For the Ultimate Surfing Vacation, Head to Central Texas. No, Really.
Waco Surf offers man-made waves, wakeboarding and the country’s longest lazy river
Texas is a big state, almost unfathomably so. As such, it’s not terribly surprising to learn that its highest peak is nearly 9,000 feet tall, or that El Paso is closer to San Diego than it is to Houston. But the strangest geographic fun fact of all might be that you can go surfing in central Texas, an area that has a beach but is conspicuously missing an ocean.
For this abnormality, you can thank Waco Surf, a 500-acre complex centered around a lake that draws visitors to its man-made beach, surf center, wakeboard park, massive water slides and the longest lazy river in the U.S. And you thought Waco was just famous for Baylor and Joanna Gaines.
Planning a trip to Waco Surf is relatively easy since it’s an all-in-one destination with a hotel, restaurants, bars and plenty to do. Here’s a primer on what you can expect when you arrive.
What’s New at Waco Surf
The original park opened in 2012 as a barefoot water ski training center, adding more elements over the years, including the cable park, slides and surfing. New owners purchased the property in March 2021 and put millions of dollars into the complex, with the final tweaks just completed in May of this year.
The on-site lodging got an upgrade, with expanded suites and remodeled rooms at the Waco Surf Hotel, and new decor sourced from vintage markets in Round Top. Food and drink options have been improved, and they launched beginner academies that offer lessons to new surfers and wakeboarders. There’s also a heated recovery pool now, where you can wind down after a long day of nautical activities.
Surfboard or Wakeboard? Or Lazy River?
Surfing is accomplished via PerfectSwell, a technology that creates waves reminiscent of the kind you’ll find at, well, real ocean beaches. The waves can be controlled to allow for beginners and experts, and if you’re new at this (like most people in central Texas), you can book lessons to learn the ropes.
If you’d rather wakeboard, the park features a cable-tow operation on the lake, so you can fly through the water at speeds of 16 miles per hour, all without a boat. Bring your own equipment, or rent some on site, before taking on the ramps, rails and jumps.
At some point, make your way over to the Wetlands, where you’ll find a separate pool, and the Wedge, a series of four waterslides that vary in steepness and launch angle. You don’t just shoot out into the water like a normal slide — here you’ll end on a ramped upslope that propels you up and out for an eventual water landing. It’s difficult to look graceful while flailing about in the air, but you’ll be in good company.
If you need a break from all that vigorous activity, hang out at the Beach Club in a lounge chair or cabana and watch the action around you. Or score a tube and plunk yourself down on the lazy river, where you can relax and float without moving a muscle.
Swim-Up Bars and Patios With Views
You can’t go surfing, wakeboarding and belly-flopping without setting aside some time to refuel. The usual lakeside sustenance involves cold beers, and those are plentiful at the swim-up bar, but you can also eat tacos and burgers and drink good coffee.
The Surfside Shack serves breakfast tacos and makes coffee with fresh beans from Pinewood Roasters in Waco. The Dive Bar is a swim-up situation, so you can stay in the water while sipping on beer, wine and cocktails. The Wedge Grill cooks a mean burger in view of the water slides, so you can watch people get airborne as you eat. And the Lakeside Saloon has a large wraparound patio adjacent to the wakeboard park, where you can hang out and eat after shredding some wakes. While you’re there, look toward that little island in the middle of the water. Then look closer, and you can spot lemurs — yes, lemurs — who live on the island.
Want to Stay On-Site? You’ve Got Options.
Located between Austin and Dallas, Waco Surf is an easy day trip for many Texans. If you’re staying the night in Waco, you can choose from a variety of nearby hotels. But if you want to stay on-site and get first crack at all the activities in the morning, you’ve got options.
The newly renovated Waco Surf Hotel has 13 rooms that vary in sizes and views, and booking a night comes with activity passes. The Waco Surf Cabins are located along the wakeboarding lake, and there are seven of them — two of which sleep up to 14 people, which is helpful if you’re traveling with a crowd. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom Waco Surf Lake House is located on a private lake just behind the resort; it sleeps up to 10 people and has lakeside views, a private pool, a private dock and a grill, so you can cook a well-earned dinner at night. And if you’re stopping by on a bigger road trip that involves a house on wheels, you can make use of the RV hook-ups.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Texas newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Lone Star State.
Suggested for you