargers between the beds. Another thing I liked about the room was the almost minimalist use of furniture, which gave more floor space and didn’t make the room look crowded. This is really helpful when you are visiting with kids or staying with three or more people in the room because it never feels cramped. There is also a walk-in wardrobe which has space for a large case and room to hang things up, plus an iron and ironing board.
Space to play
On the other side of the partition is a living area with a sofa (complete with colourful cushions), an armchair, side board with storage space and another flatscreen TV. This area also leads onto the kitchenette and has a small breakfast bar with two stools. Handily, the sofa also coverts into a sofa bed, making an extra sleeping area which can fit two children or one extra adult comfortably. I didn’t think we would use this area much at first but in the end I found it was my favourite part of the room. Being able to sit on the couch and watch TV while our son was asleep in the main room was a huge plus. During the day, the ‘living room’ afforded a lot of light and so it was a nice place to sit and work or read a book. This hotel isn’t aimed at business guests but I found it a really nice and comfortable place to work. There is no desk but I prefer sitting at the breakfast bar or on the couch, so it was ideal for me. The wifi was also free and worked very well in my room.
The suites here are different to the family suites at Sapphire Falls because they have a kitchenette area, which is great for a number of reasons. For guests staying with babies or young children, the ability to be able to warm milk in your room with a microwave or use it to sterilise bottles is a huge plus and there was also a large fridge and a coffee machine. If you are planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando and keeping your budget low is a priority, you could very easily use this kitchen to make easy microwaved lunches, heat up leftover food from Orlando’s huge portions and sit and eat a comfortable breakfast without feeling like you are all dining in bed.
If my Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort review was based solely on rooms, I think kids would really enjoy this hotel. The family suite is the ideal size to fit a family of four, or even five, comfortably. When we arrived the wall-mounted flat screen TV was showing a film that was coincidentally on-trend! Must be magic…
Modern bathrooms with a twist
The bathroom was just off of the bedroom with a separate shower/bath room, and a toilet on the other side, both with their own doors. Again, for families, a room with a bath tub makes life much easier if you have kids. Having said that, the shower itself is very powerful and satisfying and the only downside was the shower curtain (I don’t like them!) but that’s just me. I loved how the products, which were basic but functional, were designed to fit in with the retro 50s theme.
What is the difference between Tower Suites and Courtyard Suites at Cabana Bay?
The main difference between Tower Suites and Courtyard Suites at Cabana Bay Beach Resort are that the Courtyard Suites are built in a motel style design, with room doors that open to the outside world, and Tower Suites are located in the newer block which was designed in a hotel style with interior corridors. I’m often asked which is better, the courtyard rooms or the tower rooms at Cabana Bay, but it really comes down to preference. I prefer the courtyard rooms because I liked that I could open my door and stand outside and get some fresh air really easily. This was great when our son was asleep too as we were able to take a glass of wine onto the balcony and enjoy the warm evening while he was asleep. The lady at the front desk hinted that, when given a choice, Courtyard block rooms are slightly bigger than Tower rooms but I couldn’t find anyone else to confirm this! If you have a pool view room, the view over the pool and resort is very lovely and I enjoyed walking back to my room each evening.
As I said, it does depend on your tastes but the newer block, containing the Tower rooms and suites have floor to ceiling windows and many have fantastic views of Universal’s water park, Volcano Bay. Access to these rooms from reception is inside and so if it happens to be raining, you won’t need to go outside to get to your room. Due to the shape of the block, Tower suites and rooms can vary in size and shape slightly, while the Courtyard Suites are all the same size. Our friends went for a Tower Suite and had a brilliant view of Volcano Bay from the fifth floor.
For the price point, wherever you stay here you will have a fantastic room and a comfortable stay. This hotel, which has a three star rating, offers guests a lot for their buck and that is why I would definitely recommend Cabana Bay Resort Orlando as a good choice if you are planning a budget trip to Universal.
Our honest Cabana Bay Beach Resort Orlando Review continues below
Want to compare the Prime Value Cabana Bay Beach Resort to hotels in the Preferred and Premier categories? Read our reviews of Loews Sapphire Falls and Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Orlando Resort.
If you are finding our post helpful, please help support our blog by following us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Your support on social media helps us continue to produce honest, unbiased hotel reviews and destination guides.
Two huge pools and lazy river
Cementing its family-friendly status, Cabana Bay Beach Resort has two huge pools and its own lazy river. The central pool, named the Courtyard Pool has a large slide in the middle and a beach-style area with sun loungers dotted around it. This is the pool we could see from our room (in the Castaway block). There is also a large deck here where you can enjoy drinks from the lobby lounge or the pool bar, a fire pit and a splash pool for kids. Around the pool in the garden areas there are retro games to play such as cornhole, hula hooping and table tennis. On scheduled evenings you can watch an outdoor movie sat on the lawn or even in the pool itself, which is really cute.
The best pool at Cabana Bay beach resort is the Lazy River pool, which is on the side of the hotel close to Volcano Bay. This pool is also huge, with its own sandy beach and a lazy river attached to the main swimming area. You can buy inflatable tubes from the shop at surprisingly normal prices (in line with how much you would pay at Walmart). This pool plays fun ‘surf style’ music and has a decent pool bar.
One of the things I did notice about Cabana Bay is that it uses all the space available and the grounds feel cluttered. Around the pools there are so many sun loungers, I would be surprised if you struggled to find a few together for your family, even in busy times. At Hard Rock and Loews Portofino there definitely is a lot more green space to walk around and chill out and less people squeezed in, but it costs a lot more to stay there so that is expected! Generally the more busy nature of Cabana Bay provides a fun, energetic atmosphere.
The retro mid-century theme is all over the hotel from architecture to art work and signs. If you were coming to America from the UK for the first time, this would be an amazing hotel to stay at for your inaugural trip. It’s kitsch Americana at its polished best.
The hotel is an Instagram dream
If you want to capture shots of the hotel for the ‘gram, this is definitely the most photogenic hotel at Universal Orlando. Everything seems photo-worthy – mainly due to the interesting shapes, design and bright colours. In one of our most popular posts, Where to find the Instagram Walls Of Universal Orlando, many of which can be found right here at Cabana Bay!
View this post on Instagram
I definitely could have made this more cheesy by posing with a giant beach ball. 🏖️ (I travel too light for props). #travelbloggerproblems #SwizzleWall #Floridafun #Florida #Orlando @universalorlandohotels @universalorlando @atdattractions #ATDhappy #wallsofuniversal #wallsofuo
My other favourite part of the hotel is the retro bowling lane, Hollywood Bowl, which is inside the hotel. We always try to squeeze in a game if we are staying at Cabana Bay, Aventura or Sapphire Falls because it’s walking distance from the hotels and such good one. It is advisable to book a lane and time in advance as it gets busy in there.
Location Location Location
Congratulations! You made it so far down our post that you deserve our best ever tip for staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort! Even though you can take the free bus transfer (or walk) to the Universal Orlando theme parks, my top tip is to walk across the road to Sapphire Falls and take the Water Taxi to the parks and Citywalk. This is not only the most glamorous way to travel to the parks but, by going through the security scanners at the hotel dock, you avoid long lines at the main entrance to Universal Orlando (from the car park and bus drop off), so the short walk over to Sapphire Falls can actually save you time! And there you have it – my honest review of Cabana Bay Beach Resort and my top tip for staying there!
I really love Cabana Bay. The hotel is such a bold, colourful American dream just walking around makes you smile. It’s ideal for families and one of the only ways to experience a beach resort in Orlando since central Florida has no coastline! Personally, I still think Sapphire Falls is the best hotel at Universal Orlando but, my friends voted Cabana Bay top because they absolutely loved their stay here. Like a tower suite of a courtyard room – it just comes down to preference!
Plan your two-week Orlando itinerary in less than ten minutes with our guide.
Discover the best rollercoasters in Orlando
Find out why the SeaWorld parks worked for our extended family.
Find our what it was like for us being in Orlando during a hurricane
Want to know more? Head to our frequently asked questions
Do you need information on the best way to book park tickets in Orlando? Our Easy Guide to Buying Park Tickets is here
Planning on driving in the USA? Our full guide including car rental tips and insurance information will help you out.
Want to compare this hotel to one that isn’t on a theme park resort? This is a brilliant option