Cabana Bay is nestled within the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, and is dubbed one of their more ‘affordable’ places to stay when compared to the likes of the luxury Hard Rock hotel just down the road. Its unique and fun theme makes it popular amongst families and young couples, as the hotel promises both modern accommodation and great value for money.
Spoiler alert – we have stayed in Cabana Bay Beach Resort 3 times. That may just give away how we feel about the place. This review will assess the hotel facilities and location, our experiences while staying there, as well as the pros and cons.
Cabana Bay Hotel Design and Theme
On a backdrop overlooking the impressive Volcano Bay water park, Cabana Bay is designed to be vibrant and retro-style, with a throwback feeling to Florida beach resorts in the 1950’s. Think classical cars, bright colours, a load of palm trees and of course plenty of Orlando sunshine.
This summer days design continues throughout the whole hotel, from the lobby, to the pools and the rooms themselves which we will talk about a little later on. This kind of hotel design could very easily have become cheap and tacky, but It’s easy on the eyes, and is done with just the right amount of enthusiasm and class.
Facilities at Cabana Bay
Universal hotels are well-known for their extensive guest facilities and Cabana Bay Beach Resort is no exception. Alongside the expected laundry room, housekeeping and friendly reception staff, there’s a huge range of features to the hotel, including:
- Large Swimming Pool with a bar and lazy river
- Buses to Universal Orlando
- Full-sized bowling alley
- A high-end gym
- Arcade area for all ages
- Onsite Starbucks & Quick Service Cafeteria
There’s also a Universal Orlando store in the lobby, complete with all of the merchandise one would ever need for a trip to the theme parks, from refillable cups to t-shirts and much more. You can tell that the hotel has been designed with families in mind, as there’s so much to keep the kids entertained without even having to leave.
So, How’s The Food?
It is what it is. It’s quick service cafeteria food, most of it is already cooked and you approach with your tray and take your pick from a pretty limited menu. It’s American diner food at best, and although not exactly unpleasant, it’s also nothing to really write home about.
The Grab and go section of the diner is really convenient, featuring bottles of water, snacks like crisps and chocolate, as well as healthier options like fruit and yogurt. It’s great to have it there for the times when you’re in a rush, and we used it more than once.
Is the Pool as Good as the Pictures Look?
The pool area at Cabana Bay Beach resort is fantastic. It’s perfect for a post-theme park visit to relax, wind down and soak your feet. Even when it’s busy there’s plenty of space, and the sunbeds are arranged in a way to maximise space. We also never struggled to find one.
Having a lazy river is more of a novelty than anything. It looks great, but it’s quite small, and you’re literally next door to one of the best water parks in Orlando, Volcano Bay, which features 2 lazy rivers. It’s impossible not to find yourself comparing. Cool feature, but not much more than that.
The Cabana Bay Pool Bar
Now here’s a real highlight! The pool bar had a great choice of drinks, cocktails and snacks to keep us well fed and watered throughout a pool day. The menu is surprisingly vast for a poolside bar, and of course, in true American style, the service is also fantastic.
All drinks are served in plastic cups, which worked great for us because it was casual we could hang around the pool, but if this isn’t really your thing, you will struggle. There didn’t seem to be any glass at all at the poolside bar.
Rooms at Cabana Bay
There are essentially 2 room types at this hotel, a standard double room and a family suite. The double room features 2 small double beds, a bathroom and the little extras like coffee making facilities and a decent sized television. The family suite is much larger, with a kitchenette area and eating, 2 double beds and a separate bedroom with another double.
The rooms are very specious and the beds are comfortable, albeit very much on the small side for a double. As well as these two room types, there’s a couple of upgrades that can seriously alter your view; the pool view and the volcano view.
Volcano view rooms feature absolutely spectacular views over the spectacle that is Volcano Bay and it’s iconic volcano water slide. To upgrade to this room type it costs about £250 for 2 weeks, and for us, it was totally worth it.
Proximity to Universal Parks
As mentioned, you’re within walking distance to Volcano bay, but what about the main theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure?
Well the good news is that you’re very close to these too. There is a shuttle bus available from 9am until 2am taking guests to the parks, and we know that the words ‘shuttle bus’ usually means rickety minivan, but this is so much better. They’re full sized busses, modern, air conditioned and comfortable. Plus the journey takes all of 3 minutes and there’s practically always one available at either side with much of a wait at all.
These shuttle busses can save you a lot of money in parking fees, which costs $20 each day, even if you’re at an onsite hotel. The sheer convenience of the shuttle, and the fact it’s free, makes it a no brainer.
There’s also the added perk of a separate entrance for guests of Universal hotels at all parks, making you feel like a bit of a VIP, it’s a nice touch. But the best part of all, is the fact that you can get in the parks an hour before offsite guests. In peak season this can make a huge difference, especially with sunbeds and spaces at Volcano Bay.
What Else is Near Cabana Bay?
You’re a very short cab ride to International Drive, which is one of the biggest hubs of entertainment, restaurants and bars in the whole of Orlando. You can walk it, but there’s a few major roads en route so we would recommend avoiding this.
There’s plenty on International Drive to keep you occupied, including bowling, a cinema, shopping and more bars and food places than you can imagine. You’re also conveniently located for shopping at the outlets or Florida Mall, both again, a short drive away.
You’re around 15 miles from Disney, but this can take some time in peak season, so if you plan on spending most of your time at Disney, Cabana Bay may not be the best idea. Split stays are very common, whereby you stay at Cabana Bay for a week at Universal / I-Drive and then move to a Disney hotel for those parks.
Final Thoughts on Cabana Bay Beach Resort
We really like Cabana Bay, and if we had to pick one favourite thing about it, it would be the ability to walk to Volcano bay in a matter of minutes, as we spend a lot of time there. There’s something great about being able to take your damp clothes and swim wear and trot back to your room without having to get on a shuttle or necessarily dry off first.
Don’t expect to be eating at the diner every night, as it’s just not that kind of place. But if you’re looking for a modern, great quality hotel, close to the universal parks and centrally located you will not be disappointed by choosing Cabana Bay. We can’t wait to go back.
Disclaimer: This review is in no way endorsed by Universal, or Cabana Bay Beach Resort. It’s not an advert, and all views are our own.