Growing up in Florida, I had never been to a water park (why pay when the beach is free?!) When I was 22 I got a part-time job in a theme park, which gave me free entrance to the adjoining water park. Since then I’ve been hooked! My job on a cruise ship has brought me many places, and many of those places have water parks within metres of the ship’s terminal. What better way to relax, relieve some stress, and have fun with your co-workers for an afternoon? I mean, there are only so many temples, marketplaces, and bars you can visit in the world. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the most fun water parks I, or my colleagues, have been to around the world.
Located: Tampa, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50, valid all season
Favorite Attraction: Key West Rapids
Being the first water park I ever visited and so close to home, Adventure Island is the standard for which I measure others against.
Located 20-30 minutes from both the port and airport, this park is more for the locals. It has nice beaches for relaxing and they allow you to bring in small coolers with bottled drinks and snacks (and maybe a Publix Sub if you’re lucky!). There are picnic areas and also a few places with food and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) available for purchase.
To provide fun for the whole family, there are both toddler and children’s areas as well as slides of all thrills, including the newest and fastest – the Colossal Curl. There is also a large lazy river, racing slides, corkscrew slides, and mega drop slides. There is even a large beach volleyball area for a little waterless fun. And, one of the things I love the most is that they play real pop music instead of cheesy theme-park elevator music. You can enjoy a day at the “beach” without having to bring your own stereo!
The park is only open seasonally, from Spring Break until Labor Day. In the heart of summer, they extend their hours until sunset in an event titled “Summer Nights” with extra music and dancing on the beaches. A one-day pass can be a bit pricey, but it lets you in every weekday for the whole season (again gearing it more towards locals).
Located: Nha Trang, Viet Nam
Last Visited: March 2014
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30USD
Favorite Attractions: Space Hole, Family Rafting Slide, and Wave Pool
Probably one of the coolest parks on this list. You get to the park via a cable car, which, if you came by cruise ship, passes right over your ship!
While the park has no theme, per se, it has some of the most unique rides of any park on the list. Rides include a “half pipe” Tsunami slide you can ride in with a one-, two-, or three-person tube – Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub! There is also a wave pool where you sit in (or flip out of!) inner tubes instead of the usual treading water. There are the usual racing style slides and a few tunnel style ones. There’s one that dumps you into a “UFO” bowl before you drop another 3 feet through the middle. Lastly, there is a family style rafting slide where you carry your own raft to a hook and pulley (hey, it IS Vietnam!) For the less adventurous, there is also an aquarium and dolphin show in the park and a beach with access right to the sea!
Admission costs around $20-30 USD (depending on exchange rates) and there are plenty of bars with snacks and beverages for purchase at a reasonable (by Western standards) price. Best of all, admission gets you into the regular amusement park as well (you have to go through it to get to the water park) where you can check out the toboggan ride. There’s usually a DJ by the entrance and last I checked, the park also held monthly Full Moon Parties. Definitely worth checking out if you’ve already done the standard temples and markets deal.
Located: Orlando, Florida, USA
Last Visited: August 2016
Approximate Admission Cost: $50 USD
Favorite Attraction: Roa’s Rapids
In the land of theme parks, this on isn’t so much to write home about, but it does have some major thrill slides. It is most known for it’s Dolphin Plunge slide, where you slide through a clear tube and if your timing is spot on, a dolphin swims past you. There are also slides which you enter via a trap door dropping out from under you – not for the feint of heart! My favorite attraction is Roa’s Rapids, a “not-so-lazy” river (the actual Lazy River is less than relaxing and more like an LA Freeway at 9am). Downsides are that there are no real “beach” areas to relax, and it is always crowded with long lines. That being said, it’s still possible to go to Aquatica and SeaWorld in one day.
Located: Mahahual (Costa Maya), Quintana Roo, Mexico
Last Visited: January 2017
Approximate Admission Cost: $89 USD
Favorite Attraction: Hurricane
This park is one of the better themed ones on my list. Everything centers around a giant Mayan pyramid – of which the bottom level is lockers, restrooms, juice bar, and elevators or stairs to the attractions. (You read correctly, ELEVATORS! They definitely gear towards cruise ship tourists)
There are lots of slides – some with mats, some with tubes, some body ones. The nice thing is that there is plenty of good signage giving you a picture of the slide’s layout, safety information, and thrill level (in English!) so you know exactly what you can handle.
They also have two zip-line courses and a “Zip Coaster” (zip lines aided by a metal track) – all of which end in the water. The lazy river is an Expedition style, salt-water lazy river with lots of photo ops. There are lots of photo ops on every ride and photos are very reasonably priced (for 4 people for the day, it’s $39 for all your photos on a USB stick, or $5 to have one photo delivered to you via email).
There is also a really nice pool area with loungers and beds – for free. They also offer massages and a snack bar with reasonably priced Americanized Mexican food (think Moe’s Southwest) and delicious smoothies and juices (no alcohol in the park though!). They also have free WiFi (a perk for cruisers!)
The park is really clean and well maintained, with a focus on safety (there’s safety briefing before each ride!) All staff are well-trained and speak perfect English. The admission fee is a bit hefty – $89 for adults and $79 for kids and it is definitely geared towards cruise ship passengers as it is right outside the port. They sometimes make a deal for ships’ crew though!
Scandinavia doesn’t have a lot of water “parks”, per se, but they do bring a whole new outlook to the community pool. An honorable mention to a couple water “parks” I visited in Norway (they’re more like indoor aquatic complexes, but they have water slides!)
Located: Trondheim, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20 USD
Right next to the cruise terminal, this indoor aquatic complex features three water slides, a rock-climbing wall that falls into the wave pool, diving platforms, large inflatable rafts and icebergs, a lap pool, a rapids river, and of course a sauna and steam room. And like most Scandinavian pools, free showers! (Be prepared to get naked though!)
Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Last Visited: July 2013
Approximate Admission Cost: $20-30 USD
Similar to the above park, but slightly newer.
Finally, a few other parks that friends have recommended, but I have yet to make it to:
Aqua Fantasy – Kusadasi, Turkey
WaterPark – Rhodes, Greece
Blizzard Beach (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida
Typhoon Lagoon (Walt Disney World) – Orlando, Florida
Also be sure to check out this list of some of the world’s best water parks! Perfect for summer travel plans!