Kid wearing goggles swimming

On the hottest days of the summer, there’s only one kind of vacation that will do: A trip to a water park. If you want to enjoy all the thrills of an amusement park and get regularly soaked to cool down, one of your best bets is Universal Studios’ Volcano Bay.

While Volcano Bay offers plenty of wave pools and areas to simply splash around and relax in, one of its biggest attractions is its impressive array of water slides and river rides. While this vast variety makes for an awesome day at the park, it also makes for a lot of indecision. What rides do you prioritize? What’s worth waiting in line for? How do you get the most bang for your buck?

Worry not: We’re here to lay out the appeal of each Volcano Bay slide and ride. We’ve factored in excitement, family-friendliness, and sheer unusualness. Here are our results, ranked from the ho-hum worst (which are still pretty fun) to the pulse-pounding best.

12. Kopiko Wai Winding River

People riding inner tubes

Our evaluation of Volcano Bay’s attractions rests partly on the adrenaline rush they offer, so the Kopiko Wai Winding River comes in at the bottom of the list. But if you’re looking for pure relaxation, this might rocket up to your top spot. Indeed, it could even turn out to be the perfect way to cap your Volcano Bay experience: You just drift and enjoy the sun … and get sprayed with water every so often. It’s still part of a water park, after all.

Kopiko Wai Winding River is a leisurely "ride" in which inner tubes carry park guests on a peaceful, scenic journey through the park. It gives you time to appreciate the in-depth design of Volcano Bay, with its caves and statues, and even offers a view of some of the park’s most impressive slides. Best of all, the river’s course takes you through the gorgeously luminescent Stargazer’s Cavern. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the park.

11. Ika Moana of the Honu ika Moana

People looking at Ika Moana

Honu ika Moana, like several other slides in Volcano Bay, is actually split into two slightly different attractions: Ika Moana, the green slide, and Honu, the blue. Ika Moana is a little bit tamer than its counterpart: It features whale-shaped inflatable rafts, which tie into the elaborate backstory Universal has constructed for the park, concerning the mythical Waturi people. In a playful touch, the whale rafts even feature a blowhole that sprays eager riders.

Ika Moana has a more complex path than Honu. Despite its twists and turns, however, this is a pretty laid-back experience unlikely to make you scream in terror. It’s an ideal ride for families and anyone looking to ease their way onto some of the park’s more thrill-inducing slides. Just remember, especially if you’re after a gentle ride, that Ika Moana is the green slide. Yes, the whale-themed slide is green and the turtle-themed slide is blue. No, we don’t get it either.

10. TeAwa the Fearless River

Swimmers go down TeAwa river

If you want a river ride that’s a little more exciting than the slow Kopiko Wai, you want TeAwa the Fearless River. It doesn’t offer the sudden drops you get from a slide, but as far as horizontal rides go, it’s pretty invigorating. Plus, it offers a twist on the serene drifting of Kopiko Wai, to the point of being literally more immersive. On TeAwa the Fearless River, you have to wear a life vest — but you can go in without anything else. You don’t even need an inner tube. It’s just you in the water, dealing with a choppy current.

This isn’t something to scoff at: Many reviews caution guests that they’re likely to end up with bruises from all that restless water. But the consensus is that TeAwa the Fearless River is worth that tiny bit of pain. Overall, despite the bruises, it’s a fun and relatively low-key ride that manages to be exciting, but not scary.

9. Tonga and Raki of Taniwha Tubes

Taniwha Tubes exterior

The Taniwha Tubes are one of your best bets for sheer, unadulterated fun. Volcano Bay once treated the Taniwha Tubes as one ride with four slides, but they have since split into Tonga and Raki: Two different attractions, each with two slides. Tonga’s slides are green while Raki’s are blue.

Universal didn’t originally lump the two rides together just because of their proximity — they really do have a lot in common. Both offer twisty rides down to the same pool, and both sport tiki statues that will squirt you with water. They even share a backstory in Volcano Bay’s self-created mythos. According to Universal Studios’ lore, the legendary Waturi people built the slides to evoke a place "where the puka trees grow abnormally tall, with strange snakelike trunks … [and] twisting roots."

There is one major difference worth noting between the two attractions: Tonga provides a slightly tamer experience. Its slides have a lot of turns, but they don’t go into the intense corkscrews that the more adventurous Raki slides do. Whether you want a little more excitement or a little more relaxation, choose accordingly.

8. Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides

Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides

We get a real kick out of the names of these slides, but that’s not why they’ve snagged this spot on our list. No, they owe their placement to their anticipation-building approach to waiting in line (get ready to cross a rope bridge), their intertwining twists, and, above all else, their concluding drops.

Those drops are right there in the name for a reason. Ohyah ends with you shooting out of the slide four feet above the pool, while Ohno earns its title by upping the ante to six feet. The good news is that the pool waiting at the bottom of all this is 10 feet deep, so when gravity does its work, don’t worry — you’ll have some place to go. According to the Orlando Informer, the lifeguards on duty at Ohyah and Ohno make you confirm that you can swim before you’re allowed to ride. It’s no wonder why!

7. Punga Racers

Punga Racers slide exit

If you have a competitive streak, you need to check out the Punga Racers — especially if you have a group of friends or family to ride with. No, this isn’t a bonding experience where everyone shares a raft and gets to scream in unison while they’re sprayed with water. This is a race … though it’s probably still less bloodthirsty than a family game of Monopoly.

Essentially, this is a single slide with four lanes for four different racers to go down at a time. According to Inside Universal, if you visited Punga Racers before 2020, you might be surprised by what it looks like now. Originally, it sent its riders down the slide on padded mats — and the 150-pounds-per-rider limit meant that plenty of guests had to give Punga Racers a pass. Now, due to a lawsuit, Universal Studios has refitted Punga Racers as a body slide with an upper weight limit of 300 pounds per rider.

Punga Racers isn’t the most thrilling slide in the park, but its competitive angle gives it a boost in our rankings. The unusual approach makes this slide a lot of fun and a must-do for group visits.

6. Honu of the Honu ika Moana

Honu ika Moana slide

Honu is part of the Honu ika Moana set of slides. While Ika Moana is a green slide with whale-shaped rafts, Honu is a blue slide with turtle-shaped rafts. But trust us, we didn’t rank Honu above Ika Moana because we like turtles more than whales. (We’re actually undecided on this important issue.) No, Honu gets the edge because of its unbelievably cool bowl-like structure, which, as the Orlando Informer explains, gives you the "quite terrifying" sensation of zooming up enormous waves.

We scored these rides on excitement, but we also factored in originality. Honu ranks high when it comes to both. This is an unusual experience — think of it like a water slide crossed with one of those swinging pirate ship rides you see at carnivals — which is sure to get your heart pounding. Opt for Ika Moana if you want a more relaxed experience, or a more traditional slide. But if you’re looking for a really unusual ride? Honu is the way to go.

5. Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides

Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides

Any ride that starts off with ascending a volcano is bound to be good. The Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides prove that to be true.

Needless to say, things don’t calm down after you climb Krakatau. Instead, you get in position — and get ready for the drop. Slides like Ohyah and Ohno end with a drop into the water, but Kala and Tai Nui start with a drop … onto the slide itself. Trap doors send riders plummeting down onto the intertwining slides, where they rocket through twists before finally plunging into the waiting pool.

The difference between the two slides is minor but not completely insignificant, especially if you’re looking for high-octane thrills. According to the Orlando Informer, Tai Nui is "often referred to as the most intense experience in the entire park." So, if you’re after a ride that will be sure to make you scream, go green. But make no mistake: The blue Kala slide won’t disappoint you either.

4. Ko’okiri Body Plunge

Man riding Ko'okiri Body Plunge

Like the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, the Ko’okiri Body Plunge starts off with a bang: According to Universal Studios, the ride "[features] a 70-degree fall through a drop door and 125 feet of white-knuckle fun." If those numbers sound good to you, well … numbers don’t lie. That drop door makes the Ko’okiri Body Plunge one of the most exhilarating experiences in the entire park. And while the actual slide might go by too fast for you to appreciate the scenery, guest comments suggest that the view before the drop — a volcano-high look at the Orlando skyline — shouldn’t be missed.

The Orlando Informer reports that the Ko’okiri Body Plunge normally draws a long line, which is the one downside of single-rider slides. But in this case, the wait is worth it. All that standing around is amply rewarded by the white-hot adrenaline rush of that initial drop. If you can handle it, you should definitely take the plunge.

3. Maku of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides

Maku Puihi Raft Rides entrance

A lot of Volcano Bay’s slides are paired. Sometimes, the rides seem to be nearly identical. That’s not the case with the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides, which are split into Maku and Puihi. Both are six-person raft rides that start in the volcano, but they take very different paths.

As the Orlando Informer’s "scariness" rating suggests, Maku is the more family-friendly of the two, especially for guests with younger children. We’re giving it the highest ranking of our "easier" slides: This is as much fun as you can have in Volcano Bay without there being an edge of terror to your exhilaration. Instead, Maku — via its volcanic gorge and geyser eruptions — provides a sense of adventure. Like Honu of Honu ika Moana, it has a bowl-shaped structure that stands out in water park design and provides a maximum amount of wild spiraling. If you think about water park rides as mostly offering either drops or splashy turns, this one leans all the way into splashy turns — splashy circles, really. What results is thrilling, but not terrifying, fun.

2. Puihi of the Maku Phihi Round Raft Rides

Maku Puihi Round Raft exits

Puihi of the Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides is one of the coolest experiences you can have at Volcano Bay. Why? The answer is simple: the funnel. The ride gets off to a good start, with your raft speeding through cave tunnels in scream-inducing darkness — but it’s when you get into the light that the fun really starts. That’s the moment you approach the huge funnel. When your raft hits that, as Universal Studios says, "you feel the stomach-flipping thrill of zero-gravity hang time." It’s not a sensation normally found in slides that have its riders cling to an inflatable raft — generally speaking, such attractions tend to be on the gentler side of things. This unique aspect, paired with its heart-pumping thrill factor, makes Puihi worth the price of admission all on its own.

If you’re at Volcano Bay for the rush, don’t pass up Puihi. This is a stomach-lurching, pulse-pounding ride you seriously can’t afford to miss.

1. Krakatau Aqua Coaster

Family riding Krakatau Aqua Coaster

The Krakatau Aqua Coaster tops our list, which the Orlando Informer describes as Volcano Bay’s "flagship attraction." If you’re picturing an old-fashioned log ride, think again. The Krakatau Aqua Coaster seriously revolutionizes what water rides can be, and that’s why it snags our number one spot.

What’s it like? For starters, it’s not just a straightforward downwards slide. The Krakatau Aqua Coaster is one of the few water rides where you actually go up at points, just like on a traditional roller coaster. Travel + Leisure, which called it a ride "you’ll come home raving about all summer long," explains: "It’ll feel like theme park magic, but it’s made possible by linear induction technology. The attraction relies on magnets to push the canoe up and through Krakatau Volcano until it culminates in a final drop so fast and steep, you won’t believe you didn’t need a seatbelt."

You seriously have to experience those magnets. It’s almost surreal to experience this kind of movement on a water coaster — it truly has to be felt to be believed. Combine that with the Krakatau view, and you have Volcano Bay’s most urgently must-see attraction.