Wondering if the Kalahari Poconos resort is worth the trip? I spent the afternoon in “America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark” and the night in one of their suites. Read on for my completely unbiased review of the resort.
First, let me just say that this is not a sponsored post. However, I did not pay out of pocket for my room, either. My friend’s sister gave her a gift certificate to the resort and she took Jacob and I along with her. That said, this Kalahari Resort review is my 100% unbiased opinion. As you’ll see, I loved many things about the resort…but there were a few downsides as well.
Where is Kalahari Poconos Resort?
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The Poconos location of Kalahari is located in Pocono Manor, PA. For those who are familiar with the area, it’s right up the street from Pocono Manor resort on PA-314, a windy little back road right off 611. If you take the highway, it’s about 10 minutes from Stroudsburg.
You can actually see Interstate 380 out your window, so if you don’t mind highways, that’s really your best bet. I don’t do highways, so it took me about 35 minutes on back roads from Stroudsburg.
Ready to book? Check out TripAdvisor for deals, like Kalahari Groupon discounts.
Kalahari PA: Is it Worth the Trip?
To answer that question, I’ll break this down into a few sections. First we’ll talk about the resort itself, including the check-in process, the layout, quality of the rooms, and the food. Then we’ll cover the water park and the game room. I think that’s easier, since some people just come up for the day to do the water park and don’t really care about the rest.
Kahalari Resort in the Poconos Review
Arriving & Parking at Kalahari
Parking is about what you would expect for a largish resort: a bit of a nightmare. While there is ample parking, if you go on a busy day expect to walk quite a distance from your car to the front door. I found the whole thing a little confusing because I wasn’t really sure which lot I was supposed to park in.
I accidentally ended up in front of the entry, where people drop off their stuff. There’s a “pull through” lane for people like me who just want to get back around and on the road, but rude people ignored the sign and just stopped to unload in that lane. I was stuck waiting quite a while for them to get out of the way, which left me annoyed before we even got out of the car.
What to expect during check-in at Kalahari
The short version: expect to stand in long lines and do a lot of waiting. It took an hour and twenty minutes from the time we walked in until the time we actually got into the waterpark.
Long version: you start out standing in line to check in. That took a good 25 minutes, although I imagine it varies from day to day and even depending on what time you arrive. It’s not that they don’t have enough clerks, the place is just that packed.
Rooms aren’t ready until about 4PM, but you can use the park starting at 9:30. If you don’t want to go back to your car, you can leave your luggage with the bell hop. That’s another long line, but worth it! I appreciate that they offer this service. I also stood in line at the concierge desk to get a new wrist band for my friend’s daughter, since I didn’t put the first one on tight enough. Your wrist bands are also your room key, so you want to make sure you don’t lose them!
Like I said, the whole process took over an hour. We finally made it into the waterpark around 1:30.
I do add one thing here: most of the workers were incredibly friendly and helpful. I’ve read Kalahari reviews where people complained that the staff was rude, and that wasn’t at all the case for me. Other guests, on the other hand, were a mixed bag. I ran into SO many rude people who butted in front of people, jumped lines, and basically just acted like entitled jerks. So expect to deal with more than your fair share of rude guests, but all of the staff that I interacted with were very nice.
Kalahari Rooms: Make sure you know what wing you’re in!
Okay, first thing you need to know about the rooms: which wing yours is in! Different elevators go to different wings. I learned this after I went down to the lobby on my own and tried to get back to the room. I walked up and down this looooong hallway twice before I sat on the floor nearly in tears because my room didn’t exist. Turns out, I was in the wrong wing!
A SUPER nice bell hop walked me to the correct elevator. He told me about how he was from South Africa and spending a year working at Kalahari. I really appreciated that he didn’t just point in the direction of the elevators but instead actually walked me right up to them. Like I said, the staff was very friendly!
The room was really nice, too! We stayed in one of the African Queen suites. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a family room with a pull-out sofa. The main bathroom was a little weird because it had a toilet and a tub, but the sink was actually outside of the bathroom.
In a few reviews that I read before we went up, people complained about the room decor. Yes, it’s a lot of brown, but they add in some adorable artwork to break it up. Besides, who cares what color the floors are? The rooms are very nice and comfortable! Well, except for the fact that the fans don’t really work. That’s okay, though, because the AC works just fine.
Overall, we were really happy with the suite! Every room had a ginormous (to us) TV. Jacob slept on the pull-out sofa because he stays up later than I do on weekends. He said it was actually really comfy. A bit noisy when he rolled over, but comfy for a sofa bed.
The tubs in the bathroom are nice and deep. I didn’t take a bath, but I did fill it with water to soak my feet at the end of the day. They were killing me! The edge is roomy enough to sit on, which I think is important if you have little kids that you need to watch in the tub. The whole suite, including the bathrooms, was very clean.
Food at Kalahari
I think the food is the only real downside of Kalahari. It’s CRAZY expensive for what you get. We ordered a pizza while we were in the waterpark, and that was $24 for a 14″ pie. It was decent pizza, though. Think Chuck E. Cheese style vs. NYC pizzeria-style. I personally love CEC pizza, so I liked it.
The ice cream prices are definitely a shock to the system. My friend bought Jake a milkshake and her daughter a tiny dish of ice-cream with a “sprinkle cone”, and it came to almost $20! It was good, but not $20 good.
Later that night, I got Jacob a grilled cheese and french fries kids meal. That was only $6, but the grilled cheese was pretty small. I bought a parfait for $5, and we got “garlic knots” for a shockingly low price of $2. However, “knots” isn’t quite accurate. It was more like little chunks of hard crust left over from making pizza, torn up and sprinkled with garlic. He didn’t eat them, so even though they were “only” $2, it was a waste.
Snacks are also crazy expensive. I’m talking $3.50+ for a small candy bar, $4 for a cookie, $10+ for a caramel apple. I HIGHLY recommend bringing your own snacks. At least the coffee wasn’t too extreme. They serve Starbucks, and a medium will run you $3.18, a large about $3.80.
Bottom line: unless you have a huge food budget, bring your own or go outside the resort to eat. Mount Pocono is just up the road and they have pretty much all the major fast food places plus diners and other restaurants. I didn’t eat at any of the sit-down restaurants, or even look at the prices. I figure if I can’t even afford a couple of snacks, there’s no point in seeing what I’m missing at the restaurants.
Final thoughts on the hotel section
Aside from my gripe about the food, I thought the hotel section of Kalahari was really nice. Crowded at times, but nice. The lobby is pretty neat. If you want to get good pictures, I highly suggest getting up before 9. I went down at 7 and it was a ghost town. By 9, it was crazy again.
Kalahari Waterpark Review
As I mentioned above, you don’t have to stay at the resort to use the Kalahari waterpark. You can buy day passes. They’re expensive ($80+ on a weekday, over $100 on the weekend), but if you’re staying at another hotel and really want to just to the park for a day, it’s possible.
I am going to be blatantly honest with you: I would not pay that much for a day pass. While Kalahari says that they are “America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark,” it’s not $80+ big, in my opinion. It’s 220,000 square feet, or roughly the size of a Walmart Superstore.
The park is a level below the lobby, but it’s still on the ground floor. The way the hotel is built, the lobby is on the ground floor through the front door, but the park is on the ground level through the back. I took these picture from the lobby, looking down into the park:
Even though it’s not as big as I thought it would be, they do manage to pack a lot of fun slides and areas into the square footage.
Are there enough things to do for all ages?
I felt like Kalahari waterpark in the Poconos did a pretty good job of making sure to include something for all ages and “thrill ride tolerances.” I don’t do waterslides, so I can’t tell you about those. My son and friend did go on at least one while I took the baby (well, she’s 3, but she’s a baby to me) over to the kiddie section. They went on the Anaconda I believe. My son loved it, but he was very sore the next day because of the bumps at the end.
My friend’s daughter, P, loved loved loved the kiddie section, Splashdown Safari I believe it’s called. Along with zero-depth entry and shallow water throughout, it has quite a few slides for little kids. It’s fairly single-parent-friendly, too. I could stand at the bottom of the steps and watch P get in a short line for a slide, then quickly walk to the base to wait for her to come down. We were there on a Sunday, and the kid section was busy, but not jam-packed.
As for me, aside from watching P while Jake and my friend went on the scary slides, I went on the Lazy River twice, then hung out in the not-so-hot tub near the kids’ section for a few minutes. I feel like I didn’t do as much in the waterpark as I should have, mostly because I spent a lot of time walking and waiting for Jake or P. It’s okay, though, because they had a blast. We ended up staying for only 3 hours. We were going to go back down after getting settled in the room, but Jake an P were both tired and my feet were already killing me.
Is the Kalahari waterpark clean?
Kalahari waterpark is very clean, at least as far as I could tell. I didn’t see any trash on the floor or anything gross floating in the water. I thought it was cleaner than most waterparks that I’ve visited.
I also didn’t feel like the chlorine was overwhelming. I may be alone there because I heard a lot of people complaining about how it was overpowering, but I didn’t even notice it.
If you can swing the cabana rental fee, it’s worth it
We were super lucky enough to get a cabana rental including with the gift card, otherwise we never could have afforded it. The smallest cabana will run you about $300. Sorry, the only pictures I took of the cabana have my shirtless son lounging on a couch in them. I’m not comfortable sharing those, and besides, he’d be really upset with me if I did.
One major pro to getting the cabana rental: you can put your purse in the safe (you’ll find it behind one of the doors in the entertainment stand thing). It also has towels in it, allowing you to skip yet another painfully long line. Plus, it’s nice to have a guaranteed spot to sit and eat in comfort. They’ll even bring the food right to your cabana.
Our cabana had a couch, two chairs, and a huge TV. You can’t actually hear the TV over the waterpark, but Jake watches everything with closed caption on, anyway. They also provide a fridge with some water. Since you can’t bring your own food or water into the park, that saved a few bucks per person.
If you can’t afford a cabana, they rent lockers for $20-30 a day, which sounds crazy expensive, but it’s about average for the waterparks in our area.
Review of the Big Game Room at Kalahari
Once you’re tired of the water, spend a little time in the Big Game Room. I think Jake had more fun there than he did in the park, and he loves waterparks! You can’t miss the arcade, since you have to walk through it to get to the waterpark. I didn’t love that part, but I can see why they do it from a marketing perspective. There is literally no way to avoid it, which means your kids know it’s there.
Game cards aren’t cheap, but they also aren’t too insane. $25 gets you 106 credits. Most of the cool games are 8 credits, but they have a bunch for 4 credits. Jake played a few of the more expensive ones, then stuck to the cheaper ones. He managed to get about 45 minutes out of that $25.
We also spent $6 per person on a game of glow-in-the-dark mini golf. That was so much fun! It’s a tiny course, but Jake and I took our time since we were the only people in there.
I also HIGHLY recommend the 7D Theater experience (but only older kids and up, it’s a little scary for small kids). Jake and I did the Zombie one. I don’t really like Zombies, but the ride/experience itself was a blast. Literally. You have to blast the zombies! It feels like you’re really riding in a car trying to escape them. You can even feel the wind blowing on your face! When that first zombie climbed up at us, we both jumped. Coolest ride ever. I am terrified of rollercoasters, but I can handle those types of rides because I know I’m not actually leaving the ground.
Back in the game room, little P won like 3 jackpots and ended up with close to 4,000 tickets. Jacob only ended up with 550, but he still got some fun random stuff, like candy and a deck of cards. The ticket requirements for the prizes aren’t too outlandish. I actually thought they were cheaper than prizes at places like Chuck E Cheese. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to get anything exciting for under 5,000 tickets, but kids can get something even with just a few tickets.
Tips for making the most of your Kalahari Trip
1. Wear comfortable shoes!
You’ll do a lot of walking and standing. A lot. I walked 3.5 miles according to my phone, and that’s not including the waterpark or the times I left it in the room. All together, I’d put it close to 6 miles in one day. Bring comfy shoes for the times that you’re not in the park!
Kalahari is not “chronic pain friendly” by a long shot. I was literally crying by the end of the day because my back and feet hurt so much. Three days later, I’m still feeling pain. If you have back or leg problems, make sure you take plenty of breaks and spend some time in the hot tub in the park. I even put peppermint oil in the tub to soak my feet (because yes, I travel with peppermint essential oil).
2. Get up early for the best photo ops
There are a lot of things to see in the lobby and plenty of cute photo ops. If you’re trying to take pictures between 9am and 9pm, expect to deal with people walking in front of you. If you’re spending the night, get up before 9 and get down there to snap some pics! I was up at 7 and it was a ghost town.
3. BYOF (food)
Bring as much of your own food as humanely possible, including beverages. As I said, food is beyond astronomically expensive, even for little things like a candy bar. As far as I know, all rooms have a microwave, coffee pot and mini-fridge.
4. Store your luggage with the bell hop
If you’re spending the night at Kalahari, keep in mind that your rooms aren’t ready until nearly 4PM, but you can use the park the whole day. Unless you’re willing to trek back to your car with wet hair later, it’s a lot smarter to just bring everything in with you. Kalahari lets you keep check it in at the bell hop station. Then, when your room is ready, just tell them your ticket number and they’ll bring it right up.
5. Explore the outside, too
Kalahari doesn’t just pay attention to details inside. They also sprinkle plenty of cute photo ops around the outside! I loved all the animal statues, like this darling warthog above, or the turtle below. As you can see, it snowed a bit while I was there.
So, very long story short: is Kalahari Resort in the Poconos worth the trip? I’d say yes. It’s expensive, but if you have the budget for a vacation and love waterparks, you’ll have a great time!
If you’re planning to stay for a few days and want to do other things in the area, check out my Poconos guide, including:
- Where to go for a romantic date night in the Poconos
- Winter attractions for non-skiers
- Family-friendly things to do in the spring and summer
Have you ever been to Kalahari in the Poconos? Tell me your thoughts and experiences!