Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort Review: What We Liked and Didn't Like
Our Stay at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is Universal Orlando's newest on-site hotel. We stayed in a standard room for five nights during the hotel's opening week. Our goal was to get to know Sapphire Falls (and have a little fun in the theme parks, of course).
We spent a lot of time in our Sapphire Falls room, toured the pool area, did some shopping, and explored all of the dining options in the hotel. The property made quite an impression on us during our stay. So we decided to work up a full review of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, with a focus on what we liked and didn't like about the hotel.
Before we get into what we liked and didn't like about Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, it is important to note that we did visit this destination during its opening week. The resort had been open for just three days when we arrived, and it was still a work in progress. Some parts of the hotel were not open to the public, construction was still occurring inside the hotel and on the grounds, etc. In other words, the hotel was still getting into the groove. Changes will undoubtedly be made in the coming months as management receives feedback and the finishing touches are put on the resort.
What We Liked About Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort is a nice hotel. There was a lot to like about it. Instead of telling you everything we liked, we're going to focus on what we liked best. We'll start with the check-in process before moving on to the room, theming pool, and dining options.
After hearing complaints of long check-in times on opening day (due to a very large crowd and a system issue), we were fully prepared to wait in line to check in, but there was no line. We were able to walk right up to the front desk and get immediate assistance from Travis, one of the members of the front desk staff. Travis was competent, professional, and exceptionally kind and welcoming.
One of the first things we noticed about Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is that the lobby area is really beautiful. There is a lot of seating throughout this immense public space, so nobody has to stand unless they want to.
We saw a lot of guests just hanging out in the lobby area throughout our trip. Some of them sat near the windows, where there are comfy chairs, benches, couches and lovely views of the lagoon and pool areas. Other guests sat in chairs around a large table that featured plenty of USB and electrical outlets for device charging. During our stay, we also saw live musical performances and Universal characters, like Woody Woodpecker, Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson, Gru, and Minions, in the lobby area of the hotel.
One of the best things about staying in a new hotel is the newness. Everything in the room was new and still looked nice - from the bedding and the carpet to the sink and the bathtub. The walls were freshly painted, and the whole room really couldn't have been any cleaner.
The View From the Room
The rooms at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort are located in multiple guest towers that are all connected by interior walkways. We stayed in Guest House 2, which was a nice location based on its proximity to the pool. Standard rooms have three different view options: pool view, lagoon view, and garden view. We chose a lagoon view. Our room was up on the sixth floor, which also gave us an excellent bird's-eye view of the lagoon below. We could even see the water taxi dock and portions of Islands of Adventure. We loved this view from the room and would definitely request it again.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort has a Caribbean-inspired décor. The colors in the room were great. We were surrounded by calming blues and greens, crisp whites, and eye popping accent colors, like pink, orange, and yellow. These colors can be found throughout the resort and really help to give the entire property an "island" look. The best way to sum up the décor is to say that it really makes you feel like you're on vacation.
The landscaping at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is really nice throughout the whole property. There is a waterfall feature in front of the hotel (near the porte cochere) and plenty of palm trees and tropical plants everywhere you look. The most beautiful feature is on the lagoon side of the hotel. This area contains a large water wheel, multiple waterfalls, lanterns, and beautiful plants and flowers.
You can see this area from outdoor patios near Amatista Cookhouse, Strong Water Tavern, and the water taxi dock. There is also a Waterfall Overlook that was created just to give people a place to stand and look at the waterfall features.
The Waterfall Overlook is accessible from the pool area. The waterfalls and the surrounding area are beautifully lit at night. We recommend sitting on one of the outdoor patios or taking a stroll along the garden path after dark to get a really good look at it.
The Pool Area
The pool area at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is absolutely gorgeous. The 16,000 square foot river-style pool is lined with two white sand beaches, lush landscaping, rock features, private cabanas, and enough lounge chairs to give everyone a place to sit or lie down. The pool area also boasts a 100-foot water slide, a hot tub, a splash pad with pop-up jets, a fire pit, covered patio seating, a pool table, a ping pong table, and other poolside games and activities. If you're thirsty, you'll find a couple of coke machines that work with the hotel's refillable cups as well as a poolside bar called the Dhrum Club Kantine. The bar serves signature cocktails, beer, frozen drinks, and non-alcoholic beverages along with fruit, salads, burgers, sandwiches, nachos, and other basic items.
New Dutch Trading Co. Souvenirs
New Dutch Trading Co. is the grab-and-go dining option at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. We loved this place. You can buy candy, chips, cereal, salads, sandwiches, drinks and other pre-packaged items. If you want something warm, you can request a hot sandwich (after 11:00 am) or order some of the other food that is served cafeteria style. New Dutch Trading Co. also has soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream, cakes, pies, cookies, breakfast items, coffee, and other treats that can be ordered at the counter area. But the best thing about New Dutch Trading Co. is the food-related souvenirs that you can buy. For example, you can buy some of the seasonings and sauces used at Strong Water Tavern and Dhrum Club Kantine. We think this is a really fun way to take home a taste of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
The Water Taxi
All of the on-site hotels at Universal Orlando Resort (except for Cabana Bay Beach Resort) offer a free water taxi shuttle service to transport guests from the hotels to CityWalk and the theme parks. We love the water taxi because it lets us conserve our energy and our feet for the parks.
What We Didn't Like About Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
Even though there is a lot to like about Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, we did come up with a short list of things that we just didn’t like. As you'll see, most of these things are relatively minor. They definitely didn't ruin our vacation, and they certainly weren't major enough to stop us from staying at this hotel in the future, but we did think that they were worth mentioning.
The Bathroom Door
We are disappointed to say that our biggest complaint about Loews Sapphire Falls Resort involves the room, or more specifically, the bathroom door in the room. We stayed in a standard room, which had a bathroom with a sliding "barn door." If you're not familiar with the term, picture a door that hangs from a metal track. You can slide the door in front of an opening to "close" the door and slide it back to "open" the door. The problem with this door set-up is twofold. First, there was always a gap, even when the door was closed, which meant that anyone in the room who walked by the gap could look in and see the toilet and whoever was sitting on it. Second, the door didn't lock. For some guests, this door set-up might not be a big deal, but for those who value privacy, it could be terribly annoying.
The Size of the Room
We stayed in a standard room with two queen beds. The maximum occupancy of this room is five people (two in each bed and one in an optional rollaway). There were only two people in our room, so the room felt spacious enough, but quite frankly, the room would have felt a little crowded with four people, let alone five people. Standard rooms at Lowes Sapphire Falls Resort are 321 square feet in size, making them slightly smaller than the standard rooms at Universal's other on-site hotels. (In comparison, standard rooms at Cabana Bay Beach Resort are 359 square feet; standard rooms at Loews Royal Pacific Resort are 335 square feet; standard rooms at Hard Rock Hotel are 375 square feet; and standard rooms at Loews Portofino Bay Resort are 450 square feet.)
Again, 321 square feet felt like enough space for the two of us, but if you need more room, you may want to consider one of the suites at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which range in size from 529 square feet to 1,353 square feet. Suites are more expensive than standard rooms; if you need more space AND you're on a budget, you may want to consider one of the family suites at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which are 478 square feet and can usually be booked for a price that is comparable to the price of a standard room at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort.
New Dutch Trading Co. Size/Layout
As mentioned earlier, we really liked the New Dutch Trading Co. at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. A lot of other guests seemed to feel the same way. This place got really busy at different points throughout the day! Unfortunately, New Dutch Trading Co. is located in a relatively small space. The walkways are narrow, which can make it hard to move around the space, shop, and order food. There are also no clear instructions on how to form a queue. This seemed to really confuse people who were trying to order treats from behind the counter or pay for their grab and go items. To sum up, we love New Dutch Trading Co, we just wish that it was bigger!
We were very keen to explore the dining options at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, but we were prevented from doing so a couple of times on the trip because of the opening/closing times of some of the restaurants. For example, Amatista Cookhouse, the "flagship" restaurant at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the restaurant closes between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm each day. We were able to work around this easily enough and found other times to eat at Amatista Cookhouse, but it would have been nice to stop in anytime during the day for a bite to eat.
We had similar feelings about Strong Water Tavern, which could be described as the "lobby bar." This place specializes in rum and serves small plates of food. We probably would have stopped by during lunchtime, but Strong Water Tavern doesn't open until 4:00 pm. It was super easy to work around this small problem by visiting late in the afternoon instead. Nevertheless, we would love to see the hours at Amatista Cookhouse and Strong Water Tavern extended just for the sake of convenience.
We primarily used the water taxi to get back and forth between Loews Sapphire Fall Resort and the theme parks. However, we did use the garden path a couple of times. The path went from the docks at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort to Loews Royal Pacific Resort, where it linked up to another path that let to CityWalk and the theme parks.
The path is lovely, and the walk was short (it only took about 12 minutes to get from Loews Sapphire Falls Resort to the CityWalk check-in point near Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville). However, the path seemed rather narrow in places near Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, which made it a little harder to navigate the path when it was busy. It should be noted that this path was a work in progress (they were still landscaping portions of it), but the size of the path seemed to be established. In other words, it didn't look like it was ever going to get any wider.