Northwest Puerto Rico is the surf capital of the Caribbean with year-round waves that rival those of Hawaii. San Germán, on the other hand, is in the southwest of the island and some ten miles from the coast.
Since the city can’t go to the waves, the waves have been brought to the city in the shape of the Surf ‘n’ Fun Waterpark.
Damien Morales, a driving force behind the project, spoke to Blooloop about creating a destination waterpark in Puerto Rico’s second-oldest city.
Morales graduated in 1998 as a Civil Engineer from UPR-Mayaguez Campus, a well-known engineering college, and worked on several construction projects related to residential, banking and commercial developments in Puerto Rico.
In 2004, he embarked on a public service career with the former governor, Sila María Calderón, and in 2005 became an influential officer in the Mayor’s administration. During this time he developed the Municipal Planning and Project Management Office in charge of all the major infrastructure projects in San Germán.
Visiting IAAPA Turned an Idea to a Project
Like all municipalities in Puerto Rico, San Germán is administered by a mayor, and it was the current mayor, Isidro Negrón, who in 2009 first had the idea of developing a recreational area with a splash and kids’ zone on three acres of municipal land.
After numerous meetings and many months of planning, the original idea turned into a major project when Morales and Mayor Negrón visited the 2010 IAAPA Expo.
“As we visited some water parks around the island and in the US, and contacted a number of possible vendors, our plans started to grow as a Municipal Enterprise, ” says Morales.
As they researched the planning, development, construction and marketing of a water park as an economic and touristic project for the Municipality, the idea grew from a 3-acre recreation area to a 21-acre major tourist attraction.
According to Morales, from the outset the park was designed to cater for 5, 000 visitors daily with an expected 281, 000 visitors annually over 191 scheduled days.
After a month of operation, 60, 000 visitors had attended the park. During school term-time, the water park opens at weekends, holidays and special events.
A Variety of Unique Wet and Dry Attractions
Attracting the leisure dollar is always a challenge, but the Surf ’n’ Fun Waterpark has much in its favour: an impressive range of both wet and dry attractions, competitive prices and excellent security. As Morales points out, it is also ideally located within easy reach of the soft sand, blue water and palm trees of Porta del Sol’s beaches at the west of the island, as well as the shopping malls, tourist area and hospitality facilities.
“The variety of attractions, some of which are unique in the Caribbean, plus our range of food and beverages, our surf shop and two party and meeting-rooms, make our waterpark an excellent choice for the visitors, and, when they have visited once, guarantees they will come back.”
One of its key attractions is the Double Flowrider – the first in Puerto Rico. This gives local inhabitants, as well as the tourists, a chance to surf without travelling to Rincon, Dunes, Montones or – for beginners – Punta Higuero.
Additional facilities include rock climbing, two sand volleyball courts, a six-lane mat-racer water slide, a thunder cruise water slide, a real sand area with a wave pool, a lazy river complete with lily pad pool, a 12 platform interactive play structure, a bungee dome, bumper boats and water wars.
Arihant, international manufacturer of waterpark and playground equipment, is responsible for the installation of the Water Activity Play System, a multi-level water play structure for all ages, comprising 12 platforms and multiple slides at different levels, sprinklers, water jets and a dumping bucket which splashes into the pool. The company also installed the green and white Crazy Cruise float slide, and the six-lane mat racing slide.
“Arihant has been a great partner in the development of our park, and the play structure is the biggest of its kind in the Caribbean. It is the centre of all attractions, visited by thousands of users. It makes a first impression, and has the ‘wow’ factor.”
Surf ’n’ Fun Waterpark is considered a prime destination as a tourism attraction in the Porta del Sol region, due, in part, to the year-round great climate, but also, says Morales, because visitors soon discover that the park’s offering is greater than expected – and return frequently.
“Surf ‘n’ Fun and the west region is going through a great tourism development that will highlight its offer for visitors.”
There are plans to add further installations to the park, and construction will begin next month on two turning slides, one open closed tube, and a 700 foot zip-line crossing from one side of the water park to the other.
For the moment, they are concentrating on the construction of a themed entrance.
“We are having a great weather, at 93°at the moment. We have started the monthly night events from 7pm to 2 am, bringing well known Latin artists and the famous food trucks.
“The park is also opening from Monday to Thursday from 3pm to 7pm just for Flowrider’s surfing machine.
“Yesterday we came to an agreement with four hotels to bring special prices to our guests.
“For me, the planning and development of Surf ‘n Fun Water Park in San Germán, and the responsibility of managing a 26.6 million budget and making this project an environmentally friendly one has been the most gratifying and challenging of experiences.”
Of the future, he says:
“My new goal is to develop a major gastronomical concept in the colonial area and a hotel near to the water park facilities making San Germán, besides the second-oldest city in Puerto Rico, one with the best tourist offer.”
Images kind courtesy Surf ‘n’ Fun Waterpark.