Vacations shouldn’t be stressful but sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation. Universal’s Volcano Bay is the perfect place for a break from your typical theme park routine. In this guide we’ll talk about all the ways to maximize the fun and minimize the stress during your day at Universal’s Volcano Bay.
*Due to COVID-19, Universal’s Volcano Bay is currently operating at reduced capacity and offerings discussed in this post may not be available and are subject to change*
Before You Get To The Park
Universal offers many different ticket options for all lengths of stays, but it is very important to ensure your ticket is valid at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Tickets must either be 1-Day Volcano Bay tickets or a 3-Park ticket or annual pass. Universal often offers discounted tickets on their website that are not offered in person. I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance for a few reasons: a possibly discounted ticket, not having to wait in line to purchase or pick up your tickets at the park entrance, and the ability to have mobile tickets so you can’t lose them or mix them up (and a bonus for the Volcano Bay, they can’t get wet!).
Consider Purchasing Cabanas/Premium Seating
Universal’s Volcano Bay has a lot of opportunities for seating, especially on Waturi Beach, but if you’re looking for a guaranteed spot to sit as well as other perks like a locker or access to a server and a private menu, it might be worth it to purchase a Cabana or a Premium Seat.
Cabanas seat up to 6 people (Family Cabanas seat up to 16) and have a mini fridge with bottles of water, towels, a locker and access to a server with an exclusive menu offered only to Cabana guests. You also get a complimentary fruit and snack basket and the ability to join a virtual line for an attraction right from your cabana which is great on busy days or days when you just want to relax. I highly recommend you book in advance as Cabanas typically sell out on busy days.
If the price of a Cabana is out of your range but you’d still like some of the perks, a Premium Seat is a great solution. With 2 padded lounge chairs and an “turtle shell” style cover, Premium Seats can be reserved for up to 4 people to share. A locker is housed between the seats and you also get access to an exclusive menu and a server. I recommend booking in advance during busier seasons.
Both Cabanas and Premium seats can be purchased in advance or at the park as availability permits.
Pack Your Park Bag
While it might be possible to enter a “dry park” with little to nothing in your bag, that all changes when you’re heading to Volcano Bay. You’ll definitely want to bring a beach towel (or you can rent one for the day for $5 from the Concierge Huts) to dry off and be sure to remember sunscreen. There are 3 restaurants and several snack stands inside Volcano Bay, but you are allowed to bring in snacks and bottled drinks (no glass or alcohol). I also like to bring a waterproof bag to keep my phone dry.
Orlando is known for its hot summers, and there’s no escaping hot concrete when you’re walking around barefoot so I recommend bringing sandals (to be left in a designated area at the entrance of each slide) or water shoes (allowed on most rides) to walk around the park. If you’re one to shower off before leaving the park, Volcano Bay provides showers with soap dispensers in each bathroom but you’re also welcome to bring your own shower items.
Explore the Park Map
Everyone visits the theme parks in different ways and what might be someone’s top thrill ride could be another person’s least favorite. I highly recommend looking at the map before arriving at Volcano Bay. Not only will this get you excited for all the park has to offer, but it will also give you a head start on knowing where to go throughout your day.
If visiting on a busy day, note that attractions such as Krakatau Aqua Coaster, Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, Ko’okiri Body Plunge, Oh Yah & Oh No Drop Slides, and Honu ika Moana are the most popular attractions and will have the longest lines. Attractions that typically have short or non-existent lines are Maku Puihi Round Raft Slides, Taniwha Tubes, and Punga Racers.
Check the Weather
This seems like a no-brainer, but make sure the weather is going to be compatible for a water park on the day you choose to visit. While it typically rains every afternoon in the summer, those storms move on quickly and take maybe an hour out of your park day. An all day storm or a cold day can throw a wrench in your plans if you’re not prepared for it. Universal does not give refunds based on weather so be sure to check it before entering the park.
Once You Arrive
Consider Express Passes
While Express Passes are very popular at the “dry parks” (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure), they’re less common at Universal’s Volcano Bay due to the virtual line system. If you’re visiting during the summer or spring break, Volcano Bay Express Passes might be worth the purchase. An important difference to note though is Volcano Bay only offers one-time Express Passes (valid at 8 attractions) as opposed to Unlimited Express. Prices start at $19.99 but increase during the busier seasons. Universal also offers a Universal Express Plus Pass (still one-time use) for Volcano Bay starting at $39.99 valid at 10 attractions. Express Passes can be purchased outside the park from a Pass Sales Team Member or inside the park at any of the 3 Concierge Huts. I recommend waiting to purchase Volcano Bay Express Passes until you are physically in the park as they aren’t always necessary.
Choose Your Seat/Rent a Locker
When first entering Volcano Bay, you’ll be greeted with the sight of Krakatau the Volcano looming over Waturi Beach. Once you recover from quite possibly the coolest theme park icon reveal ever, you’ll start to notice the lounge chairs placed throughout the sand. While it is tempting to pick the first chairs you see, I highly recommend choosing a locker first and then choosing a place to sit. Volcano Bay offers 4 locker stations throughout the park that also house the restrooms and shower areas. The locker station at the front of the park is always busiest, with the other 3 being significantly quieter. Lockers are offered in three sizes: small, medium, and large and are paid for at the locker station. Personal preference will determine if you want to lock up just wallets, keys, and phones or put your entire bag in the locker. Once you’ve purchased a locker you’ll have unlimited access to it all day so you’ll want it to be close to your seat. I personally head to the back of the park near Taniwha Tubes or Honu ika Moana to sit because it is easier to find an empty chair and is quieter overall.
Set Up Your TapuTapu
When you first enter the park, a Team Member will scan your ticket and issue you a TapuTapu to use for the day. These water-proof digital wristbands are essential to experiencing Volcano Bay. Once in the park, your TapuTapu will be linked to your ticket and can be used to open your locker, reserve your spot in a virtual line, and even purchase items if you’ve set up a credit card in your Universal wallet on the app. If you lose your TapuTapu, simply bring your ticket to any Concierge Team Member and they will issue you a new one.
Tap Into Your First Ride
Volcano Bay operates completely through a virtual line system, meaning there are no physical lines to stand in for hours. However, many guests confuse the virtual line with having no lines at all. When you use your TapuTapu to reserve a place in line, it gives you the freedom to spend the majority of your wait time enjoying the rest of the park. For example, if Krakatau Aqua Coaster (the most popular ride in the park) is posting a 60 minute wait time, you’ll be able to “tap in” to the virtual line with your TapuTapu and then explore the rest of the park while you wait. Once your TapuTapu screen says “Return Anytime” or “Ride Now” you’ll join a short 5-10 minute physical line before riding.
Something many Guests either don’t know or don’t remember during their day is the ability to “hack” the TapuTapu system to make your day as efficient as possible. With the virtual line, you are only able to be “tapped in” to one attraction at a time, however, any attractions that say “Ride Now” are available for you to ride even while waiting in a virtual line. Simply walk up to the entrance of the “Ride Now” slide and use your TapuTapu to enter. This will keep you in line for your original slide but allow you to ride other slides while you wait.
If you’re visiting on a busier day and there aren’t many rides with a “Ride Now” status, keep in mind you do not need a return time for Kopiko Wai Winding River, TeAwa the Fearless River, Waturi Beach, or The Reef. There are also two children’s splash pads (geared towards children under 54”)- Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef – that offer slides and play areas without a virtual line.
Another great “hack” I always recommend is to always have myself in a virtual line. Heading to lunch? Tap into a slide before sitting down so it’s time to ride when you’re finished eating. Want to snooze in your lounge chair or float along the lazy river? Tap into a slide and let your TapuTapu wait for you while you relax. If you change your mind and don’t want to ride, there’s no penalty for not riding and you can easily swap to a different slide’s virtual line. Your TapuTapu will also hold your “Ride Anytime” status for roughly an hour after your return time.
Mobile Order Meals
After utilizing the virtual queue, it’s not easy to go back to standing in long lines to order a meal. Luckily, Volcano Bay offers Mobile Ordering at 4 locations throughout the park. Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club has the largest menu with offerings such as pizza, burgers, chicken, and sushi. The Feasting Frog serves tacos and nachos while Bambu Kitchen serves lighter options such as sandwiches and salads. Whakawaiwai Eats serves hot dogs, mac and cheese, and pizza. All of these locations are counter service and have seating in close proximity to the restaurant. You are also able to use your Quick Service Dining Plan at any of the restaurants as well as refill your Coke Freestyle Cup throughout the park.
While not available for mobile ordering, there are also several snack stands throughout the park offering items ranging from soft pretzels and Dippin’ Dots to Icees and pastries. Volcano Bay also has two full service bars- Dancing Dragons Boat Bar and Kunuku Boat Bar– that offer cocktails, mixed drinks, and even a beer brewed exclusively for the park called Volcano Blossom.
Explore the Park
If you’re waiting for your lunch to settle or just want a break from the slides, there are lots of places to explore at Volcano Bay. Scattered throughout the park are Tap-To-Snap selfie stations where you can use your TapuTapu to collect pictures and review them for purchase at the end of the day. Also scattered throughout the park are glowing Tap-To-Play icons that can only be activated by your TapuTapu. These icons may spray water on unassuming Guests in the lazy river or bring a seemingly empty wall to life with lights and sounds. Inside the heart of the Krakatau Volcano is Vol The Spirit of Krakatau– an interactive experience with lights, sounds, and lots of water jets. Vol can tell stories about the creation of Volcano Bay, ask you about your day, and even play games with you. For me personally, no trip to Volcano Bay is complete until I’ve talked with Vol.
And there you have it! A full day at Volcano Bay filled with slides, interactive experiences, and relaxation. Remember to return your TapuTapu on your way out of the park as you return to the mainland. I hope you found this guide useful in planning your next trip to Volcano Bay!