We finally made it back to Universal Orlando Resort to experience their newest park Volcano Bay, and we can all safely say that this is the best water park we’ve ever been to.
True story (and we don’t usually do water parks).
We all came away impressed.
Universal’s Volcano Bay Florida is the perfect way to relax and recharge in between days at the resort’s other parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, and we soaked up every minute. If you’re looking for thrills, Volcano Bay has you covered, and if want more chill, you’re in luck! The South Pacific vibe and beautifully themed park will put you in a state of tropical zen. If you’re looking for the best Orlando water parks, Volcano Bay is at the top.
Read on to see why you should plan a visit to Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort!
Universal's Volcano Bay Florida
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster
- Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
- Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides and Honu of the Honu ika Moana
- TeAwa The Fealess River
- Punga Racers
- Especially for the little ones - Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef
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Universal’s Volcano Bay Florida – Why It’s a Great Park
For years, water parks have followed a pretty generic script. They typically look like this:
Wave pool = check
Lazy river = check
Splash pad for the little ones = check
Some plunge slides = check
Some tube slides = check
Throw in a tropical theme, beach chairs, and some towels, and you’ve got yourself a water park.
Sure there have been some variations on this, but Universal has re-imagined what a water park experience could be and engineered an experience that is completely awesome and had us wanting to return even before we left the park. From the ground up, Volcano Bay is a game changer. This is not just a Universal water park. This is a third theme park on par with the other two.
It’s pretty obvious that each facet of this park has been carefully considered with a primary goal in mind – making this an experience that’s fun and enjoyable for families. First and foremost, we were extremely impressed with their attention to safety. Height and weight requirements are strictly enforced, and you will see lifeguards on duty throughout the park, even at the lazy river. In addition, you’ll be immersed in the legend of the Waturi people, their customs, and their culture, which gives visitors a unique experience that Universal has created for its guests.
We loved it.
You’ve probably heard about their new virtual line technology – TapuTapu – where your electronic wristband holds your place in line. Universal has made it the centerpiece of a great customer experience, and it’s a unique way for families to fully enjoy the park while minimizing hassles. In fact, we found ourselves wishing that ALL theme parks would incorporate this technology.
The rides here are the best water rides we’ve ever been on also. You’ll be amazed at the Krakatau Aqua Coaster as it zips riders down and BACK UP the hills, weaving its way through the enormous Krakatau Volcano. Not one, but two lazy (and not so lazy) rivers wind their way around the park. Last but not least, drop into America’s tallest plunge slide – the Ko’okiri Body Plunge – for a shot of adrenaline like no other.
We found the food to be excellent, and it has a tropical flair to match the rest of the park. There are lots of unique dishes to choose from, and is a far cry from the hot dogs and crummy pizza slices you find at other (non-Universal) parks.
Whether you like a secluded spot with a book and minimal disruptions, or sharing a sunny beach and playing in the waves, you’re sure to find a place to enjoy in one of Volcano Bay’s distinct villages. If you have a larger group like we did, a cabana rental is a perfect way to enjoy the park and have a home base to relax in during the day.
Premium seating around the park is nice for smaller families and includes two lounge chairs with an umbrella and a personal lock box. If you don’t want to pay extra for a reserved chair, no problem. There are lots of chairs around the park for you to put your stuff while you enjoy a ride, or you can opt for locker rentals as well.
Other nice touches like live music, food and drink attendants, and overall cleanliness of this park make Volcano Bay a winner. Seriously, we didn’t want to leave!
Now that you know why we loved it, let’s dig in to the specifics of planning a perfect trip to Universal Volcano Bay Florida.
- Guests can bring small, soft-sided bags and coolers into the park. No hard-sided coolers are allowed.
Can you bring food and drinks into Volcano Bay?
- Yes. Pre-packaged food and snacks are allowed.
Can you take cameras on the rides at Volcano Bay?
- You cannot take cameras on the slides. You can have cameras such as GoPros in the lazy rivers however.
Does Volcano Bay provide towels?
- Volcano Bay has towels for rent, or you can bring your own. If you rent a cabana, towels are included in the price.
Can we bring our own pool noodles and tubes into Volcano Bay?
- Tubes and noodles are not allowed into the park.
Can I bring a life vest or personal flotation device into Volcano Bay?
- Volcano Bay has several sizes available at the entrances to the rivers that you can use at any time and is what they recommend.
Can I bring a beach umbrella into Volcano Bay?
- Umbrellas are not allowed.
Can I wear flip-flops or water shoes on the rides?
- Most rides don't allow flip-flops or loose items to be worn. Wear your shoes to the ride, and then use one of the complimentary shoe hangers at the entrance to store them while you ride.
Does Volcano Bay have showers?
- Yes, there are showers for use at Volcano Bay.
Planning the perfect trip to Universal’s Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay is a busy place – especially in summer. Like other parks at Universal Orlando, you’ll want to put in a bit of effort ahead of your trip to make sure everything goes smoothly. Your first order of business should be picking your dates and buying your tickets.
Universal Volcano Bay Tickets – what to buy and where to get a good deal
Tickets for Volcano Bay can be purchased as a single-day ticket or as part of a multi-day package including park-to-park versions.
Considering add-ons to your tickets
There are several things that you can add on to your Volcano Bay tickets – namely cabana and chair rentals, and Express Passes.
Cabana Rentals at Volcano Bay
For our visit, we decided to splurge for a cabana, and it was awesome! We visited with a large group so we thought it might be a good idea to split the cost of a cabana with others to help bring the price down and have a nice landing spot for our stuff. Afterward, we all agreed – it was totally worth it and made the day much easier for everyone. Here are some reasons we loved our cabana:
- shade all day long
- no need to hunt down chairs and reserve them
- towels are included so we didn’t need to carry them in with us or rent them.
- a personal locker for keeping valuables secure
- a small refrigerator with bottled waters (also great for saving uneaten food for later)
- a dedicated attendant who can help you with food, drinks, or anything else (like replacing a lost TapuTapu)
- a personal TapuTapu kiosk where you can hop in a virtual line for any ride in the park right from your cabana
- perfect for families or large groups to hang out at mealtimes to avoid crowds at the restaurants
- power outlets to keep your devices charged up for all the selfies you’re gonna take
- tasty snack tray to welcome you when you arrive
We were completely spoiled with this, and we think it’s a splurge worth considering. It was also the perfect place to wait out the inevitable Florida afternoon thunderstorm that kicked up. Once the rain was over, we were ready to hop on our favorite rides while lots of others had left the park.
The cabanas and the attentive service that comes with them is a big reason why Volcano Bay is the one of the best water parks in Florida – or anywhere.
Cabanas come in 6-person single units or family units that accommodate 16 people. They are scattered throughout the park, and can be booked by calling the Universal Orlando reservations line at 1-877-801-9720. Single units start at $199.99 and family units start at $599.99. Pricing is dynamic based on seasons and traffic, so call ahead for exact pricing. Be sure to call at least a month in advance! These do sell out.
If a Volcano Bay cabana isn’t in your budget, there is also premium seating available throughout the park. For $29.99, guests can reserve premium seats which include two padded lounge chairs, an umbrella, and a lock box for keeping small personal items. Attendants also come around to tend to food and drink orders. To book, call reservations at (877) 489-8068. These are definitely not a bad way to go, and it keeps you from having to stake a claim for beach chairs as soon as you arrive at the park.
Express Passes for Volcano Bay
You can purchase Express Passes for rides at Volcano Bay to add to your ticket. They will be loaded onto your TapuTapu during your day in the park and allow you to skip the virtual lines and go directly to the ride and hop in line. There are two versions, a basic and a PLUS pass. Pricing is dynamic based on the season, but the basic starts at $19.99 and the PLUS starts at $39.99.
Here is a list of the rides for each pass:
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster – basic
- Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides – basic
- Taniwha Tubes – basic
- Punga Racers – basic
- Honu ika Moana – basic
- Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides – PLUS
- Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides – PLUS
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge – PLUS
We didn’t purchase these on our visit and were able to ride everything we wanted to. Remember that these passes allow you to skip the virtual lines, but you will still have to stand in a line. Only you can decide if it’s worth it, but for us, we did fine without them.
Other things to do before you arrive
Download and install the Universal Orlando Resort app for your phone
Be sure to install the UOR app on your phone or device before you arrive. Not only does it have maps of the parks, but it will also allow you to add a credit card to your TapuTapu so that you can make purchases throughout the park without carrying cash or cards with you. This is super convenient, so have the app ready to go before you arrive so you don’t waste time in the park with downloading it.
If you have younger children with you during your visit, use the app to quickly check the height requirements for the rides before you check in. This will save you time (and gnashing of teeth) later.
Don’t forget plenty of sunscreen!
Sun Bum is our new favorite. It works great, has a nice scent, and is hypoallergenic and paraben free. Most importantly, it’s made with reef-safe ingredients which is now more important that ever – especially if you’re going to be snorkeling around coral.
Related: Staying someplace other that Universal? Check out our mega-guide to the best hotels in Orlando for families.
Tips for when you arrive at Volcano Bay Orlando
Now that you’ve got your tickets, here’s what you’ll want to do when you arrive at Volcano Bay.
Check in with guest services
As you enter the park (early entry available for guests of Universal Orlando properties), friendly employees will help with any directions you might need. If you have a cabana or premium seating rental, an attendant will guide you there and explain how everything works. We thought this was a nice personal touch and very helpful. You’ll also receive your TapuTapu wristbands, so go ahead and put those on.
Find a good spot for the day and reserve some chairs
If you don’t have a reservation, find some open chairs around the park that you want to claim for the day. This is where it’s helpful to study the map of the park before you arrive to get an idea of where you might want to camp out for the day.
Tip: Head towards the back of the park behind the Krakatau Volcano towards Rainforest Village when you arrive. It will be less crowded and there should be plenty of chairs and lockers to choose from.
Find a locker to rent if you need one
Once you’ve settled on some chairs, head to the nearest pavilion and rent a locker to store your valuables during the day. Lockers come in three sizes and prices are $8, $12, and $15. Each village in Volcano Bay has its own set of lockers, restrooms, and seating, so wherever you decide to sit, there will be lockers nearby.
Pick your first ride and go have fun!
Using your TapuTapu wristband
Each ride has a kiosk (or totem) at the beginning of the line that will display a wait time (or ‘Ride Now’ if there is no wait). If you have early admission into the park, most rides will probably say ‘Ride Now’ on the totem out front, so feel free to hop in line. If not, simply check in to the ‘virtual line’ by tapping your TapuTapu wristband to the kiosk. You’ll be checked in, and when it’s time to ride, your TapuTapu will buzz and have a message telling you it’s time to get in line.
Some rides are obviously more popular than others, so we recommend riding those first. The Krakatau Aqua Coaster, the Ko’kiri Body Plunge, and the Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides are a few to check out first. Be sure you read over those height requirements ahead of time!
Wait times will get long, and you can only be in one virtual line at a time, so we recommend riding early and often. Popular rides will easily have 2-hour wait times or longer by the afternoon.
During the day – what to see and do at Universal’s Volcano Bay
The best rides at Universal Volcano Bay Florida
Ko’okiri Body Plunge
Not for the faint at heart, the Ko’okiri Body Plunge is America’s tallest plunge slide. Once you’ve climbed the oxygen-sucking stairs to the top, you get into a tube leaning at a 70-degree angle where, with the push of a button, the floor will disappear and send you hurtling down the side of a volcano.
It’s only 125 ft. down – no biggie… 🙂
Riders must be 48 inches tall to ride. And be a little crazy (just a little). Carrick and the kids rode this one first, and once was plenty.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster
As far as Volcano Bay rides go, this is arguably the best ride in the park and one that everyone in our group rode several times. We all loved it!
It’s actually an amazing piece of engineering where boats of 4 people zip around Krakatau Volcano meandering up and down hills and valleys. The squeals of happiness are undeniable on this one, and is the signature family ride in Volcano Bay. Whatever you do, don’t miss this one. Ride early and often as the line WILL get enormous for this ride in the afternoon.
Riders must be 42 inches to ride. Riders under 48 inches must have a supervising companion.
Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
These two side-by-side slides seem tame at first, but the secret to the fun is the 6-ft. drop at the end. The kids loved shooting off the end of the slide into the pool below. If you’re watching (or filming), pull up a chair on the beach in front of the slides for perfect shots of the kids flailing er, sliding off the end! If you want the slightly more intense version, choose Ohno. Check out the fun in this video.
Riders must be good swimmers and 48 inches to ride.
Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
These two tube slides begin from the same platform as the Ko’okiri Body Plunge at the top of the Volcano, but instead of going nearly straight down, they twist and turn at a slower speed through the Volcano. The kids loved these and were their favorite rides in the park. Towards the end of the day as people were leaving, they were able to ride them several times in a row with little to no wait at all. It pays to hold out in an afternoon rain shower!
Riders must be 48 inches tall.
Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides and Honu of the Honu ika Moana
These are both large, multi-person raft rides that spin around, slide up high walls, and send you splashing down the flumes to the bottom. They’re great family rides and we enjoyed them all. Best of all? You don’t have to haul a tube up the stairs. Conveyor belts do all the hard work for you, and your tube is waiting for you at the top!
Riders must be 42 inches to ride.
TeAwa The Fearless River
Strap on a life vest (free of charge at the ride entrance) and hop in for a fun ride through the rapids. Wave machines keep the river’s current moving at a good clip, so watch out or you might get a face full of water. There’s nothing lazy about this river – just lots of fun!
Grab a mat and put on your game face – it’s a race to the bottom on these four intertwined chutes. Wait for your light to turn green then jump on your mat as fast as you can to be the first to finish! Bragging rights are on the line…
Last but not least – Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef
Some of the best spots in the park for kids are Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef.
These two spots are clearly for families with smaller children, but they looked like so much fun, I selfishly wanted to try and talk our kids into visiting.
These family-friendly spots go well beyond the average water park splash pad. They have everything a kid could want and more. From small slides and fountains, to interactive squirt guns and and gurgling volcanoes, it’s the perfect place for families to play.
Food in Volcano Bay (it’s way better than you think!)
We’ve long maintained that Universal Orlando Resort as a whole has some of the best food options of any theme park we’ve ever visited. From what we read prior to our visit, we had pretty high expectations for Volcano Bay as well, and it didn’t disappoint. The options are varied, all with an island theme, and we found all of our choices to be delicious.
We personally tried some Coconut Crusted Fried Chicken, Coconut Curry Chicken, and a Longboard Pizza from Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club and were pleasantly surprised.
Curry chicken at a water park? Welcome to Universal.
Later in the day, we snacked on some nachos from the Feasting Frog that were good also.
Lastly, don’t miss a visit to the Koka Poroka Ice Cream Stand where you can order the world-famous Waturi Fusion ice cream. It’s a blend of banana, blue raspberry, orange, and strawberry soft-serve that will make all of your tropical dreams come true.
Where to eat in Volcano Bay
Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club
- Coconut crusted fried chicken, coconut curry chicken, mango BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, and longboard pizzas
The Feasting Frog
- Street tacos, nachos, plantain chips, and poke poke bowls
- Pretzel dogs, burgers, mahi and chicken sandwiches, and fruit salads
- Pizzas, jerk shrimp mac & cheese, hot dogs, and salads
Kunuku Boat Bar or the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar
- Fruity drinks for the adults, sodas for the kids
Koka Poroka Ice Cream Stand
- Waturi Fusion ice cream
Tip: Be sure to set up your account in the Universal Orlando Resort app so that you can pay with your TapuTapu!
For picky eaters, there are plenty of options like cheese pizza, hot dogs, and nachos. Better yet, bring your own and just pack a bag with food and snacks to have any time you’d like.
We love the adventurous menus at Volcano Bay and were impressed by the attention given to food in the park. We think it’s some of the best of any theme park, not just a water park, and Universal is still king of tasty food options.
Our top tips for visiting Universal’s Volcano Bay
1.) Sync up your TapuTapu with your Universal account
Your TapuTapu isn’t just for getting into virtual lines. The TapuTapu wristband also works for meal and souvenir purchases, allows you to get in and out of your rented lockers, and open and shut the lockers in your cabana if you have one. It’s your key to most things in the park, and allows families to spend more time enjoying Volcano Bay and less time waiting for a ride, so maximize it.
2.) Keep an eye out for Easter eggs throughout the park
For something fun to do with your TapuTapu, look for the TapuTapu logo around the park. When you find one, touch your wristband to it and see what happens. Be sure to take a walk on the pathway through the Krakatau Volcano – the walls have a secret message for you! You can also activate water canons along the lazy river, as well as unlock other secrets. Let us know what you find!
3.) Don’t worry about a lost TapuTapu wristband. Just get a new one.
This happened to us, and it’s no big deal. Simply find one of the concierge booths, bring your park tickets with you, and they will program a new one for you. Then, make sure the second one is nice and tight.
4.) Watch for ‘Ride Now’ signs – no TapuTapu needed.
If you see a ‘Ride Now’ sign, kill some time while you’re waiting for another ride you’re in line for and ride one of these – just hop in line and ride.
5.) Consider staying at Cabana Bay or the new Aventura Hotel
Staying at an on-site property at Universal Orlando Resort entitles you to early entry to Volcano Bay, as well as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. However, Cabana Bay and Aventura have the distinct advantage of being within walking distance of the park – no shuttle bus needed. If you stay at any of the other hotels, you will need to catch a bus over to the Volcano Bay. Staying at Cabana Bay or Aventura means you can sleep a little longer and still make it to the gate by 9:00 a.m.
Cabana Bay is the perfect Volcano Bay hotel and is where we stayed for this trip. While not as fancy as some of the other properties, it was perfectly comfortable, has a great pool complex, and was fun for the kids. Most importantly, it’s closest to Volcano Bay.
6.) There is no parking at Volcano Bay, so plan accordingly
Speaking of transportation, there is no parking lot at Volcano Bay. Guests must park at one of the parking garages at CityWalk and then take a shuttle bus to the park. Be sure to plan for this transit time if you want to arrive at park opening.
7.) Express Passes to Volcano Bay are NOT included with your hotel stay
If you are staying at one of the premium hotels at Universal – Hard Rock, Portofino Bay, or the Royal Pacific Resort – Express Passes are included with your stay for Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, but that benefit doesn’t carry over to Volcano Bay. This is a great perk and can save families a ton of money, but keep in mind that you will need to purchase Express Passes for Volcano Bay.
8.) Save some money by taking your own towels, bottled water, and snacks
Volcano Bay allows you to bring these items into the park, and you can even bring a small, soft-sided cooler or bag if you’d like. Water bottles can be refilled around the park for no charge. Also, if you have a refillable mug that you purchased in one of the other parks, bring it along for refills at the Coca-Cola Freestyle stations. Don’t forget the sunscreen either.
9.) When you arrive at the park, head to the back for the best selection of chairs and lockers
Make sure you arrive early to the park – especially if you are staying in a Universal hotel – to take advantage of smaller crowds and good access to the best spots. Avoid the lockers in the front of the park near Wave Village and Waturi Beach and instead go around to the back of Krakatau Volcano to Rainforest Village. It will be less crowded and less stressful finding a place for your stuff.
10.) Take a walk through Krakatau Volcano and chat with Vol, The Spirit of Krakatau
Deep in the Volcano, you can find Vol and he’s a chatty fellow it turns out. Little ones will love striking up a conversation with Vol and interacting with him. See if you can find him!
11.) Get your money’s worth – stay until the park closes
Volcano Bay is open year round typically from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and there are two great reasons to make an entire day of it. You can almost guarantee that there will be an afternoon thunderstorm in summertime. It’s Florida, after all, and when this happens, the crowds head for the turnstiles. If you have a place to keep things dry (easy with premium seating or a cabana), stick it out. When the storm passes, you’ll likely be able to ride whatever you want and the lines will be much shorter.
The second reason to stay late is that it’s a beautiful park at sunset, and it takes on a new feel with the soft glow of the setting sun and fewer crowds. It feels more like a South Pacific escape.
If you’ve been going nonstop all over Universal, you will finally feel like you’re on vacation.
The kids especially loved our last few hours in the park. They got to finish up riding everything they wanted to ride, and we also got some great photos. Grab yourself a drink and enjoy.
Quick Facts about Universal’s Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay Opening Hours: Opens at 10:00 a.m. Guests of Universal hotels can enter at 9:00 a.m. The park typically closes at 9:00 p.m.
Volcano Bay Tickets: Check prices for discount tickets here. Volcano Bay prices for single-day tickets start at $70 for adults and $65 for kids under 10. Discounts are given for extra days, Florida residents, or as part of a package.
Getting to Volcano Bay theme park: If you are driving your own vehicle to the parks, you will park in the parking garage near Universal CityWalk and take a shuttle bus from there to Volcano Bay.
Getting around Universal Orlando Resort: Buses run between the parks and hotels frequently. If you are staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, Sapphire Falls, Royal Pacific, or Portofino Bay, can may also take the complimentary boats to and from CityWalk.
The Hard Rock Hotel is the closest to Universal Studios and is just a short walk. Cabana Bay is the closest to Volcano Bay.
Enjoy your South Pacific getaway!
Volcano Bay is clearly one of the best water parks in Orlando Florida. We truly felt like this was an excellent park, and we’d go back in a second. From its TapuTapu technology to the tropical details found all over the park, it’s hard to beat. We hope that this guide can help you plan an awesome family vacation to one of our favorite places.
Looking for other things to do in and around Orlando during your visit? Check these out!
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