The kids and I went to Universal’s Volcano Bay for the first time over spring break. Oh my gosh, I don’t know why we didn’t visit sooner – we had the BEST time! Now, my kids love a water park, it doesn’t really matter what kind or where it is, but I’m all about the theming. And the theming at Volcano Bay does not disappoint.
If you’re staying on-site at Universal Orlando Resort, there’s usually early entry into Volcano Bay about 30 minutes before the park opens (versus 60 minutes early for the other parks). Since we weren’t staying on-site for this trip, we got there just before the park opened to maximize our time and get good chairs.
Unlike the other Universal parks, for this one, if you’re driving yourself, you park in the parking garage and then take a bus to the park. There’s no parking at Volcano Bay – the plus is that the bulk of your walking takes place in the covered garage and not out in the sun. I actually wish more of the parks would adopt this set-up since it means your vehicle is covered and cool when you get back!
We were on one of the first busses of the day and headed over to Volcano Bay – it’s only about five minutes away from the parking garage. Upon arrival, you hop in one of the entrance queues, scan your park ticket, and you’re good to go for a day of fun!
The kids and I split up in search of beach chairs and totally lucked out with four chairs, under an umbrella, in the first row by Waturi Beach (the massive wave pool). Honestly, I could have laid on that chair all day enjoying the waves crashing and watching the waterfall cascading down Krakatau Volcano.
But, alas, I was traveling with kids, and they obviously wanted to explore – so off to the wave pool we went! Like most wave pools, this one alternated between calm waters and sets of waves every fifteen minutes or so.
Life jackets are required in the wave pool for the under 48” crowd – and the lifeguard quickly alerted me to this since I didn’t realize it was a rule. They have plenty available in a wide range of sizes, so make that your first stop after securing chairs if you’re visiting with little ones.
The big kids immediately went out as far as they could and played near the cascading waterfall. There’s a rope behind them, and you can’t actually go underneath the waterfall.
Ellie was content to float around where she was still able to stand. Even with the required lifejacket on, she’s not the most daring in the water.
Towel rental is not included and not cheap – $6 per towel – so make sure to bring towels from home or your hotel! We had to pay to rent towels the first day because I didn’t realize you had to pay to rent them. Oops!! We learned through and brought pool towels from our hotel on our next visit!
Everyone that visits Volcano Bay gets a TapuTapu (similar to a Magic Band at Disney) to use at the park. The TapuTapu holds your place in virtual lines, you can pay for food and drinks with it (as long as you also set up a pin), and it’s what makes sure that your ride photos are tied to your account. We LOVED using the TapuTapu – the kids especially appreciated that they didn’t have to wait in hour-long lines for some of the more popular water slides/coasters.
Eats at Volcano Bay with Kids
I don’t usually have high expectations for water park food, but our lunch at Volcano Bay was AMAZING. I mobile ordered it from our chairs, Chris and Ben went to pick it up, and we had hot and delicious food in no time. We ordered lunch from the Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club directly behind Waturi Beach, but there are several other restaurant options in the park.
Jerked Mahi Sandwich: Jerk seasoned Mahi Mahi, cucumber mango basil slaw, lettuce, tomato, and sriracha mayo on toasted coconut bread with fries.
Kohola Chicken Sandwich: Tandoori marinated chicken, cucumber mango basil slaw, lettuce, tomato, and avocado mayo on a toasted Hawaiian style bun with fries.
Mango BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich: Topped with caramelized pineapple, fresh cabbage, and mango slaw on a toasted Hawaiian style bun with fries.
Even with an extensive menu, Ellie decided she really just wanted a basket of fries for lunch. And, hey, we were on vacation, so why not?!
While the kids were off exploring the park, I ventured over to the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar to put the TapuTapu to the test. It was super easy to make a cashless purchase with TapTu Pay. As long as you have a credit card and security pin set up in your Official Universal Orlando Resort App, you can pay for food, drinks, and merch with a simple tap. I was off enjoying my piña colada in peace in no time.
Slides at Universal’s Volcano Bay
I’m not a huge waterslide fan, but it was really nice that the kids (including Ellie!) could go off on their own and explore the slides. There’s a huge variety of slides at Volcano Bay: some that you don’t use an inner tube, some that you do, and some with a tube for the whole family!
Even though she wanted nothing to do with going in deep water in the wave pool, she was a daredevil when it came to the slides. And she went on every single one that she was tall enough for – and shed a few tears about the ones she couldn’t go on yet. It’s a good thing that we have the Universal Military Freedom Passes and can come back all year!
We paid for a My Universal Photo Package ($39) one day, and it was so much fun seeing the pictures that Universal captured of the kids on the slides. They were definitely living their best lives!!
The centerpiece of the park, the 200 foot Krakatau Volcano, houses three drop capsule slides – including Ko’okiri Body Plunge, the tallest one in America – as well as the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and the four-lane Punga Racers. Nick stopped on the overlook at the top to wave hello before dropping 125 feet on the Ko’okiri Body Plunge.
On the raft/tube slides, life jackets are required for little ones since you end up in a pool of water. It came in handy on this slide because the tube flipped over as soon as they hit the pool. The lifeguards immediately jumped in to right the raft and make sure the kids were all ok – which they were!
Volcano Bay Lazy River
I do love lazy rivers, and the one at Volcano Bay was no exception! There are actually two in the park – one that’s lazy and one that’s not so lazy, the TeAwa Fearless River! The big kids preferred the rapids and intensity of the Fearless River – life jackets are required for all guests – while Ellie and I preferred the relaxing loop on the lazy river.
I honestly have no idea how many times we went around on the Kopiko Wai Winding River or the TeAwa Fearless River because they were both so much fun!
Goodnight, Volcano Bay!
Right now, Volcano Bay is only open from around 10am-6pm, so we spent our whole day at the park, and the kids all said that it wasn’t enough time and they wished Volcano Bay was open longer. In the future, especially if we stay on-property, I could see us doing Volcano Bay first thing in the morning, heading back to the room around lunchtime, and then going to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure in the afternoon/evening. But that would require having multiple park days so that the kids had time to go on allllll the slides!
The kids made sure they were in a slide line right before closing to maximize their park time. We’re those rope drop to as late as we can possibly stay after closing kind of people! Because the park closes so early, we were able to watch a gorgeous sunset behind the volcano as we waited for the park to clear out.
Tips for Visiting Universal’s Volcano Bay with Kids
- Make sure that you set up a credit card AND PIN in your Universal account before you visit so that you can mobile order and/or pay for orders with your Tapu Tapu. It was so nice to be able to stop and grab a piña colada after the lazy river without needing to go back to the bags for my wallet.
- Don’t forget to bring, use, and REAPPLY sunscreen. I coated the kids in sunscreen before we arrived but forgot to reapply, and they ended up a smidge pink.
- Check height requirements before you go. Like in the theme parks, there are height requirements (both minimums and maximums) for some of the slides.
- Life jackets are required for all guests in the Fearless River and those under 48″ in the Reef and Waturi Beach. They are available to use throughout the park at no cost.
- But most of all, HAVE FUN!