by Amanda Geronikos
Remember when you were a kid and family vacations meant piling into dad’s station wagon for a road trip? So does Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which joined Universal Orlando Resort in 2014. In fact, dad’s station wagon probably looked like the one that’s permanently parked outside the hotel, along with three other vintage cars.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort celebrates the family vacations of yesteryear, essentially taking guests back to the 1960’s and 70’s. You’ll watch black-and-white TV shows while you eat at Bayliner Diner, and classic, dive-in films by Cabana Courtyard Pool, which also touts a nostalgic dive tower. In your room, which might be a Family Suite, you’ll do a double-take at the soaps — Zest and VO5 products appear exactly as they did in the 1970’s. Even the onsite gift shop has a retro touch — it’s modeled after Universal Orlando Resort’ first-ever store.
One of the resort’s most enticing features for families, however, is its affordability. Universal Orlando Resort’s only value hotel, it offers the cheapest rates; even Family Suites, which sleep up to six guests, start around $175 per night, an extremely reasonable rate in comparison to the numbers you’ll find — and for smaller rooms — at other hotels across the way.
No matter when you visit, however, nostalgic excitement at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, paired with modern-day entertainment at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, set the scene for a perfect family vacation. Bonus: Guests of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort enjoy a private entrance to Volcano Bay!
Our Editor Loves
- Affordable hotel with retro theme
- Family Suites that sleep up to six
- Private entrance to Volcano Bay
- Theme Park
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The hotel offers Standard Guestrooms, along with Family Suites, to offer a total of 1,800 accommodations.
Each Family Suite provides a colorful, spacious living area with a sofa (which pulls out to sleep two), two lounge chairs and a flat-screen TV. Adjacent to the sitting area is the kitchen (which is also where you enter and exit the unit), which has a mini-refrigerator, sink, microwave, plastic plates and utensils, plenty of shelving, and a small bar with two stools. Between the living area and kitchen bar, there's plenty of space for a family to spread out and enjoy a meal.
The Family Suite bedroom features two queen beds, which can be separated by the living area and pullout sofa with the use of a rolling door. There's also another flat-screen TV in this area, as well as the bathroom, which is quite big and perfect for families. It has two sinks, separated by two doors, so it almost feels like two separate bathrooms. There's also a shower-in-tub combination.
Standard Guestrooms sleep up to four, and are a great option if you have a family of that size, especially considering they offer mini refrigerators and small tables to eat a meal. Standard Rooms are offered as Tower Rooms and Poolside Rooms -- the latter will offer the best views, obviously.
This hotel is awful. An upgraded room that allegedly sleeps six was actually quite tiny with just two queen size beds and one half size couch that barely slept two infants. Crazy tiny. Plus, the rooms are old with refrigerator doors that don't close and kitchen sinks that are dirty and old. The amenities are lacking as well - including NO lotions in the rooms, and none even if you call housekeeping. The only benefit of this hotel is that it is near Volcano Bay (although only if you stay in the towers, if you stay in one of the other buildings, it can still be a pretty long hike across the compound), grants you early access to the parks, and is relatively inexpensive. All in all, I'd recommend staying somewhere else.
by Mary C
The rooms are great I didn’t hear anything. Mattresses and pillows very comfortable. The pool with lazy river was perfect. The only problem was from our room to restaurant and back was .6 miles so was not convenient at all to get a drink refill or use microwave
If you're bored at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, it's your own fault. The hotel offers a plethora of activities -- both indoor and out -- though Cabana Courtyard Pool is decidedly the place to be on any given day. That's where you'll find a vintage dive tower (though not an active one), which houses a giant waterslide. The pool also features zero-entry access, offering just enough shallow waters for youngsters. Also for tiny tykes, a sprayground offers buckets, canyons and the like, along with a sitting area for watchful parents. Big kids will be happy to know the pool reaches five feet, however, and parents will feel safe with the presence of lifeguards who are stationed throughout the pool at all hours, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort also has another pool and lazy river, complete with water cannons.
Surrounding Cabana Courtyard Pool is a typical umbrella- and lounge-chair clad area, in addition to a not-so-typical "beach" area, complete with real sand! Families can also relax in private cabanas, which feature flat-screen TVs and telephones to order service from the pool bar, Atomic Tonic, which serves refreshing treats -- both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Another sandy area offers games, such as volleyball and Ping Pong; there's even pool tables! The resort's staff also organize hula-hoop contests and other playful competitions in this area, along with dive-in movies at night -- expect to see classics like "Grease." Tip: Get to the hot tub before 8 p.m. (when the movies usually begin) for a prime viewing spot (at least until fingers start to shrivel up)! Afterward, or before, relax by the hotel's firepit (which, oddly enough, is quite modern in comparison to the rest of the resort's theme) with your own S'mores kit, provided by the hotel (fee).
Inside (and perfect for a break from the hot sun), families find Galaxy Bowl, a 10-lane bowling alley with full restaurant service -- this means you can enjoy your burger and fries between strikes! Prices are based on the size of your group; for example, one-hour slots are available for up to three guests, while groups of four to eight will need a 1.5 hour slot. Galaxy Bowl is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Adjacent to the bowling alley, you'll find Game-O-Rama, a small arcade with plenty of cool prizes for the winning!
The hotel's main dining area, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cafeteria-style setting that -- just like the rest of the hotel -- will transport you back to the 60's and 70's; it might even remind you of your parents' kitchen! Your modern-day family will eat in giant, rounded booths as black-and-white commercials and TV shows play on giant screens.
Food is served in four different stations: Grill, Deli, Pizza and International. At each station, two kids meals are offered, and come with a drink. Most of the food, however, is kid-friendly as is -- even the Swedish Meatballs (and if you're lucky, the Tuna Casserole -- remember that from your childhood?) will please their palates, and are offered in a kids-size version, too. A grab-and-go station, ICEE station and a frozen yogurt station are also available!
Cabana Bay Beach Resort is also the first Universal Orlando Resort hotel to offer Sonic Fill (similar to Walt Disney World's Rapid Fill), which allows you to purchase a giant cup and pay for the amount of time you'd like to fill it at any station in Bayliner Diner.
Just down the hall from Bayliner Diner, you'll find a Starbucks, which is also outfitted in a retro theme -- there's even old-school coffee cups strung from the ceiling! Another fun feature about this area is a wall mural that pays homage to the mermaids of Florida's Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
A limited room service menu -- pizza and salads -- is also available from Delicioso Pizza; pizza can be delivered to the pool, as well.
And speaking of the pool, this is where you'll find what might be the hotel's best dining offer -- food trucks! Okay, so they're not example "retro," but what's better than a different food truck arriving poolside each day?
Hideaway Bar & Grill
This casual spot accompanies the lazy river and pool, and serves more of those delicious cocktails and frozen treats, along with light fare.
Additionally, two bars -- Atomic Tonic (next to the Cabana Courtyard Pool) and Swizzle Lounge (inside the lobby) serve delicious cocktails and frozen treats.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Free W-Fi is available for up to four devices per room. High-speed access is also available for $14.95 per day, and will accommodate up to eight devices.
Conveniently, tickets for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure can be purchased at a service desk in the lobby. As a guest of Cabana Bay Beach Resort, you'll also enjoy early access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the most popular area in Islands of Adventure), one hour before it opens.
One of Cabana Bay Beach Resort's most prominent features (though probably not of interest to kids) is a Jack LaLanne Fitness Center, which pays homage to the late health guru. The sleek studio hardly feels like a gym either, with trophies, artifacts and photos of the fitness instructor strewn about -- LaLanne's fitness videos even play on the TVs. Several cardio and weight machines are offered, and the gym is open 5 a.m. to midnight daily.
If you arrive to the hotel before your room is ready, or plan to check out of the hotel and head to the parks, a staff member will happily check your belongings until you can retrieve them.
The Art of Smart Timing
Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Universal Orlando Resort are consistently busy, especially during the summer months and winter holidays. If you can manage to steal the kids from school for a week in September, it's the best time to visit the area -- the park crowds are noticeably lighter. In fact, the parks often close early -- around 6 or 7 p.m. -- because of it. March is also a nice time to visit -- the crowds are bearable and the temperatures are just right, lingering in the 70's and 80's.
If traveling by plane, fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO). From there, grab a taxi via Mears Transportation (and better yet, book in advance to put your mind at ease). One-way rides cost approximately $45. Mears also offers shuttle services.
By car, you'll travel via FL-528, Florida's Turnpike, so you can expect to pay a few tolls.
If you have a car at the resort, there are plenty of parking spaces available for a fee of $10 per day. Plenty of parking is also available at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and costs $17 per day.
Your best bet, however, is to take advantage of Cabana Bay Beach Resort's complimentary shuttle buses (if viewing the shuttles from above, look for the one with a groovy surfboard painted on top!), which depart just outside Bayliner Diner.
For Mom and Dad
Cabana Bay Beach Resort has two bars that are equally good for a late-night cocktail, but if you'd like to leave the hotel, head to Universal CityWalk for a plethora of dining, shopping and entertainment venues.