The newest on-site hotel at Universal Orlando (home to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) opened in spring of 2014. Designed to provide maximum value to families, Cabana Bay Beach Resort features a mid-20th century retro aesthetic and the cleverest design I've ever seen in a family suite.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a bright and airy throwback to the retro styles of the 1950s and 1960s. Vintage cars are parked outside, and a bowling alley awaits inside.
One of four on-site hotels at Universal Orlando, Cabana Bay offers guests free transportation to the theme parks (there's also a walkway, but be prepared for a 30-minute hike).
The lobby is airy and filled with light. A large gift shop is filled with Harry Potter and Despicable Me merchandise alongside essentials like flip-flops and sunscreen. You can buy park tickets or rent a car right in the lobby. Just outside are buses to the Universal Orlando theme parks and City Walk, the entertainment and restaurant district.
Hotel guests get early access (one hour) to the theme parks, which is critical during peak seasons for access to the popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. Be forewarned: this is the only on-site hotel that does not provide guests with front-of-line passes for all the attractions (although you can purchase the Express Pass separately).
Swizzle Lounge, in the lobby of Cabana Bay Beach Resort, is a stylish and relaxing spot to grab a cocktail. My favorite was the Cucumber Gimlet, a refreshing twist on a classic drink.
Around the corner is a Starbucks with drinks and food. Just beyond is the Bayliner Diner, actually a food court with stations serving deli sandwiches, pizza, burgers (the Cabana Bay Burger was a hit), pasta, a salad bar, and desserts. Breakfast is served here as well. The dining room is a high-ceilinged space with huge screens mounted high and showing retro commercials from the 50s and 60s.
Upstairs is Galaxy Bowl, an up-to-date but retro-styled bowling alley with shoe rentals, lockers and full-service food. The fitness center is named after (who else?) Jack LaLanne, the "godfather of fitness."
Outside at a large and lively pool, recreation options widen. The pool is topped off with a large water slide (a lazy river is planned for the summer). Live music created a party atmosphere on the Friday night I visited. An area with a sandy floor was a popular spot for pool and ping-pong tables. The outdoor poolside bar, Atomic Tonic, served up frozen and non-alcoholic drinks.
The family suite is cleverly designed to maximize space and make it as easy as possible for a group of four to six people to rest and get ready for the parks. A living room features a pull-out, full-sized sofa and flat-screen TV. Two drawers pull out into this room; the other two open into the bedroom on the other side of the wall. A sliding panel separates the two living/sleeping areas. Standard rooms are also available.
Kitchenette in a Family Suite
A small kitchenette off the living area has a coffeemaker and microwave. There's seating for two at a bat with stools. Small round tables in the living room are easy to rearrange.
Bedroom in a Family Suite
In the bedroom, two beds, each with two reading lights, sleep up to four guests. Two drawers open into this room, and there is a fairly large closet in the corner. A flat-screen TV is mounted on one wall.
Bathroom in a Family Suite
The bathroom's design was inspired. It's divided into three sections. A shower and tub combination with a vanity sink is on the left. On the right is a toilet room. In the middle of these is another vanity sink with ample counter space. Two or three people can get ready at the same time.
Amenities at Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The retro amenities were a fun touch at this throwback resort. When's the last time you saw Zest bar soap and VO5 creme rinse anywhere, let alone at a nice resort?
6550 Adventure Way
Orlando, FL 32819