The average theme park visitor often overlooks water rides due to their general inability to display the latest and greatest of themed entertainment technology. I mean, why spend time riding a raft ride when you can be experiencing the Velocicoaster or Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, right?
While those who think that way may have a point, they may also forget that their summer trip to central Florida may have an average high temperature in the high 90s – and that’s not even mentioning the humidity.
That’s where water rides can come to the rescue. Not only are most fun for the whole family, but they have just enough thrill factor and theming to create a fun experience while cooling off on a hot day. That being said, some accomplish this goal a bit better than others.
To help plan your vacation, or just to learn a bit more about the rides Universal Studios Orlando has to offer, here is my guide to water rides.
General Information on the Wetness of Universal Water Rides
The first thing you should know about Universal’s water rides is that they can be on an entirely different level than others you may be used to.
Disney’s beloved Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom, for example, was an awesome experience that gave me a little splash at the end. Disney’s Kali River Rapids raft ride in Animal Kingdom gets riders a bit more wet, though there is only about a one in three shot of getting really soaked.
Universal kicks that up a notch and tends to leave riders not just a little wet, but completely soaked. Not just very wet – I mean completely soaked, as if your entire body was repeatedly dunked into a pool.
This is all part of the fun, but some guests may not enjoy that drippy, soggy feeling of wet clothes for the rest of the day. Be warned – if you don’t want to feel soaked all day, be sure to bring a change of clothes. I recommend packing at least a dry pair of underwear and socks, since the “squish squish” on every step can be unpleasant.
You can also ride the water rides right before an afternoon break at the hotel, or just before you leave for the day altogether. That way, you’re not stuck sloshing around for the remainder of your visit to the parks.
Universal Studios vs Islands of Adventure
It is critical to know before you go – if you’re looking for water rides, you need to be on the Islands of Adventure side of Universal Studios. Universal Studios, the original park, does not have a single water-based attraction.
Though it does have some great live shows and coasters, if you only visit the single park while looking for water rides, you will leave disappointed.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure, on the other hand, is home to three major water rides: Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, , and Jurassic Park River Adventure. Universal’s water park, Volcano Bay, is also home to many raft rides and slides that will get you wet.
Let’s take a closer look at the major water rides at the park.
Topping the list of water rides is Dudley-Do-Right’s. It’s a fairly traditional log flume-type ride that includes some story elements following a character from a segment on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. While the show is way before my time, it still feels somewhat familiar. Don’t worry – you don’t have to know the characters to understand the plot of the ride, or to enjoy the experience.
What makes this ride great is the length. At 5 minutes and 30 seconds, it’s a long enough ride to make it worth the wait. Each log contains rows of one, making it feel like you’re close to the water the whole time. The ride takes you up and down, and of course finishes off with an awesome drop that extends well beyond the “close you eyes and it’s over” feeling of some other log flume rides.
The drop is visible from the outside, so riders can take a look to see if they’re up for it before heading in line. It’s also a great spot to grab photos. During the drop, water not only splashes up, but is sprayed at riders from all sides, making it likely for everyone to get completely soaked.
The drop itself is 75 feet and a max angle of 50 degrees. It’s just enough to feel very thrilling, but gentle enough for younger riders to still enjoy without having to worry too much about the intensity. There is a minimum height requirement of 44 inches to ride.
Joining Dudley Do-Right in the same area of Islands of Adventure (Toon Lagoon) is the famous Popeye, known for his huge muscles and spinach eating. Though the cartoon may again feel unfamiliar to many younger visitors, the ride itself is unbothered. Keep in mind the 42-inch minimum height requirement.
Popeyes is a family raft ride, meaning riders join a large free-floating raft holding 12 people in total. The raft careens through the river rapids, past show scenes of Popeye, fighting Bluto to get back his beloved Olive Oyl. The whole thing is large than life and full of color, making it feel like you have jumped straight into a comic book.
The adventure takes 7 minutes, which is extremely long for this type of river raft ride. Riders who did not prepare for the soaking will have fear in their eyes at every turn as they realize they’re not done yet over and over again.
The ride has water coming at you from all directions. It splashes into the raft from the sides, it’s dumped on you from above, and sprayed at you from everywhere as you float along helplessly. It’s massively fun (for those who were prepared to get wet).
I remember riding it for the first time after I moved to Orlando, and simply was not ready for how wet I would be. It’s maddening how much water there is if you aren’t fully prepared to get completely drenched. Consider yourself warned!
To round off the top water rides at Universal, we have the Jurassic Park River Adventure. It’s a sort of log-flume type ride, but the boats are huge – about 5 people across and 8 or so rows long.
You’ll journey into Jurassic Park and float past dinosaurs of all sorts before things go wrong and you end up on the run from a T-Rex that is on the loose. The ride ends with a plunge down a tall and steep drop as you escape, which may or may not get riders very wet.
All in all, it’s my favorite of the water rides at Islands of Adventure, simply because you can typically ride without being soaked. It’s mostly a relaxing ride, features many interesting animatronic dinosaurs, and has a fun drop to keep it exciting. Riders in the front and towards the sides of the boat tend to get a bit more wet. If anyone in your party is too small (42-inch minimum height requirement) or scared to brave the steep drop, they can view the splashdown at a waiting area just to the left of the ride entrance. It’s also a great spot to get pictures in front of the ride!
As an honorable mention in the list of Universal water rides, I’ve got to include the kiddie-style Dr. Seuss spinner ride One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. It’s a typical hub-and-spoke flying ride that young children will enjoy, but it has the added element of fish surrounding the circle and spraying water at riders.
It’s actually a lot of fun for adults and kids alike, as long as you’re prepared to get splashed a few times. If you are looking for a way to cool off while avoiding the soaking of other rides, this is a great option.
Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort is home to a plethora of water slides and attractions. At the heart of the park stands the majestic Krakatau Volcano, which not only provides a stunning backdrop but also houses the Krakatau Aqua Coaster.
This ride offers a thrilling journey through dark caverns before a splashy descent. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, the Ko’okiri Body Plunge will not disappoint with its steep, 125-foot drop through a trap door.
For a more relaxing experience, River Village has the gentle Kopiko Wai Winding River, a lazy river that snakes around tropical landscapes and through a hidden cave. Families can also enjoy the interactive water play areas of Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef.
Families will also enjoy raft rides such as Honu ika Moana, which simulates an oceanic journey on the back of a sea turtle. At Wave Village, you can enjoy the Waturi Beach wave pool for a calming swim at the foot of the volcano.
Rainforest Village ramps up the excitement with attractions like the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, which offer a competitive twist to the water slide experience with intertwined tubes and a surprising drop.
For families, the Puihi Round Raft Ride provide a thrilling group experience through a wild lava tube path. For a more intense adventure check out the TeAwa The Fearless River, with its rapid currents.
The Bottom Line
All in all, Universal Orlando’s water rides, all located in the Islands of Adventure side of the park, are a ton of fun. They are all well worth riding during your visit, as long as you are prepared to get wet! Remember to bring a change of clothes, a poncho, or wear a rain jacket if you need to – there’s no shame in taking the necessary steps to avoid a drenching!