Swim with Manatees | Orlando Crystal River Tours & Tickets 2024

(11 customer reviews)


Last updated on July 14, 2024 11:55 am
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Manatees are fascinating creatures—these swimming mammals are much larger than humans, and yet they’re so gentle and friendly. If you’ve always wanted to see one up close, a trip to swim with manatees in Orlando is sure to be the experience of a lifetime.

While there are lots of great Orlando day cruises you can take to cool off during the summer, nothing beats a snorkeling session among manatees. And the Crystal River that runs through Orlando is a migration hotspot for manatees.

We’ll take a look at some top tour options in Orlando, Florida, where you can enjoy a relaxing river cruise along with a manatee encounter.


  • Swim with manatees in Crystal River for a unique up-close experience
  • Learn about the gentle manatees from an expert guide
  • Spend a relaxed day on the water

Know before you book:

  • The colder months bring more manatees to Crystal River
  • You will need to pay extra for a wetsuit
  • Tours are not wheelchair accessible

manatee-mother-and-calfManatees, sometimes called ‘sea cows’, are large herbivorous aquatic mammals. There are three types of manatees: the West African, Amazonian, and West Indian manatee. All three species are listed as endangered, and many conservation programs are working to protect them.

In Orlando, Florida, you’ll find the West Indian manatee species. Since they prefer warmer water temperatures, these manatees migrate from coastal waters to Florida’s rivers during the cold months.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge was established in this area to help protect these manatees. They help maintain the natural habitat, rehabilitate injured manatees, and rescue baby orphans.


Going on a tour to see the manatees in Orlando’s Crystal River is a wonderful way to learn about these peaceful animals. As you enjoy a fun time in the water, just remember that these are protected wild animals. While you are swimming in their habitat, be respectful and avoid making too much noise.

Manatees are generally friendly and curious. If some of them swim over to you, you are welcome to touch them. Your tour guide will give you more details about safety procedures and how you should act around these majestic wild animals.

To ensure that you are ready for your memorable manatee encounter, remember to pack the following items:

  • Your own swimwear
  • A change of clothes
  • Towels
  • Sunscreen
  • Cash to pay for a wetsuit and some souvenirs


Swimming with Manatees | Orlando Prices 2024

The cost of Orlando manatee tours starts at about $99 and can go up to $149. The price depends on whether or not extras like lunch are included and the type of boat used for the tour. Most tickets exclude the cost of hiring a wetsuit, which will be about $15 extra.

Compare prices across the ticket providers below:

Crystal River Manatee Tour Times

Most manatee tours on Crystal River start in the morning and last into the early evening. The specific start and end times will depend on the tour you choose.

Tours are not available every day, so check the dates for the specific tour you are interested in. Most companies only provide tours two days a week, for example, Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Best Time to Swim with Manatees in Orlando, Florida

You can find manatees in Crystal River all year round, but the best time to go is between November and late March. The manatee population is usually at its peak from December to February. So if you’re looking for warm places to visit in December, Florida’s Crystal River is the ideal place to cool off.

The best time of day to swim with the manatees is in the morning. This is when these curious creatures are most active and playful.


Options for Swim with Manatee Tours

Crystal River manatee tours in Orlando give you the opportunity to enjoy a day on the water with these stunning aquatic mammals. The knowledgeable tour guides can tell you all you want to know about manatees. And swimming among these gentle giants is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Take a look at some of the top manatee boat tours below.

Crystal River Boat Tour, Manatee Swim & Park Visit


This day-long manatee tour is ideal for animal lovers who want to spend a relaxed day among these gentle giants. The tour includes a guided boat ride, the opportunity to swim with manatees, and a visit to the Homosassa State Park.

Your manatee boat tour will start bright and early with pick-up from your Orlando hotel at 7 am. The experienced driver will take you to Crystal River to meet with the rest of your tour group.

Enjoy the narrated boat tour along the river and your first chance to spot some manatees. The guide and diving team are all very knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Your boat captain will be sure to find a group of manatees, no matter the season.


After a safety briefing and help getting into your snorkeling gear, you can enter the water for the real adventure to begin. You don’t need any previous diving experience to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime activity. Relax and enjoy swimming with manatees in Crystal River—some curious ones might even come over for a belly rub!

After the cruise and swim, you’ll head to Homosassa State Park. Take a relaxed walk around the park and see the great work this center does to rehabilitate injured animals. You’ll spot animals like alligators, bears, panthers, and more manatees. The manatee feeding session is the perfect time to snap more photos of these amazing creatures.

What we liked: A long, relaxed day spent up close with manatees.

  • Tour guide
  • Orlando hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • Admission to Homosassa State Park
  • Snorkeling equipment

  • Mandatory wetsuits (extra $15)
  • Lunch
  • Gratuities

Lunch is not included in this tour, but there will be time to sit down for a meal in Homosassa. The park cafe has some delicious food options. Or, you can pack your own lunch to eat at one of the picnic tables. The tour driver will take you back to your hotel at the end of the day.

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Crystal River Manatee Swim & Airboat Ride


Enjoy a fun day on the water with this manatee tour in Orlando. You’ll get the opportunity to swim with manatees in Crystal River, as well as take an exhilarating airboat ride on the Withlacoochee River.

This day-long tour starts at 8:30 am with a bus pick-up from your Orlando hotel. You’ll get a small packed breakfast to munch on while your tour guide explains the day’s program. The bus will take your tour group to Crystal River for the start of your cruise.

While manatees are more scarce during the warm months, your expert guide will do their best to find you a group of manatees. Swim or snorkel among these beautiful creatures, or stay on the boat to snap some gorgeous manatee pictures. The tour guide will also point out other wildlife that lives in this area.

This tour also includes a fun 30-minute airboat ride. Prepare to get wet as you enjoy a speedy and refreshing ride up the river. Sit right at the front of the boat to get sprayed the most and cool off in the humid summer weather.

What we liked: A fun day on the water and great manatee encounters.

  • Tour guide
  • Orlando hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • Airboat ride
  • Snorkeling equipment

  • Mandatory wetsuits (extra $15)
  • Lunch
  • Gratuities

This tour doesn’t include lunch, but you will have time to sit down for a meal at a local restaurant. At the end of the day’s activities, you will be dropped off again via bus. The drop-off time will depend on your location, as there will be a group of around 15 people on the tour bus who need to be taken to their hotels.

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8.3Expert Score
Swim with manatees in Orlando’s Crystal River for a memorable encounter with these stunning creatures. Tours offer guided boat rides of the area and a chance to spot other Florida wildlife.
Value for Money
Level of Activity
  • Enjoy close encounters with the manatees
  • Learn from a knowledgeable guide on a guided tour
  • Cool off in the water of Crystal River
  • Tours are not wheelchair accessible
  • Have to pack or buy your own lunch
  • Wetsuits are mandatory and cost extra

Specification: Swim with Manatees | Orlando Crystal River Tours & Tickets 2024


Not wheelchair accessible


Full day (8-12 hours)


Snorkeling equipment; Tour guide




Some tours include breakfast; No tours include lunch


From certain Orlando hotels

Suited for

Families; Couples; Solo travelers; Nature lovers

11 reviews for Swim with Manatees | Orlando Crystal River Tours & Tickets 2024

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    GetYourGuide traveler

    The bus driver was probably in a hurry that day, he drove like a madman, way too fast and drove us all day frantically from one appointment to the next. The boat trip was great, the guide was really nice and helpful. The zoo was good too. All in all OK! The breakfast, if you want to call it that, you should give yourself. That was a real cheek. A slice of cheese, a chocolate bar, a dry milk roll, a miniature bottle of juice.

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    We were picked up early punctually by an upbeat, enthusiastic driver who fed us a delicious breakfast and briefed us on our day. He seemed to realize that we wanted to eat and go back to sleep. We arrived at the office where we were to get our gear, and all went smoothly. Lacy and Whitney were our guides, and Chad was our boat captain. Lacy coached us on what we could expect once we got in the water and took us in for some practice. They all warned us that it was off season for the manatees and we might not find very many. Delightfully, they were mistaken. Manatees were below us and all around us. It was impossible not to touch them, although we'd been warned not to. We got back on the van for lunch and were on our way to the park and airboat ride, which were equally good. I would highly recommend this tour and these guides and will request them myself if I go back to Orlando.

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    Friendly and courteous driver (Donald) and boat crew (Tom and Carlos) . Really enjoyed the lunch at the diner with great good and really nice waitress. Loved the convenience of having transportation included in the package. Would definitely recommend to friends and family.

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    The trip was great. Unfortunately, we had to wait 30 minutes for the driver in the morning and already had the fear that we would not be picked up (we were unable to reach anyone under the given mobile number). For breakfast there is an orange juice directly from the region and 2 sweet snacks. So rather sparse. The driver himself was able to tell a lot about the region and the history of Orlando. So if you still want to have one or the other secret tip is right with him. Arrived at the Crystal River a short film and a few simple rules for dealing with the animals are shown. WATER IS VERY COLD. So take the chance and get yourself a neoprene suit. Blue lips had many. Even before we could see the first Manati we were taken the illusion that we can fall on a variety of animals .. Unfortunately, one meets only isolated animals. Nevertheless a madness experience. It was fun and the food afterwards was really good. Have lots of fun with it

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