Volcano Bay is my favorite water park EVER. I try not to throw around terms like “favorite” and “the best” but out of all the water parks I’ve visited with my family, Volcano Bay, at Universal Orlando Resort, is my very favorite. I’m excited to share our Volcano Bay tips with you and to provide you with some 2021 reopening info.
Volcano Bay Tips You can really use to plan your trip + 2021 Reopening Info
Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando Resort’s epic water park. If you are visiting Universal Studios Florida, it is a definite must do but there are some things to know before you visit. Like a lot of the Florida theme parks, planning is key. These are my best Volcano Bay Tips to help you have your very best visit possible.
Visiting Universal Studios Florida with younger kids? Read this.
About Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando has really outdone themselves in the theming department – the park is based on the culture of the Waturi people and everything in the park reflects their simple philosophy: Water is Life. Life is Joy. Here, check it out:
The aesthetic of Volcano Bay falls in line perfectly with the story and the overall theme. It all works together so perfectly and the little details really come together…you’ll notice as soon as you step inside. Your kids might not but you definitely will.
You might also like: The Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
Volcano Bay Tips – 2021 Reopening Info:
Volcano Bay closed for the season in November 2020. This closure was called a seasonal closure and the park reopened again on 02/27/2021. Since everything is a little different with travel and recreation right now, here’s what we know:
- Volcano Bay will have limited capacity, which it always had in some form, even before COVID-19. At present, the park is not on a reservation system. How exactly that will work, we are still not sure.
- Face coverings will be mandatory to enter the park, in restaurants and retail shops. Face coverings may not be worn on water slides and in the pools. Expect temperature checks upon entry. This is standard for the other two Universal Orlando theme parks.
- Currently, tickets to Volcano Bay are available as single-day tickets, but Universal Orlando Resorts report that a three park pass will be available soon. Your travel agent or vacation planner should be on top of this for you. Assuming you are planning to explore all three parks, this will likely be the best deal.
- If you’ve previously purchased a three park pass and postponed your trip due to COVID-19, this page has some helpful info. I’ll update once the season gets underway. I hope to have some firsthand tips for you soon. I can’t wait to get back to Volcano Bay!
One of the most important Volcano Bay tips: Get to the park early
Like really super-duper early. You’ll get early admission if you’re staying at one of the Universal Orlando Resort hotels. At the time of our visit, Volcano Bay was allowing resort guests in an hour before the park’s official opening. Check with your vacation planner or call the resort directly to ask what the current policy is.
Current 2021 Info:
Volcano Bay opens at 10 a.m. Please note the hours might be different from pre-pandemic times. The park used to open at 8 a.m. but the current calendar shows hours of 10am-5pm for February and all of March 2021. Hopefully, they’ll extend their hours as the season progresses.
Why the rush to get in early?
You definitely want to snag a good seat but you’ll want to get in line early to make sure you get in the water park, period. Volcano Bay stops admitting guests when the park is at full capacity. Being early is one of the best Volcano Bay tips I can give you.
I don’t currently have info on what capacity limits are for 2021 but reduced capacity definitely makes getting in line early more important.
You can come and go on your one-day ticket. However, if the park fills to capacity while you’re taking a break, you may be denied re-entry. The fact that you were already in once that day won’t help you if the park is at capacity. Keep that in mind when you’re planning how your day will play out.
Set up cashless payment before you enter the park
This is one of the Volcano Bay tips that will make your trip so much easier. You’ll need to download the Universal Orlando App and connect your credit card. You won’t have to worry about cash or credit cards and you can use your Tapu Tapu wearable wrist band (more about that in a minute) to pay for food and drinks, merchandise in the park, locker and towel rental and more.
This is super easy to set up and I loved not having to worry about keeping track of my wallet or worry about a plastic baggie with my money in it floating down the lazy river without me – that actually happened to me once and I learned my lesson.
Reserve premium seating or cabanas early
Volcano Bay has plenty of seating but much of it is in the full sun, which is a no-no for pasty white girls like me. If you want premium seating (essentially a lounge chair with a canopy and a safe for your valuables, eliminating the need for a locker rental) or if you’re looking to do the big splurge on a cabana, you’ll want to book at least two weeks in advance.
Call (877) 489-8068 to reserve seating. We did splurge on the cabana and it was GLORIOUS! I know it’s a spend but I have never, ever, ever regretted booking a waterpark cabana.
Get your seats and lockers early
If you’re not doing premium seating, you’re going to want to hustle to snag your seats and lockers as soon as you get through the gates. The seats in the shade and the larger lockers will go quickly, so make sure you make getting a place to sit and stow your belongings a priority. Trust me, you’re going to be tempted to look around and ooh and ahh over the beautiful and lush scenery but there will be time for that later.
Not near Florida? Check out the best water parks in Texas
Do your research beforehand
Nothing can put a damper on a vacation or any family outing like not being prepared to deal with the unexpected or taking valuable time to learn how things flow. No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, a few minutes of research are always going to be well-spent. Here are some things you’ll want to know before you head to Volcano Bay. These Volcano Bay tips may spark other questions you might have about the park, so my best advice is not to leave questions unanswered.
The fact that you’ve read this far indicates you’re researching your trip so you’re already ahead of the game!
Know the height requirements for the attractions
The height requirements for all the slides and attractions as well as a brief description is listed in the app, so make sure you download that early and spend some time poking around. The app is really easy to navigate.
Most of the slides have a 42 inch to 48 inch height requirement scale. Kids who are at least 42 inches tall can ride a good amount of the slides and attractions, such as the Krakatau Water Coaster (our favorite!), TeAwa the Fearless River, Hona ika Moana, and more. See below for a complete list. Kids who are 48 inches or more can ride most of the attractions at Volcano Bay.
Some of the attractions, such as the Fearless River (kind of like a lazy river but not lazy – another one of our favorites) and the wave pool, require kids under 48 inches to wear a life jacket and be advised, the staff at Volcano Bay heavily enforces this. One of our kids is exactly 48 inches without shoes and he was called out by lifeguards twice for not having a life jacket on in the wave pool. It didn’t go over well at all with my 48-inch son but I appreciated the focus on safety.
Scope out the menus
Information on food and drink offerings within Volcano Bay can be found online or in the app. There’s a good mix of interesting eats and traditional fare you’d expect to see in a water park at the six different dining locations.
The prices were typical “theme park” prices…certainly not cheap but not so outrageous that you can’t manage lunch and snacks in the park with a little planning. You can also leave Volcano Bay for lunch – Cabana Bay Beach Resort is adjacent to Volcano Bay and the Bayliner Diner has an extensive menu and a casual dining atmosphere. Remember what I said about taking a risk when leaving Volcano Bay with the intent to re-enter, though.
I found the prices at the Bayliner Diner to be pretty much on par with the food prices within Volcano Bay, so unless you really want a break from the park, I recommend being prepared to spend a little money on food within the water park.
If you want to bring your own food and drinks in to Volcano Bay, check out this page on general restrictions on what you can and cannot bring into the Universal Orlando Resort parks.
Get to know Tapu Tapu – Perhaps one of the most important Volcano Bay tips
Tapu Tapu (is that fun to say, or what?) is the wearable wristband that all visitors to Volcano Bay receive upon entrance. It looks like this:
If you connect your Tapu Tapu to your credit card (which I strongly recommend doing) you can use it to purchase things inside the park. This is super convenient. The main purpose of Tapu Tapu is to eliminate the need to stand in line for the attractions by allowing you to select what you want to ride next and putting you in a virtual line.
Each ride has a Tapu Tapu symbol attached to a post near the ride’s entrance that will tell you what the current wait time for that ride is. If you want to get in the virtual line, place your Tapu Tapu against the icon. It reserves your place in line.
Your wearable will show you how much time you have to wait (which we found to often be shorter than the posted times). You will be reminded of your ride time in five minute increments. When it’s time to ride, you’ll get a notification that says “ride now.”
You have one hour from the time you’re notified to check in at the ride. Once you check in, be prepared to wait in another line, although your wait will typically not be very long. We visited on a busy Friday and the most we had to wait in a physical line was about 25 minutes. The virtual wait for the Krakatau Water Coaster, however, was as long as 200 minutes at peak.
Yes, 200 minutes. That’s not a typo.
You can do all kinds of things while you’re waiting in the virtual line, such as enjoy and of the pools, the Kopiko Wai Winding River (lazy river) or the TeAwa the Fearless River. You can also ride any ride that has a posted time of “ride now.” You cannot be in more than one virtual line, but if you change your mind, you can use your Tapu Tapu to get out of one line and join another.
Make sure your Tapu Tapu is firmly fastened to your wrist. One of my kids lost his Tapu Tapu on a ride. If this happens to you, head to one of the concierge huts with your park ticket and they’ll replace it.
Your Tapu Tapu also does other cool stuff. If you see the symbol anywhere in the park, tap and see what happens. No spoiler alerts but your kids will have a blast with this!
Make a plan for what/when you’ll ride
I recommend riding your most coveted ride first thing in the morning while the waits are the shortest. Based on wait times (and my kids’ enthusiastic reactions) I would say the Krakatau Water Coaster is the most popular and in-demand, so consider riding that one first.
Before tapping in to a ride with a really long wait, check out the wait times for the other rides. Do you want to wait more than two hours to re-ride the Krakatau Water Coaster or do you want to ride three slides with shorter waits?
We worked our way through all of the rides that our kids were tall enough to ride. Then we re-rode our favorites. We got in line to re-ride Krakatau just before lunch, since we’d planned on a leisurely lunch and a rest.
Bring your own towels
The towel service at Volcano Bay is $5.00. Towels are available at the concierge huts. You are not allowed to bring the towels from your resort hotel room to Volcano Bay.
I found the whole charging for towels thing to be a little nickel and dime-y. The pools at Universal Orlando resort hotels have lovely beach towels available for free. This is one thing I said I wished Universal Orlando would change after our initial visit in 2018, but to date, they have not changed this policy.
If you’re driving, it’s no big deal to pack your own towels. If you’re flying, beach towels take up a lot of luggage space.
Other miscellaneous Volcano Bay tips:
- Water shoes are not allowed on all the water rides but there are plenty of places to stow your shoes.
- There are constant streams of water flowing on to the pavement via jets alongside the walkways. This keeps the common walking areas nice and cool.
- There is a TON of sand at Volcano Bay. I know some kids with sensory issues have problems with sand. I don’t see any good way to really avoid sand at Volcano Bay.
- You won’t see anyone schlepping their tubes or rafts around Volcano Bay. The park employs the very latest technology. All the tubes and rafts are sent back to the top of the slide/ride via electronic means.
- The only place I saw a scarcity of tubes is on the TeAwa The Fearless River. If you go to the left side of the pool to find a tube, your experience will be somewhat similar to that of the tributes scrambling for supplies at the cornucopia. If you go to the right, there are tubes aplenty. You’re welcome.
- It rains almost daily in Central Florida. Don’t go scampering for the exits just because of a few raindrops. Wait it out (you’re already wet, right?) and keep riding and sliding, provided there’s no lightning nearby. That only means shorter lines for you, right?
It’s worth sticking around to check out Volcano Bay after dark. The volcano lights up and changes colors.
Currently, the park closes at 5pm, so there’s not a chance to see these after dark sights right now. We are hopeful that as the season progresses and more things open up that Volcano Bay will extend their hours but that remains to be seen.
Walk-On access from Cabana Bay
Volcano Bay is right next to Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Cabana Bay has super-easy walking access to Volcano Bay. If you’re staying at one of the other Universal Orlando resorts, you’ll have to take a bus to Volcano Bay.
Cabana Bay is a value resort and does not come with the free Express Pass. The Premium Resorts do (Hard Rock, Portofino Bay, and Royal Pacific) include Express Passes. The Express Pass perk is one of the reasons we recommend the Premium Resorts. Check into staying at Cabana Bay if you’re going to spend a substantial amount of your vacation at Volcano Bay.
Is Volcano Bay right for families with babies and toddlers?
I would say no.
I found the emphasis to be heavy on thrills at Volcano Bay. The slides were several notches above what I’ve seen at any other water park. Even the tamer ones were still pretty thrilling. If the majority of your kiddos are under 42 inches, there won’t be much they can ride.
The kid’s areas, the beaches and pools are absolutely breathtaking. If your goal is to slide your day away, your shorter humans won’t be able to do as much. It’s a pricey water park if you are not going to take advantage of the epic water slides.
To check out ticket options, go here.
Height Requirements for Volcano Bay
Rides for guests under 48 inches (please note all the rides listed below have a minimum height of 42 inches):
ika Moana of Honu ika Moana™ (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
Krakatau™ Aqua Coaster (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides™ (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
Punga Racers™ (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
Taniwha Tubes™ (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
TeAwa The Fearless River™ (guests 42-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising companion)
The following rides have a 48 inch minimum height:
Honu of Honu ika Moana™
Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides™
Ko’okiri Body Plunge™
Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides™
For more detailed info, check out the Rider’s Guide.
We really loved our day at Volcano Bay and would jump at the chance to go again. Since it’s easily the coolest water park in the Orlando area, expect it to be busy and plan accordingly.
I hope my Volcano Bay tips have helped you out. If you have a question or if you visit the park and have an update, shoot me a message!