Comparing Orlando’s Value Resorts Part 1: Universal’s Surfside Inn and Suites

This summer, I was finally able to take my first major vacation in a while, and where better for a theme park fanatic to visit than Orlando? However, the costs of flights, park tickets, transportation, accommodations and food can quickly add up, so it’s important to save money whenever possible when planning a trip like this. An area where I typically opt to cut costs is hotels, since I really only need a place to sleep for the night, and to store any (many) souvenirs I gather during my trip of course. So, when planning my Orlando trip, I knew I wanted to stay at a value resort for both the Disney and Universal parks. You can of course save even more money by staying off the resort property, but I believe the benefits of staying at a park-owned resort are definitely worth it. Let’s take a look at some of the other amenities and see how these affordable accommodations stack up.

We’ll start this two-part article series with Universal, since that’s where I began my vacation. I stayed at the park’s newest resort complex, the Endless Summer resort. This resort is built on the property where Wet ‘n Wild used to be located, and now contains two different hotels, Surfside Inn and Suites, which opened in summer of 2019, and Dockside Inn and Suites, which just recently opened in December of 2020. I stayed at Surfside, mostly because that’s the hotel that was running a promotion at the time I booked my trip. The room rate was $116.10 per night, which is very affordable for a resort like Universal, and even comparable to the price of some off-site resorts. It should also be noted that I stayed at this resort during a peak vacation time, and during non-peak times such as the fall or early in the year, the price can go to as low as around $80, which is an absolute steal. The prices of Surfside and Dockside are typically identical, but like I mentioned earlier, sometimes the individual resorts run promotions.

Driving up to the resort, you are already in the middle of the surfing theme. Giant murals decorate the sides of the hotel, and make for a stunning first impression. The inside of the lobby continues the theme, with a wooden decoration resembling the crest of a wave, under which is located the check-in desks, as well as surfboards throughout the lobby and signage decorated like something you would find at the beach. There is plenty of seating throughout the lobby, and it has a very clean look with a lot of white and tan decor. The Beach Break Cafe is located in the lobby, and keeping with the value resort, nothing on the menu is over $12. I didn’t get the chance to eat here during my stay, but all of the food options here looked very good. There is also the option to get a pizza meal delivered to your room.

Straight through the lobby doors is the huge surfboard-shaped pool, and the attached pool bar. The pool patio is very large, and it was never overly crowded when I visited the area, each group had plenty of room to themselves.

Now onto the room itself, Surfside actually has two different styles of rooms, the standard room, which has two queen beds, and the two bedroom suite, which has an extra bedroom with another queen bed, as well as a kitchenette area and a picnic table inside the room. I stayed in the standard room, and was very impressed. I’m not sure if this was just because I stayed on the top floor of the hotel, but the ceiling in this room was higher than any other hotel room I can remember staying at, and it made the room feel very open and spacious. It wasn’t just the ceiling, the whole room had plenty of space to move and walk around, as well as a curtained closet for luggage and clothes, and a safe that can fit a standard size laptop. The view from my room was looking right across the street to Dockside, and there were even certain areas of the parks that were visible, which was an added bonus.

The view from my room’s window, showing Dockside across the street

The windows were also very large, which offered plenty of light inside in the room in addition to the light fixtures in the room itself. There were plenty of outlets and plugs, with some even being USB and USB-C direct plugs, which was great to see. There is a large flatscreen television with cable access as well as Universal-specific channels with information about the hotels and the parks.

One of the best perks of staying at a Universal-owned resort is early park admission to certain areas of the parks, allowing you access to the park an hour before scheduled opening. During my visit, we were able to get three rides on Velocicoaster before the park even opened to the public using this system. There is a complimentary bus service from the hotel to help you utilize this perk, and there were plenty of buses, all of which arrived right on time. I would recommend getting to the bus stop around a half hour before the first bus is scheduled to arrive, since there was already a line each time we used the bus. The ride takes about ten minutes to get to the park, and you are dropped off at the main ticketing and security area. If you will have your own car, keep in mind there is a $15 parking fee per night.

The hotel also has its own gift shop, with Endless Summer and Surfside branded merchandise, as well as Harry Potter items, and some other merchandise that you can also get in the park. Just keep in mind that the store has similar hours to the park, so if you’re planning on getting merchandise, make sure to plan time out of your day to do it. There is also a Starbucks in the lobby, but plan to get there early, because this was a popular spot in the hotel, and often had a line. Speaking of merchandise, the Endless Summer resorts offer a refillable soda cup system, after you purchase one of the plastic mugs, you can utilize the Coke Freestyle machines in the dining area to refill them. It costs $9.99, with free refills the first day, and $3.00 for each additional day. This is a good deal if you are planning on spending time in the resort, but if you are like me and want to be in the parks as much as possible, this may not be a service you will use enough to make it worth the price.

Dockside Inn and Suites is located right across the street, and we walked over one night after getting back from the parks to take a look at the new hotel. It’s a great looking hotel, themed to boating and sailing as opposed to surfing and beach. I would say that Dockside is the nicer looking of the two resorts, but both offer the exact same rooms and amenities, so it really comes down to personal preference or hotel availability.

 Another view of Dockside

Overall, I was extremely impressed with Surfside Inn and Suites and would not think twice about staying here again. It was everything I was looking for in a resort hotel, the price is absolutely unbeatable when you consider the convenience of the location, and the perks offered to guests. The room was very comfortable, with great views and plenty of room, and the pool area was the perfect spot to unwind after a busy day at the theme parks.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, where I will be reviewing my experience staying at Disney’s newly renovated All-Star Movies Resort.

Next time on Comparing Orlando’s Value Resorts!

Have you had the chance to stay at one of the value resorts in Orlando? Let us know your experience in the comments!

Read part two of this series here!