If you’re looking for an upscale place to stay at Universal Orlando without the premium price tag, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort might just be your ideal destination. We recently revisited Universal’s only preferred on-property hotel, in order to update our review for The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2024, and we’ve returned with this audio tour of the beautiful-yet-budget-friendly property.
The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, opened in the summer of 2016, brings a sunny Caribbean island vibe to the moderate market with its 1,000 rooms (including 77 suites). Sandwiched between Royal Pacific and Cabana Bay—both physically and price-wise—Sapphire Falls sports most of the amenities of Universal’s three fanciest hotels, including water taxi transportation to the parks, with the crucial exception of complimentary Express Passes.
Start by watching this 4K video tour of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort public areas and standard king guest room; then dive into our complete review below!
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort Overview and Amenities
Rather than replicating the stereotypical pastel palette seen at Disney’s Caribbean-themed hotel, Sapphire Falls’ designers went with a cooler blue-and-white color scheme for the exterior. The lobby continues the modern reinterpretation of island aesthetics with a playful hanging sculpture of wicker beach balls and a massive floor-to-ceiling window providing a postcard-perfect view of the rear lagoon, with the towers of Doctor Doom’s Fearfall posing in the background.
Public spaces fuse seemingly ancient structures—such as a stunning stone silo, complete with authentic-looking mill equipment—with clean contemporary architecture and colorful images of today’s West Indies. Although some transitional areas feel under-themed, we truly appreciate Sapphire Falls Resort’s casually sophisticated vibe, which hits a sweet spot between the family-friendly freneticism of Cabana Bay and the elegance of Universal’s more upscale hotels.
Water figures heavily at Sapphire Falls, whose namesake waterfalls form the scenic centerpiece of the resort. The 16,000-square-foot main pool boasts 3,500 square feet of sand on which to set your lounger, as well as a 100-foot waterslide, children’s play areas, fire pits, a hot tub, and cabanas for rent.
There are two zero-entry points near the middle of the pool on opposite sides, which allow you to pretend to walk across the water. Although billed as the largest pool on Universal property, its organic shape and 4.5-foot maximum depth make it better suited for wading than swimming laps, and there’s no secondary quiet pool if you aren’t into reggae-flavored rock.
A well-equipped fitness room just off the pool holds saunas in both changing rooms, along with spa-style lockers and showers that are free for all guests to use.
Table tennis (free to use) and a pool table (nominal fee per game) are available outside and close to the small arcade.
On the lower level, Amatista Cookhouse offers à la carte or buffet American breakfast, followed by table-service Caribbean food for lunch and dinner. Drhum Club Kantine serves tapas-style small plates, sandwiches, and massive bowls of alcohol near the pool bar’s fire pit.
New Dutch Trading Co., an island-inspired grab-and-go marketplace, has ice cream, coffee, hot entrées and sandwiches, refillable Coke Freestyle cups, and packaged snacks.
Strong Water Tavern, in the lobby, offers rum tastings and freshly made ceviche, and a Universal Studios Store in the lobby sells sundries and resort souvenirs.
Sapphire Falls Resort Guest Rooms and Accommodations
The rooms range from 321 square feet in a standard queen or king to 529 square feet in the 36 Kids’ Suites, and up to 1,936 square feet in the 15 Presidential Suites, which are appointed with charmingly rustic light fixtures and are sizable enough to live in long-term. All rooms include a 49-inch TV, an alarm clock with iPhone dock, in-wall USB charging ports, a minifridge, and a coffee maker.
The rooms are aesthetically acceptable but a bit antiseptic, aside from a garishly colored mirror frame and metallized photos above the beds, and they are barely bigger than the standard Cabana Bay rooms. We like these rooms a bit better than those at Aventura, but they’re more expensive too. The layout is perfectly functional, but there are some odd design quirks, such as a sliding door to the toilet that doesn’t latch; don’t plan on doing your business in private if you have inquisitive kids.
Sapphire Falls also contains nearly 115,000 square feet of meeting space and a business center. Covered walkways connect to a parking structure, which in turn connects to the meeting facilities at Royal Pacific, making the sister properties ideal for conventions. That also leads us to our main critique of Sapphire Falls: outside of the lobby and pool, the public areas feel a little like a standard convention hotel.
Water taxi transportation to Sapphire Falls takes only a few minutes longer than sailing to Royal Pacific, though boats may be delayed by traffic congestion under the bridge between the hotels and CityWalk. A pedestrian pathway to the parks starts near the boat dock, joining up with the Royal Pacific garden path near that hotel’s convention center entrance.
If you want to walk from Sapphire Falls to Cabana Bay, note that there’s no pedestrian crosswalk at the heavily trafficked intersection that separates the two hotels; instead, walk to the corner of Hollywood Way and use the garden bridge to cross over Adventure Way, or use the path between Aventura and Volcano Bay to walk beneath the busy road.
Sapphire Falls Resort Summary and Conclusion
Sapphire Falls occupies an interesting spot in Universal’s hotel spectrum, appealing to people turned off both by the mid-century aesthetics of Cabana Bay (or Aventura’s ultra-modernism) and the higher price tags of the resort’s other properties. In our most recent surveys, 90% of Unofficial Guide readers would stay here again; 88% would recommend this resort to a friend.
If water taxi transportation is important to you, but Express Unlimited access is not, Sapphire Falls is your spot. Otherwise, search for photos online to see if you like the resort’s look, and carefully compare the rates to both Cabana Bay and Aventura Hotel for the time of your planned visit.
Sapphire Falls Resort Strengths:
- Cheapest hotel with water taxi to CityWalk
- Massive main pool and free saunas
- Strong Water Tavern (a favorite of the Unofficial Guides team)
Sapphire Falls Resort Weaknesses:
- Unlimited Express Passes not included
- Caribbean theming too subtle in some spots
- Standard rooms a bit small and bland
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Threads, X, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.