Hard Rock Hotel Orlando: A Review of Our Stay at Universal Studios

Hard Rock Hotel Orlando: A Review of Our Stay at Universal Studios

Review of Hard Rock Hotel Orlando

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own.

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando and not sure which hotel to stay at? Looking for and deciding on a hotel can be a tough decision – there are so many variables to be considered, especially in relation to visiting a theme park, and you don’t want to leave a vacation feeling like you wish you had done your research better and stayed somewhere else. We recently stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, which was fabulous. I would recommend it to anyone considering planning a trip to Universal Orlando.

Why we chose the Hard Rock

We chose the Hard Rock because it’s an on-site hotel and the closest of the hotels to the Universal parks. We had grandparents with us and figured this would be the best option. But of course I loved the location just as much for us as I did for them. So, for starters, this was a big selling point for my family. Each morning we would walk out of the hotel and hop on a path that took us through bamboo trees and up to the entrance. It’s no more than a 10 minute walk and a calm, nice way of entering – no parking lot madness!

There is also a complimentary water taxi, which in theory is a great idea, but in reality (at least in our experience), usually includes a wait for the next taxi. Every time we went it was a 10/15 minute wait. But if you don’t mind that, then go for it – it did look fun if we were willing to wait.

In my Guide to Planning a Trip to Universal Studios, I discuss why I think it’s best to stay at an on-site hotel, due to their many benefits. There are 5 main on-site hotels in Universal in three different categories -Premier, Preferred, and Prime Value (the Hard Rock is Premier) – and the benefits they all have in common are: they all offer Early Park Admission, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, before the parks open to the public (this is very key! The Harry Potter lines are no joke!); they are all within walking distance to the parks (though some much closer than others hint hint!); they all offer Complimentary Transportation to the parks and CityWalk, should you need it; and they all offer Room Key resort-wide charging privileges (no credit card necessary).

Key Benefits of staying at the Hard Rock

The Hard Rock, being a Premier hotel, has some additional key benefits: the most important one being, it gives you a free Universal Express Unlimited Ride pass so you can skip the regular lines. A serious bonus! This is huge, and the most key benefit of them all, and what sets it apart from most other hotels. These days lines at Universal and Disney are so out of control that your experience is truly compromised. Who wants to wait in line for 1-2 hours for 1 ride? You can spend half the day waiting in line for just a couple of the really popular rides. It’s not worth it in my opinion. So I loved that this pass came with staying at the Hard Rock.

The other perk the hotel offers is priority seating at select restaurants throughout the resort, including CityWalk. Some of these restaurants happen to be some of the most popular, like Antojitos, a delicious Mexican restaurant with killer guacamole. Having the ability to sit down with not much wait is a great perk – especially with a margarita after a long day on your feet all day!

The Pool at the Hard Rock Rocks, no Pun Intended!

What was it about the Hard Rock specifically that we liked so much? Well, apart from it being the closet hotel to the parks, we loved the pool. The pool ROCKS. It’s big and fabulous (12,000 square feet) with a sand beach and surrounded by lush green vegetation, and most noticeably it has an underwater sound system. The music never stops! My kids loved this feature. Their favorite part, though, was the awesome water slide. They went down it for hours (as if the theme park wasn’t enough). I couldn’t write this review without mentioning how phenomenal the life guards were. They were ON it. At one point there was an incident in the pool and before I knew it the life guard was in the pool at the rescue. They were very present and vigilant which made it all the more relaxing.

Other features of the pool include a kids play section, water fountains and two hot tubs, one which is kid-friendly, and one for adults only. And of course it goes without saying the Hard Rock pool has a bar with chair and bench service. There was nothing we needed more after an exhausting day than a beer poolside while the kids were entertained by the slide and underground music. I really loved the pool at the Hard Rock – it was so relaxing to come back to and felt like a little slice of the Caribbean.

Additional Perks to Note

If you want to take it to the next step and really get a break there is Camp Lil’ Rock, a kids activity center for ages 4 -14. We never used this, as it was a short stay, but good to know it’s there with late night hours for those wanting to go out for dinner sans kids. Note they do require advanced reservations. There are movies by the pool, character meals and more – you can read more about the kids’ activities here.

As for food and drink, there are a few different dining and bar options including The Palm steakhouse as well as the Velvet Bar, among others, if you don’t feel like leaving the premise. We ate at a restaurant called the Kitchen a couple of times and it was good. Not amazing but fine enough. CityWalk is nearby so there are plenty of options for eating out, and we never felt stressed by “what are we going to do for dinner?. That’s another great thing about the location of the Hard Rock – CityWalk and restaurants are just a stone’s throw away.

The Rooms at the Hard Rock

Last but not least – how were the rooms? Loved them! Modern and hip, with plush, comfortable beds, we slept like babies. Our room was medium size, not huge but not tiny either. It was quiet and cozy and exactly what we wanted to come home to after a busy day out. The rest of the hotel is very nice and spacious, with fun rock memorabilia all over the place. And contrary to what I had imagined leading up to our stay – it wasn’t noisy or chaotic!

All in all, The Hard Rock met all expectations and we were completely satisfied with our stay. It’s a very nice hotel with helpful staff, convenient, relaxing and fun. All four of us loved it.


Want to read more about Orlando? Check out these books!

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Extraordinary Chaos


  1. January 10, 2017 / 2:16 am

    It was a great hotel for the grandparents!

  2. January 10, 2017 / 6:55 am

    So much info here for anyone planning a trip – a great resource! 🙂

  3. January 10, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    Never stayed here but we did check it out – it looks great and a fun twist to everything as well!! We also had a look around the other Universal Hotels, the Italian type one is gorgeous too.

    • January 10, 2017 / 6:21 pm

      Joy – the Portofino is across the street and agree – beautiful. We had dinner there one night and it was superb:).

  4. January 11, 2017 / 10:07 pm

    I wouldn’t necessarily choose a Hard Rock either but this hotel does look very good

    • January 12, 2017 / 6:28 pm

      Thanks – we loved it. It definitely changed my view of Hard Rocks..

  5. January 12, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    Sometimes there is a thing as too much choice. It can be overwhelming. Thanks for cutting through all the difficult choices!

  6. aandj8804
    January 17, 2017 / 4:17 pm

    I don’t know much about Universal, but after your review, if I were to go, I’d probably want to stay at a hotel like this. On the one hand, I hate how parks like Disney and Universal are taking advantage of customers by offering things like early entry and fast passes for staying at their hotels, but on the other hand, as the consumer, it makes visiting the parks so much easier. I guess in the end it all comes down to how much you want a thing (like fast passes, early entry, walkability to the park) and at what price point you’re willing to give in. Thanks for the review! 🙂 #citytripping

    • January 18, 2017 / 4:32 pm

      Yes – I think that’s a good point. Everyone’s different and some people are willing to go all the way for a trip like this, while others don’t care as much. We personally loved the convenience of the hotel. Thanks for reading!

  7. January 17, 2017 / 6:30 pm

    Aww, it looks so warm over there! I didn’t even know there were Hard Rock Hotels. This is on my must do list now.

    • January 18, 2017 / 4:33 pm

      It was so nice and warm. Wish I was still there!

  8. January 19, 2017 / 8:58 am

    Wow those are some great bonuses – I didn’t realise the on site hotels offered so much. I’ve not been to the parks but every time I read posts like this, I discover how much difference some planning makes! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:28 am

      I tend to be a spontaneous traveler, but with Universal and Disney planning can make all the difference!

  9. January 20, 2017 / 10:37 am

    This hotel looks welcoming in its own right, but the thing that really sells it to me is the perks. Nobody wants to be stuck in queues for hours – but that’s often the case at big attractions. #Citytripping

    • January 20, 2017 / 11:58 pm

      Yes, the unlimited express passes are key!

    • January 30, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      It was soooo relaxing to come back to after theme-park filled days!

  10. mymeenalife
    January 30, 2017 / 5:40 pm

    I’m a huge fan of the Hard Rock cafes but I didn’t realize they also had hotels! This one looks gorgeous. As theme park enthusiasts, my husband and I would love to stay onsite and close to Universal Studios – and we’re of course totally sold on the express unlimited ride pass! Thanks for all this info! #MondayEscapes

    • January 31, 2017 / 2:45 am

      Well then you will have to stay here! It’s a beautiful hotel with an amazing pool, and the unlimited ride pass is such a perk. I hope you make it some day!

  11. January 31, 2017 / 11:40 am

    Such a great post with so much information. Staying at an on-site hotel is worth it just for the queue pass, let alone everything else! #MondayEscapes

    • January 31, 2017 / 2:36 pm

      It really does make such a difference! It was honestly the perfect hotel for us – thanks for reading!

  12. January 31, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    Oh I want to stay here too it looks amazing, and so near to Universal too, I love the idea of dipping in and out thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes

    • February 1, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      It was all about the convenience factor :).

  13. January 31, 2017 / 9:16 pm

    I absolutely loved staying at a Universal Hotel a few years ago. The Universal pass for the rides totally makes it worth it doesn’t it. #mondayescapes

    • February 1, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      Completely – made the whole trip run so smoothly :).

  14. Nicola
    February 5, 2019 / 4:45 pm

    Great review. We’ve already booked the Hard Rock on a colleague’s recommendation but reading your review has given us comfort that we’ve made the right decision. I found your summary really easy digest and will definitely be reading your other pieces!

    • February 5, 2019 / 9:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Nicola! Have a fabulous trip – this Hard Rock is really great, you will not be disappointed!

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