Have you heard about Volcano Bay? It's the new water park at Universal Orlando Resort.
My family had the opportunity to spend time at Volcano Bay when we visited Universal last October. It was by far the most thrilling water park we have ever visited. Universal has introduced some innovative ideas to keep you out of long lines at Volcano Bay. They are still working out the bugs, but our day went pretty smoothly.
My kids are older (ages 10 and 13) and our family was all about the big slides and activities. Here's our experience from Volcano Bay.
You can visit Volcano Bay as a stand-alone park or bundle it with admission to Universal's other parks – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. On it's own, Volcano Bay is the least expensive of the three parks. It has the fewest attractions, but there is plenty there to fill your day.
Most families will want to bundle Volcano Bay in a multi-park, multi-day ticket. Read to the end of this post to get my tips for saving money on Universal Orlando tickets. Universal Orlando provided my family with 3-Park-2-Day Tickets, plus Express Pass Unlimited.
Two days was the time we had, so we made it work. However, I do not recommend visiting three major theme parks in two days. You will probably want 3 or more full days to visit all three Universal Orlando parks and CityWalk.
Express Pass Unlimited made it possible for us to cover three parks in two days. It allowed us to wait in shorter lines for every ride in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure – usually 15 minutes or less for top rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon. At the time of our visit, Express Pass could not be used at Volcano Bay. Read my full review of Universal Orlando's Express Pass HERE.
Unlike Universal's other two Orlando parks, Volcano Bay is not within walking distance of the parking lot. You'll take a shuttle from the pickup/drop off area. We arrived before Volcano Bay opened and found that the shuttle line grows quickly. I recommend that you arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens if you want to be on the first shuttle bus.
Guests of Universal Orlando Resort's on-site hotels can take a shuttle from their hotel directly to the private entrance at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Cabana Bay is one of Universal's newer and most affordable resorts for families.
Every Volcano Bay visitor will receive a waterproof TapuTapu digital wristband at the park entrance. Ideally, TapuTapu will hold your place in line, open your locker and make food and souvenir purchases while your wallet is safely locked away. Early reviews of TapuTapu were brutal, but it worked pretty well on the October day we visited.
To maximize TapuTapu, download the official Universal Orlando Resort app before you arrive at Volcano Bay. Set up your profile and credit card information in advance so all you have to do when you arrive at Volcano Bay is link all your family's TapuTapu wristbands to your account.
Once you're settled, head to your first attraction, which should probably be Krakatau Aqua Coaster. Each person touches their TapuTapu at kiosks near the ride entrance. An approximate wait time will appear on your TapuTapu. You go and enjoy other activities instead of standing in a long line. When it buzzes, you can join the line at your leisure. We found lines to be about 15-20 minutes long once our TapuTapu buzzed.
TapuTapu is not a timer. Just because it says 50 minutes doesn't mean you'll get in line in exactly 50 minutes. Sometimes the wait was longer and sometimes it was shorter, depending on how fast the line actually moved. You can use TapuTapu for one attraction at a time.
Lockers, Towels and Lounge Chairs
Once inside, you'll want to get your locker and perhaps set up a base. Our first instinct was to grab four lounge chairs together on Waturi Beach. We did that, and then never sat in them. We were too busy playing in the water.
If I had spent time in a lounge chair that day, I would have preferred one of the smaller seating areas away from the very crowded Waturi Beach. You'll find lounge chairs all over Volcano Bay.
Towels are not provided. You can bring your own or rent them at Volcano Bay. We planned to rent towels, but never got around to it and never needed them. The day was warm and we were constantly moving from attraction to attraction. We didn't spend time in the sand, so there was not much to brush or dry off at the end of the day.
You will probably want to rent a locker to secure your wallet, electronics, change of clothes and any other personal items. Lockers are available in various sizes in four locations inside Volcano Bay. The lockers nearest the entrance are immediately to your left.
Cabanas and premium seating are available for an additional charge. Cabanas include padded lounge chairs, a small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, complimentary fruit and snack basket, towel and locker service, plus concierge service with an exclusive menu of food and drink delivered directly to the cabana.
Wow, that was a lot of information to get you through your first fifteen minutes at Volcano Bay! Hopefully, it sets you up for success so you can get right to enjoying the park's world class slides and water fun. Volcano Bay is built in a circle around the volcano and Waturi Beach. Most of the big slides are in the back half of the park.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster will be the first priority for many. Use TapuTapu as soon as you can – possibly before you get a locker and set up your base. Krakatau is unlike any water slide we've ever seen. It's not thrilling on the scale of The Hulk or Rip Ride Rockit, but considering you're in a four-person raft with no seat belt, those ups and downs through the volcano are pretty thrilling.
Honu ika Moana is a pair of multi-rider water slides that our family loved. ika Moana is the whale and it's best for younger kids and less adventurous souls. Honu is the turtle slide with the big blue banks that scared me silly. It was my favorite slide.
My teen daughter tried the Ko'okiri Body Plunge. This one drops you through a trap door at a 70-degree angle. It's fast and not for the faint of heart. I watched a lot of teens and 20-somethings come off this slide with expressions of shock and awe. My daughter was a little banged up, but has no regrets.
Volcano Bay has two lazy rivers – one fast and one slow. We spent a lot of time in TeAwa, The Fearless River while we waited for our TapuTapus to buzz. Just wade in and grab the first empty tube that comes by.
There are a number of other slides and water attractions at Volcano Bay. Less popular slides will not require you to use TapuTapu when lines are short. Learn more about all of Volcano Bay's attractions at www.universalorlando.com.
There are two play zones for children, and as my older kids quickly learned, age and height limits are enforced. We weren't able to try them, but they look like fun places for younger kids to play.
Volcano Bay has several restaurants, snack carts and bars inside the park. We chose the quick-service Whakawaiwai Eats where we found a nice variety of menu items. I had the Island Chicken Salad. My husband had Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese. My kids had their usuals – hot dog and plain mac and cheese. Pizza was also available. We were hungry after a couple of hours of water play, and the food was good.
There were no kids meals on the menu. Entrees were large enough for those with small appetites to share. Food lines get long at lunch time, so you may want to eat early or late to avoid a long wait.
Save on tickets
Universal Orlando Resort has three major theme parks, plus CityWalk. There is enough on-site entertainment to fill 3-5 days, and multi-day tickets get less expensive per day with every day you add. There is only about $10 difference between a 4-Day ticket and a 5-Day ticket.
For my family, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World are separate vacations because there is just too much to do at both. Our money goes farther when we stick to just one per trip.
Another way to save money on Universal Orlando tickets is to buy from my partner, Get Away Today Vacations. Get Away Today sells discounted tickets for Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. They are a full-service agency with Orlando experts that can also help you book the perfect vacation for your family.
There are lots of ticket options, read the fine print to make sure you get the ticket you want. Buy a 3-Park ticket if you want to visit Volcano Bay. Get Park-to-Park tickets if you want to ride the Hogwarts Express.
Click the button below to check ticket prices and options at Get Away Today.
My family had a fun day at Volcano Bay! The water attractions were the perfect complement to Florida's warm sunshine. My teen daughter says it was one of her favorite parts of an action-packed Orlando vacation.
Disclosure: Universal Studios Orlando provided my family with complimentary park tickets for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.