“Stay in Simplified Style” is the tagline Universal Orlando’s website uses to coax guests to its Aventura Hotel.
I have another description for its style: kind of dull.
Placed in the “Prime Value” resort category alongside Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Aventura’s style is the near polar opposite. Rather than retro nostalgia, it emphasizes clean, sleek design, as you’ll immediately notice its curved, fidget spinner-shaped exterior covered in floor-to-ceiling windows.
But like a mid-tier convention hotel, it feels utilitarian in places, when compared to more vibrant theme park accommodations, on top of making sacrifices when it comes to the pool and food court. Yet it may still have a place for a certain audience visiting Universal Orlando.
The 600 rooms at Aventura somehow manage to be both markedly different from other theme park hotels — and a bit boring.
The difference comes from its emphasis on technology. The Luddites among you will have to contend with controlling much of the room’s functions from a tablet, which acts as everything from a light switch to a remote control. I did appreciate the ease of entering my streaming service passwords on my tablet compared to clicking through a cumbersome keyboard with a regular remote.
The “smart” room does feel a bit futuristic if you’re not used to similar features at home. I just wish the future had more interesting design. And carpet.
My standard room was 314 square feet and could sleep four in its two queen beds. Other options include slightly larger “deluxe” two queen rooms, standard and deluxe rooms with a single king beds, and 591-square-foot kids’ suites that can sleep five.
Occupying the smallest footprint of any Universal resort gets you one of its smaller pools.
Wrapping itself around the building, the pool lacks a slide (unlike its Prime Value neighbor Cabana Bay), but the area does offer a splash area, fire pot and plenty of deck chairs. Space is at a premium here, however, so expect to see crowds on hot nights after the parks are closed.
You’ll also find one of the smaller Universal Studios Stores in the lobby. Heavy on Harry Potter merchandise, but relatively light on everything else, this merch location isn’t as likely to be your saving grace on checkout day when you realize you forgot some in-park souvenir. There is a small selection of Aventura-specific merch, but this store will be most useful in case you forgot some pool wear or toiletries and don’t want to venture off-property.
The best amenities at Aventura come from its location. Guests can quickly walk over to Volcano Bay via an exclusive entrance located near the pool area (key card required). If you’re heading to the two theme parks, you have the choice between the 1.5-mile garden walkway or shuttle bus service that is shared with Cabana Bay. Buses typically come every 10 minutes, so avoid the garden walk unless you’re aching for a scenic route.
You can squeeze some extra benefits out of Aventura by taking a short walk over to the ritzier Sapphire Falls Resort. Not only can you find more dining options and a much larger pool, but you can also use that resort’s boat service to get to and from CityWalk.
Technically, the resort boats are meant only for those resorts’ guests, but no one is checking room keys. You’ll save some time and steps using the boats over Aventura’s own bus service, since buses drop off near the main security checkpoint and force you to traverse CityWalk before getting to the parks. The boats, however, drop you off much closer to the park entrances. Your feet will thank you later.
Aventura featured a virtual reality game room when it first opened in 2018. However, at the time of my November 2021 visit, the game room had yet to reopen from its initial COVID-19 closure, and its signs were covered up.
The food and drink
The Urban Pantry food hall features four stations: pizza, burgers, roast, and a wok offering customizable bowls and sushi. While it gets some points for originality with the wok station, the menu selection at the stations feel more limited than its counterparts at the Endless Summer or Cabana Bay resorts. I’d personally go with the pizza station, as the $15 pies can feed at least two people, and the perfectly charred taste impressed even this Chicago pizza snob.
The food hall did have one service downside during my stay: spotty nighttime service. While Urban Pantry is supposed to stay open until 11 p.m., with the pizza station open until midnight, only the burger and pizza stations were open at 8 p.m. on my visit — and an employee had to move from one station to another to reopen the pizza counter. I’ve never seen that kind of partial shutdown in other Universal food courts, and it seems like a strange choice at a time when guests are heading back from the parks and looking for dinner.
What Aventura lacks in food options, it makes up for in bar-hopping. Guests can choose between the large, shaded Bar Sol pool bar, the limited BarVentura lobby spot, or go straight to the star of the resort, Bar 17 Bistro.
The open-air rooftop bar offers some fantastic views of Universal Orlando Resort and the surrounding area, with plenty of comfortable seating for parties large and small. There is a limited food menu — some appetizers, like Korean-style spicy fried chicken wings and a burger — but what will keep you here are the custom cocktails. I’d recommend the Orlandos & Don’t, with Seagram’s Gin, saké, lemon, cucumber and raspberry. It’s worth a visit even if you’re staying at another Universal hotel.
The hotel offers an express elevator to Bar 17 Bistro from the lobby. Be warned that the bar is sometimes closed due to cold or inclement weather.
I came away a bit befuddled by what audience Universal’s Aventura Hotel is meant to serve.
If you’re coming with kids, Cabana Bay offers more to do at a similar price point. If you’re sticking to a budget, Endless Summer has better rates, especially for family suites, and better pool areas and food courts. Those looking for better dining options could pay a little extra to stay at Sapphire Falls, though you can easily walk there from Aventura too.
So who should stay at Aventura? I can see some appeal for childless adults, especially couples, who aren’t looking to break the bank, gravitate towards this brand of streamlined designs, want to spend most of their time in the parks, but maybe take a dip in the pool at night with fewer screaming kids running around. Or maybe you just want that rooftop bar a bit closer to your room.
For me, Aventura is the weakest out of Universal’s on-site hotels. Some of that is my personal dislike for the overall aesthetic, but the smaller pool and food hall are real weaknesses. If hotels at the same price point or lower feel like they’re giving me more for my money, why would I stay here?
It’s not a bad hotel by any stretch; it just happens to be the worst of a pretty great lineup at Universal Orlando.