If you’ve spent the winter months pining for a plunge from the peak of Krakatoa, here’s some news to warm you up: Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay reopened after months of seasonal slumber, and we were there to bring you this look at the freshly refurbished water theme park.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Universal Orlando closed Volcano Bay for its first extended refurbishment since the water park’s 2017 debut. Volcano Bay was shut down from November 2, 2020, through February 27, 2020, but guests are once again enjoying this watery Waturi wonderland with some social distancing restrictions.
All three-park Universal Orlando Annual Passholders are currently eligible for Early Park Admission to Volcano Bay, so we arrived at the parking garage an hour before the regular park opening time. However, thanks to overcast skies and morning temperatures in the low 70s, we had a bus to the park all to ourselves.
On the way to Volcano Bay, guests watch this video preview of the TapuTapu device they’ll receive at the entrance. This replaces the social distancing safety video that was being shown last year.
The walk from the Volcano Bay bus stop to the park entrance takes guests through this beautifully themed tunnel, which establishes the atmosphere for the adventures to come.
Upon arriving at Volcano Bay’s main entrance, guests eligible for Early Park Admission will line up in front of the turnstiles to the left side, while general admission guests wait on the right-hand side, and are no longer allowed inside until regular park opening.
The entry area can get somewhat chaotic, so ask a Team Member exactly which turnstiles will be opening, and try to line up in front of one that doesn’t have a queue formed yet.
Exactly at opening time, team members start distributing the TapuTapu wristbands that are mandatory for all Volcano Bay visitors. The devices will occasionally vibrate with reminders about social distancing and health safety.
As soon as Volcano Bay opens for Early Park Admission, most guests grab beach chairs or a locker, but with current capacity restrictions you are likely to find empty spots until later in the morning.
Instead, head to the back of the park and take some quick laps on the Krakatau Aqua Coaster before the wait begins to build. If you’re quick, you should be able to ride several times in a row without having to exit the boat!
Your second stop of the morning should be the Honu group raft ride.
Single riders will need to find some strangers willing to share a raft, since employees will no longer pair up unrelated parties. The same policy also applies at Maku Puihi.
Thrill-seekers will next want to brave the extreme body slides located at the top of the volcano. Just be aware that it’s over 200 steps up to the summit, and there’s no elevator to bring you back down if you chicken out.
The 30-minute early entry period will likely be over at this point, but on weekdays the park doesn’t start getting busy until after 11 a.m., which is when several of the park’s attractions—including the Kopiko Wai lazy river —are currently opening for the day.
Speaking of Kopiko Wai, both it and the TeAwa wild river now offer only a single entry point in order to control capacity, and all tubes and life-vests are sanitized.
Take a lap around TeAwa and Kopiko Wai without getting wet by watching these POV videos.
Look for the enhanced lighting on the fountains found inside the lazy river’s starlit caverns!
Midmorning is also a good time to try Ohyah body slide and its slightly scarier sibling, Ohno, as well as the twisting Taniwha Tubes raft slides.
Punga Racers was transformed last year from a face-forward mat slide to a feet-first body slide following several guest injuries. The refurbished ride has a much longer splashdown area, and it now feels significantly slower when you’re sliding down.
Volcano Bay restaurants are not serving breakfast at this time, and the Bambu venue is currently closed, so you’ll probably want to avoid the rush by eating an early lunch.
Even though the price has crept up since the park debuted, the tuna poke from Feasting Frog is still one of our favorite light meals in any theme park. It’s perfect if you don’t want to wait 30 minutes after eating to get back in the water!
Sadly, the neighboring Kunuku Boat Bar hasn’t reopened, but you can still get a refreshing Volcano Blossom beer from Dancing Dragons.
Even though the sun eventually came out, attendance at Volcano Bay remained light during our visit, and all attractions remained as “Ride Now” without any need for virtual lines until midafternoon. Expect that to change as warmer weather and spring break crowds arrive, especially during the weekends.
Like all Orlando attractions at this time, Volcano Bay has installed hand sanitizer dispensers, along with plenty of other pandemic reminders.
Keep in mind that face masks are required when entering or exiting the park, and at all indoor venues, but are not permitted while swimming in the water or riding slides.
Finally, annual passholders shouldn’t forget to stop by the Waturi Marketplace to pick up their free collectible pins. Another new design won’t be released until spring 2022, but you can get any past editions you’ve missed while supplies last.
If reading about the reopened Volcano Bay has whetted your appetite for some wet entertainment, enjoy a virtual trip to the water park with this complete walk around the park, recorded in 4K Dolby Vision:
For all there is to see and do at Universal Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.