Tubing is a beloved Central Texas pastime. At some of the most popular tubing destinations near Austin in recent years, the fun has gotten a little out of hand, so local officials have been trying to tone down the wildness a little with new regulations. The rules regarding alcohol can be a bit confusing and vary by location, so make sure you call ahead and get the scoop.
Your tubing journey begins at San Marcos City Park, where you’ll pick up a tube and jump in the river. A leisurely hour later, your party will arrive at Rio Vista Park, which has a small waterfall for adventurous types. A shuttle transports the group back to the park. (512) 396-5466
The Tube Haus operates on the Guadalupe River, the coolest (temperature-wise), most scenic river in Central Texas. The float takes about two hours. Make sure you have a clear idea of where the exit point is, particularly if you’re enjoying a brew or two. (830) 964-3011
Boasting some of the best tubes (with bottoms!) on the Guadalupe, River Sports offers excellent service and frequent shuttles. The typical trip is a little over two hours. The outfitter also rents coolers. Changing rooms and bathrooms on site are also a big plus. (830) 964-2450
Texas State Tubes’ standard float starts with a 15-minute bus ride, and then you float back to their location for almost three hours. For some reason, this place tends to be less crowded than many other tube rental joints. Enjoy it while it lasts! (512) 557-1758
Located on the less-crowded Comal River, Chuck’s Tubes offers a lazy ride through one of the nicest stretches of the river. They also rent mini-kegs and insulated backpacks for beer. At the end of the day, you can buy excellent barbecue in the parking lot. In a business where half of the customers are intoxicated, it’s tough to earn consistent praise, but this place does. The staff clearly loves the work, and they’re determined to help you have fun (safely). (830) 625-3991
An old-timer in a tough business, Rockin’ R River Rides has all the bases covered. A large store at the basecamp can provide everything from beer to sunscreen. Unlike many outfitters, they make a point of reviewing safety rules before unleashing you on the river with a cooler of beer. Their standard trip goes through a portion of the river that has a lot of twists, turns and whitewater. Whenever possible, get a tube with a hard bottom. Your butt will thank you later. This place catches a little flack for being too touristy and often crowded, but they do well because they know their business.
Have fun! (800) 553-5628
This tubing destination on the Guadalupe River offers floating excursions ranging from two to six hours in length. Most people opt for the two-hour “Horseshoe” route, which requires a short hike back to the Shanty River Center at the end. For the four-hour trip, the outfitter will pick you up in a shuttle bus and take you back to the starting point. You can also rent a four-person “Party Tube” if group tubing is your thing. If you want to make an extended vacation out of the trip, there are also small cabins for rent on the property.
For more of a man-made tubing experience, head to Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels. The Blastenhoff area has some of the most exciting rides (plus, it’s fun to say). The Wolfpack Raft Slide starts at the top of the tower in the center of the park. Up to four people can ride together on a 72-inch raft through a five-story tube full of curves and drops. The Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster sends two-person rafts on a harrowing ride up, down, up and sideways. For those who prefer the kind of mellower tubing usually found on a natural river, there’s also a circular course around the park.
400 North Liberty Avenue, New Braunfels; (855) 246-0273