The official start of spring is still weeks away – and flip-flop weather? Months. But if you're in need of warm temperatures and the feel of the tropics close to home, head south to Sandusky and one of the area's newly-reopened water parks, the Maui Sands Resort.
Hawaii close to home
You may recall the Maui Sands opening years ago, then closing in months. The fledgling spot went into bankruptcy in 2008. The resort lingered empty for several years until new owners purchased the property and brought with them a new vision: a sprawling attraction with attached hotels that appeals to families both for its cool rides and its value prices.
Thirty million dollars later, the resort's hotel reopened in 2012, and the water park followed in spring of 2013. The renovations turned the Maui Sands Resort into a Hawaiian-themed water adventure park that's now one of the largest in Sandusky, second only to Kalahari.
The resort's features
For the daredevils, head straight for the Maui Wowie Bowl Slide. Shoot through the tube and then into a giant-sized bowl that whisks riders 35-45 mph before you drop into the water below. Next, dash to Hammerhead Plunge, where you'll zip back and forth along a see-through tube before splashing down. This ride can get a little dark for water-park newbies, so it may take some prodding to take the plunge! Both rides end in the lazy river, so you can relax a bit before going to the next ride.
Go tube-less in the Kana Storm and Hana Half Pipe, two body slides designed for max speed – and big splashes at the bottom.
Break from thrill rides in the MakaMaka Treehouse play area, complete with giant tipping buckets, water cannons, a climbing rope and short water slides for smaller kids.
By design, the water park gives various age groups a place to call their own. For adults, try indoor-outdoor heated spas (no kiddos allowed!). Little guests can splash at Pineapple Bay, which houses a kiddie pool and water toys.
Circle the park in the meandering Kai River – or, for a faster pace, take a dip in the vortex pool, which whirls you around and around.
Planning your visit
Maui Sands Resort includes several features with parents in mind. First, storing your gear doesn't cost extra; lockers are free. And the complex includes a second-story balcony above the water park's main action, so you can keep your eye on your kids from above. There are plenty of chairs to sit in, too, and you can request a room that faces the park – so if you have older kids, you can watch from there.
One other perk: Spectator Passes. Maui Sands touts being the only water park to offer passes for visitors who are there to watch, but not go in the water. For $10, grandma and grandpa don't have to pay full price if they're just there to observe. Like other area resorts, you can still use the water park the day you check out, so you can fit in two days of water-park fun with only one night lodging costs.
You don't have to stay at the Maui Sands Resort to go into the water park, but the deepest discounts on lodging and the park are for overnight guests. Room rates start at $88 for four people (without water-park passes) and go up, depending on the type of room and the time of week and year when you stay. Costs are around $40 for a water-park day pass. A final tip: Maui Sands often does promotional deals through Groupon, so check it out.