No matter the time of year, you can experience paradise at Universal's Volcano Bay. Of all the water parks in Orlando, Volcano Bay is a great choice for grown ups and couples. But, the best day at Universal's Volcano Bay takes planning. Read on for tips just for couples. We'll start off with the basics and then dig into strategies to make the most of your day in paradise.
What Is Universal’s Volcano Bay?
Volcano Bay is so different from other water parks that it can confuse folks as to what it actually is. For the longest time, Universal would refer to it as a “water theme park.” Yes, Volcano Bay is extremely well-themed, the details are enveloping. And with the virtual queue system and tap to pay functions of TapuTapu, it has reimagined how to make visiting a water park more convenient and stress-free.
What makes Volcano Bay so different is its level of theming, amount of water slides and attractions, and TapuTapu. The food and drinks are fantastic too. Once you set foot inside Volcano Bay you'll want to spend all day. So keep reading to find out how to make the most of your day in paradise.
How Big is Universal's Volcano Bay?
This aquatic paradise spans approximately 25 acres! That means a lot of exploring, and relaxing. There are three main sections of the park. Plan ahead and view the Volcano Bay map.
There are about 15 water slides at Volcano Bay, plus a massive beach with a wave pool, two additional pool areas, a lazy river, a rapid river, and the most impressive kids area I have ever seen in a water park in Orlando. For comparison, SeaWorld's Aquatica has 10 water slides, plus a lazy river, rapid river, beach with pool, and a kids area. Now, compare that to just about 9 slides at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, plus one beach with a wave pool, and one kid's area.
Volcano Bay has a lot more to do than the other water parks, and the ticket prices of Volcano Bay (about $70 per adult) are nearly the exact same as the other Orlando water parks. And yet, with more water slides, more pools, the largest kids area, and a virtual queue system it is a much better value.
Tips Just For Couples
Now that we've reviewed how many water slides are at Volcano Bay, how large it is, and what makes it different, let's go over some tips for couples. A day together at Volcano Bay is sure to bring you closer together – as long as you plan ahead.
Here's your first tip: there are lounge chairs throughout the entire park. Most people grab chairs on the main beach and near the front of the park because that's what they see when they first arrive. Instead, head to the back of the park or along the sides and you'll find pockets of chairs that are a lot less crowded. Do this first, then use the lockers that are near whatever seating area you've selected.
Choose The Right Day
Avoid Volcano Bay during the summer and any major holiday at all costs. I've been to Volcano Bay with my husband numerous times. There is a volcano-sized difference in crowds when visiting on a weekday and in the fall and winter when compared to the summer and on weekends.
If you can, visit together on a weekday (as long as it is not a major holiday time like Spring Break). Weekdays are usually much less crowded than weekends. And if it is during summer vacation, spring break, or other holidays, forget it.
Pro-tip: Make it a staycation at a Universal Orlando hotel
All official Universal Orlando hotels offer early morning entry into the theme parks and Volcano Bay on most days. Guests of the hotels can enter Volcano Bay 30 minutes early. Just check with the Team Members at the entrance to make sure you enter the right line to get into the park early. Even better, Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the closest hotel to Volcano Bay, with a special walkway directly to the park's entrance.
Eat and Drink Like You're In Paradise
A day in paradise is not complete without indulging in tropical refreshments and great eats. There are two full service bars inside Volcano Bay, complete with bar seating and the ability to grab drinks to go. Dancing Dragons is the bar closest to the park entrance and the main beach. It becomes extremely busy from 11am – 2pm or so. The second bar, Kunuku Boat Bar, is nearly in the perfect center of the park. It is surrounded by multiple water slides and the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, which is the most popular ride in the park. As you indulge in some drinks, be sure to order some ice water too so you stay hydrated.
To make the most of your money, I highly suggest spending all day in Volcano Bay. Usually, the park closes around 5pm or 6pm, and anytime I have visited I have noticed that the crowds start to leave the park around 3pm. So fuel yourself throughout the day.
There are five places to eat at Volcano Bay. The main restaurant is Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club, and it is located near the front of the park. It is also open the latest. I recommend eating here after 3pm to avoid crowds and give yourself a nice meal to carry you through into the early evening so you can stick around the park longer as the crowds leave.
Whakawaiwai Eats is the second-largest dining location in Volcano Bay. You can find it in the River Village, towards the back of the park. There are lots of longboard flatbreads from which to choose as well as gourmet hot dogs and mac-and-cheese. I recommend this spot for lunch so you can remain near the water slides in the back of the park while you grab an early lunch.
Mobile order your lunch to save lots of time, and do so around 11am to avoid long lines and crowds.
Avoid Long Lines
Long lines are not a major concern at Volcano Bay because of the virtual queue system in TapuTapu (more on that a little later). It is a good idea to review all the water slides and attractions at Volcano Bay ahead of time so you can discuss which ones you absolutely want to do. And if one of you is more of a thrill-seeker than the other then you should talk through which attractions you don't want to do.
Nothing wastes more time than showing up to a theme park or water park without a plan. Make the most of your time and plan ahead so you can just enjoy being in paradise together.
Note, some of the attractions below consist of multiple slides on the same structures. For example, Honu ika Moana are two separate slides, Honu and ika Moana. These count as two separate attractions, and are two different experiences.
Here are the best water slides and attractions at Volcano Bay for couples:
- Krakatau Aqua Coaster – medium thrills
- ika Moana of the Honu ika Moana – medium thrills
- Honu of the Honu ika Moana – big thrills
- Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides – big thrills
- Maku of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides – medium thrills
Don't forget to make time to float along together on the Kopiko Wai Winding River™ that winds through the entire park. There are three entrances/exits so you can use it to float from one part of the park to another if you wish. There is also a neat area to explore inside the volcano that towers over the park. Have some fun together as you walk along the paths leading up to and inside the volcano.
What is TapuTapu and How Does It Work?
Included in your admission is the use of TapuTapu. The waterproof wristband is your way to avoid long lines at Volcano Bay, as well as to be able to pay for food, drinks, and merchandise without needing your wallet.
Most attractions at Volcano Bay have a small kiosk at the entrance where you can join the virtual queue. Just tap your TapuTapu on the kiosk of the ride you wish to experience. Your place in line will be held and you are free to enjoy the rest of the park. Once it is your turn to ride, your TapuTapu will alert you. You will need to get back to the selected attraction within 10 minutes or so.
This virtual queue function is sometimes turned off if the park is not overly busy and the waits are reasonable. There are multiple wait time signs around the park.
To use TapuTapu to pay for items inside Volcano Bay, you need to follow three steps:
- Go to The Official Universal Orlando Resort App to set up your account.
- Link and assign the ticket numbers and names for each member of your party.
- Add a credit card and set a security PIN.
Link Your TapuTapu for Locker Rental
Getting a locker is a good idea to keep your stuff secure and dry. There are multiple locker sizes from which to choose, AND you can use TapuTapu to pay for the locker and open / close it throughout the day. There are no limits to how many times you can open and close your locker, and with TapuTapu there is no key to accidentally lose.
You'll need to link each person in your party's TapuTapu to the locker you rent in order for anyone in your party to be able to open it. Once your locker is rented, use the screen to link each TapuTapu. If you need help with this be sure to ask a Team Member while every person in your party is together at your locker.
Pro-tip: There are changing rooms and a few shower facilities. And, each section of the park has such facilities right next to the lockers and restrooms.
Parking at Volcano Bay
Parking at Universal Orlando is my least favorite part of visiting this exciting destination. There is one massive parking structure for all of Universal Orlando, including Volcano Bay.
When heading for Volcano Bay you will go to the main parking structure and after paying (or showing your annual pass, etc) head to the Cat in the Hat, ET, Spider-Man parking garage. Once you are in this garage try to park as close to the middle of the ground level as possible.
You have to take a shuttle bus from the parking structure to the actual entrance of Volcano Bay. The bus terminal is clearly marked and is on the ground floor of the garage. The most I have waited is 10 minutes.
Don't forget you'll go through a security bag checkpoint so please review what is not allowed in the park.
Pro-tip: Upgrade your day with a cabana or premium seating
With Volcano Bay being so large and offering so much to do, you may want to consider upgrading your day with a cabana or premium seating. There are cabanas for rent throughout the park. My husband and I did this to celebrate a special occasion and had an incredible time because of the cabana's features, convenience, and our server. If the cabanas are too much for your budget or for your needs, there is also Premium Seating. These spots are on the main beach with comfortable lounge chairs, shade, and food can be delivered to you here.
It is annoying that you cannot book cabanas or premium seating online, you have to call. But once you finally arrive to your specially reserved space you are bound to have an incredible time.