Four Reasons Why Big Surf is Arizona's Best Waterpark

Four Reasons Why Big Surf is Arizona’s Best Waterpark

Big Surf Arizona

I am an Arizona native and I have spent all but a few of my 40 plus summers in the Arizona desert’s scorching sun. I have been here long enough to know that, unless you plan to stay indoors, there is not much you can do to cool off. Spending my summers indoors was never an attractive option for me, so I spent a lot of time outside. Big Surf Waterpark, one of my favorite places to go for some summer fun, was also one of my mom’s favorite places to go when she was a kid. Big Surf is my happy place and, in my opinion, the best waterpark in Arizona. Here are four reasons why Big surf is the best and why you should visit the next time you are in the Arizona desert during the summer.

Four Reasons Why Big Surf is Arizona’s Best Waterpark

Big Surf is a Historical Location

Big Surf waterpark opened in 1969 and was America’s original wave pool. The park has changed so much since then but that wave pool is still amazing. Imagine people surfing right in the middle of the desert! Big Surf made that a reality and it continues through this very day. Big Surf has also seen many musical performances during its almost 50 year history including Pink Floyd, Elton John, the Beach Boys, Chicago, Sting, Rod Stewart, and many others. Many big names have experienced the fun of Big Surf.

Photo from

Photo from

Big Surf is Manageable

Have you ever been to a waterpark and just felt absolutely crowded and boxed in? I have been to other waterparks in Arizona and felt like I was at a circus. Big Surf does not feel that way. Even though attractions have been added over the years, Big Surf still has an open feeling and even on busy days you have room to breathe.

Big Surf baby area

Big Surf is Affordable

Paying full price to get into any waterpark, including Big Surf can be very expensive for a family to cover. However, Big Surf usually has offers online, like this one on Facebook, which makes it so much more affordable. Also, the lockers are bigger and more affordable than at some other Arizona waterparks. I had to return items to my car at one waterpark because the lockers were so small. Also, hit the ice cream shop for a massive single scoop of ice cream for about $3 (and just $4 for 2 scoops!).

Ice Cream at Big Surf

The Wave Pool

This isn’t just any wave pool. This is 2.5 million gallons of water in which a wave is generated every three minutes. This is a surfboard friendly wave that you can actually surf on (during the surfing sessions). My family loves to rent the rafts and ride them in. Here is our system:

  1. Lay on the raft on your belly with your knees at the bottom of the raft.
  2. Position yourself near the red line in the wave pool (the first one you get to). Keep yourself straight until you hear the wave coming.
  3. When you hear the wave coming, start slowly paddling with your arms.
  4. When the wave is almost to your feet, make sure your legs are bent at a 90 degree angle, hold the front corners of the raft, and get ready for some fast moving fun.
  5. You can steer by lifting up a corner of the raft as you are speeding along. Watch out for the people standing in the shallows!

The wave pool rocks! Despite the slides at Big Surf, we spend most of our time in the wave pool. It is so much fun.

Big Surf surfers

I wish Big Surf Waterpark was open year round but I know that is not realistic. If you live in Arizona, or are planning a trip here during the summer, you simply must check out this fun piece of Arizona history.

Big Surf Waterpark

1500 N. McClintock Dr./Hayden Rd.
Tempe, Arizona 85281
Phone (480) 994-2297

About Janice

I am so glad you stopped by. Kick your shoes off and hang with me a while. I am an Arizona native, wife to a hard-working hubby, mom of two, and daughter of the King. I love sharing recipes, crafts, and family activities that any mom can do. Life is complicated enough, right? When I am not up to my ears in laundry, dishes, and creating for Celebrating Family, you will also find me at East Valley Mom Guide. Come follow me on Google +, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.


  1. That looks like such a fun place! I am a total ice cream fanatic so of course it caught my eye, we can not even get a scoop like that for less than $5 at our local ice cream stand!

  2. Catherine Sargent says

    This looks like a great water park and the wave pool is awesome. I will have to take the family if we are ever in the area.

  3. Wow! It looks to be amazing. The wave pool is awesome especially for those who aren’t able to visit the beach.

  4. That looks like so much fun! I can only imagine how nice that would be for someone who lives in AZ! My friend lives down that way; I’ll have to see if she has ever been there! Great review!

  5. Omg! I LIVE here and didnt know that was here! Haha defiantly looking into the more

  6. This sounds like a fun place to visit. It’s nice that it’s not overcrowded and the lockers are a decent size. What a great deal on the ice cream too.

  7. This looks like it was a great spot to get away for a while. The wave pool is really impressive.

  8. Wave pools are so much fun so the fact that this made it on your top 4 is totally worth checking out! It’s so hot where I am right now that I could totally visit a water park.

  9. Amy Desrosiers says

    I think this water park looks really awesome. I would love to visit someday with my family too!

  10. You have me convinced this is a great place to visit. Anything with water and ice cream in the summer season is well worth it!

  11. I love Big Surf! Seriously, that wave pool is SO much fun! Totally miss not living in AZ!

  12. Water parks are the best, especially during the summer months. And this one looks like a blast!

  13. This looks like so much fun and I love that it is so OPEN. We have a water park in our area but it feels constantly congested and it is difficult to enjoy yourself when in a situation like that; especially with smaller kids. Everything looks so natural and fun… would love to visit.

  14. This looks like such a blast! I cannot wait to take my family there when we visit!! Thanks for sharing the pictures, I love finding new vacation spots!

  15. I’d have so much fun in the wave pool. That sounds like a complete blast of a day!

  16. Elizabeth Lampman says

    Water parks are so much fun. It is such a great way to have fun and stay cool in the heat. I would love to check this place out.

  17. Ann Bacciaglia says

    I would love to be here in the wave pool today. It is a great way to keep cool in this heat wave. My kids love water parks.

  18. Arizona is one of those states that has been on my bucket list for a while now. It’s time to plan to visit. hat a gorgeous view of the mountains.

  19. I am local, too! I live in Phoenix and we are HUGE fans of Big Surf!

  20. Wow, this is such a beautiful place. There is something wonderful and comforting about a waterpark that is not there with other amusement parks.

  21. Interesting! Surfing in Arizona. We love visiting Arizona and this looks like something neat to check out. So much fun under the sun there!

  22. Debbie wagner says

    I went to big surf since 1969 to the middle 90’s … when I was a teen in the 70’s I went almost every weekend with sister and friends. It was awesome and loved the bands. I have wonderful wonderful memories