osta Caribe Aquatic Park, Tarragona, Spain
If Sommarland’s 21-metre freefall ride sounds scary, try adding another 10 metres to that drop. That’s what faces those who brave the King Khajuna slide at Costa Caribe Aquatic – the highest freefall slide in Europe. The Caribbean-themed park is just over an hour from Barcelona by car or direct train and has thousands of tropical plants as well as beaches and palm trees. It is part of the huge PortAventura resort and theme park, which is one of the most popular on the continent.
• Over-11s €22.80, 4-10s €22, open May-September, portaventura.co.uk
Sandcastle Waterpark, Blackpool, UK
The UK’s largest indoor waterpark keeps things tropical at a humid 28C. The most thrilling rides are two Aztec Falls that fly out of the building and in again, and Montazooma, a mat slide with 360-degree loops – though these are in the Hyperzone, which costs an extra £6.25. It also claims the world’s longest indoor water roller coaster and the first indoor vertical waterslide.
• Over-12s £15.25, 3-11s £12.25, family of three/four £37.50/£48.50, opening hours vary throughout the year, sandcastle-waterpark.co.uk
Alton Towers Waterpark, Staffordshire, UK
Part of the popular Alton Towers Resort complex, this waterpark (which in 2009 famously banned men from wearing Speedos to preserve its familyt atmosphere) is another great year-round attraction. Built to mimic a tropical lagoon, with rock pools and palm trees, it has mega slides such as the Master Blaster Water Coaster, an area for younger kids – the Wacky Waterworks Tree House – and a relaxing spa for parents.
• Online tickets over-12s £15, under-12s £10.50, open all year, altontowers.com
Skara Sommarland, Skara, Sweden
Europe’s major waterparks tend to be concentrated in the continent’s warmer regions, but those visiting Sweden in summer may find Scandinavia’s largest waterpark worth a visit. Skara Sommarland is an outdoor park with around 40 attractions – and heated water throughout. It will probably be enjoyed most by younger children, but newer rides such as Big Drop – in which the brave can freefall for a scary 21 metres after being released by a trap door – should be thrilling enough for all ages.
• €38, children under a metre tall free, open early June to mid-August,sommarland.se
Fasouri Watermania, Limassol, Cyprus
This award-winning, 100,000-square-metre park has dozens of attractions, one of the most prominent being a huge wave pool. As well as the usual mix of slides there’s a 400-metre-long Lazy River ride, with inflatable rafts for drifting downstream. The park also has a massage parlour (and a fish spa for those who are into that) so parents can kick back while the kids go wild.
• Adult €30, child €17, open May to October, fasouri-watermania.com
Aquariaz, Avoriaz, France
The amusement park world has always gone in for “biggest, longest, fastest” accolades. This one, near the Swiss border, stakes its claim as Europe’s highest waterpark: dubbing itself “an aquatic paradise in the mountains”. With a bit more of a soothing spirit than the usual brightly coloured tangle of slides and rides, Aquariaz has pools surrounded by tropical greenery and a dedicated “chill-out space” with bubble massages. There’s still some action to be had, however, thanks to the Slidewinder, a watery half-pipe for zooming down on an inflatable.
• Adult €8, child €6, open during summer and winter ski seasons, closed Saturdays,avoriaz.com
Tropical Islands, near Berlin, Germany
In a giant dome with a backboard painted to look like the sky, this German waterpark is a vast, Truman Show-esque environment with a welcome feel of the tropics just 35km south of Berlin. There’s a beach, a lagoon and what claims to be Germany’s largest waterslide (27 metres), while high and dry attractions include indoor balloon rides – highly appropriate given that the 360-metre diameter dome that houses the park was originally an airship hangar. An extra €8 buys access to the enormous tropical sauna “landscape” complete with Angkor Wat-style temple, setting for steam baths and massages.
• Adult €36, child €28.50, open year-round, tropical-islands.de
Alpamare, near Zurich, Switzerland
Europe’s biggest covered waterpark boasts 11 water slides and “neverending” slide fun, which can only be a good thing right? As well as the slides – with names such as Cobra, Alpabob and Double Bob Splash Pipe – there is a range of heated pools, including a 36C salt bath.
• Four-hour pass from £27 adult, £22 child, check website for price deals, open year-round, alpamare.ch
WaterWorld, Ayia Napa, Cyprus
Designed on an ancient Greek theme, WaterWorld’s slides include the snaking, 124-metre-long Apollo’s Plunge and a Drop to Atlantis log ride. The latter claims to be the only slide of its kind to include audio visual effects within the ride. The award-winning landscaped park is dotted with white columns and replicas of classical statues, and ancient ships, making it a fun, adventurous set-up for a family day out.
• Online tickets over-13s €30, 3-to-12s €16, open May-October,waterworldwaterpark.com
AquaPark Parc Maguide, Biscarrosse, France
A different style of waterpark from the usual slides ’n’ rides, this one takes the form of a lake filled with giant inflatables designed to hurl thrillseekers into the sky and, ultimately, into the water. These include a giant catapult, a huge slide and inflatable balls big enough to run around inside. It’s similar to Area 47– a huge outdoor adventure park in Austria’s Ötztal valley that’s also highly recommended.