(Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I was NOT paid to visit Discovery Cove. This is my honest opinion.)
We have taken our kids to Disney World twice now – both times were not the most ideal.
The first was during Christmas holidays and it was so packed, there was a sign at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom at 11 am that said “PARK FULL”. We ended up going to Epcot for no reason other than that’s where the traffic led us and it just happened to be the coldest winter in Florida in a decade.
Our second time in Disney, we went to the Magic Kingdom during March Break. This particular year happened to be one of the hottest on record, making a day outdoors near unbearable! If it wasn’t for all the open doors of the shops blaring their air conditioning out into the park, we may have had to leave. It was also ram-packed and line ups never-ending. This wouldn’t have been the worst except for the fact that we had two babies with us so had to just sit with our strollers while the boys lined up for rides.
Then we came across the beauty that is Discovery Cove.
Located in the Sea World area of Orlando (near Disney), Discovery Cove is a completely different experience. It’s warm pools and rivers (all man-made), clean paths to walk barefoot on all day, sand and wildlife. Although Discovery Cove apparently does a ton of advertising, especially to us Canadians, I had never heard of it until doing an online search for alternate adventures in Orlando. Thank goodness because it is such a great option for families with young children and we had a great time!
One price for everything at Discover Cove: How it works
One price gets you into Discover Cove – plus it includes parking, breakfast, lunch, all snacks and drinks (including alcoholic), wetsuit & life jackets loan, snorkel and mask, towels, sunblock and beach stroller loan. Yep that’s right. Once you get into the park, everything is included! On the particular day we visited, we paid $180 per person – but it also included entrance to Sea World and Aquatica and the option to go to Busch Gardens for an extra $25. It is actually a pretty good deal.
There are little snack bars all over the park: you can drink all you want and the kids can get all the chips and pretzels they want.
The walkways are impeccable: staff are constantly sweeping up puddles, making it easy to walk around barefoot.
Beach strollers are provided: awesome! These maneuver so easily and can ride over the sand no problem.
Dry towels are ample: We were in and out of all the pools all day, so dry towels were much appreciated.
A day of relaxation and adventure
You can pay extra and swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove, but there is so much to do otherwise. After getting fitted for wetsuits (you can choose from various styles or just use a life vest), we started out in the Grand Reef, where we snorkeled with hundreds of tropical fish and got to touch giant stingrays that swim along with guests. From there we practically bathed in the warm Freshwater Oasis and swam past otters and marmosets. The Wind-Away River swim was beautiful and relaxing, as were all the other little bays with their perfect sand. In the aviary at Discovery Cove, staff give you little cups of worms and fruit, enticing colorful tropical birds to sit on your hand and eat.
Breakfast and lunch are included in the price, offering up so many options that everyone ate well.
Although the jungle vibe at Discover Cove is man-made (and heated!), there is so much beautiful nature in the park to really provide an oasis. While there are no rides, snorkelling and wading in warm water all day was more than satisfying for our entire crew! There were no line-ups, no crowds or garbage – only a wonderful place to relax. Food and drink were ample and available and best of all, we only had to bring ourselves as everything was included in the price!
Address: 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL
Prices: $180/$200, higher for dolphin package – includes everything plus admission to Sea World & Aquatica