Ah, the long, lazy days of late summer. Anything beyond reaching for your drink feels like too much of an effort -- even leaving your lounge chair or towel to jump into the pool. So what could be better than splaying across an inner tube and floating down a man-made river in the midst of a tropical paradise? Not much, if you ask us. From massive complexes at mega-resorts to quieter, upscale properties with more modest water parks, here are our top picks for the best hotels across the country with lazy rivers.
1. The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Arizona
This four-pearl Scottsdale resort has a 900-foot long “Flowing River” winding through desert landscape as part of its Adventure Water Park, which also includes a 110-foot-long waterslide, a zero-entry kids’ pool, and pop-jet spouts designed for toddlers and babies. There’s also a “flowboarding” water feature — both a ride and a sport — which combines all the fun of surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and wakeboarding.
2. Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, Hawaii
The Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Maui has the over-the-top Wailea Canyon, a 2,000-foot-long complex with a slew of water features connect by a river with both whitewater rapids and gentle currents. Inner tubes are the main mode of transportation for floating along the river. Along the ride you’ll find everything from jungle pools and intertwining waterslides to caves and a rope swing. Kids are aren’t the only ones here to have all the fun, either. Adults can skip the “OK, five more minutes” game, with three whirlpools and a swim-up bar.
3. JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, Florida
More than 1,500 people can comfortably float along the lazy river at this four-pearl Orlando resort. Lush, colorful tropical landscaping surrounds the 9,000 gallon body of water, with canopy trees providing plenty of shade. For time in the sun, the river opens up to two wide bays, one of which has a sandy shore with zero-entry for the kiddos. Sliding out to take a break at any point is easy, thanks to scores of loungers stationed at the water’s edge.
4. MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas
Of all the lazy rivers at Vegas hotels, the Backlot River Pool at the MGM Grand truly hits the jackpot. The pool area occupies six-and-a-half acres, with the river stretching more than a quarter mile. Waterfalls, sunbeds shaded by palms, and loungers sheltered by man-made rocky outcrops are all part of the package. The caveat is that while this river might technically be “lazy” there’s nothing low-energy about it — expect nothing less than a raucous, crowded party central.
5. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, Texas
Kicking back on The Ramblin’ River at this four-pearl San Antonio resort is a treat for those seeking a lazy river in a natural setting. You won’t find waterslides or multi-color play equipment here — even the inner tubes are soothing shades of green and blue that blend with surrounding trees and the big Texas sky. Grassy patches with hammocks and shady forest line the river’s shore, and along some stretches, you can see distant fields and hills.
6. Reunion Resort, Florida
This five-pearl Kissimmee resort’s lazy river strikes the perfect balance between kid-friendly features and spots where adults can catch a breather. White Adirondack chairs and loungers ring the edge, waterfalls trickle over rocks, and there are quiet, narrow sections with shade. The river opens to wide pools — one of which is zero-entry — with mini islands of palms trees, plus a simple waterslide without too much splash-factor. In a separate section of the five-acre water park, there’s an elaborate piece of play equipment that resembles a castle, topped with colorful flags.
Our Must-Bring Item for Your Next Vacation: Summersalt Swimwear
Don’t sacrifice style when lounging for an hour (or five) while drifting down a lazy river. Summersalt is a super chic swimwear brand ranging from sizes 2 through 24, so there really is something for everyone.
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