Cabana Bay Beach Resort Overview
If you're obsessed with vintage 1950s and 1960s designs, and finding a good value (we're guilty on both accounts) you may just fall in love with Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal's first on-site hotel aimed at the value and moderate markets. The mid-century modern aesthetic starts with the neon signage that welcome you outside, and continues inside with lots of windows, bright colors, and period-appropriate lighting and furniture. The designers were inspired by classic seaside hotels like the “doo-wop” Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, New Jersey, and Loews' original Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour, Florida. We think the resort would be right at home in the deserts of Palm Springs or Las Vegas, while our British friends say the decor reminds them of Butlin’s Bognor Regis resort circa 1985.
Whatever Cabana Bay reminds you of, we think you'll like it. Kids will enjoy the 2 large and well-themed pools (one with a lazy river), the vintage cars parked outside the hotel lobby, and the amount of space they have to run around. Adults will appreciate the sophisticated kitsch of the décor, the multiple lounges, and the onsite Starbucks. We were very impressed with Cabana Bay and think it is an excellent choice for price- or space-conscious families visiting Universal.
Cabana Bay's closest competition in the Orlando area is Disney's Art of Animation Resort, and there are many similarities between the two. Both resorts have standard rooms and family suites. At 430 square feet per suite, Cabana Bay suites are about 135 square feet smaller and have only one bathroom. We found them well-appointed for two to four people per room (though not for the 6 Loews claims as their capacity).
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. The bath is divided into three sections: toilet, sink area, and shower room with additional sink; all are separated by doors so three people can theoretically get ready at once. Retro theming even extends to the toiletries, which feature recreations of the fondly-remembered Zest and VO5 brands. The kitchenette has a microwave, coffeemaker with pods, 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. Standard rooms have the same twin queen beds, but without the living area, kitchenette, or three-way bathroom. Instead, they get a mini-fridge with coffeemaker, and an average-sized single bathroom.
Pools, Gym, and Recreation
Cabana Bay's two large pools both have artificial beaches and zero-entry sloping bottoms. The Cabana Courtyard pool is more active, with a splash-pad playground and 100-foot waterslide wrapped around a central diving tower (which you can't actually dive off of, for safety reasons). The Lazy River Courtyard is a little more laid back, with oldies music (as opposed to the top 40 usually played around the Cabana Courtyard), and a lushly landscaped circular stream to relax in; flotation toys are sold for $3 to $12, inflation and deflation included.
Indoor recreation options at Cabana Bay include the Game-O-Rama arcade (well-stocked with late-model machines) and the 10-lane Galaxy Bowl bowling alley, modeled after the Hollywood Star Lanes featured in The Big Lebowski. Bowling costs $15 per adult, $9 per kid 12 and under, for 60-90 minutes of play with shoe rental. Other diversions include poolside ping pong and billiards, and a large Jack Lalanne fitness center for free (fitness centers aren’t found at any Disney Value resort nor Moderate except Coronado Springs). An activity room opens on rainy days with board games and bean bag chairs. Finally, outdoor movies are shown nightly near the pool, and the food court sells $8 s'mores kits to roast over the gas-fueled fire pits.
In addition to the full-service Starbucks, there is the Bayliner Diner food court with Coke Freestyle dispensers and giant screens in the seating area showing 1960s TV clips. Swizzle Lounge in the lobby, two pool bars (one with an attached counter-service grill), pizza delivery to rooms, and table service snacks and sandwiches at the Galaxy Bowl round out the on-site dining options. Additional dining options are nearby at the Royal Pacific Resort and CityWalk. The Universal Gift Shop is the largest hotel store in the resort, and stocks candy and clothes exclusive to Cabana Bay.
Transportation and Parking
Unlike the other Universal resorts, Cabana Bay offers no watercraft service to the parks—it’s either take the bus or walk. Colorful buses (with faux wood paneling at surfboards painted on the roof) depart to the parks' main parking hub from outside Cabana Bay's food court. The bus service is amazingly efficient; we've never waited more than 5 minutes for one to arrive, and the total transit time to the attractions is usually under 15 minutes. It takes about the same amount of time to walk to CityWalk along the attractively landscaped garden walkway, which passes the Sapphire Falls construction site before joining up with the walking path to Royal Pacific.
Self-parking is $10 for overnight guests, which is half the price of the other hotels, but there is no valet and hourly parking is steep for visitors ($8 for 5 to 30 minutes, $20 for 24 hours). Day guests who want to check out Cabana Bay should take the bus there from the parking hub, since 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 westbound towards Disney, and you won't be able to make a U-turn until the 528 expressway.
2015 Rack Rates
Rack rates for the suites are around $175-$210 per night, depending on the season, about $140 to $300 per night less than Art of Animation’s rates ($317-$511). Standard room seasonal rates start at $119 and top out at $199; with discounts they can frequently be had for under $90 a night, undercutting Disney's cheapest rooms.
Remember, Cabana Bay guests are eligible for Early Park Admission at Universal, but do not receive complimentary Express Passes.
Blog Posts About Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Video: Cabana Bay Garden Bridge Now Open at Universal Orlando
- Universal's Cabana Bay Transportation Guide
- SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Photo Gallery: First look at Universal Orlando's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
- Photo Update: Universal Orlando's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge Construction
Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Dining
- Atomic Tonic (Bar or Lounge)
- Bayliner Diner (Counter Service)
- Galaxy Bowl (Table Service)
- Starbucks Coffee - Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Counter Service)
- Swizzle Lounge (Bar or Lounge)
- The Hideaway Bar & Grill (Bar or Lounge)
|Park||Commuting Times||Resort Transportation||Walking|
|Islands of Adventure||15 min||15 min|
|Univ. Studios Florida||15 min||17 min|
|Shuttle to Parks||Yes|