Wet or dry, slide or fly: Big Kahuna’s offers great family fun for everyone

Savannah Chastain
DaRon Jones and Ray Jackson of Little Rock, Ark. react to their ride down The Tiki River Run.

Editor’s Note: As part of the “100 days of Summer,” The Log will be exploring Destin and the activities it has to offer during the summer season. This week the featured pastime is Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park.

Water slides, lazy rivers, wave pools and thrill rides are just some of the fun features available at Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park in Destin. With 40 rides and attractions, Big Kahuna’s has something for everyone.

“We focus on the family,” said General Manager, Bob Cordier. “We have a good mix of family rides. There’s something for the adults, the kids, and the teenagers, all set to a tropical theme.”

Several winding water slides twist and turn throughout the park including The Jumanji, a pitch-black tube slide that thrills riders with its fast, unseen drops and turns, or The Cobra Twister, a one turn slide, more accommodating to riders looking for a fun, yet calm experience.

But the most popular ride in the park, Cordier said, depends on the rider’s age and thrill level.

“The lazy river is popular for the older, more comfortable clientele,” he said. “The Tiki River Run is a favorite for families because you can ride together.”

DaRon Jones and Ray Jackson of Little Rock, Ark. had just come off of the Tiki River Run on a double inner-tube. It was their first ride of the day, and the two were laughing and already gearing up to ride again.

“It was scary, we went up and then it dropped us down,” said Jones, “But it’s my favorite so far.”

“I think it was great,” added Jackson. “It’s exciting, and a good place to hang out with friends,”

Several calm, children’s areas are located throughout the park with child-sized slides, shallow water, and fun aquatic animal structures for climbing. 

Kimberly Stolp of Hartwell, Georgia was relaxing in the calm kid zone, Pleasure Island with her friend Dana Smith and Dana’s 18 month old daughter Emerie Schnell.

“It’s nice we could meet up here and there’s just a little something for everyone to do,” Stolp said adding that her own 16 year-old sons were enjoying the thrill slides on the other end of the park. “We come to Destin every summer but this is our first time here.” 

Another amenity offered at the park is food and beverages. Outside food is not allowed in the part, but there is no need to worry as two large, covered food courts are available, as well as several snack kiosks throughout the park.

“It’s a good varied menu,” said Cordier. “We have the traditional hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza, but we have specialty wraps, tilapia, and even veggie burgers available.”

Cordier told The Log that food is allowed to be carried anywhere in the park, (sans into the water), and catering is offered for large groups or special events.

“We can put a buffet table up, or we can give vouchers for people who would rather eat at separate times,” he said.

Pool chairs and beach umbrellas are plentiful and free of charge at Big Kahuna’s, allowing families to enjoy swim breaks or lounging in the sun. For those wanting a reserved covered or enclosed area, the park offers cabanas for rent complete with day-long wait service.

“Everybody needs a camp,” said Cordier. “Everybody needs a place to regroup and relax.”

Big Kahuna’s first opened in Destin in 1985 with a mini-golf course and a few water slides, but the park has greatly expanded since then.

“We’ve been a mainstay of Destin’s tourist industry for over 25 years, and we’ve grown with Destin every year,” said Cordier. Today, the park covers 22 acres of land and in addition to the water park, includes three 18-hole mini-golf courses, a go-kart track and two large thrill rides.

Cordier told The Log that Big Kahuna’s non-water features open later in the day on a staggered schedule. Mini-golf opens at 1 p.m. followed by the big trill rides at 2 p.m., and finally the go-karts at 4 p.m.

There is one exception to the water ride rule, as the wave surfing ride, the Honolulu Halfpipe does remain open after hours. On the Honolulu Halfpipe, would-be surfers slide into a continual wave on a foam board and try to stay surfing as long as they can, although rides are limited to 45 seconds to accommodate the high demand of the popular ride.

 “We allow stand-up at night, and a lot of locals bring their own boards,” said Cordier adding that even sponsored boarders use the ride for practice.

As for the thrill rides choose from The Sky Coaster, a 115-foot bungee swing, or the Cyclone, a 130-foot revolving wind-mill-like ride.

“Each arm is 60 feet high so you go 130 feet in the air both frontwards and backwards,” Cordier said.

WANNA GO?

Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is located at 1007 U.S. Highway 98. For more information on park hours, ticket prices or to schedule special events call 837-4061 or visit www.bigkahunas.com.