It was basically an email that I had been waiting for my entire life. Universal Studios Orlando was opening up Volcano Bay, a brand new water theme park and invited Chris and me to experience it for ourselves. Even better, we were given the opportunity to explore the park an entire day before it officially opened. Unlimited rides with no wait time? Where do we sign up?
As you might remember, I’m a theme park junkie and even had my bachelorette party at Universal Studios Orlando. There’s nothing like geeking out at Harry Potter world with three of your closest friends. We wore matching outfits (each one of us was a house from Harry Potter) and it was seriously one of the best trips of my life.
That trip was before Diagon Alley officially opened and sadly, I hadn’t been back since. Chris, on the other hand, hadn’t been to a theme park in over two decades. Over twenty years, people! I can’t even handle it. I was dying to see what he thought of the whole theme park experience as an adult. But that’s a post for another time.
Let’s talk about Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay
Spoiler: it’s awesome.
A little backstory: Volcano Bay revolves around the history of the fictional Waturi islanders. The Waturi journeyed throughout Polynesia, sailing the seas in the search of the fabled golden-finned Kanuku fish that would lead them to their new home. As the Waturi encountered different islands, they would pick up and weave the various cultures and customs throughout their own. It’s rumored that they traveled to Hawaii (aloha, my peeps!), Bali, Tahiti, and even as far as Easter Island.
The Kanuku eventually lead the Waturi to their island paradise. The centerpiece of the island is the looming Krakatau Volcano, named after a Waturi god. And now, the Waturi spend their days in the sun and surf at Volcano Bay.
The Polynesian theme of Volcano Bay strikes you as soon as you enter the park. I appreciate that the Waturi incorporated different customs from their travels. The Maori greeting of Kia’Ora echoes throughout the park as you’re greeted by friendly staff. I immediately recognized a few of my favorite Hawaiian songs playing in restaurants and the gift shop. Truth be told, I experienced a moment of culture confusion as we had only been on Oahu two days prior. For a second, it felt as if I was transported back to my homeland.
As I wound through the entrance path and the park opened in front of me, I had that same moment of awe that I experienced when first entering Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There before me was the 200-foot Krakatau Volcano.
Volcano Bay is massive. The 30-acre water park boasts 18 attractions, five restaurants, and a wave pool with nine different wave patterns. There’s a water rollercoaster, three (yes, three) trap door slides, and a wave pool with nine different wave patterns.
A quick draw of my personal favorites from Volcano Bay:
- Ride: The Honu ika Moana (in Hawaiian, the “turtle and whale”) slides. This multi-rider attraction offers two slides to choose from. My favorite was the blue Honu slide that had our raft careening up and down two stomach-dropping walls. Confession: I liked this ride so much I rode it three times in a row!
- Eat: Coconut crusted fried chicken from the Kohala Reef Restaurant and Social Club. Not gunna lie, I was also eying the churros sold throughout the park but never ended up trying one.
- Drink: The Watermelon Wai. I’m a sucker for all things watermelon and this drink was no exception. This delicious concoction is composed of Russian standard vodka, watermelon syrup, fresh raspberries and watermelon. Adult libations can be found at either the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar or the Kunuku Boat Bar.
- Bonus: The days of lugging your inner tube to the top of the slide are gone. At Volcano Bay, tubes are launched to the start of the ride via a conveyor belt and are waiting for you at the top.
Hate waiting in line? Me too! Every visitor to Volcano Bay is given a TapuTapu waterproof wristband to wear throughout the day. The TapuTapu is multifunctional. Guests have the opportunity to link their TapuTapu account to a credit card and use it to pay for food, drinks, rentals, and souvenirs throughout the park. It eliminates the need to carry your purse or wallet around the water park.
My only wish is that the TapuTapu actually told the time. I’m so accustomed to wearing my apple watch that I found myself flicking my wrist up multiple times throughout the day to check the hour. That aside, the TapuTapu not only virtually stands in line for you, but also will alert you when it’s time to hop on your attraction. It also keeps track of photos taken of you on the rides. The TapuTapu also unlocks various interactive points throughout Volcano Bay. The hunt is part of the fun but I’ll leave you with a little hint: find the Burping Tiki.
Hot tip: Sign up for TapTu Pay before your visit so that purchases at Volcano Bay can be made with a simple flick of the wrist.
Don’t feel like waiting at all? Be on the lookout for attractions with signage that says “Ride Now.” Make the most of your visit to Volcano Bay by first tapping into a ride that might have a longer wait time and then jump on as many of the “Ride Now” rides as possible.
Make the most of your trip to Volcano Bay
If you want to make the most of your trip to Universal’s Volcano Bay, my advice is to stay at one of the onsite hotels. Each of the five onsite resorts offers its guests early entrance to both Volcano Bay and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To truly take advantage of your trip to Volcano Bay, book your stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Not only will you receive early entrance to Volcano Bay, but Cabana Bay guests also have their own exclusive entrance to the park.
Our recipe for the perfect visit to Volcano Bay: You’ll want to get in as early as possible. As soon as you enter, secure a beach chair and stow your bags in one of the nearby lockers. Use your TapuTapu to reserve your spot at one of the more popular rides and then find a few of the attractions with totem stations that read “Ride Now.” While you wait for your TapuTapu to go off you can ride as many of the “Ride Now” attractions as possible, lounge in the Kopiki Wai lazy river, or catch a few waves underneath the Krakatau Volcano. Be sure to enjoy a Watermelon Wai (or two… or three) throughout your stay.
Chris is the water baby of the family and was in heaven at Volcano Bay. He dared to take the Ko’kiri Body Plunge, the 70-degree fall down 125 feet of terrifying slide. Holden and I cheered him on from the safety of the shore. And while the Ko’kiri Body Plunge wasn’t my cup of tea (at least this time around), there’s something for everyone at Volcano Bay. The tiniest kiddos can frolic through the Tot Tiki Reef kid play areas, sun worshippers will love the luxurious lounge chairs, and foodies will drool at the tropical fare that awaits at Volcano Bay.
Stay tuned as we have more from our time at Volcano Bay. And you better believe there’s some Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the shoot too! Chris might have spent nearly $100 on butterbeer alone. Not joking.