During my trip to Orlando, Florida this week I spent a day at Universal’s Volcano Bay. The park opened the weekend of May 26, so I was there the second week it had been operational. As expected, the park still has some issues to work out. I knew this going in, so I’m going to go easy. Please keep this in mind if you’re planning to go in the next 2-3 months–I have a feeling it will take some time to hit perfect.
First off, this place is beautiful. Stunning. It did a great job of bringing the tropical island theme to life. From the plants to the buildings, it’s insane. Even the music is relaxing.
The park uses a TapuTapu virtual line system. The idea is great, in theory. Rather than wait around in lines, you are free to spend your non-ride time playing in the wave pool (which is SO FUN) or in one of the two rivers (Lazy and Fearless – FYI, The Fearless is better), or just wandering about enjoying the food and sand. You can even take a stroll through a cave under the volcano!
Unfortunately, the wait time for most rides was well over 2 hours, not to mention the fact that it’s not an actual wait time. It’s more of a guess. It can be faster or longer. I spent a lot of time looking at the numbers on my TapuTapu, watching 75 minutes become 80 become 60. Once you are called, you’re still looking at another 10-30 minutes of waiting.
In total, I ended up doing 4 rides in about 7 hours. The Aqua Coaster was the first, and the best ride. Since I’m so small, I was right up front. My slightly more heavy friend was behind me, and since our combined weight is around 130 Ibs, the little raft ended up getting some serious air. Was it worth waiting for almost 3 hours? No. But it was fun.
Ride 2 was the Honu ika Moana. The wait time for this one was only about 20 minutes, which is why we opted to give it a go. It was a decent ride, but nothing special. It’s your average water slide with a tube.
Afterward, we went on the Ohno Drop Slide, which drops you 6 feet into a pool of 10 feet of water. The ride down was meh, but the drop and plunge were great. I almost wish it was even bigger! They will ask you if you’re a strong swimmer for this. We all lied.
Finally, we went on the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides. You walk up a million steps (not joking, it’s a workout) to the top of the volcano and then drop down a slide. Again, this ride is meh. But, at the very start the bottom drops out, letting you plunge into the slide. Since I couldn’t get on the Body Plunge (3+ hours of wait times and then the ride was filled up by 4 p.m.), this was an okay compromise.
While waiting for the rides I stopped by the Dancing Dragons Boat Bar for a guava slushie (sooo good) and The Feasting Frog for some shrimp tacos (7/10). The food was pretty good for theme park food, and the weather was so humid that it wasn’t unbearable to eat in a wet swimsuit. The TapuTapu pay system made purchases and locker rental soooo easy, which was an added bonus (lockers are about $15 for the day).
As for the rivers and the beaches, the seats filled up way before we arrived (we strolled in 2 hours after opening), but it was just as relaxing to float down the rivers, which include giant waves and waterfalls. Tubes were pretty easy to come by, although I did have to get a tad feisty at times. Keep your children close.
Overall, I’m giving the park a 7/10. I loved the atmosphere, but the TapuTapu system needs to be worked out. I think allowing people to wait in the queue of a few rides at a time, or opening some to actual lines would be beneficial. The park also lacks signage (I got lost at least 175 times. Not joking).
My biggest recommendation for this park is to go an hour before opening, Tapu the Body plunge first, followed by the Aqua Coaster, and then spend the rest of your time going through the other rides. The other option is to shell out $75-115 for an express ticket. Usually I would say these are a waste, but if you want to go on all the rides, it’s necessary.