Volcano Bay Universal’s Third Theme Park
Volcano Bay has been billed as Universal’s third theme park. And it is impressive. A towering Volcano is at its centre, the park is well planned and is packed with innovative and enjoyable attractions.
Access to the park is via bus from a dedicated car park or from the resort hotels. If you are staying at Cabana Bay you can walk to the water park, an added bonus for Cabana Bay resort guests.
On entering the park all guests are provided with a Tapu Tapu, this is Universal’s version of Disney’s Magic Band. The ‘watch’ style band offers an option to pay using Tapu Tapu, registration with credit card details is required in advance, meaning guests can be cash free in the park. Tapu Tapu also books your place in the virtual queues. It’s a great idea, in theory. We all know the big downside of water parks is the queuing for the rides, in reality there are some significant drawbacks to the current system, which, in time, Universal is certain to work on resolving.
One of the drawbacks of reserving your place in the virtual queue using Tapu Tapu is that you have to visit the terminal at the entrance to each ride. So this can mean walking the whole length of the park only to find your virtual line allocated time slot is in 60 minutes. Bear in mind that each person needs to register using Tapu Tapu to book their place in the virtual line. Doing this can amount to a lot of walking around, it’s not the easy and user-friendly system we are used to from Disney’s Fast Pass. Of course Disney have had some time to improve their Fast Pass system, I am sure Universal will introduce updates in the coming months, hopefully ones that will make Tapu Tapu more convenient and easier to use.
Lockers are provided, with a rental charge, throughout Volcano Bay alongside changing and showering facilities as would be expected at this type of park. In addition there are plenty of Cabanas for rental and VIP seating, at a lower cost, for those wanting to make a day out at the park extra special. Just be careful about where your Cabana is located, some are at the edge of the park by the freeway which is not as nice as some of the other locations. I recommend checking the map to see where you will mostly likely spend the majority of your time in the park and requesting a Cabana closest to there.
The park itself is beautiful, with lush vegetation and mist spray’s to cool hot feet and legs alongside the paths. The main beach is really picturesque. If you’re used to Disney’s water parks you might find the wave pool a little too tame. Plenty of merchandise outlets and casual dining areas are dotted around the whole of the park. There’s really no bad areas here. It’s just a matter of preference as to where you like to be situated. Proximity to favourite rides is a great way to pick your spot. There are plenty of sunbeds and it feels less crowded than other water parks we have visited.
Universal still haven’t managed to deliver a food offer to rival Disney, though the food at Volcano Bay is a step up from Universal’s other park offerings. You’ll definitely find a good range of options here but don’t expect a great food experience. Its good theme park food but no more than that.
The rides themselves are interesting and some are quite unique. there is a great range of rides for all the family and only a couple of real ‘thrill’ rides.
The Rides & Attractions
A full list of the rides available is below, click on each for a more detailed ride description;
Honu Ika Moana & Ika Moana: A raft ride in two versions.
Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides: twin drop tube slides, fast, not for the faint hearted.
Ko’kiri Body Plunge: 70 degree fall down a 125ft water tube, the biggest drop ride in the park.
Onno & Ohyah Drop Slide: average water tube with 6ft or 4ft drop into pool at the end.
Taniwha Tubes: family raft ride with 4 different tracks, low thrill level good for smaller kids and families.
Punga Racers: head first down tubes on a mat, good fun and thrilling.
TeAwa The Fearless River: Lazy river type flowing through scenic area and the volcano.
Kopiko Wai Winding River: A lazy river that flows through the park
Krakatau Aqua Coaster: A family canoe style raft ride, a unique and fun ride.
Maku & Puihi Round Raft Ride: Family raft ride in two versions
Puka Uli Lagoon: Water Play area
Tot Tiki Reef: Water Play Area for smaller children
Waturi Beach: A picturesque beach in front of the stunning volcano
Ranumakka Reef: Children’s water play area
Overall its safe to say Volcano Bay is a success. Yes, there are compromises here. The site itself is sandwiched between the freeways and at times that becomes noticeable. The Tapu Tapu system isn’t as great as it should be.
On the plus side it’s great not having to lug those huge inflatable rafts up to the top of the rides. The park is beautiful and the facilities and restaurant offer is considered and conveniently located. Universal have done a great job here. Volcano Bay is a great water park, an improvement on others in the vicinity. If you have time in your holiday to kick back in the Orlando heat and enjoy this visual spectacular, I would recommend it.
Pixiesuesi’s Top Tips;
Arrive early, especially if you are staying at a resort and qualify for extra opening hours. The park gets busy quickly from noon onwards, before that the ride queues are low. Start with the real headline rides before the park gets busy.
Don’t forget this water park is as good in the evening as in the day time. The park is made to be enjoyed post sundown. It has a different look and feel then and it’s definitely worth trying out during the summer months, after dusk. Don’t miss the spectacular volcano eruptions after dark.