With our visit to Wild Wadi Waterpark in Dubai still fresh in our minds we were so excited to experience the brand new 30-acre Volcano Bay waterpark which opened on the 25th May.
We caught our first glimpse of the park before we left the car as the 200ft Volcano called Krakatau dominates the skyline on Interstate 4 as you approach Universal Orlando, this only added to our excitement levels.
After we parked our car at Universal Orlando we were transported to the entrance of Volcano Bay a short 5 minute ride away via the complimentary Volcano Bay shuttle buses, which although unexpected was .
As you emerge from a long dark tunnel with rock walls and bamboo covered ceiling which is your gateway to Volcano Bay you really do feel you have been transported to a tropical island as it’s based on fabled Pacific islanders called the Waturi, so the park has a very South Pacific / New Zealand theme to it.
With themed music playing in the background we arrived at the entrance and were greeted with the Moari greeting “Hello, kia ora” and after a quick biometric finger scan we were given our innovative TapuTapu wristband – which can be best described as a cool little smartwatch. These are included as standard for all visitors and allows you wait in line without actually having to wait.
The theming and attention to detail is that good with hundreds of Tiki faces hidden amongst the rocks and beautiful tropical landscaping.
Dominating the park is the huge rock and moss covered Volcano which is really impressive and a “wow” moment. The gigantic structure is part water and part fire Volcano with smoke billowing from its 200ft peak. Waterfalls cascade 170ft down the volcano by day before clever lighting effects at night make the water look like molten lava falling from the volcano.
Below the volcano was a huge multidirectional wave pool which has nine different types of waves throughout the day along with a beautiful sand beach called Waturi, with lots of loungers to relax on.
I would recommend you arrive early as many of the loungers get taken very quickly, alternatively there were some fantastic cabanas that you could rent which include towels, snacks, water a locker, concierge service plus the ability to reserve rides from the comfort of your cabana. The cost of hiring a cabana starts from $159.99 all the way up to $449.99 per day. The upper level of the cabana offers great views of the park with costs starting from $199.99 to $549.99. There are also large family suite cabanas which holds up to 16 people with prices starting from $299.99 and in peak periods can cost at least $599.99. The other option is premium seating, located in several zones throughout the park which come with a shaded area over 2 padded sun loungers. You also get an attendant to take your food and drink orders. Prices range from $29.99 to $69.99 per day.
For children there were lots of complimentary swim vests to use throughout your visit.
We used the changing rooms and locker facilities one of four at the park which are once more cleverly controlled by your TapuTapu device, so no keys or codes to remember. Locker hire costs $9-$15 depending on the size of the locker. For a family you will definitely need the $15 locker.
By chance the girls found the first of many interactive experiences throughout the park in Puka Uli Lagoon – the first pool area we visited. When they tapped their TapuTapu against one of the special sensors cleverly hidden they managed to trigger the giant Tiki heads to shoot water. There are lots of these interactive experiences around the park and using the water cannons at other guests on the Kopiko Wai Winding River they thought was amazing!
As we walked past the giant Tiki Heads they made us jump as they started to talk! It’s this level of interaction which makes Volcano Bay much more than just a water park and so different to the likes to Wild Wadi in Dubai and Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
There are four themed zone with 18 rides to experience from the extreme such as three high speed trap door slides located within the Volcano itself one of which is a 125ft drop! The four seater canoe Krakatau Aqua Coaster was awesome but can get very busy, s I would advise that you arrive early especially as there is no express on this ride.
For families there are lots of great rides to enjoy from the Kopiko Wai Winding River to our favourite the Honu ika Moana, a 4-5 people raft ride which although very fast and scary in places was brilliant fun.
What Universal have done really well at Volcano Bay is that on all rides there is no need to carry rafts and rings up flights of stairs, they have cleverly incorporated conveyor belts that takes your raft to the top of the slide. The paths are also kept cool with lots of cooling mist so you are able to comfortably walk around the park bare foot without burning your feet.
Another great area for children was the Runamukka Reef and Tot Tiki Reef sections. Here there were some great water slides for all ages which the girls really enjoyed. This was their favourite area of Volcano Bay.
It was great watching them have so much fun as they got braver and tried higher and faster slides. Along with slides here were water guns, dump cups and lots of fun fountains to run through – they had such a great time they didn’t want to leave.
The competitive sides of my husband and daughter were brought into action as they raced each other down the Punga Racer which comes out of the back of the volcano on manta ray-shaped mats.
Although the TapuTapu virtual line system sounds great in theory, we visited on a weekend and it was really busy and some of the popular thrill slides had return times of over 3+ hours. However you can get around this, we had prebooked express on our tickets which allowed fast track access to the rides which I would recommend as essential if you are planning on visiting during peak periods, especially with younger children. Even with the express however you will stay have to wait in line, you just don’t need to reserve a space using the TapuTapu system .
We all loved the wave pool at the foot of the mighty Krakatau volcano, jumping the waves as they crashed around us. The thematic noise and music that played just before waves came from base of the volcano was so memorable and once more is what makes this water park something special.
The Ohyah and Ohno drop slides looked too terrifying for us to try but we had great fun watching guests zoom down the slide before dropping four to six feet into 10 feet of water below. If you are not strong swimmers I would give this one a miss!
There are six dining locations throughout the water park (four restaurants and two bars) which looked really good, but we didn’t get a chance to try the food on offer as we couldn’t manage to coax the girls from the fun of the water park.
Volcano Bay is an amazing water theme park, we had so much fun with some brilliant water slides. There is a mixture of thrill and non thrill rides and two rivers plus the beautiful wave pool beneath the so impressive volcano. Although some of the slides are targeted toward older guests, there are lots of slides for all the family to enjoy whatever their ages. Because it is a brand new park, it is very busy so I would recommend going as soon as the park opens and avoiding weekends. The TapuTapu system still has some bugs that need ironed out with payments not working with international credit cards and excessive wait times, but if you can I would recommend upgrading your ticket to have express access.
We have been to water parks across the world but Volcano Bay really is something special and will only get better once all of the initial teething problems are resolved, we can’t wait to return.
For more information, go to www.universalorlando.co.uk/volcanobay