Vacation in Style at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Vacation in Style at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

Come here often?

If you do, then you already know how much I love a weekend getaway at any one of Universal Orlando Resort’s onsite hotels. Located on the manicured grounds of Universal Orlando, just a stroll away from the front gates of the resort’s world-famous theme parks, onsite hotels are the perfect place to relax, indulge, and escape from the stresses of everyday life. The Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and the Hard Rock Hotel have been the backdrop to some of my favorite memories while living in Orlando, from girls’ weekends to romantic getaways. A fourth hotel, the Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort, is the one onsite hotel I have yet to experience, but seems like the ideal place for families to settle in and enjoy their vacations. Tucked away from the excitement of the theme parks, Universal Orlando’s hotels really are the perfect place to relax, enjoy a drink or two, and just be in the moment.

Exterior of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort from across the turquoise lagoon water.
The beautiful hotel exterior, as seen from the boat dock.

So you can imagine my delight when the resort opened up its fifth and newest hotel, the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, in the summer of 2016. With its bright, airy color scheme and laid back tropical feel, a visit to the brand new resort one month after it opened seemed the perfect way to cure my post-Europe blues. I booked a weekend getaway ASAP, and looked forward to a weekend of zero obligations with my boyfriend (now fiancé!) Dan.

First Impressions

As the sliding doors of the hotel lobby whoosh open, it’s hard not to be impressed by the casual chic appeal of the reception area. Fresh white walls rise high on either side of the lobby, accented by exposed dark wood beams and sleek, brightly colored lounge furniture.

The Sapphire Falls hotel lobby, featuring colorful paper lanterns, modern seating, and a massive wall of windows overlooking the water.
The hotel lobby.
Bright green and aqua lounge furniture and sophisticated white orchids set the tone for a vacation in paradise.
Colorful lounge furniture sets the tone for a vacation in paradise.
Paper lanterns anchor the lobby space.
Paper lanterns anchor the lobby space.

A stunning installation of paper lanterns floats up and out of sight, disappearing into the vaulted ceiling, but it’s the view on the far end of the lobby that really takes my breath away. Through towering floor-to-ceiling windows, I can catch a glimpse of cool blue waters and lazy palm trees shimmering in the late summer heat.

A beautiful sitting area in the hotel lobby, overlooking the serene resort waterway.
Modern furniture in clean lines and bright colors provide the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view.
A view of the waterways leading to the theme parks.

The space is flooded with natural light, giving it an airy and refreshing feel, and I begin to relax before we’ve even reached the reception desk. As we make our way through the lobby and up to our room, I make a mental note to visit Strong Water Tavern, a chic rum bar off to one side of the lobby.

The cool stone entrance to the Stone Water Tavern.

Endless panels of spacious windows line the freshly-carpeted halls, providing a sneak preview of the gorgeous pool deck, complete with brightly colored umbrellas, lazy palm trees, and a shaded poolside cantina.

The pool, as seen from the hall leading to the elevators.

So far, Sapphire Falls is delivering on its promise of ” a paradise in the heart of the tropics,” and I’m eager to settle in and explore all that the resort has to offer.

The Rooms

Sapphire Falls boasts a a wide variety of room types to accommodate any visiting guest, from standard King and Double Queen guest rooms to a tempting array of luxury suites. Each room is beautifully decorated in neutral blues and whites, which call to mind the clear blue waves of the sea against a white sand beach. Accent pieces in lime green, pebble grey, and vibrant pink help to cement the room’s laid-back tropical vibe.

Two Queen beds with fresh white sheets, beautiful accent pillows, and awesome white paneled headboards.

Dan and I are in a standard double Queen room, which offers plenty of room to lounge about, separate bath and vanity spaces, and all the amenities needed for a relaxing, carefree getaway. Soft, fluffy white towels and crisp bed linens? Check. Complimentary toiletries and access to hundreds of cable channels? Check. Luxury hairdryer, coffee bar, and flat-screen TV? Check.

The beds and the desk area. I love the tropical prints on the pillows and the wall!
A large sliding door separates the bathroom and vanity areas, making it easy to get ready for the theme parks in the morning!
The bright tropical blue, white and green color palette continues in the bathroom, with stunning results.
The view from our bedroom window! It was really cool to look out at night and see the park in motion, and waking up to a view of Hogwarts Castle was a dream come true.

Our room even has a cool behind the scenes view of Islands of Adventure, one of Universal Orlando’s three theme parks. For those looking to escape the parks and just indulge in their tropical surroundings, standard rooms with a pool or lagoon view are also available at the time of booking.

Pro tip: If you stay at Loews hotels often, be sure to sign up for their loyalty program! The perks of signing up for YouFirst include free room upgrades and late checkout privileges whenever available, with more perks available upon subsequent visits. Our Sapphire Falls getaway marked our first YouFirst check in, and when we stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel the following month, we were automatically upgraded to a garden view villa room with a luxurious soaking tub! Score! Sign up for YouFirst here.

Our standard room at Sapphire Falls is the perfect place to refresh and relax in style, with two comfortable Queen beds, a lounge chair, a charmingly appointed desk area, and one of the coolest hotel bathrooms I have ever seen. I love the brightly-colored mirror frame in the separate vanity area, and the fact that there is plenty of counter space for me to stash all of my makeup and skin care products. After unpacking and spending some time lounging around, it’s time to go out and explore the resort and maybe even spend some time at the theme parks!

Dining

All of the Loews hotels at Universal have an impressive range of bars and restaurants for any occasion. While the Loews Royal Pacific Resort is home to my favorite onsite restaurant (looking at you, Tchoup Chop!), the wide variety of dining options at Sapphire Falls makes it the most well-rounded of all the Universal Orlando Resort hotels.

The New Dutch Trading Company, located just off the main lobby, is a trendy-looking grab-and-go spot providing ready-made meals, fresh beverages, tasty pastries and more. Adding to the convenience of staying onsite, there is also a small section offering chips, bottled beverages, refrigerated goods, and a seriously stylish range of resort-branded cooking spices, coffee and more.

Spices and more for sale at the New Dutch Trading Co.

Drhum Club Kantine, located alongside the beautifully landscaped pool area, provides a temporary escape from the sun’s rays while still maintaining the fun tropical feel of a day spent at the beach. The extensive menu includes Caribbean-inspired appetizers, salads, burgers and fresh seafood, along with a collection of creative drinks to help ease the mind into a true tropical island escape.

Strong Water Tavern, easily the highlight of the resort’s dining options, is a cool tapas bar and lounge decorated in stone, sleek dark wood, and contemporary furniture and light fixtures. This Universal hotspot is known for its fresh ceviche and extensive rum menu, and even has “rum captains” on call to help personalize the perfect tasting menu just for you! With a sleek indoor bar and a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the serene waterway, Strong Water Tavern makes for a stunning watering hole at any time of year.

Strong Water Tavern’s indoor bar and lounge area.
and an outdoor patio for enjoying the nice weather! In the back of this photo is the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, home to my favorite Orlando restaurant, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop!

Finally, the primary onsite restaurant is Amatista Cookhouse, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and features a beautiful open-concept kitchen with plenty of comfortable banquettes and tables, both indoor and out. This is a restaurant that never takes itself too seriously, offering a menu of both casual and more upscale food options in an airy, laid back setting. Don’t forget to grab a drink at the bar while you wait for your table!

Dine in style at the Amatista Cookhouse! The bar to the left is a great spot to grab a drink while you wait!

Of course, these are just the dining options available at Sapphire Falls Resort. Dozens more options are just a short walk or water taxi ride away at the neighboring hotels, Universal City Walk, or even within the theme parks themselves!

Amenities

Sapphire Falls just wouldn’t live up to its name as a Loews hotel if it didn’t offer an exciting range of amenities to make the resort so much more than a place to lay your head.

The pool has room for everyone with enjoy, with a miniature slide, plenty of chairs and umbrellas, and even a poolside bar and restaurant.

In addition to its stylish, modern rooms and impressive dining options, the resort boasts one massive pool area, a fitness center, shopping options, weekly dinner shows, a business center, several meeting and event spaces, and and a jam-packed calendar of poolside activities. We made sure to spend plenty of time in the vibrant pool area, enjoying the warm water and just relaxing poolside with a book.

Theme Park Perks

Of course, the biggest reason to stay at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is its close proximity to the Universal Orlando theme parks.

Travel in style on the resort water taxis. These boats ferry guests from their resort hotels into CityWalk, where Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida are just a minute’s walk away.
For those wanting to stretch their legs, skip the water taxis and stroll along the provided walkways into CityWalk.

In addition to easy pedestrian and water taxi routes to the entrance of the three parks, guests of all five onsite hotels have the special opportunity to enter the parks one whole hour before regular ticket holders! This early park admission applies to one, two or all three theme parks, depending on when your visit falls, so remember to ask the front desk agent which park opens early when you check in for your stay! Further simplifying your vacation, you can also choose to have your park purchases charged to your final room bill, and can even have merchandise items delivered to your room free of charge! No more struggling to stuff shopping bags into a locker or struggling to drag them around the park all day!

Our Experience

After checking in for our weekend getaway, Dan and I spent some time exploring the hotel and then decided to hop on over to Islands of Adventure to ride Skull Island: Reign of Kong, the park’s latest new attraction.

Some of the attractions in Islands of Adventure, as seen from the CityWalk boat dock.

We enjoyed a lazy evening strolling around CityWalk and then took the complimentary water taxi right back to our hotel to enjoy the romantic ambiance and each other’s company.

The following day, we spent some time visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and had lunch at Confisco’s Grille in Islands of Adventure, then devoted the rest of the day to enjoying our gorgeous accommodations.

It’s the little details, like this plant at the base of a stone turret, that really transport guests into that tropical state of mind.
A colorful painting just outside the convenient elevators.
A beautiful stone tower provides an alternate means of getting from one floor to another.
At the base of this tower is the resort’s primary restaurant, the beautiful Amatista Cookhouse.
We found a quiet spot away from the water’s edge to play, read, and relax in the sun.

We lounged at the pool, enjoyed a delicious happy hour next door at Tchoup Chop, and then it was off to dinner at Amatista!

A fun trio of lounging benches and tropical prints in the waiting area for the restaurant.
The main dining room at Amatista.
The sleek, open-concept kitchen of Amatista Cookhouse at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
The open concept kitchen is a cool way to see your food being prepared, and get an idea of what to order before you’ve even seen a menu.

I was impressed by the large dining space, the luxurious deep wood ceiling beams and shimmering glass chandeliers, and the friendly service we received. And of course, the menu items were fantastic as well! I had the Island Fish Sandwich, which was served well-seasoned on a toasted pineapple-coconut roll and topped with delicious and flavorful mango-papaya salsa. Dan opted for the Caribbean burger, served on a plantain-buttered cuban roll and topped with smoked pork and caramelized onions. I love how even a simple burger could be given a tropical twist, and it made the entire resort experience come together as something out of the ordinary.

We left the following morning, refreshed after two days of lounging, eating, and drinking in the beautiful sights. Somehow, two days was all we needed for a serious mental reset, and I’ve been dying to return ever since. Strong Water Tavern is calling my name, and I don’t think I can hold off too much longer!

Final Thoughts

We absolutely loved everything about our stay, from the decor to the food to the convenience of getting to and from the theme parks. With beautiful rooms and so many things to do onsite, you’d think that this stunning property would cost a pretty penny. Surprisingly, it is one of the least expensive resort hotels on the property, rivaled only by the Cabana Bay Beach Resort in terms of price. If you’re simply looking for a relaxing escape to the tropics that won’t break the bank, then the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort may be just the place for you.

The bright blue waters and colorful umbrellas of the pool at the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
Get away from it all with a leisurely visit to the resort pool.

However, if you are staying onsite as a convenient way to visit the Universal Orlando theme parks, it’s important to note that by booking at the Hard Rock, Royal Pacific or Portofino Bay Resorts, you will also be gifted complimentary Express access to use in the parks for the duration of your hotel stay, something not currently offered at Sapphire Falls or Cabana Bay. Express access means shorter ride lines throughout the day, and more time to spend playing, eating and shopping in the park. It’s a total game-changer for the theme park experience. While you can stay at Sapphire Falls and purchase Express passes separately if you wish, they do get pricey very quickly. If you are visiting with a group, often times the cost of a more expensive hotel room can actually save you time and money when it comes to enjoying your time in the theme parks. To learn more about the benefits of staying at the top tier of Universal Orlando’s onsite hotels, I encourage you to check out my review of the stunning Italian-themed Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.

No matter which one you choose, any one of the five onsite Loews hotels provide the perfect base from which to relax, enjoy, and just take it all in. Whether you are there for the theme parks, the food, or just simply want to get away, basing yourself onsite is one way to guarantee that your stay will be just what you needed. Sapphire Falls, welcome to the family! And readers, keep your eyes open: a sixth onsite hotel is already in the works, and will be opening next summer!

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As an employee of Universal Orlando Resort, my room was booked at a discounted rate. I am a genuine fan of the onsite resort hotels, having stayed there many times in the past. This review is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Universal Orlando or Loews Hotels, and I have not received any compensation, monetary or otherwise, for my thoughts.



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