Updated: Jan 15
If you are in the market for a Polynesian themed water park get- a- way, plan this day asap. Universal Studio's does an amazing job with creating the experience. Once you step off the shuttle you enter a new world for the day. Music. Bongos. Tropical plants and décor. Heated water. A plan for navigating the crowd. They do provide all the environmental provisions to give you a fun-cation!
This guide will help you come prepared for your excursion as it is costly and time flies when you are having fun! I know you want to get the most out of your day and not wander around wondering what to do…. With all the Polynesian appeal, the names of the attractions can be confusing. We felt like we were speaking a foreign language, saying them out loud will help with the processing of it all. Plus, open hours vary but tend to be not quite long enough to squeeze it all in....
The centerpiece of Volcano Bay, Krakatau (kra-kuh-TAU), stands 200 feet above the park. I remember when this used to be our favorite water park, Wet N Wild, and I realize what they’ve done with the place it is certainly impressive. The waterpark history folklore says that the native islanders who discovered Volcano Bay, the Waturi, traveled the ocean, in search of the Kunuku. This mythical fish guided the Waturi to Volcano Bay. Upon finding this island paradise, the Waturi made it their home, adding in all kinds of slides and experiences used to celebrate the love of water. It is easy to get caught up in the story, and become a part of the tale…
Did you buy your tickets on line already?
Ok let's go then....
Tickets: You will see many options for tickets to be purchased along with other Universal parks, or you can purchase single day passes for this park in itself.
Also, options for Annual Passes, and Florida Resident Passes are available. Check the website for the most up to date offers:
* Depending on the time of year it is not uncommon to just want a fun water theme park day!!!
First: Arrival: There are several steps just to get through the gate.
To get into the water park you enter through the same parking garage as all Universal guests.
Wait in the line of cars to pay for parking, and follow the line into the parking garage. You then proceed through security, and the metal detector, allowing all things you are bringing in to be scanned through the X ray machine. Then you load into the shuttle. Yes, there’s a shuttle, it's well marked and takes you right to the park entrance.
Once you are in….. Choose your spot for the day! Mark your chairs with towels, or clothes, this may sound simple but.... you want to consider sun/ shade/ and what you want to be close to as a hub.
Second: Seating/ Premium Seating
Ok, how much time will you be sitting? Picking a spot is the FIRST thing you need to do as you are in. Look over a map and decide where your center will be for the day. This is a big park, very spread out and you don’t want to position yourself inconveniently.
There are plenty of free seats. And lots of umbrellas around to offer a little shade. There are a few pavilion type of areas too. BUT shaded spaces surely go quickly! More reason to get there early.
If you have younger children, you might want to sit around the tadpole-friendly, smaller Puka Uli Lagoon pool. Yellow shaded seats are near the wave pool. These padded lounge chairs have an adjustable umbrella for shade.
If you do need a shaded space or more of a private hub there are upgrades available.
*Premium seating If you take advantage of this upgrade, you can book your TapuTapu reservations from the comfort of their own seat. These seats come with a storage lock box for valuables, and have access to wait service who can serve you food and drinks. Premium seating pricing starts at $49.99 per day (excluding tax) and fluctuate based on the time of year. The shaded area is not adjustable.
*Cabanas are more than cool seating, they can serve as a private family suite! Looking like wooded tree houses and blending with the surroundings, cabanas encircle the volcano’s out skirts. There is less foot traffic and more seclusion in these areas, and come with choices of one- or two-story cabanas. Included are padded loungers, a small fridge, complimentary water and snacks. Want the VIP concierge service? No problem. You will also have access to special food and drink items delivered directly to your cabana, all while you enjoy access to all of the amazing Volcano Bay water rides. Prices vary, greatly.
** Determine how much time you plan to be in one spot, as the day goes quickly and there is so much to do!!!
If you want the FREE and Shaded area, look for these... there aren't many!
For your convenience:
*You may rent lockers
*You may rent towels as well
Do you need more time?>>>>
Volcano Bay is located directly across from the Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Sapphire Falls Resort, and a quick walk to either is pretty cool. By staying on Universal property, you are granted Early Park Admission to the theme parks. Entering an entire hour before incoming guests are able to allows a few benefits – picking a great shady spot for the day, no waits for bigger better rides, and a full day adventure. You can see how much we enjoyed staying at Cabana Bay Here, on a separate excursion.
Ok: I’m all set up for fun… Where do I go now?
Play is the way we learn how to live!
This 27 acre park is set up into 3 villages: The Wave Village. The Rain Forest Village. The River Village.
Wave Village: The Beach in front of the Volcano.
Contains Waturi Beach - The park's main wave pool, and The Reef- A calmer pool with fewer waves. The lagoon swimming area and serpentine body slides are also part of this village.
The River Village is more your family area and younger child zone. These include:
Tot Tike Reef, Runamukka Reef, Honu and Ika Moana raft rides, and the Kopiko Wai Winding River.
The Rain Forest Village is your thrill ride zone. You’ll find Maku, Puihi, Taniwa Tubes, and TeAwa The Fearless River (aka the crazy river, not to be confused with the lazy river).
Each Village has multiple rides which overlap / connect. Let's talk about those...
Volcano Bay Rides:
1. Krakatau Aqua Coaster – twist and turn through the heart of the volcano in this 4-person ride. *Don’t miss this. Magnetically driven it “defies physics” and lifts your spirits. Literally.
2. Ko’okiri Body Plunge – Cross your arms over your chest, plunge 125 feet to the water below! Single-rider
3. Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides – Located at the Volcano, twin trap doors release riders at the same time to ride down clear, intertwined tubes. Single-rider
4. Punga Racers – Ride a manta ray mat down under-water sea caves. Single-rider
5. Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides – The Ohyah (green) side plunges riders 4-feet into the water below, and the Ohno slide (purple) drops from 6 feet above the water. Single-rider
6. TeAwa The Fearless River – Buckle on your life vest and ride the river rapids, multiple places to get on and off, this isn’t the lazy river, it’s the "crazy" river! Single-rider
7. Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides – You get to choose your raft adventure on the Maku Puihi rafts! Puihi gives you the sensation of zero-gravity while the Maku slides you around bowl- life forms. Multi-rider
8. Taniwha Tubes – There are four tracks to choose from on the Taniwha tubes. Single-rider
9. Kopiko Wai Winding River – Aka the Lazy River, Enjoy a leisurely tube ride through lush, tropical landscaping, very scenic. Individual tube
10. Honu ika Moana – One name, but two distinct multi-passenger raft slides. The Green slide winds and washes you down while the blue slide is like the toilet bowl. Multi-rider
11.Waturi Beach – This wave pool at the foot of the Krakatau volcano. Group fun
12. Runamukka Reef – This is a children’s play area that features bubbling geysers, slides, dump cups, and more. Group fun
13. Tot Tiki Reef – Tot Tiki Reef is a place for toddlers to play, swim and climb. Has sliders and sprayers and walk into pools. Group fun
*If you have a fear of heights AND claustrophobia, the serpentine slides and the body plunge are NOT for you. Between the capsule and the tightness of the enclosure it may not work for everyone. These are some serious rides for the thrill seeker!
As the park gets full, lines get longer, virtually or physically. Ride now means walk in and wait, not really “now”.
These water rides have the longest queues because fewer people can go on them at once. These include the Volcano water slides:
Single Rider Attractions:
Ko’okiri Body Plunge
Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides (surprisingly smooth slides)
Krakatau Aqua Coaster
Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
Honu ika Moana
Forth: Navigating : Ok Let’s Talk about the virtual ride que…..
TapTu Ride – Aka tapu tapu - when entering the water park you are given a wrist watch looking device, this will help navigate your day. This little piece of technology can serve as a wallet and also links in with the universal photo op system. It’s impressive but here’s what you need to know….
TapTu Ride Virtual Line: Near the entrance of all water slides there are a bunch of screens showing the virtual wait time for that ride (If there is no wait the screen will say Ride Now). By tapping the device to the screen and you will be added to the virtual queue. TapuTapu tracks how much time until it's your turn. When it is your time to ride your wristband will shake and light up. Once you walk over to the gate, they let you in.
Points to know:
*You can only be in one virtual queue at a time. If you attempt to add another, it replaces the original ride you signed up for. Think of this as being in two places at one time instead of three. I can be virtually waiting for a ride while hanging in the lazy river or eating some food, but not while standing in another line.
*You have to walk to the rides to add it to your queue, (unless you upgrade to premium seating or cabana) which can make for a lot of walking around. It also forces you to prioritize what you will ride and when. Obviously get in queue for the best rides first, like aqua coaster and Hono Ika Moana. Many rides will always have a virtual que. As the day goes on it will say “ride full” meaning, no times remain.
*It sometimes malfunctions. The people at the rides were helpful if the times went wonky. For some in our party the time would suddenly increase rather than decreasing. Also, the people are helpful. It was our time to ride, and 6/7 of us were there and one was missing. We waited (and waited) while our friend was lost round the park. There is no “you missed your time” drama.
Don't want to carry your bank card or cash into the park? The TapuTu Pay system can also act as your wallet for the day if you create a Universal account in the app and add all your family members tickets. You also have to add your credit card information. Each family member will get a pin and they are able to pay for items with the wrist band. This was not a feature I wanted to take advantage of.
Tapu Tapu can serve as your selfie stick! Use the button for clicking photos. You can view/ purchase these as your wristband automatically uploads them to your account. Even if you don’t purchase anything, you can still have fun taking the photos!
The photo ops are on your right as you first enter the park, across the way from Kohola Reef Restaurant, and near the Honu ika Moana ride entrance.
Does my small child need one? Yes - they are also used for spraying water out of fountains! How fun to watch how this works....
Tapu Lockers - Knowing how often water park guests lose locker keys and codes, Universal included locker management in the TapuTapu wristband. By tapping the sensor of the section your locker’s in, your locker will swing open. Wal~lah – it’s like magic. You can link the same locker to four different wristbands. Lockers range in price but seemed to run apx. $9.00. you can link the same locker to four different wristbands. This may be especially helpful if it rains.
Do you need a locker? No. We brought in our beach bag full of towels. As we hung them over all of our claimed chairs, we put our shoes underneath and any clothing we removed went into the beach bag. This is the water park language. Also pack: sunscreen, hair ties/ brush, any items you need for a full busy day.
Fifth: How about food options?
There are 6 places to eat/ drink if you want to take advantage of the theme park options.
They are high priced! My son did want a burger and we had a hard time tracking one down... They each have a specific but limited menu. Your options are (this is just the gist not the entire menu):
Kohola Reef Restaurant: Mango BBQ Pulled Pork, Coconut Crusted Fried Chicken
Dancing Dragons Boat Bar: tropical cocktails and frozen drinks
Bambu: Burger, Mahi Sandwich
Whakawaiwai Eats: Jerk Shrimp Mac and Cheese, Tropical Baby Greens Salads, Pretzel Dogs
Kunuku Boat Bar: frozen drinks, specialty cocktails
The Feasting Frog: tacos, loaded nachos
Sixth: But I am still not sure about...
Rainy Days.... Florida is known for them....
Rainy day at the water park? Well you are going to get wet anyway so why not? If you need to run for cover, why not jump in one of the pools or rivers to make the most of it. Unless of course there is lightning. If it does rain you can throw your towels/ clothes in a locker, or dry them when the sun comes back out.
*One of our days there it rained on and off (quite hard for short periods of time but luckily no lightning. We did hang all our clothes and towels and they all dried with the heat and sun later.
We had a bag in the car of
Water shoes? Most rides will allow you on with water shoes. As my oldest discovered, crocs float. He wore his in the lazy river and was very comfortable with his foot wear helping him out. He hates scraping his feet or running on the hot pavement.
Camera/ Phones?>>> Well not on the rides. If the attendants see you with a camera (even a water camera safely secured to your wrist) they will ask you to go secure your personal items on rides. No lose items may go in your hands. However, I hung a waterproof case around my neck and was able to ride with my phone. ✔
Pack a Soft Cooler! Food here is overpriced. If you are into that sort of thing, go for it. But we prefer to avoid the wait times and time away from the attractions. Instead, splurge for dinner in Orlando at any number of places, even in City Walk there are some awesome options. But lunch, snacks, and drinks we carried in with us. We walked right through with our yeti cups happily, saving a fortune. They will not permit glass, or a cooler on wheels. No one measured our coolers.
The most important thing to know:
These rides are FUN.
We absolutely laughed, screamed, played and made new memories. Family fun is a necessity to remind us of what we are doing here, enjoying being alive and remembering to stop working and just enjoy the time we have together. For me, it's always easiest to do this when we are outside of our house! I am less tempted to cook, clean, or start a project when I am out in paradise.
Our Family Favorites:
We ALL agreed the Krakatau Aqua Coaster was #1. (7 of us who went together, who don't agree unanimously on much). The ride was exciting! You sit in a 4 person canoe and magnetically move through the ride like magic. We were air borne a few times. So much laughter. We could have ridden this over and over.
For 2nd favorite ride we were split between TeAwa The Fearless River and Honu, the big blue ride attached to the Ika Moana. We agreed the Fearless River (aka Crazy river) was just a great thing and loved the excitement of being whisked through the trail.
We also agreed the atmosphere was spot on. Total win for a vacation day. They created a scene that surrounds and engulfs it's visitors.
Our Tips & Hacks for the best day:
*Plan a full day here
*Go with a patient and explorative mindset.
*Get there before they open, earlier than you think you need to - the process of getting in the gate takes an hour on a typical day.
*Get seats with some shade (umbrella or tiki pavilion will also keep you dry if it rains)
*Sit in a central location
*Bring a soft sided cooler, pack your snacks and sandwiches
*Bring refillable water cups
*Bring your own towels
*Don't forget the sunscreen and sun hat/ visor!
*Wear crocs in the water or water shoes (if you like)
*Have an order of the rides you want to get in the virtual queue for
*Don't waste time in-between virtual lines, get to the next ride you want to queue!
*While waiting, go on the ride now options
*If your tapu tapu is not properly counting down, let the ride attendant know
*Walk behind the waterfall <3
*When in doubt, winding river!
Don't miss the inside of the volcano! Walk out on the bridge.
Cons: The 10 - 6 park hours are simply not enough to leave feeling like you've accomplished all you wanted to. Getting in is slow. The ride queue kind of navigates the day. Although it's saving you time, it's still not enough time... The Honu and Ika Moana are not well advertised. We didn't know they were separate line queues and ran out of day to do both sides.
Pros: The people inside of the park were extremely helpful. They gave suggestions and directions ALL day with enthusiasm. Life guards were dancing along to the music. The people in the wave pool clap when the count down start - it's just a happy place. Bathrooms are clean. Walkways are clean. The water is clean. the water is heated! Yeeeesssss. Calgon take me away!! And the rides are seriously FUN. The slides weren't rackety, and they have lifts to carry most of the rafts, you don't lug them up yourself.
Is it worth the price??
While prices vary based on the day, we paid $75 +tax each to enter. $27.00 to park.
You know I travel with a crew and I'm selective how I spent my hard earned money. I am a teacher. It was my son's 17th birthday celebration, and he picked the place. In the past we've done Ifly, Medieval Times, Islands of Adventure and even Hollywood Studios for birthdays. I usually shop around for a great deal through groupon or another site.
But all in all, YES. This day was worth the money. There is a lot to do! And it's well presented.
I think they feel like if you can't experience it all you'll come back again soon to keep it going. This is not the case as a local with a big family and a small budget.
Also, I think Universal should partner with local schools and community businesses to give more resident discounts. I feel they should increase their accessibility to the residents. Wet and Wild used to!
Express passes are available for an additional price. On busy days this may be a good idea, however, prices vary. Premier Hotels offer free Express passes, including – Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Royal Pacific Resort – staying here you will receive complimentary unlimited Express access each day of your visit, including your check-in and check-out dates. These can be handy on those busier days if you are already planning on a hotel stay.
All Universal resorts offer early admission, and guests may enter up to an hour early. This is a great time saver.
Affordabilty Meter: 5/10
On a scale of 1-10 how affordable is this day?
With a 1 being unaffordable, and a 10 being free, I rate this day a 5.
Variables: How far did you travel to get there/ food & drink choices/ Ways to budget
*I do not know of a money saving hack to really experience this day outside of paying the sticker price.
Entrance fees are steep, extras can add up, and this paradise charges for beauty and convenience! While they provide a unique and beautiful day, it is far from a budget adventure. The bad weather policy is troubling, considering such unpredictable storms in Florida that pop up. If they had a family pricing plan or better resident deal, I'd feel better. They don't have to do this because even with the price they charge, they fill up. All in all, it's a great time to be had!
Ways to save: Bring one vehicle, parking is per car not per person. Definitely pack that soft sided cooler! Bring your own water cannister, with ice!
After our fun family day we always discuss on the ride home all of our favorites.
On this ride home we compared Aquatica to Volcano Bay. Which do you think is the better water park? As Long Time Aquatica goers we had a lot of thoughts about this.
No matter where your travels take you, enjoy the journey!
Don't forget good music in the car and car snacks.
Don't forget to breathe and be present.
Don't forget to let go of all the things you can't control.
And most importantly, make the memories count.
Thank you for enjoying the journey with us! Where ever your travels take you, may you be strong, healthy and happy to experience the path you are on!
Want to see more adventure ideas?
Disney Anyone? Hollywood Studios was an amazing birthday gift to my Joshua turning 18. He and his older brother made their own light sabers while his youngest brother and I were observers. EXCELLENT experience!
Or if you'd like a water day away from the beach and away from your theme park craze, try Epperson Lagoon. This Oasis 40 minutes North of Tampa may be the day of tranquility and fun you need.
Please leave your comments below, we'd love to hear your experience! Thank you :-)
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A note from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip. I hope this makes it easier for your planning process.
Thank you for stopping by today! Please share your thoughts and experiences, we are all on this journey to live and love together. I welcome your travel tips & tricks :-)
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