Discovery Cove is a tropical paradise located in Orlando, Florida. It’s an all-inclusive day resort with white sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal clear water, and animal encounters you will remember forever. It is one of those places that you have a fabulous time being there; then later you step back and reflect on everything and it all soaks in how truly, truly amazing the experience was.
Our day was adventure packed. We got there before they opened and stayed until they closed and still feel like we ran out of time. We didn’t even end up seeing or doing everything. There was so much to do and take in. It was a “once in a lifetime” sort of adventure, but I just may try to find a way to get back there, someday.
I had booked our adventure months in advance. Prices vary throughout the year. We were able to get there the final day before the prices increased for the summer. With our purchase to Discovery Cove, we were also able to visit Sea World, within the next 14 days, at no extra cost. (There are even more inclusions with your package, but we didn’t do them. You can find them on the FAQs page.) They only allow 1300 guests per day, so it doesn’t really feel like it is crowded or you have to fight your way through herds of people.
When the long awaited day finally arrived, we were up early because we were pretty excited about our day. (And it was a pretty expensive day so we were going to get all we could out of it.) We waited in line for about 30 minutes before they opened the doors and then got checked in. They gave us our ID badges and we were off to the wonderful paradise.
Our first greeter was Lucy, a three toed sloth. Belle adores sloths and was super excited to be able to say “Hi” and get to pet one. Then we headed down the path, where a photographer took our family picture. (You pick up your photo before you leave, as an instant memory of your day.) After that we were off to get a locker and get suited up in our wetsuits.
Like I mentioned, we didn’t even get to everything,but here is what we did:
Dolphin Lagoon – Swimming with the Dolphins
Wow. You can’t get any closer to these amazing animals. It truly is unreal. Swimming with the dolphins was the reason we went to Discovery Cove; we were not disappointed. The dolphin experience is an optional extra package; it is not included with the regular resort admission. Guests have to be six years old to participate in the dolphin experience. So, Emmitt and I didn’t get in the water with the dolphins. The staff was very kind in helping Emmitt and me be in the best spots to take pictures and observe the rest of our crew. We were able to get in the water at the end of the dolphin session with the rest of our family and take a family picture with a dolphin. I was so excited!
Jason and the bigger kids were in the water with a small group of other people, a trainer, and a dolphin for about 30 minutes. They got to pet, hug, and even kiss their new dolphin pal. They were even “towed back” to shore by holding onto the dolphin’s dorsal fin and getting a ride. They had a blast!
This is not a get in an inner tube and float down the lazy river, sort of river. This is a put on your life jacket or grab a pool noodle if you’re not a strong swimmer before you head out sort of river. The river is pretty and includes a few waterfalls to float under and even winds through part of the aviary, so you may see a few neat feathered friends along your way.
Prior to going down the river, I asked the lifeguard how deep the river was and he told me about 3 feet. He was wrong. Very wrong. He obviously had never been down the river because at several points there are 8 foot drop offs.
Jason and the kids had a great time. They love water and love to swim. For me, this was not fun, too deep, and way too long. I am not a strong swimmer and pretty much never go in water deeper than my waist, let alone above my head. Fortunately, Emmitt had requested to put on a life jacket before we trekked down the river and Owen and I had grabbed pool noodles. Owen is a strong enough swimmer, but he would have gotten pretty tired because he would have had to swim almost all the way. Belle and Ethan did just fine and Jason held onto Emmitt as we floated/swam along. I was very, very glad to have a noodle.
The Grand Reef – Snorkeling and Sting Rays
This was a highlight. My kids loved snorkeling!! They had so much fun snorkeling in the beachy area, just floating around and looking at the sand. Then when we went over by the sting rays, they never wanted to leave! (We did finally pull them away, but we ended up going back later.) There were some other large salt water fish also in the pool. Some of the sting rays would swim close enough and allow you to pet them. This was so cool. There were trainers in the water to ensure everyone was safe with the animals. We learned that if the stingrays were lying still on the bottom that meant they were sleeping and everyone needed to let them be. The water in this pool was extremely salty. That may be what the fish and stingrays need, but wow, “yuck!” when it ends up your mouth.
Explorers Aviary – Feed Exotic Birds
The birds in the aviary are very pretty and very colorful. They are unique birds that don’t live anywhere near Wisconsin, so I think I had only seen two of the types of birds that were there before. It was late in the afternoon when we visited the aviary. I was a bit worried all the birds would be full from everyone else feeding them all day and they wouldn’t want to eat with us. With some patience and moving around to find different birds, we were successful in them flying down to eat. At first, they all seemed to go to Jason, but everyone ended up being able to “hold” and feed a few different birds. This was definitely another very neat experience.
Laguna Grill & Snack Stands – Breakfast/Lunch/Snacks
They offer a lot of attractive food: main courses, sides, fruit, veggies, desserts, drinks. Being all-inclusive, you can eat as much and as often as you’d like. We ate breakfast shortly after we got there and later had a very late lunch. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot that my family actually found delicious. They actually ate very little of what they took. The snack stand was handy for a quick refuel and to grab something to drink and eat (cookies, granola bars, soft pretzels, Rice Krispie treats, and more.) It was super cute how surprised and excited my kids were when they were told they could pick whatever they wanted; it didn’t matter how much it cost and no one had to share. There was no cost, not at this point anyway because we had already paid the all-inclusive price earlier.
It is definitely worth sharing that the chefs at Discovery Cove are very accommodating for individuals, like me, with allergies. Upon check in, in the morning, we were asked if there were any allergies. Since I do, I was given a special card to hand to food service when we went to eat. I didn’t eat any breakfast at Discovery Cove, but at lunch when I handed them the card, they called for the chef to come out and talk with me. She was super friendly and truly concerned about making a meal I could eat. The meal that she made for me was fabulous and I ate every bit of it.
- Each person gets to pick their preference of wearing a wetsuit or “wet”vest. You can also change from one to the other at any point.
- Everyone gets to use a snorkel and mask. You get to keep the snorkel portion of it. I ended up buying a pair of the child’s size mask in the gift shop because they worked so well and the kids were excited to be able to snorkel at home.
- They have special animal safe sunscreen for you to use. (Remember you’ll be in the sun and water all day – so reapply liberally and often.)
- There are towels in the bathrooms for everyone to use.
- There are bags in the bathroom for you to put your wet swimsuit in, at the end of the day.
You are welcome to take your own photos everywhere. There are photographers around the resort that will take your pictures throughout the day. They will need to scan your id badge to get your photos uploaded on your account. You can then choose to purchase any single prints or the entire cd of your photos, if you’d like. You do get to see the pictures beforehand. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many photographers out and about the day we were there and on a couple of occasions we saw them leaving areas that we were just getting to – with no one replacing them. Sometimes though, you may find them capturing your memories while you go under the waterfall on the river, in the aviary while your hold a bird, in the sting ray pool, and definitely by the dolphins. If you get lucky, there may even be a photographer taking underwater shots so you can capture the fun of snorkeling.
I think the whole story of the day can be told through the photos. It was an amazing day. I am so very glad to have spent the day with my beautiful family in such a wonderful and amazing place.
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