A team of Oyster reporters spent weeks exploring 31 hotels in Orlando. We slept in the beds, ate in the restaurants, tested the service, and lounged by the pools, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Here’s a list of some of our favorite luxury hotels. Note that while they’re among Orlando’s most luxurious properties, they generally don’t quite achieve the luxury standards that you’d find in many urban destinations.
Located about 15 minutes from both Disney and Universal Studios on the beautiful (and massive) Grande Lakes resort grounds, the Ritz-Carlton is one of the best luxury hotels in Orlando, with swanky rooms (renovated in 2012), great pools, and a giant spa. It shares many of its amenities with the adjacent JW Marriott, so it's worth comparing rates.
The 1,057-room JW Marriott shares a gorgeous golf course and spa with the adjacent Ritz-Carlton. But it deserves luxury credibility on it's own merits: Its big rooms, renovated in 2011, lazy-river pool, and acclaimed Italian restaurant are all among the best in Orlando. A great choice for business or family travel.
Modeled after the real Portofino Bay on the Italian Riviera, this 750-room Loews hotel has performers singing in the piazza nightly, five consistently good Italian restaurants, and a waterslide that resembles a Roman aqueduct. It's the most expensive of Universal's three resorts, but that's because of its bigger, more beautiful rooms, gorgeous spa, and three pools, including two reserved for adults.
Located next to the Orange County Convention Center, the Peabody has an impressive array of services, beautiful interiors, and top-notch restaurants. A complete overhaul of the property was completed in late 2010, featuring new rooms, another pool, a larger gym, and a better spa.
The Grand Floridian, Disney's crown jewel, is as elegant as it is expensive. Its prime location on the monorail and the Seven Seas Lagoon makes this deluxe resort one of the most conveniently located in Disney World, but its upscale restaurants, full-service spa, and formal décor appeal more to adults than children.
Made to evoke Atlantic City in its 1940s heyday, the somewhat subdued Boardwalk Villas are located next to a glittering stretch of great restaurants, bars, and carnival games on Crescent Lake and close to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In addition to its pools, waterslide, and great gym, all of its large suites have washer-dryers and (in most units) full kitchens.
Just 15 minutes south of Disney, the sprawling 411-room Reunion Resort is one of Orlando's priciest condo properties. Its beautiful one-bedroom villas have full kitchens (but older TVs). Ample recreational options include daily kids' activities, a huge water park, and 54 holes of golf. Excellent restaurants and polished service round out the lux experience.