The Best SeaWorld San Diego Rides – Guide to all the Top Rides at SeaWorld San Diego

Once one of the most popular Theme Parks in the United States, SeaWorld San Diego has been through some tough times of late. The public mood has shifted on the ethics of keeping marine mammals in captivity so the droves of people flocking to see the Shamu, Orca shows have plummeted. The once giant of entertainment spectacular fall from grace, perpetuated largely by the release of the Blackfish film led to a change of tack from the Park.

Orca Shows would no longer be the main attraction of the park and instead, a sustained series of rides opening was scheduled. heralding the transition from Autatic Marine Park to an ocean-based theme park. This has already been successfully achieved over in SeaWorld Orlando which houses some of the best riders in the States however there was a lot of work to be done at San Diego, This started with the addition of Manta, Electric Eel, then Tidal Twister, and the soon to be Emporer. This is in addition to a good number of existing attractions and rides already at the park making the line-up ideal for a really fun day out. This Guide takes a look at the Best SeaWorld San Diego Rides so you can see what awaits you at this Iconic SoCal Attraction.

The Best SeaWorld San Diego Rides

There is more to SeaWorld San Diego than Rides

While the Park has fallen out of fashion of late due to the outcry over the Orca Shows there still is a lot to love about this marine-based theme park apart from just Rides. We take a deep look at everything SeaWorld has to offer in our Full SeaWorld Review.

The Orca Shows are still present, however in a much more muted and less showy experience, while several other shows run through the day such as Dolphin, Sealion, Otter Presentations, and Evening Fireworks Shows. There are also a host of incredible Aquariums filled with some of the most incredible Sea-Life from around the globe.

We actually still prefer the Marine-based attractions of the park to the Rides, but the Line-up is getting stronger and stronger and there are some really top Rides now available at the park. We take a look at these and let you know which are the best and which you can Skip.

Thrill Rides:

1 – Electric Eel

  • Type – LSM Launch Coaster – Premier Rides, Sky Rocket II
  • Duration – 55 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 54 In
  • Average Queue time – 5 mins – 60 Mins
  • Skip The Line – YES + from $25
  • Additional Info – Multi-Launch coaster, topping out at 62Mph and 150ft, Tallest and Fastest Coaster in San Diego.

The Electric Eel is currently Sea Worlds’ premier ride attraction. The Tallest and Fastest Roller Coaster in the park. The Ride dominates the skyline for quite a distance and is certainly an imposing Ride Structure. The Ride was added as the first stage of an aggressive expansion designed to help turn the park around.

The Ride certainly lives up to its billing and is a really good white knuckle thrill ride. The Ride is a Launched Coaster of the same family as Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The TRack runs in a loop and is launched multiple times to achieve the 62mph needed to get up the first hill. The means the trains thunder through the station several times in a really intimidating fashion for the riders waiting in the queue line.

Once up the Launch hill, the train is now moving really slowly as it enters the heartline roll, 150ft above the ground. This is a heartstopping roll as the low speed and huge drop really are terrifying. There is a lot of air between you and the ground and not a lot seemingly holding you in place!

Once out of the roll the car enters a non-inverting loop and delivers you back to the station. The ride is only 55 seconds long but it’s a thrilling and fun-filled time. The speed height and terrifying roll all add up to a world-class thrill ride worthy of any park!

Out only criticism is the ride through-put. at quiet times the ride has almost no queue but with only 700 riders an hour throughput it does not take long before the queue would become unbearable. At current visitor levels, this is no issue but if the park begins to recapture its past then this could spell trouble. The theme is also very weak, apart from the name there is nothing oceanic about the ride, it sits in a wide-open empty space and is really just a bland steel rollercoaster.

Fortunately, it has more than enough thrill to make up for this and is a great first step to getting Sea World back to the top! Easily the best ride in the park and one of the best thrill rides on the west coast!

2 – Manta

  • Type – Twin Launch Coaster – Mack
  • Duration – 1:55 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 48 In
  • Average Queue time – 15 mins – 60 Mins
  • Skip The Line – Yes $14.99
  • Additional Info – Twin Launch coaster, covering 2,835ft at over 42Mph.

The Manta was the First of the large Casters installed as part of the Sea World Resurgence. In fact, this coaster was not installed as a response to the Blackfish film and was always on the billing as part of the park’s natural upgrades and improvement process. The Ride is impossible to ignore as it twists and turns around almost the whole park! With no inversions, no big drops, and a shorter minimum ride height the caster is more fun than thrill and appeals to most demographics in the park.

Whereas the Electric Eels intimidating appearance and boisterous display of might as it thunders through the loading station, has more timid guests tuning and running ( literally ) The Manta has a much more inclusive feel.

The Manta is still a really good coaster, the launches feel a lot faster than the measly 42mph advertised and the track layout is really fun with plenty of steep banks and good airtime. There are strict restrictions on building heights in the San Diego Bay Area and the ride was designed to overcome these while still being exciting and thrilling. We think it is a triumph of engineering.

The Ride Starts off indoors with a short Preride Show before firing you out of the underwater cave Shotgun style (very reminiscent of a Dive Site we frequent in Maui, Hawaii). As you accelerate into the bright California Sunshine the rides banks hard then over a series of Air time Hills, head slicers, and other tight banks. After the ride begins to run out of steam you reach the second Launch that again thrusts the train off over another section of banks and hills. It is far from the scariest ride but its long length, smooth ride, and fun ride elements make it are a really fun experience. Younger kids and less brave adults can still jump on and ride as the focus is on fun rather than white knuckles.

It still offers some real thrills though, and probably ranks a 3 out of 5 on the scare rating!

3 – Tidal Twister

  • Type – Unique figure of 8 looping coaster
  • Duration – 2:00 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 48 In
  • Average Queue time – 5 mins – 40 Mins
  • Skip The Line – Yes $14.99
  • Additional Info – Dissapointing Flat Ride, up to 8 inversions, often broken

Tidal Twister was the next in line of new attractions in the Re-Vamp and came with much fanfare. Promotional imagery and Marketing promised a revolutionary Coaster with high energy thrills and incredible loops and turns. The track looked ultra-futuristic and a cross between a Roller Coaster a Monorail and a Maglev Train.

The Company responsible, Skyline Attractions, also produced the Harly Quinn Crazy Coaster at Six Flags, Discovery Kingdom, which is of a very similar style. The Skywarp Ride system caused some big waves in the Themepark world for the revolutionary concept it was employing.

What was delivered was essentially garbage! The Harly Quinn Crazy Coaster was universally hated by the few that got to ride it between breakdowns, and the ride was unceremoniously removed 2 years later, The Tidal Twister has faired slightly better, it’s not quite as noisy, rough, or prone to breakdowns, but it is still pretty bad. The worst of it is what was delivered compared to the promotional hype. The ultra-futuristic Roller Coaster Hybrid was basically a glorified Fairground flat Ride…Actually, it’s not even that glorified, the cars are propelled by car tires no less!!!

Let’s BackTrack a little, the ride is actually ok, in fact, it’s quite a good fairground style flat ride. The Ride takes guests on a short figure of 8 track in the highly overengineered ride cars. the first crossover goes over a small airtime hill, and the second does a zero-g roll. So the ride only offers a single inversion, but as you will do several laps you get up to 4 Zero-G rolls per sequence. The Airtime hill only offers minor negative G and only for the fastest passes, which top out around 30mph. The Ride also has two Trains, but only one can load and unload per sequence. This means you get two sequences per ride! one forwards one Backwards (so don’t worry about which way your seat faces)

Overall this makes the ride a fairly fun flat ride attraction and definitely worth queueing as long as the line is short..treat it as you would any Fairground ride as opposed to a theme park attraction!

Our big issues with it really are the disappointment compared to what was promised. We are not sure if SeaWorld and SixFlags were also duped a little by the firm as large sums were spent to bring the ride to the Park and it has provided nothing but poor to moderate reviews and a large amount of downtime!

The Ride is currently closed and we would not be surprised to see SeaWorld Follow Six Flags lad and consign the SkyWarp to the Garbage bin!

? – Emperor – Coming 2022

  • Type – B&M Dive Coaster
  • Duration – 1:10 Secs TBC
  • Height Restriction – TBA
  • Average Queue time – TBA
  • Skip The Line – TBA
  • Additional Info – Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Coaster
Emperor San Diego

The latest ride announced in the Park resurgence is the Emperor Roller Coaster. After the disappointment of Tidal Twister, SeaWorld has taken the plunge and gone with a coaster that is all but guaranteed to be a Sucess. They have achieved this by attaining the services of B&M Probably the best Roller Coaster manufacturer in the World! SeaWorld has three B&M Coasters over in Orlando, with Mako, in particular regularly attaining rave reviews and high ranks in the Golden Ticket Awards.

The Park has opted for a Dive Coaster, one of B&M’s rarer installations, and one of the most thrilling. The Ride Cars will teeter, 150ft above the ground, before plunging vertically towards the terra firma, reaching 63mph before completing the 2400ft track length featuring 4 inversions including a 123ft Dive Loop.

Of course, we have to wait until March 2022 to see if the ride lives up to the hype but we very much doubt it can possibly disappoint as much as Tidal Twister! B&M occasionally makes bad coasters, rarely, but occasionally. This will be the only dive coaster on the west coast and should be a big draw for thrill-seekers.

4 – Journey to Atlantis

  • Type – Water Coaster – Mack
  • Duration – 5:25 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 42 In
  • Average Queue time – 5 mins – 40 Mins
  • Skip The Line – Yes $14.99
  • Additional Info – Hybrid Ride, Roller Coaster elements mixed with a traditional water ride, special effects and large drops.

Journey to Atlantis can be hard to describe, and this is because it is basically two rides in one. The Ride Starts off as your typical boat drop ride. The Boats climb up the lift hill before dropping down a 60ft flume into a pool. Riders will get moderately soggy here but it’s not a particularly soaking experience. The boats then carry on a merry sail around a dogleg while you enjoy watching others plunging down the flume. The Ride then enters the Atlantis Tower and things take a turn.

The Ride now begins its Dark Ride Element as the boat is lifted up the 95ft tower ready for the Rollercoaster section. The ride plunges down a 70ft banked turn before climbing a small hill for another smaller backed drop before splashing back down in another water pond. This impact develops a little more splashback than the first and riders can expect a good level of drenching, especially in the front of the boat.

It is undoubtedly a fun and pretty unique experience. The Initial Boat section is pretty standard. The Drop is big but not horribly so and is definitely family-friendly. The second roller coaster section we find more unnerving as the big cumbersome boats really do not belong on a roller coaster track!

It is not a stand-out attraction but is well worth riding and really quite fulfilling for rollercoaster enthusiasts due to its unique nature.

5 – Shipwreck Rapids

  • Type – River Rapids – intamin
  • Duration – 3:30 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 42 In
  • Average Queue time – 5 mins – 20 Mins
  • Skip The Line – Yes $14.99
  • Additional Info – You will get wet!

There is nothing better than a good river rapids/raft ride and Shipwreck Rapids is one of the average ones, unfortunately. The ride is your Typical 9 seat Rubber ring raft, floating down a turbulent river. The Raft spins and bumps its way down the watercourse occasionally hitting a breaking wave and showering the occupants with, often quite chilly, river water.

It is great fun, even if it is only an average take on the experience and really a Themepark is just not complete without a rapids. It is certainly a wet one as well. While there are several sag points that can drench certain sides of the raft the biggest spills come from the waterfalls and jets that make staying dry an impossibility!

While the ride is pretty average the theming is really good, especially for SeaWorld, whose theming tends to be pretty lapse. The Ride really lives up to its name and several large actual ships are marooned around the perimeter of the ride, these make for interesting backdrops during the less exciting parts of the ride.

So yeah, it’s not the best river rapids, but it’s not a bad one, and at least you won’t get as wet as you will at the Orca Shows.


Extra Cost Rides:

While we find it pretty abhorrent that SeaWorld Charges extra for some rides they are both more experienced than rides. These can easily be missed, but they are both there for the full SeaWorld experience.

Bayside Skyride

  • Type – Bayside Cable Car ride
  • Duration – 6 mins
  • Height Restriction – None
  • Average Queue time – 0 mins – 10 Mins
  • Additional FEE! – $6
Bayside SkyRide San Diego

The Bayside Skyrise is a leisurely cable car ride across Perex Cove out to the old “Sea World Atlantis Restaurant” ( long closed) and back again. The Skyride is one of the original attractions from the park’s opening and has been wowing guests ever since 1967.

The Cars glide along the cables slowly offering fantastic views of the bay area. The gondolas are open top and a bit rickety and swingy, making this potentially a pretty frightening experience. The Cable run is particularly long and dangles riders up to 80ft above the bay, it makes for a stunning birdseye perspective as you soar over the boats and yachts harbored up in the cove.

We think it would be one of the nicest rides in the park but the $6 fee really irks us!

SkyTower

  • Type – River Rapids – intamin
  • Duration – 6 Mins
  • Height Restriction – None
  • Average Queue time – 0 mins – 10 Mins
  • Additional FEE! $6
SkyTower San Diego

Another relaxed Lesuire ride, this time straight up in the air via the 320-foot rotating Skytower. Another very early attraction, although gives a modern makeover in 2007, the Ride capsule very slowly rises u the tower, gently rotating as it goes give occupants wonderful 360° panoramic views of the Mission Bay area.

Again, we just fail to see why there is an added charge, but you do get an incredible view of the bay and the park. It’s especially cool to look down on the Dolphins and the Orca from this stunning vantage point.

Overall

The next few rides are all kiddie rides so are never going to be make-or-break as far as making SeaWorld a stand-out park, but we wanted to include them for completeness. Skip to our summary here


Family Rides:

Riptide Rescue

  • Type – Spinning Flat Ride
  • Duration – 1:15 Secs
  • Height Restriction – 45 In
  • Average Queue time – 5 mins – 40 Mins
  • Skip The Line – No

A basic Fairground style spinning ride. The Ride Vehicles are themed to represent Rescue Boats and the ride lifts and tilt to add extra movement to the spin. Overall it’s a pretty tame ride but will appeal to younger kids not ready to take the plunge on the more thrilling attractions at the park.

Sesame Street’s Bay of Play

The Sesame Streets BAy of Paly is the all-New Kids Zone themed around Sesame Street. There are several rides available here along with meet and greets for several Sesame Street Characters. The Age Range is definitely matched to the intended Viewership of the show, but we all have fond memories of the cast and it’s cool to see the characters whatever age you are, but maybe leave the rides to the kids!

There is also the Big Bird Bistro (Snacks only), Storytime shows, and the Sesame Street “Let’s Play Together Show”

Abby’s Seastar Spin

The classic Tea-cups ride, in a very sedate and small child-friendly format.

Elmo’s Flying Fish

Probably the best Kids Ride in the area, the Flying Fish is a Dumbo-style spinning ride where the riders can control the up and down movement of the car. It’s still a very gentle and slow ride but the interactivity is really appealing to most kids. The varied Elmo-themed carriages are all a bit odd though!

Oscar’s Rockin’ Eel

This is a slow and steady Tugboat ride. A bit like a Pirate ship but less exciting, that also spins as the boat rocks back and forth.

Ocean Explorer

Kids realm featuring a number of rides and playground equipment. Like Sesame Street it caters to a very young audience.

Aqua Scout

Submarine-themed spinning ride with fun bouncing action on the Submarine-themed cars. Very sedate ride for the very young.  

Octarock

A very small Swingin ride that does not get very far off the ground, again a great ride for the very young.

Sea Dragon Drop

This drop tower is really small and the drops are very sedate but still steps things up slightly from the Aqua Scout and Octarock, but only just.

Tentacle Twirl

This Swing Ride is actually a few sizes large than the above and almost qualifies as a kid’s thrill ride. It spins moderately fast and has a fair amount of exposure under the swings, definitely a step up from the real kiddy rides.

Overall – Is SeaWorld Ready to Stand up as a Ride Based ThemePark?

The Line-up is looking pretty strong now, or at least it will come March 2022 when Emperor is launched. It will then have 3 strong coasters along with a good few ancillary rides to back up the line-up.

This is still a few short of rivaling the best West Coast Themeparks, Both Six Flags (Discovery Kingdom and Magic Mountain) have a good few more top coasters per park and even Knottsberry Farm would outrank it in terms of ride count. But it would still out-ride Disney’s California Adventure and Universal Studios!

If the Park can add two more good rides, maybe a modern replacement for Wild Arctic and another Killer Coaster it really would start looking like a top ThemePark! It is a shame Tidal Twister didn’t work out as it could have been only one ride off. And it remains to be seen how good Emperor really is as this could tip the balance even more into SeaWorld’s Favour if B&M pulls off another top10 coaster that we all know they are capable of! We would love a HyperCoaster or some such, but the Panning restrictions are not going to allow it for now.

However, we really cannot stress enough that you should not view SeaWorld as a Ride-Only Theme Park! There is so much to see and do there with the countless animal attractions that rides are only part of the experience. But as the Park adds more and more attractions the proposition just gets better and better.

We can safely say that if the Park finally condemned the Orca Shows to the Dustbin of Ethically Dubious History we think the park would easily still be worth the entry fee especially with the huge myriad of other Marine Attractions housed at the Park.

Check out our Full SeaWorld Review here

Or if you are sold on the Rides Alone then have a look at our Discount Ticket Page where we show you how to get the best prices on SeaWorld Tickets.

Discount Sea World Tickets

Have Your Say

What are your favorite Rides at SeaWorld? What did you make of the Electric Eel? How did you find Tidal Twister? Are you looking forward to Emperor? Or are you more into the Animal attractions at the Park? Whatever you have to say just let rip in the comments and if you have any questions just fire away!

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