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Why to Visit Aquatica – SeaWorld San Diego’s Water Park

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Did you know that San Diego has a new water park? Neither did I…until SeaWorld San Diego‘s Aquatica asked me to come take a peek at their splashy offerings. Previously named Knott's Soak City, the water park was purchased from Knott's last fall and it reopened as Aquatica San Diego in June of  2013. Located in Chula Vista, 23 miles south of SeaWorld's ocean animal theme park, Aquatica is the largest and most lush water park in San Diego County. Here's why to visit Aquatica San Diego and what to know before you go.

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Aquatica - San Diego's Waterpark in San Diego

Aquatica's landscape and animals

The park features a whimsical South Seas theme, much like a beachside resort. According to Aquatica San Diego's Public Relations, you can expect to find some changes now that the water park has been purchased by SeaWorld: “Among many enhancements and changes, we added a beach (with 43,000 square feet of sand) surrounding Big Surf Shores, one of the largest wave pools in Southern California; we created a lush, tropical atmosphere by adding 20,000 plants (1,800 of which are trees);  and, what sets Aquatica apart from most water parks, is that we offer animal experiences.”

Tying into SeaWorld's sealife theme, a handful of bright pink flamingos and dozens of freshwater turtles make their home at Aquatica San Diego. Kids and adults will enjoy spying on these creatures during a break from all of the sliding and swimming.

Flamingos at SeaWorld's Aquatica in San Diego

Flamingos at SeaWorld's Aquatica in San Diego

Waterslides, waterslides, waterslides

By my count, there are 18 waterslides at Aquatica San Diego. And that's not even including the smaller slides for tots and kids. Between Whanau Way, Woohoo Falls and Kiwi Curl—there are eight twisting tube slides and four open-air twirling waterslides.

Waterslides at Aquatica San Diego

Woohoo Falls and Kiwi Curl waterslides at Aquatica San Diego

Dare devils (and those who don't mind water yanking their swimsuits into uncomfy spots) will like the four towering Hoo Hoo Run slides with roller coaster-like steep drops. If that's not enough to get your adrenaline pumping, make your way over to Tassie's Twister where pairs or foursomes can plunge 75 feet into a six-story funnel for spinning and (from the sounds of it) lots of screaming.

Hoo Hoo Run waterslides at Aquatica waterpark

Hoo Hoo Run waterslides for daredevils

My family's favorite waterslide at Aquatica was by far Walhalla Wave, on which groups of family members (or friends) can ride together. Climb aboard an over-sized raft for a giggle-inducing adventure as you dip and spin your way way down this 78-foot slide. I was nervous my previously ride-phobic 5-year-old would be terrified on this ride. In fact, he almost chickened out; it was only the promise of an ice cream cone that convinced him to conquer his fear. But after our first venture on the wave (with his head down and gripping like mad to the raft's safety straps), he shouted, “Let's go again!” (And we did go again…and again…and again!)

Walhalla Wave waterslide at Aquatica San Diego

My family's favorite waterslide at Aquatica, Walhalla Wave

Splashy fun for kids

Daring waterslides not your thing? Not to worry, there's more splashy fun to be had at Aquatica San Diego. Toddlers and preschoolers will get a kick out of Slippity Dippity, an island of miniature waterslides just their size.

Slippity Dippity splash and slide area for toddlers and preschoolers at Aquatica San Diego

Slippity Dippity splash and slide area for toddlers and preschoolers

Grade school kids will prefer Walkabout Waters, a giant watery jungle gym of sorts with nets to climb, waterslides to slide and hoses to spray. When you hear the dinging bell, look out below! A gigantic barrel pours 500 gallons of gushing water onto splashers every five minutes.

Walkabout Waters play area for bigger kids at Aquatica San Diego

Walkabout Waters play area for bigger kids at Aquatica San Diego

Waves and tubes

Big Surf Shores is where to go for wave-time fun. With the Pacific Ocean nearby, this wave pool didn't seem to draw as much of a crowd as land-locked water parks.

When you're ready to relax, grab an inner-tube and dip into Loggerhead Lane. This lazy river winds merrily through waterfalls as tubers listen to the sounds of Caribbean and Polynesian tunes. (Ladies: don't worry, you can easily avoid spraying water here if you want to keep your hair dry.) If you just want to swim a bit in a “normal” pool, Kata's Kookaburra Cove is for you.

Dining at Aquatica

Your family can dine on casual fare at the water park at surprisingly reasonable prices (for Southern California, at least). Choose from burgers, chicken strips, fish tacos, and more exotic items like Edamame Wraps and Orange Chicken. If you feel secure in your swimsuit, satisfy sweet cravings with funnel cakes, Dippin Dots, and other treats. Grown-ups can even order a beer or margarita, if so inclined.

Complimentary life vest at Aquatica

My 5-year-old donning a life vest at Aquatica San Diego

Other essentials

Aquatica San Diego offers some essentials to make your trip more enjoyable. You can rent lockers of various sizes and you'll find complimentary changing rooms at the park. If you forgot something (sunglasses, towels, swimsuits, etc.), stop into Kiwi Traders or Sunnies N' Such gift shops. Life vests of all sizes are available at no extra charge (and recommended for kids under 42 inches tall). If you've got deep pockets or are visiting with a large group, you can rent a cabana for some shade and privacy.

As a foursome of water park lovers, my family gives Aquatica San Diego eight thumbs up!

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What do like most about visiting a water park—the waterslides, the lazy river, the wave pool or something else? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: My family received complimentary Aquatica passes for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own, as always.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    Oh my, if I show my daughter this she will be begging to go back to San Diego! My kids love water slides – the bigger the better – but I’m more of a lazy river gal myself! 😉

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Oh I hope you do come back to San Diego! We can all go to Aquatica together!

  2. What a breathtaking ride! Riding different water slides will be so much fun. Tropical landscape and lovely animals is a perfect match. I’d love to go there someday.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Ariana – The animals were a nice diversion and really added a little extra something special about this water park! Thanks for your comment!

  3. Seaworld San Diego is one of my all time favorite places to be. We love the water park, the shows, just the entire atmosphere! If you ever needed a reason to visit San Diego, this is definitely one of them.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Debra – We love SeaWorld too and this water park is such a fun addition to the brand!

  4. This looks like so much fun!! I don’t have kids but I’m still going haha. I had a great time in San Diego and i can’t wait to go back and go on all those slides!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Samantha – Although I had a blast here with my kids, I’d love to return without them sometime. My kiddos are still too little to brave many of the slides and I’d like to get a chance to take a spin on all of them!

  5. Heading to Aquatica today! Excited!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Jennifer – So glad you decided to head to Aquatica after all. It’s such a fun water park!

  6. Maria Teresa Garcia Ramirez says

    I really think Aquatica is a very fun cool and amazing water park there are rides you dont even expect and the amimals are a great touch to it and if I had a choice between Legoland and Aquatica I would choose Aquatica. Thanks Seaworld for the new and improved water park Aquatica. Also in my opinion it is the worlds funnest water park.for me and my 9 years old daughter.

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