Welcome to Family Fridays! This month’s adventure of Van and her man of few words includes a trip to Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park! From the tropical island feel and the relaxing lazy river to the thrilling water slides, Volcano Bay provides just the right amount of thrill and excitement for adrenaline junkies and vacation enthusiasts everywhere.
Our day started early, arriving to Universal promptly at 8 a.m., just two hours before Volcano Bay opens. We were well-prepared to be the first ones in the park for the day, and I can assure you that we took our first-place spot in line with pride.
The process of getting to Volcano Bay can be a little tricky at first, as it is not like the other two Universal parks where you have to enter through CityWalk. Instead, your journey begins through the Volcano Bay parking lot and on to the special Volcano Bay buses that take you over to the park. Though, because we arrived so early, the security checkpoint was a breeze, and we sat and waited for the bus to come pick us up.
Once we got on the bus, we headed over to the park itself, and upon our immediate arrival you could see the amount of intense detailing and specialized design work that Universal instilled in the layout and overall feel of the park. The island vibe that encompasses the overall aesthetic structure of Volcano Bay is made very apparent upon visiting the park, much more so captured by the naked eye than through photographs you can see online. From the tropical designs, style of the plants and the general layout, including the centerpiece of the volcano itself, it is hard not to feel like you’re actually in a tropical paradise.
When you enter Volcano Bay, you are given something called a TapuTapu. The TapuTapu is a wristband that allows you to get in line for the waterslides, without actually having to stand in the line. If the line is short enough, an employee will direct you to get in line because the wait time is so short. If the wait time is long enough, you will get in a virtual line by scanning your TapuTapu against the machine and it will give you a time to return, say in 45 minutes or so. Once the wait is up, you will return to the line and get ready to ride. Think of it like a Disney Magic Band and Fastpass intermingled into one device. It definitely made the process of waiting for rides a lot easier, as you can hang out in the lazy river or go get food while your wait time for an attraction gradually decreases.
We were lucky enough to get reserved seating in the park, which meant we had two reserved seats and a locker for us to place our valuables in. Our seats bordered the Kopiko Wai Winding River, a lazy river, and were right next to two of the raft slides in the park: Honu and Ika Moana. After spreading out our towels and lathering up our sunscreen, we were ready to venture on to the waterslides!
Our initial stop was Honu and Ika Moana. With those two raft slides being the closest to our seating, we ventured there first. These two slides were among my favorites, being named after the whale and the sea turtle. These two raft rides can seat up to five and six people, send you racing down from the top of a tower, around steep turns and down rumbling drops. Out of the two, I would have to say Honu was my favorite. This is the blue slide and features much more intense drops and faster speeds than Ika Moana. Honu also sweeps riders up a massive wall after its fastest and steepest drop, which is definitely one for those who like a more intense water rafting experience.
Speaking of thrills, two of Volcano Bay’s other thrilling attractions include some of the plunging body slides, where the floor drops out from underneath the rider before they go racing down a 125-foot drop, making the three drop slides the tallest in the world. These slides, the Ko’okiri Body Plunge – a near vertical (70-degree drop) speed slide with a trap-door start that passes through the Krakatau Volcano – and the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine body slides were two things I could not muster up the courage to ride, but Andrew leaves this review for the thrill rides if you’re on the more adventurous side:
“The ultimate thrill, an absolute must.”
Though I did not take on the massive body slides, I did enjoy TeAwa: The Fearless River, which is a much more intense version of the classic lazy river. This attraction requires guests to put on a life jacket before swimming down a fast-paced tumbling water path that takes you through the bottom of the Krakatau Volcano and around racing turns throughout the park. I enjoyed being able to swim through the water while also being carried by the flow of the current.
Other areas that stood out to me were the Waturi Beach Wave Pool and The Reef. Waturi Beach features the park’s classic wave pool that sits at the base of the volcano, while The Reef is a more relaxed, deeper section of swimming pool that allows guests to watch those brave souls coming down from the Ko’okiri Body Plunge through a clear tube that originates from the top of Krakatau. Both of these areas provide space to relax and wait for your turn to arrive for attractions that might be harder to get on.
If I were to leave any recommendations for first-time visitors, definitely check out the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This water coaster sends riders inside the heart of the Krakatau Volcano before plunging through a shimmering waterfall. It features linear induction motors to propel riders uphill while inside of a four-seat, canoe-style raft. This was probably my favorite ride of the day.
So, if you’re looking for a fun day trip for your family this upcoming summer that combines all the right elements of a thrilling water park while also being kid-friendly and relaxing for adults, look no further than Volcano Bay. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in the Florida sun, while also getting just the right adrenaline rush from state-of-the-art waterslides and coasters. I will definitely be returning.