There are water parks, and there are water parks where you can jump off a waterslide and play three hands of blackjack. Now that the latter exists, the bar has forever been raised.
Baha Bay, Baha Mar’s colorful slide palace that opened this summer, is unlike any park a luxury resort has ever seen. Across 15 tropical acres, it has 24 waterslides, a beachy 500,000-gallon wave maker, a lazy river, multiple restaurants, and the Caribbean’s first water park casino.
Of course, with this much in one place, figuring the whole thing out can be a little overwhelming. So in the name of public service, I took a quick trip to the Bahamas, tried it all out, and figured out how to make the most of Baha Bay.
First, post up at the beach club
The park is included in your resort fee at Baha Mar, but for those who aren’t guests at the resort, limited single-day tickets are available for $130 per adult and $65 per kid. Once you’ve gotten in, just right of the entrance you’ll see a velvet rope marking the entrance to the Baha Bay Beach Club. The partitioned-off section of shoreline has two glimmering infinity pools with in-pool seating, plush lounge chairs, and private cabanas with views of the water.
Along with the requisite food and cocktails, Baha Bay Beach Club offers a peaceful place to set your stuff in between trips down the slides. Plush beach chairs start at $75, daybeds start at $200, and private cabanas go for $400 and must be reserved in advance.
Your first slides: Pirates Plunge
The closest slides to the entrance are Pirates Plunge. Though the slides finish with a dramatic drop, they’re an ideal warmup. The short walk up the tower is a great spot for a peek at the ocean, and the short, twisting slides remind you how jostling water parks can be.
After about 15 seconds of high-speed turns, you’ll see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Hold your nose, because you’re about to be dropped between 5 and 7 feet into the water and turned all sorts of disorienting angles. After a couple trips, your body and mind should be ready for the big stuff.
Right across from Pirates Plunge, you’ll also find the park’s casino, a small and breezy open space where you can regain your composure with a quick hand of Pai-Gow. It’s worth doing for the novelty, but spending a day at the water park inside a casino might be indicative that you shouldn’t have committed to going to a water park in the first place.
Move on to the Cyclone Rush
Get the lay of the land on your way to the next slides by walking past Baha Bay Lagoon, along the lazy river, and through the food market to Cyclone Rush. Cyclone Rush is a group raft slide that combines the swirling of a toilet bowl slide with the high-speed terror of the high-walls.
The raft spins through dark tunnels before dumping you out in a swirling bowl, down a steep descent, then up a wall blasted with raging water.
Head back up the tower and hit the Hammerhead, another raft slide that’s not quite as dramatic. Lines for this one are usually a lot shorter, so you can do Hammerhead until the Cyclone Rush line dies down.
Hit the big time slides at Devil’s Backbone and Thunderball
Back across Baha Bay Lagoon is the imposing tower that marks the beginning of the park’s most eye-peeling slides. The walk up up multiple flights of stairs to Devil’s Backbone and Thunderball is no joke. If you’re not in great shape, you may want to do these one at a time, spread over the day.
The view of the Caribbean at the top is worth the trip, but don’t stare too long. The more you look down, the more you’ll psych yourself out from dropping down the 80-foot Thunderball, Baha Bay’s resident speed slide. Your best move is to step up, dangle your feet out, and let go as soon as the attendant says so. You’ll drop nearly straight down, slowed only by the water shooting up your legs. It’s all over in a matter of seconds, and is the quickest thrill in the park.
Wipe the water out of your eyes and make the trek back up to the top of the tower for Devil’s Backbone. This is a classic trapdoor slide, where you stand in a clear, upright chamber and wait for the bottom to drop out. Devil’s Backbone counts you down as soon as the door closes, so the drop isn’t quite as jarring. Once the initial rush of freefall goes away, it’s a smooth, winding trip to the bottom. The line for Devil’s Backbone is usually longer, while the Thunderball lines are never long.
Relax on the Lazy River
After all that adrenaline, it’s time to relax on the lazy river. Grab a tube at any entrance and enjoy the 15-minute float under dripping waterfalls and past its lone, thunderous rapid. It’s a nice way to take in some sun while still enjoying the action of the park. Just know that while it’s tempting to take a drink on the river with you, it’s technically against the rules.
Finish your first slide tour at the Dueling Riptide Coaster
Now that you’ve had a chance to catch your breath on the lazy river, get your heart going again on the last two adult slides you haven’t tried. Race your friends on two-person tubes on the Dueling Riptide coaster along a track-assisted slide that drops, climbs, and twists in and out of dark tunnels. You’ll spot your competition at sunny intervals along the way. But if you’re behind, chill. There’s really no safe way to catch up.
When headed up an incline, get ready for a rush of water to the face when you reach the top, followed by a quick descent into darkness before you head up again. The slide is worth doing a few times since lines are short, and the loser will always want a rematch.
Lunch in the Market and a trip to the kid slides
After your first lap of slides, you’ll probably be hungry. While water park food is typically considered “good” if the chicken strips aren’t too stale (and this is coming from someone who knows his chicken strips), Baha Bay offers the best food I’ve ever seen. Cleo, a middle eastern restaurant from Miami that’s also in the resort, offers falafel, hummus, and other spicy stuff. Vegans can delight in offerings from Mr. Plant. A short walk away you’ll find an Umami Burger with an impressive beer bar. You just might want to head back to the beach club for a nap after eating here.
The Market is also conveniently across short bridges from Baha Bay’s two kids’ areas – Stingray Cove and Turtle Beach. If you’ve got small kids, lunch is the ideal time to take them to the childrens’ slides while the other parent eats.
Bobbing in the wave pool and a trip on the surf simulator
Post-lunch is a good time to return to the Baha Bay Lagoon to get some sun. Taking a dip in the inviting 500,000-gallon wave pool might seem appealing, but it’s kinda like getting knocked around on a rough day at the beach.
Across the path, near Pirate’s Plunge, you’ll find The Surf. This is the park’s surf simulator and is fun if you know what you’re doing. Riding the waves makes for a nice change of pace from all the vertical speed, but with big crowds, your wipeouts will be on public display.
Get a drink and go back for round two
Wait until you’ve done a full tour of the park before getting your drink on. Not only for safety reasons, but also because those types of thrills are best experienced with all your faculties. Once you’ve tried everything there is to try, retreat to the beach club for a couple of cocktails, or sip rosé in the infinity pool. Early-to-mid afternoon is a good time to alternate a drink with a waterslide.
The park closes in the early evening, and Baha Mar’s best restaurant is right outside the entrance. Marcus Samuelsson’s Marcus sits in a whitewashed Caribbean house right on the beach, where you can grab sunset cocktails on the roof in your water park best, then head downstairs for a hearty, Southern-Caribbean meal. The cornbread is a must, but the fried yard bird is what made the chef famous. And the black crab Bolognese is an island take on an Italian classic.
Between a day on the waterslides and a big meal at Marcus, no one’s going to blame you if you call it a night back in your room. There’s plenty to see in the rest of the resort, but with a shiny new spot like Baha Bay beckoning every morning, it might be hard to see anything else.