Top 10 Roller Coasters at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Over the past few years, SeaWorld's theme parks have been reinventing themselves. After spending decades focusing on building immersive exhibits, family-friendly rides, and theatrical shows highlighting the amazing connection between humans and animals, SeaWorld's direction changed and the parks started adding numerous roller coasters that continue to solidify their position as some of the most thrilling theme parks in the United States.

Since today is National Roller Coaster Day, we thought it would be a great idea to identify the top 10 roller coasters at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Instead of simply ranking them from best to "worst" (not that there are any bad roller coasters at either park, of course), we decided to take a different direction and point out the area where each of these roller coaster shines, including theming, special features, and more.

As a reminder, these rankings are based solely on the opinions of our team, so your mileage may vary.

BEST AIRTIME: Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
There's no denying it: Mako is an absolutely relentless roller coaster when it comes to airtime. While it may not appear to be too intense given the lack of inversions, don't let that superficial thought fool you!

Located in the Shark Wreck Reef themed area (which received an extensive makeover before and after the roller coaster opened), Mako features a lightly-themed queue that leads to what was formerly a backstage area of the park. There, Guests board one of the attraction's massive trains that sends them on a wild ride that seemingly never ends. In fact, while the actual ride time is relatively short, this is the longest, tallest (200 ft), and fastest (73 mph, which is three miles faster than the VelociCoaster!) roller coaster in Orlando!

MOST ICONIC: Kumba (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
When comparing the two parks, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay can certainly claim to have more iconic roller coasters than SeaWorld Orlando (that may not be entirely fair, though, as Busch Gardens already featured plenty of roller coasters before SeaWorld Orlando started focusing on adding more rides). In our opinion, the most iconic roller coaster at either park is Kumba.

True, Kumba may not be the fastest, tallest, most thrilling, or event the most impressive attraction the park has; yet, this older attraction continues to be regarded as an all-time favorite. In fact, earlier this year there were rumors pointing to the possibility of Kumba being removed, and fans were absolutely livid. Things got so heated that the park had to actually address those rumors and reassure fans that Kumba is here to stay (at least, for the foreseeable future).

What makes this coaster so iconic? In addition to being a genuinely fun ride, Kumba features some amazing elements that make it very photogenic, causing even nor-riders to marvel at the beauty of this attraction. Also, this is one of the park's oldest roller coaster, meaning that multiple generations of fans may have been able to experience it together. It's hard to beat memories created with our loved ones.

BEST THEMING: Cheetah Hunt (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
It's hard to deny that theming is becoming increasingly less prominent at SeaWorld's theme parks; yet, many of the attractions that opened a few years back still feature exquisite theming that should be highlighted.

The roller coaster that absolutely shines in this category is Cheetah Hunt. Located in the Morocco themed area of the park, the coaster is surrounded by detailed ruins, an amazing landscape, and a cheetah exhibit. The coaster station also includes a variety of details that further solidify its African theme, and the ride path soars above the Serengeti Plain and interacts with themed elements - including rockwork - that were formerly featured in the beloved Rhino Rally attraction (which we still miss). Even the exposed supports of the roller coaster have a unique look that make them stand out.

The introduction of Manta signaled the start of a new direction for SeaWorld Orlando. While the park opened a variety of incredible animal exhibits and live shows up until that moment, SeaWorld still featured very few rides. When Manta officially opened, Guests instantly fell in love with it because of its unique layout, its intensity, and the over-the-top theming of its queue and the attached animal exhibit.

Since then, SeaWorld has been regularly adding more roller coasters to its ever-growing list of rides, to the point that the park is now officially recognized as the "Coaster Capital of Orlando."

Even Guests who do not wish to experience the roller coaster can enjoy the amazing Manta aquarium, as the exhibit was built so that the aquatic animals could be seen from both the indoor queue area and a separate space found on the opposite side. It's an unforgettable experience to see manta rays glide over your head or be surrounded by a 360-degree aquarium!

The roller coaster itself is also a very solid thrill ride; in fact, this may very well be one of the most intense attractions on this list thanks to the fact that this is a flying coaster (the position of your body changes when the ride starts, causing Guests to feel very unique sensations) and due to the presence of a pretzel loop. The water feature found near the end of the ride also contributes to unique experience offered by Manta.

BEST WATER FEATURE: SheiKra (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
When thinking about roller coasters, most people point out their height, speed, and thrill level. That said, great roller coasters can also provide enjoyment to non-riders, just like in the case of one of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's most iconic attractions: SheiKra.

According to the park's official website, this amazing dive coaster climbs 200 feet to the edge of a 90-degree drop that inches you mercilessly over the edge—and stops. Then, riders dive straight down into a 70 mph roller coaster whirlwind with an Immelmann loop, a second dive into an underground tunnel, and a splashdown finale that drenches SheiKra fans waiting to catch their own piece of the fun.

That last portion of the description shows how this attraction can truly be enjoyed (at least to some extent) by Guests of all ages. Thrill-seekers will undoubtedly love riding this roller coaster, while other visitors will have fun getting drenched by the ride's splashdown. Even those not wishing to get wet can still enjoy watching other Guests have fun with this particular water feature!

MOST UNIQUE: Tigris (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
It's not a secret that we are not big fans of Tigris; that said, we were incredibly surprised by the intensity of this roller coaster, and it's undeniable that its layout is very unique. The fact that the attraction takes up very little space is another reason why it deserves to be on this list, as it's usually hard to build a good roller coaster with a small footprint.

Tigris also succeeds in creating a lot of excitement for Guests waiting to board the train, as they can see other riders going back and forth as part of one of the more unique elements of this roller coaster. And let's not forget about the intense inversion that slowly rotates Guests at the highest point of the attraction!

BEST QUEUE: Cobra's Curse (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
We are huge fans of Cobra's Curse. This roller coaster has everything a theme park fan wants: a great layout, fantastic theming, unique features, a clear storyline, an indoor queue (after all, it's Florida!), a smooth ride experience, and cool special effects.

From the moment Guests step into the queue, they are immediately immersed in the storyline of the attraction thanks to the presence of props and special effects that literally bring them to life. Then, once they board the ride vehicle, these "explorers" are transported to the highest point of the ride via an elevator where they will be face-to-face with a massive cobra statue. Finally, the most exciting part of the ride begins, as riders fly past rockwork, ruins, and more. It's an excellent roller coaster that's more family-friendly in nature.

It is our hope that these parks will introduce more Mack roller coasters in the near future, as they can be a ton of fun.

BEST FAMILY COASTER: Sand Serpent (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
Even though Cobra's Curse is our favorite family-friendly roller coaster, it can still be too intense for younger riders; on the other hand, Super Grover's Box Car Derby (SeaWorld Orlando) and Air Grover (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay) can be considered a bit too tame for younger thrill-seekers. As a result, we believe that the Sand Serpent (formerly known as Cheetah Chase) is the best family coaster.

Despite being an off-the-shelf wild mouse, the Sand Serpent features some surprisingly intense elements and quick drops that make it a very fun ride for the entire family. Additionally, the ride could still be improved in the near future by being completely enclosed, so it has the potential of becoming an even better attraction in the coming years.

MOST INTERESTING DESIGN: Ice Breaker (SeaWorld Orlando)
Ice Breaker is SeaWorld Orlando's newest roller coaster. Just like Tigris, the attraction features very minimal theming and similar ride elements; that said, it is still a very popular addition that seems to satisfy Guests who may not be ready to experience more intense roller coasters such as Mako or Iron Gwazi.

But don't be fooled by Ice Breaker's seemingly tame look: this is a very fun, thrilling attraction that starts with one of the most unique roller coaster features. The forward and backward launches add a secondary layer of enjoyment to this ride, merging the sensations felt on flat /shuttle rides like RC Racer with the excitement of a roller coaster.

MOST THRILLING: Iron Gwazi (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
Iron Gwazi needs no introduction. Even though this incredible wooden roller coaster opened just a few months ago, it's already regarded by fans as one of the most intense, thrilling attractions ever created.

In addition to its outrageous speed and amazing features, this attraction features a layout that will satisfy even the most demanding thrill-seekers. In fact, this is the only roller coaster on this list that comes close to (or, according to some, matches) the intensity of VelociCoaster, another incredible roller coaster found at Universal's islands of Adventure.

Originally a dueling wooden coaster slated to be demolished, Iron Gwazi was completely redesigned and improved, bringing this attraction back to life and making it as smooth as it can be. If you love intense, relentless roller coasters, this one is definitely for you!

What do you think about our rankings? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section, if you so wish!

Also, don't forget that SeaWorld Orlando is challenging park Guests to ride all six roller coasters in the park today to celebrate National Roller Coaster Day! Guests who are able to successfully complete the challenge will receive some awesome prizes, including a Quick Que Unlimited pass. Click here to learn more about today's event.
Looking to plan and book an Orlando-area vacation? Contact Destinations with Character Travel Services, LLC., specialists in all things Orlando, including Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld! Destinations with Characters is a Disney EarMarked agency and the official travel agency of Orlando Theme Park News!

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