Aquatica, SeaWorld’s aging water park, combines some marine-animal exhibits with an assortment of wave pools, slides, and creek floats. Aquatica is comparable in size to the other water theme parks in the area. Attractively landscaped with palms, ferns, and tropical flowers, it’s far less themed than Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
Top Experiences at Aquatica
The Dolphin Plunge: This corkscrewing romp takes you through a totally dark tube until you blast through the clear tube at the end, and it stays mobbed all day. To experience the slide without a long wait, be on hand at park opening, and ride it first thing. Ads for the park show guests viewing the black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins as they descend through the clear tube at the end of the Dolphin Plunge body slide. The reality is that you are flushed through the clear tube so fast, with so much water splashing around your face, that it’s pretty much impossible to see anything.
At Aquatica, the best place to view the dolphins is from the walkway surrounding the exhibit or from the subsurface viewing windows.
The first new slide at Aquatica in years opened in 2014. Ihu’s Breakaway Falls artfully blends hanging and being flushed down a really big toilet. But first you have to climb the equivalent of 10 stories of stairs. Once you haul yourself to the top of the tower and are revived, you step into one of three tubes with plexiglass doors. At some undetermined time (Aquatica staff dither around to build your anxiety), a trapdoor opens beneath you, gallows-like, and down you go. Each tube offers a different ride, but all three include big vertical drops, pitched drops, and corkscrews (the toilet part). A fourth tube at the top of the tower provides a wild but less intimidating ride, with the usual sit-down-and-off-you-go launch.
Other slides include Tassie’s Twisters, in which an enclosed tube slide spits you into an open bowl where you careen around the edge, much in the manner of the ball in a roulette wheel. Close to the Dolphin Plunge, Tassie’s Twisters should be your second early-morning stop before heading to Ihu’s.
After Breakaway Falls, head over to Walhalla Wave and HooRoo Run, both on the park’s far right side. Both slides use circular rafts that can accommodate up to three people. Walhalla Wave splashes down an enclosed twisting tube, while HooRoo Run is an open-air run down a steep, straight, undulating slide.
The same entrance serves both slides. Line up for Walhalla Wave (vastly more popular) on the right, for HooRoo Run on the left. Make Walhalla Wave your third slide of the day, followed by HooRoo Run. Then pass along the right side of the children’s adventure area, Walkabout Waters, to Taumata Racer, the park’s highest-capacity slide with eight enclosed corkscrewing tubes.
The remaining slides are Whanau Way and Omaka Rocka, all the way across the park to the left of the entrance. Omaka Rocka is a wide diameter, one-person, enclosed tube ride. The name derives from the wave action inside the tube, which washes you alternately up one side of the tube and then the other. Riders haul the single-person rafts up the stairs and select either the purple or aqua tube, and then whoosh down through three (40-foot) open or half-pipe funnels, water curtains, and a final 360-degree spiral during a 50-second ride. Including the hike to the top, figure on spending 3 minutes for each climb and descent here.
Sporting one corkscrew and a few twists, Whanau Way employs tubes that can carry one or two people. Because it’s hard to see from the park entrance, Whanau Way doesn’t attract long lines until midmorning.
Taken as a whole, the slides at Aquatica are not nearly as interesting, thrilling, or imaginative as those of its competitors, and aside from whisking you through a dolphin tank, they don’t break any new ground. There are some variations among these slides: Tassie is in a two-person tube, sliders in Taumata use a mat, and the Dolphin is a body slide. Dark slides are an essential part of almost every water-park lineup, but the technique seems overdone here. All slides other than HooRoo Run, Omaka Rocka, and Whanau launch you down these black holes, which makes for a very homogenized experience.
In addition to the slides, Aquatica offers side-by-side wave pools, Cutback Cove and Big Surf Shores. This arrangement allows one cove to serve up bodysurfing waves while the other puts out gently bobbing floating waves. A spacious beach arrayed around the coves is the park’s primary sunning venue. Shady spots, courtesy of beach umbrellas, ring the perimeter of the area for the sun-sensitive.
Loggerhead Lane and Roa’s Rapids are the two floating streams. The former is a slow and gentle tube journey that circumnavigates the Tassie’s Twisters slide. Its claim to fame is a section of the float where a plexiglass tunnel passes through the Fish Grotto, a tank populated by hundreds of exotic tropical fish and the relatively small Commerson’s dolphins.
Unique to Aquatica, Roa’s Rapids is a much longer course with a very swift current. (The other water parks have floating creeks, but they’re leisurely affairs where you can fall asleep in your tube.) Buoyancy vests are available, but most adults float or swim the stream. There are no rapids, but the flow is constricted from time to time, considerably increasing the already fast speed of the current. There’s only one place to get in and out, so if you miss the takeout, you’re in for another lap.
When it comes to children’s water attractions, Aquatica more than equals the other area parks. In the back of the park, to the left of the wave pools, is Kata’s Kookaburra Cove, featuring a wading pool and slides for the preschool crowd.
But the real piece de resistance is Walkabout Waters. If you have children under age 10, this alone may be worth the price of admission. Located in a calf-deep 15,000-square-foot pool, it’s an immense three-story interactive playground set with slides, stairs, rope bridges, landings, and more. Water sprays, spritzes, pulsates, and plops at you from every conceivable angle. Randomly placed plastic squirting devices allow kids to take aim at unsuspecting adults, but the kids disperse quickly when either of two huge buckets dumps hundreds of gallons of water on the entire structure. It’s impossible not to get wet. It’s also impossible not to have fun.
Admission costs are about the same as the Disney water parks ($60 at the gate plus tax, $10 less when purchased in advance online). Parking fees are $15 for cars and motorcycles, $20 for RVs. As at other water parks, there are lockers (using new self-service electronic locks instead of old-fashioned keys), towels, wheelchairs, and strollers to rent, plus gift shops to browse in.
The three restaurants are WaterStone Grill, offering specialty sandwiches, cheeseburgers, wraps, and salads; Banana Beach Buffet, dishing up pizza, hot dogs, and chicken; and Mango Market, an eatery serving sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Aquatica does not allow guests to bring their own food or drinks with the exception of small snacks and water. I found the in-park food options and quality disappointing.
For information on other activities in Orlando, check out Beyond Disney: The Unofficial Guide to SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, & the Best of Central Florida by Bob Sehlinger and Seth Kubersky.