Having had enough of the winter cold we decided to take the kids and head off for a weekend of swimming and 84-degree weather… indoors and driving distance from home. The year before we took a trip to the Aquatopia indoor waterpark at Camelback so this time we decided to try out the indoor water park at Kalahari. Aquatopia and Kalahari are about 10 miles from each other and located in the Poconos Mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania, about a 2-hour drive from New York City.
Kalahari in the Poconos is now the largest indoor waterpark in North America at 220,000 square feet (over 5 acres). The first phase of the resort opened in 2015 and the expansion opened in 2017. Aquatopia also opened in 2015 and is 125,000 square feet (almost 3 acres).
So what’s the verdict: Aquatopia or Kalahari?
Our kids are two and four years old and both absolutely loved the Kalahari resort. Kalahari is African-themed and is filled with statues of animals and artwork. An overnight stay at Kalahari Resort includes admission to the water park, however, you can also purchase daily tickets. Aquatopia does not sell daily tickets, so admission can only be obtained when you stay overnight at Camelback (or unless you are with large 20+ person group to purchase daily admission). We booked Kalahari’s basic “Desert” room which had two beds and a by-request complimentary pack-and-play portable crib. When we stayed at Camelback we booked a 1,500 square foot, three-bedroom, loft unit, so it is difficult to compare the accommodations at the two resorts. The room we booked at Kalahari was supposed to include a table and chairs and that’s where we planned that the kids would eat breakfast. Unfortunately, it was just a desk and a single chair. The room at Kalahari was a bit underwhelming. But enough about the room, we were here for the waterpark.
We checked in the Monday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend so the resort was very crowded but it was not difficult to find a table and chairs to sit. The waterpark is huge and has many offerings for toddlers to adults. There are even areas with swings for infants, as well. On our second day, much of the waterpark was actually closed. Kalahari claims that since the areas offer “duplicate” activities that they’re not depriving you of what you paid for, but it’s a bit disingenuous to brag you’re the largest indoor waterpark in the country but much of the waterpark is closed on weekdays. Finding food that was allergen safe for our children wasn’t the easiest at Kalahari but we managed. Read more about that here.
At both Kalahari and Aquatopia you have to walk through an arcade to enter the waterpark. So be prepared to usher the kids through quickly if you don’t want to have to make lots of stops.
Both waterparks have indoor/outdoor spas/hot tubs, lazy rivers, and wave pools. The kids loved swimming and splashing in the large wavepool. The biggest difference between the wavepool at Kalahari and the wavepool at Aquatopia is that at Aquatopia you can bring inflatable tubes into the wavepool. Kalahari does not allow this.
The toddler areas at Kalahari were much more expansive that Aquatopia and included many more toddler-friendly water slides. If you’re planning to take kids in the 4 year old and under range Kalahari is the clear winner.
Aquatopia, though, has a lot more to offer older children and adults. After putting the kids to sleep I went down to the waterpark at Kalahari to try out some of the adult waterslides. Unfortunately, it turns out most of them require two riders so I was not permitted to ride them alone. That was a real bummer. Aquatopia has many larger waterslides that appeal to adults and did not have restrictions on single riders. I also found the theming inside the waterpark to be better at Aquatopia than Kalahari. It may be due to the phased construction of Kalahari, but it seemed more like visiting a large warehouse building that contained pools and waterslides. Aquatopia was much more bright and airy and had better sight lines and theming.
But the reason for visiting the indoor waterparks was for the children, and based on their age, Kalahari is the current winner for us.