We had our big night out. We had our big outfit coordinating day. We went all out at a water park. We ticked off several bachelorette weekend boxes, but we still had one to go: total relaxation. Turns out Universal Orlando Resort is the perfect place for that too.
When I first visited Universal, someone casually revealed a little-known secret to me — guests of any of the onsite resorts are welcome to pool hop between all five hotels. With each of the onsite hotel pools boasting different perks and amenities, we could hardly be asked to choose between them for our last day in Orlando! In fact, we didn’t want to miss a single one. So we decided not to. Thus, the five day pool hop challenge was born.
For the second half of our trip, we were stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal’s most bargain friendly hotel (for the moment — an even more budget hotel, Aventura, is in the works). So we kicked off our trip by shuttling over to the other side of Universal both physically and metaphorically: the resort’s most luxurious property, Loews Portofino Bay.
Portofino Bay is an Italian-themed hotel that, in true Orlando fashion, boasts a Balinese-themed spa. Mandara Spa is the only onsite spa at Universal Orlando Resort, and welcomes guests from Universal properties and beyond. We started our day early with a workout in the onsite gym before checking in for our now much-deserved treatments. I opted for a Dolce Limoncello Body Polish with Massage, which included Portofino’s signature body polish infused with vanilla and lemongrass.
While the spa itself was undergoing some construction and renovations and some areas were closed, we were still able to use the sauna and relaxation room pre-treatment, and I was floating by the time I got off the table — my masseuse was so talented I actually asked her where she went to massage school! (So I could stalk other graduates, I guess?)
Eventually we reached maximum bliss levels and made our way out to the pool to continue the fun. A lush fruit plate and frozen peach bellinis were the perfect post-massage treat, as was splashing around in Portofino’s Villa Pool, one of three on the property.
We’d heard that this particular pool was adult only, but as more and more kids filtered in I realized we’d been misinformed — turns outs, there are no officially designated adult-only pools at Portofino, though the Villa Pool and Hillside Pool tend to be a bit more quiet and relaxed than the lively Beach Pool. For the first hour or so we were there, it was totally serene.
But eventually, it was time to move on — to the Hard Rock Hotel! We’d hoped to take the water taxi directly from one hotel to the other, but the captain wasn’t able to dock and so we had to switch back at CityWalk — in retrospect, it might have been quicker to walk between hotels.
Hard Rock was a different world from Portofino Bay. Here, at the legendary home of rock n’ roll royalty, a poolside DJ pumped out tunes that could be heard both above and below the water, as the 12,000 square foot pool features an underwater sound system.
And that’s not all. There’s also two hot tubs, a real sand beach, a bumpin’ volleyball court, and our favorite part, a waterslide. Unlike waterslides in Volcano Bay, you’re free to bring your cameras on this one — which we of course loved. And it wasn’t a dinky little slide either!
Each hotel pool has a unique menu, and at Hard Rock we were smitten with the frosé — a frozen rose concoction perfect for kicking the insanely hot summer-in-Orlando temps. Also a good beat the heat strategy? Underwater photo sesh!
Next up, back to where it all began — the Royal Pacific Resort! To get here, take the water taxi to CityWalk, and transfer there for Royal Pacific. We’d already logged some time at this pool earlier in our stay, so we didn’t stay too long.
But we did take advantage of a little secret we’d learned — while the pool area is always bustling with families enjoying the lagoon-style pool and Royal Bali Sea children’s water play area, the hotel has a private little beach facing the lagoon the water taxis ply through. And it’s almost always empty. While you can’t go in the water here — you should assume there are gators in every body of water in Florida up to and including bathtubs — it’s a great spot for sunbathing and enjoying a little peace and quiet.
With three pools under our belts, it was time for a late lunch at Sapphire Falls Resort. This is a hotel I’ve been lucky to stay at twice, and so I felt like I was showing Olivia and Ashlee around my Orlando home away from home. We skipped the water taxi this time and strolled along the resort’s lush walking path instead.
I really, really love this pool. It has a great waterslide, a fun firepit, and generally a fantastic layout — somehow, it never feels crowded.
Wondering how we could afford so many fancy frozen drinks? Heres another insider Universal Orlando Resort secret! At $15 for a signature drink, your tab could add up quickly. But if you’ve already purchased one drink in a souvenir glass, refills are just $10.
We brought one Royal Pacific glass with us for the day, unsure if it would work at other hotels, but found that every single bartender gave us a new souvenir glass at the $10 price regardless of what logo was on the glass — which meant we ended the day with a super fun souvenir, a full set of glasses from each of the five pools! (I gifted the set to my aunt in Tampa, who now has them on reserve for poolside parties at her condo.) And we only paid $10 for each of them.
We also paused for lunch at Drhum Club Kantine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — in my opinion, Sapphire Falls has the best food of any of the Universal Orlando Resorts, and Drhum Club is no exception. Over many visits I’ve tried the veggie wrap, the pork tacos, and the baja spiced chicken salad — all were fantastic! Looking for something sweeter? The desserts are also pretty on-point.
I love Sapphire Falls so much, I was sad to leave! But we were on a mission… and we just had one stop left to achieve it.
With a quick stroll across the street we’d reached our final stop, which just so happened to be our hotel — Cabana Bay Beach Resort!
For this stop, I’d specifically packed some very special bachelorette-themed pool accessories. At Cabana Bay’s lazy river, you can either purchase branded floats onsite or bring your own to the float hut for a free inflation. Engagement ring drink floats? Check. Champagne bottle lounging float? Check check.
We also had some special guests stop by for our last stop. One of the groomsmen in Ashlee’s wedding, Keyth, and his wife, Kristina, are Orlando locals, and they kindly came to meet us for a float and a frosty beverage — a non alcoholic one in Kristina’s case, since she was pregnant (with twins, Olivia hoped, since that would make the above photo perfect — ha!)
And then it was on — non-stop fun for our final hours of sun!
We did it! Five pool hotels in one day. Phew. Ya know, sometimes you just have to really challenge yourself to tackle difficult goals and achieve greatness. I just couldn’t have been prouder of all of us.
In all seriousness, it was the perfect note to end Orlando on. My eight days there were long and they were jam-packed, as you can probably tell from the six separate blog posts I wrote from that time!
Yet the amazing thing is that I left with so much more I wanted to come back for. Of the business partnerships I have formed over the years, this one has definitely been one of those with a lasting impact — working with Universal Orlando reignited my childhood love for theme park destinations, and I’m having so much fun sharing that with my family and friends. Cheers to a great year, Universal Orlando Resort. I hope to see you again soon.
What’s the best destination you’ve discovered for a bachelorette weekend?
One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more about my current travels right after they happen. Well, ask and ye shall receive! I’m jumping in to start sharing some posts from Florida and Tennessee, a trip so fresh I just unpacked from it.
This post is brought to your by Universal Orlando Resort. I am a member of the Universal Blog Squad, and have been compensated for this partnership. I maintain full editorial control and as always all thoughts, opinions, and over-ambitious craft projects are my own.
Drhum Club desserts are definitely on point, as is your black swimsuit!
Thank you Gemma! Ordered in on Amazon… part of my campaign to avoid bikinis this summer, ha ha.
What a super fun challenge!! I need those pool floats in my life!
So cute right?! I’m hopelessly addicted to pool floats this summer, ha ha!
Looks like paradise! Sometimes the best way to kick back and relax is chilling poolside with a good drink and a relaxing massage. When I´m in the Bahamas I also like to chill at a spa resort for a few days to rid myself from any stress from work.
That sounds like a pretty ideal layover 🙂 I really need to get back to the Bahamas!
Oh such amazing photos of happy people
Thanks Jo-Anne! Luckily these two girls love the photoshoot life!
What a fun looking trip! That frose looks incredible!
Probably our favorite drink of the day! Love that every hotel has a different menu — makes it fun to do a mini “Drink Around Universal” (we definitely shared some drinks two or three ways so we could sample plenty and not get totally sloshed, haha).
I admire your resilience!
Ya know, someone’s gotta do it… 😛
‘Sounds like an enormous amount of fun. Yes please!
Probably one of my favorite days at Universal… just goes to show there’s plenty more to do than just hang at the parks!
It’s unlikely I’ll visit Orlando anytime in the near or far off future, but I’ve really enjoyed these posts!
I’d be super interested in hearing about how Theme Parks like this consider sustainability and responsible tourism..
Hey Jade! I’m so glad you brought that up, because I wish I’d linked to this somewhere in my Universal coverage… I actually wrote a blog post for the Universal Blog about their Green Is Universal program and how to be a green theme park guest. Let me know what you think!
This looks like so much fun!! My husband and I did “beach-hopping” when we had our honeymoon in Santorini. Each of the island’s beaches looked completely different (a red sand beach, black sand beach, etc) so we challenged ourselves to visit each one in one day! x michelle
Fun! I love that trifecta of different colored Santorini beaches. I didn’t actually go to the red one — just the viewpoint — but the black one stole my heart.
Your photos are amazing and make the adventure look so fun!
You’re so sweet Rachel! Thank you!
This looks like so much fun! And it must have felt like a perfect down day – not as hectic as a theme park day, but still had enough going on not to feel like a wasted day. I’ll have to keep that in mind for a future visit.
Totally! “The Challenge” made it feel like more than just a lazy day at the pool… not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂
hey, I may be a bit far away for a casual visit to Orlando. But I have to tell you…your pics look swell. For a brief moment they transported me to the awesome place this resort feels like.
Brilliant! It is more fun to see vacation pics when they are so colorful and full of smiles.
Thank you Rekha! How could we not be smiling… the sun was shining 🙂
Your posts are now truncated in my RSS feeder (Feedly), boo! Hopefully that’s in error and it will be fixed soon, so the fully stories come through?
Hey Sarah! I recently switched back to excerpts for my emailed post alerts, but I didn’t think it would effect the way the posts came through in RSS readers. I’ll talk to my designer about that, thanks for the heads up!
Who needs the theme parks when you’ve got all these sweet hotels?? 😛 You’ve seriously got me convinced to take an Orlando trip one of these days! And I’ll definitely add a day into the itinerary to pool hop, because you made it look like so much fun! And based on the prices you’ve mentioned over the last few posts, it seems like a trip like this wouldn’t break the budget like I always thought it would
The more premium hotels definitely come with premium price tags — but staying at Cabana Bay can totally be budget friendly. And the food and drink prices at Universal always shock me, they seem so reasonable for a theme park!
I could really use a pool hop right about now! I haven’t been swimming in what feels like forever…!
The ocean is definitely my preference but hey… I’ll never turn down a day by a pool 🙂
How awesome is that Pool Hop idea! I thought I was excited about the Las Vegas buffet pass but that is next level.
Ha, I didn’t even know about the Las Vegas buffet pass… and as enticing as it sounds I doubt I’d get my money’s worth. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach!
Love this idea! If you did it again, would you visit the pools in the same order, or would you mix it up?
I think the way we did it was perfect — or in the reverse direction! Looking at a map, it’s the logical way to go.