Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
The Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a retro, 50’s and 60’s themed hotel located right next to Universal Studios. It’s a newer hotel, with fantastic facilities like huge pool areas, a lazy river, a bowling alley, arcade, gym, and even its own Starbucks. This hotel is great for families looking for a more budget friendly option when vacationing in Orlando. So here’s a review of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Studios Orlando.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort is located right next-door to both Universal Studio Parks in Orlando. It has shuttles than run to the park and get you to the entrance within about 5 to 10 minutes. The image below shows how close Cabana Bay is — it’s the top left hotel in the corner and Islands of Adventure is just to its right.
Busses begin running at 7am and depart about every 15 minutes (look for the teal busses). Just in case you weren’t aware, if you stay at this hotel (or any other Universal Resort), you’re given early access to Universal Studios, which means you can enter the park an hour early. If you’re planning on going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this is a must in my opinion!
While early access to resort guests doesn’t begin until 8am, it’s a good idea to get an early start and arrive to the gates well before the official open if you’d like to be among the first on the rides. If I could do it all over again, I would’ve taken the 7am bus to get first dibs at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because those lines develop fast.
If you’re heading to Disney World, it’s about a 20 to 30 minute car ride there depending on traffic. We used Uber to get there and back and each way we paid about $12. I believe there’s also a 15 minute walk you can do to get to the park via some gardens or something like that but we didn’t do that, so I can’t speak much on that.
This resort is huge but the layout is very manageable. There are five main buildings and each has a different name. The buildings are then divided into sections and are separated by elevator lobbies. It can be a little confusing at first, but after a couple of visits to your room, just remember and take note of which elevator lobby you used to get to your room (there are numbers on the elevator door frames).
The main difference between the buildings on the left side and the right that I noticed is that the buildings on the right have outside walkways while the buildings on the left have indoor hallways, so that’s something to consider when making your booking.
There are tons of facilities at this resort and while I wasn’t able to try them all, I did wander about checking them out. Everything looked extremely well-kept, clean, and inviting.
The hotel lobby
The hotel lobby is huge! Keep an eye out for character appearances, as we saw Betty Boop there on one of the days we were there. Right next to the lobby is a gift shop where you can buy everything from toiletries (no free toothbrushes here) to Harry Potter t-shirts and swimming trunks.
As you pass the gift shop you come to what will be the favorite stop for many: a full Starbucks! This place can get pretty busy but the employees seemed pretty capable of getting the lines down as quickly as possible. The furniture can make it a bit crowded while waiting in line so be prepared for that. The stairs next to the Starbucks (pictured below) lead to the bowling alley, arcade, and the gym.
Arcade and bowling alley
There’s an arcade and a bowling alley at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, so if you’re the kind of traveler that finds themselves lounging around the hotel, looking for things to do, then this hotel definitely has some things to keep you busy.
The gym is very nice and pretty big as well. I noticed state-of-the-art treadmills and plenty of free weights and curling bars. If you’re a gym junkie, you shouldn’t have any issues getting in your workouts here or at least staying in shape during your stay. The best part is that the gym stays open from 5 am to midnight!
The dining areas were very clean and kept up nicely. There are workers there to take your food trays when you’re finished and the crowds never got bad for us, although in the middle of the summer that might be a little different. Still, the dining area is huge and you can even venture outside to eat if you wish. The dining area is open from 7am to 11pm.
We ate breakfast at the hotel twice and lunch one time. The first breakfast consisted of waffles with a side of bacon and eggs. I could do without the eggs but the bacon and the waffles were very good and fresh. I could’ve eaten those every morning. The next morning we had pancakes and they were so-so. There were many other options available like egg omelets, fruit bowls, etc., so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding what you want and you can check their breakfast menu here.
The one day we ate lunch there, the bacon cheeseburger really hit the spot, along with some crisp crinkly fries. The price of the meals came out on average to about $30 for two people, so $15 per person, which I don’t think is that bad considering how expensive everything at Universal/Disney is. You can check out the lunch and dinner menu here.
In addition to the meals, there are tons of snacks and drinks (even wine) that you can buy from the dining area.
The fantastic pool areas
The first feature that caught my eye was the pool area — it’s huge, shrouded with palm trees, and has one of the biggest lazy rivers in the region meandering around. We were out an about all day everyday so we never got the chance to actually get in the water but it really looked like everyone was enjoying themselves thoroughly and never looked overly crowded.
If you want to float around with an inner tube you can purchase one for $6 to $18 (they have different types). Or you can bring your own and they will happily inflate the tube for you.
The other pool area (the one on the right in the map above and pictured below), which has a giant slide, looked like a lot of fun, as well.
If you’re just in need of some sun or a nice place to dry out, there’s a beach area with plenty of places to lay out on, complete with umbrellas for shade.
For the adults, there’s a bar next to the pool that serves up some tasty cocktails and a small place for ordering food out there as well. Here’s a menu of the drinks you can order from the Hideaway Bar and Grill.
Every staff member was more than pleasant to deal with from the moment of check-in and they even checked us in to our room at 9 am, which was a life saver! Another couple got checked in at the same time, so I think that you should consider asking for an early check-in if that’s something you think you’ll need.
Room service was fast the two times we used it to order a pizza. Their pizzas from Delizioso are actually really good, too. Nice and cheesy. We ordered one for $13 and it was perfect to fill us two up and leave us a little left over. They also have breadsticks and deserts to order, too, but just stuck with the pizza. You can take a look at the menu here.
This is my only true complaint with the resort: the housekeeping. They entered our room without even knocking twice. And I don’t mean they tapped on the door lightly or just knocked and entered simultaneously — no, there was no knocking, whatsoever. This was a problem because one time I was fresh out of the shower…. it didn’t go over so well. So my advice it to just keep a look out for housekeeping.
We booked a “standard room” for $149/night. They also offer poolside rooms and suites for a little more, but we didn’t need a kitchenette or room for six people, as it was just us two. Considering the price, the rooms are pretty decent. They aren’t too small, the bathroom areas are big enough, and the decor and furniture was pretty fitting, and it’s nice that they have a mini-fridge in the room for that left-over pizza (the mini-fridge is somewhat hidden in the dresser).
If I could go back and do it all again, I probably would’ve tried to get a room with a view of the pool but I don’t think we had that option since we made our booking pretty last minute. The reason is well, uhh… just see the photo below.
My only complaint about the rooms would be that the blankets were very thin and we struggled to get our room a consistent temperature. Aside from that, everything for the “standard room” met our expectations (in a good way).
The internet was quality speed. You can upgrade and pay like $10 for higher speed internet but you should be able to use the complimentary internet for most purposes.
This hotel is a great option for couples or families not wanting to break the bank on a vacation to Orlando. If you think that you and your family might need some entertainment in order to kill some down time in between visiting the theme parks in Orlando, then I would highly recommend this hotel!
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.