Summertime means road-tripping and water-sliding. From South Florida's largest water park to Miami-Dade's only wave pool, the region has plenty of ways to stay cool for the summer. If your hot-weather plans include breaking the world record for most time spent floating on a lazy river, we're not here to judge.
Here are the six best water parks in South Florida.
1. Rapids Water Park.
A side view of Black Thunder.
Photo courtesy of Rapids Water Park.
To reach the king of South Florida water parks, Miami dwellers will have to cross county lines, but it's worth the trek. The 30-plus-acre Rapids Water Park is the region's largest and boasts 35 slides, a quarter-mile lazy river, and a wave pool. Looking for a VIP experience? Splurge on a Big Surf Cabana ($139 Monday through Friday; $169 Saturday, Sunday, and holidays). The ten-by-ten foot private retreat includes seating, a TV, a waiter to keep you out of those concession stand lines, and other amenities. The park tends to get slammed, so we suggest waking at the crack of dawn to beat the water-slide vultures. 6566 N. Military Trail, Riviera Beach; 561-848-6272; rapidswaterpark.com. Regular admission costs $43.99 to $48.99; discounts and specials are available.
2. Paradise Cove Water Park.
Head to Pembroke Pines.
Photos courtesy of Broward County Parks
When life gives you five-story-tall corkscrew water slides in suburbia, you take the plunge and make a day out of it. Who knew a tiny slice of paradise could be found smack in the middle of Pembroke Pines? Twelve bucks gets you a fun-filled day at C.B. Smith Park's Paradise Cove, offering water slides, aquatic playgrounds, and a lazy river. Once you and the kids are done soaking up the sun à la Sheryl Crow, there's still a full day of fun ahead. Make your way to one of the park's picnic areas, shoot some hoops on the full court, or go fishing. 900 N. Flamingo Rd., Pembroke Pines; 954-357-5170; broward.org. Admission costs $12.30.
3. Grapeland Water Park.
The entrance to Grapeland Water Park features a Romero Britto sculpture.
Photo by Catherine Toruño
Fighting traffic on the Dolphin Expressway day in and day out is a huge bummer. When you see Grapeland Water Park while you're stuck in gridlock in your hot car, it's a reminder of the fun you're not having. So go have it! From the slides at Pirate's Plunge to the ultimate lazy river at Buccaneer River Ride to the pools, slides, and splash fountains, this park has something for everyone. 1550 NW 37th Ave., Miami; 305-960-2950; miamigov.com. Admission costs $7 to $15.
4. Castaway Island Water Park.
Wait under the bucket to get soaked.
Photo courtesy of Broward County Parks
Cool off at this Hollywood aquatic oasis that offers two water playgrounds with fun for kids of all ages. Located inside T.Y. Park, Castaway Island is a multilevel structure with water slides and buckets that dump water to get you soaked. Waiting in anticipation under a huge bucket of water never gets old. Be sure to cozy up under the waterfall at the Swim Lagoon, a guaranteed favorite. 3300 N. Park Rd., Hollywood; 954-357-8811; broward.org. Admission costs $8.87.
5. McDonald Water Park.
Ken Soler / Photo courtesy of City of Hialeah
Miamians know how to chill. Hard. For the terminally chill, McDonald Water Park is for you. Grab your most outrageous raft and drift along Hialeah's winding 1,000-foot lazy river, where you'll float under waterfalls and through caves. This gem of a spot is home to Miami-Dade's only wave pool, but buckle up: It'll leave you waiting in suspense with its three variations of waves. The park also has a water playground, splash pad, water guns, and geysers. 7505 W. 12th Ave., Hialeah; 305-818-9164; hialeahfl.gov. Admission costs $7 to $10.
6. Bucky Dent Water Park.
Perfect on a hot day.
Ken Soler / Photo courtesy of City of Hialeah
So you think you can slide? The race is on, down Bucky Dent's 30-foot-tall dueling water slides. Earn your bragging rights and race your friends to the bottom. This Hialeah hangout also has a miniature slide in the activity pool, as well as a zero-entry swimming pool. If the idea of a wet Miami summer doesn't do it for you but the family is gung-ho on the whole water-park thing, there's no need to fret: This place offers ample seating areas and a concession stand to sate your munchies. 2240 W. 60th St., Hialeah; 305-818-2990; hialeahfl.gov. Admission costs $6 to $9.
7. Coconut Cove Water Park.
Ready to race?
Photo courtesy of Palm Beach County Parks
Located in Boca Raton's Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, Coconut Cove Water Park checks every box on the list for kids and adults. It offers a 897-foot-long river ride, two four-story water slides, a children's water playground, a recreational pool, and a full-service concession stand. Don't forget the sunscreen. 20130 Regional Park Dr., Boca Raton; 561-629-8840; thepalmbeaches.com. Admission costs $10.85.