Big Surf Waterpark

If you’re going be outside during summer in Phoenix, it doesn’t hurt to lounge in – or next to – a cool body of water. If you’re fortunate enough to live near an accessible pool, you might be set. For everyone else – and people with pools who want a bit more excitement – keep reading.

Reminder: Before doing anything outside in the blast furnace we call home, make sure you’re hydrated and familiar with signs of heat illness and other heat-related dangers. Click here for our guide on how to safely survive the Phoenix summer.

1. Valley pools and splash pads

The Phoenix metro area contains more than 100 community pools and splash pads you can visit to cool off. Splash pads are especially great for little ones because there’s much less drowning risk. See a map of the pools and splash pads around the Valley.

2. Grown-up pool party

If you don’t have kids, or need a break from the little ones, consider going to a more grown-up pool environment. There are several bars and clubs in Phoenix that include pools for your swimming and drinking pleasure. That includes BLK Live, Lustre Rooftop Bar, Maya Day + Night Club and more. Get all the details on these and more top picks.

Of course, just because you’re swimming like a fish doesn’t mean you have to drink like one. And if you do, please be responsible and take a cab or Uber home. Also, remember that alcohol dehydrates you, so drink plenty of water as well so you don’t succumb to the heat.

3. Big Surf Waterpark

The original Arizona waterpark – open since 1969 – Big Surf features the third-largest wave pool in North America — the 2.5 million gallon Waikiki Beach. Enjoy the waves on a raft, or try your luck with a boogie board or full surf board (frequent surfers will want to look into the Surfing Membership program.)

Big Surf also sports a range of exotic water slides, including the fast Hurricane Slides, the scary Black Hole and the twisted Tornado Twisters. Or be a true daredevil and ride the 300-foot Mauna Kea Zip Line over the wave pool. For younger visitors there are dedicated play areas, Bora Bora Cove and Captain Cook’s Landing.

Cost: $32.95 for adults, $22.95 for 3 years to 48 inches tall, $2 for 2 or younger, $19.95 for seniors (55+) and active military, fire and police.
Location: 1500 N. McClintock Dr., Tempe, AZ
Operating hours: Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Note: Starting in August, only open on weekends.)

4. Wet ‘n’ Wild

Take your water slide adventure to the next level at Wet ‘n’ Wild. Experience the thrill of the Tornado, a massive funnel filled with raging water; Mammoth Falls, a ride dozens of feet up a near-vertical wall; Maximum Velocity, top choice for speed freaks; and more. Families can enjoy the Monsoon Bay wave pool, Crazy Cactus Roaring River and other fun, less adrenaline-packed rides. Kids on their own can visit the Boogie Board Beach, Soak ‘Em Playground and Wet ‘N’ Wild Jr.

On Fridays, stick around for Dive ‘n’ Movies at the wave pool when you can watch a family-friendly movie on the big screen while cooling off in the water.

Cost: $39.99 (weekday) or $42.99 (weekend) for everyone 42 inches and taller; $29.99 (weekday) or $32.99 (weekend) for those under 42 inches and seniors (62+); Children 2 and under are free. Save $8 on general admission if you order online. Parking is $8.
Location: 4243 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Glendale, AZ
Operating Hours: Sunday to Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Note: Starting in August, only open Friday to Sunday.)

5. Golfland Sunsplash

Golfland Sunsplash boasts a range of water attractions, from thrill rides like Double Dare and Thunder Falls, and their 7-story drops, to the 5-story, near-vertical wall of Sidewinder. For the less adventurous, chill on the Lazy River or lounge in the Thunder Bay Wavepool. Sunsplash also contains an extensive pirate-themed kids area with an activity pool, Caribbean Water Works play area and the Shipwreck Rock Slides.

Of course, if you get tired of being in the sun, duck inside King Bens Castle for arcade games, laser tag and other fun activities. Or play a round or two of mini golf. You can also show up later in the evening for water fun at a reduced night-time rate.

Cost: $32.99 for adults; $28.99 for 3 years to 47 inches tall and seniors (60+); $4.99 for children 12 months to 35 months; Free for babies under 1. Special deals for online purchases, individual activities, and evening and night visits.
Location: 155 West Hampton Ave, Mesa, AZ
Operating Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Note: Starting in August, only open on weekends.)

6. Valley resorts

Phoenix is a notoriously hot location, so all Valley resorts maintain pools for guests – but some are quite creative and elaborate. Quite a few resorts include their own miniature – or not so miniature – waterparks. Oasis Water Park at Arizona Grand Resort & Spa tops the category as it boasts a wave pool, three water slides, river tubing and a kids’ play area. Sure it doesn’t really rival the bigger parks, but since only resort guests can use it, you don’t need to share it with nearly so the crowds.

Other resorts house multiple pools with a variety of theme. Some are aimed at families, while others are all about relaxation or even exclude anyone under 21. If you’re planning a staycation or a mega-discount visit to the Valley, why not pick a resort with the water experience of your summer dreams?

Take a look at 7 luxury resorts in the Valley that offer a range of pools and attractions. They aren’t nearly as expensive as you’d think, thanks to summer pricing and special deals.

7. Lava River Cave

This entry stands out because it doesn’t include (liquid) water and isn’t technically outside. However, it remains literally the coolest thing you can do on this list.

First, the lava river cave sits near Flagstaff, AZ, which already takes off 15 degrees thanks to the elevation. The lava river cave itself comprises a mile-long tunnel through ancient cooled lava. Being underground, it maintains a steady year-round temperature of 42 degrees, so you might even encounter ice. Bring a jacket, a flashlight and sturdy shoes.

Learn more about the lava river cave and four other Arizona natural wonders you’ll want to explore.

Do your prefer to cool off indoors? Hang out at an indoor cool spot that very few people consider.

– Justin Ferris,