Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando – Everything you need to know!

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On our most recent visit to Universal Orlando, we had a chance to stay at the famous Hard Rock Hotel. Was it worth it? Here’s our full review from our family vacation!

entrance to the Hard Rock Universal hotel

Why We Picked Hard Rock Hotel

This year, we had a low key Spring Break vacation that included a few nights at the beach in beautiful Siesta Key and a few nights in Orlando. My husband actually had a business trip in the area, so my son and I decided to tag along and hit Universal Studios on our own for a few days!

We wanted to stay at one of Universal’s “Premier” properties, so that we could take advantage of the included Express Passes. This is extra important during the busy Spring Break weeks. On our last visit we stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific, which was fantastic, but opted to try out the Hard Rock Hotel this time around!

After looking at all the Universal hotel options, we settled on the Hard Rock Hotel for a few reasons:

  • It’s the closest hotel to visit the theme parks – just walk to the entrance gates!
  • Includes Express Unlimited passes for the whole visit.
  • Includes Early Access to one theme park each day.
  • Easy access to CityWalk for dinner in the evening.
  • Cool Hard Rock vibes!

If you’re ready to book (or at least check the rates) at Hard Rock Hotel, I recommend checking rates here on Booking.com. I book through this site when possible, due to their generous cancellation policies and great customer service.

The Rooms

our Pool View room at Hard Rock Universal Orlando Hotel

We stayed in a Pool View room, which had two Queen beds. You could also opt for a King, if you prefer. The decor is very modern and funky and fits with the whole rock and roll theme.

I thought the rooms were really nice and spacious with plenty of storage space and room to move around. The beds were very comfy, and I really appreciated the blackout shades for sleeping.

Here’s a peek at the pool view from the room window. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the view. I was expecting more of a full on pool view, but this was more of a view over the pool gates and the towel kiosks. I was even more surprised when the room service lady stopped by our room and said “wow, you guys have a great view”. So… I guess it’s all relative.

the pool view from our room at Hard Rock Universal Orlando

Still… it was a nice backdrop and it was handy to be able to see when the pool was busy or what activities were going on down there. But it was an upcharge over the Garden View rooms, and I actually thought the garden area was very pretty and peaceful. So I don’t think you can go wrong on room choice.

garden rooms at Hard Rock Universal Orlando

Note that there are no balconies on any of the rooms – even in the high end suites. We do love a balcony, so that is something we missed a bit. And the window doesn’t open at all.

The room came equipped with a mini fridge, which is super convenient for families. And there was a coffee maker – bring your own coffee pods if you’re picky. There was a safe in the closet, but note that it was very small and would not be able to fit a laptop.

mini fridge and safe in our room

The bathroom was nice and clean. There was a combo shower/tub and pedestal sink in an enclosed area, and then a larger vanity with another sink outside of that. This is super helpful for two people getting ready at the same time!

bathroom in our room at Hard Rock Hotel

The provided toiletries were actually pretty good. Enough so that I ended up using them instead of my own (and I am kinda picky). And there was a real hair dryer (not the terrible wall mount kind).

The Pool and Amenities

hard rock universal orlando hotel pool

The pool is the star of the show here! I was super impressed by the giant pool area. It had a fun, beachy vibe with a DJ leading poolside activities and volleyball nets strung up on one side of the pool.

The whole pool is relatively shallow, ranging from 3 – 4 1/2 feet deep. This makes it a great pool for hanging out with drinks and also really great for families with kids. So win-win there. And it has a zero entry slope from the sandy fake beach area, which is a fun touch.

slide at the pool at Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando

Of course, if you are visiting with kids the highlight is going to be the water slide! It is honestly a much better slide than I expected – with some twists and turns and a good bit of speed. I took a few slides with my son, and it was really fun! There are plenty of lifeguards around keeping an eye out for the kiddos too.

And did I mention that it’s heated? Like it was actually heated up to a really comfortable temperature, which you rarely find at a hotel pool.

There was definitely a family atmosphere during our Spring Break visit, with poolside activities for both kids and adults. But I could see how it could be a great adult hang out spot later in the evening too – the pool stays open until 11pm! There was no college Spring Break crowd there at all though – the theme parks are not a common spring break destination for that age group.

The hotel also has a pretty large fitness center – which I didn’t visit at all. ;) Plus a spa and free in-room yoga classes available on your room TV. Pretty neat.

my son at the angel wings photo spot at Hard Rock Hotel

The Service

Checking in at the hotel was really quick and easy. I received an email a few days in advance with instructions to fill out my check in information online. So they had everything on file and ready to go when we arrived. We got to the hotel around noon, and there was not a room ready yet, so we left our bags with the luggage valet and headed off to the parks.

We received a text message around 3pm that our room was ready, which was still a bit ahead of the 4pm check in time. And I was impressed that they continued to text with us throughout the stay to see if we needed anything.

We even ordered room service one day for a snack, and it came really fast and was tasty too. My son loves room service on vaca. I think it’s the novelty! (This was a stark contrast to our stay at the pricier Animal Kingdom Lodge the same week – where no room service was available.)

The only real miss is that our room didn’t get cleaned. We returned from our day of theme park-ing and pool lounging at around 3pm, and the cleaning staff were just then getting to the rooms on our floor. But we were ready for a shower and a nap, so we put up our Do Not Disturb sign. So no biggie – but I was a little surprised that they were just arriving to clean at that time of day.

Early Check In and free Express Passes

One of the main perks of staying at this hotel is the included express passes, so let’s talk about the details. When you stay at one of the Premier Universal hotels, you get unlimited express passes for your entire stay, including the day of check in and check out.

So if you stay just one night at the hotel, you get express passes for two days! That’s a fantastic deal. So good that some folks even book “ghost rooms” at the hotel just to get those passes, even if they aren’t staying in the room. (And yes, you get the passes whether you book directly or via a third party like Booking.com!)

The Premier properties include Portofino Bay Hotel, Royal Pacific Resort, and the Hard Rock Hotel. You need to choose one of these three hotels to get the free Express Passes.

So here’s how it all works: On check-in day, you can arrive and pick up your Express passes as early as 6:00AM. You will be given a room key for each person in your group, which is also their Express pass to at the parks.

Of course, your room will not be ready at 6AM, but you can leave your luggage with the hotel and retrieve it when you return later in the day. When your room is ready, you’ll get a text message with your room number so you can proceed directly to your room after you visit the parks. Easy peasy!

If you’re wondering whether the Express Passes are really all that important- you need to go read my article on whether Express Passes are worth it. They are really critical during busy seasons, and will certainly make your visit more enjoyable at any time, especially if you’re travelling with kids.

my son at the entrance gates to Universal Studios Orlando

Early Park Access for Universal Hotel Guests

You also get early park access during your stay at a Universal Premier hotel. There will be one park with early access each dayeither Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. The park changes from day-to-day, so you will need to check the schedule here to see which one is available on which days during your trip.

You will be able to enter the park one hour before general admission begins. But access is limited to only select areas of each park, so this isn’t as big a benefit as you might think.

When we visited Islands of Adventure during the early access hours, we could enter the Harry Potter area and Velocicoaster early, but not the rest of the park. Everything else was closed and barricaded off, so you couldn’t even walk around to see the other sights.

My son wasn’t interested in the big roller coasters or scary rides, so the early hours benefit was a bit underwhelming for us. But it was still nice to walk around the Harry Potter world with less crowds. And if you’re dying to ride Hagrid’s or Velocicoaster – it could be a great chance to do that.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel vs Loews Royal Pacific vs Hard Rock Hotel – Which is the best choice?

So, as I mentioned above these three hotels are the ones Universal deems Premier hotels, which give you the extra perks like included Express Passes and early park access. So here is a quick rundown on these three hotels and how they compare.

Royal Pacific Resort

  • South Seas theme.
  • Fun pool area with a water slide.
  • Great choice for families with kids.
  • Typically least expensive.

Check rates for Royal Pacific here.

Portofino Bay Hotel

  • Italian Riviera theme.
  • Three pool areas.
  • Great choice for older couples or for a more upscale family experience.
  • Slightly further from the park entrances.
  • Typically most expensive.

Check rates for Portofino Bay here.

Hard Rock Hotel

  • Modern and sleek.
  • Zero entry pool with underwater rock music!
  • Great choice for couples and families with teens or older kids.
  • Often sells out!

Check rates for Hard Rock Hotel.

For families that plan to spend most of their time in the theme parks, Royal Pacific or Hard Rock are typically the best choices. Royal Pacific is usually the cheapest and has easy access to the parks. (You can read my full review of Royal Pacific here, or check hotel rates here.) Hard Rock is even closer to the park entrances, but has a higher price tag (You can check rates at Hard Rock here.)

Portofino Bay is the furthest from the park entrances and most expensive, but has by far the best pool areas – so that’s a great choice if you are planning a lot of down time at the hotel. (You can check rates at Portofino Bay here.)


Where can I get the best rate for Universal Hard Rock Hotel?

I always recommend checking the rates directly with the resort as well as on Booking.com. I prefer to book via Booking when the rates are competitive, thanks to their generous cancellation policy.

How do you get from the Hard Rock Hotel to Universal Studios?

Walk! The Hard Rock Hotel is located right inside Universal’s CityWalk, which also has the entry to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There is also a free ferry boat that will take you to CityWalk- but it really is fastest to just walk.

my son on the ferry boat at Universal Orlando CityWalk

What restaurants are near the Hard Rock Hotel

There are a couple restaurants located inside of the Hard Rock Hotel, such as The Kitchen and The Palm steakhouse. The Velvet Bar is a fun place for an adult hangout in the evenings. And if you need a bite by the pool – you can hit up the beachclub. (Yes, it’s spelled in all lowercase letters, because that is much cooler.)

It’s also located adjacent to CityWalk, which is Universal’s entertainment district, with a ton of dining options right outside the hotel doors. And you will also find the famous Hard Rock Cafe at CityWalk!

Hard Rock Cafe at CityWalk in Universal Orlando

How do you get from MCO to Universal Hard Rock Hotel?

Universal Orlando is a 20-30 minute drive from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the absolute easiest option is to simply grab a taxi or Uber. There are plenty of taxis ready and waiting at the airport.

Is there a car rental at the hotel?

Yes, there is an Avis car rental right in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel. If you only need a car for a portion of your trip, this is a really convenient option!

Would I stay here again?

Yes, definitely. This was my favorite Universal Orlando hotel so far. The whole place has a fun vibe, the pool is fantastic, and it doesn’t get any easier for accessing the Universal theme parks. This was a win for me!

More Universal Orlando Trip Planning Resources

For more help planning the perfect trip to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, check out these other guides:

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