Why you’re going to want to ride the wave of this travel trend
Waterparks are riding a wave of success in 2023. Thankfully, today’s waterparks go far beyond the stereotypical ‘beach chair and plastic cup’ experience, appealing to a diverse demographic of travellers.
Many of the trendiest waterparks offer exclusive pool club vibes with cabanas, upscale dining, and premium amenities to attract high-end visitors. Less ‘cookie cutter’ than old-school waterparks, these modern aquatic playgrounds are all unique and feel like a luxe beach oasis.
A July 2023 article in Travel Weekly US reported the growing trend of hotels and resorts investing heavily in waterpark features and amenities.
“There’s definitely been a trend toward adding more waterpark amenities, and you see consumers willing to pay more money if a room includes access to a waterpark,” said David Sangree, president of the hospitality consulting firm Hotel & Leisure Advisors. “I think many consumers of higher-end resorts are now expecting these amenities. A simple pool is no longer interesting enough.”
Sangree added, “The waterpark resort properties have definitely benefited from the strong leisure comeback. And not only has their occupancy come back quicker, but their average rate has also grown more than that of the average hotel.”
It’s easy to see why so many major hospitality brands are diving into waterpark features. These expansive aquatic playgrounds appeal to many travellers, including large multigenerational families and ‘bleisure’ travellers looking for flexibility and amenities catering to varied interests.
Groups seeking bonding adventures also appreciate the team-building activities and laughs that waterpark options at resorts and hotels can provide. And for the trendy traveller inspired by TikTok and Instagram, those pool club vibes hit the mark for exclusivity.
Here are five incredible waterparks around the world to add to your travel wish list:
A homegrown favourite
What would a waterpark list be without Sun City? This local go-to saw the start of a multimillion-rand investment last year, releasing plans to upgrade and build new accommodations and facilities at the iconic resort – notably to appeal to the high-end and younger markets.
The Palace of the Lost City also enjoyed a makeover worth over R208 million just in time for its 30th anniversary last December.
The favourites still remain, beloved by generations of South African families. The Valley of the Waves, 1.4-kilometre lazy river, raging rapids, and massive slides, like the Temple of Courage, are as popular now as they were decades ago. The overall Sun City Resort complex also includes two championship golf courses, casinos, and wildlife encounters, so there’s much more than just waves on offer.
Floating waterpark resorts
Think you have to stay on dry land to enjoy the world’s best waterparks? Think again!
“Today, you’ll find some of the most unbelievable waterpark experiences when sailing the high seas,” says Antoinette Turner, GM of Flight Centre South Africa. “Cruise lines have hugely expanded their onboard waterpark offerings to attract more travellers.”
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Prima, which debuted in 2022, has some of the fastest and wildest slides at sea. The Drop is the first free-fall dry slide where riders plunge 10 decks down, seated on a mat. The high-thrill Rush slide sends cruisers through exhilarating drops and a 360-degree loop.
For travellers who prefer their water fun with less adrenalin, Norwegian Prima features stunning infinity pools, upscale dining with ocean views, and glass walkways hovering above the ocean. Launched in August 2023, the new Norwegian Viva vessel offers similar amenities. Guests can expect innovative and award-winning experiences onboard the Prima class of vessels, with something for every traveller.
Royal Caribbean cruise ships also boast impressive onboard waterparks. FlowRider® surf simulators, the tallest slide at sea called The Blaster, and high thrill slides like Typhoon, Cyclone, and Riptide cater to adventure seekers. Then there’s the line’s AquaTheatre, featuring a deep pool and diving platforms for astonishing acrobatic shows. In 2024, Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas will unveil the largest waterpark at sea with six new slides. There’s no chance the little ones will be bored on this vessel!
An oasis in the desert
In Dubai’s desert climate, Wild Wadi Waterpark provides a 30-acre oasis with over 30 rides and themed zones spread in front of the stunning Burj Al Arab hotel. Adrenalin junkies can brave the floor-dropping Jumeirah Sceirah slide, while the kids will love the flowing currents of Juha’s Journey lazy river. This massive park features surf simulators, wave pools, and even an aquarium. Themed zones based on Arabian folklore add extra atmosphere. With temperatures often rising over 37 degrees Celsius in Dubai, it’s the perfect way to cool off.
Dubai also offers Aquaventure at Atlantis The Palm, a world-famous waterpark located on the iconic artificial island. Daredevils flock to rides like The Zoomerango, Leap of Faith, and Splashers. For a more low-key experience, float down the 1.6-kilometre lazy river past waterfalls and rapids. This aquatic playground also includes a private beach, activity pools, and kids’ play areas.
“Dubai is incredibly welcoming to kids and is a year-round bestseller with South African favourites,” says Turner.
Make a splash in the happiest place on earth
In Florida, the United States’s ‘Sunshine State’, families can enjoy some watery fun on their visit by spending some time at the state’s Disney parks. Disney boasts two waterparks, and both can be added on to your Disney adventure.
Blizzard Beach Waterpark provides a 30-acre oasis with over 25 rides and themed zones. Thrill-seekers can brave Summit Plummet, one of the world’s tallest and fastest body slides. Little ones will love the melting polar theme of Tike’s Peak play area. This massive park features wave pools, tubing rapids, and a sand beach area. Themed zones, like Cross Country Creek lazy river, add extra excitement.
Typhoon Lagoon is another world-famous waterpark on the iconic Walt Disney World property. Its waterslides traverse surging waves and lush tropical settings for an adventurous ride. Daredevils flock to attractions like Humunga Kowabunga, Storm Slides, and Miss Adventure Falls. For a more relaxed vibe, drift down the 0.6-kilometer lazy river past waterfalls and rapids. This wet and wild playground also includes a surf pool, activity pools, and kids’ splash areas.
Bali’s watery wonderland
In Indonesia, Waterbom Bali offers a tropical waterpark getaway for those who want an added dose of water adventures away from the beaches.
Set amid lush greenery with an ocean backdrop, it’s an island paradise for water lovers. Slides with names like Python, Twin Racers, and Super Bowl add to the excitement. Families flock to activity pools like Funtime and Happy Snappers. You can even relax in a hot tub fed by natural spring water. With balmy temperatures year-round, Waterbom Bali offers outdoor fun at any time. An international food court fuels all the action, and the park is listed as Asia’s most sustainable waterpark.
No matter if you’re a family, couple, or solo adventure seeker, today’s waterparks offer splash-tastic fun. So, next time you’re planning a vacation, be sure to check out these exciting water playgrounds making a splash. With new investments and innovations, the offerings will only continue getting better.
FLIGHT CENTRE TRAVEL GROUP SOUTH AFRICA
Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) SA is part of Flight Centre Travel Group, an Australia-based international travel company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, with a market cap of AU$3.90 billion and a current share price of AU$17.79 as of 24 October 2023. FCTG with three leading brands: Flight Centre, Corporate Traveller and FCM, of which Corporate Traveller and FCM are proud level 1 BBBEE Contributors. FCTG SA is wholly owned and has been recognised as one of Deloitte’s Best Companies to Work for in South Africa for over a decade.