16 Best Volcano Bay Tips to Maximize Your Time

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Have y’all heard about the new Universal Orlando resort water park ride in Florida?  Universal’s Volcano Bay™ just opened in 2017, and it’s unlike any water park I’ve ever experienced!

How to save money at Volcano Bay

I returned from the Universal Orlando Resort with my family where we attended the Family Forward Event. I’m so excited to share my secret insider tips to maximize your time at the new water theme park.  It’s no surprise (based on the name) that the park has a “volcano” theme making one feel like they are in the South Seas or some other tropical paradise {squealing in delight}.  Right when you walk in you feel like yep, this is the place for this exhausted mama to relax and enjoy.

If you’ haven’t heard of this new amazing water park in Orlando… then you’re probably asking “Laurie, what the heck is Volcano Bay and why do I care?”  Well… I’m glad you asked. {snicker}  My rambunctious boys range in age from 18 to 11 and it’s a family vacation that for us just works for all of us.  It’s a place where everyone is universally happy ~ even Mama. {evil laugh}  Which is typically not the case with our high maintenance crew.  So if you have a hard to please bunch with all kinds of special needs {physical or otherwise} like I do then this is the vacay for you.

What is Volcano Bay?

Volcano Bay water park is one of the best Orlando resorts with water slides and the third theme park included in the Universal Studios Orlando Theme Parks. Since I just visited the park, I thought I’d share my 16 favorite insider tips that you’ll want to know about before you plan your family vacation to Orlando, Florida.  From a busy mom’s perspective, of course.  {I’ve got your back}

How Volcano Bay Works

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando includes 9 featured attractions (rides), 6 dining options, and even cabanas and premium seating, all on 25 acres! It’s THE Orlando resorts with water slides that you’ll want to visit! Right when you walk in you’ll see the huge Krakatau Volcano that you can walk through and ride into, Krakatau Aqua Coaster which is the most popular ride, Ko’kiri Body Plunge for the roller coaster enthusiast, Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, Punga Racers, and so much more!   There’s a ride for everyone and a beach and lazy river for everyone else. {bwaahaa!}

What to Plan Ahead:

Enjoying a day at the Orlando water parks requires some planning. Don’t forget sunscreen, but don’t worry about towels and floating devices for your non-swimmers. If you want a cabana for extra shade, be sure to reserve well ahead of your visit. There is something here for everyone making it a great location for the best family vacations!

Top-Volcano-Bay-Florida-Tips-Tip-Junkie

1. Choose the best times to visit.

Off-season will be less crowded. If you are going during peak times, consider a front-of-the line pass. You can get early entry passes by stay at any of the 5 on-site hotels. Off-season months are January-March, while the busiest time to visit is June-August.

Where is volcano bay located?  If you’re headed to Disney or Universal Studios while you’re in Orlando, Florida you might as well plan a day to a water park to cool off and enjoy a completely different experience. {Unless of course, you’re staying at the Portofino Bay Resort~ then you’re going from Italy to the South Seas and you’re loving life!!} Here’s a map of the resort to help you out!

2. Buy your tickets in advance.

You don’t want to waste time waiting in line to buy tickets, and if you are going to be Orlando for several days, you’ll probably want to buy tickets that allow you to visit multiple parks.

Buying tickets at UniversalOrlando.com is the best option. If purchasing in-person, the on-site ticket windows are extremely helpful, but you will save money if purchasing in advance online. Ticket options include:

  • multi-day/1-park tickets
  • multi-day/2-park tickets
  • multi-day/3-park tickets
  • one-day/1-park tickets
  • one-day/2-park tickets
  • one-day/3-park tickets

 The 3-day/3-park tickets is a great value and allows visitors to spend the optimal amount of time at the parks.

Are volcano bay tickets refundable?  You can purchase tickets online, in-person at the gate, or in packages {I recommend}. Prices cost from $29.99-79.99 per day.   If you’re wondering are volcano bay tickets refundable?  What if an emergency arises and you can’t use the tickets, who do you contact? Here’s the answer: tickets are non-refundable, but they are valid for 364 days after the intended day of-use. Guest services will be happy to help with specific ticket questions. You can reach them at 407-224-4233.

Wondering if there are discount tickets available?  Discount tickets are not currently available for Volcano Island water park, but multi-day tickets and packages offer the best value.

Universal Orlando offers annual pass options for Florida residents, and non-Florida residents. The annual pass has four-tiers of pricing depending on the perks you want.

Children 2 and under are free to enter the park. Child pricing is valid for children aged 3-9.

Universal Orlando Volcano Bay Cabana UpgradesPhoto Credit

3. Rent cabanas in advance.

If you’re going in peek season or you have special family requirements, then reserve a cabana way ahead of time. {like weeks if possible!}

Pros:  In my opinion the $80 {cheaper} cabanas are worth the extra money if you don’t have early entrance to the park or your family requires extra TLC and space.   It will completely remove the stress of rushing to a find a spot when you get there and it will provide your family with some extra shade from the sun.  Another perk is that the cabanas have lockers!  So it adds to the convenience of family logistics throughout the day.

Cons:  They are expensive and range from $80 – $800 a day and reservations fill up quickly.

My Tip:  Just a heads up, this is a new park and they are working out the kinks and training their staff.  My friend had an issue getting her reservation and then the attendant couldn’t get the locker open.  It was a little frustrating, but they got it all worked out.  So maybe warn your kids that there might be a few logistics to do before they’ll be able to get wet.

Or Pick Your Place to Lounge.

However, if you have early access and your family will be spending most if it’s time out enjoying the park, then there’s no need for a cabana.   Just know the first thing you should do when you get to the park is find enough seats for your family under an umbrella.  I cover this at length in the ‘to do first’ tips.

Volcano Bay for kidsPhoto Credit

How To Save Money:

There are some quick and easy ways to save money for this fun family vacation at the Orlando water parks.  Here are a few.

4. Eat breakfast before you arrive.

Not only will this save you money, but it will start your day off right.  The restaurants don’t open until 10:00 am so the only thing you can buy before then are drinks and a few snacks at a few kiosks around the park.

5. Bring your own water!

Staying hydrated is always  you will ensure that your family stays hydrated!   Drinks at the park are expensive.  Coolers are not allowed in the park, and Universal Orlando discourages bringing in outside food, but you can as long as there are no glass containers and the food and drinks are modest in size.

6. Pack light.

Wear your swimsuit and flip-flops to the park, and bring a towel. There’s no need for large bags.  There are so many amazing photo ops in the park so make sure  you bring a waterproof carrying case for your phone that hangs around your neck.  Man, I wish I had brought mine.

You have two towel options at Volcano Bay. If you didn’t bring your own towels from home, you can rent towels for $5 per day/per towel at the park.  Note: You cannot use your hotel towels.

There are two sets of lockers in the park, which makes storing personal items much easier. You can use your TapuTapu to open your locker, and you can sync all of your family members TapuTapu’s so that they can access the locker as well.  Brilliant.  I know a Mom came up with that idea.  {bwaahaa!}

Blizzard Beach photoshoot. 2013. Photographer: Pat Molnar
Photo Credit

Kids can wear floaties or life vests.  You don’t have to worry about bringing life vests on this family vacation to Universal Studios!  It’s this great news?  Floaties and life vests are provided free at the park.

My Tip:  If you didn’t bring your own towels, then be sure to bring an empty bag or something inexpensive (like a magazine) to use to claim your lounge chairs.  I wish I had known this ahead of time.  We just showed up with nothing but our phones and sunscreen.  {bwaahaa!}  That’s the beauty of this water park, you can do that.  However, that meant we didn’t have anything to use to claim our lounge chairs when we were out riding the water slides.   I ended up putting down our rented towels and our flip flops.  I clearly have trust issues because I was surprised every time we arrived back and no one took our rented towels or messed with our stuff.  {snicker}  It’s a very family friendly place and even though it was packed with people, we felt safe and apart of a huge extended family.  Everyone was having a great time and very respectful of personal space.

Valcano Bay at CapacityPhoto Credit

Know Before You Go:

A few things to know before you go! Volcano Bay is the newest Universal Orlando park. When it reaches capacity, you can no longer enter the park. The TapuTapu bracelets are the “brains” that will help your day run smoothly. You can purchase items with it, open lockers, find out when to report to rides. Try to reserve a cabana well before the date you visit the park. The park makes it easy to have a “beach vacation” without the fuss of having to bring along towels and floaties.  The best travel tip for Universal’s Volcano Bay is to arrive early! Here are some great tips before you go from Things I  Can’t Say.

7. Sign up for taputapu wearable.

The TapuTapu is easier to use than you may imagine. I was a little worried about the technology in the bracelet, but it does the job. Once you have your tickets, download the Universal Studios App, and add in your info. This way when you arrive in the morning you’ll be all connected to for the rides and to pay using your tapu tapu. Wondering how to add the TapuTapu? {{I’ve got your back}} Find out how to add the TapuTapu. It’s super helpful and will save you time

Don’t worry, if you stay at an on-site hotel {there are tons of perks!} then your hotel room shows this adorable tapu tapu video showing you what to do.  It’s so easy.

8.  Leave your wallet at the hotel.

When you arrive to the park, each member of your family aged 3 and over will receive their own tapu tapu wearable.  The taputapu will also serve as our wallet throughout the day.  When you sign up, you can set a limit that each child can spend so make sure you pay attention to that.  {wink}   Don’t worry, each taputapu requires a pin number in order to place charges or purchase.  So if it falls off and you lose it or if your kids are too young, it is secure.

9. Arrive ahead of the park opening.

You’ll save time in lines and get there ahead of the crowds.  The park will suspend admission if the park reaches maximum capacity, so be sure to check online before you head in!  If you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort, then you’ll have early access to the water park and you’ll want to be in line before 7:00am.

Volcano Bay Hours?  If you’re wondering, when does it open? It is typically open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, but if you want to double check, click here.

Park fills up quickly so be there before it opens (I’d recommend by 7:00 am), if you are staying at any of the Universal Orlando’s 5 on-site hotels that offer early entry (7:30 AM for Volcano Bay)! Bring your ticket and room key with you to gain early entry into the park.

The Volcano Bay shuttles are very clearly marked
The Volcano Bay shuttles are very clearly marked.

Wondering where to Park?  If you are driving to Volcano Bay, park at Universal’s main parking structure, next to CityWalk (Volcano Bay does not have its own parking lot).

10. Claim your seat before you find a locker.

This is important!  If you don’t have a reserved cabana, the first thing you should do when you get through the gates is to make sure you rush to claim your seat.  Or if you can, have one adult run to get seats for everyone in the family under an umbrella.  While the other goes and reserves a locker.

Since people tend to gravitate to the front of the park, do the opposite and consider finding seats in the back when you first arrive.  You’ll also avoid the initial crowds as attractions near the back tend to have a shorter wait times in the morning as well.

Pros:  It’s free.  There’s a ton to choose from.  Depending on when you arrive almost too many choices to make.

Cons:   The lounge chairs by the beach, the kids area, and with shade ~ fill up fast.

My Tip:  I would suggest looking over the map and figure out where your family will be the majority of the day.  I wish I had done this!  We just showed up and had no idea where to go.  I picked a spot in front of the volcano under an umbrella, but my view was blocked by a huge rock. {d’oh!} So, a little planning ahead can make your view, communication with your family, and down time so much better.

More Tips Before You Head to Orlando Water Parks

Wondering where to claim your seat?  There are a ton of great places but the all fill up quickly.  I would suggest looking over the map and figuring out where your family will be the majority of the day.  I wish I had done this!  We just showed up and had no idea where to go.  I picked a spot in front of the volcano under an umbrella, but my view was blocked by a huge rock. {d’oh!} So a little planning ahead can make your view and communication with your family so much better.

If it’s in the children’s area (Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef) there are about 3 tables or so, but no chairs with backs and you’ll be wet the entire day.  If you have older kids finding a seat up in front on the beach is so idyllic with an amazing view of the volcano. However, you’ll sacrifice having an umbrella the entire day for shade.

Volcano Bay Lockers

Lockers cost around $8-15 a day.

If you don’t get a cabana, then quickly pick what section of lockers are closest to where you want to lounge.  {if you haven’t already}  There are 2 sets of lockers, at the front and another smaller set near the back of the park. Each group of lockers have 3 different sizes of lockers to store your gear to rent with cash or credit card. I also love that and you don’t have to carry around a key, since your Tapu Tapu triples as locker key, credit card, and express pass for rides.  It’s fantastic.

Pros:  I love that the locker pops open wide by itself when activated by the tapu tapu.  It made it easy to know which locker was yours among the many choices. HA!  You can get into the locker as many times as you need to without any additional charges.

Cons:  The lockers are provided by a 3rd party vendor. Make sure you “link” everyone’s wristbands to the locker before your family splits up. I had the hardest time gathering my family just to link them up.

My Tip:  The lockers are automatically chosen for you and they can be kind of high.  For a short chick like myself with a younger child, that was not very convenient.  If you don’t like the locker assigned simply ask for assistance from their helpful staff in front of the lockers.  I found them to be very kind, understanding, and easy to work with.

To Do When You Arrive:

We’ve already talked about how you’re going to claim your lounge chairs and rent a locker for the day immediately when you get there.  Now that you’ve lathered up the kids with sunscreen there’s just a couple more items of business to ensure your faux beach island vacation is a huge success.

Volcano Bay Family PictureErin’s Tips for Volcano Bay

11.  Snap your family volcano photo.

Before everyone sets out for the day, and before there’s so many people in the way… get a great family photo in front of the volcano.  Feel free to ask a stranger to take it for you, I found everyone to be super friendly and helpful.

12. Experience the volcano water slide first!

Krakatau Aqua Coaster which is the most popular ride and your family will want to ride it together, many times.  This is the first ride you should enjoy and add it to your TapuTapu a couple times throughout the day.  When I was there, at one point there was a 3 hour wait for this ride… so do it first.

Pros:  The Krakatau ride is the most technical ride at the park. The coaster propels guests upwards using “linear induction motor technology, (magnets) before shooting guests downward.

Cons:  The incredible technology of this ride is awesome, however a gust of wind can shut the ride down.  After waiting 90 minutes, our tapu tapu said “ride now” but when we arrived it was shut down for 3 hours due to technical issues and then lightening.

My Tip:  Let your kids know how advanced this ride and that it uses the Universal Orlando Studios dry ride technology which is high tech!  However, also warn them that this ride can break down a couple times ~ so you’re riding this water slide first.

Volcano Bay Rides:

Here’s a quick rundown of the volcano island water park rides along with things to do on the rides!

  1. Krakatau Aqua Coaster – twist and turn through the heart of the volcano in this 4-person ride. (multi-rider)
  2. Ko’okiri Body Plunge – Now this is a plunge! Expect to plunge 125 feet to the water below! (single-rider)
  3. Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides – Twin trap doors release riders at the same time to ride down clear, intertwined tubes. (single-rider)
  4. Punga Racers – Ride a manta ray mat down under-water sea caves.(single-rider)
  5. Waturi Beach – This wave pool is found at the foot of the Krakatau volcano.
  6. Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides – The Ohyah side plunges riders 4-feet into the water below, and the Ohno slide launches you 6 feet above the water.(single-rider)
  7. TeAwa The Fearless River – Ride tubes through white water rapids.
  8. Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides – You get to choose your raft adventure on the Maku Puihi rafts! Puihi gives you the sensation of zero-gravity while the Maku sides you around bowl-life formations.(multi-rider)
  9. Taniwha Tubes – There are four tracks to choose from on the Taniwha tubes.(single-rider)
  10. Runamukka Reef – This is a children’s play area that features bubbling geysers, slides, dump cups, and more.
  11. Tot Tiki Reef – Tot Tiki Reef is a place for toddlers to play. Has sliders and sprayers which tots love.
  12. Kopiko Wai Winding River – Enjoy a leisurely ride through lush, tropical landscaping .
  13. Honu ika Moana – multi-person sides that will get your twisting and turning. (multi-rider)

13. Ride the LOWEST CAPACITY before the park fills up.

These water rides have the longest queues because fewer people can go on them at once. These include the Volcano water slides:

Single Rider Attractions:

  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Punga Racers
  • Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
  • Taniwha Tubes

Multi-Rider Attractions:

  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Honu ika Moana

You’ll also find long lines at the the Honu ika Moana slides.

How to Avoid the Wait:

I have to admit that I don’t like to wait!  Thus, it’s important for me to know where to go within the park to avoid wait times any time of the day.

14.  Queue tapu tapu with most popular slides.

Keep  your tapu tapu queued up with the most popular rides or your families’ favorites including:

  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Punga Racers

Enjoy attractions with no lines.Photo Credit

15.  Enjoy attractions with no lines.

While the taputapu is waiting in line for you, occupy your time while your tatutapu is reserving your spot with a few of these rides listed below.

Pools and Rivers:

  • Waturi Beach ~ Waturi Beach is a wave pool found at the base of Krakatau volcano.
  • The Reef ~ The Reef is a pool with a waterfall. Very relaxing!
  • Puka Uli Lagoon ~  The Puka Uli Lagoon is an interactive pool.
  • TeAwa The Fearless River ~ TeAwa the Fearless River is the opposite of calm! It’s a thrill ride that has a height restriction.
  • Kopiko Wai Winding River ~ If you are looking for a calmly drifting pool, these is the place for you!

My Tip:  If you are having a hard time finding an available inner tube to use in the river, consider using a life vest. The water park offers life jackets in a variety of sizes to use in the pools and rivers ~ for Free!

Looking for rides with the shortest wait times? Head over to:

  • Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Taniwha Tubes

You can find some great information about all of the rides and attractions at Dessert Now, Dinner Later.  Amber did a great job a explaining each of the rides and what she did and did not like about each of them.

What To Eat:

Wondering what your food and dining options are while you’re enjoying the water park?

16.  Fuel up with yummy places to eat.

Universal’s Volcano Bay has 6 dining locations. If you are looking for a place to eat check out my favorites:

  • Kohola Reef – My favorite at Kohola Reef was the mango BBQ pulled-pork sandwich. You can find fresh island favorites at this restaurant located at the base of the Krakatau volcano.
  • Whakawaiwai Eats – Found in the River village, this place to eat offers pizza, salads, and more.
  • Bambu – Find quick snacks (like burgers and pretzels) in the shady eatery.
  • The Feasting Frog – What’s not to love about this restaurant that is shaped like a frog? Poke Poke Bowl is good!

As I mentioned earlier, Universal does not encourage outside food to be brought into the park, but you can if it’s modest in size and does not have glass bottles. You may not bring in coolers!

Babies and Children’s Area

If you have babies or children, there are two children’s areas; Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef are great places to spend your day. If you’ve got children under 42″ tall, you’ll want to check out these tips from The Kim Six Fix. If you have a non-swimmer, no problem!

16 Best Volcano Bay Tips to Maximize Your Time

Volcano Bay Reviews

You can never have too many tips and tricks to make your visit the best, right? Here are a few more tips that will help before you head to Orlando’s water parks!  If you’re looking for more reviews check out these great ones.

  • Best Volcano Bay Tips + Volcano Bay Cabanas by Solo Mom Takes Flight  . Solo Mom hit the park with 7 kids so this is great if you are going with a group!
  • Things I Can’t Say shares What to Know Before You Go to Volcano Bay. I especially like her thoughts on seating.

50 Best Universal Studios Tips for Families TipJunkie

More Universal Orlando Tips:

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Heading to Universal's Volcano Bay? You'll love these 16 favorite insider tips that you’ll want to know about before you plan your family vacation!

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