Travel | July 5, 2021 11:00 am

7 Aquatic Destinations That Redefine What It Even Means to Be a “Water Park”

Mediterranean water slides, swimming holes and the laziest of rivers

kastrup sea bath
Take a break from the kids. These are the globe's best "waterparks" for adults.
Stefan Grage/Unsplash

Who doesn’t love a water park?

People who don’t like chlorine, urine and sugared-up children, for one.

But aquatic adventures that cater to adults do, in fact, exist — they just require a willingness to entertain alternate definitions of what a water park is, or could be. We boiled it down to the following simple criteria: somewhere you’ll A) get wet; B) make some fantastic memories; and C) isn’t the local public pool.

What follows is a list of superlative options for achieving all three, along with an (improved, we promise) chance of avoiding the tots.

The most beautiful water park …

Città del Mare

A resort village cut into the coast about 45 minutes west of Palermo, Città del Mare boasts more pools than it knows what to do with, one of them an Olympic-sized beauty. The real draw though, is Toboggan, the self-proclaimed “tallest water slide in Europe,” which empties out into the Mediterranean Sea.

Atlantis aquaventure
Dubai is officially open to American visitors.

The best traditional water park …

Aquaventure Waterpark

Located at Atlantis, The Palm, on Dubai’s artificial tree-shaped archipelago, this place is patently ridiculous. Once managed by the same folks behind Atlantis of The Bahamas, Aquaventure at the Palm is tougher to get to than its Caribbean cousin (that’s a good thing, trust) and features a slew of swaggering slides. There are also 23 restaurants, because … why not.

Wholesome, freshwater fun, just a little outside Chicago.
The Quarry Cable Park/Facebook

The most extreme water park …

The Quarry Cable Park

About an hour northwest of Chicago, Quarry Cable is outfitted with a boatless, state-of-the-art cable system and all the grub, sand and live music you’ll need for a dreamy day on the water. Rent a wakeboard, play some beach volleyball, hang around for sunset yoga or a local brewery night.

The most well-designed water park …

Kastrup Sea Bath

Go the Danish way for some effortless, refined water fun. Copenhagen continues to make wonderful use of its coast and waterways (floating parks are up next) and Kastrup, built in 2005, is a relative throwback. The award-winning azobe wood structure comes with diving towers for plunging into the sea and various tiers for sunbathing. The whole place even lights up something special at the end of the day.

A day pass to the crazy place costs just $55.
Tropical Islands

The best indoor water park …

Tropical Islands

This German wonderland’s outdoor area, “Amazonia,” has the 820-foot river of your idle, slothful, beer-sucking dreams. Not to mention a jungle paradise within a temp-controlled complex the size of the Superdome, along with an array of saunas and spas. The whole shindig’s just 40 miles from Berlin.

Hydroflying (water jet packs) will be the norm at all Crystal Lagoons locations.
Crystal Lagoons

The most futuristic water park …

Crystal Lagoons

A concept we expect to be checking in on more than once in the next decade. Put simply, Crystal Lagoons imagines a world where lagoons can be built and arranged (in towns, on college campuses, astride malls) like parks. Their first completed project is 7.5 acres of shallows in Epperson, Florida. And Michael Phelps seems into it, which is good enough for us. 

snoqualmie falls
A view of stunning Snoqualmie Falls in Washington State.
Scott Horn/Unsplash

The best natural water parks …

The world’s best swimming holes
Various locations

Forget manmade waterparks — the best aquatic excursions are the ones that have been here since long before we arrived. Talking  swimming holes, those dark and deep natural wonders that are free of chlorine and ready for you to uncork your best Jack Sparrow leap. Here are eight of our favorites around the globe.