Where Modern and Play Meet
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is…
Cool elegance. Casual business. And yet…Playful relaxation. Nostalgia for days spent in the water.
These are the associations I make with Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida. They hit me as soon as I entered the lobby. Particularly the ocean scent that reminded me of the Soarin’ attraction at Epcot or Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
But the guests walking around the lobby, check-in or seated at the open area bar gave me a greater indication of the purpose of this hotel:
Conference attendees in casual business attire
Small girls dressed in Disney princess dresses and boys in Toy Story shirts
Ballroom dancing competitors floating by in their bright-neon, sequined dresses
In other words, I saw ALL kinds of guests here. People in jeans and people in tuxes.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is one of those “conference hotels” that hosts events like the Fred Astaire annual ballroom competition as well as trainings for a variety of businesses. My husband signed up for training there for a week in October, so I tagged along for a couple’s retreat.
I was pleasantly surprised at the “deluxe-experience” of this resort. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.
An “Official Walt Disney World Hotel”
Hilton Bonnet Creek is an official Disney hotel. This means that guests who book an official Disney hotel package with theme park tickets can access many of the same perks that on-site Disney resort guests get, including:
- 60-days Fast Pass selection window
- Extra Magic Hours to the parks (either early morning or late night)
Unfortunately, they don’t ALL of the perks like a Disney resort. Guests don’t get free merchandise delivery from the parks to your room or free one-round of mini-golf and discounts to certain restaurants. They also don’t get any of the Disney meal plans, although a meal-card (worth about $40 per day) can be purchased with your vacation package.
They also are unable to board the free Magical Express shuttle from the airport. I do recommend just reserving an Uber or Lyft instead of a shuttle for the most convenience and similar price.
Free Park Transportation
I honestly have to say I really liked their shuttle. It wasn’t a crowded “city bus” like the Disney park buses in which everyone gets to know their seat neighbor really well. Instead, it was an air-conditioned motorcoach with comfy, individual seats, seatbelts and TVs that played Disney movies during our short jaunt to the parks.
These buses do take you to the same bus depots used by the Disney resorts at Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom (albeit a little farther away). For Magic Kingdom, the bus drops you off at the Ticket and Transportation Center to take the monorail or ferry.
This bus is shared with their sister-resort next door, the Waldorf-Astoria. But I never had to wait for another bus because it was too crowded.
The bus runs on a pre-set schedule. You can pick up a flyer of shuttle times at the concierge or check-in desk. While it doesn’t run as often as the Disney resort buses, it’s nice to know exactly when it’s going to arrive to the hotel depot. No guessing and waiting 20 minutes. Most of all, I was highly impressed with how punctual it was early in the day. During the end of the day, though, it seemed they fell a little behind schedule.
A shuttle to Disney Springs does not run until late afternoon (around 5pm). There is also no shuttle to the Universal Studios parks. You would need to rely on a ride-share service to get to those places.
A word about using ride-share services in Orlando: FANTASTIC! There was always an Uber or Lyft driver available within 5 minutes of requesting service. They were always professional and their cars immaculate. We relied heavily on these drivers during our week there, which cost a total of around $250 for compact sedans. It was cheaper than paying for a rental car and parking fees at the hotel and parks.
A “Deluxe” Amenities for a “Moderate” Price
Of course, when I say “deluxe” I am comparing this resort to Disney’s own Deluxe category resorts like the Contemporary or Boardwalk Inn. While there is no Disney theming in this hotel, be prepared to encounter “deluxe” amenities such as….
- Top-notch restaurants, including a wide range of quick-service meals to fine dining
- Valet parking
- Fitness center and access to an 18-hole golf course
- Larger hotel rooms
- 3-acres water complex with 2 hot tubs, slide and a lazy river
- Pool-side service and cabana rentals
- Use of amenities at its sister resort Waldorf-Astoria (including spa and pool)
- Disney concierge desk and gift shop
Have I sold you yet that this is a “deluxe” resort? But what about price per night?
Most Disney Deluxe resorts start around $400 per night and go as high as $900 per night. This resort starts around $300 per night. This is around the same price as a “moderate” Disney resort.
You can get a Disney Fireworks View room for around $350-400 (not including the resort fee). If you include a breakfast package, the total price will be higher.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is a wonderful alternative for guests looking for a comfortable and refined but less expensive resort in which to unwind in between busy park days.
Great Resort for Foodies and Water-Babies
WHO exactly is this hotel designed for? Besides the aforementioned conventioneers, this restaurant is fabulous for those who love good food and fun pools!
There are 12 restaurants at Bonnet Creek and its sister resort Waldorf-Astoria. Although I did not eat at a Waldorf restaurant, we did enjoy a few of the dining options at Bonnet Creek. Not once did we need a reservation.
- La Luce (Signature Dining): Located to the right off the main lobby, this serves Italian country kitchen meals with an outstanding wine selection. The atmosphere for dinner was dimly lit, perfect for a romantic couples evening. Outdoor seating is available. Our waiter provided exceptional service.
- Zeta Asia (Casual/Fine Dining): Located to the left of the main lobby, this restaurant hit the spot for lighter Asian fare. The sushi was some of the best I’ve ever had. This feels like a sophisticated, modern sports bar without the rowdy TV/crowd noise.
- Harvest Bistro (Casual Dining): Located on the ground floor below the lobby with an amazing view of the pool, this is where we ate breakfast every morning. The variety of their buffet was unbelievable (and honestly on par with the best Disney breakfast buffets). While not cheap ($20-25 a plate), it was filling. Even the “continental breakfast” offered a fair amount of protein options. But the best part was the wait staff. We got to know, through some fun conversations, a few who served us regularly. For a more private experience we ate outside by the pool. Eating here was a terrific way to start the day.
There are other dining options, including a nice café for quick meals and a bar right in the center lobby. Honestly, for the number of quality restaurants and amazing service, I was thoroughly impressed by Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.
Yes, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek pool is pretty darn amazing. Spread out over 3-acres, this mini-waterpark has some very nice features that appeal to all ages.
- Float without a care on the lazy river
- Swim some laps
- Splash with your toddlers in the wading or zero-entry pools
- Catch your kid coming off the water slide
- Take a nap in a private cabana or relax on one of the many lounge chairs
- Nosh on some sandwiches or sip a tropical libation
- Ease your mind, body and soul in the hot whirlpools
Just my opinion, but the pool at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek closely rivals the popular Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club pool near Epcot. The basic features are nearly the same, even if this pool falls a little short on the spectacular thematic design elements at the Disney resorts. Still, Bonnet Creek’s pool design definitely induces both fun and relaxation.
Because I grew up a “water baby”, I still love exploring all of my available pool options. I ventured over to the Hilton Waldorf-Astoria pool to see if the “grass was really greener on the other side.”
It was a lovely, traditional, geometrical pool with a nice hot tub. The pool staff provided more hands-on service, who asked if I wanted a towel and then laid it on my chosen lounge chair. Others were serving drinks. I felt it was definitely designed for the adult clientele in mind.
Special Needs at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Let’s get into how well Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek accommodates different needs.
While the resort is several stories tall and very wide, there are several elevators available. Even though the hotel amenities are centrally located, the rooms are spread far out. It’s very wheelchair friendly, including the pool and hot tub with lifts and ramps. Using an EVC or wheelchair, one can access every part of the pool. There are 41 accessible rooms, eleven with roll-in showers. While there are stairs to the bus depot, you can access it from the sloping driveway instead. The restaurants and bars are for the most part very accessible for wheelchairs/EVCs. The bus shuttle is ADA accessible.
SIDE NOTE: We were put into the very last room at the end of the building. It was the longest walk I’ve ever taken from a hotel room to an elevator. How far we had to walk soon became a running joke with other guests with whom I ran into in the hallway on the way to the elevator. If walking is difficult, or you would prefer not to walk a mile to your room, request a room closer to the elevator.
The pool is gated but there are no lifeguards around. You can access lifejackets if needed. The pool does not get very deep (maybe 4 ft max) but a non-swimmer will definitely need eagle-eye supervision. The hotel rooms do not have balconies, so that will give some peace-of-mind. All of the outdoor dining spaces both on ground level and with balconies have floor-to-ceiling screens. If a child runs outside the hotel without a parent, there are staff stationed around the entrance who hopefully will be on alert. You may need to bring anti-eloping technology, such as a door-blocker or alarm.
One thing that struck me immediately was the strong scent in the lobby. While it obviously is supposed to evoke primordial emotions tied to the ocean, I found it a little too overwhelming. My eye was immediately drawn upward to the smiling women swimming underwater. This is the only “big and bright” visual element about this resort. The color scheme was otherwise a relaxing palette of greys and blues, including the outside, interior spaces and resort room.
Yes, service dogs are allowed to stay at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. Pets or “therapy animals” are not allowed to stay there, however.
Should YOU stay at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek?
If you answer YES to any of these questions, I highly recommend this resort.
- Experience a “Deluxe” resort without paying the price for one
- Access Disney perks but don’t necessarily need to stay onsite in the “Disney Bubble”
- Crave incredible dining choices onsite (and walk safely back to your room afterwards)
- Love a good pool that feels like a getaway from the real-world
- Desire some non-park days to unwind and decompress
- Don’t mind using ride-share services to get around
- You are a smaller family or don’t mind splitting up into 2 rooms
- Attend a conference there and your partner and/or family is tagging along
If you DO end up staying here, you might be very pleasantly surprised like I was. The smiling mermaid ladies on the ceiling will be happy to greet you!