Who Doesn’t Love a Lazy River? These 14 Family Resorts Have the Best Ones in the U.S.

Drifting along a lazy river can offer a peaceful respite during a busy family vacation.
Floating on the lazy river at Camelback Resort's Auquatopia water park (Photo: Camelback Resort)
Floating on the lazy river at Camelback Resort's Auquatopia water park (Photo: Camelback Resort)

Drifting along a lazy river can offer a peaceful respite during a busy family vacation. I’ve noticed this flowing water feature popping up more and more at hotels lately, too. But not all lazy rivers are created equal. The best ones offer enough inner tubes so there’s always one available when you’re ready to float, along with a ride that feels more like a meandering journey than a quick loop. Bonus points for fun features like music, lights, and a uniquely themed design.

I’m never one to turn down a lazy river. And now that my daughter’s a teenager, it’s probably where you’ll find me, my husband, and any of my traveling friends whenever we’re at a resort while the teens are off racing down waterslides or otherwise avoiding their parents. Here are my picks for the best U.S. hotels with lazy rivers with kid-friendly and parent-pleasing features.

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1. Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort 

Orlando, Florida

Lazy river at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando (Photo: Four Seasons)
Lazy river at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando (Photo: Four Seasons)

Take your next theme park vacation up a notch with a stay at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. The hotel’s on-site Disney Planning Center, complimentary motorcoach transportation to the parks, and early theme park entry make visiting the Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios a breeze. But when you need a break from the rides and shows, the AAA Five Diamond resort offers amenities like the five-acre Explorer Island water park.

It’s at the water park where you’ll find a lazy river with spray cannons, a waterfall, and a rapids section, along with two water slides, a splash zone, and a zero-entry pool. Grownup guests will appreciate the on-site spa, golf course, and the resort’s Michelin-starred rooftop Capa Steakhouse, while the younger members of the family will love spending time at the complimentary kids and teen clubs.

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2. Camelback Lodge

Tannersville, Pennsylvania

Lazy river at Camelback Resort's Aquatopia water park (Photo: Camelback Resort)
Lazy river at Camelback Resort’s Aquatopia water park (Photo: Camelback Resort)

You can have fun all year round at Camelback Lodge, which is part of Camelback Resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. The eight-story mountain hotel is home to Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, where it’s always 84 degrees and the sun shines through North America’s largest Texlon transparent roof. In addition to braving more than a dozen water slides here, you can also grab a tube and float down The Lost River.

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Sound effects, LED lights, and features like waterfalls and arching sprays add some excitement to the nearly 500-foot not-so-lazy river. Beyond the water park, the resort also features another indoor fun zone with an arcade, rock-climbing wall, ropes course, bumper cars, and other attractions. And adventure awaits outdoors on the mountainside no matter the time of year.

3. Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa

Oahu, Hawaii

view from above of the Waikolohe Valley area of Disney's Aulani Resort
Aulani’s Waikolohe Valley has plenty of water fun (Photo: Aulani/Disney)

Combining the magic of Disney with the beauty of Hawaii, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa makes a pretty special place for a family vacation. It’s not surprising that the island resort offers lots of fun ways for kids of all ages to make a splash. Within the expansive Waikolohe Valley pool area, the Waikolohe Stream lazy river flows past rock formations, caverns, and springs inspired by Oʻahu’s natural landscape.

You can grab a tube or enter the stream in a more dramatic way by shooting down the Tubestone Curl waterslide. There are also splash zones and a private snorkeling lagoon to explore, plus beach activities, Disney character experiences, a luau, and all kinds of other family fun to be had at the resort.

More about Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa:

4. Fairfield Inn and Suites Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach, Florida

Lazy river at Fairfield Inn and Suites Pensacola Beach (Photo: Fairfield Inn and Suites)
Lazy river at Fairfield Inn and Suites Pensacola Beach (Photo: Fairfield Inn and Suites)

The brand-new Fairfield Inn and Suites Pensacola Beach is home to one of the largest lazy rivers on the Florida Panhandle. At 315-feet-long, the 60,000-gallon water ride takes you past palm trees, three waterfalls, and the resort’s zero-entry pool. Book one of the King Beachfront Suites that include bunk beds for the kiddos, then spend your days at the pool area or on the white-sand beach.

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A complimentary hot breakfast is available each day, and Fish Heads bar and grill offers fish tacos, cheeseburgers, and tropical cocktails with views of the Gulf of Mexico. (You can always work off your dining excesses at the fitness center overlooking Santa Rosa Sound.) The 11-story, 209-room resort also considered function along with fun; it was built with windows that can withstand Category 5 hurricane winds and structural pilings that go down more than seven stories to help it withstand any storm that comes its way.

5. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

Koloa, Hawaii

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa (Photo: Hyatt)

Lava rocks line the lazy river at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, which floats past waterfalls and secret caves. That’s just one way to get wet at the resort, where you can also take a dip in multi-level pools, a saltwater lagoon with “islands” to swim to, and the Pacific Ocean from the white sands of Poipu Beach.

Rooms and suites with lots of tropical touches offer garden, mountain, or ocean views, and the hotel’s restaurants serve dishes made with sustainably sourced ingredients from local vendors. Families can learn more about Hawaiian culture and traditions at the on-site luau and the resort’s cultural center, which offers lessons in hula dancing, playing the ukulele, and making flower leis.

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6. Kingsmill Resort

Williamsburg, Virginia

Lazy river at Kingsmill Resort (Photo: Kingsmill)
Lazy river at Kingsmill Resort (Photo: Kingsmill)

You can go back in time by visiting Colonial Williamsburg but still enjoy modern luxuries with a stay at Kingsmill Resort. Situated on the historic James River, the condominium resort offers standard guest rooms along with a range of multi-bedroom options for families of all sizes. At the seasonal River Pool, there’s a winding lazy river that overlooks the real one nearby, as well as a water slide and pool bar.

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There’s also another outdoor pool and an indoor pool at the resort’s Sports Club, where you can play racquetball and take fitness classes. Kingsmill is well-known for its three 18‐hole championship golf courses, but it also offers 15 tennis courts, a full-service marina, and a spa.

7. Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach, Florida

The 5,000-square-foot lazy river at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach travels alongside the beachfront (Photo: Holiday Inn Resort PCB)
The 5,000-square-foot lazy river at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach travels alongside the beachfront (Photo: Holiday Inn)

The new 5,000-square-foot lazy river at the Holiday Inn Resort Panama City Beach takes you on a route that travels alongside the resort’s Gulf of Mexico beachfront. The length of almost two football fields and more than 81,000 gallons, the lazy river boasts a zero-depth entry and underwater speakers providing a splashtastic soundtrack.

The resort also offers a kiddie pool, water playground, and lagoon-style pool where dive-in movies are screened in the evening. Gulf-front rooms all have private balconies, and other amenities include a spa and fitness center, daily activities for kids ages five to 12, and four on-site restaurants that take the stress out of deciding where to eat.

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8. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa

San Antonio, Texas

Mother and child enjoying the lazy river at Hyatt Regency Hill Country (Photo: Hyatt)
Mother and child enjoying the lazy river at Hyatt Regency Hill Country (Photo: Hyatt)

Situated on 300 acres of historic ranch land, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa feels like an escape but still provides close proximity to attractions like SeaWorld San Antonio and the San Antonio River Walk. But it might be hard to leave the resort’s five-acre water park that’s heated and open year-round. The lazy river was designed to give riders the experience of floating on a Texas river, with a dark bottom and live oak trees lining the winding route.

A two-story water slide, multiple pools, and FlowRider wave simulation machine add to the fun, and other resort amenities include a full-service spa, 27-hole golf course, walking and biking trails, and evening s’mores by a campfire. Recently renovated guest rooms blend Texas charm with modern updates.

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9. The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa

Scottsdale, Arizona

The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa may be situated within the Sonoran Desert, but it’s still possible to make a splash by heading to the resort’s Adventure Water Park. A lazy river flows through the area, and you can make a float even more relaxing by reserving the Tommy Bahama Relaxation Reef, a private “island” within the river with chairs for lounging.

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A 110-foot waterslide and FlowRider simulator offer more high-speed thrills, and the resort’s pools are the perfect place to head after a round of golf or spa treatment. A kids club offers activities for four- to 12-year-olds, while campfires and s’mores, a resort-wide scavenger hunt, and the nearby Kierland Commons outdoor dining and shopping center offer more fun for the whole family.

10. Marriott Marquis Houston

Houston, Texas

Texas-shaped lazy river at Marriott Marquis Houston (Photo: Marriott)
Texas-shaped lazy river at Marriott Marquis Houston (Photo: Marriott)

Book a room at the Marriott Marquis Houston and you’ll be close to downtown Houston’s sights and attractions like Discovery Green and Minute Maid Park. You can get a bird’s-eye view of the area from the sixth-floor Altitude Rooftop and Pool, where you’ll find the hotel’s one-of-a-kind Texas-shaped lazy river.

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It takes about 15 minutes to complete a circuit, and while the kids are afloat the grownups can take a dip in the infinity pool, sip a cocktail from the rooftop High Dive restaurant, or just stretch out in a lounge chair or private cabana. Comfortable rooms and suites, five on-site dining options, a fitness center, and spa make the hotel a great choice for everyone in the family.

11. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

Rancho Mirage, California

Beat the Palm Springs heat at Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa’s Splashtopia water park. A 425-foot lazy river encircles the park, which also features two 100-foot waterslides, a cliff-side hot tub, water-play zones with fountains and sprinklers, and a grill serving poolside eats and drinks.

Guest rooms and suites are done up in Spanish Colonial style, and the resort also offers several restaurants and bars, 27 holes of championship golf, 18 tennis courts, eight pickleball courts, a spa, and seasonal kids and family activities. It’s a great home base for exploring local sights and attractions like The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

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12. JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa

Phoenix, Arizona

AquaRidge WaterPark at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa serves as an oasis within the Sonoran Desert resort. You can take it easy while floating along the Canyon Creek Lazy River or make a bigger splash at the three new multi-story water slides.

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A total of five pools help guests cool off after a match on the 17 lighted pickleball courts, a round of golf, a bike ride around the resort, or a class at the fitness center. Book a patio fire pit room for some special family time in the evenings, dine on Southwestern cuisine at Tia Carmen restaurant, and check the resort’s activities guide for fun ways to spend time together as a family.

13. JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa

San Antonio, Texas

JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa (Photo: Marriott)
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa (Photo: Marriott)

There’s a lot to explore in Texas’s scenic Hill Country, but there’s also a lot to explore within the nine-acre River Bluff Water Experience at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa. An 1,100-foot lazy river meanders around the water park, while the Pedernales River water experience features a current that mimics the flow of a natural river.

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Water slides and multiple pools add to the refreshing fun, including a sand-beach pool where the kids can construct castles on the “shore.” Head to the spa when you want to slow down, or get everyone moving on the running and walking trails, at the fitness center, or on the tennis and basketball courts.

14. Grand Wailea Maui Resort

Maui, Hawaii 

You’ll be thankful there’s a lazy river at the Wailea Canyon Activity Pool area at Grand Wailea, because you’ll need the break from all the action. Just check these stats: Nine pools spread over six levels. Seven waterslides. A rope swing. A swim-up bar. And the world’s first water elevator. Wailea Beach also awaits, where the whole family can snorkel, kayak, and paddleboard. You’ll definitely need a relaxing float after experiencing all of that.

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All rooms and suites have undergone a recent refresh, and a new cultural center offers experiences like hula and Hawaiian language lessons and a garden tour of the resort. Kids get a Grand Passport at check-in with info about educational opportunities, and they’ll receive sticker “stamps” after completing activities. 

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Beth Luberecki
Beth Luberecki is a Florida-based freelance writer who writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications and websites. She enjoys exploring destinations close to home and farther afield with her husband and teenage daughter. Visit her website at bethluberecki.com or find her on Instagram at @bethlubereckiwrites and @findingfloridafun.