Updated: Jun 5
To begin, this place has style! The staff is extremely professional and accommodating. Cabana Bay helped turn my daughter’s 24th birthday celebration into a success. I will tell you why!
I needed a change of scenery... We live just over an hour from Orlando and I was shopping for a place where we could enjoy a lazy river, eat a yummy dinner, sing happy birthday and have a little quality family time. I called to book the reservation and they gave me a teacher discount. Score!!
Location Location Location:
Right next to volcano bay, and in the heart of the Universal complex, Cabana Bay is easy to get to. It is located directly off of I-4, in an area rich with shopping and family fun.
If you are planning a quick get away and need a change of scenery, you could enjoy your time at the resort never leaving the property. However, staying for an extended period there is so much to take advantage of in the area and the room rates are affordable. There is also free parking!
The Rooms: It is always important to me to have a refrigerator and microwave option wherever I stay. I don’t know why this seems to be a challenge these past few years but Cabana Bay provided my first requirement. ✔️ I am usually sleeping five. While most hotel rooms offer two beds, I typically require two beds and a pull out couch option. I am willing to bring a blowup mattress when there’s no pull out couch provided there is space. At Cabana Bay In the family suite we slept 6 comfortably. ✔️ Bathrooms: I appreciate the fact that while the sink is centrally located, there is a toilet behind one door and bath/ shower behind the other door. Helps a large family get ready faster. Good floor plan! ✔️
Large closet: we had a perfect little storage area for all of our bags. I was happy that our stuff did not have to be all over the room. ✔️
The Property/Amenities: Retro style! I don’t have a preference for the older era however, the colors are uplifting, the geometrical style makes it fun, and the general landscaping and design is top notch. It definitely makes you feel like you have stepped into another place. I appreciate that for a quick getaway!
There are two courtyards (that do not connect) with huge amazing pools. We expected there to be a cut through walk way. There is not. You have to put on covering, walk through the lobby, around the corner and by the Bayliner Diner to get to the Hideaway pool. See both pools! Great landscaping and beautiful grounds make the walk enjoyable and the entire stay feel beautiful.
The Atomic Pool (Open 9 AM to 10 PM) has a hot tub, water slide, zero entry pool with a sand beach, and cabanas for rent. Warm water, good music and a very diverse crowd make for great energy! The Atomic Bar and Grill adds to the ambiance. Yummy drinks and the smell of food cooking it is hard to resist. *However, we wish they had burgers. The pizza was less than satisfactory, chicken nuggets were dry, and the chicken avocado wrap was also a little dry. Over all the pool side food was not up to the task. Plan accordingly. Hideaway pool is open an hour later (11 PM), however the shack stops selling floats at 6 pm. Here is where you will find the amazing lazy river. They also have a bar and grill, lots of tables for sitting areas and a family fun pool area. The lazy river is a great place to spend some quality time as you float under palm trees that tunnel over head and the volcano (Volcano Bay) looms just beyond reach. This is what we came for and we were NOT disappointed. We were 100% satisfied with the lazy river chill time. We circled through passing the water falls, palm trees, and foliage just living our best life!
Arcade: My four kids ages 15-26 played in here for an hour. Ok fine, we all played!! My sister and I enjoyed some Air Hockey. My daughter and I raced motorcycles. There were also basketball competitions and at the end they all joined their tickets together and traded for some cool winnings. They were all satisfied. An hour of quality time!! So worth it! Bowling: Currently you have to be present to make a reservation. Reservation times begin at 5 PM. Due to Covid they are not using all of their 10 lanes. We arrived at 5:30 and the earliest time we could book to bowl was 10:20 PM. We ended up not being able to make that time but the last reservation is for 11 PM. They charge $12.00 Per person for 45 minutes. You must have your own socks. I am looking forward to our next trip so that we can use this feature!
Bayliner Diner: Food court style open daily from breakfast at 7 am to late dinner at 11 pm offering a decent range of food options. Burgers, pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and a few international options are served well. There were always people eating, and enjoying their meals. We heard no complaints about the food.
The Atomic Tonic: This was our favorite eating experience at this resort. It just smells great. Located on the deck by the pool it's a convenient spot to grab a tropical vacation drink, wrap,, burger, or kebobs. I'm not a person usually impressed with poolside food - but this was delicious. The right menu in the right place at the right time.
There are other food options we did not take advantage of, but they are conveniently located - the Hideaway Bar & Grill (by the lazy river), Swizzle Lounge, and Galaxy Bowl Restaurant (we actually did get drinks here) were all upbeat inviting options.
Rainy Day: One reason I highly recommend this resort is it stormed right after we got down to the pool. Lightning made it unsafe to be in the water. We moved under the covered area, and sat talking, laughing and catching up watching the rain roll through in a dry beautiful spot. Many guests went to take advantage of the indoor activities. This left us free to enjoy the rainy weather in a safe location, but covered and comfortable on their outdoor couches.
Shuttle: A bus will pick you up out by the front loop to take you over to city walk if you are interested. This was one of the reasons I chose this resort. I did not want to have to deal with the traffic, parking, and long hike into the park. To board the shuttle you do need the color of the day bracelet band given to you by the front desk. My two boys who had not gone through the check in process with us did not have bracelets. Luckily there was someone at the bus depot taking temperatures and giving bracelets :-) The bus travels every few minutes and you do not have to wait long. The drive is very quick and you are dropped off on the curb right at the walkway :-) City Walk: As guests walk they are ushered though the security check point - walk through a metal detector and personal items are scanned. After cleared for entry there are a few walk way people movers to get you inside the park. We had an hour to kill before our dinner reservations so we walked around doing some window shopping :-) yes City Walk is fun. There are photo ops, cool shops and scenery to enjoy. Even with the masks and social distancing efforts, people are still enjoying themselves here. We decided to return the next day to make a few purchases.... Voodoo Donuts? Oh yes, Yuuuuuuuuummmmm!!!
** We ate dinner at Vivo Italian Kitchen. My daughter's favorite food is chicken and shrimp fettuccine Alfredo - and I read Vivo's makes their pasta fresh onsite daily. We've eaten at some of the other restaurants and wanted to try this one. The serving sizes were decent, food was yummy, and the server was GREAT. She knew the menu, gave my daughter a Happy Birthday pin, and was generally personable. They do add a gratuity to your bill at this location, and most with in City Walk.
Reservation?? When we loaded onto the shuttle (7:15) I called to make a reservation. They gave me an 8:45 time.
When we arrived, my sister walked up and made a reservation - 8:30. Priority is given to the face to face customer.
While we were sitting outside and listening to the music play, enjoying the vibe none of that mattered. The timing had worked out perfectly. We sang happy birthday over some raspberry chocolate cake with vanilla icing and we all cheered for my daughter's new age. That's what it's all about <3 Happy family and so much love.
Starbucks: I know some people are addicted to their Starbucks. Unless you were one of these people I would bring an electric kettle and make your own! The rooms do have coffee makers. It is much cheaper and you will save time by skipping this stop. However if you must feel free to indulge. Long lines, high prices, and your choice of menu for convenience. We did order several things, and most of them were made as requested. There are too many people and too much traffic to fix. Go Away Covid: Temperature checks at the entry way and pool area, as well as prior to loading the shuttle. In a world where face coverings are required, I can report the resort is holding up their end of the bargain asking visitors to comply. For the most part any time people were with in 6 feet they wore the masks, except of course while eating, or at the pool area. Were we measuring in the pool? No. Most people were clumped with their “travel group” and there was adequate spacing between groups. I saw janitorial staff cleaning and wiping. In Starbucks there was a woman spraying tables. It seemed sanitation was of utmost importance.
** We stayed in a family suite in the Starlight Building, building 3, 4th floor. It was centrally located and over looked the pool. We enjoyed our room with a view. We NEVER would have found it with out asking several people along the way. Hold on to your map they give you when you check in you will need it! And clarify where you will park, the lot is like a maze and buildings are not well marked from the parking lot side.
** Walmart and Publix are both under two miles away. Stop on your way in for water, drinks, snacks, perhaps breakfast foods and lunch meat. This will save time and money spent in line on less appealing food. Grab those pool floats also!
**Take advantage of the free shuttle. It is convenient and there are so many places to eat in City Walk. Also, it's just a fun place to wander Universal with out having to pay the huge admission.
**After you check out, stay and use the resort for the day, but once you check out your room key is inactivated! So plan accordingly for that!
**Text customer service all of your questions. I found them very responsive and especially courteous!
**If you are going to the Universal theme parks, staying here gets you early entry, where you can enter an hour before the park "opens", beating the crowed. We did not go to the theme parks this time as it has been 100 degrees each summer day, so we focused on the pools! There is a walk way directly to Volcano Bay if you are going to the water park. Better idea in these insane summer months.
Where ever your travels take you - Stay Present! Enjoy where you are at. Breathe.
This was our first family trip in all of 2020! (Labor Day weekend)
We absolutely made the lack of quantity into quality.
As a family that travels together often we know how to work together to make the most of the time and have the kinks worked out - this comes with practice and high expectations of all! We enjoy each other's company which is the best! Set the tone ahead of time and then just go with the flow.
Affordability meter: 6/10
On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this day? With 1 being utterly unaffordable and 10 being basically free, I rate this adventure a 6. Why a 6? Comparing the cost vs. the value I was quite satisfied. I paid for a resort, and all of us were able to benefit. This was meant to be a fun get away. With some budgeting and planning it was easy to pull off with out blowing the bank. I could have added on extras, but I was staying with in my means and providing a valued experience. It was. I love a free shuttle. I love some free parking. I love not having to pay for the extras. We made all of this work with out much extra thought.
Universal Resorts Secrets:
While Cabana Bay is a great deal for a stand alone weekend trip, if you are really planning on quality time in the theme parks, other resorts will give you those free express passes.
Express passes allow you to skip the lines and move up to the front, cutting your wait time tremendously. They can be purchased at a cost and added to your cart when buying your passes. Or....if you stay at one of Universal’s three premier hotels – Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort – you will receive complimentary unlimited Express access each day of your visit, including your check-in and check-out dates.
All of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels offer Early Park Admission. Early Park Admission allows you to enter select parks up to an hour early during your stay.
*if you are really looking to make the most of your theme park day, early admission + express is the way to go!
On less crowded days, this is not needed.
Thank you for visiting, please share your thoughts and experiences below of Cabana Bay or other favorite Orlando attractions.
As always, enjoy the road you are on.
You can always shift course as needed, but be present in the moment and enjoy each moment!
When traveling with family, be proactive - mentally preparing for any common issues unique to your situation.
Travel in love and joy,
If you want to plan a Florida Vacation, click the clink below for adventure's on a budget, there is so much to see and do in the Sunshine State!
Our Cabana Bay album: This is a resort packed with fun stuff to do right on site!