For those frequent visitors to Orlando, FL perhaps you are looking for something fresh and new to do. For you first timers, maybe you are in search of a family-friendly attraction where enjoying the beautiful Sunshine State’s weather is top priority? And then there are those that think Orlando is a tropical destination from the fact that cruise lines say they sail out of here (they don’t–they sail from Port Canaveral on the coast).
Regardless of your reasons for being here, let me introduce you to Discovery Cove, Orlando’s best-kept secret!
What is Discovery Cove?
If you bottled up the essence of a Caribbean island and plopped it down in the midst of Orlando, that is Discovery Cove.
Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort posing as a tropical oasis with water activities, amazing sea life, beautiful blooms and palm trees, and a relaxing vibe you probably won’t find anywhere else in Orlando. The park only allows 1,300 guests per day so be sure to reserve your tickets prior to your visit to ensure that you can get in. It fills up quickly!
What Can I Do at Discovery Cove?
The list of things to do at Discovery Cove is impressive. Activities include these fun options in the underwater grottos, lazy rivers, and freshwater areas:
- Swim with Dolphins
- Sandy, white beaches
- Play in waterfalls
- Pet a Stingray
- Relax under an umbrella with a good book
- Explore an underwater cave
- Feed exotic birds
- Food and Drinks
- Lounge in hammocks or beach chairs
- Play with cute otters and adorable marmosets
Included with your admission are use of towels, shower amenities, lockers, wetsuits, animal friendly sunscreen, and parking so you don’t have to bother with the little stuff. Simply grab your swimsuit, sunglasses, and head to Discovery Cove.
How Much Does it Cost?
Prices fluctuate between seasons, but you can figure around $150 per person over the age of 3. The park opens at 8:30 AM and closes at 5:30 PM. Check-in starts an hour before the park opens.
A basic ticket includes admission to the park. Wind-Away River, Explorer’s Aviary, The Grand Reef, Freshwater Oasis, and Serenity Bay beaches and pools are the select areas inside Discovery Cove where your adventures will take place. It also includes a Dolphin Experience—a 30-minute interaction with a trainer allows you to meet a bottlenose dolphin and learn signals that get your dolphin to perform tricks. You will learn how the dolphins and their trainers communicate and then, the ultimate, ride back to shore with the friendly aquatic mammals.
Life vests (in every size imaginable!), kid’s pool toys, and sand buckets are all included in your fee. Beach-friendly strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters are available upon request. Discovery Cove even offers free swim diapers!
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For an additional fee, you can add the following upgrades on to your ticket: Trainer for a Day (interact with dolphins), Ray Feed, Animal Trek, SeaVenture (don a dive helmet for an up close and personal view of sharks, fish, and rays for a 20-minute underwater tour in the Grand Reef), and Shark Swim. Certain age restrictions apply so be sure to check before bringing young children to experience these additional services, photo packages (includes a personal photographer collecting shots of your day, including areas where cell phones are not permitted), and spa services.
For $199+, you can rent a cabana for the entire day. While it is a splurge, it’s a great place to hang out and beat the heat. Your cabana comes with a host that will keep you in fresh towels, show you around, answer questions, provide service, and replenish your drinks and snacks as needed. You also have chaise lounges plus a table and chairs for sitting. Cabanas can accommodate up to 6 guests.
Discovery Cove Food and Drinks
Perhaps the biggest bonus at Discovery Cove is that all food and drinks are included! Yep, you heard that right. The main restaurant is located in the middle of the park and offers breakfast and lunch (two complete meals included in your fee). There is a huge selection of seating areas to enjoy your food. Soda fountains were at the snack bars (located throughout the Discovery Cove property) and restaurant and thank goodness, had Coca-Cola products. Snack bars serve Icees, snacks, and other beverages all day long.
Breakfast consisted of eggs, breakfast meats, fresh fruit, pastries, and yogurt. It was served until 10:30 AM. A lunch selection of burgers, deli meats, Hawaiian chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and desserts (cherry cheesecake, carrot cake, fruit, pastries) was served from 11 AM to 3 PM. The food was better-than-expected, middle of the road, but more enjoyable than not.
Two alcoholic beverages are also provided per day for those over 21 years of age. Guests can upgrade their drink package for $30 per person to include call liquors, sangria, rum punch and local craft beers.
Discovery Cove has Allergy-Sensitive menu items for those who need them.
My Visit to Discovery Cove
I visited Discovery Cove with a group of fellow travel writers, where we were also given connecting cabanas to enjoy for the day. During my trip, I suffered a horrible back injury and was barely able to walk. That played a huge factor in me getting to enjoy the activities at Discovery Cove; however, I was happy as a lark enjoying my shaded and comfy cabana, watching families petting the rays and snorkel.
Our cabana was so comfortable and came fully stocked with water, wine, and soda, and a snack treasure chest contained bagged treats for me to munch on. It was located near one of the Discovery Cove snack shacks which served soft pretzels, cookies, chips, and a variety of flavored Icees.
Due to my back issue, our cabana attendant saw my difficulty walking and brought me a scooter. I was overjoyed and so pleased! This gave me the ability to roam the entire Discovery Cove property and see the things I would have missed otherwise. This was really above and beyond anything expected and left a high note in my mind regarding the service level of Discovery Cove.
Discovery Cove Will Amaze You
Discovery Cove has amazed me with the beauty, level of service, cleanliness, and attention to detail. The park is extremely large and by limiting the number of guests, you feel like you have the place to yourself (not an easy feat in the midst of Orlando.
While Discovery Cove is under the Sea World umbrella, it is definitely in a league of its own as far as attractions go. Even though the park has been open since 2000, I’m just learning of it and couldn’t wait to share with you. I hope you, too, will discover just how much fun this Orlando attraction is for the whole family.
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Check out our other Orlando posts:
Read more about Discovery Cove from our friends:
Discovery Cove Guide: Everything You Need To Know from Kim of The Savvy Mama Lifestyle
8 Tips for First Timers: Discovery Cove from Dawn of Dawn’s Dorky Diary
The Ultimate Guide to Discovery Cove from Sarah of Savoring the Good