Tips for making your time at Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida unforgettable!

When you think of Orlando, you probably think of BUSY. You have Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld….there is always something to do. But, what if you could have a relaxing vacation and still feel like you experienced the fun of Orlando? This is where this little gem shines. Discovery Cove is one of those places that had been on our bucket list for quite some time. We were always on the fence about it, but sometimes you just have to take the leap. I knew we had made the right choice when my husband agreed (and that rarely happens when it comes to the bank account) that it was worth every penny we paid. Discovery Cove really does have something for everyone in your group and experiences so unique that you will be talking about them for years to come.

Discovery Cove Tips:

To help you plan your trip we are going to give you a breakdown of what to expect of your vacation and things not to miss out on.

Discovery Cove Orlando, Florida

What is Discovery Cove?

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort right in Orlando. So yes, in a way it is another theme park. What sets it apart, though, is that you get so much included with your paid admission. Plus, there are add-on experiences that I would not suggest passing up. With so many included amenities, you won’t feel the stress that you would normally feel on a theme park day.

How much does it cost and what does it include?

Like many parks around the area, prices tend to vary based on the time of year. There are also different price points based on what you want to experience. If you just want a regular day at Discovery Cove, prices can vary between $150-300 per person (children 2 and under are free). To save a little bit, you can also bundle admissions with 2 or 3 other parks (SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens). Adding a dolphin swim experience tacks on a little more cost, but it is well worth the investment. 

I’m sure you gasped a bit when you saw the prices. However, this is all-inclusive. With admission you get the following: unlimited food and drinks, sandy beaches and secluded lagoons, wetsuits and snorkel gear, safety vests/flotation devices, animal encounters, and towels/sunscreen. Plus, FREE PARKING! If you have ever been to anywhere in Orlando, you know what a big deal it is to have included parking.

Is Discovery Cove Open Year Round?

Yes! Since Discovery Cove is located in Florida, temperatures are generally mild year round. This makes it the perfect spot for water fun all year long. 

Discovery Cove is open from 9am – 5pm for the water attractions, but should you decide to take advantage of the breakfast service that they provide, that begins at 7:15am.

If you’ve booked the dolphin swim or SeaVenture, those attraction times are assigned when you check in for the day, and are first come first served. The earlier you arrive for add-on attractions, the easier they can help you schedule your day to fit in everything.

Food at Discovery Cove

Food at Discovery Cove

So, let’s discuss this unlimited food and drink that’s included. Upon arrival and check in, we went over to the Laguna Grill for breakfast.  The food wasn’t fancy gourmet, but it was certainly very good and hit the spot.  You could get sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, pancakes, pastries, etc.

You will also return to Laguna Grill for your lunch that is included with your park ticket. Additionally, there are drink and snack stations throughout the park.

It’s all inclusive, so the kids were thrilled with the unlimited ice cream and the parents were thrilled with the unlimited beer and margaritas!

What to Bring to Discovery Cove

One of the nicest convenience is that you don’t have to pack anything when you go.  You can literally just show up! You will need a photo ID and appropriate swimwear (including waterproof covers or swim diapers for the smallest guests). 

There are two options of gear available, you can wear your swimsuit with a Discovery Cove life jacket or you can opt for a complete wetsuit. 

Sunscreen and towels are also provided when you are visiting, so unless you need a specific type of sunscreen, you can leave that at the hotel!

There are lockers at the front of the park, but it isn’t a trek to go back and forth to get to them. However, some people feel more comfortable buying a slash-proof bag that locks to a lounge chair. If that is the route that you go, here is one that we like from Amazon. 

If I could do my trip at Discovery Cove again I would get some water shoes before going. Originally we didn’t see the need for them, but the Wind-Away River has some very rough places that could result in scraped and sore feet.

What NOT to Bring to Discovery Cove

It’s best to leave your jewelry and valuables at your home/hotel. Not only would you not want to lose anything, but with so many animals and marine life around, you wouldn’t want an animal to get a hold of anything that may harm them. 

Since Discovery Cove is all-inclusive, there is no need to bring snacks or drinks with you.

Also, leave your pool toys at home. You will have so many things to do and places to explore that pool noodles will be a distant memory.

Photos from Discovery Cove:

There are several professional photographers in the water with you and several options available for purchasing photos.

After some deliberation, we ended up just buying the disk with all the photos. This was a digital only option and included all of the photos from the day for $199

There are some other options that include physical prints of your photos which range from $99 to $251.

What you need to know about cancelling your Discovery Cove Reservation:

If for whatever reason you should need to cancel the time you have scheduled but don’t think that you’ll be visiting at all, it is important to do it more than 30 days from your scheduled day.

Any cancelling 30 days or closer to your reservation and there are no refunds given.

Attractions included with a basic Discovery Cove Ticket:

These attractions that are included are in addition to the towels, sunscreen and unlimited food and drinks for the duration of your visit.

Attractions included with a basic Discovery Cove Ticket:

These attractions that are included are in addition to the towels, sunscreen and unlimited food and drinks for the duration of your visit.

Dolphin Encounter
Explorer’s Aviary
Freshwater Oasis
The Grand Reef
Serenity Bay
Wind-Away River

Add-Ons and Upgrades

Dolphin Encounter I would highly recommend adding the Dolphin Encounter to your day. The 30-minute dolphin encounter was a unique experience. An animal carer helped us learn about the species, demonstrated up-close tricks, allowed us to swim and play with the dolphins and took photos.

SeaVenture is a 45 minute underwater walking tour that provides a helmet that allows you to see and breath comfortably under water. SeaVenture starts at $49.00 per person and is for ages 10+.

Swim with the sharks at Discovery Cove.  If you or someone in your group is feeling particularly brave, then a swim with the sharks may just be in order! The shark swim add on starts at $129.00 per person and is for ages 10+.

Stingray feeding. Suit up early in the morning and help the staff at Discovery Cove as they feed stingrays. The Stingray feeding starts at $59.00 per person and is for ages 6+.

Trainer for a Day. Akin to a VIP experience package, you must book the Dolphin Encounter to add this experience. You will get up close with two dolphins, get behind the scene experiences, have a private guide for the Aviary, and a private session with the otters. Prices start at $199 per person and are for ages 6+.

Dolphin Encounter at Discovery Cove

Dolphin Encounter at Discovery Cove

The 30-minute dolphin encounter was the highlight of my vacation, as we learned about the species, saw up-close tricks, swam, and posed for photos.

Grand Reef at Discovery Cove:

After our dolphin encounter, we went over to the Grand Reef where we got snorkeling equipment and explored the coral reef habitat where you are literally swimming among the stingrays, colorful saltwater fish, and you can snorkel down to see the sharks through the glass.

Wind-Away River at Discovery Cove:

The Wind-Away River may have been what I was most impressed with.  It’s a lazy river basically, but it is fresh water and absolutely magnificent with its natural rock and beauty.  The lazy river takes you past sandy beaches, through the rainforest, beneath natural looking waterfalls, and through an underwater cave. Occasionally you will see staff along the water line carrying exotic animals that you can hop out of the water to learn about and touch.  We could have spent all day in the Wind-Away River.

If you want to get out of the water for a bit you can also check out the Explorer’s Aviary.

Cabanas and Special Occasions

Discovery Cove offers several cabana options if you prefer to have a place to ‘set up camp’. Cabana rentals start at $199 and can go up to $799 for a VIP Cabana. The value in a cabana rental is really a personal option and you will enjoy yourself either way.

There are also several packages available if you have something extra special planned. There are proposal packages available if you want to really make the moment extra memorable!

If you’ve been debating a trip to Discovery Cove, we would encourage you to start saving up. It is a once in a lifetime vacation that you want to experience with your family.Headed to Orlando and need other ideas for things to do? Check out our post about things to do in Orlando!

Considering a trip to Discovery Cove in Orlando? We have tips for making your visit a success.

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