Open since May of 2017; Volcano Bay is Universal Studio’s newest theme park.Volcano Bay™ is a water park, perfect for thrill loving families seeking to escape the Florida heat.We got the chance to visit the water park. .last month during our weeklong trip to Orlando and were NOT disappointed. My husband and son with autism spent three days exploring the park and can’t wait to go back.
Read the Rules and Restrictions First
Like all water parks, this one has a few rules that you and your family need to know before visiting. Restrictions include height, weight, or swimming strength.To avoid any disappointment, you should read the rules and limitations before purchasing your tickets, so you know what to expect.
Most rides have the same familiar warnings you’ve seen over the years in theme parks.
The first include avoiding certain rides if you are suffering medical conditions such as heart or orthopedic issues. The next one mentions visitors needing to understand and follow basic instructions like keeping hands and feet where they belong. The third which again is no surprise pertains to height requirements. Most rides in the park are meant for kids 48 inches and taller though some allow kids to ride with an adult if they are over 42 inches.
The only regulation that may surprise some though it makes sense is that a few of the rides have a weight restriction (over 200 pounds) which excludes some adults.
When you arrive
Guests should try to come early in the morning. If you can, plan to be there when the park first opens by 9 AM.We arrived at 10 AM one day and were turned away as the park was already full. If you aren’t an early riser consider staying at the nearby Cabana Bay Hotel that provides its guests with an exclusive entrance.
Yes, there is a security check line like in all theme parks. You will have to go through a metal detector, and a guard will look through your bags. Only in rare circumstances will they use the wand on you, as they want to keep the lines moving quickly.
Since this is a water park and you cant take your ‘stuff’ on rides, you will need to store it somewhere.I would strongly suggest you use a designated locker for your belongings since it is safer than leaving them unattended on a beach chair or placing them on the open shelves in front of every ride. Volcano Bay has plenty of lockers in the different areas. The lockers come in three different sizes and can be opened and closed with your TapuTapu™ device.
Using the Tapu Tapu System
Volcano Bay’s TapuTapu™ is an electronic system connecting to individual waterproof wrist bands. Using cutting edge technology the band can virtually ‘hold your place’ in line for an attraction while you are enjoying another ride or having lunch.Though it sounds similar to the Disney Fast Pass, this system allows guests to use the band for dining and shopping too.
After you get into the park, head as fast as you can to the ride, you want to try most and use your TapuTapu™ to grab a return time. On busy days some rides, have wait times anywhere between 2-3 hours!
Volcano Bay’s Thrill Rides
Volcano Bay is a thrill seeker’s paradise. There are so many thrill rides that will make your head spin (no pun intended!)
The two best areas for thrill seeking guests are ‘The Volcano’ and ‘Rain Forest Village.’ If these rides are your primary focus make sure you grab a shaded lounge chair nearby since they fill up quickly.
‘The Volcano’ section has four not to be missed rides. Krakatau™ Aqua Coaster, Ko’okiri Body Plunge™, Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides™ and Punga Racers™. Though all four are incredible our son’s personal favorite was Krakatau™a thrilling high-speed four-person ride with side to side motion, drops and plunges.
“I am Free, Free Falling,” may be lyrics to a song but they also describe the Ko’okiri Body Plunge™.If you are ‘game,’ prepare to enter a closed capsule, cross your arms and legs and let the bottom fall out as you drop down a 125-foot.
The Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides™, are another capsule style ride. Riders need to be able to stand with ankles and arms crossed, as they twist and turn down the 125-foot drop, into a pool.The Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides™ have a strict weight requirement of 200 pounds. Our friend barely made this cut, and we witnessed several people getting turned away.
The Punga Racers™ constitutes of four different slides where riders lay on their stomach as they hang on to a mat twisting, turning and dropping down in the dark. Our son loved this ride, but he did mention he got somewhat dizzy riding it.
The Rainforest Village
The Rain Forest located further inside the park houses no less than six fast paced rides. Rides include slides, tubes, and fast moving rafts. Riders of Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides™, are required to lay on their back to experience twists, turns and a 4- 6-foot drop ( depending on the slide) that will challenge the body. Most important to know is that riders need be strong swimmers who can swim to the side of the pool in deep waters.
For Tube lovers, there’s TeAwa The Fearless River™ and Taniwha Tubes™ On Taniwha Tubes™; you can pick from one of four tubes. Each tube features drops, twists, turns and even water being sprayed on you. In comparison, the TeAwa The Fearless River ™ is a thrill seekers dream. Over 36 inches deep, this tube ride will move you through fast waters and waves. All children 43 to 48-inches as well as weak adult swimmers are required to wear approved life jackets for this one.
The Rainforest Village also has raft rides. Not for the faint of heart riders must be able to hang on to the handles with both arms and sit up right while moving fast through the water. All three have steep inclines, drops, twists and some spins. The only differences are the weight requirements. The Honu of Honu ika Moana™ is a five-person raft, while Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides™ and Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides™ are six-person raft rides.
The Calmer Rides
In their effort to include everyone, water park planners also created four relaxing spots to enjoy at a slower pace. Waturi Beach in the Wave Village area is a six-foot wave pool. The closer to the sandy beach you swim the calmer the waves are. For safety reasons, all children under 48-inches and weak swimmers are required to wear a life vest. As a family, we decided that this was our favorite area. It is literally as close to a Hawaiian scene as you can get, while in Florida.
Another fun area in Wave Village was the 3-6 foot deep ‘The Reef pool. The Reef is ideal for those in wheelchairs, as there is a pool lift. While this was less of a favorite, it was less crowded and a good choice for families with autism.
Families that wish to swim in an area even less deep should try the 3-4 foot deep Rainforest Village’s Puka Uli Lagoon™. While here, children under 48-inches tall must wear a life vest and babies can’t be without swim diapers.
For visitors craving a soothing motion, the Kopiko Wai Winding River™ is perfect. This lazy river slowly floats through manicured landscape, caves, and waterfalls. This ride was my personal favorite since it has lifeguards at different stations all around the river. The multiple entrances and exits including unique sloped entrances for wheelchair users are a bonus.
Though most of the park areas are geared towards older kids and adults, tiny tots have their areas too. Runamukka Reef™ and Tot Tiki Reef™are perfect for kids under 48-inches. There are small slides, water guns, and dump cups. To be able to use the slides, kids must be able to sit or lay with their legs crossed at their ankles.Also, babies and toddlers must wear a swim diaper at all times so parents should bring a few extra ones for the day.
The park has three food places offering great meal choices. I visited The Feasible Frog where I enjoyed their Taco Sampler and poke. The Taco Sampler included the Carne Asada Taco, Chipotle Firecracker Shrimp Taco, and Pulled Chicken Mole Taco. It came with salsa and plantain chips.A park guest sitting next to me, could not stop raving about the mac and cheese from the Whakawaiwai Eats dining location.
My husband and son hopped over to the Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club™.They chose the Mango BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. Mango slaw, fresh cabbage, and caramelized pineapple topped the pulled pork and served on a delicious toasted Hawaiian bun.
If these do not spark your interest, they also have hamburgers, hot dogs, pizzas, and chicken sandwiches.
Apart from the food venues the park sports several bars spread throughout the property. Adults can enjoy mixed alcoholic drinks while the kids can get the virgin versions.
While you are at Volcano Bay™, do not forget to get your souvenirs. They have hats, T-shirts, and sunglasses to name just a few. If you are worried about carrying your wallet around, load your TapuTapu™ with your credit card information for quick shopping.
Bring from Home
Escaping the harsh Florida sun is no easy feat. Guests visiting the park should remember to bring a full bottle of waterproof sunscreen. Put on the first application 30 minutes before you get to the park. Then reapply at least once an hour.If your kids are fair skinned, consider bringing a white t shirt or wet suit shirt to avoid sun burns.
The park doesn’t supply guests with free towel service. Hence, for travelers on a budget bringing towels from home is a useful solution.
Autism Travel Tips
- This park isn’t geared to provide guests with autism accommodations per se.In fact, most rides have several flights of stairs leading to them.So, guests just stand in line until they get their turn.The Tapu Tapu system helps in that one doesn’t wait a long time in line. However, there’s still a short 20-minute wait in most cases.
- Most walkways have built in mini sprinklers spraying water to help visitors’ remove the sand off their feet. As a result, the grounds are quite slippery.
- The names of the rides are difficult to pronounce or remember, so arrange to meet your kid at guest services if you get separated. While my husband and son were at Volcano Bay™, they got separated from each other. Luckily, my son went straight to guest services to ask for help. The staff comforted him, even treated him to a snack while they searched for my husband.
- Shade is a prized commodity in this park. If I had to choose to do anything different when visiting Volcano Bay™, I would have rented a Cabana. They start at $160 which is a bit steep. However, renting a cabana would have given me a shaded location to rest and relax out of the sun, while my husband and son rode the slides and had fun. Not to mention, the amenities that the Cabana offers, like a mini-fridge stocked with cold bottled water, or the concierge service to have an excellent Margarita or Mai Tai delivered to me.
Have you been to Volcano Bay™? If so, which was the most exciting ride for you?