Your family can not wait to visit Universal Orlando, can they? Everyone knows what rides they want to go on first, and second, and third. So, the easy part of planning your Universal Orlando vacation is done, but now…where are you going to stay? There are too many choices! Every resort is different in price, benefits, theming, location, and so much more. Well, this is where we can help you just a little bit, by sharing our complete guide to the amazing Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando! You will learn about what you can expect by staying at this top resort, what the rooms are like, how staying here can save you time in the parks, and of course we’ll take a look at the Hard Rock Hotel’s famous swimming pool.
(This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Read my disclosure policy here.)
Getting Around the Resort -Yes, You’re Really Staying That Close to the Parks
Your family is staying so close to the theme parks that you can walk! It takes just over 5 minutes to walk to Universal Studios Florida and about 10 minutes to walk to Islands of Adventure.
When you walk to the park, you will go thru security before you arrive at the park entrance. You won’t need your park ticket out until you get to the park entrance.
When you are walking back to the Hard Rock after leaving the parks, take the sidewalk to the left after the second bridge. You will end up at the pool area, and this saves you some time over following the signs that lead you to the entrance by the Woodstock Lawn and water taxi dock.
To enter the gate at the pool area, you need your room key and you also have to pull up on the latch. There is a sign, but not everyone notices it.
Keep your room key available when you are walking the grounds of the Hard Rock for the various gates and side doors that may be locked.
There is a butterfly garden at the Hard Rock Hotel and it’s worth the few minutes it takes to walk thru. There is a sign detailing the types of butterflies in the area, and it is a welcome site to see so many flowers. Plus it’s a colorful spot for some photos. And yes, we saw some butterflies too.
The Hard Rock Hotel is a five minute walk away from Portofino Bay Resort. Turn left at the boat dock and you will soon be transported to Italy. Visit in the evening for an Italian meal and to listen to the opera singer who sings in the courtyard at sunset. Portofino also has a Universal Orlando store that will be much less busier than any souvenir store in the theme park and more convenient to shop at.
There is an Avis car rental desk in the hotel lobby. We returned our rental car here, just park your car in the designated spots and turn in the keys at the Avis desk. You can rent cars from here, but selection will be limited. Check the Universal Orlando website for more information and any available discount codes.
The hotel’s self-parking lot is in the East Lot. You will need your room key to enter and exit the lot.
Need a ride to the airport from Universal? They do not offer a shuttle, but they have a contract with a driving service that will take you. There is always supposed to be a driver available, and the fee was $49 for the four of us in 2020. We left in the very early morning for the airport, and the driver pulled right up to the door as soon as we stepped outside.
The Hard Rock Hotel – A Quick Tour
The lobby is located on the third floor, the Rock Royalty (Club) Level is the seventh floor, and the pool and shuttle bus stops are on the first floor.
There are movies shown every night on the large screen on one end of the lobby.
There is a Marketplace on the lower level where you can purchase snacks, coffee drinks, ice cream, and some grocery items.
Purchase made at the restaurants and shops at the Hard Rock Hotel can be charged to your room.
You can purchase your Universal Orlando park tickets at the Hotel. There is a park rep in the lobby and they can help you out with your questions, maps, and tickets.
The Kitchen is a fantastic restaurant to dine at while visiting the Hard Rock Hotel. You can check out the menu here. At least one person in your group should order the mac & cheese…it’s the best.! You can only access the restaurant thru the outside entrance. One odd note, there are no bathrooms at the restaurant. You have to leave the restaurant, enter the hotel, and use the bathrooms down the hall.
The Kitchen has a kids play area which is a good place for them to burn off some energy instead of asking where is our food multiple times immediately after ordering.
Have a music lover in your family? You can borrow a guitar or record player to use in your room. See the details at the front desk.
The elevators are fast with little wait times.
There is a Hard Rock shop located near the lobby, but there is no Universal Store on site.
The Rooms at Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando
The rooms are very comfortable at Hard Rock and were surprisingly quiet. The hotel building is a circular shape with wings of rooms. This really cuts down on the traffic outside of your door. The layout can make it confusing to find your room, but take note of the pictures hanging at the end of each hall, and you’ll easily remember where you have to turn.
Standard room sizes vary from 375 to 500 square feet. Suites are 630 to 2,000 square feet. Rates for a room with a view of the pool run higher, than rooms with their view toward the resort entrance.
Want to know if your room is ready before you arrive for check-in? Just text 407-228-3344 or call 407-503-2175.
Housekeeping is from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day. There is also a nightly turndown service if you are staying on the Rock Royalty (Club) Level.
Every time we walked down the hall during the day, we always saw housekeeping. Every time.
The housekeeping staff always said hello. Every time.
There are bottles of Fiji water in the room, but they are not free.
There is a sink area that is separate from the shower and toilet. This is a welcome convenience when everyone is getting ready in the early morning to beat the crowds at the parks. Some rooms do not have the separate sink.
Did you forget something or need something from the staff? Just send them a text message. You will get the phone number with your room key.
The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal is run by Loews. Loews does not offer a reward program, so if you want to stay on points, you’ll have to look into redeeming Chase rewards, Citi Thank You points, or American Express Membership rewards. We redeemed Citi Thank You points for our stay, and the point difference to upgrade to Rock Royalty level was pretty minimal, and definitely worth it.
There are discounted rates available for Florida residents. Prices are cheaper for everyone if you bundle your park tickets and hotel.
The Hard Rock Hotel offers express check out on your day of departure. You can check out via email, television, telephone or send a text. You will get the details when you check in.
There are television channels that show guitar lessons, music videos, and Universal Orlando park information. This is in addition to the usual television channels.
We stayed on the Rock Royalty level, and that’s what the photos show. If you want to see other room options available, and some reviews, check them out on TripAdvisor here.
You’ve Heard About The Hard Rock’s Famous Pool, Right?
During the winter months, the hours for the pool were 8:00 am – 10:00 pm. You have to show your room key for towels. They also have special towels for your beach chair.
The pool is zero entry, and at the deepest point is 3’ 6”. The water is fairly warm.
There are lifeguards surrounding the pool, and they are paying attention.
There is music playing at the pool, both above and UNDER the water. Of course there is…you are staying at the Hard Rock.
The pool area has a small shop if you need some supplies, like goggles, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc.
The 260 foot long waterslide moves pretty slow.
There is a walkway to the parks, from the pool area that will save you some steps. Skip this, if your kids will get distracted by the pool.
A Stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Includes These Universal Orlando Benefits
A big perk for staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, is that Universal Orlando express passes are included. You will skip the long lines at most park attractions! This perk is valued at over $100 per person. Your room key is your express pass, so everyone in your family will get one. This is what you scan at the ride entrances to enter the express pass line. We keep our express passes, cash, and cell phones in these phone cases that we can wear around our necks for convenience, when we are in the parks.
The express pass can be used on the days of check in and check out too! It really is a great benefit and time saver! The express pass is not valid at Volcano Bay.
You can bring bottled water into the park if it is still sealed shut. Grab some bottles of water at the hotel, and you will save some money.
Did you do a little souvenir shopping in the park? Don’t carry those shopping bags around! Have your purchases delivered to your room, for free. Bags will be delivered to your room the next day, at the latest.
Want to beat the crowds to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Yes, you do! Since you are staying onsite, you get early entry into the parks. This extra one hour is for select attractions only. The park hours may change from day to day, so verify the time the night before. You can check with the Universal Orlando rep in the hotel lobby for more info.
We suggest this for an ideal day at Universal – walk to the parks for early entry, visit the more popular attractions, eat lunch, and then walk back to the Hard Rock Hotel for a break. Spend your afternoon in their amazing 12,000 square foot pool, or just lounging along the edge of it in your comfy beach chair. After everyone is rested up, head back to the parks for some more fun, and then eat dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants at Universal CityWalk. Don’t forget to buy some Voodoo Donuts to bring back to the room for breakfast….or a midnight snack. Then ride one of the boats right back to the hotel for a fun end to your day!
I mentioned earlier that it’s only a five minute walk to Universal’s entrance, but if you want to start the fun before you arrive, take the boat. The boat runs between Hard Rock’s dock and CityWalk. When you disembark at CityWalk, you do need to walk around the water to get to either park entrance. Boats run fairly frequently, and I would definitely recommend taking it back to the hotel after dinner at CityWalk and a long day of walking in the parks.
Not a sidewalk walker or a boat rider? Then you can take a shuttle bus to CityWalk, and enter the parks from there. Shuttles leave from level one, just follow the signs. I wouldn’t typically recommend taking the shuttle to CityWalk because of the extra time it takes, but it may be more convenient for some.
If you are visiting Volcano Bay during your stay, there is a shuttle bus that will take you right to the entrance. This bus leaves from the outdoor shuttle stop, just follow the signs on level one. Don’t forget to bring your own towels! You also get to enter Volcano Bay one hour earlier than the general public, since you are a resort guest.
Another benefit for staying at the Hard Rock is priority seating at some of Universal’s restaurants in the parks and at CityWalk. Just present your room key for special treatment.
If you are still uncertain about where to stay during your Universal Orlando vacation, just do a little bit more research. Be sure to compare room rates, benefits, location, and the pools. If you really can’t decide, stay at a couple of the resorts. Some people book a couple of nights at a resort that offers express passes to take advantage of that benefit, and then book a couple of nights at a resort that has a lower room rate to save some money. That’s the best of both worlds!
Please check Hard Rock Hotel’s website before your visit for information on the services that are currently available.
For more information about visiting Universal Orlando read my articles on planning your trip, and tips for saving time and money:
- Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando – Is Club Level Worth It?
- Universal Orlando – 40 Tips on How to Skip the Lines, Avoid the Crowds, and Save Money
- Universal Orlando – 10 Things to do Before Your First Visit
- Click here to read the latest reviews for the Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando on Tripadvisor
Vicki started That Was a First to inspire families to turn their typical family vacation into a bucket list adventure, by providing in depth information and travel tips for destinations across the country.