Volcano Bay Waterpark Universal Studios

Universal is one of our all-time favorite theme parks but due to our family’s personal best time for vacation (winter) we had never opted to test out any of the waterparks in Orlando for fear that they would be too cold for a visit. But an extra special weekend away for our son’s big 10th birthday this past September, gave us the opportunity to finally check it out and I am happy to say it did not disappoint. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the Volcano Bay water park and all the great need-to-knows.

  1. Gorgeous and Awesome slides

Volcano Bay is by far the prettiest waterpark we have ever been to. The way they have the sand beach paired up next to the wave pool beside the “volcano” makes you feel like you are actually in a tropical paradise. If we weren’t there to ride water slides, I could have easily sat and just enjoyed that view all day. Attraction-wise, this place was on point with its offering of an Aqua Coaster, tube slides, family raft rides, fast and slow “lazy rivers” and even plunge slides down through the “volcano”. They had an area with slides for littler kids to enjoy which looked pretty nice but unfortunately it had a “no taller than” requirement which made my son too tall for the attractions of that area. No worries though as the rest of this park was made for little thrill seekers like him that love water slides and he was tall enough for them all. And for those who are good enough swimmers, don’t miss the Ohyah and Ohno water slides, they were our son’s personal favorites.



  1. TapuTapu wristband

All rides outside of the little kids’ zone or lazy rivers utilize a “virtual line” system. This system works through a wearable wristband aka TapuTapu which is given to every guest to wear during their visit regardless of whether or not you purchased fast passes. This device is included in your admission but is only a “rented” device for the park and is required to be returned upon exiting. At the entrance of each attraction are totem poles where you can scan your wristband and receive a return time to come back and access the ride. The watch is fully automated so it will do the countdown for you and tell you exactly when it is time to return. Once you enter the line you may have an additional short wait, but it was generally less than 10 minutes. If the virtual wait is short enough the ride may just have a “ride now” sign in which you can walk right on without the need to scan for a return time. We found this a lot at the beginning of the day and then the waits seemed to increase as the day went on.

The uses of the TapuTapu go beyond just the virtual line as well. You can link it to a credit card so you can pay for anything around the park without having to carry your wallet around. It can give you locker access. There are some interactive areas around the park, especially in the underbelly of the volcano, that you can scan and will give off a bit of a “show” with lights and such. It also has a scanning system and will take photos of you while on rides, which can be purchased for your day if you choose as well.

*screenshot from Universal Studios Website*

  1. Express PLUS Pass vs Express Pass

Even though everyone already uses the virtual line set up, there is still an option to bypass the wait altogether, but the system for this is different than the passes you will find for universals other theme parks as there is no “unlimited” pass option. All the express passes at volcano bay are a one time per ride use, with the difference between the regular Express and Express PLUS being the number of rides included (body, plunge and drop slides not included on the basic express pass). Also, just to note, if you are staying at one of Universals premier hotels the fast pass promotion that comes with your stay does not include fast passes at Volcano Bay, but only to theme parks.

  1. No Disability Pass

Unlike Universals theme parks, Volcano Bay does not offer a disability pass or AAP for its guests with disabilities who have issues waiting in line. This is something not uncommon with most waterparks we have been to and thankfully Universal sort of has a workaround for this due to their virtual line set up. It is not a perfect system as I will warn you that even though there are virtual lines for all the rides, sometimes there is still an additional wait once you scan into the ride, but for the most part these waits are short. We did struggle a bit ourselves as there were some delays with the aqua coaster that had us waiting for more than 30mintues before getting to ride, but that was our only real physical wait issue for the day. Now, if your child is like ours and has difficulty with waiting to ride a desired ride (even if it is not waiting in a physical line), I would highly recommend spending the extra money for a fast pass and/or strategizing a bit on what to ride. Getting to the park early and riding some of the more popular rides like the Aqua coaster or plunge slides will likely help you beat some of the crowds. And we also found that in the morning many of the rides were still short enough wait to “ride now” without having to use our single use per ride fast pass so we could save it for later and ride again without waiting still.

  1. Photos

Photos on a trip are my go-to souvenirs, so it is no surprise that theme parks that offer ride photos always get me with their photo packages. And since it is rare to find these types of ride photo options at waterparks, I couldn’t resist. We pre-purchased our photo package and linked our TapuTapu up at the start of our day at the photocenter to try and avoid any issues with missed photos later in the day. I will say that a couple of the slides did seem to have difficulty registering your device and grabbing the right photo. If you know an estimate of the time you rode the ride and a photo was taken but you don’t see it showing up in the system, the people at the photo center will be able to help you find and add the photo to your package for you.

All in all, we had a great time at this waterpark. It took a minute to get used to the TapuTapu procedures but once we did, we really loved the setup of the virtual line system as well as the ease of not having to carry around your wallet to grab a snack or drink. We were on the go with just our suits and wristbands, and we could get whatever we needed even if we were on the opposite end of the park. So, combining the ambiance, slide quality, and virtual wait system it is easy for me to say that this is my favorite water park we have been to thus far.