SeaWorld knows water. So it's not surprising that it has created a world-class water park. What might be surprising, however, is that Aquatica combines water park fun with opportunities to interact with animals.
The 59-acre park offers lots of rides for all ages and thrill levels amid a South Sea Islands atmosphere. One of Aquatica's signature rides, Dolphin Plunge, features side-by-side body slides that shoot riders through a pool with black and white Commerson's dolphins.
While the concept of "interacting with dolphins" sounds intriguing, the experience may not be worth the wait. The slides begin in enclosed, opaque tubes and deliver fast, twisting rides in the dark. As riders enter the pool with the dolphins, the tubes change to clear acrylic. But, even if the dolphins happen to be swimming near the tubes (which occurs only occasionally) it's unlikely riders would see them, since the dolphins and the riders zip along so quickly. With lines easily swelling up to an hour or longer on busy days, guests may want to skip the ride.
But that doesn't mean that they would have to skip seeing the captivating dolphins. By moseying next door and wading into Loggerhead Lane, Aquatica's lazy river, there's no waiting, and the nicely landscaped attraction includes a leisurely spin past an underwater window into the dolphin pool. The relatively short route also passes through a grotto with an aquarium of brightly colored African fish. Passengers aboard the two Tasssie Twister bowl rides also exit into the lazy river and can view the animals.
Guests who don't want to board any of the rides can marvel at the dolphins in a second underwater viewing area on dry land.
A Not-so-Lazy River
In addition to the dolphins and fish, handlers walk around the park with other animals, including tortoises and anteaters. Among its other unique features, Aquatica offers twin, side-by-side wave pools that each deliver different wave experiences. And Roa's Rapids is an action river that is surprisingly fast, quite long, and a load of fun. Forget the tubes; riders just go with the flow and encounter geysers, sudden surges, and other diversions.
Aquatica's other attractions include Walkabout Waters, an immense interactive play station with loads of water cannons and other spritzing doodads as well as two dump buckets. Two family raft rides, one enclosed and twisty, the other open and a straight shot down, offer fast, thrilling rides. The Taumata Racers begin in dark, enclosed tubes, and end in a side-by-side race to the finish. A pair of two tube slides at Whanau Way offers two different ride experiences.
Despite the park's enormous number of lounge chairs, guests quickly scoop them up and stake out their turf on busy days—a typical water park quandary. The lines for many of the rides can get quite long on busy days as well. Even the road into the parking lot can get jammed during peak times. The best advice to avoid crowds on prime water park days is to arrive when Aquatica first opens or wait until the afternoon on days when it's open late.
So, How Does It Compare to other Water Parks?
Some of the finest and most popular water parks can be found in Florida, and Aquatica is among the best. While it's not as lushly landscaped as Disney's Typhoon Lagoon (or SeaWorld's own upscale Discovery Cove dolphin swim park), it is quite lovely. And while Aquatica lacks the extreme kicks of the Summit Plummet speed slide at Disney's Blizzard Beach or the crazy-tall and -fast slides in the mountain at Universal Orlando’s Volcano Bay, some of its attractions do lay on the thrills. Among the more extreme slides are Ihu's Breakaway Falls, a multi-drop tower that includes launch capsules, and Ray Rush, a family raft slide that incorporates a mini-bowl and a halfpipe element.
Aquatica's vibe and South Seas theme are charming. And its animal features set it apart from all other water parks. In short, SeaWorld's claim that Aquatica is an innovative, new take on traditional water parks, um, holds water.
What's to Eat?
The park's three restaurants offer food that's a notch above typical water park fare. The Banana Beach Cookout, an all-you-care-to-eat buffet, offers an intriguing deal: For a few dollars more than a one-time meal, guests can return as many times as they wish throughout the day.
Aquatica requires separate admission from SeaWorld Orlando (and from Discovery Cove, SeaWorld's dolphin experience park). Reduced price for children 3 to 9. Ages 2 and under are free. Private cabanas are available for rent. If you are planning to visit other parks, consider getting a bundled, discounted ticket that includes admission to SeaWorld and/or Busch Gardens.
Aquatica is open year round. It is closed certain Mondays and Tuesdays in November and December. Check with Aquatica for exact operating hours.
Adjacent to SeaWorld Orlando, off International Drive.
From Orlando: I-4 to Exit 72.
From Tampa: I-4 to Exit 71.