Southern California’s famously sunny climate and attractions, such as Legoland and Disneyland, have made it one of the world’s most-favored family destinations. It also has the market cornered on water-park hotels, where palatial resorts have indoor and outdoor slides, swimming pools galore and wave parks with crests that rival the real thing. Check into the flumes to keep the whole family entertained, from morning until night.
At the Westin in Rancho Mirage, a “director of fun” takes on the serious task of ensuring all guests have a rip-roaring good time. The hotel has not one but three swimming pools. The large Las Brisas pool has a water slide that curves 75ft (23m) through a rock feature, plus two hot tubs, a ping-pong table and cabanas. Booking slots at the Kids Club Discovery Room, which has movies, Apple computers and games, give parents a chance to slip away for a cocktail at the adults-only Las Hadas pool or soak in peace at the quiet La Paloma pool.
Pint-size pirates can pretend they’re Captain Jack Sparrow at Howard Johnson’s Castaway Cove. The pirate playground has slides, water cannons and a pirate ship with a 200-gallon (757-liter) drench bucket. Big kids will love the spiral-shaped water slide, while parents will appreciate the rejuvenating whirlpool spa with foot and back jets. Mature Canary Island pines surround the hotel’s heated Garden Pool. Families can book two-hour time slots to Castaway Cove and the Garden Pool for unbridled fun.
Families can make a splash at the Courtyard by Marriott in Anaheim. The centerpiece of the hotel, Surfside Waterpark, has two fast 30ft (9m) water slides, a 400-gallon (1,514-liter) drench bucket and a small heated swimming pool, all with views of Disneyland’s Matterhorn and Space Mountain rides. Indeed, the entrance to the park is across the street. The one-bedroom suites with two queen beds and balconies overlook the colorful water park with human-made palm trees.
An oasis of watery fun, the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad has eight swimming pools. Two 100ft (30m) water slides snake their way out of a tower at the Splash Landing Pool, while the 21-and-over Edge Adult swimming pool has poolside firepits and fountains. The Sandy Beach Family Pool has a private beach where kids can build sandcastles and dip their toes in the warm water. Is there nothing this hotel hasn’t thought of?
Situated above the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch – with its playgrounds, mazes and brilliant displays of blooms – the Grand Pacific Palisades and its Olympic-size adult pool have a view that includes rows of giant Tecolote ranunculus in every color and the Pacific Ocean beyond. The more ebullient family pool has an interactive splash pad and fountains. The resort gets bonus points for its exclusive entrance to Legoland California, where you can keep the water theme going with a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium. Here, kids can see sharks, rays and long-legged octopi and splash in a simulated bioluminescent bay.
The indoor water park at the Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim rivals any standalone park with its wave pools, surf simulators and water slides for all ages. The signature Howlin’ Tornado slide drops rafters down a six-story funnel, while the gently moving Crooked Creek is appropriate for younger kids. During the summer months, families can frolic in Racoon Lagoon, a shallow (less than 4ft/1m) water play area with fountains and poolside lounge chairs. Great Wolf Lodge also keeps kids entertained with yoga, an arcade, a bowling alley and mini-golf.
The Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa has plenty of ways to stay cool in the hot desert sun. The three-story HyTides Plunge is one of the tallest water slides in the desert. The water park also has a 450ft (137m) lazy river and splash pad filled with dumping buckets and water cannons, while the resort has seven pools with a backdrop of mountains and palm trees. The Agua Serena Spa offers other ways to renew and restore, with facials, massages and body treatments, a yoga studio and wellness consultations.
Adjacent to Knott’s Berry Farm, Knott’s Soak City Waterpark boasts 15 acres (6ha) of water slides, wave pools and rivers. Gremmie Lagoon is a hands-on water playground for younger kids and families. The 750,000-gallon (2.8m-liter) Tidal Wave Bay pool has 4ft (1m) crests for bodysurfing. For something more extreme, try the Aqua Launch chamber, where the floor will drop out from underneath your feet. Elsewhere, there’s also a Snoopy-themed wing to the hotel, plus a large pool and splash pad.