Swim with Dolphins in Florida: Discovery Cove Review

Swim with dolphins in Florida Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to Discovery Cove. All opinions are my own.

For families looking to swim with dolphins in Florida, spending a day with Discovery Cove in Florida is a great way to do it. Discovery Cove, which is owned by SeaWorld, offers a high-end, all-inclusive resort experience, and guests can choose to swim with dolphins as part of the adventure.

discovery cove review

Discovery Cove Resort

Travelers interested in visiting Discovery Cove should visit the website early and make a reservation. Unlike admission to theme parks, admission to Discovery Cove is limited (to a little over 1000 people) and needs to be booked in advance. Choose your dates and experience (with or without swimming with the dolphins), and then you’ll see rates and availability.

Arrive at Discovery Cove as early as possible (check-in starts at 7:30am) to take advantage of the full experience. Parking is free, and there’s also a complimentary shuttle from SeaWorld Orlando. You’ll have a photo taken for your ID badge and will be given your Dolphin experience time at check in. Then, you can head to the lockers and pick up your complimentary rental gear (wetsuit or vest, dolphin-friendly sunscreen, snorkel, and mask).

Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style at the Laguna Grill, and are included in the cost of admission. Guests can also get complimentary alcoholic beverages, regular beverages, and snacks throughout the day. The food is pretty average – similar to what you’d get on a cruise ship – but is served quickly and efficiently. Once you’ve eaten and have settled in, you have your choice of activities – from the Explorer’s Aviary, The Grand Reef, Serenity Bay, Wind-away River, and the Freshwater Oasis.

Due to my flight arrival time, I didn’t get to Discovery Cove until lunchtime. My dolphin swim time wasn’t until after 3pm, so I started out at the Grand Reef, where I snorkeled for a bit. The water at the Grand Reef is a little chilly – 77 degrees – but once I was in the water for a few minutes it felt comfortable.

Then, I headed to the Wind-away River, which is similar to a lazy river. After grabbing a float, I headed down the river, under the overhead aviary, and through the park. It’s very slow and relaxing, but does have some big drops, so it’s best for someone comfortable in the water. Guests can also walk through the aviary for a more up-close experience.

After the Wind-away River, I checked out the new Freshwater Oasis, where you can see marmosets and otters. The otters are adorable, but are behind glass. You can, however, swim right up to the glass. The marmosets (a very small monkey) are on an island in the center of the oasis.

At that point, it was time for my dolphin experience. After a brief orientation, I headed to the 72 degree dolphin pool. There were eight of us in the group, and we all had the chance to interact with the dolphin a few times. Underwater cameras aren’t allowed in the water, but photographers are there to take your picture (photo CDs, DVDs, and prints are available for an extra charge). The whole experience takes about 30 minutes, but we actually experienced a thunderstorm during our swim, and had to go back to the cabana and wait it out. I think we ended up getting about 45 minutes total with the dolphins – definitely the full experience despite the rain.

So, is Discovery Cove worth the price? If you want to swim with dolphins in Florida, I’d say definitely. Guests also receive complimentary admission to Aquatica and SeaWorld (also Busch Gardens for an additional fee) for a consecutive 14 days, so if those parks are in your plans, it’s a better deal.

To learn more about Discovery Cove, visit their website.

Photo credits: top photo from Discovery Cove, second photo from me

 

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About Jodi Grundig

Jodi Grundig has loved traveling since she was a little girl. She started blogging in 2007 on her popular review site Mom's Favorite Stuff and after doing quite a bit of travel blogging, decided to launch her own travel site. Jodi resides in Massachusetts with her husband, eight-year old son, nine-year old daughter, and Havanese dog.

Comments

  1. Hello Jodi,
    As always I look forward to read your articles on all things Florida as I have vested interest in the Disney Area. I enjoyed reading your article on Discovery Cove though I can’t agree that the money is worth the spend.

    First, I would not recommend this park for families with very small kids as they may or may not enjoy being in the very cold water presented in the Gold Reef. The good part is that they don’t Nickel and Dime you for various things in the park – Parking, food, beverages, snorkel gear and the likes are all free and included in the price.

    The park itself is not a full day attraction. It takes 4-6 hours to cover the park.
    Swim with Dolphins: We wanted to this for a long time for the kids and we had to wait until the kids are old enough as there is an age limit. Now the experience with real “Swim with Dolphins” is VERY much hyped. First the prep and dress-up and orientation takes about 30-45 minutes. Then you enter the pool where dolphins are there and you line-up. A dolphin swims by you and you can touch the dolphin for about 5 seconds. Then you are taken to the middle of the pool (sort of) and you get to hold the dolphin and ‘glide’ to the shore which takes about 15-30 seconds.
    Park Fees: Then depending on the season you are visiting Orlando area, this park tickets may get sold-out well ahead. I don’t recommend spending $300 or so if you can avoid visiting this park in the Holiday Season. So, if you are like me who visit Orlando more often than once in a life-time, you may want to plan this to the time of the year that is considered low season as you will save some serious dollars on the entire family by simply visiting during low season. We were there in Mid-December.

    Photos: They do take photos of you and your family with the dolphin. If you go with a large family, take the smallest package that offers the CD with ALL photos. I found the photos to be very expensive with even the cheapest package with the CD running in to some $150-$200 range with one or two minor add-ons. We were multiple families, so we took the Cheapest Package with the CD option and decided to print them at local store back home at 10 cents per copy.

    In Summary: If you are tiered of all day activities and wanted to spend some hard-earned dollars (average about $300-400 per person after ALL expenses) for a little less than a whole day activity to be able to swim with a dolphin for 15 seconds and touch the same for another 10 seconds, this park is the right option for you. For those who want to get this done with, off-season is the right time if you can work-around.

    • Thanks for your comment! It definitely *is* expensive, and I wish the photos were included in the price (disclosure – although my admission was comped, I paid for the photos myself).

      I agree that the appropriate age is probably 8 or 9 and up. Guests can swim with the dolphins starting at age 6, but I don’t think most 6 year olds could handle it.

      My dolphin experience was definitely different than yours. Our orientation was less than 10 minutes, and we got quite a bit of dolphin interaction. I also think we could spend most of the day there – it does close at 5:30, but I saw many families leaving as it was closing.

  2. Jodi I am so excited that you got to experience Discovery Cove! I was blessed to attend in 2011 around its grand opening and am convinced its one of my favorite gems while visiting Orlando. Not at all a theme park type of experience, I found it to be an oasis of something completely unique and unexpected, educational yet entirely relaxing. In my opinion, worth every penny no matter how you choose to navigate your day. Great post!

  3. Such a cool experience for families that are nuts about animals.

  4. Wow! Swimming with dolphins is one of those bucket list type of adventures and it’s awesome to learn you can do it right in Orlando. It sounds like a very different sort of experience – non-theme-parky and more high end. Very cool! Thanks for sharing all the great info.

  5. That sounds amazing. Swimming with dolphins is definitely on my bucket list!

  6. I’m sure my lil’ dude would love to do this when he’s a little older!

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