Discovery Cove Orlando isn’t just one of the best (or most unique) theme parks in Central Florida. (In fact, it was voted the top theme park in Orlando by USA Today 10Best.) According to travelers on Tripadvisor, it’s also in the running for the “Best Amusement Park in the World.” So, unsurprisingly, it has an ocean of incredible activities for visitors to enjoy while they’re there. So, grab your snorkel and join us as we dive into the very best things to do at Discovery Cove Orlando. Best of all, many of them are complimentary with your resort admission. Let’s get to it!
How-To Guide to Discovery Cove
Before we jump into everything you should do during your day at Discovery Cove, let’s first give a quick overview of what this awesome Orlando vacation destination is all about. The most important thing you need to know is that, unlike Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or its sister parks, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort. That means that, from aquatic activities to dining to amenities like animal-safe sunscreen, snorkeling gear, swim diapers and even the wet suit you wear, much of what is available for guests to enjoy is included in the cost of your Discovery Cove tickets.
Think of it as a Caribbean cruise without the seasickness. Only instead of sailing from port to port, you just get to hang out at the cruise line’s private island all day, splashing around at the beach, getting your daily dose of vitamin D, and eating and drinking all that your heart and stomach desire. Sounds pretty great, right? Sure, just like a cruise, you will need to spend money to take part in certain extra activities or enjoy some next-level upgrades (private cabana with a guaranteed Dolphin Lagoon view, anyone?). However, since many great activities are already covered with the purchase of your day resort package, you really don’t need to pay for anything else to have an amazing time when visiting Discovery Cove Orlando.
For a complete guide to Discovery Cove, check out our complete write-up here. Looking for some tips and tricks to take your day at Discovery Cove to a splash-tastic new level? We’ve got ’em! Ready to book your trip to Discovery Cove? Well, you’re in luck because you can purchase both Discovery Cove packages and single-day tickets directly through us here at Park Savers, thanks to our friends over at Undercover Tourist. And we’ve even scored you a sweet discount. You’re welcome! Now, without any further ado, let’s take a look at all of the watery fun that awaits you at Discovery Cove Orlando.
Complimentary Creature Encounters
The biggest draw for many to visit Discovery Cove Orlando is its up-close animal experiences. From an in-the-water dolphin encounter and snorkeling with tropical fish in The Grand Reef to hand-feeding exotic birds and face-to-face rendezvous with otters and marmosets, Discovery Cove offers creature meet-and-greets the whole family will love. What’s more, access to many of these animal habitats is included with your Discovery Cove admission.
Make a Finned Friend at the Dolphin Swim
For many people, the headlining attraction at Discovery Cove Orlando is its dolphin swim experience. (I know, we get excited just thinking about it.) We should start by pointing out that while the dolphin experience is included in the cost of your resort ticket, it is only covered with the Signature Dolphin Swim Package, not the standard day resort option. Still, even though it is technically only part of an upgraded resort package, the difference in cost between the two can actually be quite reasonable. We’re talking sometimes as little as $25 per person, depending on the date of your visit (ticket prices increase during busier periods and, with it, the cost of the encounter.
Considering how much the same sort of activity might cost you on an actual Caribbean cruise, we think that’s a steal! During your time in Dolphin Lagoon, you’ll learn from a resident dolphin trainer, get a chance to see firsthand the intelligent creatures’ fascinating behaviors and, best of all, enjoy a very short swim with your new dolphin friend. In short, it’s sure to be an experience that you won’t soon forget.
Feed Tropical Birds at the Explorer’s Aviary
Do you or someone in your love birds? Do you often leave out birdseed for feathered friends around your neighborhood or head to the park with scraps of bread to share with the ducks? Then you definitely won’t want to miss Explorer’s Aviary. This free-flight aviary lets you come face-to-beak with all manner of tropical birds. Hundreds of them, in fact! Along with a handy guide to Discovery Cove bird species (a QR code can also be scanned by those who would rather use their phone), visitors can also hand out cup after tiny cup of food, making for an encounter that is not only fun and informational but also a great photo op. For the best experience, plan to arrive early in the morning when the birds are hungry.
Come Face-to-Face with Otters and Marmosets at the Freshwater Oasis
Right next door to Explorer’s Aviary is an incredible marmoset and otter habitat called Freshwater Oasis. Home to Asian small-clawed otters and fluffy marmosets, pint-sized primates with puffy cheeks, this adorable attraction allows you to wade right alongside the otters as they swim to and fro while the marmosets frolic through the lush rainforest canopy above. But those aren’t the only animals you can see here. If you’re lucky, an animal expert might also bring out another small mammal for you to meet at the Conservation Cabana, such as a slow-moving sloth or an armadillo.
Put On Your Snorkel Gear and Explore The Grand Reef
The Great Barrier Reef, just off the coast of Australia, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, offering some truly incredible snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Unfortunately, it also happens to be really far away from the United States. On the bright side, you don’t need to book a plane ticket to the other side of the globe to have an amazing snorkeling experience. The Grand Reef at Discovery Cove Orlando is teeming with thousands of beautiful tropical fish, with artificial coral mimicking a natural habitat for marine life. In deeper parts of The Grand Reef, cleverly camouflaged habitats even allow you to feel as if you’re paddling past toothy reef sharks.
Rest and Relaxation Included
No beach vacation is complete without some time spent sunning yourself in the sand or simply cooling off in the water. Fortunately, this tropical paradise has no shortage of opportunities for blissful relaxation, no matter if you want to float along a lazy river or read a book while enjoying the comfort of a gently swaying hammock.
Make a Splash in Serenity Bay
Who needs to make the drive to one of Florida’s many beaches when you can splash about right here in Serenity Bay at Discovery Cove? With a sandy bottom, refreshing waterfalls and no waves or undertows to worry about, this peaceful pool offers the perfect place to beat the Central Florida heat. It’s even a joy to swim in during Orlando’s mild winters, as it’s warmed to a balmy, bathwater-like 85 degrees all year round.
Soak Up Some Sunshine on the Sandy Beaches
Once you’re ready to dry off for a bit, enjoy a little R&R from one of the sandy beaches that dot the resort. Whether you want to kick back and relax on one of the many lounge chairs or sway with the breeze from a hammock, there’s something to fit the beach vibe you’re looking for. And since Discovery Cove caps its attendance at only 1,300 guests per day, you never have to worry about not being able to find a place to chill. Just remember to bring along a book, magazine, earbuds to listen to music or something else to keep you busy while you unwind beachside. For those who are really looking to take their relaxation to the next level, you can even reserve one of Discovery Cove’s many day beds and private cabanas (for a price, of course). Starting at $79 for a two-person day bed or $299 for a six- to eight-person cabana, they’re a great splurge for visitors who want to add a touch of luxury to their day.
Go With the Flow on Wind-Away River
Grab a noodle or simply let the calm currents carry you away as you set off on an aquatic adventure down Wind-Away River. Discovery Cove’s lazy river meanders beneath the forest canopies of Freshwater Oasis and the aviary, past white sand beaches and under rushing waterfalls, allowing you to soak up the sights of this stunningly designed resort. But that’s not all! Part of your journey along Wind-Away River will even take you through an underwater cave, and you can even see some animals hanging out on land as you float by.
Eat and Drink the Day Away
We don’t know about you, but one of our favorite things about going on a cruise is the fact that so much of the food is included. (What? You mean that I can have one of each of these things and not pay a penny more? Why, don’t mind if I do!) Well, the same can be said for Discovery Cove. That’s right! Throughout your day, you can enjoy endless helpings of both food and drinks. We’re talking a buffet breakfast of everything from scrambled eggs to chicken and waffles, all-you-care-to-enjoy lunch options (think burgers, salads, flatbread pizzas and island-inspired entrees like grilled jerk chicken and mojo pulled pork), unlimited snacks and even bottomless boozy beverages like select beers and wines. And trust us, since the Discovery Cove food quality is high, you’ll have no problem getting your money’s worth.
Animal Experience Add-Ons
Although you can easily have an unforgettable time only taking advantage of the activities that come free with your admission, you can also kick your day up a notch or two by tacking on one or more of Discovery Cove’s add-on animal encounters. Just keep in mind that, due to their limited availability, spaces can fill up quickly. So, be sure to reserve your desired experience early. As hard as it might be to resist temptation, you’ll also want to try and limit yourself to only one or two extra activities to allow plenty of time to take advantage of everything that’s complimentary.
Find Furry Friends at the Animal Trek
Hoping to hang out with more cuddly creatures? Then Animal Trek is for you. Tucked in a lush oasis away from the public pathways, this 30-minute private behind-the-scenes tour led by an animal expert lets you get up close and personal with a menagerie of Discovery Cove Animal Ambassadors. Creatures you may meet along the way can change. However, expect to enjoy quality time with animals like a macaw, sloth, armadillo, anteater, or kinkajou.
Rub Feathers at Flamingo Mingle
While it is possible to see Discovery Cove’s flock of famous Caribbean flamingos for free over at Serenity Bay (they typically stroll through around 9:15 or so in the morning on their way from The Grand Reef over to Laguna Grill), you can also treat yourself to a face-to-face interaction by booking Flamingo Mingle. Led by the resort’s expert aviculturists, this early-morning experience allows you to join the flamboyance as you feed, pose for photos and wade in the water with them.
Give a Gaggle of Rays Their Morning Meal
Start your day with a bang in true Discovery Cove fashion by delivering breakfast to the resort’s graceful rays. With the help of a Discovery Cove aquarist, you’ll give the morning meal to the marine life that calls The Grand Reef home, including energetic Cownose Rays, massive Southern Rays and hundreds of beautiful fish. Just as fascinating as it is fun, you’ll also learn all about how the park’s animal experts work with and care for all of the creatures that live there.
Meet the Denizens of the Deep During the Shark Swim Experience
Have you ever wished that you could swim with a shark? Well, this is your chance! After hearing more about the resort’s different shark species, you’ll don some snorkeling gear and dive in for some quality time with zebra, blacktip reef, bonnethead and nurse sharks—more than 20 of them in all. Best of all, 5% of the proceeds go directly to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which supports marine conservation.
Become a Discovery Cove Trainer for a Day
Want to feel like a true Discovery Cove VIP? Or perhaps you have a child who has always dreamed of being a marine biologist. Either way, you’re definitely going to want to book the amazing Trainer for a Day experience. This incredible activity offers participants exclusive access to some of the best attractions that Discovery Cove has to offer, all with the guidance of a Discovery Cove Orlando trainer. You’ll gain valuable insight at Freshwater Oasis and Explorer’s Aviary. You’ll enjoy special animal meet-and-greets and feed The Grand Reef’s vibrant tropical fish. You’ll even have a second dolphin encounter, complete with a private photo session with two of the creatures themselves. In short, it’s a must for any animal lover.
Take an Underwater Stroll During SeaVenture
You won’t find this at SeaWorld Orlando! One of Discovery Cove’s most unique attractions, SeaVenture is a guided underwater walking tour where participants put on astronaut-like dive helmets and stroll along the bottom of The Grand Reef. (This is especially appropriate given that we almost know as little about the ocean as we do outer space.) For 45 minutes, you’ll immerse yourself in life under the sea. To top it all off, not only will you enjoy one-on-one encounters with all sorts of sea life, but you will even get the chance to touch some as you explore. Talk about seeing things from a fresh perspective!
Well, ya’ll, that brings our roundup of Discovery Cove must-dos to an end. Have you ever visited Discovery Cove? What are your favorite things to do when you visit? Let us know in the comments! For newbies, click here for our complete guide to Discovery Cove or check out our top tips and tricks. Then, find out how you can splash into some savings with our discount tickets.