We love the hustle and bustle of theme parks more than anyone, but as parents, it can be stressful to jump from ride, to show, to meals, to the hotel and back again. (It can be exhausting for little ones too!) That's why we consider Discovery Cove Orlando our little slice of heaven and a great way to schedule some relaxing fun in between theme park visits. It's home to 45 gorgeous dolphins, and it's a home-away-from-home for us Frogs.
Discovery Cove is part of SeaWorld parks and entertainment. But this is a different kind of park that gets you in the water to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences. You can swim with dolphins, fish and rays, feed birds and kick back on pristine beaches. Plus your day includes unlimited food and beverages! You can escape the crowds and have a relaxing day at your own pace. Our Frog family's hopping guide to Discovery Cove Orlando will help you create a little oasis with splashing good fun on your Orlando vacation. Hop down to the bottom of this post to learn more about new health and safety guidelines in place at Discovery Cove.
Our Guide to Discovery Cove Orlando
Discovery Cove Orlando has something for everyone — and every energy level too! From underwater adventures to breezy hammocks perfect for napping in the sun, this all-day resort will make you feel like you've slipped away to a tropical paradise. We're here to give you the details on Discovery Cove Orlando so you know exactly what to look forward to.
Discovery Cove Orlando Overview
When we think of Discovery Cove Orlando, we think of all of the awesome benefits of being on a cruise ... without any of the seasickness! Imagine being in the middle of paradise with tons of cool excursions just footsteps away, and you'll find yourself at Discovery Cove. This all-inclusive day resort features unlimited food and drinks, gorgeous beaches, free animal-safe sunscreen, refreshing water and unique animal encounters.
Discovery Cove is right across from SeaWorld Orlando, and only a 15-minute drive to both Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort. Parking is free for guests.
While waterways don't open at Discovery Cove Orlando until 9 a.m., check-in and breakfast starts promptly at 7:15 a.m. We recommend arriving right at 7 a.m. (but no need to arrive any earlier!) to start your day of relaxation and adventure ASAP, and to get first dibs on your choice of excursion times. Be sure to have your IDs on hand to verify your reservations at check-in, especially if you plan on indulging in adult beverages! The resort closes at 5 p.m. each day.
A huge perk of Discovery Cove Orlando is that they only let in up to 1,300 guests daily, so the park will always feel peaceful and not too crowded. In all aspects, Discovery Cove Orlando makes sure you have a delightful time.
Discovery Cove Orlando Tickets
There are quite a few options to choose from when it comes to Discovery Cove Orlando tickets, and we're here to break them down for you! Oh, and we conveniently have all of the below ticket options available to purchase at a discount on our site.
The best bang for your buck is the Discovery Cove Day Resort Package, with 14-day unlimited admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica, as well. (Read that again — two weeks' unlimited admission to SeaWorld too! Woohoo!) For the ultimate experience, we recommend hopping on the ticket that includes the dolphin swim package — this tends to be the most popular choice.
But wait, there's more! Be sure to check out our options that include 14-day unlimited admission AND free parking at SeaWorld, Aquatica AND Busch Gardens too! You can grab this awesome deal with or without the dolphin swim package included. (Have we mentioned how much we love how accommodating the Discovery Cove Orlando ticket options are?)
Don't have time to take advantage of the 14-day admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica? We toadally understand how much there is to do in Orlando. Luckily, we're now selling Discovery Cove tickets with only the day resort package, with or without the dolphin swim included.
The best ticket for your family just depends on your vacation plans and how much time you have to take advantage of the awesome perks. We promise you can't go wrong! If you do opt for a ticket that includes theme park admission, as well, know that your plastic ID given to you at Discovery Cove also acts as your ticket to the other parks.
How to Book Your Day at Discovery Cove Orlando
As mentioned above, you can book both your day resort and dolphin swim packages through us. But that might leave you wondering how to add on all of the delightful extras we mention below. Well, that's easy!
Once you purchase your Discovery Cove Orlando tickets through Undercover Tourist, hop on over to the Discovery Cove site. Click "Upgrades" on the top bar and add your desired animal encounters, feedings, underwater tours, cabanas, day beds, photo packages, premium drinks or trainer for a day experiences to your cart. Be sure you select the same date for all of your choices. Voila! You're set up for a dreamy day at Discovery Cove Orlando.
We suggest booking your reservation and any add-on experiences at least two months in advance to ensure availability, as spots can fill quickly.
Experiences Included at Discovery Cove Orlando
There is so much to do and enjoy at Discovery Cove Orlando that we can easily spend a day here without adding on any additional experiences. That's definitely a "plus" in our book!
Unlimited Food and Beverages
Let's start with the important stuff ... FOOD! Discovery Cove Orlando's Laguna Grill serves up all-you-can-eat buffets.
Breakfast is served between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. each day, with all of your favorites to enjoy. Fuel up with scrambled eggs, sausage links, French toast sticks, hash brown potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, cereal, fresh fruit, pastries and more. While it is buffet-style, employees will serve up your food for you ... in generous portions too!
Between 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., you can enjoy lunch at your leisure. The menu often rotates, but there is always something for every palate. During our visit, we savored turkey wraps, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, salmon, jerk chicken, burgers, salads, French fries, steamed vegetables and tons more. Everything was a hit, and we especially appreciated how there was yummy food for grown-ups and tadpoles alike. Oh, and don't get me started on the desserts ... the cake flavors alone are practically endless: chocolate chip, tropical, carrot and even strawberry cheesecake.
We mustn't forget about the all-day snack stations! Throughout the park, you'll find snack stands serving up yummy goodies all day. Assorted chips, soft pretzels, cookies, fruit and more will give you all the energy you need to adventure (or to put you into a nice beach hibernation). You can also help yourself to bottled water, soda, coffee, hot chocolate and our favorite — the Icee machine!
Drumroll please ... bottled beer and wine ARE included with your admission for adult frogs ages 21 and up. The premium drink package ($40) includes unlimited signature cocktails, a fully stocked liquor bar, craft and domestic beers, seltzer and red and white wine. (If you don't have the premium drink package, you can purchase drinks that aren't included with regular admission at an extra cost.) Just be sure to drink responsibly. Last call for alcoholic drinks is at 4:45 p.m.
If you have allergies, be sure to let an employee know upon arrival. (We also recommend giving them a heads up when booking your reservation.) They'll set you up to meet with the chef and develop custom meals to meet your needs for the day. The online dining menu shows gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly and vegan-friendly options.
As a frog, I didn't expect to love meeting birds in the Explorer's Aviary as much as I did. Not only was I impressed at the gorgeous environment and our laid-back feathered friends, but it made my heart leap to see the joy on Tad's and Lily's faces as they fed these gorgeous creatures.
Little bowls of fresh, healthy bird food are provided to entice the tropical creatures to get close to you for a fun encounter and perfect Discovery Cove Orlando photo-op. They aren't shy and may even land on your head! (So, if you're not really a fan of feathered friends, consider skipping this experience.) Check out the bird identification guides posted throughout the aviary for a bit of education on what species you're checking out (at this time, the guides are digital, and you can scan a QR code on your phone to view them).
Discovery Cove Orlando is home to our favorite "lazy" river. Grab a noodle to make it a relaxing coast through the water as you enjoy the scenery of waterfalls, caves, rainforests, beaches and more. You might even see some cool creatures along the way ... but they're separated from the river itself, so no need to worry about them hitching a ride with your frog squad. With the combination of relaxation, fun and breathtaking scenery, this is one of those activities that really allows you to enjoy your family time.
We lovingly call Wind-Away River the "not-so-lazy" river, because there are no rafts or inner tubes to nap on here. The river gets up to eight feet deep at some parts, so even frogs like us like to grab onto a noodle to help float us along. The river is absolutely safe for little ones, but we do 100 percent recommend grabbing a complimentary life jacket for tadpoles — even those who are used to flipping their fins — though it's not required. It's easy to get distracted by the scenery and as we always say, better safe than sorry. Bring a mask and snorkel along to view the scene below the surface of the water.
Adventuring not your style? We're not here to judge! Discovery Cove Orlando is the perfect place to unwind, and there's nowhere better than Serenity Bay. Lounge on a beach chair or grab one of the hammocks for a nap in the sun in between dips in the tropical swim freshwater area. The 85-degree water is so welcoming! Have your cameras ready to catch the new flamboyance of flamingos as they journey across the white sand beaches in front of Dolphin Lagoon on their way to Laguna Grill in the morning around 9:15 a.m.
The Grand Reef
Discovery Cove Orlando's Grand Reef is probably the most unique, exciting and "worth it" of the included experiences. Grab a complimentary snorkel and goggle set (blue bags for adults, yellow for children) and jump in to check out thousands of various, colorful fish through a coral reef. You'll encounter reef sharks, colorful angelfish, velvety rays and so much more! The Discovery Cove animal experts are on hand to answer any questions.
Small Mammal Viewings
Once or twice a day, professional animal caretakers will bring out a furry (or not-so-furry, or feathery) friend to visit with you at Conservation Cabana. We've been lucky enough to meet an armadillo and owl on our visits, and hope to meet a sloth sometime soon! This is a prime form of edutainment, as the animal experts will answer every curious question your little ones may have, while they get the chance to touch some interesting critters.
Half of the beauty in Discovery Cove Orlando is that they have pretty much everything covered for you. All of the below resources and perks are included at no extra cost:
- Large lockers to stow your gear
- Showers complete with shampoo, conditioner and body wash (both private indoor or public outdoor showers available as showering is required before entering any animal living space), as well as hair dryers to use
- Fresh towels practically everywhere you turn
- Animal-safe sunscreen (Skip bringing your own, and use this to protect the wildlife!)
- Wet suits and vests with sizes for everyone (Employees do a GREAT job of estimating your size, but don't be shy in asking for a size up or down.) You can also find life jackets of every size along the shore.
- Snorkeling gear, with prescription goggles available upon request
- Changing facilities
- Food and beverage, including snacks plus beer and wine for adults 21+
- Complimentary self-parking
You might not expect that guests with disabilities would be able to experience much of the aquatic fun at Discovery Cove Orlando, but the resort does an incredible job of including everyone wherever possible. We recommend calling Discovery Cove Orlando ahead of your trip at (407) 513-4600 to reserve wheelchairs and make a note of any necessary accommodations in your reservation. The Discovery Cove Orlando team will do everything they can to make your visit as adventurous and fun as possible. Discovery Cove is also a Certified Autism Center. The park offers specialized services to guests with autism and other special needs.
Wheelchairs are provided with special wheels to help guide you through the sand and on wet terrain. (Sneak a peek at the stroller photo below for an idea of what those sand-friendly wheels look like. They work like magic!) There are remarkable viewing areas of the reef that are wheelchair-accessible, and as much assistance as needed is offered by Discovery Cove Orlando employees to help you experience as much as you are comfortable with. Special structures and handrails are even built into the dolphin lagoons to be as inclusive as possible.
Specially wheeled strollers are also complimentary to make your day with little ones that much easier ... and to help avoid a sandy mess in your car later on!
Service animals (dog or miniature horse) are welcome and may access the resort areas except for the Aviary, Grand Reef, Serenity Bay, Wind-Away River, Freshwater Oasis and Dolphin Lagoons. Attended service animals are allowed to wait at least 30 feet from the water's edge of these areas.
Discovery Cove Orlando Upgrades and Add-Ons
We mean it when we say you can thoroughly enjoy a day at Discovery Cove Orlando without any upgrades or add-ons, and you can keep busy with the included wildlife and activities! However, some of the neatest animal encounters (and luxurious relaxation additions) do come at an additional cost. We find these once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be both reasonably priced and worth it.
With any of the animal encounters, one of our favorite parts is learning from the animal ambassadors and educators. The Discovery Cove Orlando team members are truly passionate about what they do, and it shows! It will touch your heart to see them interact with their beloved animal friends, and it's super fun to learn so much about the wildlife!
The dolphin swim is our favorite part of every visit to Discovery Cove Orlando, and is especially enchanting for first-timers. In small groups, you get to meet a dolphin to touch or hug before taking a swim alongside him or her. The dolphins are ready to pose for solo and group shots, including one with a kiss on the cheek! You even get to help the trainers encourage the dolphin to perform some of their coolest behaviors.
I'm sure you want to know more about this unfrogettable experience. Our tween, Tad, shares all the deets in his Discovery Cove Dolphin Swim Experience and FAQ.
For the time being, the Dolphin Experience is modified to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unvaccinated guests must wear a face covering and maintain physical distancing (though you're allowed to pull the mask down under your chin for photos). Dolphin interactions take place in shallow water. You'll need to make a reservation to do this experience. Call (407) 513-4600 to add this experience to your reservation.
SeaVenture - Starting at $49/person
We've never had an experience like this outside of Discovery Cove Orlando! Available for ages 10 and up, this underwater walking tour uses unbelievable "astronaut" helmets (as Tad called them) to experience the sea in a whole new light. Spend 20 to 25 minutes underwater with an oxygen helmet that will make adventuring underwater practically as easy as taking a stroll on land, guided by an animal expert that will give you fun facts along the way. You'll have an opportunity to touch sea life and be surrounded by gorgeous fish, rays and sharks. Fair warning: This experience is not meant for the claustrophobic! However, it was much easier to adjust to than I anticipated. If any problem arises, you can use hand signals at any time to return to land. Each dive is limited to nine people. You should not drink alcohol before your tour or fly within four hours of participating, so schedule accordingly! Personal GoPros are allowed, or you can borrow an underwater camera to take photos, which can be added to a photo package or purchased separately.
Cabanas - Starting at $199/cabana for up to eight guests
We were lucky enough to splurge on a cabana during our most recent visit to Discovery Cove Orlando, and we loved every second. Cabanas add a new level of privacy, convenience and luxury to make your visit even better. Each cabana has its own table and chairs, chaise lounges, private locker, fresh towels and unlimited snacks and drinks. There are different levels of cabanas. The top-level (but pricey) VIP Cabana comes with gifts, a photo package, an exclusive animal encounter and a VIP Cabana Host! We recommend asking for a cabana with the best view of the dolphins! Not only is it a peaceful area, but admiring the fantastic dolphins will keep your tadpoles entertained.
Day Beds - Starting at $69/day
If you are not ready to splurge on a cabana, but you want a comfortable oversized Day Bed to call your own for the day, two adults (with a maximum of four guests) can relax on a nice bed. For larger parties, you may purchase additional day beds.
Animal Trek - $79/person
Take a private 30-minute tour with Animal Ambassadors for a behind-the-scenes experience with some of the birds and small animals at Discovery Cove Orlando. Fun fact: Otters are our favorite animals ... other than frogs! Actual animal experiences may vary as the tour has been reduced from 90 minutes down to 30. Animal Trek and Shark Swim take place at the same time, so you will need to pick between the two experiences if you're interested in both.
Ray Feeding - Starting at $59/person
Available for only a limited number of guests per day (talk about VIP!), be sure to book this cool experience in advance for family members ages 6 and up. Put on a wetsuit and hop in the water to feed Cownose and Southern Stingrays, along with thousands of tropical fish, their morning meal during a private swim in the Grand Reef. It includes a Q&A session with an aquarist. While about 30 to 45 minutes will be spent in the water, allow at least an hour and 45 minutes for the entire experience.
Flamingo Mingle - Starting at $59/person
"Flamingle" with flamingos, as the perfect way to kick off your day. This early-morning experience begins and ends with a private stroll with the flamboyance (aka a group of flamingos). You'll go to the shore to feed them one-on-one before wading in the water with them. Professional photographers will be there to capture the moment, and experts will be there to share fun facts and answer questions.
Shark Swim - Starting at $129/person
Yet another über-exclusive experience for guests 10 and up, the shark swim puts you side-by-side with over 20 sharks for a free swim after a shark talk and training session with one of Discovery Cove Orlando's expert aquarists. Tad is begging to try this new offering, and we can't wait to check it out! Personal cameras are not allowed for the safety of the animals, but other party members are allowed to take photos and video of the interaction.
Trainer for a Day - Starting at $199/person (and must be booked in addition to Signature Dolphin Swim admission package)
The most ultimate in upgrades, this Discovery Cove Orlando experience is perfect for animal lovers ages 6 and up. Included in this small-group experience are a second enhanced dolphin interaction, fish feeding in the Grand Reef, special meet-and-greets with tropical birds and small mammals, a private session in the otter habitat, a behind-the-scenes tour of Discovery Cove Orlando and shadowing a trainer for the day.
Premium Drink Package - $40/person
Just in case the unlimited wine and beer weren't enough, you can always upgrade your drink package to include signature cocktails, a fully stocked liquor bar, craft and domestic beers and upgraded red and white wines. Of course, this is only available to guests 21 and older!
Keep memories of your special day alive with photos while keeping your phone and camera dry and safely locked up. There are several photo packages to choose from at Discovery Cove Orlando. You can see them all here.
Discovery Cove Orlando Tips
- Arrive around 7 a.m. to be first in line for check-in. You'll have the best choice of times for activities such as the SeaVenture or Dolphin Swim. However, you don't need to arrive any earlier, as you will not be allowed to enter the park until 7:15 a.m.
- Discovery Cove Orlando does a great job of handling that unpredictable Florida weather. If a named tropical storm or hurricane approaches Orlando, Tampa or your home town within seven days of your visit, you can reschedule or get a refund. Call (417) 513-4600.
- If you're not diving in for the dolphin swim, be sure to at least watch them play. Between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. is the best, most active viewing time!
- Are you a bird lover? Head directly toward the Explorer's Aviary bright and early. The early bird gets the worm, as they say! In the morning, birds will be at their hungriest and excited to interact as long as you have a bowl of (provided) food in hand.
- We'll say it once, and we'll say it again: Use the provided sunscreen! As aquatic creatures ourselves, we know the importance of respecting wildlife. And hey, using Discovery Cove Orlando's sunscreen will save you a couple bucks rather than using your own or buying some just for the trip!
- With that being said, go easy on the sunscreen. It is much thicker than standard sunscreen, so start with less and build up as needed.
- Be kind to the wildlife. The Discovery Cove Orlando team does a stellar job of caring for these beautiful animals (Did you know they even stay behind in hurricanes to make sure the wildlife is safe and sound? And there is someone on-site 365 days per year, even holidays?) so be sure to follow the experts' instructions and give the animals some space, unless otherwise instructed.
- Plan no more than two "big" activities in a day. During our last visit, we conquered the wow-worthy SeaVenture and amazing Dolphin Swim, and had just enough time for all of the great included adventures, as well. Discovery Cove Orlando is a place for relaxation ... so don't bite off more than you can chew!
- On the other hand, we absolutely endorse biting off more than you can chew — so to speak — when it comes to dining. Every cuisine is so delicious, you'll want to try it all! Get a smorgasbord of entrees and share among your family.
- Bring grandma, grandpa, great-uncle Jeremiah ... Discovery Cove is the perfect destination for a multi-generational trip, with the right amount of adventure and relaxation to keep everyone happy and enjoying their time together.
- We frogs are very H2O-dependent, so we can't remind you enough to stay hydrated. You can grab a water bottle at any snack station, and this will help you feel energized in the Florida sun.
- If you have a GoPro (or other waterproof camera), there is NO better place to bring it than Discovery Cove Orlando. You can't bring it with you during the dolphin or shark swims, but you will catch unbelievable footage in the Grand Reef, Wind-Away River and SeaVenture.
- Be sure to start your lazy river journey before 4 p.m. if you want to circle around the entire river. The back part of the river closes at 4:30 p.m. to allow enough time for people to complete the entire river before the park closes at 5 p.m. By the time we entered the lazy river around 4:20 p.m., we didn't quite make it around by the time they closed it off.
- Starting around 3 p.m., when more people start leaving for the day, Adventure Photo forms longer lines, due to people selecting their photos. If you have a dolphin swim earlier in the day and don't anticipate getting photos from any other experiences from Discovery Cove's professional photographers, we'd suggest picking out your photo package before the end of the day rather than on your way out.
Discovery Cove COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines
Discovery Cove is committed to the health and safety of guests, employees and animals. If you visit while COVID-19 is still out there, you can expect to see some of the same guidelines you might expect at the other Orlando theme parks. These protocols and guidelines will be modified as the situation, industry standards and public health guidelines evolve.
Based on the recently announced guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, face coverings will no longer be required for guests at Discovery Cove who are fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidance. Discovery Cove does not require proof of vaccination, but asks guests to respectfully comply with the revised policy. All Discovery Cove employees will be required to continue to wear face coverings at this time.
Face coverings are still required for unvaccinated guests 2 and older at the park entrance, retail areas, food and beverage areas and other designated areas, such as Explorer's Aviary. Face coverings are not required in the water (such as the lazy river and all other water attractions) except during the Signature Dolphin Swim Experience. Masks must cover the nose and mouth and be secured under the chin, as well as secured either with ear loops or behind the head. Masks with exhalation valves, mesh or holes of any kind are not permitted. No costume masks.
Here's a look at some of the other enhancements to ensure employee and guest safety:
- Temperature screenings — Guests and employees must have a temperature of less than 100.4.
- Physical distancing — Signage throughout the park (and on the ground) reminds guests to stay 6 feet from other guests. Lounge chair seating is modified.
- Efforts to reduce contact — The park encourages contactless payment, and plexiglass provides a physical barrier in some locations.
- Increased cleaning and sanitation.
- Hand sanitation stations installed across the park, especially in high-contact areas.
- Employees are required to stay home if feeling sick and follow CDC guidelines for isolation and symptom-free period for retuning.
- Employees receive additional COVID-19 training to cover new operating procedures.
- Restaurants arrange seating to accommodate physical distancing. Tables and chairs are sanitized. Condiment stations are closed and the park has increased grab-and-go options.
- Shops have signage, defined entrances and exits and altered bagging procedures to minimize contact.
- Animal meet-and-greet/photo opportunities are modified or removed.
- You can book with confidence through 2021 with one complimentary date change up to 48 hours prior to your reservation date.
We're already hoppin' to head back to Discovery Cove Orlando, and we hope you're ready for your first or returning visit too. Have any questions about what's included in your resort day here? Shoot us a comment.