An Ode to Typhoon Lagoon

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer

"A furious storm once roared 'cross the sea,
Catching ships in its path, hopeless to flee.
Instead of a certain and watery doom,
The winds swept them here to Typhoon Lagoon."

Already much of the summer has passed by, and I haven’t taken the time to talk about my favorite water park in the world: Typhoon Lagoon. I could write a half-dozen articles about the wonders of this park, I can't believe I put it off. I’ve been wanting to talk about Typhoon Lagoon for some time. I don’t think it gets enough press, even though it is rated as the No. 1 water park in attendance—even ahead of Blizzard Beach, which I must admit not only has the best slides but is perhaps one of the most creative concepts every concocted by Disney Imagineers.

But Typhoon Lagoon is different, and it surprises me that more time isn't dedicated in the Disney fan sites toward both her and her sister Blizzard Beach. I especially believe it's one of the places people actually get a "vacation from their vacation" while staying at the Walt Disney World Resort. People talk about Castaway Cay having that same effect when they go on a Disney Cruise Line vacation out of Port Canaveral. But I tell you, despite the beautiful, natural features of Castaway Cay, this is truly the most lush, most intensely themed, most exotic-type experiences—far beyond any Adventureland, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Polynesian Resort, and yes, even Castaway Cay.

My first visit came not too long after it opened.

Welcome to Typhoon Lagoon! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

A sand sculpture of Lagoona Gator in the foreground. One of the first photo spots as you enter the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

It's at this point you first realize that you have truly discovered some place special. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Like any great theme park, you have great establishing shots, but also great close-ups as well. And Typhoon Lagoon delivers. The theming is so creative and it is fun to discover how the winds of the typhoon had shaped almost everything about this place.

The theming continually plays out the story of a typhoon wreaking havoc on a formerly pristine paradise. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

One of the wonderful things I experienced that day was grabbing one of the few hammocks they had scattered around and just taking a nice long nap. Sad to say, the hammocks are long gone (I can only imagine the war of guests trying to get into the few that were available), but I left with the experience feeling completely refreshed, something I never felt while herding through the other parks from rope drop to fireworks.

It would be several years before I returned, and what surprised me when I did was how the vegetation had grown up! It was so lush, and so tropical—I really felt that I was in a different world. I still feel that today, even though during my years as a Disney cast member I will confess that entering and moving about backstage was one of the saddest experiences of being in any Disney park. The magic that is Typhoon Lagoon literally melts away to asphalt and office trailers. And I mean melt! In the middle of summer it literally seems ten degrees warmer backstage than it is onstage.

There's so much to enjoy at Typhoon Lagoon, even if you're not that big on swimming. Of course not swimming at Typhoon Lagoon would be akin to walking around the Magic Kingdom and never going on a ride. But it can be enjoyed. Stop by Singapore Sal's, grab some shades and a little sunblock, and then head out for a tour.

Inside Singapore Sal's gift shop is this ship's helm. It doubles as a dressing room. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Happy Landings is home to a sand pail concoction of ice cream, syrups and whipped cream. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Barrels from the Fireworks Factory cool guests in the queue for Gang Plank Falls. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

One of the true gems of this place is the rope bridge and trails that take you up to Mount Mayday. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Looking below to Castaway Creek—this must be paradise! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Did I forget to mention the Wave Pool? Amazing. I would say, and considered the largest outdoor wave pool in the world. Sun City, a major resort destination in South Africa, used the same technology to replicate the wave pool experience. And they have some terrific theming. But it still isn't Typhoon Lagoon. Here you can take specialized surf lessons prior to park opening. There are only 12 guests per class, but you're guaranteed the perfect wave. It's a definite for those who are trying to find something their teenagers could enjoy at Walt Disney World.

Surf's Up! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Think of it like a series of very big toilets lined up next to each other all being flushed at a time. That's how you get the waves at Typhoon Lagoon. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The "wienie at the end of the stick," Miss Tilly. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Following the paths along Mount Mayday, one finds these foot bridges over the flowing streams coming down from the top of the mountain. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Humunga Kowabunga is little more than half the size of Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, but it's still plenty of fun. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Behind this fishing barn lies a break room for guards. Theme follows function. But what theming! Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Another favorite is Shark Reef. Built around a sunken tanker, you get the chance to have a face-to-face encounter with plenty of fish, including a few sharks. Snorkeling gear is provided free, and, for a surcharge, you can do an S.A.S. Adventure. It's known as Surface Air Snorkeling, which involves a "pony" tank and a small regulator typically used in SCUBA diving. The downside is that now half of the reef is taken up with this program, making the complimentary portion a much longer wait. So consider doing the latter much earlier in the day or toward the end of the day.

Clever theming makes this unique snorkeling experience a one-of-a-kind water park adventure. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

And if you don't care for either, then take a walk down the sunken tanker and enjoy watching the others as they snorkel away among the sea life.

The interior detail amidst portholes looking below Shark's Reef of a ship turned upside down. It's just another of the many ways guests who don't do water slides still enjoy the park experience. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

A few years ago, the park added section called "Out of the Way Cay" which includes a major feature in the way of Crush 'n' Gusher, a multirider, set of three coaster-like slides that send you up and down before finally splashing down in a tranquil pool (some of you might know it as the AquaDuck on the Disney Dream). But they created Disney's first one here at Typhoon Lagoon, so if you hadn't planned on doing the cruise, the good news is that you can enjoy the slide here. Disney waited 10 years for the technology rights to be available from a competing water park  to allow them to create this. The slide experience is great, and, if you don't do slides, just enjoy the tranquil pool at the foot of the slide tower. It's a nice change from the wave pool scene.

Crush 'n Gusher is as thrilling a ride experience as just about any flume attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober

The theming is quite good here, but much of it is missed if you don't look carefully enough. The other downside is that the perimeter fence is a cyclone fence. Not that what's behind it is bad--just natural Florida. But it doesn't contribute to the otherwise perfect landscaping and theming.

An example of some of the great thematic signage in the park. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

It's easy to miss some of the theming in this corner of the park. Such is the case with the tractor on top of this water slide. It's hard to see approaching the pool from the entrance. And carrying a tube you wouldn't necessarily look up to see it hanging over you. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Clever theming in a simple directional sign. Note the chain link fence in the back. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Again, I could go on and on about this place. Most people never see the water parks because it's an add on. I'm an annual passholder, so I don't appreciate fully the decision making behind buying Magic Your Way Tickets. But looking at the pricing, if I was staying several days at the Walt Disney World Resort, I would get more value from a Water Park Fun & More option than I would wasting my time (and you really do) with the Park Hopper option.

But you tell me? Do you visit the water parks? Do you get the value from the experience? Would you do it over paying for the Park Hopper option? Let us know your thoughts on taking time out to visit the Disney water parks.



  1. By marclichon

    We experimented with our last ticket purchase; we bought 7 day non-expiring, non-hopping "Waterpark Fun n' More" tickets. In the past we've always purchased the park-hopping option but later realized that we missed the 'flavor' of each park by always being on the move. This forced us to commit to a park for the whole day and slow down. It worked like a charm and we really enjoyed our trip more. With the waterpark add-on we effectively doubled our admissions to 14 (7 Big-Park days, 7 waterpark/Disneyquest days. By taking 5-6 day trips, each with a couple of park days, one or two waterpark days, and one or two off days we've effectively stretched those tickets into 3 trips!

    Anyway, I said that to say that this enabled us to finally check out both water parks and Typhoon Lagoon is, by far, the best water park I've ever seen. The wave pool alone is worth the price of admission, the slides are great and the lazy river (while those things are never 'lazy', far too many choke points and far too many people not grasping the 'lazy' part of it) is beautiful. The theme is solid and consistent, the real sand is nice, there's ample seating (and we went in July) and did I mention the wave pool?!?! It's nice to swim somewhere where you actually 'swim'; these days most pools are barely over 5 1/2 feet!

    Great article!

  2. By ralfrick

    We definitely take the water park option over hopping. I think hopping at WDW is greatly overrated, and expensive. Unlike DL, DLP or even USO, one can't just stroll from one park to another in a couple of minutes. Getting to a water park a couple of hours before closing is a great way to cool down, and most of the early folks have tired and left; even CnG is only a wait of 10 minutes or less. And the boy and I both prefer TL as well.

    A bientot.

  3. By Drince88

    See, I'm the opposite - I much prefer hopping to adding water parks. HOWEVER, I generally don't go at the busiest/hottest times of the year. Even during a short trip with some nephews, we did park hopping, and it was nice to go to a different park after our afternoon break/swim. Didn't take any more time to go to Epcot after the break than it would have to go back to the MK.

    Plus, in October/early November, my sister and I will do a morning at one park, and then hop over to Epcot to enjoy Food & Wine offerings!

    I DO agree that the day we spent at Typhoon Lagoon does parallel nicely with Castaway Cay.

    I laughed when I saw that picture of the tractor. NO WAY I would have noticed that when I was there -- I was just thinking about carrying that 'tube' up all those stairs, and if my knee was going to make it THAT round.

  4. By kidd_freeper

    Great article and photos.
    We were there at the beginning of this month.

    I loved the background music that plays while floating on the lazy river. And the paths that lead to the slides were beautiful.
    I didn't know about the rope bridge! Guess I'll have to back to see it.

  5. By currence

    A trip to WDW isn't complete without one day spent at a water park. We usually will alternate between the two though I think my nephew has it right when he declared that he wants to do both during his big trip next summer. I am curious to see what he cuts out of the trip since he is there for a limited number of days.

    A while ago we bought 10-day non-expiring tickets primarily for the waterparks. Using today's prices, the add-on costs $55 and the non-expiring option costs $225 for a total of $280 - or $28 per admission. Since we did this before the last several rounds of price increases, our actual costs were slightly less. Compared to the current one-day admission of $49 or the add-on of $55 we thought this was a significant savings and of course we locked in our prices which protects us from the price increases. We also got 10 non-expiring park(hopper) tickets at a decent savings since the add-on costs per day decreases to $8 at day 5 and that trip we were there 4 or 5 days.

    After our first trip, we decided to save the extra park tickets for those trips when we plan to be there for 3 days or less since that seems to be a significant price point - though that was in some ways incidental to the water-park tickets. I know it's a steep up-front cost but it was well worth it on our last trip when we only bought the base park tickets for the number of days we needed and used water days we already owned.

  6. By Pammer

    On our first WDW visits, we just went to the theme parks (only MK & Epcot were open at that time!); then they started including a week of extras (water parks, Pleasure Island) with our military tickets so we started going to them since it was free. We also used to always buy the 10-day no-expiration parkhopper + fun & more tickets, until the no-exp option became so expensive; now we just buy parkhopper tickets for the amount of days we need for that visit. We still have 13 fun & more options left on old non-expiration tickets, so we're good to go for a while there!

    I really just like the lazy river, but my hubby likes to do some of the other rides (NOT the big slides though!), so we try to include days here during our visits. In fact, I have a few days already planned for our upcoming trip to Orlando in October!

  7. By geneg

    I've been to the World 4 times in the last 3 years. The first 2 trips were at christmas and I just didn't give much thought to swimming (and some days were chilly). The third trip was in last October and of my 9 days I went to the water parks 3 times and loved it. Loved it so much that 2 months ago in May I went for a full 10 days and went to the water parks SEVEN times! I would have breakfast at the Poly (Kona Cafe is GREAT!) then arrive at TL or BB for the rope drop, get in as much slide time as possible when the park was slow. I would always do my favorites: Crush'nGusher and the Shark Reef snorkeling. Then it was a trip on the wonderful lazy river, lunch, a beer at the bar, a nap (what other Disney parks can you nap at - no need to go back to the room) and then a final few slides and trip on the lazy river before changing and heading to EPCOT (or DTD or MK) refreshed and relaxed for a fun evening. A great and relaxing way to break up the day. I don't park hop (too much time and money - would rather commit to one park per day) However - weather permitting I am always going to get the water park option! Just too much fun (both BB and TL)! Thanks for the article and a reminder of why I love the Disney Water parks (other water parks may have faster bigger slides - but for overall experience none hold a candle to Disney!)

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