Last summer we opted to try a season pass to Big Surf Waterpark in Tempe. Our kids were almost 7 and 3 at the time, with our oldest able to swim and interested in trying water slides. Big Surf was affordable and gave our family some fun memories that summer!
Big Surf has been part of the Phoenix area since 1969. It has claim to be one of the first and oldest wave pools in the United States! This is definitely a key feature to the park. Check out our video summary on YouTube :
Let’s start with the areas that little ones might enjoy at Big Surf. For children under 48″ there is Captain Cook’s Landing! Two small slides, and waterfall umbrella and water cannons will definitely keep them happy. The water goes from zero depth to about 1.5 feet. This is the perfect place for toddlers! (As always, adult supervision is required.) There are chairs and shade structures scattered around this water area, but they tend to fill up quickly.
Bora Bora Bay is also for 48″ and under, with six mini water slides and a huge free swim area (depth is about 4 feet). This area also has a huge shade structure with benches in the water! It’s the perfect place to splash while getting a break from the sun! Also in the Bora Bora Bay area are two enclosed water slides, Tahitian Twisters, for 36″ and taller. There are four shaded picnic tables in this area as well.
Waikiki Beach wave pool was probably our least favorite section of Big Surf. While the concept is fun, it was always so crowded that you weren’t able to enjoy the waves without crashing into people – or people being washed over you! It didn’t seem like the best option for little ones, unless you stay closer to shore. All guests under 48″ must wear a life vest into the wave pool. Also, children 8 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.
What else is there to enjoy at Big Surf? Here’s a list of the other water slide options:
- Hurricane Slides (48″ and taller)
- The Black Hole (with tubes, 43″ and taller)
- Tornado Twisters (48″ and taller)
- White Serpentine Slide (43″ and taller)
- Kilauea Cove Slides (43″ and taller)
- Cyclone and Tsunami Slides (with tubes, 36″ and taller)
As far as amenities go, there are rafts and boards to rent, restrooms and changing rooms, lockers (for a free) and a cafe serving food and drinks. The lines to the cafe can get long. We tried almost everything on the menu, except desserts, during our summer visits. The food was average.
As shown in the photo above, there are lounge chairs and umbrellas. These are taken quickly! Snag what you can as soon as you arrive. You can also bring your own lawn chairs.
We’ll be completely honest and say that while we had a great summer at Big Surf in 2018, the place definitely needs an update. Lots of areas had chipped paint, looked worn, or just showed drab colors. But we didn’t feel like safety was compromised in any way. Overall, it’s a good option for a budget waterpark. Check Groupon for deals on single admission and season passes!
Big Surf Waterpark is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-6pm, and on Sunday from 11am-6pm. Admission is $34 for persons 48″ and taller, $24 for children 4 years of age to 48″ (3 and under are free), and $19.95 for seniors age 55 and older. You can rent rafts ($7), boogie boards ($6) and surfboards ($17) for the day as well. Life vests are available for free to those little ones that might need one.
No outside food or drink is allowed except sealed water bottles. You are welcome to leave the park to eat your picnic lunch in the car and then return.
Big Surf Waterpark
1500 N McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85281
Looking for more summer fun ideas for the family? Check out our popular article, Summer Survival Tips in Phoenix With Kids!