There's a refreshing spot for family fun nestled between the surf of the Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Island's protected wetlands. The place is called Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, and it's the coolest thing to hit the island since spring break.
The 26-acre water mecca is the first spin-off of the Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort, located in New Braunfels since 1979. The $13 million venture is less than half the size of the Hill Country version, but since its opening last May, it has proved to be well worth a visit.
One of the water park's unusual features is Rio Aventura, a half-mile river "sidewalk." Guests never have to hop from foot to foot standing in line on sweltering South Texas cement. Instead, visitors simply sit in a tube and ride the river to the slides, chutes, beach, lagoon, or water coasters of choice.
Any kid's dream come true is the Sand Castle Cove, a five-story-tall fun house with water cannons, dumping buckets, and hundreds of hands-on water games.
A visit to the park is not complete without hanging ten at the world's largest manmade surfing ride, Boogie Bahn2. If this is too extreme for you, spend time watching the surfers from the indoor, air-conditioned eating area.
There is a variety of swim-up and walk-in eateries throughout the village. Snack stands and thatched-roof bars feature Brazilian cuisine and fresh Gulf seafood, along with exotic fruity drinks. The Club at Rio Beach offers patrons dinner with fabulous beach-to-bay views and the opportunity to groove through the night to a selection of live and recorded music.
Food, music, and dancing are not the only forms of family entertainment available after the rides close. The Celebration of Water (only featured in the summer) fills the Rio Beach Wave Lagoon with professionally choreographed lights, sounds, and water effects. Local actors recite the fictional story of three shipwrecked children, who discover the fantasyland at Sand Castle Cove.
The Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark offers free life jackets, and it has nearly 200 lifeguards to oversee safety and administer first aid, if needed. So slather on the sunscreen, grab your towel, and get ready for some wet fun in the South Padre sun.
For more information: Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, 90 Park Road State 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597; (956) 772-7873 or www.schlitterbahn.com.
This article is from the June 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.