SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s SAPPHIRE FALLS RESORT

by on March 4, 2017 12 Comments

Filed under: Resorts, Saturday Six, Universal Orlando Resort

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Sapphire Falls Resort! Currently, the Universal Orlando Resort has five on-site hotels, with a sixth (Aventura) opening next summer. Universal separates its hotels into three categories: Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), Preferred (Royal Pacific Resort), and Premier (Hard Rock and Portofino Bay.) Sapphire Falls falls under the Preferred category.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Sapphire Falls is located directly next to Royal Pacific, and the two hotels actually connect in their convention space area. As part of the Loews brand, Sapphire Falls has the type of service you receive at a higher end hotel, and stays at Sapphire count towards the Loews YouFirst Loyalty Program. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite parts of Sapphire Falls, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…

# 6 – The Lobby

The lobby at Sapphire Falls is the most guest friendly of any Universal hotel. Similar to the lobbies at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the newly renovated Polynesian Village Resort, guests walk into a wide open lobby with a huge window on the opposite end overlooking the property. One of the most oft-talked about features of the lobby is the striking “beach ball” chandelier. Pictures do not do this chandelier justice and, when lit up at night, the fixture looks absolutely fantastic.

There is plenty of unique seating in the lobby, including one area with a huge TV. There are outlets all over the place to plug in  your electronic devices, including a large wooden table which has enough space for at least ten people to work from their laptops. If you need to spend time in a hotel lobby, this is the exact type of one you want to be in.

Sapphire Falls lobby. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Lobby chandelier. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Lobby. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Outlets.

# 5 – New Dutch Trading Co.

Connecting right off the lobby is possibly the biggest surprise of the entire resort, the New Dutch Trading Co. is the “grab and go” that we’ve always wanted in a theme park hotel. Aside from the typical sodas, cereals. and snacks, there are stations for freshly made sandwiches and ice cream. Here is where you can get the incredible Sapphire Falls refillable cup, which works at all the Coke Freestyle machines in the resort. Along with New Dutch Trading Co. merchandise, you can also find merchandise for the other dining venues on property, including hot sauce from the Dhrum Club Kantine pool bar, and seasoning from Amatista Cookhouse table service restaurant. As someone who loves buying a bottle of the Flame Tree Barbecue sauce at Animal Kingdom Lodge, this was greatly appreciated.

New Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Brandon Glover)

New Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Man’s greatest achievement, Coke Freestyle machine. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One of the all-time greatest resort specific souvenir refillable mug. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Croky chips.

Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Brandon Glover)

New Dutch Trading Co. (photo by Brandon Glover)

New Dutch Trading Co. branded merchandise.

# 4 – Amatista Cookhouse

Universal has set a high standard when it comes to on-site dining at its resorts. Portofino’s Bice Ristorante, Hard Rock’s The Kitchen, and both the Wok Experience and Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific should be on any theme park foodie’s bucket list. Amatista Cookhouse at Sapphire Falls continues the tradition of solid table service with a Caribbean themed menu, an open kitchen, and a great view. With high ceilings and large windows, natural light fills the restaurant and provides great atmosphere for a meal. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Amatista has a surprisingly limited menu. However, the items are all Latin themed and the service is consistently good.

Amatista Cookhouse. (photo by Brian Carey)

Some of the indoor seating at Amatista. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The outdoor seating at Amatista overlooks the waterfall feature and the gorgeous lagoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Empanadas – chicken and queso blanco or black bean, corn and vegetables. (photo by Brian Carey)

Island Fish Sandwich – fresh catch of the day, lettuce, tomatoes, mango-papaya salsa, coconut-pineapple bread. (photo by Brian Carey)

Jerk Spiced Chicken Flatbread – onions, tomatoes, sweet plantain, peppers, scallions, queso blanco, aged cheddar, jerk sauce. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Grilled Pineapple Salad –frisée lettuce, arugula, grilled pineapple, quinoa, tomatoes, avocado, roasted red pepper, plantain chips, citrus vinaigrette. (photo by Brian Carey)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sandwich – roasted tomato, caramelized onions, sweet plantain butter, sofrito sauce, queso blanco, cuban roll. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Amatista Caribbean Burger – Angus beef burger topped with roast pork lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, sweet plantain butter, cuban roll. (photo by Brian Carey)

Havana Colada. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 3 –  Location, Location, Location

Sapphire Falls is a quick water taxi (complimentary) and walk about from the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort. That means you are always about 10 minutes away from enjoying a meal at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, taking a ride aboard the Hogwarts Express, or even heading over to Cabana Bay for a set of bowling. There is no better way to get to the parks than a relaxing boat ride, but the short walk also allows you to burn off some of the calories you are surely about to take in with a Lard Lad D’oh-nut or Cauldron Cake.

A Sapphire Falls water taxi makes its way from the resort to the parks – note Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall in the distance. (photo by Brian Carey)

Sapphire Falls boat. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

 

# 2 – Strong Water Tavern

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX know how much we appreciate a good hotel bar, and Sapphire Falls’ Strong Water Tavern takes it up a notch. Like Amatista, Strong Water Tavern has both indoor and outdoor seating, along with seats along the actual bar. Aside from a full bar there is an incredible food menu featuring various types of ceviche, as well as items from Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. That’s right, a bar menu where you can get Curry Chicken, Lamb Pelau, and Fish Tacos. Amazing.

Strong Water Tavern specializes in rum (over 60 varieties are available), and a “Rum Captain” will help guide you through the large drink menu.

Strong Water Tavern. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Rum flight at Strong Water. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Rum Captain. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The rum captain HAND CUTS ice out of a larger block. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Ice. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Rum flights. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Privateer Punch (serves 6-8)

 

Rum Old Fashioned. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Last Typhoon. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Arroz con Pollo from the “Little Havana” section of the menu. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Cuban Shrimp Creole. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Lamb Pelau from the “Jamaica Mon” section of the menu. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 1 – The Pool

Sapphire Falls is now home to the largest pool on Universal property. A 16,000 square foot pool that includes a water slide, a sandy beach area, and a top notch pool bar in the Drhum Club Kantine. For our family, pools have become a determining factor in where we choose to vacation and Sapphire Falls has something for all of us. The older kids love doing the slide, the two year old builds sand castles, and we adults sip on Drhum Club Punch trying to take every last minute in.

Sapphire Falls Resort pool area. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Sandy Beach. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Slide at Sapphire Falls Resort. (photo by Travis Terrell)

Drhum Club Kantine pool bar. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Dhrum Club Punch – Strong Water Rum, Rum Haven Coconut Rum, Pineapple, OJ, Grenadine. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Creamsicle – Blue Chair Vanilla Rum, Strong Water Rum, Pina Colada, Mango. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

We wanted to see how the pool bar would do with special requests, and here is an off-menu grilled chicken breast sandwich with cheddar cheese and bacon. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

HONORABLE MENTION – Unique Lighting Features

Starting with the gorgeous chandelier in the lobby, Sapphire Falls has unique lighting throughout the resort, including the guest rooms. Little touches like this help make theme park vacations more memorable.

Now that’s a light!

Lighting with an “old school” feel.

Lighting fixture in the kid’s suite.

DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – Stone Stairwell

For us, this stone stairwell located next to strong Water Tavern reminded us of Harry Potter. We actually used it many times instead of taking an elevator because the vibe is so cool once inside it.

Stone stairwell. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Stone stairwell. (photo by Brandon Glover)

So there you have it: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Sapphire Falls Resort! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

Well you know I had to buy any bag
of chips that promises to be
“100% LOUD.” It’s like the spirit animal of
the SATURDAY SIX.

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort

Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel

Six More Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Six “Secrets” of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium

Sapphire Falls Resort: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the sommelier of Tony’s Town Square Brian Carey, photo wunderkind Mike Sperduto, co-host of the Grim Grinning Hosts podcast Travis Terrell, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now and support SIX NATION (boy do we need a better name than that.)

Indescribably beautiful.

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Posted on March 4, 2017

12 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s SAPPHIRE FALLS RESORT”

  • Sixty different types of rum? Sign me up!

    I assume there’s no reason you can’t stop by without a hotel reservation?

    • All the table service restaurants at the Universal hotels will validate parking (free self parking or bring valet down to just $5). If you were thinking of just walking around to check everything out, you would probably need to park at CityWalk and walk/take a water taxi over.

  • Quick question…does the pool bar offer “pool-side/lounger” service like at Bula Bar?

  • So glad you mentioned the staircase!! We stayed at Cabana Bay a few months ago, but walked through Sapphire Falls a few times on the way to/from the parks, including a stop at New Dutch for an excellent breakfast sandwich for the price, time, and convenience. That staircase alone brought us back through the hotel a couple more times. Also, the water taxis are great, but the walk is quite lovely as well. Only about 10-15 minutes to CityWalk, it’s all lined with lush foliage right along the water. We spent time at each of the Universal hotels on our trip, but Sapphire Falls seems like the easy pick for where we’ll stay on our next trip there.

  • You had me at Strong Water Tavern. As a rum lover, I’ll patronize any establishment that reaches beyond BacardI. It would have been easy to stay safe with a bourbon bar but showcasing rum’s variety, versatility, and quality is much appreciated. Bravo!

  • I assume the downside is that there are no express passes?

    • That would be the main difference between staying at Sapphire Falls compared to, say, Royal Pacific, however your per night room cost will generally be much cheaper. So it’s choice of cost versus convenience.

  • Does Universal still allow hotel guests to use any pool on property?

  • Wow this resort looks incredible. I’ve never been to Universail before so I was wondering, does this resort compare closer to a deluxe or a moderate at WDW? Curious about room rates too if you have any information off top of your head. Great article!