Walking into the Kalahari Resort and waterpark in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania is a bit like stepping into an African-themed Disney hotel, or a gigantic version of the Rainforest Cafe. I kept waiting for the animals scattered throughout the massive lobby to come to life (but they don’t.) In this ultimate theme resort for families, they don’t miss an opportunity to carry forward the African theme, or a chance to help you part with a little more money. But don’t worry, everything is charged to your account using your handy-dandy wristband so you won’t feel the pain until check out. Even a cynic like me couldn’t help but be impressed.
We stopped at the Kalahari for a day of “rest and relaxation” after a very busy two-week road trip through Virginia. I use the term rest and relaxation very loosely, since while this was a day of fun for the little one, I don’t find supervising a waterpark visit or visiting this type of Vegas-like resort at all relaxing. But I felt that after all the history and activities we jammed packed into our road trip, a day of pure kid fun would make a perfect pitstop to break up the last leg of our trip.
The Kalahari in the Poconos is brand new, as it just opened in the summer of 2015. I was a bit blown away by how large it was, especially when dragging our bags down the long corridor to our room — yet they are still building! They are working on a whole other wing so I imagine it will get more crowded in the waterpark and hotel restaurants once that is open so my advice is, if your family likes theme resorts and waterparks — go now!
Kalahari Resort Amenities
The Kalahari Resort has everything you need to keep you entertained, fed, clothed, and even pampered. When it comes to dining, there are a wide array of options. For casual snacks there is the Java Manjaro coffee shop and The Last Bite ice cream and candy shop. Casual dining includes the Cafe Mirage food court, Great Karoo Marketplace Buffet and the waterpark snack bars, including the swim up Thirsty Turtle bar. Those seeking more than pizza, burgers or casual fare can opt for the upscale Brandberg tavern or family-friendly Ivory Coast.
We had dinner at the Ivory Coast Restaurant, just off the main lobby. While the menu promised a step above the fast-food options at the cafe, we probably should have stuck to the basics. My chicken piccata was the smallest chicken breast I’ve ever seen on a $18 entree, although the bed of angel hair pasta helped fill me up. Hannah tried the somewhat unremarkable cavatappi pasta marinara. With the high prices and mediocre offerings, I see why many families bring their own coolers of food and microwave something in the room. But if you choose this route, just keep in mind that no outside food or drink is allowed into the waterpark.
If you are looking to purchase a souvenir or swimsuit, there are plenty of options. We had fun poking through the Safari Clothing Company, Kalahari Outpost and Indigo Swimwear at both the high-quality clothing options and simple t-shirts and stuffed animal souvenirs.
We didn’t have time to utilize the spa, but it was nice to see that they do have some “junior” services too, like manicures, pedicures, and facials. If we had more time, this would have been a nice way to unwind after the waterpark.
Of course we couldn’t avoid a visit to the Big Game Room — since you have to walk right through the arcade to get to the waterpark. The Kalahari arcade was very similar to what we experienced at the Great Wolf Lodge. They use a card-based system to make it easy to load and go (and keep on spending!) In addition to the many arcade games, there is a small bowling alley, blacklight mini golf, and XD Dark Ride and, Hannah’s favorite, Lazer Frenzy.
Kalahari Resort Review — Accommodations
The African theme continues into the Kalahari guest rooms, with the liberal use of African prints and art. The rooms themselves are fairly simple, since the main action is downstairs, but still comfortably appointed. While the Kalahari offers one- and two-bedroom suites, and even a room with bunk beds, we stayed in the standard Desert Room with two-queen beds and a queen-sized sleeper sofa. The room included a small fridge and microwave, for those that want to keep drinks and snacks in the room. One of my favorite features was the free WiFi throughout the hotel (even the water park!)
The only thing I didn’t like about the room was the bath layout. I’m generally not a fan of bathrooms where the sink and vanity is outside of the bathroom, but usually these are at least behind a wall to minimize noise and light for sleeping kids. In our room, the sink and vanity was connected to the counter with the microwave in the main room. It was much more disruptive than a standard set up and I’d like to keep bathroom germs away from my food prep area.
Kalahari Waterpark Review
Of course, the main reason to come to the Kalahari Resort is the indoor waterpark. After recent trips to the Great Wolf Lodge, Kahuna Laguna at the Red Jacket Resort, and Water Country USA, Hannah was psyched to visit the Kalahari. Since I’m not as thrilled about water slides, I was a bit more trepidatious. When walking in I was relieved to see a very large “Splash Down Safari” area with slides that were fun, but not scary…along with dumping buckets and other splash areas.
Families with toddlers will also be thrilled with the toddler and preschool area. For all the water parks we’ve been to, I’ve never seen a little kid area as cute or as large. There are welcoming giraffes, elephants spurting water, tiny slides, a large splash pad and even toddler swings.
Of course there are also enough “big” slides to satisfy the thrill seekers — and then some! The Anaconda twists and turns up high, before splashing down. On the other side of the park are slides like the Wild Wildebeest, the Rippling Rhino, Zimbabwe Zipper, and the Barreling Baboon. We gave the Rippling Rhino a few tries and Hannah loved it, but its early fast acceleration made my heart race. I definitely was NOT up for the Tanzanian Twister, which culminates in a vortex before flushing you out into a pool below. Judging by the people we watched, you are usually dumped out head first so that was a big no thank you for me! If Hannah had a braver friend along, I’m sure she would have happily tried most of the slides but she didn’t like going it alone.
Instead she spent most of the time in the Splashdown Safari, relaxing in the lazy river, and soaking in the giant indoor/outdoor hot tub. There is so much to do in the waterpark it was hard to leave. There is the water basketball area, the FlowRider, the outdoor pools, and even swim up bars. The size of the drink glasses at the swim up bar are a bit concerning as I’m not sure giant drinks and supervising kids in a waterpark is really a great combo.
We were there mid-week and it wasn’t crowded at all, but if you want a little more privacy they do offer cabana rentals. There are also plenty of rental lockers available to safely stow your stuff while on the rides.
Since you have full access to the waterpark until it closes, even after you have checked out, you can spend the whole day at the waterpark. They have large locker rooms for changing before you leave. The only downside is that the shower room is wide open, with no privacy curtains. It wasn’t at all what we were expecting, especially when a mom with a young boy came in. So we quickly showered in our suits and used the curtained changing rooms to get into our street clothes for the drive home.
It isn’t something I’d want to do all the time, but I’d definitely like to go back for another overnight — but this time I’d make sure we brought a friend or two. If your family likes waterparks or resorts like the Great Wolf Lodge, I’d recommend giving the Kalahari Resort in the Poconos a try.
PIN THIS FOR LATER – KALAHARI RESORT REVIEW
Have you been to a Kalahari? What is your favorite theme resort or indoor waterpark? Check out this list of indoor waterparks!
Note: Our stay was hosted by Kalahari Resorts to facilitate our review, all opinions are our own.