This new Caribbean-inspired hotel provides a tropical escape, just steps away from Universal's theme parks.
Universal Orlando’s Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is the newest of the on-site hotels. For me, the most impressive feature of this resort is the pool area. Covering 16,000-square feet, the pool features sandy spots for playing, a children’s area with pop-up jets, a huge hot tub, and a 100-foot-long water slide. You can even splurge and rent your own private cabana (additional fee) to get an extra taste of luxury. Modern yet comfortable décor adds an upscale feeling to the interior spaces. In addition to being located right in the middle of the action, some of the advantages of staying at the resort include early park admission, complimentary transportation to the parks via water taxi or shuttle bus, resort-wide charging privileges with your room key, and complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased through the resort to your hotel. However, be aware that some of the perks included at the more expensive premier and preferred hotels do not extend to guests at Sapphire Falls - namely, Universal Express Unlimited ride access (though you can purchase it separately) and priority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort.
Where to stay?
Standard guest rooms feature a relaxed, tropical design and can accommodate families of five with two queen beds and a rollaway (additional $25/day). Suites also are available (for a hefty price) which will offer you even more space for large families. The 1,000 guest rooms are housed in three separate guest houses across the sprawling resort and offer either a standard, lagoon or pool view. Guests in pool view rooms, especially on the lower levels, can often hear noise from the pool area, so the lagoon or standard views are a quieter option. Guest house 3 is the shortest distance to the water taxi which may be easiest for tired children after a long day in the parks. Refrigerators and microwaves are not standard in the rooms but are available on a first-come, first-serve basis for an additional fee. (Know that neighboring Cabana Bay Beach Resort does offer rooms with kitchenettes.) Standard room prices range from $200 to $215/night during the slow season and $299 to $315/night during peak season.
KidTripster Tip: Sapphire Falls is a pet-friendly resort, so if anyone in your family suffers from pet allergies, be sure to request a pet-free room.
What to do?
The spectacular pool area is the main attraction and is the largest pool at any Universal Orlando resort. There you’ll find the bulk of the activities at the resort, like splash contests, bingo, poolside movies during the evenings, and s’mores every night at the enormous fire pit. The resort also features a large arcade (additional fee), as well as a modern fitness center.
KidTripster Tip: Visit New Dutch Trading Company to purchase s’mores kits for the fire pit.
Where to eat?
Dining options at Sapphire Falls include the casual, grab-and-go New Dutch Trading Company. It’s great place for families to quickly stock up on snacks and drinks as they head to the parks for the day. There’s also the full-service Amatista Cookhouse with its Caribbean-themed cuisine and unique, open kitchen. The Drhum Club Kantine is located poolside and offers tropical drinks and tapas-style snacks. If adults want to sneak away for a little kid-free time, the Strong Water Tavern specializes in rum tastings and also serves dinner.
KidTripster Tip: If you feel like doing a little exploring, use the free hotel dining shuttle to check out the restaurants at the other Universal Orlando hotels.
Sapphire Falls is located approximately 17 miles from Orlando International Airport. A taxi will cost about $45 to $50, plus tip. Shuttle services also are available and run about $25 to $35 per person, round trip (children under age 3 ride free). Be warned, however, that you’ll most likely have to make several stops along the way to drop off shuttle passengers at other resorts, so this can significantly increase travel time.
If saving time and hassle is worth spending more, then hire a town car. Your driver will meet you at baggage claim and help you with your luggage. Call ahead to request a car seat. There’s a Hertz car rental location at the resort, so a one-way rental is also an option. If you prefer to keep the rental car for the duration of your stay, or if you drive your own car to the resort, the self-parking fee for overnight guests is $22/night, while valet parking is $29/night.
Because Sapphire Falls Resort is located on the Universal Orlando property, getting to the theme parks is a breeze. There’s complimentary resort-wide transportation via shuttle bus and water taxi, and you’re also within walking distance to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal CityWalk, and Universal’s Volcano Bay water park. In addition, there are complimentary shuttles available to Sea World and Wet ’n Wild, though reservations are required; see the concierge desk for assistance.
Considering a visit to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Find out what the V.I.P. experience is like by clicking here.
In additional land adventures, Diana Smith is an expert cruiser. She and her family, including her three Disney princesses, have set sail on eight Disney cruises. For more, check out Disney Cruise Mom.