Go to a South Sea Island-style paradise 20 minutes’ drive south from downtown Orlando with a visit to Aquatica®. It’s owned and operated by SeaWorld®, which also operates a theme park opposite Aquatica, on International Drive. Throughout Aquatica’s 59 acres (24 hectares), you’ll find manmade beaches with golden sands, climate-controlled water and waves rolling in at speeds suited to everyone from toddlers to teens. Rides range from a leisurely raft journey to a high-speed spin on a tube.
Dolphin Plunge is one of Aquatica’s most popular attractions. This ride plunges you down a tube, a portion of which is transparent and goes underwater into a lagoon. This is the home of the energetic Commerson’s dolphins. Keep an eye out for these playful black and white creatures as they may zip past you while you’re under water.
Other high-speed rides include Omaka Rocka, which rocks your inflatable tube from side to side down half-pipes and funnels. Experience the swirls of a white water adventure during Roa’s Rapids. For the biggest adrenaline hit, rush headfirst down a steep slide on a mat on the Taumata Racer, which pits you against seven other thrill-seekers.
Change the pace with a relaxing float through Loggerhead Lane, a popular attraction that combines a water ride with views of wildlife. Hop on your raft and drift through an aquarium filled with exotic fish that swim above and around you.
Children and adults alike will have a blast in the kid-friendly areas. Walkabout Waters is a 60-foot (18-meter) tall fortress armed with spray guns and hoses, and plenty of splashes from buckets tipping water overhead. The whole family can rock along in the same raft through the Walhalla Wave, which has six stories of twists and turns.
To rest and refuel, go to one of Aquatica’s restaurants. There’s a great buffet at Banana Beach, or pre-order a Family Picnic, available seasonally. Plan ahead and book your own cabana for the day. Options range from reserving a space with a sun lounge and umbrella to a private cabana for up to eight guests.