Florida Travel

More ways than one to ride this volcano

Krakatoa, the centerpiece of Universal Orlando's new Volcano Bay water park, has an aqua coaster and two water slides.
Krakatoa, the centerpiece of Universal Orlando's new Volcano Bay water park, has an aqua coaster and two water slides. Marjie Lambert

Krakatau looms over Universal Orlando's new water park — heck, it's so big it looms over nearby Interstate 4 — waterfalls spilling down its sides, steam spewing from its top, and thousands of people milling and sunbathing at its feet.

Volcano Bay opened Thursday at the edge of Universal's complex of parks and hotels, promising theme-park thrills on its many slides and a roller coaster that runs through the heart of the volcano.

Friday it was crowded with people in bathing suits lying on the beach, playing in pools or floating on one of the lazy rivers between rides on water slides.

One of two rivers for floating at Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando's new water park. mlambert@miamiherald.com Marjie Lambert

They wore TapuTapu wristbands with which they could reserve a turn on any of the slides or the coaster, then play elsewhere until the TapuTapu alerted them their turn had come. The aim was to not have any waiting lines.

But the waits to assigned time slots were long. At midday, they ranged from 20 minutes to seven hours, and at least one slide was fully booked through closing time. Even with the reserved time slot, riders on one slide were told that they'd be waiting on the stairs to their launch point for at least 15 minutes.

At lunchtime the centerpiece ride, Krakatau Aqua Coaster, was out of service, but an attendant promised it would reopen soon. One of the lazy rivers had been closed earlier, and had reopened by midday, but then it ran out of tubes for new riders.

Krakatau Aqua Coaster at Volcano Bay
On Thursday, May 25, 2017, Volcano Bay opened at Universal Orlando. The water theme park has a roller coaster that will run through the 200-foot Krakatau volcano. Courtesy of Universal Orlando

Glitches, delays and temporary closings are not unexpected with any new park or attraction; a shake-out period is common.

Although some construction was still going on, it was fairly limited. A park spokeswoman said every attraction was open and running for at least part of opening day.

Christine Stallings, an Orlando resident and fan of water parks, said Disney's Blizzard Beach had been her favorite, “but this definitely tops it. It's not just a water park; it's an entire theme park.” She especially liked that every bit of the park's 28 acres was developed. “They have not missed a single spit of area.”

Martha Furtado, on vacation with her family from Brazil, said they hadn't known a new water park was to open while they were in Orlando, and although they don't usually go to water parks, they wanted to see this one because it was brand new. They were disappointed that the waits for some rides were so long.

Universal says the park has 18 attractions including a beach, two rivers for floating, cabanas for rent, two bars, several fast-food places and a variety of water slides. Krakatau by itself houses the aqua coaster and two water slides.

Volcano Bay replaces Universal's old park, Wet ‘n’ Wild, where the company plans to build a hotel.