Ah, Orlando! Land of theme parks. With all the entertainment available in Orlando, it can start to blend together. That is, until you get to Discovery Cove.
Discovery Cove is a park like none other. It is themed to look almost like a tropical island, with sandy beaches, lush groves of trees and plants, and plenty of places to splash and tan.
Rather than rides or fireworks shows, Discovery Cove provides an experience of real-life, unforgettable animal encounters. You don’t just get to see the animals. You get to interact with them as well. This can include touching them, feeding them, swimming with them or joining them in their habitat.
Discovery Cove in Orlando is an all-inclusive day resort where guests can enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, snorkel with rays and tropical fish, and hand-feed exotic birds. Guests will experience the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere.Visit Today
It’s also an all-inclusive day resort, which means that it’s designed to be a relaxing, full-day experience from beginning to end. You arrive at Discovery Cove around 7:30 in the morning, where you check in and schedule whatever add-on experiences you would like to try. Discovery Cove is a reservations-only park, and they limit admission to 1,300 guests per day. To compare and contrast, an attendance rate of 20,000 guests is considered a slow day at most other Orlando theme parks.
In order to swim at Discovery Cove, you must change into one of their wetsuits or swim vests. They have the added benefit of making you look like a real aquatic explorer. You can stow your valuables in a provided locker, slather on some animal- and reef-friendly sunscreen, and head out to enjoy the day.
We’re going to jump right ahead to the thing you really want to know: Yes, you can swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove. The playful bottlenose dolphins will be waiting for you at Dolphin Lagoon, where trainers help you learn how to interact with them. During your 30-minute dolphin swim, you can touch, feed and even kiss a dolphin, before latching onto their dorsal fin for a ride at their side.
At the Freshwater Oasis, you can relax in the warm waters of Serenity Bay, a freshwater swimming area complete with a beach and a plethora of lounge chairs. Or you could check out the Explorer’s Aviary, where hundreds of colorful, tropical birds make their home. The Explorer’s Aviary is an immersive and natural habitat, seeming almost like a rainforest in the middle of Orlando. These tropical birds, including turacos and aracaris, may fly right up to you when you offer them fruit right from your hands.
Another great place to explore in the Freshwater Oasis is the Wind-Away River, Discovery Cove’s take on a lazy river attraction. This isn’t like any other lazy river, however. You’ll float along past beaches, through waterfalls and underwater caverns. The Wind-Away River also passes right through the Explorer’s Aviary, giving you a magnificent view of the birds flying just overhead. It’s a magical experience that you just won’t get anywhere else.
In the Freshwater Oasis, you’ll be able to swim right next to Asian small-clawed otters, who have a habitat within the swimming area. Even though you’re separated by a pane of glass, these playful little mammals still love company. In the trees, marmoset monkeys watch from above.
If you’d like to get a closer look at these animals, you can head over to the Conservation Cabana, where Discovery Cove staffers appear with unique creatures throughout the day. You could come face to face with a two-toed sloth, an armadillo, an ancient tortoise, or something totally unexpected.
The Grand Reef
Grab a snorkel and mask and plunge into one of the most immersive habitats you’ve ever seen. The Grand Reef is a sprawling, underwater habitat populated by thousands of tropical fish. You can swim alongside angelfish, all kinds of rays, spiny lobsters, parrotfish, surgeon fish and more. It’s like swimming around in another world.
Leopard sharks, blacktip reef sharks and whitetip reef sharks also share these waters—but don’t worry, they’re behind a pane of glass. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can pay extra to swim with the oceans’ most misunderstood creatures, under the watchful eyes of Discovery Cove trainers.
For a closer look at the Grand Reef, you could also upgrade your experience to include SeaVenture, a unique underwater walking tour. SCUBA certification is not required for SeaVenture, in which you don a huge helmet and walk along the floor of the Grand Reef. Your underwater tour guide will take you on a journey throughout the habitat. You can hold sea urchins in your hand, get acquainted with sea stars and much more. SeaVenture includes one of the best views of the shark tank in the park.
Discovery Cove donates 5 percent of SeaVenture proceeds to Rising Tide Conservation, which works to protect and conserve coral reefs in the wild.
Even More Fun
One of the best things about Discovery Cove is that it includes 14-day consecutive admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. The waters of the cove aren’t where your marine journey ends.
At SeaWorld Orlando, you can see aquatic animals and learn about their Park to Planet conservation initiative. See emperor penguins, orcas, manatees and more. Explore the wonders of the deep at the Jewel of the Sea Aquarium and learn how marine animals can be cared for and rehabilitated.
SeaWorld is also home to thrill rides and attractions, like the Mako rollercoaster and the Journey to Atlantis log flume ride.
If you want rides that will get you even more wet, visit Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. Splash about in the giant wave pools, Cutback Cove and Big Surf Shores, before braving one of the intricate and thrilling slides, like the Dolphin Plunge or Ihu’s Breakaway Falls.
A ticket to Discovery Cove is a ticket to all that SeaWorld has to offer, from special animal encounters, to conservation education, to wild rides. Use your AAA discount to save at SeaWorld parks.
Have you ever been to Discovery Cove or SeaWorld? Let us know about your trip in the comments!
Schedule a trip to Discovery Cove and other SeaWorld parks with AAA.