With Volcano Bay and Islands of Adventure being completely different parks it might be hard to know which one to visit especially if you only have 2 days at Universal Studios Orlando.
Volcano Bay is better for people who are looking to have a more relaxing day and want to enjoy a water park. While Islands Of Adventure is better for families who are looking to have an action-packed day, go on rides and even meet some characters.
In this article we are going to highlight why each park is great, what each one has to offer in terms of food, rides and overall atmosphere along with tips and tricks to help make your decision easier.
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Why Volcano Bay Is Better
Volcano Bay is the latest addition to the Universal Studios Orlando family and has just as much fun, thrills and entertainment as Universal Studios Florida and Islands Of Adventure.
This is a place you can come, relax, head on some rides and enjoy a lovely day in the sun. This is a great place to come if you don’t have a swimming pool at your hotel or you are looking to keep children entertained with rides and things to do.
There are 6 places to eat including 2 bars and plenty for everyone to enjoy and eat. Our favourite part was enjoying the winding river and waves at Waturi Beach.
Volcano Bay offers up a different experience compared to Islands Of Adventure. As the park is smaller in size and much more closed off there are very few places you can get lost.
If you have older children/teenagers you can give them a little more freedom to roam the park and enjoy the rides.
Be aware that there will be some rides in which you will need an adult companion for safety reasons. This will apply to some of the rides and any places where you will be with smaller children and infants.
You can also have an area which would be a base where you can come together and people in your party will know where to come back to.
I would look at making a trip to Volcano Bay a third-day option so you can have one day at each of the Universal Studios Orlando parks.
Rides & Attractions
There are quite a lot of rides and attractions for everyone to enjoy at Volcano Bay. From high thrill rides, lazy rivers and sunbeds to relax on.
There is also part of the theme park which have sandy beaches so you can get a real experience of being by the sea without having to travel far from your hotel.
Here are the rides at Volcano Bay including areas suitable for children;
- Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
- Puka Uki Lagoon
- Punga Racers
- Tonga Of Taniwha Tubes
- Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Rafts
- Raki of Taniwha Tubes
- Tot Tiki Reef
- Maku Of the Naku Puihi Round Rafts
- Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno drop slides
- Waturi Beach
- Kratatau Aqua Coaster
- Hon of the Honu Ika Moana
- Ohno of Ohyah Drop Slides
- Kopiko Wai Winding River
- Ika Moana of the Hon Ika Moana
- Ko’okiri Body Plunge
- TeAwa the Fearless River
There are other parts of the park that make it super fun and interactive day out such as water guns at different stations, the tapu tapu and fountains to run under along with the wave machine in Waturi Beach.
Volcano Bay is another park where Universal Studios Orlando has expanded their range of foods, cuisines and has created some new and exciting tastes to try.
If you are looking to have a more relaxing day and try some of the newer foods at Universal Studios Orlando you can head to Volcano Bay.
Here are the restaurants and cafes available at Volcano Bay;
- Whakawaiwai Eats
- The Feasting Frog
- Kunuku Boat Bar
- Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club
- Dancing Dragons Boat Bar
Some of the menus have taken some of the big favourites such as pizza, tacos and burgers and put on a tropical spin adding seafood and alternative flavours creating a new and exciting dining experience.
Best of all you can sit and enjoy your food under a beautiful shaded canopy in your swimsuit enjoying the sound of the waves from Waturi Beach.
Overall Theme & Atmosphere
The overall theme and atmosphere of Volcano Bay are quite relaxing, fun and tropical. As it is based on Polynesian culture is has a very exotic, tropical theme and has some wonderful elements to the area.
The main feature is of course the Volcano which is home to some of the water parks rides, waterfalls and at the base of it there is a beach area.
As Universal Studios Orlando is very much catered to older children and teenagers, the theme of that carries through to Volcano Bay. While there is still so much for younger children and infants you can definitely feel the independence and freedom of being able to explore the park alone.
There are cabanas if you wish to have a more private and secluded area for the day, perfect if you have younger infants that require more shade from the sun. You can also get express passes at the park perfect for those who like to stay active and moving.
Why Islands Of Adventure Is Better
Islands of Adventure is a theme park where you can experience a water ride, meet superheroes and play in the arcades.
There are a number of different lands that are perfect for younger children and kids who want to take part in activities, go on rides and know more about the characters.
I feel Islands of Adventure is better than Volcano Bay in terms of what there is to do, see and there is something for everyone to enjoy.
As it has characters to meet, themed lands and shops to go in I think it is better suited to those looking to really explore Universal Studios Orlando.
If you are only going to Universal Studios Orlando for 2 days I would choose Islands of Adventure to be the second day as it has more to offer.
Rides & Attractions
Islands of Adventure has some of the best rides at Universal Studios Orlando with so many of them being perfect for everyone to enjoy.
The park is also very diverse in the audience and who it caters for so if you are in a large group or wanting something for everyone Islands of Adventure has it. From high thrill rides to gentle rides for children and of course arcades there’s something for everyone.
Here is a list of the rides and shows available at Universal’s Islands of Adventure;
- Jurassic World Velocicoaster
- Skull Island Reign Of Kong
- Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Ride
- Hogwarts Express: Hogsmeade Station
- Flight Of The Hippogriff
- Stormforce Accelatron
- Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
- Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey
- Poseidon’s Fury
- Jurrasic Park River Adventure
- The Incredible Hulk Coaster
- Doctor Dooms Fearful
- The High In the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
- Pteranodon Flyers
- Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls
- The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man
- One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
- The Cat In The Hat
You can find other things such as some shows, songs and entertainment in Islands of Adventure but not many. Most of the live performances take place in Hogsmeade on a small stage in the Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
One thing we enjoy is finding somewhere new to eat on each visit. There is a wide range of places to eat in Islands of Adventure and many of these cater to vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and have a kids menu making it a perfect park for families to enjoy.
You can of course use the dining plan at some of the selected restaurants along with the snack credits on the carts.
Here are a few of the top restaurants and cafes in Universal’s Islands of Adventure;
- Hog’s Head
- Backwater Bar
- Moose Juice Goose Juice
- Three Broomsticks
- Doc Sugrue’s Desert Kebab House
- Mythos Restaurant
- Comic Strip Cafe
- Fire Eater’s Grill
There are plenty of smaller places to eat and carts where you can find snacks such as popcorn, ice cream and churros along with soft drinks and the refillable cups stations.
Overall Theme & Atmosphere
Islands of Adventure is bright, colourful fun and exciting especially for younger children and children as there are plenty of rides, attractions and fun themed areas for them to explore.
Islands of Adventure lands are more immersive in each section so you can really lose yourself in the moment and think you are in the film which I love.
The smaller details on door handles, sidewalks and signs are more elaborate and on point which makes it super fun to look and find the hidden details.
What Is Different Between Islands of Adventure & Volcano Bay?
There is quite a large difference between Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay. First of all Volcano Bay is a water park so it offers up a different experience altogether.
With Volcano Bay being a water park there are limits on what to do and how long you might want to spend there. It is also
One of the other main differences is the times in which the parks are open. Islands of Adventure is often open from 10am until 6pm (sometimes later, depending on events and season) whereas Volcano Bay is open from 10am until 5pm (sometimes this is earlier due to the season and weather).
One other difference is the Tapu Tapu system at Volcano Bay, this is a device you can use to be in a virtual queue for the rides to stop you standing waiting by the ride itself.
You can use this with an express pass and get be in a virtual queue so you can enjoy other parts of the park while you wait for your turn on the ride.
This is a feature that Islands of Adventure don’t have and so might be something that is more appealing to you and your family for your visit.
If this is the case and you are going to Universal Studios Orlando in the off-season you may find Volcano Bay closing earlier and so you won’t get as long in the water park as you might if you had gone to Islands Of Adventure.
Therefore if you chose to spend a day at Islands of Adventure you could have more time on rides and having a fuller day and get your money’s worth.
Personally, I would try and add a third day to visit Volcano Bay and use your two days at the main parks of Universal Studios Orlando and Islands Of Adventure. There is more on offer for families, couples and adults across the board at Islands of Adventure compared to Volcano Bay.
I also think if you are staying on-site or nearby, most hotels have swimming pools for guests to use and have as a place for downtime so I would use the hotel swimming pool for downtime and then use the days you have for the main parks.