Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando can currently boast to being one of the best — if not the best– water parks in the Orlando area. Volcano Bay opened in late May 2017 and quickly rose to be the third most attended water park in North America with expectation that it could rival the two Walt Disney World water parks soon.
One unique feature is the Volcano Bay “TapuTapu” device, which is an incredibly useful bit of wearable tech at Volcano Bay. What is the TapuTapu device? The simplest explanation is that it is a free MagicBand-like device designed for this water park. Yes, this device it totally free to use, however these bands only work at Volcano Bay and have a battery life of about 220 hours of use. They are given to you when you enter Volcano Bay and taken back when you exit the water park.
The Universal Orlando creative team has devised an enjoyable backstory about the Waturi people and the TapuTapu device. Playing on that backstory, the most obvious advantage of the TapuTapu device is the ability to TapTu Pay. This is exactly like it sounds. If you have created a Universal Orlando account beforehand, you link your TapuTapu with your account and scan your band to purchase food or merchandise. Many guests appreciate not having to carry payment methods around at a water park.
Since this is a water park, one of your first stops may be the lockers. The TapuTapu band can be used to open your paid locker as often as needed throughout the day. In addition, other people in your group may be linked to that locker via their own TapuTapu device. An entire family can have their TapuTapu linked to a family locker. This may be the best aspect of TapuTapu so parents can sit and enjoy their adult beverages and won’t have to run back just because their teen needs the locker opened.
An essential feature of the TapuTapu is the ability to reserve a space in virtual lines for attractions. For example, scan your TapuTapu at the totem of the ride entrance to Krakatau Aqua Coaster to reserve a time for later. A wait time will be displayed on your TapuTapu wearable wristband. When it is time to ride, your wristband will vibrate. Return to the ride, and there will be just a short wait like you’d experience with Express Pass at UOR or the FastPass+ system at WDW.
You currently can only have one virtual line reservation at a time, but having a virtual line reservation for an attraction does not keep you from enjoying other attractions. You can enjoy one of the two “rivers” or enter the queue for any attraction that says, “Ride Now.” Doing these attractions will not change your scheduled virtual line time. Also, if the attraction you have a virtual line for has a delay, then the TapuTapu will inform you and adjust your return time accordingly.
The TapuTapu also gives you access to the “Snap” feature. This feature gives you access to the automated on-ride photos, because everyone wants a photo of themselves on an attraction at a water park, right? There also are a few selfie spots in the park where you scan your device. These photos are transferred to your Universal Orlando account and will be available in the “My Universal Photos” section for viewing and purchase.
A lesser-known feature of the TapuTapu is the “Play” feature. There are totem symbols throughout the park that can be scanned with your TapuTapu to create entertaining effects. You can interact with Vol, the Spirit of Krakatau, with added effects with the “Play” feature inside the volcano. Many, but not all, of these Play features are not active currently due to COVID-19 precautions. However, do not let that stop you from searching for them. You can find the symbols, sometime hidden, to set off interactive light displays, shoot water, and even do things as simple as make Tiki-like faces change expressions. There are some reports of these interactive faces gushing water from their ears and noses via the Play feature. If you want to enjoy this feature, look for a Volcano Bay logo on small boxes. They may not be listed on a park map, but they can be very entertaining if you need something to do on a busy Volcano Bay day in between your virtual lines.
The last feature of TapuTapu is perhaps most important for a vacation in central Florida. You most likely will not have your phone with you on attractions so the TapuTapu will give you weather notifications as well as any park updates. Since the weather changes rapidly in Orlando, you will be thankful to be informed.
The TapuTapu is an excellent addition to the water park experience. With its virtual line and other capabilities, TapuTapu allows you to live on Waturi time and, as Universal says, feel as one with the island’s carefree way of life. So, use your TapuTapu well and remember “Water is life!”
Jon Self is an avid theme park fan who has the high privilege to serve as a pastor at an American Baptist Church (fbcmacomb.com) while also trying to find the proper life path with his loving spouse, a bigger theme park fan than myself. You can follow him at @pastorjonself on Twitter and read more of his writings at faithelement.net.