This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at getting a cabana at VOLCANO BAY! Regular readers of this fine blog series know how much we love Universal’s Volcano Bay. Since the park opened in May of 2017, we have been regular visitors. In fact, last year I upgraded my annual pass to the highest level in order to ensure I would have no dates at Volcano Bay blocked out and could go whenever I wanted. Just walking to Volcano Bay’s main entrance, with the background music playing and the palm trees looming high all around, brings me straight to my “happy place.”
The title of this article is only semi-serious. You don’t “need” a cabana at Volcano Bay to have a great time. I’ve been to the park many times over the past few years and never once had a cabana. Rest assured there is plenty of absolutely free seating available at Volcano Bay. There is also plenty of free covered seating, and plenty of free seating with umbrellas. A cabana at Volcano Bay is the ultimate splurge, but a splurge that can transform your day from a “great experience” to an unforgettable one.
We decided to finally rent a cabana because last year around this time we had two major family vacations planned that were cancelled due to Universal and Disney closing down for several months. One of the things I decided at the time of the cancellations was that when we could rebook these vacations, we’d go all out. To quote John Hammond, “spare no expense.”
Like I wrote previously, I’ve had four years of incredible trips to Volcano Bay without a cabana, but I’ve always wanted to try one. So for this year’s vacations, we booked a cabana for two separate trips to Volcano Bay. There are a total of 51 cabanas. 49 of them are single cabanas and are for up to six people. The other two cabanas are “family cabanas” and are for up to 16 people. We experienced both a single cabana and a family cabana, and we’re here to tell you what we thought.
Similar to Premium Seating at Cabana Bay (which you can read more about HERE), your cabana experience at Volcano Bay starts by checking into one of the park’s three concierge kiosks. Volcano Bay should probably be a bit more clear on this process, as some guests who have never been to the park before attempt to check in for their cabana at the registers located next to the turnstiles. After standing in line at the registers and being told they need to get back in line to enter the park first, well, some guests don’t handle this news as calmly as you’d hope. ALL cabana guests check into their cabanas INSIDE the park at the concierge kiosks. One of the kiosks is at the front of the park on the main walkway, and the other two kiosks can be found by going left or right once inside the park (one kiosk is in Wave Village near the locker area, while the other is in Rainforest Village near the locker area).
For cabana guests, while checking in they will send you a welcome text and then have you wait for a Team Member to walk you to your cabana. Here is what the welcome text look likes.
I have the arrow marking the text time of 9:31 a.m. because while Volcano Bay’s official opening time for that day was 10:00 a.m., guests staying onsite at one of Universal’s hotels receive early park admission to Volcano Bay, which starts at 9:30 a.m. For this trip, we stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, pound for pound the best value resort in all of Orlando and most likely will keep that title for decades to come.
Not only do Cabana Bay guests get early admission to Volcano Bay, they also have an exclusive walkway and security entrance to the park because the resort is so close.
To say everyone was excited is an understatement.
The photo below was taken at the turnstiles. We were the first ones in line and after getting into the park at 9:30 a.m., I went straight to a Volcano Bay concierge kiosk.
Two things of note: in all my other previous trips, Volcano Bay had half of the entrance turnstiles dedicated to onsite guests and the other half to day guests not staying on site. The turnstiles which had the onsite guests going in would start letting guests in at 9:30 a.m., while the others had to wait until 10 a.m. For this trip any guest could go to any of the turnstiles and get into the park at 9:30 a.m. However, once inside the park only “onsite guests, annual passholders, and cabana guests” were allowed to continue past a certain point. Everyone else had to wait in a holding area until 10 a.m. before they could enjoy the park. Last month the same thing happened when we rope-dropped Islands of Adventure, so this seems like all the parks may be getting back to the operations they had pre-covid.
Also, and this is an important “pro tip” for people who like to rope drop Universal parks, including Volcano Bay. When guests arrive to the turnstiles early, there are usually no Team Members there (such as in my photo above). What ALWAYS happens is one or two large lines begin to form, with all of the other turnstiles remaining empty. Volcano Bay, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida will be using ALL TURNSTILES in the morning when the parks open. Apparently it is human nature to go to the biggest line no matter what. To quote PT Barnum, “nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”
Okay, we’re inside the park, and after checking into the concierge kiosk, we waited by the side of the kiosk for approximately one minute before a Team Member came to get us. We were then led to the…
# 6 – Single Cabana
The single cabanas at Volcano Bay are located throughout the park. Here is what an average one looks like.
Each single cabana has two chairs to sit in…
…along with a large padded lounge chair.
For all the cabanas, curtains can be closed on three sides. there is no curtain where you enter/exit the cabana.
Each cabana also has a ceiling fan which you can turn on or off.
For our most recent trip, our cabana was located on the edge of the Waturi Beach, which some members of our party were quite happy with.
When we could drag him out of the sand, Runamukka Reef became his home away from home.
As they say, what goes up, must come down… the combination of a padded lounger, curtains drawn, and ceiling fan overhead made for the perfect nap experience.
Our single cabana was a stand alone unit, but Volcano Bay also has ten 2 story cabanas, Usually two different families are occupying the upper and lower cabanas. While you do have to walk up and down some stairs to access the upper cabanas, they do offer some of the best views in the park and are slightly larger than all the other single cabanas in terms of floor space because you have an extra “balcony.”
The cost for a single cabana ranges from $169.95 to $449.95, depending on when you are traveling. For context, we paid $424.95 for a non-holiday Monday in May. A friend of ours recently paid $274.95 for a Friday in late April, while Captain Cruiseline of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog paid $249.95 for a single cabana on a Thursday back in March. To book a cabana at Volcano Bay you have to call and talk to a Team Member as online reservations are not available. The phone number is 1-877-801-9720. Unfortunately, you can not choose which cabana unit you would like. The good news is that there is pretty much no “bad” cabana spots as all of them are near something good. My only concern is that there are a couple of cabanas located inside Runamukka Reef, the children’s play area. Even though we had a kiddo OBSESSED with Runamukka Reef, and I spent hours of my park day there, I definitely would not have wanted my cabana around all of that activity. I can only imagine how many guests who don’t even have kids with them and got assigned to the cabanas in Runamukka Reef. Definitely not an ideal experience. Would love to see a system where 1) guests could book cabanas online and 2) see the available cabanas and choose the one they want, similar to how one would pick a seat when flying Jet Blue or many airlines.
***UPDATE – Due to what seems to be an unprecedented demand, single cabana prices for the summer months have reached up to $700 and $800! This fine blog series will only accept 22% of the credit/blame for this popularity. I did not confirm the price of a family cabana because I was told a credit check would be needed first (that’s a joke.) In all seriousness, single cabana prices have been booked at a much more reasonable price point ($200-$250) for various dates in September. ***
# 5 – Fruit and Snack Basket
All cabanas come with a complimentary fruit and snack basket. For both of our trips, this was an awesome way to start the day.
The highlight of every basket is the exclusive Volcano Bay cookie. I have been told it tastes great by several kids who didn’t give one dime towards the cost of these cabanas. (I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?)
Several muffins and pastries are included.
Plenty of fresh fruit.
The family cabanas come with a basket that includes TWO Volcano Bay cookies and double the amount of muffins and pastries.
The kiddos did let me keep the themed Volcano Bay hand sanitizer, so I didn’t walk away empty handed. Just hungry.
# 4 – Unlimited Towels and Bottled Water
Now, I am *not* what you would consider a “water park guy.” In fact, one of the first waterparks I have been to since I was a kid was at LEGOLAND, Florida, and it was there that I discovered the hard way that you’re supposed to bring your own towels to a waterpark. I had just assumed that they had them there for you like pool areas at onsite hotels. Volcano Bay is the same way, EXCEPT for cabana guests. Each cabana has towels for guests to use. This was fantastic as I’m usually the one tasked with carrying all the towels for our family to and from any water park (a job that I have a lot of experience in as I’m also the guy tasked with carrying all the refillable mugs, luggage, and any other menial task on vacation so that everyone else can just have fun).
The cabanas have a “cabana attendant” who will check in on you throughout the day to see if you need anything. These attendants can also be called for via the text messaging service.
The refrigerator in each cabana is stocked with bottles of water. If you need more water, just let your cabana attendant know. These bottles of water are sold for $5 each at quick service locations in the park, so by using Kramer/Newman math you might be able to come out even on your cabana price if you stay hydrated enough!
Each cabana includes a “lock box” area that is huge and can fit a ton of stuff. At one point we had several phones, wallets, a Loungefly backpack, a regular backpack, camera equipment and more loaded into one with no problem. It is locked via a key that is attached to a flexible wrist bracelet that you can wear throughout the park. I’ve been in charge of the key for both our cabana trips and have worn it while enjoying all the slides, the fearless river, and the wave pool without having a problem.
There is a trash bin in each cabana. It can be emptied upon request.
# 3 -The Power of the Screen
Each cabana is also equipped with a digital touch screen that allows guests to do several things, including the ability to use their Tapu Tapu to access a slide’s Virtual Line.
For me, one of Volcano Bay’s biggest strengths is its overall level of whimsy. This can be seen in the picture below as your touch screen is “sleeping” when you are not using it.
Once “on,” guests can use the touch screen to access a map of the park, view food and drink options that are available, or check into a virtual line with their Tapu Tapu.
To access a Virtual Line, first you “pick a ride.”
Volcano Bay attractions will come up. The choices will either be “enjoy anytime” – meaning no wait and your Tapu Tapu is not needed – or it will show the current wait time. One of my favorite attractions in the entire park is the OhNo drop slide, so I chose that as it currently had a 20 minute wait.
For the purpose of this picture I took off my Tapu Tapu to “check in,” but there is no need to ever take it off when you are inside the park. As you seen in the photo below, the screen now says YOU ARE NOW IN THE VIRTUAL LINE.
Your Tapu Tapu will show you how much time is left in your Virtual Line, so you can enjoy “Ride Anytime” attractions while waiting or just enjoy time in the cabana.
# 2 – Dedicated Server For Food and Drinks
Okay, now it’s time for the good stuff.
Each cabana at Volcano Bay is equipped with a flag you can raise when you want a food/drink server to come and take your order.
You can also use the text feature to ask for a server.
In both of our cabana stays, our server also regularly checked in with us as well. The cabanas have an “exclusive” menu that includes some items you can’t directly order at any of the Volcano Bay restaurants. For what it is worth, during our trips we had one server who had no problem getting us items that were “off menu” (such as a Beyond Burger for a vegan that was dining with us) while another server said we had to stick to the cabana menu items. While I find having a dedicated server to be an invaluable resource to save you time from getting your own food and drinks, there is nothing stopping guests from getting their own food and drink items from any place in Volcano Bay. In fact, for both of our trips we went and got ice cream on our own.
The Pupu Platter contains spring rolls, conch fritters and coconut crusted shrimp.
I bet you don’t think of sushi when you think of Volcano Bay, but it was fantastic.
The longboard pizzas at Volcano Bay are always a hit.
The Poaka Platter includes pulled pork, ribs, and cole slaw. This was terrific. Volcano Bay’s ribs are ::chef’s kiss::
Who doesn’t love a foot long corn dog?!
For many adults, the ability to have a server bring you drinks is worth the price of a cabana alone. Eliminating all that time spent in line at bars and/or quick service locations to get drinks is a huge convenience factor.
Specialty drink such as the Wai-Watermelon below are served in a souvenir glass and refills are two dollars cheaper. What was nice about having a server is that you could make any requests directly to them. This particular Wai-Watermelon was made slightly different to be less sweet. Need a “Coke, no ice” like me? Consider it done.
Volcano Bay has a decent selection of beers on draft and in cans. Their signature beer, available only at Volcano Bay, is the Volcano Blossom. Refills on beers are $1 cheaper.
# 1 – Family Cabana
Time for the family cabana, one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in ANY park. There are only two family cabanas at Volcano Bay, and they get booked fast. After we had an amazing time during our family cabana day, I tried booking it again for another weekday a month later. Every date around when I could go was booked solid. I’m not sure what the exact price range is for family cabanas, but for our trip – which was for a Monday during a busy week in April – the price was $699.95. Both of the family cabanas are located near Volcano Bay’s signature attraction, the Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
“So much room for activities!”
The space available in a family cabana is straight up bonkers. It was just incredible. Another thing on the “plus side” for having a cabana is you have covered space for any incoming rain storm, something of which we have a lot of during the summer months in Florida. Nothing can clear out a park like rain, but usually the storms don’t last long and it’s even easier to wait them out while relaxing in your cabana.
Aside from the overall space, the biggest difference between the family cabana and a single cabana is a large table with chairs. This made it very convenient for everyone to eat a meal at. We have multi-generations of family with us on trips, and the the cabins allow everyone to do whatever they want. Kids could play, while adults can just chill or even relax and read a book.
The family cabana had two of the large padded lounge chairs. One of the best features for our family was having an easy “home base” for everyone to meet up at. Some people wanted to enjoy the more thrill seeking slides, some enjoyed Runamukka Reef, while others – meaning ME – enjoyed being in the wave pool. The cabana was a great spot for everyone to check back in before going out on their next adventure. We got to spend a lot of quality time together in what I feel is Florida’s best park, and that’s something that is priceless and will be a cherished memory for all us for many years to come.
In Conclusion: So, the cabana experience at Volcano Bay is perfect, right? NAY NAY
Walking up to our cabana we see that my name was spelled incorrectly on the signage outside. How can you flaunt privilege and status when they spell your name wrong?! For whatever reason, this this happens all the time with both my first and last name. People feel compelled to write “Derrick” or “Burgen” despite every documentation they have – including my credit card name and email confirmation – has “Derek Burgan.” Most of my life is much like the scene from Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 when Rocket is explaining to Groot which button to push.
Hold on, they spelled my name wrong a second time?! IMPOSSIBLE!!!!
So there you have it: Six Reasons YOU Need a Cabana at Universal’s VOLCANO BAY! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.