The Parrot's Perch bucket dumps 400 gallons of water to everyone's delight at CoCo Key's waterpark (© 2010 Karen Rubin/

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Coco Key Hotel & Waterpark is a refreshing addition to Orlando, already the indisputable world capital of family fun. In fact, Coco Key was built for fun.

Most important for families: it offers resort features for a hotel price, is a Universal-Orlando partner property and the waterpark is amazing.

The newest hotel in Orlando is the 11th member of CoCo Key Water Resorts, poised to become one of the largest family of indoor Water Resorts. It is the company's first in Florida which can seem a bold and risky choice in the theme park capital of the world, within spitting distance of other waterparks and dozens and dozens of attractions all competing for vacationers' time, money and attention.

And yet, Coco Key is different - because this waterpark is where you stay. This is your home base. You don't have to pack up and travel to get to the park - it is right out your door. And it gives the family time off from traffic, parking, queuing up for entry. It is amazingly relaxing.

But the waterpark is only one of many advantages for families staying here - not the least of which is value: you get the features of a resort at the price of a motel.

CoCo Key is a partner hotel of Universal Orlando (located less than two miles away), which means it is one of the lodging choices in Universal's package, but also, discount tickets are available for sale in a lobby ticket center.

This is a really big deal, and the opening of "The Wizarding World Harry Potter" at
Universal Orlando has generated enormous interest. Guests who purchase these packages (on Universal's website,, get to come into the park one hour early and get breakfast.

Also (and this is not a small thing), CoCo Key offers a free shuttle to Universal,
Sea World, Aquatica and Wet'n'wild once or twice each morning (you need to reserve in advance; and the shuttle serves three hotels). This saves on the hassle of driving and on parking fees at the attractions. (It does not offer shuttle service to Disney, which is about 10 miles away; a car service costs about $30, but you will want your own car if you want to "hop" around the parks).

There are many resort-style amenities: CoCo Key has a massive - and I mean massive - 6,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art arcade ; plus a spacious and bright fitness center (with flat-screen TV).

It even has a separate party room to accommodate families, and a convenience store on the premises (though there is a convenience store across the street and a Dunkin Donuts two doors down; in fact, there are scores of eateries, shops, and attractions ,including miniature golf, just walking distance, that line International Drive).

The main hotel pool (apart from the waterpark) is in the shape of Mickey's ears - a clue to the origins of the property.

In fact, CoCo Key is not just Orlando's newest hotel, it is also one of the oldest. When it opened in 1970 as a Hilton, there was not even an International Drive - it was supposed to be named for Finley Hamilton, one of the early tourism visionaries here who said that it would be more appropriate to name the road International Drive. The motel was being used to house Disney executives while
DisneyWorld was under construction. Wow, that's history. It's like coming back to the birthplace of DisneyWorld.

Today, most of the units are motel style, though they have been marvelously and pleasingly updated, and there is a six-story hotel unit, as well. Dozens of the rooms either overlook the pool or the waterpark.

The property has been totally reimagined and updated with a delightful tropical, Key West look and feel. Its 391 newly renovated guest rooms, decorated in a surprisingly sophisticated way that I call "Asian-modern" is wonderfully pleasing (perhaps a bit of feng shui involved) and feature 37-inch Hi-Def flat-screen televisions (our room, a king suite in the hotel, has two TVs), mahogany furniture with South Florida accents, coffee makers, high speed internet access, luxurious Perfect Sleeper beds. Many of the rooms are connecting, if families need.

There are several wonderful colorful, comfy areas to sit around and lounge together - like in the lobby where you can also find two computer stations

These areas to gather together is ideal for multi-generational families and family reunions.

"We're particularly targeting grandtravel," says Richard M. Jackson, Director of Sales and Marketing, referring to a style of travel where grandparents host their grandkids. "We make kids happy - that's what we do. Grandparents bring kids who aren't at school. We offer value."

Universal Orlando's opening of "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" has given Coco Key a huge boost. "Theme park aficionados say they have nailed it creativity," Jackson says. "Demand has exceeded our expectations.

"If kids could plan their ideal hotel, Coco Key would be it," Jackson says. "Bold colors, gigantic arcade room, open spaces, big pool-shaped like Mickey's ears and best of all, a fantabulous water park on the premises. It was built for fun."

The real distinguishing element here, is, of course, the waterpark, which is absolutely sensational.

The 62,000 sq. ft water park is half outside, where the most vigorous attractions and features are, and half under a giant canopy, possibly the largest in Orlando.

The waterpark's attractions offer something for everyone:

Parrot's Perch, an awesome interactive jungle gym adventure with slides for younger children, featuring a zero depth entry area, water cannons plus a 400-gallon bucket of water that periodically tips over, drenching everyone underneath, to their delight (children need to be 36" and 40" depending on the slide).

More aggressive attractions include Over The Falls and Surfer Splash Slides - two large adventure slides that twist and turn all the way down (height requirement: 40” and 42”).

The real surprise (and adventure) for me was the Boomerango Double Rider Slide. This is crazy fun. About the same level of thrill as you get at the theme parks, this "ride" is for doubles in a tube; almost immediately, you drop what seems to be straight down, then get propelled what seems to be straight up a slide, then fall backwards! (height requirement: 48”).

Coral Reef Cove, a teen activity pool where you can take a plunge down the cyclone slide (height requirement 48”)

There is also a tot pool including slides and water features, which is the part that is completely under a canopy. Minnow Lagoon and Slides offers splashing fun for the youngest members of the family! There is no height requirement but riders are strongly encouraged to wear a life jacket (which are provided).

There are also lovely lounge chairs and tables all around and a poolside Wet Rooster Bar, which add to the resort-feel.

When you want a break from the water, go into the 6,500-square ft. Key Quest Arcade, with such popular games as Skee Ball, Guitar Hero, Whac-a-mole, Mad Wave Motion Theater, Shark Air Hockey, Mini bowling, Dino Spin, Alley Hoops, Water Blast, and Super bikes. There are also pool tables.

CoCo Key further shows its family-friendliness with a "Kids eat free" policy at its Tradewinds restaurant: with each accompanying adult entrée purchase, kids 12 and under receive a free menu item from the kids menu.

There's also Callaloo Grill/Pizza Hut Express for very casual, convenient dining, completing the resort-feel of CoCo Key.

CoCo Key attaches a resort fee ($19 per room, per night), which provides access for four people in the waterpark (you get a wrist band when you arrive), free internet, free parking, plus free shuttle service to Universal, Seaworld and others.

CoCo Key Orlando is the 11th waterpark property opened by CoCo Key Water Resorts, but the others are separate, gated attractions, and at 62,000 square feet, Coco Key's Orlando waterpark is one of its largest.

"This one is different," Jackson says "Consumer demand pushed back against a gated attraction. So we are similar to Nickelodeon (which charges $25 resort fee). That works out to less than $5 per person to use the waterpark."

Does Orlando really need another waterpark, I ask? "People enjoy the waterpark where they don't have to get in car and drive to another park."

CoCo Key Water Resorts, created in partnership with Wave Development LLC and Sage Hospitality Resources, are the newest water resort developments throughout the United States, offering a tropical paradise for family adventure getaways. Managed by Sage Hospitality Resources, one of the nation's leading hotel management companies, CoCo Key Water Resort locations are open at The Clock Tower Resort, Rockford, IL; Cherry Valley Lodge, Newark, OH; Crowne Plaza Boston North Shore, Danvers, MA; Holiday Inn Omaha Central, Omaha, NE; Crowne Plaza Cincinnati North Hotel, Cincinnati, OH and Holiday Inn Kansas City NE, Kansas City, MO, Mt. Laurel Marriott, Mt. Laurel, NJ, Holiday Inn Waterbury, Waterbury, CT and Courtyard by Marriott Fitchburg, Fitchburg, MA, in addition to the new Orlando property.

“CoCo,” the Resorts' mascot, is the ambassador of the Water Resort and a key component in completing the tropical water resort experience for children of all ages. CoCo participates in family activities, and also attends birthday parties and special events. CoCo has developed specific programs (“CoCo Rewards Kids”) to encourage children to do their best in school, read and help around the house.

Located in the heart of the Orlando vacation corridor at 7400 International Drive, CoCo Key also is a perfect hub for quick access to Orlando’s other popular attractions – a five minute-drive from
Universal Orlando; five minutes from Sea World/Aquatica; and 15 minutes from the Walt Disney World theme parks.

It is also close to Orlando's largest venue for convention business, the Orange County Convention Center, making it an ideal spot for convention-goers who bring their families along.

Also, it is a short day trip to the beach and
Busch Gardens in Tampa, while Orlando's downtown Business District is less than 12 miles away.

The CoCo Key Orlando Hotel and Water Resort can accommodate groups of all sizes. There is 3,600 square feet of meeting space on site. The Orlando International Airport less than 13 miles away.

There are all sorts of packages and deals at the resort's websites - length of stay, splash packages, double-play.

CoCo Key's Kids Eat Free promotion is available throughout August and offers free one breakfast buffet and dinner at the resort’s Trade Winds restaurant for kids 12 and under staying at the hotel, for each adult buffet or meal ordered. The breakfast buffet, available 7-11 a.m. daily and regularly priced at $9.95, includes biscuits, sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, pastries, bagels, cereal, fresh-made waffles, a variety of juices, milk, coffee and tea. Kids’ dinner selections at Trade Winds include chicken tenders, the CoCo Key burger, mac n’cheese, goldfish salad and a “build-your-own sandwich” option. All kids’ meals are served with a choice of fries or fruit cup and include a soft drink, milk or apple juice.

The resort is especially catering to families with pre-school children with amazing deals in September, with rates as low as $89 and "fourth night free" promotions.

"For value, CoCo Key hits sweet spot," Jackson says. "People love the property."

We sure did.

CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort-Orlando, 7400 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819, 321-206-4377, 877-875-4681,

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Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

© 2010 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit us online at and B
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