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If you want to step back into the golden age of travel, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is just the place. Located on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort, Cabana Bay Resort takes you back to the 1950s and 60s with bright cheery mid-century accents.
I was invited as media to review Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. All opinions are my own.
From the outside, the hotel has a retro roadside hotel design. It reminds me how families would pack up the kids in the station wagon and drive hours to get to the beach resort for their family vacation. It’s colorful exterior beckons roadside travelers to spend a few nights in air-conditioned rooms with a color TV.
The retro decor carries throughout the hotel with orange and yellow panels on the facade, futuristic space theming in the pool area, and brightly colored neon signs for the lounge and bowling alley.
Yes, Cabana Bay has Galaxy Bowl Restaurant, a dine and bowl ten-lane alley. Does anyone remember Grease 2? Bowling was definitely a popular thing to do in the 50s and 60s.
I love the nostalgic theme throughout the resort. Antique cars parked along the entrance further that retro pack-up-the-kids-and-let’s-go feel. It put a smile on our faces.
The resort is currently the largest on Universal Orlando’s property. The hotel rooms are split into two sections, a motel style side, with three sides branching from the lobby, outside entrances, arranged around the main pool. These are the Starlight, Thunderbird, and Castaway section. We stayed in the Castaway section.
The hotel side is bigger, with longer indoor hallways, with two towers at the end. This is the Continental and Americana with the Bayside and Beachside towers.
We stayed in a Family Suite, which is a bigger room with a living area, kitchenette, 2 queen beds, and a pullout sofa. For our family of 4, this was plenty of room. Because my children are older and taller, one took a bed and one took the sofa. The kitchenette had lots of shelving, a microwave, coffee maker, sink and mini-fridge.
The rooms are also decorated in a retro style with bubble lights, orange and teal colors, simple furniture and barstools. The bath area offered a separate shower and sink area, a main sink counter, and a separate toilet. This was convenient as one could be brushing teeth while another is in the shower.
My favorite part of the layout of the room was the slider from the bedroom to the living room. I remember when the kids were small, we’d use space such as this to put them to sleep, while we enjoyed alone time in the living room. Today it’s more the opposite with the teenagers staying up late while we crashed in bed after a full day in the parks!
Pool Area & Lazy River
The resort has two pools. The pool behind the lobby is larger, with a water slide. In the Americana/Continental side there’s a pool and lazy river. The lazy river and pools are heated. Both areas also have hot tubs. As we were there when it was slightly cooler, the hot tubs were always packed.
Each pool area also has a fire pit and seating area. You can purchase s’more roasting kits.
For the lazy river area, you can bring your own floats. Floats are also available for sale but note they are a bit pricey. However, they also make a great souvenir.
At the larger pool, there is also a selection of lawn games such as giant connect four, ladder ball, ping pong and more. Some of the areas also had beach sand so you feel as if you have stepped into a beach resort.
Dining & Drinks
Cabana Bay Beach Resort‘s retro theming continues into the dining options at the hotel. Everything is centrally located in the main house, with the exception of the pool bar areas, The Hideaway Bar & Grill and Atomic Tonic. Think surfer beach shack and futuristic themes here. Both serve snacks and light meals along with frozen and alcoholic concoctions.
There is a Starbucks on the premises for your morning coffee. I did love how it blends right into the decor of the hotel with a roomy, wooden, lounge feel.
In the lobby, you’ll find the Swizzle Lounge. This reminds me of the place you’d find the adults retiring to for cocktails after a dinner party. The long bar offers plenty of seating both at the bar and in mid-century dinettes and sofas nearby. In the evenings we enjoyed a guitarist playing modern songs for the crowd.
Bayliner Diner is a favorite for nostalgia-loving adults and kids alike. The cafe style diner has different food stations, for order and go convenience. Retro clips and commercials play on the large screen overlooking the diner. You can also view these from the second-floor walkway and it was always fun to pause and watch for a few minutes.
The best part, however, has to be the Galaxy Bowl Restaurant. I’ve already mentioned that the resort has a bowling alley. This is the only full-service restaurant on site as well. Put your name on the list for bowling, as it’s only 10 lanes, it fills up fast, then grab a bite to eat while you wait. We enjoyed our selection of wings and burgers as well as specialty mixed drinks. Everything was fresh and delicious.
Theme Park Access
If you’re planning a visit to Volcano Bay while you’re staying at Universal Orlando, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is THE hotel to book. The ease of walking to Volcano Bay through the resort only entrance cannot be matched. It’s literally right next to the hotel and was a 10-minute walk from our side of the resort. If you’re on the Americana/Continental it would be even closer!
To get to Islands of Adventure or Universal Studios, it’s a bit longer. You can access the parks one of three ways. One, take the bus just outside the lobby. This deposits you at the base of the parking garage where you’ll join the rest of drive-in traffic and go through security onto City Walk. Two, take the walkway and walk about 15-20 minutes along the path entering just outside of Islands of Adventure. Three, take the walkway across to Sapphire Falls, through the hotel, and down to the boats. The boats follow the waterway along the same path as the walkway, docking in between the two theme parks.
We took all three routes. None are the most convenient for the theme parks. I would recommend walking there and taking the boat back. The buses at the end of the evening have a longer wait. You’ll walk a little more with the boat or the walkway, but it will be less crowded.
Staying at Cabana Bay Beach Resort does get you Early Entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay. We did enjoy getting into Volcano Bay early and we were able to ride nearly everything we wanted to before noon.
Unlike the Premier hotels, Cabana Bay Beach Resort does not give you an Express Pass to skip the lines for the attractions. Depending on the time of year, an Express Pass is well worth the extra cost to get the most bang for your buck. Even though you may not get an express pass with Cabana Bay, you can purchase it separately.
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