Discovery Cove is located in the middle of Orlando, Florida but you would never know it. This piece of heaven located in the vacation capital of the United States is worth saving up for. From wild birds to lush tropical landscapes and so much more, Discovery Cove is an Orlando vacation must do. Forget the theme parks; Discovery Cove is the place for the ultimate vacation day.
Discovery Cove: Paradise To Be Explored In Orlando
Discovery Cove has been on my family bucket list for a few years. I wanted to wait until my youngest daughter was old enough to enjoy the dolphin experience before we went. During a recent trip to Orlando, we were finally able to enjoy this little slice of paradise. I have heard many reviews about Discovery Cove, all good, but I wondered if it was really that amazing? Yes, it is simply that amazing! The best part about our visit was we got to experience it with friends.
This trip was a “girls only” trip to Orlando, and the five of us crossed off a bucket list item–swim with a dolphin. After being in the theme parks for a week we were all ready for a break. Discovery Cove provided the most relaxing vacation day any of us have ever experienced in Orlando. We have memories we will hold onto forever from this visit. From swimming with sting rays, to eating amazing food this was an unforgettable day.
Discovery Cove Orlando
When you arrive at Discovery Cove you are welcomed into the reception center. This is the check-in area, where you will get your lanyards and park map. It is much like a hotel check in; you can arrive beginning at 7:30 a.m. I would arrive early so you have plenty of time to check-in. Then enjoy breakfast before the waterways open at 8:30 a.m. You will want to take advantage of the full day at Discovery Cove, as it closes at 5 p.m. each day.
As we departed the lobby, we were greeted by a friendly sloth. He was just one of the few friends that come and visit Discovery Cove from Sea World each day as part of conservation talks. We knew this was going to be a really great day, and it had only just begun.
TravelingMom Tip: Discovery Cove will only take 1300 guests per day, and you must buy tickets in advance. If you are visiting in the summer months buy your tickets at least 3 months in advance as they do sell out.
An All Inclusive Day
Your experience at Discovery Cove is all inclusive. Once you check in, everything is included. This means the price you pay for your ticket is all you will pay for, unless you want to take home souvenirs. Don’t let the price keep you away. I promise it’s worth every penny. The kids loved being able to grab snacks and icee’ drinks all day long, and the moms loved the pina coladas and mango daiquiris.
What Is Included
- A reserved 30-minute dolphin swim if package is purchased. (Children must be at least 6 years old to swim with dolphins)
- Complimentary breakfast and lunch, plus unlimited snacks and beverages throughout the day.
- Snorkeling with thousands of tropical fish and rays in The Grand Reef
- Encounters with playful otters and curious marmosets in Freshwater Oasis
- Hand feeding exotic birds in a free-flight aviary
- Lockers, sunscreen, snorkel gear, changing facilities
- Life jackets
- Beach Chairs and Umbrellas (there are plenty for everyone, no need to rush the beach for a chair)
- All day self parking at Discovery Cove
- Unlimited admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica for 14 consecutive days around the date of your reservation.
For the ultimate day at Discovery Cove you can rent a private cabana. This will give you more personal space and privacy. We had a cabana overlooking the Dolphin Lagoon on the beach. Cabanas can accommodate up to eight guest. Ideally six would be comfortable. Included is a stocked fridge, towels, lounge chairs and a locker. Cabanas are limited, so you must reserve in advance. You can request the location but it is not guaranteed.
On The Menu
Both breakfast and lunch are included in your admission, and it is all you care to eat. Breakfast is served from 7:30 – 10 a.m. and lunch from 11:30-3:30 p.m. For breakfast, we dined on fresh fruit, eggs, potatoes,bacon, danishes and muffins. It was hot and fresh. We fueled ourselves up for a morning of fun in the water.
After our dolphin swim we headed to The Laguna Grille for lunch. I was blown away by the vast array of options. From pineapple chicken and rice, burgers, pasta, salad, wraps and sides a plenty. we had a lot to choose from. Oh and we can’t forget the fresh desserts to finish our meal. Get the pineapple upside down cake.
This was in no way your typical “theme park” fare, it was cooked fresh and was full of flavor. You can also get unlimited soda, tea, coffee and water as well with your admission. Like I said you pay for nothing once you enter for the day.
TravelingMom Tip: Additional Vegan, Dairy Free and Gluten Free menus are available upon request. Simply ask for the supervisor at Laguna Grille and they will meet your needs.
Time To Get In The Waterways
Discovery Cove is Split into Three Distinct Areas
1. Dolphin Lagoon
This is where you will have your dolphin swim experience. If you are not participating, you can still wade by the shoreline and get some great photos of the park’s playful bottle-nose friends.
We were scheduled for our dolphin swim at noon. For the kids, that couldn’t come soon enough. Who am I kidding? My best friend and I were just as excited. Before you enter the water you will watch a short safety video and hear from your instructor. You are then led to the shoreline where you will meet your trainer and she will take you out to about 4 feet of water to meet your dolphin.
We played with Capricorn, the oldest male dolphin at Discovery Cove (he is 50!). During this time you will learn about your dolphin and have a fun Q&A time, all while feeding them fish and rubbing their belly. We even learned a few tricks to get him to sing and dance for us. I can see why so many fall in love with these guys. He absolutely loved playtime and showing off.
Time for a Swim
Have you ever swam with a dolphin? Yeah, me either, and I had no clue what to expect. Once it was time to get a lift from my new friend back to shore, I swam out to the 12 feet of water, wrapped my arm around his dorsal fin and off we went. He was strong and fast! I would say this was the highlight of the kids’ day. The five of us truly enjoyed this memorable experience together.
If you have never swam with or played with dolphins up close, I really cannot recommend this experience enough. My 17 year old said it was “the coolest thing ever.” I call that a win as teens are hard to impress.
TravelingMom Tip: You cannot take your camera in the water with you, but there are photographers in the water the entire time taking pictures for you to purchase.
2. Grand Reef
If you love to snorkel and play with stingrays, this is the spot for you. This is a salt water reef, home to tropical fish, sharks, stingrays and more. For those that don’t want to snorkel, you can wade on the shoreline and play with rays, or watch fish gracefully swim by.
Further out in the reef, beautiful habitats create the feeling of swimming alongside reef sharks behind glass. You can take paths and bridges to the reef’s islands and hidden grottos. The 8 year old girls preferred to stay on the shoreline and play with the sting rays. They couldn’t quite get the snorkeling down even though they are good swimmers. Each stingray at Discovery Cove has a name and the girls were determined to meet them all.
If you really want to get up close and personal with sea life in the Grand Reef, then dive deep with Sea Venture. This extra cost experience was really fun for my oldest daughter and me. Full disclosure: I was mildly freaked out at first, but once I was underwater it was super cool.
Sea Venture is scuba without all of the heavy gear, oh and training. You wear a dive helmet that is hooked to a air tank and walk along the bottom of the reef, coming face to face with tropical fish. The adventure ends with a massive fish feed going on all around you. This was one of the neatest experiences, and I am so glad I did it with her.
TravelingMom Tip: The Grand Reef is cold. Wear a wet-suit; even on a hot day it’s chilly.
3. Fresh Water Oasis
Looking to relax? You will want to be in the Fresh Water Oasis. This tropical paradise is kept at 85 degrees year round and it was where we spent most of our day exploring. You can swim in the open pools or take a relaxing and lazy tour down the wind away river. Here you will also come face to face with macaws, otters and monkeys! The birds will let you get up close and personal for a photo.
The kids in our group are all strong swimmers so we felt confident letting them explore the river and pools alone. This left for some bestie time sipping daiquiris and sitting in the shallow pool. We lasted about 30 minutes before the kids found us. What we realized through the day was that all throughout the fresh water oasis were caves and caverns to explore. It was such a fun experience. We rounded a bend and there were monkeys playing in the tree while we were still swimming next to them!
I wish I had photos of us in the river, but I was trying to unplug and be present with my daughters and our friends. In a place like this, you won’t care that you are unplugged for the day. Honestly, not having our faces in our phones, we were able to explore and truly experience the Fresh Water Oasis. Don’t bother buying a waterproof case – just enjoy the day.
TravelingMom Tip: This area of Discovery Cove has zero entry depth in multiple areas, and is perfect for toddlers in your family.
Paradise Awaits You
I could easily go on and on about how amazing our experience was, but you truly have to experience it for yourself. Once we passed through the reception area and down the pathway to the beach, it felt as if we left Orlando and were transported to the Caribbean. If kids tire of the water, they can play on the beaches with the free sand toys provided, or they can relax under the umbrellas and enjoy a snack. You will want to take in every moment of this day in paradise.
We won’t soon forget our girls’ day out at Discovery Cove, as it provided memories that will last us a lifetime. Don’t just take my word for it. Add Discovery Cove to your next Orlando vacation and experience pure beauty and nature.
Have you experienced this slice of paradise in Orlando?