This post provides tips & info for planning a visit to Typhoon Lagoon, a Walt Disney World water park. It also helps you determine if it’s worth it to take the time and money to spend a day (or half-day) at Typhoon Lagoon during your Walt Disney World vacation, in the first place.
As background, Typhoon Lagoon has water slides, raft rides, a propelled water-coaster, and a reef where you can swim with sharks, among other attractions like a lazy river (where you can look at all the lazy people) and a wave pool. It’s themed as a tropical resort area in the aftermath of an epic typhoon. It’s also slated to receive a 2-acre expansion for 2017 (see below), with construction beginning later this year.
Despite having millions of visitors each year, Walt Disney World’s water parks largely remain a mystery to a lot of guests since there isn’t a ton of information (relative to the four Walt Disney World theme parks) online about them, nor are there many photos. (We have a separate article with a Blizzard Beach FAQ, Tips & Review.)
If you’ve been on the fence about visiting Typhoon Lagoon but haven’t been able to find enough information to push you one way or the other, we’re here to help!
FAQ & Tips
As far as this FAQ goes, it’s not really a FAQ in the traditional sense of people frequently asking us these questions (we rarely receive questions about the water parks). It’s more like a rhetorical device used to convey some basic points because I’m too lazy to write flowing prose.
What’s the cost, and is it worth it?
A single day ticket to Typhoon Lagoon costs over $50. Yikes, right? Well, not really. Anyone who does any amount of advance planning probably isn’t going to be paying that much for a visit to Typhoon Lagoon. One of the reason we recommend buying Park Hoppers with the “Water Park Fun and More” option in our Walt Disney World Ticket Buying Tips article is because it’s a low cost add-on and makes visiting the water parks (and other non-theme park locations) super cheap. If you do that, your only real cost is in terms of your finite vacation time.
…As for the “is Typhoon Lagoon worth it?” question, you’ll have to keep reading until you get to the review (or just scroll down to it now).
How is Typhoon Lagoon themed?
Typhoon Lagoon is ecotone of both natural and man-made worlds. Before nature retook the area during an intense typhoon, there was tension between the thatch-roofed village areas and the luxe Placid Palms destination resort. After the typhoon, the stark contrasts of the competing man-made areas are less-pronounced, with nature trumping all. Less abstractly, Typhoon Lagoon is the working aftermath of an intense tropical storm, with sea-stuff scattered all about. Disneyology has an excellent synopsis of the backstory here.
In terms of execution on its theme, Typhoon Lagoon truly delivers. It’s a fun theme riff with visual gags and details, and it’s a lot of fun to experience this lived-in “something gone wrong” environment. Where else are you going to find a ship-wrecked shrimp boat on the top of a volcanic mountain that erupts every half hour?!
Plus, there’s Lagoona Gator, one of my all-time favorite original Disney theme park characters. But he probably deserves his own blog post…
What attractions are there at Typhoon Lagoon?
In addition to its world famous dark rides, 3D motion simulators, and wooden rollercoasters (a little dry humor for you), Typhoon Lagoon has several water slides and raft rides. As for the water slides, they are mostly tame by comparison to other water parks, but they are still fun. Raft rides are mostly of the family variety–minimal exhilaration here, too.
In terms of raft rides, Keelhaul Falls is the tamest of the three, followed closely by Gang Plank Falls (family-style, small groups will be combined). Mayday Falls is the least tame, but it’s still not too bad.
In terms of body slides, the Storm Slides are less-intense (the three versions are all more or less the same intensity) and Humunga Kowabunga is more intense. It’s still not nearly as intense as Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, which is the only attraction at Walt Disney World that actually frightens me. Still, it’s no slouch. For those who don’t want to partake, there’s a viewing area at the base of Humunga Kowabunga.
Typhoon Lagoon’s newest attraction is a water coaster (Crush ‘N’ Gusher) that is propelled through uphill climbs, steep drops, and sharp turns. It’s not exactly a wild ride, but it is reminiscent of an actual rollercoaster, which is pretty cool. These slides and raft rides, with the exception of Crush ‘N’ Gusher, all seem very short in length.
Aside from Crush ‘N’ Gusher, not much about Typhoon Lagoon has changed since the park opened. However, this winter, construction is set to begin on a 2-acre expansion to Typhoon Lagoon that will include the addition of an elevated family raft ride. This should be set to open in Spring 2017, so if you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation for 2017, Typhoon Lagoon would be our recommended water park for you.
In addition to these standard attractions, Typhoon Lagoon also has play areas for kids called Ketchakiddee Cree, a cold salt-water snorkeling area called Shark Reef (yes, with real sharks!), a wave pool called the Surf Pool, and a lazy river called Castaway Creek.
I don’t intend to mention these last two things as afterthoughts in this section. We spend the vast majority of time at Typhoon Lagoon in the wave pool and lazy river. The lazy river winds around the entire park, is incredibly relaxing, and has a lot of visual interest along the way. The wave pool is one of those things that is waaaay more fun than you’d suspect by looking at it. We absolutely love it. We have a whole article on the wave pool, so if you’re interested in it, check out our Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool Tips.
As for the play area for kids, no comment on that since we don’t have kids. I loved it as a kid, but my parents also have pictures of me playing in grocery bags, so it’s not like my standards were too high. It looks nice-enough and is well-themed, but seems to skew towards toddlers. I guess slightly older kids can do things like the lazy river and the (edge of) the wave pool?
As for Shark Reef, it’s pretty awesome, but it’s also pretty cold. It’s important to resist the temptation to swim through at lightning to get out of the cold water. I guess a lot of people ask if this costs extra, because around Typhoon Lagoon it’s mentioned that there’s no extra charge to experience Shark Reef.
What should my strategy be for Typhoon Lagoon?
Top priority should be grabbing lounge chairs in the shade, as there isn’t an abundance of these and their highly sought after. Following that (and getting a locker, if necessary), it’s time for raft rides and slides. Fortunately, the best order of attractions is basically lockwise around the mountain. This is by no means scientifically proven, just my opinion of what works well and is efficient based upon firsthand experience.
Raft rides come first, followed by body slides, followed by Crush ‘N’ Gusher, followed by Shark Reef. Followed by maximum relaxation and eating. You should be able to do all of this (including all variations of the Storm Slides and Crush ‘N’ Gusher) in about the first hour of operation. Don’t be afraid to repeat a ride here or there while you’re still in the area. It beats coming back later and waiting in a long line.
When should we visit Typhoon Lagoon?
The best times of year to visit are when it’s colder out, but not cold enough to close the park, or on rainy days. In the past, we’ve recommended water parks as a rainy day activity. Assuming you aren’t going to plan your entire vacation around a visit to Typhoon Lagoon (although avoiding summer months, if possible, is a good general strategy for visiting Walt Disney World), the best time to go is unquestionably first thing in the morning.
More than anywhere else, we think it’s important to arrive at Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach before they open. This is because you’ll want to grab beach chairs in shady locations (that will STAY shady as the sun moves) and start hitting the slides before lines form. The shady spots are all snagged fast, and if you haven’t claimed your chairs within the first 30 minutes of the park being open (usually less), you have no chance at one of these spots.
Likewise, lines for water slides aren’t exactly fun (especially ones that aren’t shaded) and waiting in line 15-60 minutes for a 60 second or so slide shouldn’t be anyone’s idea of a good time. Arriving early, grabbing a good spot and getting the slides out of the way is the best way to ensure a nice, relaxing rest-of-the-day at Typhoon Lagoon–no matter what day or time of year you visit.
We’ve seen “end of the day” as another popular recommendation for when to visit Typhoon Lagoon. We don’t agree with this. Back when Typhoon Lagoon used to have evening Extra Magic Hours, it was good advice, but that’s no longer the case. Now, the water parks become less-busy a couple of hours before closing, but the shaded spots are still mostly accounted for, and lines are still worse than early in the morning. Also, “late” in the day at a water park is still early in comparison to the other parks, so if you go late to Typhoon Lagoon, you will still likely do something else before AND after the water park (instead of going in the morning to Typhoon Lagoon and going in the afternoon/evening to another park), and three parks/activities in one day can be inefficient. Plus, the buses to Typhoon Lagoon is most efficient in the morning (and often doesn’t include a stop at Pleasure Island/West Side).
If shade is so important, is it worth it to rent a cabana?
Typhoon Lagoon has a couple of options in this regard: Beachcomber Shacks (cabanas) or an umbrella with a lounge chair. The Beachcomber Shack includes towels, a cooler stocked with ice and bottled water, your own locker, refillable mugs (for each guest–up to 6), and an attendant who will bring you food, drinks, etc. The cost for the cabanas starts out in the high-$200 range and increase to the mid-$300 range depending upon season. The chairs with umbrellas cost around $50 each and include towels but none of the other stuff.
We have not tried other of these options, so our review of these services is worth about as much as you’re paying for it. With that said, in my opinion, the $50 umbrella chair is “worth it” in absolutely no situations. If you’re concerned with value, arrive early and snag a beach chair in a shaded area. Viola, shade all day for FREE! If you’re not concerned with value, go all out and get the cabana.
As for the cabana, this is something we’d never do because it doesn’t seem to offer good value for money, but I could see a party of around 6 (making it around $50/person) with money to blow enjoying the cabana. It would mean not having to scramble for chairs in the shade, having a private space, and having someone tend to their needs. If you don’t have money to blow and are just looking to splurge on something nice, I wouldn’t recommend this being that splurge. Do a nice meal instead. The cabana experience can almost entirely be replicated on your own without spending any money out of pocket. If the “service” component is that important, just bribe your kid (or a nearby one?) with a $20 bill. Again, though, this “review” is from someone who hasn’t tested the cabanas (and probably won’t ever).
What about restaurants at Typhoon Lagoon?
Typhoon Lagoon has a few restaurants, all of which are counter service. Unfortunately, the water parks serve mostly stereotypical theme park food, with not much in the way of interesting option. Fortunately, there are a few gems among the largely uninspired menus, and ordering the “right” items can make dining at Typhoon Lagoon a really fun experience. Near each restaurant there is a visual “park wide menu,” so determining where you want to eat is pretty simple by consulting these menus. As a general rule, we recommend avoiding the standard theme park food. Here are some of our specific recommendations to make the most of dining at Typhoon Lagoon!
What else is worth knowing before visiting Typhoon Lagoon?
Our biggest recommendation is to bring a camera! There’s a reason there are so few photos of Typhoon Lagoon online, and that’s because very few people take cameras. We think this is a huge mistake, as family photos at Typhoon Lagoon are a lot of fun (who doesn’t want to a fun photo of a wave hitting them in the Surf Pool?!) and the environment is gorgeous. Yes, there are PhotoPass photographers in a few places at Typhoon Lagoon, but taking your own water proof camera (or water proof camera bag) is so much better of an option for getting photos in more than just 2-3 locations. On our most recent trip to Typhoon Lagoon, we took 5 cameras (no joke) to do some underwater camera testing, so check out our Underwater Camera Buying Guide for tips on waterproof camera options, ranging from $15 to $1,500.
As far as other things to bring, towels aren’t free at Typhoon Lagoon ($2 rental), so another recommendation is to bring your own. Don’t go for anything fancy, just grab one out of your hotel room. After this most recent trip, something we’d highly recommend is quality water shoes. We forgot to take our water shoes, and as I sit here writing this, my feet are still throbbing from walking around barefoot on that hot pavement. You can wear water shoes on the attractions, and your feet don’t get burnt. Win-win! Oh, and the floors of the restrooms at Typhoon Lagoon are spectacularly gross, so you’ll definitely want water shoes for those.
Rather than bringing a refillable mug to the water parks (as we saw many people do), buy one at the water parks. Your hotel refillable mugs won’t work at the water parks anyway, and although you can purchase the reader-sticker to put on your resort mug and use at Typhoon Lagoon, that method is only a few dollars cheaper than purchasing the (larger-sized) water park mug outright. Plus, the water park mug is a neat-looking souvenir!
Typhoon Lagoon, in my opinion, is as close to perfection as any of the Walt Disney World parks get. By this I don’t mean that I like it more than the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, the Studios, or Animal Kingdom; I mean that it has no shortcomings as a water park, whereas the theme parks all have their faults. If that still doesn’t make sense, consider this analogy: Typhoon Lagoon is like the perfect cheeseburger, but even a perfect cheeseburger isn’t as good as an above-average steak–or in this case, above-average theme parks. Make sense?
Because it’s “only” a water park and not a theme park, Typhoon Lagoon typically receives less attention from guests and fans. This is unfortunate, as Typhoon Lagoon has a lot to offer both in the way of fun attractions to enjoy and–more importantly–in exquisite theming that in places rival some of Disney’s best work in the actual theme parks.
I’m less equipped to comment on the attractions than on the theming, but the slides all seem adequate to me. There is nothing super thrilling like you’ll find at Blizzard Beach, but the slides are fun, and I usually hit each of them before lines start developing. They aren’t cool enough to justify a 10 minute or longer wait in line, so after about the first hour Typhoon Lagoon is open, the slides have zero pull for me. Crush ‘N’ Gusher is more fun for me, but that’s partly because this is as close as any water park attraction comes to actual “attraction” status. The Tropical Amity (say it quickly…) backstory is sharp and told throughout the queue and surrounding area, and the ride itself is fun, too.
As for theming, Typhoon Lagoon was built just as the Eisner regime was finding its groove, and the attention to detail shows. I know many Disney fans love the defunct River Country, but I think that’s partly because it’s defunct–and everyone laments what they no longer have. Having experienced both parks numerous times growing up, I’ve always thought Typhoon Lagoon ran circles around River Country, which was smaller and didn’t even approach Typhoon Lagoon in terms of thematic execution. From its signage to its lush landscape to its buildings designed to look like they’re precariously standing in the wake of a brutal tropical storm, Typhoon Lagoon fires on all cylinders. There are varying layers of detail at Typhoon Lagoon, but the park never gets bogged down in convoluted “story for the sake of story.” Most of these details are chuckle-inducing, and almost every visual gag or pun works really well. Overall, it’s an incredibly clever park that’s really rewarding for anyone willing to wander around it exploring. Couple this exploration with some time in the lazy river and wave pool, and you’ve nailed my idea of the perfect relaxing day at Walt Disney World.
As for how Typhoon Lagoon stacks up against Blizzard Beach, I prefer Typhoon Lagoon to Blizzard Beach for a few reasons. The biggest reason is the theme. While I think Blizzard Beach’s theme is very well-executed, the idea of ski resort melting away as the basis for a water park just doesn’t have as much of a draw for me as a water park. I enjoy the lush, tropical ambiance of Typhoon Lagoon, which I think more closely matches expectations for how a relaxing, laid back water-based experience should feel. When I’m floating around the lazy river or just sitting on the beach, Typhoon Lagoon transports me to the type of place I’d want to be enjoying when sitting in the sun, and I just don’t have that same feeling at Blizzard Beach. There’s a reason it’s called the “island life” and not the “beach ski-bum life.”
The second reason is the wave pool. Typhoon Lagoon’s Surf Pool trounces Blizzard Beach’s main pool, Melt Away Bay. In the immortal words of Stacey from the Walt Disney World Top 7 Must-Dos video (the old version, when it was so over the top that it was good, campy fun), “this baby cranks up a 6-footer every 90 seconds!” Because of this constant action, I can spend a lot more time in Typhoon Lagoon’s main pool than I can Blizzard Beach’s. Trying to withstand the wave is engaging, and hearing the “surround sound” of the communal scream when that wave first wave starts to form is fun. I can spend over an hour in the Surf Pool before wanting to get out. By contrast, Blizzard Beach’s Melt Away Bay has some light bobbing waves, but they’re nothing special. It’s sort of like a less-lazy river, except there aren’t enough inner tubes to go around. There are plenty more comparisons to be made between the two parks, but that’s probably deserving of a separate post.
Sarah’s opinion on Typhoon Lagoon is dramatically different than mine, but that’s largely because she works in healthcare and has the “burden of knowledge” when it comes to this type of thing. She fixates a bit on all of the unsanitary aspects of water parks, and doesn’t care for water parks at all. By contrast, I am blissfully ignorant of all of these issues–I just enjoy having fun at the water parks. With that said, Sarah does prefer Blizzard Beach to Typhoon Lagoon by just a bit, as she prefers the slides and Teamboat Springs at Blizzard Beach.
The question I left unresolved in the FAQ was whether Typhoon Lagoon is worth visiting. Yes, it is (with about ten-thousand exclamation points). Even if you’re paying the single day rate (and you absolutely should not be paying that much), it’s worth it. Coupled with an evening at a nice restaurant or at the BoardWalk, it’s a great way to spend a non-park day on your trip.
Even if water parks aren’t your thing, if you love exploring the Disney theme parks for their great attention to detail, you owe it to yourself to spend a half-day at Typhoon Lagoon. Having no interest in water slides or that type of thing is no excuse for skipping it. Dismissing it as a simple water park is missing the point, as water “rides” are not its greatest strength. Above all else, it’s a well-designed and detailed Disney theme park. The slides, raft rides, and everything beyond its brilliantly themed environment is just icing. Simply put, Typhoon Lagoon is a fun place to hang loose!
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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Do you enjoy Typhoon Lagoon? Do you prefer it or Blizzard Beach? Share your thoughts–including any other tips we missed–in the comments!