Get the most splash for your buck with our guide to Universal Orlando Volcano Bay water theme park

Universal Orlando Resort is a premier summer vacation destination, and summer days can run hot in central Florida. That's why the resort's newest park is Volcano Bay, a 27-acre water theme park that features something for everyone. Families with young kids can relax poolside, on the lazy river, or in their very own cabana, while thrill-seekers can test their mettle on water slides, raft rides, and a not-so-lazy "fearless" river. Before members dive in, here are some tips and ride recommendations.
Helpful tips

Arrive early to ensure entry & get dibs on the best spots

There are two big reasons to enter Universal's Volcano Bay at its 9 a.m. opening. One is that beach chairs are in limited supply, especially at popular spots such as Waturi Beach. Cabana reservations can also sell out early, so if you decide to rent one on the day of, move quickly. (Cabanas can also be booked ahead of time by phone.) Guests staying at Universal Orlando's hotels get 8 a.m. admission to the park, an easy way to get a jump on the spot of your choice.

 

By arriving in the morning, you also avoid the possibility of the park closing its entrance if it has reached capacity.

Cabanas and beach chairs on the sand at Volcano Bay

Get to know your TapuTapu

Each visitor receives a waterproof TapuTapu wearable upon entry. Put it on securely (the strap clips in two spots) because it's your key to the entire park. Most importantly, you'll use it to reserve a spot in a Virtual Line for rides. If you rent a locker, it'll be your locker key. You can also make purchases with it by using the official Universal Orlando Resort app to connect it to a credit card, so you don't have to fetch your wallet between rides. Finally, TapuTapu can be used to activate photo booths, water cannons, and other surprises around the park.

 

Use TapuTapu by placing it firmly and squarely at any illuminated Volcano Bay logo; a casual wave usually isn't enough.

TapuTapu wrist device

Reserve a ride, then make your way to a Ride Now attraction

TapuTapu allows you to go to a ride with a wait time and enter its Virtual Line by tapping at the ride entrance. TapuTapu keeps track of when you can return to the ride, which you can do any time once the wait is up. (Only one ride can be reserved at a time, so the sooner you ride your reserved ride, the sooner you can reserve another.) The key to maximizing your ride time at Volcano Bay? Once you're waiting in a Virtual Line, you're free to ride any other attraction that says "Ride Now" without losing your reservation. Some of them, most notably the Waturi Beach wave pool and the two river features, never have wait times and are great places to spend time between reservations.
Ride Now sign at the front of the Ohno water slide

Pick a strategically placed locker

With four public locker locations around the park, two close to the entrance, and two closer to the back of the park, many visitors will stop at the first locker they see to drop off belongings, but this can be a headache later if they're spending most of their time at the other end of the park.

 

Take a look at the park map and think about where you'll likely spend most of your day. If you're planning to spend more time at the pools and Waturi Beach, get a locker near the entrance. If you're going to be spending most of your time on rides, find a locker near the back of the park.

Lockers for rent at Volcano Bay

Take control of the park's water cannons to soak your friends

The most immediately gratifying way to use TapuTapu is to surprise other guests with a soaking. Most of the bridges crossing Kopiko Wai Winding River and TeAwa the Fearless River have TapuTapu panels where you can spray river rafters with water cannons, so send your companions off on the river and then lie in wait.

 

An even more devious surprise can be found inside the central Krakatau volcano, where a set of joysticks and a TapuTapu panel overlook the Reef pool. Activate the cannons and soak anyone in the pool below, using the joysticks to direct the water with precise aim.

Water cannon activation and aiming controls

Don't forget to see your photos

Most people are familiar with theme park rides that take your picture: A camera flashes during the ride, and when you get off, there's a viewing booth at the exit where you can see your photo.

 

Volcano Bay works differently, smoothly keeping track of your photos across the park's rides and photo booths—so smoothly, you may forget your photos were taken at all. TapuTapu keeps track of them in the background for you. At the end of your visit, stop by the photo viewing stations and store at Waturi Marketplace near the entrance. Press your TapuTapu at the viewing stations and your photos appear as if by magic.

TapuTapu-activated photo booth at Volcano Bay
Attractions & ride guide

Warm up with a plunge from the Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides

These twin body slides near the front of the park offer a moderately intense experience, with an exclamation point at the end: Sliders exit in mid-air and plunge into a 10-foot-deep pool. As the names hint, Ohyah has a smaller 4-foot drop than the more intense Ohno's 6-foot drop. (Though the height limit is 48 inches, the park advises that only those confident in their swimming ability should ride. If you've got riders who are just under that, or not as confident swimmers, Tonga of Taniwha Tubes is a good alternative.)

 

Because it's near the front of the park, another reason to warm up here is that the wait times tend to grow as more guests arrive.

Ohyah and Ohno water slides dropping into their deep pool

Take the whole family on a whale of a slide on ika Moana

Ika Moana is a family-sized raft ride themed as a journey on the back of a whale, recognizable by its misty "blowhole" segments. Though it's worth a ride for visitors of any experience level, it's especially suited to younger kids who might be intimidated by the park's more intense raft slides. Up to five guests can ride together, gliding along twists and turns and passing over bubbling geysers which erupt like a whale’s blowhole.
Iku Moana water slide

Defy gravity on the Krakatau Aqua Coaster

Is there such a thing as a roller coaster with no wheels, rails, or restraints? Krakatau Aqua Coaster delivers an emphatic "yes," propelling riders on a boat through an exhilarating series of climbs and drops inside the Krakatau volcano. The boats never slow down and practically leap up the uphill portions, but what's pulling them along? The straightforward answer is high-tech magnets, but the invisible force makes it feel like you're magically moving on your own.
Krakatau Aqua Coaster first drop

Take a break on the relaxing Kopiko Wai Winding River ...

The Kopiko Wai Winding River never has a line, so whether you're waiting for your reservation time on a ride or taking a break, it's always available for a relaxing float. Head to one of the two entry-and-exit ramps and wrangle yourself an inner tube. Getting into the tube can be tricky in moving water, so it's usually easier to grab one near the river and bring it back up the ramp to get into it. 

 

Once you've gotten comfortable floating in the current, sit back, relax, take in the tropical landscape, and prepare for plenty of water surprises along the way.

Volcano Bay's Kopiko Wai lazy river ride

... or keep things intense on TeAwa the Fearless River

A more vigorous river experience awaits those brave enough to jump in: TeAwa, which the park bills as the "Fearless River." TeAwa's current runs faster, there are more water cannons and waterfalls to navigate, and white-capped waves sweep through on a regular basis.

 

Unlike Kopiko Wai Winding River, there are no inner tubes here; every swimmer wears a life vest. That too makes TeAwa a more visceral experience—instead of just floating by the various features, you're actively immersed in them, especially when body surfing the river's big waves. Even just floating on one's back is a high-velocity thrill in the strong current.

TeAwa the Fearless River ruins and waterfalls zone

Introduce little ones to the joys of water parks at Tot Tiki Reef

The littlest of kids looking to cool off get a section of the park, Tot Tiki Reef. Toddlers can play among splashy slides, a tot-sized water volcano and a family of friendly tikis with spraying fountains.

 

For older kids, Runamukka Reef right next door features bubbling geysers, water blasters, slides and dump cups, shaded by fanciful bamboo sea creatures and waving seaweed.

Runamukka Reef little kids play area

Compete against friends & family on Punga Racers

Think you're the fastest slider in your family? Want to challenge your friends to a race? Head to Punga Racers. Single riders on manta ray mats slide head-first down four lanes to the finish line.

 

Proper technique is key to victory. Give yourself a boost at the start (rather than inching forward until you begin to slide), don't drag your feet along the tube, and try not to slide too far away from the inside of the track. Finally, follow the ride's instructions to lift the front of the racing mat back when you reach the finish line so that you skate across the exit pool instead of plunging into it.

Exterior view of the Punga Racers water slides

Go vertical on the back of a turtle on Honu

Honu is next door to ika Moana (the two share a ride tower) and uses the same kind of  raft, but the similarities end there. Just as ika Moana is themed as a ride on the back of a whale, Honu is a ride on the back of a turtle—a turtle that's all about getting as much thrilling hang time as possible. To that end, Honu features two enormous slide walls for rafts to slide along near-vertically, plus some precipitous drops to pick up speed. 

 

Not thrilling enough? Up the ante by picking a seat on the raft that enters the ride backward so each twist and turn is a surprise. Too thrilling? Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides offers a similar but less extreme ride.

Riders suspended vertically on the Honu water slide

Test your courage on the Kala, Tai Nui, & Ko'okiri capsule slides

The three capsule slides at the top of the Krakatau volcano are the height of thrill at Volcano Bay. (Quite literally: You have to climb more than a dozen sets of stairs to reach them.) Each begins with riders standing on a trap door in a sealed capsule; without warning, the trap door gives way and guests plunge almost straight down into the slide. (Hold your nose for the duration of the slide, as there's a big splash when the trap door opens.)

 

For a longer, more winding ride around the inside of the volcano, step into Kala or Tai Nui. If it's pure velocity you're after, Ko'okiri will be more your speed.

Kala and Tai Nui capsule slides drop pool

Book a travel package through AAA & enjoy exclusive benefits

AAA members receive exclusive pricing and special benefits when they book a Universal Orlando Resort vacation package through AAA, including activity credits, priority seating, in-park discounts on food and merchandise, and more. Packages can be booked online or at a AAA branch