The Iconic Water Park Many Visitors Agree Has Some Of The Best Rides And Food In Florida

For some vacationers in Central Florida, water parks may take a backseat to theme parks. Universal Orlando Resort already has two non-water parks to keep you busy, and its upcoming Epic Universe park will give it a third one. Since it opened in 2017, however, Universal's Volcano Bay has positioned itself as a peer to those with the combined concept of a "water theme park." It's not just generic water slides and lazy rivers that keep people returning to Volcano Bay. This is a park where you can ride an aqua coaster through the titular volcano, or ascend to the top of it and take a 125-foot body plunge to one of the pools below.

Drawing inspiration from Polynesian culture, Volcano Bay welcomes guests with talking moai statues that might remind you to apply sunscreen before you explore its three themed villages. Since replacing Florida's original water park, Wet 'n Wild, it has taken the readers' choice award every year for "Best Water Park" in Orlando Weekly. Sites like Theme Park Tourist and YouTubers like Ordinary Adventures also call it the best.

On Tripadvisor, the park has a more modest rating of 3.5 out of 5, whereas its two Disney competitors, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, are currently sitting pretty at 4.5. Even if you prefer those parks, however, Volcano Bay might still be worth checking out for its rides and food. These help it enjoy a groundswell of support even among those who aren't normally fans of water parks.

The rides of Universal's Volcano Bay

What makes Krakatau, Volcano Bay's central landmark, unique compared to the world's two best-rated Disney parks is that this volcano overflows with water instead of fire. Peaking at 200 feet, it's home to the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, where you board a canoe for a wet ride with all the ups and downs of a regular roller coaster. Reviews on Tripadvisor say the coaster is "not to be missed" and is "worth the wait" — which could be four hours if you don't arrive early.

At Volcano Bay, you'll enter the Virtual Line for rides with a waterproof wristband called the TapuTapu. It allows you to go off and do other things while you wait for your time on the ride. One place where you can still have fun while waiting is TeAwa The Fearless River. There's nothing lazy about this river, which requires you to don a life vest before you're swept along with its fast-moving current. More than one review names it as a favorite among family members at Volcano Bay. Redditors also call it and Krakatau "can't miss."

When you climb the stairs to the Ko'okiri Body Plunge, you can enjoy panoramic views of Volcano Bay and the elaborate framework of slides snaking through Krakatau. At the top, you'll be sealed into a clear tube with your arms folded across your chest. It may feel like a glass coffin until it shoots you through the drop door and you begin the plunge.

More rides and food at Volcano Bay

The Waturi Beach wave pool is a good spot for a picturesque view of Krakatau at Volcano Bay. You can find rooms with a view of it at the top-ranked Universal hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (It also gives you a head start on rides with early park admission on select days.) Other notable attractions include the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, the twisty Tonga and Raki of Taniwha Tubes, and raft rides like Maku, Puihi, and Honu ika Moana.

Like the names of these rides, Volcano Bay's food has a South Pacific flair. Visitors call it "diverse and delicious" and "fresh, plentiful, and tasty (albeit expensive)," per Tripadvisor. Mahi sandwiches and quinoa edamame burgers are among the menu offerings at Bambu. For some, the smoked Hawaiian ribs at Kohala Reef Restaurant and Social Club are a highlight. This is where you'll find the park's popular coconut crusted fried chicken, too.

If there's one food item that's sure to inspire FOMO at Volcano Bay, it's Waturi Fusion ice cream. Served in a waffle cone, this rainbow-colored swirl of orange, blue raspberry, banana, and strawberry flavors can be found at Koka Poroka Ice Cream Kona. Universal chef Robert Martines explained the sweet treat's enduring appeal to the Orlando Sentinel by saying, "It's one of those Instagrammable items. And once you see one, you want one, too. The reason people like it so much is that it tastes as good as it looks."