This hotel review covers Surfside Inn & Suites, the newly-opened half of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort in Orlando at Universal Studios Florida & Islands of Adventure. We’ll share room photos, info about amenities, pros & cons, and how these budget accommodations stack up to Walt Disney World Value & Moderate Resorts.
While we’ll refer to this as Universal’s Endless Summer Resort throughout this review, our stay was in the Surfside Inn and Suites half of the larger Endless Summer complex, which is opening in two phases. The first portion of the other half is slated to debut in March 2020, and will be called Dockside Inn and Suites.
Universal’s big pitch with Endless Summer Resort is that this is a true value hotel, with standard room rates starting under $100 per night for some–but not all–dates. This puts it below all Walt Disney World resorts. In fact, the All Star Resorts have new low prices of $99/night in the off-season for 2020, down from $112/night this year–this rare price decrease could be a sign that Disney is feeling increased competition from Universal at its Value Resorts…
Starting rack rates are interesting, but ultimately pretty meaningless depending upon when you travel. Throughout the summer, we noticed most dates for Universal’s Endless Summer Resort were over $140/night. In fairness, at this same time, the All Stars were $169/night.
Once the summer ended, Endless Summer’s prices dropped. For our Sunday night stay in September, we paid a discounted rate of $74 per night for Surfside Inn & Suites. This made it work out perfectly for us as a place to stay while doing Halloween Horror Nights.
We haven’t seen this good of an AP discount for Value Resorts at Walt Disney World in a while, but the best WDW PIN Code Offers and Priceline Express Deals for WDW you could find for the All Star Resorts do compete with this price-point. As such, our comparison below will pit Universal’s Endless Summer against the All Stars.
Before we get to that, let’s take a look inside our standard room at Universal’s Surfside Inn & Suites:
In the guest rooms, you’ll notice some similarities to the recently redesigned rooms at Pop Century and All Star Movies.
The biggest difference here is the fold-down Murphy bed that doubles as a table is simply a stationary queen bed. Whether that’s a pro or a con is a matter of personal preference. (I’m a fan of that Murphy bed, but I know many others are not.)
I think there’s also more attention to detail with Surfside Inn. The rug, light blue bedspread, artwork, light fixtures, art, throw pillows, and other details all give off a shabby chic beach cottage vibe.
Personally, I find the “Eat. Sleep. Surf” distressed wall art with the sunglasses a bit cringey, but I know this is popular with the style. It’s not the world’s most elaborate theme, but it’s effectively executed and conveyed.
We found the bedding to be comfortable, and the space sufficient for the two of us.
Our room definitely felt noticeably smaller than the one in which we stayed at Cabana Bay, but it still worked fine. Plenty of storage space, and the lounge chair is nice. (I ended up using that for working on my laptop, as the desk chair situation leaves a lot to be desired.)
The bathroom likewise gets the job done, but isn’t going to win any “best hotel bathroom ever” awards.
As with most of the hotel, it favors function over form, and fulfills its role admirably.
As with Cabana Bay, Endless Summer has resort-specific toiletries. It’s a little touch, but it’s appreciated.
Ultimately, we really liked our room at Surfside Inn. There are enough details and little touches that it feels inviting rather than sterile, it has a lot of smart functional design choices, and the color scheme coupled with the large (usable!) window made it light, airy, and welcoming. Value for money-wise, this room is tough to beat.
The view out our hotel window overlooked this sister property, and it truly looks like a twin (albeit definitely not an identical twin) of Surfside Inn & Suites.
The key difference is that Dockside Inn will have four wings instead of two, with each pair of wings having a pool, meaning a total of two pools instead of one.
Surfside Inn and Suites features 750 rooms, 390 of which are two-bedroom suites at Universal’s lowest room rates ever. Dockside Inn and Suites will add another 2,050 guest rooms, including 1,113 two-bedroom suites.
Guests at Endless Summer can use the amenities at each of the sister properties (including pools), and every other Universal Orlando hotel (except pools).
One of the big selling points of Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is its layout. It seems that both Disney and Universal learned a valuable lesson from Disney’s foray into sprawling hotels with clusters of motel-style buildings with exterior hallways: most guests don’t want that.
In recent years, both have moved away from that style and towards more condensed resort footprints, often featuring tower designs and more interior hallways. Personally, I enjoy the larger and lusher grounds with more to explore (a novel concept you can’t find in a lot of places), but I realize I’m in the exception.
Surfside Inn and Suites continues this trend, with two tower wings that connect to the main lobby via interior hallways.
Regardless of where your room is located, it’ll probably take you 5 minutes or less to get to the pool, dining, or bus stops. The trade-off, unfortunately, is that the grounds are not particularly interesting or worth wandering.
On the upside, the basic slate of amenities certainly gets the job done, offering guests what they’re most likely to want or need.
There’s a lobby Starbucks, inexpensive food court, game room, fitness center, and pool.
Save for the pool, all of these options are pretty solid. The pool at Surfside Inn is very basic, and is simply a large surfboard or fish-shaped (depending upon your perspective) design with chairs around it.
Definitely lacking as compared to Universal’s other exceptional pools, but about on par with the All Star Resorts at Walt Disney World.
The biggest perk for Universal’s Endless Summer Resort on-site guests is early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park.
The downside is that, as with Cabana Bay, Endless Summer Resort guests do not receive unlimited Express Pass. If that’s something you’d otherwise buy, you’ll probably want to move up in resort tiers, as the value/cost of that is tremendous.
Unlike the other resorts at Universal Orlando, Endless Summer Resort is not within walking distance of the parks or CityWalk. It’s still a short bus ride, but it’s locate across the 4, so you can’t (or at least shouldn’t) walk to the parks.
However, we found the shuttle buses to be incredibly efficient. We never had to wait for a bus to arrive (although they did sit for ~5 minutes waiting for guests and for the next bus behind the idling one to show up), and the commute time is around 7 minutes.
Although it’s a very basic value resort, Universal’s Endless Summer does have some nice touches.
For one, it has resort-specific mugs. (I’m a big fan of this little detail, so I probably place disproportionate weight on it.)
The food court is also well-designed and has a mellow vibe to it.
The space inside the seating area is cleverly broken up. It’ll never be a cacophonous nightmare while you’re just trying to recover after a long night at CityWalk or Halloween Horror Nights.
Being the cheapest hotel option at Universal Orlando, it should be unsurprising that Endless Summer Resort has the least going for it. If price is the bottom line for you, Surfside Inn and Suites is likely a good option.
It gets the job done, offering solid value for money.
For me, the advantages there in pools, amenities, theme, and proximity to the parks (I love being able to walk) make it worth the added cost. If I’m on vacation, those are things I simply don’t want to give up–Surfside Inn is just a bit too “normal” and barebones for me–but your mileage may vary on that.
As for how Universal’s Endless Summer compares to Walt Disney World’s All Star Resorts, there’s not much of a comparison aside from pricing. Which you’ll prefer really comes down to what you’re after and which theme parks are your priority. If you’re only visiting WDW and don’t plan on renting a car, that pretty much makes your decision for you.
Same goes if you’re only doing Universal and don’t care about Disney. Vacation priorities being equal or up in the air, each resort will have appeal to different guests. Endless Summer’s decorations are clean and minimal, with a beach-inspired vibe. The All Star’s decorations are largely oversized Disney characters.
The layout of the respective resorts is radically different. The All Stars are sprawling resorts with lush grounds and exterior hallways. These properties have a dingier motel vibe when it comes to the rooms, but there is something to be said for the unique grounds.
By contrast, Surfside Inn and Suites has chic, trendy, and more pleasant rooms. There’s also something to be said for the compact layout of the resort, but it’s ultimately duller. It thus becomes a choice of newer and nicer but more boring, or older and shabbier, but more captivating.
Overall, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort offers unparalleled value for money when it comes to an Orlando theme park-adjacent hotel. So long as you’re comfortable with something that’s light on theme and amenities, it’s a great option that offers suitable rooms, interior hallways, a compact footprint, and convenient access to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. We’d absolutely recommend it, especially to rope drop to park close theme park ‘touring commandos.’ We’d still recommend it to others, but those wanting a more relaxed, resort-heavy vacation experience should probably upgrade to (at least) Cabana Bay.
Have you stayed at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn & Suites? What do you think of it? Interested in staying here? What do you think of Universal’s v. Disney’s Value Resorts? What about on-site perks? Do you agree or disagree with our hotel review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!