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Ever wanted to swim with dolphins or give a shark a belly rub? At Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, you can do all that and more! Keep reading to find out about all the one-of-a-kind adventures you and your family can enjoy at this unique day resort.
Thanks to Discovery Cove for hosting my family for the day. All opinions are 100% my own.
As a top tourist destination, Orlando is known worldwide for it’s theme parks and attractions. However, you won’t find roller coasters and carnival games at Discovery Cove.
At this all inclusive day resort, located just across the street from SeaWorld Orlando, you’ll have the opportunity to swim with dolphins, explore a Grand Reef with thousands of tropical fish, mingle with flamingos and so much more.
Though we knew of of it as a place to swim with dolphins, we were thrilled to find out how much more Discovery Cove has to offer. It was a day packed with fun and adventure in a beautiful, tropical atmosphere.
If you’re thinking about planning a visit with your own family, here’s everything you need to know…
Things To Do In Discovery Cove
From snorkeling among tropical fish in the Grand Reef to floating along a lazy river, Discovery Cove has adventures galore. Let’s start with our favorite…
Swimming With Dolphins
By far the most popular thing to do in Discovery Cove, swimming with the bottlenose dolphins is a can’t miss experience! We knew it would be amazing but it exceeded all our expectations and by the time it was over, we all wanted to take home a pet dolphin!
Our new dolphin friends were beyond adorable! You could tell that they really enjoy interacting with people and clearly loved all the attention! We were in a group of about 10 people and as the dolphin swam past, we were able to reach out and “pet” him.
Discovery Cove’s expert dolphin trainers shared plenty of fun facts and told us more about how the dolphins are cared for. Throughout the session, our dolphin kept us totally entertained with silly tricks, cute dolphin noises and basically just being all around lovable.
Of course, the highlight was the dolphin interaction. If you’ve never had a dolphin kiss, you are totally missing out!
Dolphins also love getting hugs!
For the grand finale, you’ll “swim” with your dolphin. In reality, you’re not actually swimming but the dolphins pull you through the water for about 50 feet or so. It was definitely a cool experience and one I’d definitely do again (every day if I could!).
Because the dolphin encounter is one of the few experiences where you can’t bring a camera or GoPro, there is a photographer on hand to take pictures. It’s up to you if you want to purchase them and you can choose to either get the photo package or just purchase individual shots.
Can’t get enough of the dolphins? You can purchase an additional upgrade to be a dolphin trainer for a day.
Swim With Sharks
Feeling extra adventurous? If so, the swim with sharks experience is for you!
The experience starts with a shark training session from one of Discovery Cove’s expert aquarists. During the session you’ll learn more about the different shark species and what makes them unique. You’ll also be able to interact with a zebra shark, touching, feeding and maybe even giving it a little belly rub!
After that, you’ll put on a snorkel and mask to swim among six different types of sharks, including zebra sharks, bonnetheads, nurse sharks, spotted wobbegongs, Pacific blacktips and Pacific white tips.
I expected to be nervous but I actually felt very comfortable (though had I been in the ocean, I’m sure I would have felt differently). Because it’s a safe, controlled environment, I was really able to enjoy swimming with and observing the sharks. They didn’t seem to mind either…they pretty much acted as if I weren’t even there.
Check out my YouTube video, where I get up close and personal with a zebra shark while interviewing Adrienne Gutierrez, Zoological Supervisor Of Aquarium.
You can also check out my recent Shark Week segment on Sarasota’s Suncoast View.
Go On An Underwater Adventure
Another experience we absolutely loved at Discovery Cove was the SeaVenture. Described as an underwater walking tour, guides outfit you with a dive helmet and lead a small group along the bottom of the “ocean”, where you’re surrounded by tropical fish, stingrays and more.
As you make your way along the reef, you’ll have face to face encounters with a variety of sea creatures, and even hold a couple along the way.
For the grand finale, you’re front and center for meal time, where the fish go into a feeding frenzy all around you.
This unique experience lasted about 45 minutes (which includes a brief training video at the beginning) and besides the dolphin swim, was our favorite experience of the day.
Wander Through The Explorer’s Aviary
Walk through the Explorer’s Aviary to see hundreds of colorful birds in a tropical habitat.
They’re not shy either. If you have a cup of food, they’ll come right to you. This little guy was clearly ready for some lunch!
The aviary contains over 250 exotic birds, some as tall as four feet! While we didn’t see quite that many, we spotted quite a few and my girls really enjoyed trying to find as many as they could.
Do The Flamingo Mingle
You can become part of the flamboyance (yes, that’s really what a group of flamingos is called) by mingling with Caribbean flamingos.
You’ll walk with the flamingos, wade with them in the shallow reef and even feed them. Experts will be there to answer all your questions and you can even have a Discovery Cove photographer capture the memory for you.
Sign up for the Animal Trek to go behind the scenes at Discovery Cove, getting up close and personal with different types of birds and small mammals. Animal experts will take you on a 30 minute tour where you’ll get to meet macaws, a screech owl and more.
Further along on the tour, you’ll be introduced to of the park’s Animal Ambassadors. It could be an anteater, armadillo, kinkajou or maybe even an adorable sloth.
Feed The Rays
Want to interact with stingrays? This experience will have you feeding a variety of rays, from Cownose Rays to large Southern Rays. While you’re there, you’ll feed the thousands of tropical fish as well.
Afterwards you’ll meet some of the park’s smaller animals while an expert aquarist shares how they care for the animals in the Grand Reef and answers all your questions.
Snorkel In The Grand Reef
At some point in the day, you’ll want to grab a mask and snorkel through a coral reef habitat. As you swim among the thousands of tropical fish in the grand reef, you’ll encounter everything from stingrays to colorful angelfish.
When you’re not in the water, you can hang out on the bridge and watch the sharks swimming below. The bonus? You get to bring the snorkel home as a souvenir.
Visit The Freshwater Oasis
Wade through the waters of the Freshwater Oasis and you’ll come face to face mamoset monkeys and playful otters. In addition to viewing the otters from land, you can also watch them from the water.
With just a glass window between you and the otters, you can see them swim, play and even enjoy feeding time. My youngest absolutely loved it and could have stayed here all day long!
Float Along A Lazy River
There’s nothing more relaxing than floating along on a lazy river! The Wind-Away river goes all through the park, flowing past waterfalls, lagoons, beaches and even through the free-flight aviary.
We all thought the cave with the waterfall was pretty cool!
The lush greenery will make you feel as if you’re floating through a tropical paradise. If you want to just chill and enjoy the scenery, a trip or two around the lazy river is the perfect way to do it.
Relax At Serenity Bay
With warm, crystal clear water and cascading waterfalls, Serenity Bay is the perfect place to sit back and relax.
Choose a shady spot under an umbrella or sun yourself in one of the many beach chairs. The only problem is that you may never want to leave!
Where To Eat At Discovery Cove
One advantage to spending a day at Discovery Cove is that unlimited food and drink are included with your admission. That typically tends to be where families spend the most (those snacks add up fast), so not having to worry about that aspect is a nice perk.
Dining At Laguna Grill
Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet style at Laguna Grill. Breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausage links, hash browns, French toast, biscuits, fresh fruit, pastries, yogurt, and more!
Popular entrée choices for the lunch buffets include the Caribbean Spiced Salmon, Grilled Jerk Chicken, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, the Seafood Pasta Salad and Grilled Churrasco Steak.
There were also wraps, salads, fruit and more. The children’s menu offers kid-friendly food like hot dogs, chicken tenders, and macaroni and cheese so that even the pickiest kids should be able to find something they like.
If you get hungry throughout the day, there are also plenty of snacking options. My girls loved the soft pretzels but I was all about the banana Icees! You can also munch on assorted chips, peanuts, snow cones, and more!
Discovery Cove Tickets
One thing that’s really great about a visit to Discovery Cove is that you can choose your own adventure! There are no shortage of things to do and you select the experiences you want in order to create a uniquely perfect day for your family. Before choosing any upgrades, here’s what’s included with your admission ticket:
- Use of the beaches, lagoons and lazy river
- Wet suits and snorkeling gear
- Snorkeling among thousands of fish and rays in the Grand Reef
- Up close animal encounters, including an aviary with tropical birds, flamingos, otters and marmoset monkeys
- Sunscreen, towels and the use of lockers
- Unlimited food and drinks (breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks and even beer & wine)
- Free parking
Once you have a ticket, you can choose from a variety of upgrades.
*Special Note For Florida Residents: If you live in Florida, you’ll can take advantage of a fantastic Florida resident discount. Now through August 7th, they’re offering one of their best special offers yet, giving Florida residents 40% off tickets. After that, they’ll continue to offer their regular 20% discount, another reason to love living in Florida!
Discovery Cove Packages
There are quite a few packages to choose from, which is great because it allows you to customize your day just the way you want it.
Prices start at $224 for the Day Resort Admission (for ages 3+). However, upgrades can include the dolphin swim package or even admission to Discovery Cove’s sister parks like SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica.
In addition to the above packages listed, you the following experiences and amenities. All upgrades are add-on costs and you’ll have to also have a valid park admission for the same day. Upgrades include:
- SeaVenture – Starting at $49 per person (9-person limit per dive, guests must be at least 10 years of age)
- Animal Trek – Starting at $79.00 per person (Only 24 spots available per day, guests must be at least 6 years of age)
- Swim with Sharks – Starting at $129.00 per person (Limited space available daily, guests must be at least 10 years of age).
- Flamingo Mingle – Starting at $59.00 per person (Guests must be at least 6 years of age)
- Ray Feeding – Starting at $59.00 per person (Only 20 spots available per day, guests must be at least 6 years of age)
- Trainer for a Day – Starting at $199.00 each (Only 16 participants daily and participants must be at least 6 years of age)
One thing to keep in mind is that many of experiences have limited space. If there’s something you really don’t want to miss out on, it’s best to book as far in advance as possible.
You can get more details about Discovery Cove packages and pricing here.
- Cabanas – Varying from $199 – $899 daily accommodating 6-8 guests comfortably
- Private Cabana – $199+ comes with towel service, a snack basket with a variety of choices, a mini fridge fully stocked with both bottled water and a variety of Coca-Cola Products
- Elite Cabana – $499+ gives you everything included in the Private Cabana with the addition of a personalized buoy delivery during your signature dolphin swim experience ($179 value) and the photo package add on ($249 value)
- VIP Cabana – $899+ gives you all the extras that come with the private and elite cabanas with the addition of a VIP Cabana Host, an exclusive animal encounter that you can’t get anywhere else, reserved dining at Laguna Grill, and a beautiful view of the Dolphin Lagoon
- Day Beds – Starting at $79 daily (Only 18 available daily)
- Gives you a comfortable and relaxing place to lay down to enjoy the views around you or when you are not enjoying the water.
- Premium Drink Package – Starting at $40 per person (Guests 21+ – Valid ID Required)
- While you do receive unlimited food and drink with your admission into Discovery Cove, the premium drink package opens up a much wider variety of alcoholic drinks. This includes mixed drinks and signature Discovery Cove frozen drinks like the Aloha Sunrise, the Paradise Breeze, and more!
- Photo Package – Varies
- There are a variety of photo packages available and it’s a great way to bring home the memories of your experience. Their photographers were amazing and we absolutely loved the photos that we went home with.
*Prices subject to change. Check the Discover Cove page for the most up to date pricing.
Know Before You Go
- You can’t take any photo equipment with you during the dolphin or shark swims. However, there will be Discovery Cove photographers there to capture the moment for you (you will have to purchase individual photos or a photo package).
- Forgot your sunscreen? There are free sunscreen stations located throughout the park. It goes on a little heavy but it does the job (and it’s animal friendly too).
- Some of the experiences do have an age requirement so if you’re bringing younger children, be sure to double-check before you book.
- It may be tempting but you probably shouldn’t try to squeeze in all the upgrades. Time will fly faster than you think and you’ll still want time for breakfast, lunch, lazy rivers, snorkeling, etc. Pick a few favorites and go with those.
- The two experiences I recommend most are SeaVenture and the dolphin swim. They were our personal favorites and we would definitely do them again. I mean, how often do you get the chance to be kissed by a dolphin?!
- In addition to the dolphin experience, swimming with the sharks was a pretty cool experience too!
- Florida gets REALLY hot, especially in the summer. You may want to consider adding day beds or a cabana to your ticket so that your family has a shady place to relax throughout the day. Our day bed definitely came in handy when we wanted to get out of the sun and cool off.
Overall, we had an amazing experience at Discovery Cove. We were able to do things we’d never experienced before and it was a nice change from the usual roller coasters and thrill rides. If you’re planning an Orlando vacation (or even if you live nearby), you should definitely check it out!