With a 60% chance of rain my party decided to brave the storm and check out Universal’s Volcano Bay that just opened this past May. Besides, we rented preferred seating ahead of time which offered a dry spot to hide at least for the little kids. How bad could it get, we were planning on being wet all day anyway right?
Volcano Bay is themed around the concept of a fictional Pacific Islander tribe called the Waturi who live by the philosophy, “Water is life, life is joy” So, on Sept 30, 2017 my friends and our children became part of the tribe for the day.
We arrived at the parking garage at 9am, park opening time and even though it was a Saturday we were able to grab a close spot in the designated Volcano Bay parking garage. With our pre-purchased tickets in hand we proceeded to the bus line and were on our way. Inside the bus there was a video message explain the Tapu Tapu wrist band and how it worked. After a short walk down a tunnel lined with seashell lights and a ride up an escalator the anticipation was building and we felt like we were being transported to a Polynesian island.
Inside the theming was amazing! The iconic volcano sat in the middle and all around were tiki statues and tropical plants. I was a little confused when we first arrived. I knew I had to find out preferred seating but wasn’t really sure where to go so I visited the concierge booth. They had an employee personally walk us to our home base for the day all the while pointing out attractions, restaurants and our closest bathroom.
Our seats were great and provided a place to keep our stuff dry as the misty rain fell. It also had a lock box that my Tapu Tapu could open to keep our valuables safe. Keep in mind if you want to need to get into the lock box that only the lead guest on the reservation can use their wristband to open it. This proved to be an issue as my friend wanted to get lunch and we were waiting on a ride.
We were right next to Tot Tiki and Runamukka Reef and with some toddles in tow we thought this would be a perfect place to start. The “littles” loved it! There were plenty of water slides, spraying fountains and even a small volcano that erupted water. This play area specially designed for toddlers and small children under 48″ tall. So, if you have taller kids they will not be able to go down the slides and the attendants have measuring sticks and will check.
While the “littles” were splashing away, we decided to check out the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This is the first water coaster of its kind, taking riders inside the heart of the Krakatau volcano, before plunging through a shimmering waterfall. Because it was still early we could not use our wristbands to check in and were told to just go on now, that the line was the shortest it would be all day. Welllllll, we waited at least an hour and then the ride broke down just as we were approaching the end. My tween was losing her mind! It was supposed to be a quick line, why did they tell us to “walk on”? After a ride technician fixed it we were on our way. Was it worth the wait? I’d have to say, an hour and a half is longer than I like to wait for any ride. But, with that being said, it was pretty awesome and definitely unlike anything we had experienced.
After, the tween and I went on the Punga Racers a four-lane racing slide using mats resembling manta rays. Again, we were told to walk on, the wait was only 15 minutes but it ended up being at least 30. Not cool. Had we known it was going to be this long we would have headed back to meet the group who was waiting for us to eat lunch (remember my Tapu was the only one that could open the lock box? Bad Mommy.).
Kohala Reef Restaurant and Social Club got our vote for lunch because of the diverse island inspired menu. They have a grab and go section that includes sushi, salads and wraps, then windows all featuring their own menus. One had longboard pizzas, one had chicken and seafood and one had burgers and BBQ. We opted for some Cob salads, a flat bread pizza, some chicken tenders and fries and a Kohala Burger. It was pretty typical theme park food. Nothing really knocked our Tapus off. The Cobb salad would get the gold star for being a fresh healthy option.
After fueling up, some of the adults in our group still had not gone on any rides so we decided to venture to the Rainforest area of the park and get in a virtual que with our wristbands for the Ohno drop slides. We ended up parking the “littles” at the Puka Uli Lagoon where they swam and got sprayed again. Surrounding the lagoon were 2 story cabanas that looked amazing especially with the looming dark clouds. We had a wait time of 130 minutes so we had to find some other things to do. I ordered a Haku-Puini (Mt.Gay rum, Cointreau, and fresh mango and pineapple juices) in a souvenir plastic cup which was ok. I’m glad I got to keep the cup because for $11.99 it seemed a little lame.
The tapu concept is not really working. My friend and I taped into the Ohno drop slide at the same time and our wait times were always different. Sometimes as much as 20 minutes apart. This prevented us from riding together. The time also went up and down. One minute the wait was 10 minutes then it was 15 then back down to 10. It was pretty confusing and caused us to just stand there by the ride and wait. Kinda sucked. This was the only ride we tapped in for all day.
The heavens opened up and it rained hard. We took shelter and waited it out and also checked out Waturi Beach: The park’s main wave pool. It was massive and really felt like you were floating in the ocean. There are life jackets available for the little Waturi.
I’m so glad we waited and stayed in the park. The rain thinned out the crowds and were able to go on many of the rides we wanted to with a maximum wait time of 20 minutes. These included Kala and Ta Nui Serpentine Body Slides: A pair of body slides with trap-door starts, Ika Moana: A second multi-passenger raft slide, Puihi: Multi-passenger rafts drop into multiple tunnels, then two funnels and a final drop, Taniwha Tubes: Four raft slides ridden solo or in pairs and Kopiko Wai Winding River: A lazy river that passes through Krakatau, with decorated caves and random special effects. The winding river was a favorite of the tots so we rode these multiple times.
Volcano Bay is a beautifully themed park with lots of great rides. But beauty is only skin deep. Universal needs to get the virtual line thing under control and work out the kinks. The tapu did not seem convenient at all. If you are staying at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel property take advantage of the early park entry and ride those big slides ( Ko’kiri Body Plunge and the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides) early.
Although Volcano Bay is marketed as a park for everyone, there was not enough to keep the little ones busy all day. The splash area was great, but next time we will be back with our kids that are at least 42” and taller.
The preferred seating was key and if we can swing a cabana rental next time, we may splurge on it.
Food was ok but we will be bringing in lunch and drinks next time to save some cash.
Packing frozen water bottles was key. Don’t forget the sunblock, and bring in your own towels so you don’t need to rent them for $5 in the park.
I will be back for sure to become a Waturi once again and hit those rides I wasn’t able to get on this time.
Have you been to Volcano Bay? Do you have questions? Comment below. Be sure to contact me when you’re ready to book your Volcano Bay and Universal Orlando Vacation. Email me at [email protected].