Waterpark Recap: Top Five Faves at Universal’s Volcano Bay

 

Volcano Bay’s Waturi Beach and Krakatau Photo: Universal Orlando

We’ve all grown accustomed to the castles, towers, and colossal coasters dotting the greater Orlando skyline. A new icon has come to town, in the form of an impressive ancient  volcano, and it’s bursting with family fun, relaxation, and Polynesian panache. This is one volcano where you can get up close and personal without risking life and limb. Well, then again, there is some of that.

The incredibly talented team at Universal has come together with interactive elements, high-tech queue experiences, and a resort-style ambiance to create a completely new option in the world of waterparks. I recently had the chance to visit Volcano Bay, which opened at Universal Orlando Resort last summer. I’ve compiled a few of the very best parts of the new park. I’m sure I could come up with more, but this was a quick visit. I definitely want to go back for a second look.

Waturi Beach Wave Pool and Krakatau Volcano

There’s nothing better than sinking into a refreshing pool on a hot Florida day. This large swimming and wave pool area sits at the foot of the impressive Krakatau volcano. You can look up and watch brave souls vaulting through clear drop slides at top speeds. Appeasing the gods, perhaps?

Waturi Beach and Krakatau volcano.

Waturi Beach and wave pool with Cabana Bay Resort in the background.

The really cool thing about this volcano is that you can walk through it. There are pathways leading to other slides, as well as interactive (via that handy dandy TapuTapu wristband that we’ll get to in a few) exhibits. We really enjoyed making “singing” noises. It’s also a nice way to get out of the sun for a bit.

Waturi Beach and wave pool under the watchful peak of Krakatau.

Shade and Lounge Time

There are lots of free seating, but you can also rent family-style cabanas and these padded lounge chairs with positionable sunshades. This is really nice for small kids who might need a nap. Or big kids that just want a nap.

Sandy beach lounging.

Shaded lounge chairs are available for an additional charge.

TapuTapu Wristband

So, here’s that fancy wristband we talked about earlier. Everybody gets one as they enter. There’s no extra charge, but you need it becasue this is how you get “in line.” Simply walk up to a ride kiosk and hold the wristband up to it. You will be given a time to come back. Then, you’re free to do other things rather than standing in line that whole time. You will still spend a little bit of time in line, but your time is greatly freed up to do other things. Like sink back into that wave pool at Waturi Beach, float down the Kopiko wai Winding River, or grab a snack.

Interactive features – Place your TapuTapu bracelet next to this and then blow into it.

I still haven’t quite figured out if you can be tapped into two rides at once (for example, the Aqua Coaster and the Honu ika Moana slide). Then, you could do one and go immediately to the other. I would need to check more into it, but I don’t think that’s how it works. You have to do one at a time, which sort of makes it sound like you wouldn’t be able to get in many of the main rides. However, when you think about it, you would normally be standing in line that whole time rather than doing other stuff. It’s the main rides that require the TapuTapu wristband. There’s lots of water fun that doesn’t require it.

Use the TapuTapu wrist band to “tap into” rides. Photo: Universal Orlando

Polynesian Accents

I’ve never been to Hawaii, or any of the Polynesian islands for that matter, but I do have a certain fondness for all of the decor, statues, and tropical accents. The more bamboo, tiki carvings, stone statues, wooden accents, and colorful accessories the better.

 

 

I loved the “fish tail” detail on this snack bar.

Other hints of Polynesian flair are evident in the food and restaurants. Menu items include South Pacific-inspired flavors such as mango BBQ, tropical fruit salads, poke poke bowls, and Hawaiian pizza, along with burgers, fries, and taco samplers. Universal offers dining plans as well as special menus for allergies and food intolerances.

Fishy frills

Seating areas include shaded huts and hideaways decorated with bamboo branches, tiki torches, and fish accents. Frosty beverages can be found at the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar and the Kunuku Boat Bar, which are both on my return to-do list.

Family Fun and Thrill Rides

What’s the best park about any water park. The slides, of course! I wasn’t able to get many photos of the rides because, well … water (my camera is my life and I just won’t risk it – the life, maybe, but certainly not the camera).

Maku and Puihi Raft Ride
Photo: Universal Orlando

Choose your slide on the Maku and Puihi Raft Ride. The Puihi side takes you through dark caverns and zero-gravity hang time, while Maku slips and slides around bowl-like formations.

Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides
Photo: Universal Orlando

The Ohyah (Oh yeah!) winds and weaves to a four-foot drop into the pool at the end, while the Ohno (Oh no!) ends at a six-foot drop into the pool.

The Honu ika Moana, along with the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, is probably one of the most popular slides at Volcano Bay. Honu means turtle (but sea turtle, not slow-moving land turtle). This multi-person raft takes you up an open flume to around twists and turns (like a sea turtle riding the waves). This one is fast and definitely a thrill.

Moana, on the other side, means whale. This one, also a multi-person raft, is a long winding journey through tunnels and longer twists and turns (replicating a whale’s steady journey through ocean pathways). This is a less intense ride, though still quite exhilarating.

I did not get the chance to ride Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This inventive ride takes riders, on four-person canoe-like cars, up inclines and through the heart of the volcano. Next time for sure.

Four twisty-turny slides make up the Taniwha Tubes slide complex. Inspired by the twisting roots and snakelike trunks of puka trees, this fun tube ride features tikis that spray water at unsuspecting riders.

For the real thrill seekers, there’s the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, which vaults riders through a trap door into a 70-degree fall as they plunge 125 feet into the water. Then you’ve got the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides. From the top of Krakatau, riders are plunged through trap doors down clear intertwining tubes.

There’s also lots of watery fun for the little ones at spots like Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef, both of which feature small slides, spraying fountains and geysers, and dump cups.

Please visit UniversalOrlando for much more information on water slides, tickets, dining, shopping, and resorts.

 

If you go:

Volcano Bay shuttle

There’s a shuttle that goes back and forth between Volcano Bay and the parking decks at CityWalk.

Life jackets are available. Some rides require life jackets for riders under a specific height.

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