We stayed at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort during the 2017 Family Forward conference at Universal Orland Resort. We were provided a discounted rate on the hotel stay and park admission, but were not otherwise compensated or required to write positive reviews. All opinions are my own.
The first thing I saw when I went to check in at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort was this amazing, open lobby. Universal boasts a “paradise in the heart of the tropics”, and they nailed that feeling throughout the resort property.
The hotel consists of multiple guest towers, all connected in the gorgeous lobby and by other outdoor common spaces. Our room had two double beds, plus ample space for a rollaway bed (for an additional fee of $25/night). The room wasn’t giant, but definitely allowed us to move around with ease for the limited time we were actually in the hotel!
As the newest hotel on Universal Orlando Resort property (until Aventura opens in August 2018), Sapphire Falls is clean and well-appointed. Our room had plenty of storage, a fair number of outlets (including USB charging), and everything else we’d expect from a moderately priced modern property. Free wifi is included for all guests for up to 4 devices at a time; faster or more expansive plans are available for a fee.
We went into this trip knowing absolutely nothing about Universal Orlando Resort or Sapphire Falls (other than the fact that the hotel was only a year old). I have to say, we can’t wait to get back – and our experience at the hotel is no small part of our excitement.
5 Reasons We Love Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
1. Proximity to the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks and City Walk
It’s super easy to get around at Universal. If you’ve been to Disneyland in Anaheim, the layout feels very similar. The on-property hotels, the entertainment/shopping area, and the theme parks are all connected in a central location. This makes the trip from Sapphire Falls to everywhere else in the resort super easy!
Our favorite transportation option was via the complimentary water taxis. We never waited more than 5-10 minutes for a boat, and the short ride was very enjoyable. Security screenings take place at the hotel boat dock, so when you get off the boat at City Walk you’re ready to get started with your day!
THE GARDEN WALK
From Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, it is just about a 15-minute walk to the Universal Orlando Resort attractions. It’s an absolutely beautiful walk, though I must say that when we were tired, it felt quite long. The 15-minute stroll was actually at quite a leisurely pace, but the way the path winds back and forth through the (gorgeous) grounds made it feel a bit longer when we were just ready to be back at our resort. It’s a truly beautiful (and relaxing) walk otherwise!
No surprise to anyone who knows how we like to do theme parks, we didn’t utilize the resort shuttle option very often. It’s worth noting, of course, that you can catch a shuttle bus to the theme parks – including Volcano bay – throughout the day. The one time we rode a shuttle though (for research), it took us more than an hour from the time we wanted to leave to the time we arrived at City Walk and the theme park entrances.
The buses arrive only every 30 minutes, which seems somewhat absurd during busy park opening and closing hours. After picking us up at Sapphire Falls, our bus route also took us to each of the other on-site hotel properties before taking us to our final destination. It would be perhaps a reasonable way to get from one hotel to another; I’m not exactly sure why anyone would take the bus over the water taxis or the Garden Walk, under normal circumstances.
Pro tip: Guests staying at on-site resorts are not entitled to complimentary parking for City Walk or the Theme Parks. We wanted to drive our car on the last day to simplify our departure, and it did anything but. Instead, we were directed all around the resort and ended up back at Sapphire Falls to walk to the park. To make matters worse, we got several different responses from Universal Orlando Resort staff members regarding this policy. Just be sure to double and triple check parking rates, etc if you have a car with you!
2. Incredible Pool Area
The pool at Loews Sapphrie Falls Resort is absolutely stunning. Inspired by the “vast Caribbean sea”, the pool itself is massive – spanning more than 16,000 square feet. There is also a children’s pool, splash area, and hot tubs, as well as white sand beaches and poolside cabanas (available at an additional charge).
Throughout the day, guests can find beach balls in the pool to play with, or they can enjoy the super fun water slide. Life jackets are available for smaller children who wish to experience the slide. There are also organized games, activities, and contests that take place in the pool area each day.
3. Expansive Gift Shop
Before we even set foot in a park, the Universal Studios Store in our hotel made us even more excited for our first visit. We found a huge selection of Harry Potter and Hogwarts merchandise, as well as great samples from Despicable Me, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Dr. Seuss, and so much more. There was even a wide selection of Sapphire Falls resort merchandise available, along with a display to get guests started with pin trading at the Universal Orland Resort.
4. Kid-Centric Amenities
Loews love kids, and the Sapphire Falls Resort is no different. Younger guests can enjoy a lending library of board games, an arcade, poolside games (ping pong, billiards, etc), and even “Kids Camp”, while mom and dad enjoy an evening out.
As parents, we loved knowing there were childproofing kits available, rollaway beds, bed rails, babysitting options, and other amenities that make it even easier to travel with our kids.
5. A Caribbean Feel in Central Florida
Having fallen in love with cruising, we have spent plenty of time in the Caribbean. Some of our visits have been to high-traffic, touristy areas, while other visits were to more secluded island paradises. Somehow, Loews seems to have captured both of these feelings in one location at Sapphire Falls Resort.
The music, ambience, and festive decor look like some of the exciting, bustling areas of the Caribbean – right down to the Caribbean Carnaval Dinner Show. At the same time, the pool area, outdoor lounge spaces, and even offshoots of the large lobby felt like our own ocean escape. I absolutely loved the colors and atmosphere throughout the resort.
HONORABLE MENTIONS & QUICK TAKES
There are so many more wonderful reasons to book a stay at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Here are just a few more:
- On-site Resort Guests get early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and to Volcano Bay, on select days
- Charge purchases to your room throughout the Universal Orlando Resort; you can even get your purchases delivered back to the resort, rather than having to carry them around all day.
- Schedule a wakeup call from your favorite Universal characters
- Take advantage of excellent customer service, including a text messaging program that allows you to get quick responses to most needs without being tied to your room or your phone
- Relax in saunas after squeezing in a workout in the exercise room
- 24-Hour Room Service is available, along with a number of beautiful lounges and restaurants. New Dutch Trading Company, the resort’s counter service restaurant, offers lots of to-go options as well as a refillable mug program for soda and coffee.
- Conference and Event spaces are available. We spent quite a bit of time in the conference rooms, and they are very nice and super conveniently located to guest rooms, common areas, and transportation.
Important Note: Guests at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort do not receive Universal Express Passes or priority seating offerings that are available at some of the other on-site resorts (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort).
We’d like to try the Portofino Bay Hotel the next time we visit Universal Orlando Resort, but Loews Sapphire Falls Resort will always have a special place in our hearts. It was the perfect home base for our first Universal trip, and we’d stay there again in a heartbeat!