Hotel Review: Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Why Go: Go back in time and find out what it was like living in the 60s at Universal Resort Orlando’s family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where the retro cool style of Mad Men meets the fun, futuristic utopia of The Jetsons.

The latest onsite hotel addition to one of the most popular theme park resorts in the world is perfect for families with a penchant for bright colors and vintage design. And as Universal Orlando’s first value-to-moderate hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort treats guests, young and old, to pretty, candy-colored aesthetics, great kid-friendly pools, plush beddings and easy access to the theme parks at super affordable rates.

Cabana Bay Beach ResortCabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Getting There: Situated next to Interstate 4, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is easily accessible whether you’re driving from another city or taking the shuttle from the Orlando International Airport 20 minutes away. A complimentary shuttle is available to and from the theme parks.

Getting Oriented: The retro-themed hotel sits on the Southwestern corner of the Universal Orlando complex, with Universal’s Islands of Adventure directly to the North and Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the East.

Family suite at the Cabana Bay Beach ResortFamily suite at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Room Options: Families large and small will find the rooms at Cabana Bay pleasantly comfortable and roomy. A family of four will enjoy spacious accommodations in a standard room with two queen beds while a family of six will find a family suite with a kitchenette, an additional full-size sofa bed and extra large bathroom to their liking. Large and multi-generational families will love the connecting rooms and suites perfect for spreading out while still having easy access to one another.

For the Whole Family: Picnic tables, a lawn, a pool table, and a bean bag toss give families plenty of fun things to do together at the resort. However, water fun is never far away on days when you want a break from the theme parks and need to cool down and relax.

Pool at the Cabana CourtyardPool at the Cabana Courtyard (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Separated into two courtyards – Cabana Courtyard and Lazy River Courtyard, Cabana Bay’s huge recreation area boasts two big, zero-entry pools (open from 8 am to 11 pm) with plenty of umbrellas and lounge chairs, a lazy river, a waterslide, a hot tub, a small sand beach, and several cabanas to rent for privacy. The Cabana Courtyard features one pool, the waterslide, the cabanas and Atomic Tonic for refreshments. The Lazy River Courtyard, on the other hand, is home to the lazy river, the second pool, the sand beach and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.

Indoors, the resort’s 10-lane bowling alley and restaurant, Galaxy Bowl, give families the option to hit the lanes while having casual dinner. There are also several shopping and dining opportunities, including a Starbucks and a Universal Gift Shop.

Just for Kids: Little ones will love the kids’ splash pad located next to the waterslide at the Cabana Courtyard. Big kids, tweens and teens will enjoy the arcade games at Game-O-Rama, which features old school classics like skeeball.

Galaxy BowlGalaxy Bowl (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Where to Eat: The full-service hotel offers six gastronomic opportunities. Poolside eats and drinks available at The Hideaway Bar & Grill, which serves burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken wings, hot dogs, fries, salads and deserts. Bayliner Diner, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is great for quick, indoor dining with their burgers, pizza, pasta and grab-and-go items. Galaxy Bowl serves nachos, spring rolls and wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza for lunch and dinner.

Atomic Tonic is a great stop for refreshing drinks, while Swizzle Lounge has the perfect nightcap for parents after the kids have gone to bed.

Coffee-drinkers can start their day with a morning boost from the onsite Starbucks.

Insider Tips:

  • If you’re planning on shopping at the parks using your room keycard, make sure to stop at the front desk and have them increase your spending limit so you won’t have to call in every time you spend past the $150 default limit.
  • Don’t carry your shopping bags around the park. Arrange for them to be sent directly to the hotel.
  • The Tube Shack in the Lazy River Courtyard sells tubes at $20, but if you’re looking to save money, bring your own or go on the lazy river without them!
  • Keep an eye out for poolside contests and movies.
  • Remember that you have early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens to the public, a perk that comes very handy as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are two of the busiest and most popular areas of the parks.


(Originally published on

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Hotel Review: Boca Raton Resort & Club

Why Go: It’s a timeless beauty that exudes elegance and grace as well as comfort and, of course, fun – the perfect resort for a Florida family vacation nestled away from the hectic hum of theme parks and cities.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club is a sprawling 356-acre property in lovely Boca Raton, Florida, with a year-round tropical climate and a grand, romantic architecture that features the Spanish-Mediterranean, Moorish, Gothic and contemporary styles, that feels very much like the quintessential Southern retreat.

The family-friendly Waldorf Astoria resort has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings as the Cloister Inn, earning its place as one of the top south Florida luxury resorts today. It now features five great properties, each with its own character, modern amenities, quiet gardens, seven pools, a private beach, a luxurious, award-winning spa, 16 unique restaurants and lounges, and a plethora of land and water activities including the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator to accommodate the more active guests.

Getting There: The resort is an easy 30-minute drive from the Fort Lauderdale International Airport and about an hour away from Miami so whether you rent a car, hail a cab or request for private car to come pick you up, the choice is yours.

Getting Oriented: The resort is split into two properties – the Boca Raton Resort & Club and the Boca Beach Club. Boca Raton Resort & Club is nestled on the southwestern edge of Lake Boca Raton where the Gulf Stream meets the lake while Boca Beach Club is situated on an Eastern peninsula on the Atlantic side. Guests of either property can easily access both with the resort’s complimentary shuttle service, which runs every 15 minutes.

A Boca Beach Club SuiteA Boca Beach Club Suite (Courtesy Hilton)

Room Options: Boca Raton Resort & Club has 1,047 deluxe guestrooms, housed in its five properties – the Cloister, the Yacht Club, the Tower, the recently renovated Boca Beach Club, and the Bungalows. Each room features the usual modern and family-friendly amenities like flat screen TVs, cable, WiFi, coffee maker, mini bar and bathrobes, as well as beautiful furnishings and accents, which vary depending on the property.

In-room highlights in the Cloister include rainfall showers, winged rattan and leather headboards, and mahogany-topped desk while rooms and suites at the Tower (the tallest building in Boca Raton) offer expansive views of the Intracoastal Waterway or the golf course and Atlantic Ocean. Luxurious guest rooms at the Boca Beach Club feature granite counter tops and vanities, separate tub and shower, and black-out curtains.

Best of all, large and multi-generational families can spend some quality time together but still spread out and enjoy the space, thanks to the resort’s connecting rooms and 187 suites.

Just for Kids: The award-winning resort, voted as one of the “Greatest Hotels in the World” by Travel + Leisure, is not just a place to relax and unwind. It’s also a great place to stay active, thanks to its family-friendly recreational offerings, particularly South Florida’s first Flow House that features the dual-sided FLOWRIDER.

FLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club's new and popular attractionFLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club’s new and popular attraction (Courtesy Hilton)

Since its launch in December 2014, the FLOWRIDER wave simulator has been a big hit with kids (and adults too!), providing a safe and fun environment for surfing and body surfing beginners as well as a place for non-beginners to practice their skills when surfing conditions aren’t optimal. Surf and private lessons are available, should you and the kids wish to learn from the experts while night surfing and Glow Flow Black-Light Surfing (Saturdays from 6-9 pm) are available for night owls.

Take advantage of the resort’s “Live Like a Floridian” package for unlimited use of the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator and a $25 food & beverage credit. Valid through December 31, 2015.

Another kid-friendly feature of the resort is the super cool Mizner’s Quest Club, which not only provides a safe place for kids ages 3 and up to learn, play and discover while the adults squeeze in some R&R, but also keeps them busy and entertained. Depending on your preference as well as your kid’s age, your child can take advantage of the Quest Clubhouse & Arcade, the Quest Club Camp, the Golf Camp, the Tennis Camp, the Aquatics Program for the kids, and many more!

What to Do: A nice cool dip at one of the resort’s seven family-friendly pools, bodysurfing on FLOWRIDER, a round of golf, a game of croquet and biking are a few of the great options for those wanting to stay on land. Collaborating with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the resort also offers a Sea Turtle Hatching Program for animal lovers and future marine biologists.

Waldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & ClubWaldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & Club (Courtesy Hilton)

Moms and daughters will truly enjoy spending half a day luxuriating at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, considered one of the best spas in the world. The Ritual Bath at the spa, which treats guests to a glorious 50-minute relaxation ritual involving a variety of water treatments in an elegant balneum-type room, is an unforgettable experience. A soothing signature massage after is also ideal.

With Boca Beach Club’s private beach and its clear blue waters, water lovers have access to a number of activities and facilities, including a full-service marina, a Surf School that accommodates all ages and skill levels, a PADI Bubble Maker for kids who want to learn scuba diving, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and snorkeling, to name a few. Swimming is, of course, essential for a complete experience.

Where to Eat: Foodie families will revel in the many fantastic dining options on-site (12 to be exact), and since there are offerings from breakfast to late-night snacking, guests wouldn’t have to venture far for nourishment.

For full breakfasts, Palm Court at the Cloister and SeaGrille Restaurant at the Beach Club offer hearty starts to the day. Don’t miss out on the fresh orange juice that’s to die for!

For lunch, take the kids to the Beach Club, order some terrific fish tacos or sandwiches and fruity drinks at Beaches Restaurant and Bar, and have a nice and laid-back lunch on the beach under the cool shelter of your complimentary beach umbrellas.

For dinner, try delicious Italian creations at Lucca, great sushi at Morimoto’s Sushi Bar, or meat dishes at 501 East Kitchen.

the bluethe blue (Courtesy Hilton)

During your stay, take the whole family up to the 27th floor of the Tower for an unforgettable feast at the blue where they combine superb cooking with a lovely ambience and sweeping views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Reserve a table just before sunset. Try the claw bar or the Oven-Roasted Maine Lobster. Not a seafood lover? Their Cider Bone-In Pork Chop is perfection and their Creamed Spinach is addictive! The service? Excellent!

For coffee, snacks and pastries, head to Serendipity. Cool down with their signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

Insider Tips:

  • Have some time before your next engagement or just looking to get to know the property better? Go on an interactive Mizner’s Quest and uncover the resort’s history, quirks and secrets.
  • SeaGrille Restaurant has more breakfast items for those looking for a good variety. Try their omelet station and smother that Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with cream cheese with chives.
  • With sommelier Roberto Colombi at the helm, the blue’s wine selection is nothing short of exceptional. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations based on your taste and preference!
  • Take a self-guided tour and see the many interesting sculptures across the property. Can’t afford to purchase and ship one home? The Baker Sponder Gallery near the resort lobby has smaller models.
  • Go for a night swim. All the pools on-site are heated to a very comfortable temperature, especially at night!

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

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