Thinking of planning a trip to Discovery Cove? Here is everything you need to know BEFORE you go and why it’s a must do on your next trip to Central Florida.
There is no shortage of theme parks to visit when you plan your trip to Orlando but have your heard of Discovery Cove? This little slice of paradise tucked away in Orlando, Florida offers a once in a lifetime experience to get up close and personal with dolphins, sharks, stingrays and thousands of fish. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Discovery Cove, the all inclusive day resort BEFORE you go.
ALL ABOUT DISCOVERY COVE
Discovery Cove Orlando is the perfect way to start or end your Orlando Vacation and will have your family screaming it was the best day ever! Rated No.1 as the best theme park in Orlando by USA Today, after just a few minutes inside you’ll see why.
The park is pristine with a breathtaking tropical atmosphere. Here you can get up-close and personal animal encounters with tropical birds, small mammals, dolphins and more. It’s an experience that you just can’t get anywhere else.
It’s a great place to create family memories that will last a lifetime.
You’ll find sandy beaches with plenty of lounge chairs to relax and unwind.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN YOUR ADMISSION TO DISCOVERY COVE
Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park that means everything you need, including breakfast and lunch, is included in your visit. Now there are a few add-ons that I think are a must but I’ll touch on those next. For now let’s talk about what IS included on your trip.
Pretty much everything you need for a day in paradise in included with your cost of admission. You’ll get:
UNLIMITED FOOD AND DRINKS and UNLIMITED SNACKS
That’s right UNLIMITED food, drinks and snacks. Oh and did I mention beer and wine too?
WETSUITS & SNORKEL GEAR
Everything you need to enter the water is provided to you. Lifejackets, wetsuits and snorkel gear are all included in your admission.
SUNSCREEN AND TOWELS
Throughout the park and inside the cabanas (if you rent one) you’ll find plenty of provided sunscreen that is safe to use in the park. It’s specially formulated to be safe for the animals and fish that call the park home and it’s one less thing you have to pack.
And there are plenty of towels around for you to dry off.
Next to Serenity Bay, you’ll find the Freshwater Oasis. Here you can come face-to-face with playful otters and curious marmosets. Designed with a rainforest canopy above and sparkling clear springs below, you can relax, explore and find endless discoveries.
THE GRAND REEF
Be prepared to have your breathe taken away as snorkel with thousands of different types of marine life like tropical fish and giant stingrays in the beautiful Grand Reef. Our cabana was right in front of The Grand Reef and I couldn’t get either one of my kids out of the water. If we weren’t on an animal experience, they were snorkeling in reef.
Serenity Bay is the the refreshing 85-degree temperature water play area. Unfortunately for us, we never maid it up there. Next year, because my kids already asked for another visit for Christmas, this will be our first stop.
Parking is included in your admission to the day park and is only a short walk to the entrance.
HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO VISIT DISCOVERY COVE
The basic admission for your Discovery Cove tickets, with everything I mentioned above included, starts at $224.00 per person. The Signature Dolphin Swim starts at $324.00 per person. Florida residents get a discount on tickets as well.
You can even add combo tickets on to visit Busch Gardens and SeaWorld.
For comparison, a single-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper Plus Water Park ticket, depending on the day of your visit comes in at $229.00 and that’s NOT including adding Disney Genie or food onto your visit.
Hands down for the experience and what you get for your money, Discovery Cove is the winner here.
Both of my kids (ages 17 & 7) asked to come back to Discovery Cove over Disney that’s how much fun they had!
ADD-ONS WORTH DOING DURING YOUR VISIT
SWIM WITH DOLPHINS
Discovery Cove is known for their dolphin encounter. While not included in your standard admission, this once in a lifetime experience gets you up close and personal with some of the bottlenose dolphins that call Discovery Cove and SeaWorld Orlando home.
On our excursion we had the pleasure of meeting the adorable Stella. And I’m not going to lie, if you even the least bit emotional, when this magnificent creature swims up to you, be prepared to shed a tear.
There’s almost nothing like it and truly one of the most magnificent things I’ve experienced.
You’ll be assigned a small group of about 7-8 people for each dolphin swim. Giving you and your family plenty of time for photos and your swim.
I highly recommend everyone visiting Discovery Cove to book a dolphin swim at least once in their life.
SWIM WITH SHARKS
Love sharks? Get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures during the Shark Swim. You’ll swim with over 20 sharks and see them in their own habitat.
While we didn’t have time to do this on this trip, it’s at the top of my list for next year. You’ll swim with aquarists early in the morning and help them feed the various species of rays that call Discovery Cove home. You’ll see the energetic Cownose Rays to the impressively large Southern Rays.
We did the Flamingo Mingle on our day at Discovery Cove because my daughter is obsessed with learning about these birds. Since we typically start our homeschooling year with a trip, Discovery Cove proved to be the perfect place to do it. Not only did we have some amazing time with this fun herd of flamingos, we learned a lot about them too!
A few of them even were so comfortable with Evie that they started to “groom” her by pecking at her hair and legs. Thankfully, she has chickens at home and she’s used to this behavior from birds, she was thrilled that the flamingos got up close and personal with her.
If you don’t get a chance to do the Flamingo Mingle on your trip, be sure to watch for the Flamingo Parade when the animal trainers will walk with the herd through the park for some photos. You won’t be able to get up close and personal with them like we did, but you’ll be able to grab a few photos for fun.
Head under the sea for an underwater walking tour of The Grand Reef. You’ll wear a dive helmet as you head down 8-feet under water and get up close with some of the marine life that calls The Grand Reef home. This was a fun experience for my oldest and I to do. Kids have to be 10 years old to participate in this extra package.
Compressed air is fed through your dive helmet so you can breathe comfortable underwater for the 20 mixture trip. There is a safety class you’ll take ahead of time so if you’re a tad bit nervous like I was, the trainers will put you at ease and walk you through everything.
TRAINER FOR A DAY
Maybe you want to take your love of animals to a whole new level. Then the Trainer for a Day program is for you.
Learn more about all these add-ons and pick your favorites HERE.
UPGRADES NOT ANIMAL RELATED
UPGRADED DRINK PACKAGE
Want a better selection of adult drinks and alcoholic beverages? The Upgraded Drink Package is for you. You’ll enjoy a selection of signature cocktails, a fully stocked liquor bar, a selection of craft and domestic beers and red and white wine – all unlimited.
Discovery Cove is great about having plenty of professional photographers around to capture your favorite moments. If you splurge on anything on your trip, this is it!
PRIVATE CABANA RENTAL
If I could recommend one upgrade, to your day at Discovery Cove a Cabana Rental is it. Now there is no shortage of lounge chairs throughout the park but having your own cabana where you can keep you stuff safely locked away, a place out of the sun and one to relax when you need a break from the water, a cabana is it.
Our cabana was right in front of The Grand Reef and right behind the dolphin lagoon making it easy to get there when it was time for our dolphin swim.
Since we spent most of our time snorkeling, that was a nice treat.
The cabana came fully stocked with drinks and staff and we had an attendant who came around to bring us extra snacks, drinks and fresh towels as we needed them.
Even if you don’t book any of the extra experiences, there is still an amazing world of adventure just waiting to be explored at Discovery Cove.
Based on everything you get with a standard admission, Discovery Cove is one of the best values when it comes to Orlando Theme Parks.
WHERE TO EAT AT DISCOVERY COVE
As I mentioned earlier, ALL your food is included with your admission. Laguna Grill is the dining area at the park. There is plenty of seating in the dining area with water views or views overlooking the trees and lush foliage throughout the park.
Breakfast is served until 10:30 daily and you’ll enjoy favorites like:
- French Toast
- Danishes and Croissants
- fresh fruit
- Chocolate milk, milk and apple juice and orange juice and soda products
Hungry? Go ahead and enjoy breakfast twice!
Lunch is served in the park from 11:00 am – 3:30 pm and brings another round of delicious food to enjoy. I thought the lunch menu was even better than the breakfast menu and in all honesty one of the better meals of our trip this year. While we were there the lunch entrees were:
- Grilled Churrasco Steak with roasted potatoes, vegetables and a Chimichurri Sauce
- Caribbean Spiced Salmon with Island Style Rice, Vegetables, Pico de Gallo
- Grilled Jerk Chicken Island Style Rice, vegetables and Mango Salsa
- Laguna Beach Burger with Fries
- BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fries
- Chicken Tenders with Fries
For the kids, you’ll find something for even the pickiest eater:
- Chicken tenders and fries
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Hot Dog and fries
- Pasta with marinara and meatballs
Around the park you’ll also find snack stations set up with FREE snacks to enjoy throughout your day. You’ll find things like soft pretzels (my kids ate these all day long), bags of peanuts, Rice Krispie treats, chips and plantain chips.
There is also soda stations and slurpee stations that the kids will love.
Adults looking for more grown-up drinks consider the upgraded Premium Drink Package. You’ll enjoy a selection of signature cocktails, a fully stocked liquor bar, a selection of craft and domestic beers and red and white wine.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING DISCOVERY COVE
While Discovery Cove doesn’t have a hotel on-site, there is no shortage of partner hotels in the area to stay at. We stayed at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and it was only about a 12 minute drive.
WHAT TO WEAR TO DISCOVERY COVE
We found wearing our swimsuits under our clothes for the day was the easiest. This way we only had to change into the wetsuits when we arrived.
Wear comfortable shoes and comfy clothes. That’s the best advice I can give you. Ladies, if you have long hair like my daughter and I do, don’t make the same mistake I did. Put your hair up in a tight bun or something ahead of time.
By the end of the day both my hair, and my daughter’s hair, were a hot mess after a day of salt water swimming. The good news is there are showers to clean up and wash your hair if you need to.
For the park itself, you can wear flip-flops, go barefoot or wear swim shoes. We wore swim shoes the entire day. From the animal encounters to snorkeling in The Grand Reef.
I ordered mine off of Amazon and they were great. They dried quick when you were out of the water and kept your feet protected from the rocks in some of the water areas.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE PARK
Since everything is pretty much provided in your admission, there’s not much you need to bring with you when you visit Discovery Cove. You’ll definitely want to bring a change of dry clothes or at least something to change into after your swim.
We wore our swim suits under our clothes so we only had to change into the wetsuits when we arrived. We packed undergarments in a small backpack and changed into those and the clothes we wore into the park to go home.
In the changing rooms, they have plastic bags to put your wet clothes in when you’re ready to leave.
Speaking of changing rooms, when it comes time to change into or out of you swimwear you’ll do so in comfort with the large changing rooms. Each stall has a shower and changing areas and were never crowded.
I’d also suggest bringing a GoPro or a good waterproof case for your phone. While you can’t use your phone on any of the animal encounters or dolphin experiences you CAN use it while swimming in the lagoons and such. I didn’t bring either with me and really wish I had one for the snorkeling time we had.
We saw some amazing fish and I had stingrays swim so close to me, that they literally swam over my lap.
While it was nice to just be in the moment on this trip and enjoy the experience with the kids, I wish I had a few more photos from the snorkeling time.
In fact it was my seven year old’s favorite part, well after the flamingos and the dolphin swim. She’s been telling everyone she meets, including random strangers in line at the grocery store that “she swam with wild animals”. She was mesmerized by the stingrays and giant fish swam with her in The Grand Reef.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VISITING
IS DISCOVERY COVE WORTH VISITING?
A resounding YES. My only regret is that in all my trips to Orlando, this was my first time visiting the park. Everyone was begging to go back the next day.
We fell in love with Discovery Cove and from here on out, it’s going to be must-do every time we visit Florida.
WHAT IS THE BEST MONTH TO VISIT?
We visited in early September and the weather was still hot but it’s Florida. I don’t think there would be a bad time to visit. Some swim areas are heated and the wetsuits definitely help keep you warmer in the cooler water so even on a cooler day for Florida, it would still be nice for the park.
CAN YOU GO TO DISCOVERY COVE AND NOT SWIM WITH THE DOLPHINS?
Absolutely! But, if it’s something you haven’t done, I can’t recommend it enough, at least once.
Do you have any questions about Discovery Cove? Feel free to ask me here, send me an email or reach out on Instagram at @anewdawnn.
Ready to book your stay at this all-inclusive piece of paradise? Visit Discovery Cove to plan your perfect adventure.