Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando’s latest addition, and it’s a water park like no other. With a location central to Universal’s hotels and theme parks, it’s a no-brainer to add this on to any trip to Orlando. Kids will love it, and adults will be pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness, efficiency, and amount of fun to be had at Universal’s Volcano Bay. In order to get the most from your visit, we’ve compiled our best Universal Volcano Bay tips to help you plan the perfect day.
*We were guests of Universal Orlando for the purpose of this review. As always, opinions are 100% our own.
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Universal Volcano Bay Tips for Families
1. Reserve seating ahead of time at Volcano Bay
We learned several things as a result of not being prepared. First and foremost, if you are traveling with kids, consider reserving your seats ahead of time. There are different cabana options (a single cabana for up to 6 people and a family suite cabana for up to 16) and premium seating. Sometimes the premium seating will be available if you arrive first thing in the morning, but why risk it? Call ahead and book the premium seating (for cabanas, be sure to give plenty advance notice, especially during the summer month) for your family.
Premium seating comes with two lounge chairs, an umbrella, and a built-in storage lockbox for a minimal cost. The added benefit is an attendant who takes care of any food or drink orders. Unfortunately, we didn’t know this ahead of time and had to make do with the seats that were available, which sadly had no lock box or food service.
2. Arrive early at Volcano Bay and plan on spending the day
Volcano Bay is open 365 days a year. During the cooler months, the park opens at 10 a.m. and during the summer it opens at 9:00 a.m.. If you’re staying on property, take advantage of the shuttle to Volcano Bay and Early Park Admission, which allows you to head to the park an hour before everyone else. I know it seems like a crazy time to go to a water park. Trust us, it’s not. People start arriving as soon as possible to enjoy every square inch of Volcano Bay. It is especially important to arrive early if you haven’t made a seat reservation to ensure you can have chairs under a umbrella. Also, it is not very crowded in the morning, so the lines at the rides are not as long. With 18 water attractions, there’s plenty to explore at Volcano Bay, so pace yourselves, and enjoy.
3. What is a TapuTapu™?
TapuTapu™ is Universal Volcano Bay’s waterproof wristband you receive upon admission. This little device can do amazing things like open lockers, pay for your meals (you need to set this up in advance on the Universal Orlando app), and save your place in line on a ride.
When you find a water slide you want to try, simply scan your TapuTapu™ against the monitor and it will tell you when to come back for your turn. This allows you to head off and experience the rest of the water park while you wait. The device vibrates when it’s time for you to return.
We found that sometimes it would say the wait would be 60 minutes, but it would end up being closer to 40, so you never know. You can only select one ride at a time, but that’s not an issue since there’s plenty to entertain the kids while they wait. Know that Universal’s Express Pass does not work for Volcano Bay, but you won’t need it with this. Just remember to turn in the wristband at the end of the day.
Here’s a video to explain how TapuTapu™ works:
4. What should I bring to Volcano Bay?
First and foremost, bring your own towels, otherwise you’ll end up renting them. Make sure to pack the traditional beach gear: cover-ups, sunglasses, camera (you can’t bring it on the ride, but you can take on the lazy river), and plenty of sunscreen. You’re also allowed to bring in pre-packaged food, and if you have a refillable cup from one of the other Universal parks, be sure to bring that along to save some money on drinks. Be sure to leave the inflatable rafts and life vests at home (they provide them), as well as any alcohol and coolers.
5. Where do you store your belongings at Volcano Bay?
There are plenty of storage lockers throughout the water park. There’s a daily rental fee, but you can use your TapuTapu™ to get in and out as needed. You can’t have any loose articles on the rides, so either put it away or have someone at your seat all day watching your belongings. *Also, you can wear your flip flops around Volcano Bay and I highly recommend this. There are flip flop cubbies near every ride, which are very convenient.
6. What happens if I have a lost kid at Volcano Bay?
I would highly recommend setting a meeting place with your kids and checking in often. Try and find a spot to set up that is away from the crowds, because if you’re in the middle of the main beach, it can be hard for kids to spot you. If you do lose a kid (yes, this happened to us), head to the concierge stand. They can tell you where and when your child last used their TapuTapu™ to assist in your search.
7. What rides at Volcano Bay are the best for which ages?
First, let’s talk height requirements. If you’re over 48″ tall, you can go on everything. However, you can not go in the younger child area (it’s for the little ones only). There are slides requiring riders between 42 and 48″ to ride with a supervising companion. Expect to wear a life vest on the rivers at all times per Volcano Bay regulations.
Best Volcano Bay Rides for Older Kids and Adults
The main attraction of the park is the Krakatau™ Volcano. It is the centerpiece of the waterpark, rising majestically 200 feet in the sky. Along the back side of the volcano are several waterslides and the Krakatau™ aqua coaster.
The aqua coaster involves riding in a four person canoe, through twists and turns, before dropping through a waterfall into the pool below. The waterslides, Ko’kiri Body Plunge and Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides are best for older children and adults as they have drop doors and can be pretty intense.
On Punga Racers, kids (or adults) compete as they race on mats through four different slides to see who comes out the winner at the end (some older elementary children might be ok with this).
There are many other slides throughout the park, so give your family plenty of time to explore. Just be sure to touch your TapuTapu™ to the screen when you find one you like. Don’t miss Maku Puihi raft ride or the Honu raft ride, where you spin around with others in a large raft as you ride the waves and enjoy the drops on the slide. Our kids also liked the Ohyah and the Ohno drop slides (waits were a bit shorter) as well and these are good for elementary age and above.
Best attractions at Volcano Bay for all ages
While waiting for your turn in line, be sure to make the most of the rest of the park. Our kids loved TeAwa the Fearless River with fast moving currents instead of the slower Kopiko Wai winding river, which is all about relaxation. They also loved playing at the foot of the volcano at Waturi Beach, a giant lagoon that offers swimming for all ages. When the bell rings out, that’s when the waves come, and the excitement begins. My kids spent hours just hanging out on the beach.
Volcano Bay for toddlers and younger school children
If you have little ones, never fear, there’s plenty to do. There are two separate areas for younger children, Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef. This place is perfect for them with splash areas, their own water slides, water blasters, and dumping water buckets. Kids will love running around and there are plenty of spots where parents can relax with a good view of the play area. Little ones might also enjoy finding the TapuTapu™ water cannons around the park that shoot water at unsuspecting guests when the kids tap their band to the sensor. Everyone will get a good laugh from these spots.
What are the food options at Volcano Bay?
The food options at Volcano Bay are surprisingly good. Kohola Reef has coconut crusted fried chicken, mango BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, and longboard pizzas. We tried The Feasting Frog and enjoyed some tacos and plantain chips. Others in our group ate at Whakawaiwai Eats and enjoyed the jerk shrimp mac and cheese, Hawaiian pizza, and Tropical Baby Greens. For those looking for traditional foods, head to Bambu for a hamburger, chicken tenders, or pretzel dog. There are several bars around Volcano Bay for adult beverages and kiosks throughout Volcano Bay with drinks and snacks.
What should I know before visiting Universal Volcano Bay?
Volcano Bay is hands-down the best water park we’ve visited. We loved every minute, and we’re sure you will too. If you’re staying on property, know that Cabana Bay is the closest hotel to Volcano Bay, and Loews Sapphire Falls is the second closest. Universal’s Aventura Hotel is scheduled to open in August 2018 and will provide another option in striking distance of Volcano Bay. If you’re not staying on property, parking will be at the Universal Transportation hub near CityWalk. You’ll need to park your car and wait for a shuttle to Volcano Bay.
If you plan on visiting more than one park at Universal Orlando, we would highly recommend investing in a multi park ticket to save some money. Also, if you stay at Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock or Loews Royal Pacific, you’ll automatically receive a Universal Express Unlimited pass per person. Something definitely worth considering if you’re visiting the parks at a busy time.