Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Review

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Cabana Bay is Universal’s first on-site hotel aimed at the value and moderate markets. The theme is mid-century modern, with lots of windows, bright colors, and period-appropriate lighting and furniture. We think the resort would be right at home in the deserts of Palm Springs or Las Vegas.
Cabana Bay

Kids will love the two large and well-themed pools (one with a lazy river), the amount of space they have to run around in, the video arcade, and the vintage cars parked outside the hotel lobby.

Adults will appreciate the sophisticated kitsch of the decor, the multiple lounges, the business center, and the on-site Starbucks. We think Cabana Bay is an excellent choice for price- and/or space-conscious families visiting Universal.

The hotel’s closest competitor in the Orlando area is Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and the two share many similarities. Both have standard rooms and family suites. At 430 square feet per suite, Cabana Bay suites are about 135 square feet smaller than comparable suites at A of A and have only one bathroom. We found them well appointed for two to four people per room (though not for the six Loews claims as its capacity). Rack rates for the suites are about $140–$300 per night less than Art of Animation’s.

Each family suite has a small bedroom with two queen beds, divided from the living area and kitchenette by a sliding screen; a foldout sofa in the living area offers additional sleeping space. (Standard rooms also have two queen beds.) The bath is divided into three sections: toilet, sink area, and shower room with additional sink. The kitchenette has a microwave, coffeemaker, and mini-fridge. A bar area allows extra seating for quick meals, and a large closet has enough space to store everyone’s luggage. Built-in USB charging outlets for your devices are a thoughtful touch.

Recreational options include the 10-lane Galaxy Bowl (about $15 per person with shoe rental), poolside table tennis and billiards, and a large Jack LaLanne fitness center. (Fitness centers aren’t found at any Disney Value or Moderate resort except Coronado Springs.) Outdoor movies are shown nightly near the pool.

In addition to the Starbucks, a food court with seating area shows 1950s TV clips. Swizzle Lounge in the lobby, two pool bars, in-room pizza delivery, and the Galaxy Bowl round out the on-site dining options. You’ll find more restaurants and clubs nearby at the Royal Pacific Resort and Universal CityWalk.

Unlike the other Universal resorts, Cabana Bay offers no watercraft service to the parks—it’s either take the bus or walk. In November 2014, a new pedestrian bridge opened connecting Cabana Bay to CityWalk and the rest of Universal Orlando, but we still recommend the bus service for most people. Cabana Bay guests are eligible for early entry at Universal but do not get a complimentary Universal Express pass.

Cabana Bay has proved so popular that Universal added two additional towers that enlarge the resort by 400 more guest rooms. The new rooms, which opened in 2017, offer views of Volcano Bay, the new Universal water park that opened in 2017.

Day guests who want to check out Cabana Bay should take the bus there from the parking hub—the garden walk’s gate requires a key card for hotel access. Take care when driving into and out of the hotel’s driveway on Adventure Way. If you miss the entrance or make a right when exiting, you’ll find yourself on a one-way road to I-4 West toward Disney, and you won’t be able to make a U-turn until the FL 528 expressway.

The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2018 is packed with detailed, specific information on every ride, show, and restaurant in the resort, and reviews of all Universal Orlando hotels. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for our newsletter here.

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