With Universal Orlando’s ongoing expansion, new on-site hotels are on the rise with the Aventura under construction and looking to open by Summer 2018 and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort as the newest to receive guests. Like other Universal properties, Sapphire Falls offers the same park perks; for example, entering the park an hour earlier than the general public. However, transportation to and from the park is a bit different here because, in addition to Universal’s regular shuttle buses and walking paths, this resort employs Water Taxis to shuttle guests back and forth on picturesque turquoise waters.
As is standard for Orlando’s theme park hotels, a motif is in order, with Sapphire Falls carrying a convincing Caribbean island vibe of blue and turquoise hues accented with neon pink and green; landscapes of tropical trees and plants, and a lobby and dining options boasting washed out wood and rattan furnishings. Although this resort carries less of a theme than others at Universal, it still fits nicely with the park and its sister properties.
Containing 1000 guest rooms, there’s plenty of family-friendly accommodations. Standard guestrooms offer 321 square feet of living space and feature a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, single coffee maker, in-room safe, and free Wi-Fi. These rooms start at $164/night with views of the lagoon or pool. Though it will be cramped, families of 5 are able to add a rollaway bed to the room for an extra charge.
However, if a standard room doesn’t offer enough space for your needs, Sapphire Falls also features several suite options, from 529 to 1353 square feet of room. On the lower end, there’s a two-bedroom kids’ suite which provides playful decor and twin beds in a second bedroom with a rate of $260/night. On the higher end, there are the King and Sapphire Suites, followed by the larger Hospitality Suite which is big enough to entertain friends and comes with a rate starting at $790/night. There’s also a luxurious Presidential Suite if you dare. Given the newness of the property, everything is still very clean and well maintained. All rates quoted are in US funds and pertain to ‘off-peak’ season.
The pool is impressive at 16,000-square-feet and the surrounding area is filled with colorful umbrellas and chairs as well as a waterslide and kid’s play area. For adults, there are two man-made white sand beaches and rental cabanas available that further the relaxing Caribbean theme and make guests forget they’re actually in Orlando, an hour inland from the coast. A nearby firepit is great for evening gatherings, plus the resort organizes such family activities as ping pong and pool tournaments, etc. But just in case that isn’t enough to keep active kids occupied in between hours spent at the park, there’s also an arcade on the property.
As for dining options, Sapphire Falls contains Amatista Cookhouse, a sit-down, full-service facility overlooking the waterscape while serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner of typically American cuisine. For meals on the go, guests can visit the New Dutch Trading Co. and for poolside eats, The Drhum Club Kantine is available with a variety of drinks and several seafood options. For a lounge-like atmosphere, adults can visit Strong Water Tavern, a lobby bar with a tapas menu and rum tasting.
CONS: Standard rooms are quite small, families of 4 or more will feel cramped. Shuttles and Water Taxis run every 15 minutes, but that doesn’t seem to be enough during peak hours. Onsite restaurants are convenient but are far from budget friendly.