I’d bet that when you think of a tropical paradise, you probably aren’t thinking about a water park. Better yet, a water theme park. But let me tell you, Universal’s Volcano Bay makes you feel as if you’ve truly gone to one of those random islands in the middle of the ocean that you might have seen on Instagram. You know, the ones you see stunning photos of only to find that it’ll take 6 flights and a solid 36 hours of traveling to get to.
My husband and I are all about tropical vacations. We got engaged on the side of a cliff in Hawaii and were married on a beach in Costa Rica. We even honeymooned with a view of a real volcano. So when I say Volcano Bay fits into our idea of a tropical paradise, it’s saying a lot and you can trust our expertise. Here’s our guide to a day at Universal’s Volcano Bay.
WHERE TO STAY
I’m going to come right out and say it — the ULTIMATE way to experience Universal’s Volcano Bay is staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
We stayed in a Volcano Bay view room and the view is beyond breathtaking. The second you walk in and pull the curtains aside, you can see a volcano sitting right in the middle of Florida! Not only are you sleeping next to a volcano, but if you’re a planner like me, you can take a look at a few rides to add to your to-do list before walking over.
Not only is Cabana Bay Beach Resort so close to the parks, the hotel also has a really cute lobby bar called Swizzle Lounge that we love to sit and have our favorite drinks at before going upstairs to Galaxy Bowl! My husband loves to enjoy the Swizzle Rum Punch and I usually go for a nice glass of wine. Oh, and yes, there’s a bowling alley inside the hotel! It was such a fun evening to challenge each other to a few rounds of bowling before heading to bed to prepare for a full day in the park.
PRO-TIP: The other benefit of staying at Cabana Bay is being able to take an exclusive walking path right to the entrance of Volcano Bay.
WHAT TO DO
I’m an early riser and when you stay at one of the Universal hotels, you get Early Park Admission. This lets us in up to an hour before the theme park opens to day guests and is a great way to pick out the perfect spot on Waturi Beach for the day.
We also made sure to download the official Universal Orlando Resort App and link it to our TapuTapu wearable, so that we didn’t even need to worry about carrying our wallets all day. TapuTapu is as comfortable as wearing my fitness tracker, but it allows you to tap to get a Virtual Line for a ride so you can do other things while you wait in line. You can also tap to pay for items around the park, tap on some hidden play features (like spraying water canons), and more. A true game changer for a park.
After putting some of our valuables like our cell phones and wallets in a locker, we were set and ready to go! The first thing we decided is that we HAD to ride Krakatau Aqua Coaster first. It said “Ride Now” which meant we didn’t have to get a return time with our TapuTapu and could walk right on. We laughed, we screamed, and had such a fun time.
We then chose to cruise around the Kopiko Wai Winding River holding hands (cheesy, I know) for a few laps before taking a break and grabbing a fruity drink at the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar. We kept the souvenir cup so we could refill during lunch (and maybe one more time toward the end of the day).
DRINK RECOMMENDATION: I love the Toasted Coconut Pineapple and my husband goes for the Vol’s Fire Punch. You can’t go wrong with pineapple juice!
Then it was time for my husband to take on the Ko’okiri Body Plunge, a 70 degree through a trapdoor 125 feet up. I gave him a farewell kiss because there was no amount of bribing he could do to get me to climb up there. I made my way to The Reef (a pool that the Ko’okiri drops right next to) and patiently waited for his return. The cool thing about The Reef is being able to watch people taking the plunge in a clear tube under the water!
After he descended, he popped right up and gave me such a big hug, happy that he was back on land. After conquering Ko’okiri he was ready to take on all the other rides in the park, so we headed to Honu of the Honu ika Moana to get a return time with a simple tap of our TapuTapu and took a lunch break.
WHERE TO EAT
Before lunch, we grabbed a drink from Kunuku Boat Bar. I had this amazing Blue Hawaiian and my husband got a Ko’okiri Plunge. Makes sense after a thrilling plunge down that ride. We sipped on our drinks while heading to lunch at The Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club.
The Kohola Chicken Sandwich looked and tasted SO good, we both had to get one. When I say this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, I truly mean it. It’s made with Tandoori marinated chicken (yum), cucumber mango basil slaw, lettuce, tomato and avocado mayo on a toasted Hawaiian style bun with fries (you can’t go wrong with a Hawaiian style bun).
MORE FOOD OPTIONS: As much as I love that sandwich, I’ve also tried the Chicken Tacos and Poke Poke Bowl from The Feasting Frog and they are both absolutely delicious, especially if you’re looking for lighter fare.
WHAT TO DO
Of course, right as we finish our food, our TapuTapu tells us we’re ready to ride Honu. We rode both Honu of the Honu ika Moana and ika Moana of the Honu ika moana. As I waited for our turn on Honu, my heart was racing seeing the iconic blue-wave-looking slide. I braved the ride and laughed all the way down.
We then strapped on lifejackets and headed down TeAwa The Fearless River. Out of everything we did this day, this was one of the most memorable experiences as we tried to hold hands but the current kept pulling us in different directions. If there’s one attraction you don’t want to miss, this is the one. It’s so much fun.
We took a little break to sit by Waturi Beach and soak up some sun before riding a few more rides for the day. We explored the volcano and even stumbled upon Vol, the spirit of the volcano.
We ended our day on the Puihi Round Raft Ride. I’m a sucker for a good raft ride and man was it a blast. We had such a good time that we ended up riding this one a few times since it was marked as “Ride Now.”
At the end of the day, we had such a great time and I couldn’t leave an amazing day at Volcano Bay without a few souvenirs. We finished the day going to Krakatoa Katy’s Shop where I picked up a cute little bamboo plant in a tiki head that is currently sitting on my desk as I write this. We also picked up a Volcano Bay towel that I always roll up in my beach bag. It’s such a great memory of our trip to Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Volcano Bay. Staying at the hotel made it for such an easy weekend (and picturesque walk at the end of the day!) that we highly recommend it to all of our friends who ask about going to the park.
We even had so much fun that we didn’t even get a moment to take any photos! Let us know about your experience at Volcano Bay – and (unlike myself) don’t forget to share your photos — with us on Twitter and Instagram.