For those frequent visitors to Orlando, FL, perhaps you are looking for something fresh and new to do. For first-timers, maybe you are searching for a family-friendly attraction where enjoying the beautiful Sunshine State weather is a top priority? And then some think Orlando is a tropical destination because 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 amid 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, 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 reserve your tickets before your visit to ensure 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 is the use of towels, shower amenities, lockers, wetsuits, animal-friendly sunscreen, and parking, so you don’t have to bother with the little stuff. So grab your swimsuit and sunglasses and head to Discovery Cove.
How Much Does it Cost?
Prices fluctuate between seasons, but you can figure around $150 per person over 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 that allows you to meet a bottlenose dolphin and learn signals that get your dolphin to perform tricks. You will know 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 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
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 massive 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 was eggs, breakfast meats, fresh fruit, pastries, and yogurt, served until 10:30 AM. Our lunch, served from 11 to 3 PM, offered burgers, deli meats, Hawaiian chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and desserts, including cherry cheesecake, carrot cake, fruit, and pastries. The food was better-than-expected, middle of the road, but more enjoyable than not.
Two alcoholic beverages are also provided daily for those over 21. Guests can upgrade their drink package for $30 per person to include call liquors, sangria, rum punch, and local craft beers.
Fun Fact: 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. I suffered a horrible back injury during my trip and could barely walk. That greatly impacted me appreciating the activities at Discovery Cove; however, I was happy as a lark enjoying my shaded and comfy cabana, watching families petting the rays and snorkeling.
Our cabana was so comfortable and fully stocked with water, wine, soda, and a snack treasure chest containing bagged treats for me to munch on. It was located near one of the Discovery Cove snack shacks, serving soft pretzels, cookies, chips, and flavored Icees.
Due to my back issue, our cabana attendant saw my difficulty walking and brought me a scooter, allowing me to freely roam the Discovery Cove property. I was delighted and excited to see the things I would have missed otherwise. This was a great testament to Discovery Cove’s customer service level.
Discovery Cove Will Amaze You
Discovery Cove has amazed me with its beauty, level of service, cleanliness, and attention to detail. The park is really large. Limiting the number of guests makes you feel like you have the place to yourself (not an easy feat amid 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 it with you. I hope you will discover just how much fun this Orlando attraction is for the whole family.
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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