When in Southern California you’ll want to find activities that are budget-savvy and family friendly. Bonus points for warm-weather fun that helps you stay cool in the San Diego sunshine. Aquatica San Diego water park checks all the boxes – there’s enough to do here for an entire day’s worth of play!
Aquatica San Diego Water Park
Yes, SeaWorld’s Aquatica is in San Diego but let me clear up a little confusion. While the Aquatica San Diego water park is owned and operated by SeaWorld San Diego, the water park is not located near SeaWorld.
- SeaWorld is in Mission Bay area (near the beach) and about 10 minutes drive north from downtown.
- Aquatica is located in Chula Vista, about 20 minutes drive south from downtown.
Despite being in separate locations, both SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica are both clean and well-operated. There are even animal encounters at Aquatica water park, starting with flamingos to greet guests at the entrance. You’ll also find a sea turtle exhibit near the wave pool. Keep reading my family travel guide and find out out what there is to do at Aquatica water park, best time saving tips for line waiting and how to get discounted tickets.
Aquatica San Diego Tickets
Discount tickets are pretty easy to find for this San Diego water park. Purchase tickets ahead of time on the SeaWorld website, including a water park and theme park bundle. A single day pass discounted water park tickets for Aquatica also includes a day-of reservation. A Season Pass is something to consider if you plan to visit more than once.
When is Aquatica San Diego Open?
None of the San Diego water parks are open year-round, generally opening in late spring and closing early fall. During the busy summer months, Aquatica is open 7 days a week. But during off-peak times, Aquatic San Diego is only open on weekends.
Aquatica hours seem to be around 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. for opening and between 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. for closing. These times are dependent upon the season with weekend operating hours longer. Definitely check the park calendar online before your visit.
Can’t Miss Rides at Aquatica San Diego
There are some thrilling water slides at Aquatica water park! Many of the rides offer options for open or enclosed slides as well. I’ve included the height requirements next to each attraction. There are height measurements at the entrance to each attraction.
- Hoodoo Run – Long drops in these 4 unique body slides, including one that’s 80 feet! 48″ requirement
- Whanau Way – This series of body slides each offer a different ride and include 4 enclosed and two open slides. 42″ requirement
- Taumata Racer – Guests lay on their stomachs, holding a mat in a high speed race to the finish line. 42″ requirement
- Kiwi Curl – Single tube water slide. 42″ requirement
- Woohoo Falls – Choose a single tube or double raft then ride down one of 3 slides (one in the dark). 42″ requirement
- Tassie’s Twister – Sits up to four in a clover-leaf style raft on a twisting slide that is six feet tall with a dramatic funnel ending. 48″ requirement
- Walhalla Wave – Family-style raft with long twists and turns. 42″ requirement
Best Height for Aquatica?
Guests who are taller than 42″ will be able to take advantage of almost all attractions inside Aquatica water park. Some attractions require guests who meet the 42″ requirement but are shorter than 48″ to wear a life vest. Anyone 48″ or tall can ride everything and do not need a life jacket.
Visiting San Diego Water Parks with Babies & Toddlers
You might wonder what there is to do at the San Diego water parks with babies or toddlers? While most of the attractions are geared for older kids, there are still plenty of areas at Aquatica for smaller children to get wet and have fun!
Slippity Dippity – The short slides here have a maximum height of 48″ (ie: no grown ups). This means kids need to climb stairs and slide down by themselves, while parents wait at the bottom. Or bring two adults and have one at the top with the child and another to catch at the bottom of the slide. There is a double waterfall feature that kids will either love or avoid (my 3 year old daughter isn’t keen on the loud noise or pounding water).
Walkabout Waters – This four-story interactive play area features splash pad areas with short slides (for guests 42″ and up), bubbling water features and small sprays for all ages. There’s also a 500-gallon bucket that fills up and dumps on everyone beneath it. My kiddo enjoyed splashing in the water but refused to go inside the play area for fear of the downpour.
Aquatica Water Park Tip: Swim diapers are a must-have. Bring plenty and change your child only inside the restrooms (and not on a lounge chair!). If you forget the diapers or run out, they are available for purchase at Aquatica.
More Things at Aquatica with Toddlers & Babies
Loggerhead Lane – This lazy river is perfect for little ones. Float along next to your baby in a double-inner tube. One side has a hole and the other has a seat in the middle (perfect for the youngest kids). Shade is next to nothing so lather up with sunscreen and bring baby a hat. There is one section of overhead waterfall that can be avoided.
Big Surf Shores – Swells up to 5′ high can build in this giant wave pool but the water near the shoreline is tame enough for babies and toddlers to stand and splash in. Anyone under 48″ needs to wear a life jacket.
Aquatica Water Park Tip: There are life jackets located all around the Aquatica water park, for complimentary use. However the smallest size might still be too big for very young kids. You can also bring in your own “floaties” if you prefer.
Cabanas and Lounge Chairs
I’d never utilized a cabana at a water park before but now I know it’s a worthy splurge! We loved our time at the Aquatica cabana, where there was a private table and chairs for dining and a mini-fridge to hold snacks and beverages. Cabanas are outfitted with a personal locker, lounge chairs in front and a personal server to take dining orders. All cabanas include a welcome basket (ours had fruit, water bottles and several packaged snacks).
Having a cabana is ideal when traveling with seniors or babies who require heavy shade covering. We appreciated having a “home base” to check in, to rest and have a snack along with a safe place for storage. My daughter loved to play in the sandy beach area, though not all cabanas have this.
Cabanas are located all around the park, some closer to play areas and others in more quiet locations. Our cabana had a view of the wave pool but was set away from the crowd so it was a great place to relax away from noise. If a cabana is a must-have at the water park, there are several options at various prices at Aquatica. Purchase of a cabana also gives guests access to a private swimming pool, free Wi-Fi and personal entrance to the lazy river.
If the cabana is out of budget but you still want a designated place to sit, consider the lounger option. Some lounge chairs have a minimal shade covering and are located right next to the wave pool. Premium loungers are in a more reserved area and include a shade umbrella as well as food & beverage service.
Aquatica San Diego Dining
All that water play and activity under the sun is going to work up an appetite. I highly recommend each family pack a cold bag with snacks and drinks for the day. Small individual sized snacks like chips, cut veggies and fruit cups as well as bottles of water are permitted in the park.
This San Diego water park only offers quick service dining and snack carts (no full service restaurants). Options include the usual burgers, pizza, pasta and chicken tenders. Check out the loaded funnel cake desserts and sundaes too! You’ll also find some healthier options including salads, stir fry noodles with tofu and grab-n-go wrap sandwiches. Like the SeaWorld parks, alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and cocktails are available.
Aquatica Water Park Tip: Consider using a cash-less wrist band if you plan on making purchases throughout the day. At the ticket window before entering the park, connect a payment method to a special wristband. Then you can safely leave your credit card in a locker.
Changing Rooms vs. Restrooms
To save time, I recommend that families wear their bathing suits under their clothes to the water park. There are rental lockers where you can store bags with dry clothing until you need them. Changing rooms are at a minimum here and are especially busy in the hour before closing time. There are outdoor showers and rinsing stations to wash off chlorine and sand. Restroom stalls are extremely tiny and not appropriate for changing clothes.
What to Bring with You to Aquatica San Diego Water Park
- Guests must bring their own towels from home. If you forget a towel, there are some available for purchase in the gift shop.
- If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the lazy river or wave pool, bring a large sun hat to cover your face and neck. There’s no shade protection in either spot.
- Sunscreen is a definite MUST. Under the SoCal sunshine, I’d recommend reapplying several times throughout the day. Try using a sunscreen that can be applied to damp skin, like Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray.
- Bring a Waterproof Tote Bag. I use my water proof bag to hold a dry change of clothing and then to place our wet suits in after changing.
- You’ll need a pair of flip-flops for every family member. The concrete and sand are in direct sun so the ground gets extremely hot.
- Protect kid’s skin with a rash guard. My son’s blue shirt is from Primary – Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT.
- Drinking water is another must-have to stay hydrated. You’ll be able to bring in your own bottled water.
- If you’ll have your electronics out, bring protective gear for cells phones like the Submariner Waterproof Phone Pouch.
What NOT to Bring with You
- Swim clothing that has metal zippers or rivets.
- No alcohol or glass.
- Remove valuable jewelry before coming to the water park.
Time Saving Tips for San Diego Water Parks
Aquatica San Diego offers a “front-of-the-line” pass called Quick Queue. There are two pricing options, including one with unlimited priority boarding to participating attractions. The other offers unlimited boarding on some rides and one-time line skipping for other rides. We spent about 45 minutes on a summer weekday waiting for the more popular thrill rides. The Quick Queue option would definitely be a good option for those who don’t want to wait as long.
On a budget and don’t want to splurge on the line skipping wristband? Try these time-saving tips! Wait times right after the park opens and in the hour before closing are much lower. Plan to get to the park early to park and enter through security. You’ll want to grab a chair quickly and get to the rides right away.
Try this itinerary to make the most of your time at Aquatica San Diego
Upon park opening, head straight for the two most popular rides, Tassie’s Twister and Walhalla Wave. Then grab a tube and float around the lazy river. Mid-day, when the park is busiest take the time to snack in the shade then enjoy the larger attractions including the wave pool and Walkabout Waters. In the hour before closing, my son and I were able to enjoy 5 attractions with minimal wait time. This is the best time to hit all the rest of the big slides!
Other Must Know Tips for Aquatica San Diego
Some rides require you to carry your tube to the top, while others have conveyor belts that bring the tubes back up. There are some attractions with long, wet flights of stairs. If you have a child that has trouble handling both the stairs and an inner tube, you may be carrying both your tube and theirs!
Water shoes are not allowed on rides but with all the hot concrete, you’ll need to wear flip-flops for walking between attractions. There are cubbies to place your shoes inside at each ride.
Accessibility to slides is very limited. Guests are expected to be able to climb long stairs and stand in line. There is no wheelchair access for slides. Those with health issues may find walking on concrete and climbing stairs to be a challenge.
Remind kids to hold on tightly to the tubes, rafts and mats. Once the ride starts, if a hand slips off it can be almost impossible to regain balance. My son lost his grip on the Walhalla Wave float and was tossed around in the raft. It was frightening for the both of us and we were worried the raft would flip without the proper balance. Hold on tight!
Water Park Family Fun
Looking for more water park fun in San Diego county? The LEGOLAND water park in Carlsbad (north San Diego) is a part of the popular theme park. Purchase discount LEGOLAND California tickets ahead of time that are bundled with the theme park.
If you find yourself on the opposite coast at Walt Disney World, a visit to either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach is a Disney vacation must-do! These Disney water parks are intensely themed and great for all ages.