An Exotic Vacation In Florida’s Backyard
It’s that time of year again when we all want to rush to the beach with our families and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. For many, finding a safe or uncrowded beach can be difficult and expensive. Like most families, we struggle to afford a nice family
vacations, so when we do, we aim to go big with the most memorable experiences that are offered.
Enter Discovery Cove …..this beautiful and exotic park (more like a retreat) is not only affordable but right in the beautiful backyard of Orlando. With its tropical foliage, exotic birds, and dolphin lagoons this park is exactly what your family needs. Better yet, it is also friendly for all ages and the activities offered to satisfy many people’s bucket lists. The best part about this particular park is it is all-inclusive so no more having to pack extensive beach bags full of snacks, drinks, and sunscreen for your family. We decided to make Discovery Cove the center of our vacation as it offered something that was on everyone on our family’s bucket list, swimming with dolphins! While you can swim with dolphins at locations all over the world, Discovery Cove offers this experience a safe and fun environment at a reasonable price. As if swimming with a dolphin wasn’t enough, Discovery Cove also is an all-inclusive park making your visit so easy Mand ensuring no one in your party gets bored.
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Location – Discovery Cove is located at 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, Florida
It is currently the only location in the world but this only adds to the feeling that you are in an exclusive resort. It is located close to both SeaWorld and Aquatica making it easy to visit multiple parks while vacationing in the area. The other great thing is that the parking is included with admission and is close so no more long walks or having to take a shuttle to start having fun.
Discovery Cove has so much to offer with just the regular purchase of admission for a family that is not only on a budget but still wants to have an incredible experience. All of the following items are included at no additional cost to you!
● The Wind-Away River – This is where we started our day. This is a tropical
rainforest-themed river with mellow crystal clear waters and the occasional
waterfall! This is perfect for all ages. (with a life jacket for those that aren’t strong swimmers) The current is very mellow so that you can float along and enjoy the ambiance of the surrounding jungle. Pool noodles are available as you float through the river if you choose to go without a life jacket. You will swim through and explore caves, waterfalls, a variety of birds that frequent the area, and “ancient ruins.” You can play and swim in the river as long and as many times as you like. We took advantage and popped in after lunch and at the end of the day whenever we needed a break.
● Explorers Aviary – Right on the edge of the wind-away river is a beautiful aviary where you can leave the river and visit hundreds of tropical birds. The birds are free roaming within the aviary and if you are lucky they may even choose to befriend you and perch on your hand! You can grab a cup of bird food and feed the varieties of birds as many are willing to grab a quick snack from you. All of our kids were able to coax a bird onto their hands and visit with them up close. As soon as you are done at the aviary you can exit the nearest door and hop right
back into the river.
● The Grand Reef – The grand reef is a very large beach enclosure where you get to try your hand at snorkeling with hundreds of tropical fish and rays! It is appropriate for all ages but if you are not the best swimmer we would recommend a life jacket. All of your snorkeling gear is included and the snorkel
itself is for one-time use for sanitary reasons. It is a saltwater reef that houses many
species of fish and while you should be respectful, they are all safe enough to
touch if they approach you! I think my favorite part of this exhibit was being able to touch a velvety ray as it raced along below me. Another cool feature of this enclosure is that it is next to the shark enclosure! While the sharks can not reach you, being able to be that close to them underwater was so fascinating and provided an intimate look at them safely.
● Freshwater Oasis – The Freshwater Oasis is a great place to relax after
experiencing the other activities and bodies of water offered. Next to the
freshwater oasis, you can grab a complimentary snack and drink and then plop down in one of the underwater chairs to relax. Once you’re finished with your
snack you can continue down the river until you reach an enclosure with the most charming otters that you could meet! They are behind glass but were social enough that they came right to us for attention. After playing with the otters you can continue down to a small island in the middle of the oasis. This small island is home to the marmosets at Discovery Cove. The best time to visit them is during an enrichment session where you can not only learn more about this fascinating animal but also watch them interact with staff.
● Serenity Bay – Serenity Bay is located at the entrance to the Wind Away River and is a perfect place if you have kids or family members that want to just play in the water or swim in a safe environment. There are small waterfalls here that you can play under and when you’re ready you can just continue right down the river for more adventure. There are also plenty of beach chairs located in front of the bay so that you can watch your family frolic in the bay from a safe distance while enjoying the sun. It is also conveniently located next to the restrooms, lockers, sunscreen dispensers, and life jackets.
We did find using our DJI Osmo Action was a huge plus to capture our family Moments.
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Food and Beverages
One of the great things about Discovery Cove is it is an all-inclusive park
meaning the food, drink, and snacks are all included with a few exceptions. There are several stands set up in various areas of the park that are self-service so that you no longer have to wait and can treat yourself to whatever you are feeling.
These stands are filled with soft pretzels, cookies, chips, etc, and soda/water
dispensers. There is no limit so satisfying your family has never been easier.
They also serve breakfast and lunch. You simply go into the dining room line and select whatever items you like. They have several options so you can feed even the pickiest eaters.
*If you are 21 and over, a selection of beer and wine is also complimentary. They also offer a premium drink package at $40 per person which would also cover a full liquor bar and signature cocktails.*
Equipment and Accessories
The only thing you will need to bring with you to Discovery Cove is your swimsuit and sense of adventure. Anything you may need is included, including wetsuits, life jackets, and snorkel gear. It is also important to notice that you can not bring or wear your own sunscreen. Discovery Cove provides dolphin and ocean-friendly sunscreen for you and we recommend applying it liberally for absolute protection. There are also complementary pool noodles for use in the Wind-Away River. As we mentioned everything is included the only extra we recommend is obviously your swimsuit and an Underwater camera ( Amazon link to all underwater cameras) We really enjoy the DJI Osmo Action Amazon Affiliate link https://amzn.to/408OHbQ. We also got low-cost underwater housing just to be extra safe, and a floating selfie stick.
Extra Excursions and Fun
● “Flamingle” with Flamingos – I wish we had the tie for this activity as I love
these brightly colored and lovable birds. While you may walk by them
during your trip as they are being herded, this excursion allows you to do
all the extras. Get one on one with these beautiful birds
Excursions and extras
While you can certainly have an amazing day with just the activities and items included with your admission it is important to know what additional u
there may be. We chose to add the swimming with dolphins option as it has
always been on our bucket list. Here is a list of all the upgrades that may be a great fit for your family!
● Swim with Dolphins – We decided right away this would be the highlight of
our vacation as I have always wanted to try this and we knew the kids
would love it! The dolphin swim gets booked for your party and at that time
you are given time to meet the dolphin trainers and discuss safety
protocols and what to expect. After you are briefed your group meets at
the dolphin lagoon and is brought into the water. Each group gets a
dolphin that they will get to meet with them and get up close. We each
were able to not only pet the dolphin but also each were able to ride
the dolphin across the lagoon. This was a blast and although I am not a
strong swimmer our dolphin, Clipper made sure we each had a safe ride.
One of the important things to note is no one that is participating in the
experience can bring a camera. If you have someone in your group that is
not swimming with dolphins they can take pictures from the shore. There
is a professional photographer there that will make sure everyone gets
plenty of pictures taken. They are at an additional cost but our favorites
were with our new dolphin friend giving us kisses!
● Swim with the Sharks – If you have already swum with dolphins or are just
looking for a different kind of thrill, try swimming with the sharks! This
excursion is exactly what it sounds like and you can get up close and
personal with up to 20 sharks. While you may not be swimming with any
great whites, you will get to make friends with nurse sharks, zebras, black
tip reefs, and bonnethead sharks. This activity has a minimum age of 10 to
● Seaventure – This unique experience allows you to walk and adventure
underwater with the help of a diving helmet. The experience lasts about 45
minutes and you will get to experience not only the sharks up close but
also the rays and other unique sea creatures. Just when you think the fun
is over, you will end your trip with schools of brightly colored fish in a
feeding frenzy! This activity has a minimum age of 10 and does not
require any scuba licensing.
Discovery Cove Review
If you are on a budget and can only afford to do one excursion on your Florida
trip this is the best bang for your buck. This resort will include everything you
need and check off multiple bucket list items for everyone. While in Florida we
visited Disney, Aquatica, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and Discovery Cove. While
they all had their charms, Discovery Cove was everyone’s favorite and had
something for all ages and personalities to enjoy. If you have any further
questions or need help planning your Florida vacation please let us know and we would be happy to help!
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