Tropical Islands Waterpark
It’s amazing that we left our house at 6am and found ourselves enjoying Tropical Islands Waterpark, outside of Berlin by 10am! Transavia flies the quick one hour flight out of Rotterdam to Berlin (Schonefeld Airport). Rotterdam requires nearly no additional time so we arrived at the airport and boarded the plane shortly after we cleared security.
In Berlin we purchased our train tickets at a kiosk and hopped on our Deutsche Bahn train with hardly a wait. It should be noted that the kiosks in the airport only accept Euro coins and notes and you will need to know your routing – easy enough with the Berlin Trains app. The bus from Tropical Islands was waiting when our train arrived at the Brand Tropical Islands train station. The free shuttle ride from the train station to Tropical Islands takes less than 20 min and stops at the campground before reaching the waterpark.
A few moments before the Brand train station you can start to see the old airship hangar on the horizon through the trees. It looks enormous! Once inside you almost lose track of its size, although you remain aware of the dome surrounding you. It’s a curious feeling hanging out inside an enormous dome.
Tropical Islands is built on the former Bran-Briesen Airfield, dating from WWII. The Soviets gained control of the airfield in 1945 continuing to expand the base. With reunification of Germany, the Soviets returned the base to the German government in 1992. The base was then sold to a private company, Cargolifter, who built the hangar to construct airships. The company became insolvent before building any airships in the hangar. The hangar is one of the largest buildings (measured by internal volume) on Earth and the world’s largest single hall without internal supporting structures.
A few logistics before I give my full rundown of our visit. Towels and bathrobes are not provided. Most people bring their own. We borrowed ours from Tropical Islands (with deposit) to save a bit of room in our luggage. Bring a water bottle. It is warm inside the dome. You can refill your bottle at any of the bathrooms. You will want to be in summer clothing regardless of outside weather. Restaurants do require you to have a cover up over your suit, but they have kimonos available if you’ve forgotten yours.
Check in was a bit of a mess. The majority of our bus headed into the day visitor line. We were thrilled to walk up to a well staffed desk and found a few toys and coloring sheets for the kids to enjoy while we checked in. However, check in took nearly half an hour. We left confused why we couldn’t get into our room earlier than the 4pm check in time, despite it being ready (apparently we needed to arrange this at least 24 hours in advance!?!).
Further, we were given wrist bands but received no explanation of how they worked, where to store our luggage, how to get towels and were not given a map. In the 30 min of check in I had the opportunity to read a few of the information signs and knew the number on our bands corresponded to a locker number in the changing area. The lockers were large enough to accommodate our rolling carry-on suitcases and our bookbag. (We did leave our travel crib with the front desk since it did not fit inside the locker.)
The front desk service continued to be problematic throughout out stay. When we attempted to return our towels we were informed that our band was not connected to a credit card therefore we could not return the towels. The towel return place (the book shop) could not tell us how to fix the band issue. We had to go to the front desk to resolve the credit card issue and then back to the towel return to get our deposit. The credit card problem was caused by the check in process, where the employee failed to put our credit card on file. Honestly, it was a bit of a mess.
The facilities are quite amazing. They have created an environment where you both forget and are amazed that you are in an airship hangar. The air temperature is warm and pleasant. We changed right away into our swimsuits and were quite comfortable walking around in them.
We explored the rainforest walk where there are a few animals – flamingos, turtles, snakes, lizards, peacocks and fish – to view. The rainforest path winds its way up a false hill in the center of the hangar.
The rainforest walk dumped us out into the Tropical Sea area of the waterpark. The Tropical Sea has a large sand area for kids to play in as well as a larger pool made to look like an island sea. The water here is the coolest in the resort and about chest deep for most adults. There are two small water slides coming out of an old ship that both the boys could enjoy with someone waiting to catch them. You are welcome to use your floats or life jackets in this area.
The Tropical Sea is host to the children’s water play area. The water is shallow and warm. The boys loved running around here and it was certainly the easiest place to manage them both. The water was quite warm and there were a variety of splash park items to enjoy.
The hangar was modified to allow about 80% of all the sunlight inside. This helps the plants grow and allows you to get a natural tan inside year round. If you come in the summer, you’re going to want to apply some sunscreen! There are a ton of chairs available to bask in the warm sun. I can imagine this is very popular in the winter months.
Next we headed out to the new Amazonia area located outside the airship hangar. You can actually get into the water right inside the hangar and swim your way out. Unfortunately the whitewater slide, the hallmark of the newly opened area, was closed for repairs. Plenty of people were enjoying the other outside pools and slides, although it was a bit too cold for us to try out the outdoor area with the kids.
In addition to more pools and the whitewater waterslide, there is a waterslide that is open to all ages, a mat that you can try to run on over the water and a children’s “splash park.”
We did spend some time on a great playground built into an old shipping container. The boys played happily while we sat on lawn chairs enjoying the comparatively cool air. (The hangar is kept quite warm.)
We quickly realized lunch had come and gone while we were playing, leaving the kids hungry. O in particular was quite thirsty. We hit the first restaurant we saw and asked for some water. There was quite a bit of back and fourth as they couldn’t sell us tap water. They sent us to get bottled water, which we never found. We ended up just heading to a different restaurant where we were given a cup for the soda fountain.
The kids play area easily soaked up an hour of our day. The large climbing structure has tons of fun bridges and tunnels to pass through. It was a bit advanced for our two year old, but the four year old was in heaven.
There were two ball pits that turned out to be more O’s thing. A traditional plastic ball pit with small slides into the pit and a foam ball pit with balls that fly into the air through various means. There is also a large Lego brick play area. H convinced a few older kids and dads to help him build a giant castle complete with furniture.
The highlight for H though were the cars that can be driven on a track that circumnavigates the playground. (The cars cost €1 for 4 minutes (approximately 2 laps) and kids have to be at least 3 to drive.) O was also obsessed with these cars, but not old enough to drive them.
There are also bumper boats (also €1) that are quite fun. O and I got stuck in our boat and had to be tugged back in when my boat unexpectedly died at the end of our ride. The water guns on the boats have been disabled, which was a bonus for me.
There are two hot air balloons you can pay to ride. One is tethered, holds 1-2 people and goes nearly to the top of the dome. The other is free floating and is tethered to a guy who walks you around. We didn’t take a ride, but the children were endlessly amused by the balloons’ presence around the resort. A bit of the park including another small boat ride was under construction during our visit. There is also miniature golf (€5). We never saw anyone on the course, which looked standard, no particularly fun features.
Our favorite pool was the Lagoon. This pool has two large tunnel water slides that empty into it. We were able to take H into them on our laps. It also has a variety of “changing” features. Every few minutes a new set of bubbles will pop up, or faucets to sit under will turn on. The two large waterfalls also empty into this pool. It is the warmest of the pools (think 32 Celsius) and literally felt like bath water. I was in heaven in here.
There is an indoor water tower holding four waterslides. The kids were allowed to ride the yellow slide and the green one (not pictured) on our laps. You have to be 7 years old to ride the others or ride alone. Jeff had some trouble on the slides. He went so slowly on the yellow slide he had to push himself down the slide. The best we can guess, his swimming trunks are to blame. I did not have that problem. I came whizzing down the slides such that both kids only wanted to ride with me. Jeff did ride the blue slide on his own and came flying out the bottom! I took a turn on the red slide with an inner-tube, on my own, and enjoyed it but it was much too fast for the little ones. The entire half hour we spent on the waterslides was full of laughter from the kids.
Jeff checked out the sauna and spa facilities after the kids were asleep in the room. These facilities are included in all overnight packages. The spa is bathing suit free, as is customary in Europe. There are seven different saunas to wander through.
The rooms are scattered around the property. We found them tucked just about everywhere. There are a variety of options including indoor tents, which were getting a refresh during our visit. You can check out all the different options here.
At four, on the dot, our wristbands opened our room door. We had a family room in the “castle area” of the property near the entrance.
Our family room was large and had plenty of space.
There is a small room with bunk beds for the kids and a main room with a large bed and ample storage space for us.
The bathroom was large and had plenty of space to hang our wet towels. The water was warm and we had a great shower head. You’ll want to bring your own conditioner and shampoo as there is just the European all-in-one soap container on the wall.
The floor is tile and can get wet/sandy so we were mindful to try not to track too much back into the room. Additionally, the room was quite loud early in the evening. Randomly through the evening we could hear construction and cleaning noise as if it was being done in our room. It miraculously did not wake the children.
Check out is at 11am, which was perfect for our schedule allowing us to have some fun pool time in the morning. Only the Tropical Sea is open in the morning, with the other pools and slides open at 9am or 10am (depending on location). Our wrist bands were good until midnight so we could have stayed another full day.
You cannot bring your own food into the facility, though if you are camping you could return to the campground for meals. You’re pretty much stuck with the options at the park, luckily there is plenty to choose from most of which pleasantly surprised us. Prices are a bit higher than in the city, but you don’t feel price gouged. You can see all the food options here.
Lunch was rushed and we honestly were just trying to get food into the kids. We hit the self service cafeteria option (Mondial Food Court) and split a salad and a bratwurst w/ fries platter (schnitzel, pizza and burgers were also available) between the four of us. The food was good and hot. Nothing particularly special. Drinks come in reusable cups that can be returned for a deposit.
Dinner was a whole different story. We went to the Asian Wok House, a sit down restaurant where the food is made by two chefs in an open kitchen. The food exceeded all expectations. The menu is limited, with several meat and veggie options to be served with rice or pasta. Jeff ordered a rice dish with chicken, I had a vegetable Thai pasta. We also ordered the spring rolls and half a mango (from the desert menu) for the kids. We literally ate every bite.
Breakfast was included in our hotel stay and was a delicious buffet with something for everyone. You won’t be disappointed.
We also grabbed some frozen yogurt before heading back by train into Berlin. The froyo is a fill your own including all the toppings and was a nice way to end our visit at Tropical Islands.
We were guests of Tropical Islands and received a promotional rate for our stay in return for this review. All opinions are, of course, my own.