Jacksonville Day Trip: Universal’s Volcano Bay

Volcano Bay? More like volca-no-other-park-I-wanna-go-to!

Photo courtesy of Universal Volcano Bay.

I have always considered myself a Disney girl — the parks, the movies, the music, all of it! My bank account, not so much, but if given the choice, I’d go there any day of the week (except when it’s 90 degrees outside). As my kids have gotten older, their interests have expanded, and thanks to field trips, my older three have all gotten to experience Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. To say they are now lifelong fans would be an understatement, and this mama is trying to save up to take them all together as soon as we can.

If you’re like me and have been in Orlando around the parks, there’s a pretty good chance you have seen the giant volcano that seems to catch every kids’ attention like a homing beacon calling them to the motherland. My fellow mamas: Follow the sign, go into the light, take your kids to Volcano Bay, and enjoy the good life!

READ: 5 Tips for Visiting Universal with Young Kids

As first timers, I was really thankful to be going with friends who have gone several times because I am a nervous overthinker well-prepared, go-with-the-flow type of mom. Okay, that’s a joke. But the truth is, I researched Volcano Bay for an unhealthy amount of hours leading up to our trip — we’re talking random websites, TikTok videos, official Universal accounts, and even their app. If you are anything like me, you too might have some questions about whether Volcano Bay is right for your family — or simply need some advice on how to make your trip the best possible. So, here are one mom’s tips after taking seven kids, ranging in age from 7 to 14, to Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark.

Book a Universal Hotel

First things first, if you can swing it and are staying overnight, I HIGHLY recommend staying in a Universal hotel! The one we chose, Dockside Inn and Suites, is one of the two Universal Endless Summer Resorts and was an amazing experience. They have a ton of family suites that were perfect for our weekend trip, and best of all include early access to Volcano Bay and a free shuttle! We spent Saturday lounging by the pool, enjoying the extra eyes courtesy of the many lifeguards on duty to help watch the kids, and a tropical beverage because treat yo’ self! Then Sunday morning, we checked out of our room, loaded up the cars, and then took the shuttle over to the water park. SO easy!

volcano bay
volcano bay

Meet TapuTapu: Wearable Amazingness

This may have been my favorite feature at Volcano Bay, and not just because it was in a cute color! Upon entering the park, every person receives a TapuTapu bracelet which is basically magic. These bracelets can be tied to your Universal account and those who you choose (a.k.a. turned off for children) can have it linked to digital payments, making it easy to make purchases in the park without worrying about carrying anything extra. The TapuTapu bracelets are also used to rent and open lockers, and best of all, queue into rides with longer waits. For example, the Krakatau Aqua Coaster is hands down the best thing, but it can also have a pretty long wait. Instead of standing in line forever, you can simply tap your bracelet on one of the scanners, and your place in line is good to go, freeing you up to splash around one of the many swimming pools! Plus, your bracelet keeps track of the wait time and signals when it’s time to head over. This feature alone saves my patience because the kids aren’t getting “bored” waiting forever. Can I get an AMEN?

Enjoy the Best Volcano Bay Rides

On the topic of rides, there is such a wide range at Volcano Bay that even after a full day, I still didn’t get to experience all of them! There are calmer, easy rides and areas for smaller children (or the adults who are less brave), a wave pool, a lazy river, raft rides, a body plunge, and the amazing water coaster for those seeking a little more excitement. One of my family’s favorite, TeAwa The Fearless River, is like if you took a lazy river, got rid of the inner tube, replaced it with a life vest, and added rapids and faster water. We probably floated around no less than 20 times and loved every second of it. The Honu Ika Moana raft ride has two sides, each with a giant tube capable of fitting five people at once, and provided me with enough laughter for days. I mean, where else can I hear my 14-year-old daughter screaming for her life while simultaneously smiling and laughing? Bonus: If you have little ones, make sure you find the path through the middle of the volcano, complete with light-up pathways and places to tap their bracelets to shoot water at people walking by!

volcano bay
volcano bay

Download the Universal App

The Universal Orlando Resort App was amazing for keeping this mama sane. I was able to check the wait times for all the rides from the comfort of my lounge chair and order lunch so it could be ready by the time I walked over to one of the many locations that served food. Plus, if you have one of the waterproof pouches for your phone, many of the rides let you carry it with you.

Be Prepared and Consider the Following Items

Towels. You can rent them, but they are about $7 a piece and I just couldn’t justify that.

Sunscreen. Of course a must, although I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of space with shade!

Water shoes. This is personal preference, but for me, I really only felt like I wanted them while on the fearless river because your feet can drag on the bottom as the currents take you. Otherwise, the sidewalks are kept nice and cool with sprinklers.

Beverages. Each person is allowed to bring in two sealed water bottles, which is the same for all Universal parks. Another amazing tip is to purchase the refillable Universal cup! We refilled the four cups we had probably 50 times each between the 10 of us, and staying hydrated in the heat is so crucial! You can fill it with any of the drinks in the Coca-cola Freestyle machines including Powerade, and when your kids want an extra treat, get slushies!

Seriously, I cant say enough good things about Volcano Bay, and I can’t wait to bring the kids back! If you are looking for something a little different than what you’ve done before, put this at the top of your list. Compared to other theme parks or trips with kids, this was by far the most laid-back, easy trip we’ve gone on, and it had something for everyone!

What are your top Volcano Bay tips?

Krista Hitson
Krista is a wife and mom to four crazy kids and one rambunctious puppy. Originally from Ocala, Krista moved to Jacksonville in 2010 and quickly fell in love with her new home. She finished her degree online three weeks after giving birth to her 3rd sweet baby but is currently “employed” as a domestic engineer. Krista loves being a stay at home mom but tries to keep busy! In her spare time, she enjoys crafting and attempting Pinterest creations with wood, vinyl, and paint. She is also very involved with her kid's school and is that PTA president that’s always there, sometimes with an extra kid or two. You can usually find Krista with a messy bun, her ice water in a giant Yeti, awkward dancing, and using sarcasm to help coordinate all the chaos.


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