Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida is one of the best springs in Florida.
We did not know what to expect when we visited Rainbow Springs State Park but we were totally in awe of its beauty. The State Park was up there with beauty of Tumalog Falls and the Twin Lagoon in the Philippines.
Another stunning park we visited, especially if you love photography and Instagrammable shots was Juniper Springs State Park.
Rainbow Springs State Park: 20 Photos to Inspire you to Visit
As Rainbow Springs State Park is so beautiful, we felt that it was only fitting not only to tell you but to show you the beauty of the State Park.
I mean how epic is that water?!
Where is Rainbow Springs State Park?
Rainbow Springs State Park is located in Dunnellon Florida. It is around 1.5 hours drive from Orlando and 1.5 hours drive from Kelly Park, where we visited next!
We visited Rainbow Springs State Park from Sarasota and the drive took approximately 2.5 hours.
It is also a popular spring to visit from Tampa being around 1.5 hours away.
The exact address for your GPS is 19158 SW 81st Place Rd. Dunnellon FL 34432.
About Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs State Park is a seriously cool cheap summer date idea from Orlando as it only costs $2 entry! One of the best springs in Ocala National Forest for sure.
At this price, the State park has to be one of the cheapest things to do in Florida.
There is a big sign at the entrance of the State Park “no refunds!” but at a price of $2 per person entry who needs a refund!?
If you choose to camp at Rainbow Springs State Park, $33 including tax a night, there is no fee to enter Rainbow Springs State Park.
We saw many families at the State Park making the most the the cheap summer fun.
If you are on the hunt for manatees in Florida, this State Park is probably not the right choice as a park ranger told us that there is no manatees in the State Park.
Manatees used to visit Rainbow Springs State Park but on account of a dam that was constructed they are no longer found in this spring.
You will however see a lot of other animals including bird galore, squirrels, racoons (at night) and snakes!
A snake crossed our path while we were walking around the State Park and we freaked out just a little.
History of the State Park
Interestingly, this generation is far from the first to make use of these springs.
There is evidence that Rainbow Springs have been used by humans for 10,000 years. The indigenous people using the area before Europeans were known as Timucua.
Tourists starting frequently the springs in the 1920s. At this point, it was privately owned and included man made waterfalls, glass bottom boat tours, a zoo, a monorail and a rodeo.
It was sold to the State in the 1970s when tourists stopped visiting the park in favour of larger theme park.
The area we know today was opened in 1990.
Rainbow Springs State Park Tubing in Summer
One of the most popular activities to do in Rainbow Springs State Park is to go tubing.
The tubing run at Rainbow Springs is one of the best rated and longest in Florida.
The lazy river ride goes for 2 hours in duration. It is extremely popular as the water is like glass – it is some of the clearest water we have ever seen.
It costs $20 for tube rental & transfers. At the end of the run there is a shuttle bus waiting to collect you and drop you back at the beginning where you car is parked.
Last tube launch for the day is at 3.30pm.
No need for snorkels you can see fish, turtles and hopefully not alligators from the comfort of your tube as you float along.
If you are visiting in winter you are sadly out of luck as tubing in Rainbow Springs State Park is only open until the 30th of September yearly.
You cannot tube in the headspring.
There is a second entrance to Rainbow River with tube rentals. The address for your GPS is S.W. 180th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432
Rainbow Springs State Park Tubing in Winter
After the 30th September, you can still tube in the area outside of the Rainbow Springs State Park.
Private companies offer a 4 hour lazy tube float down the Rainbow River & the KP Hole.
It costs $25 for a KP Hole river float including tube hire, transfers and $10 fee to access the KP Hole.
The 4 hour Rainbow River tube run is exposed so try to go early morning if possible to avoid being scorched by the sun.
The last Rainbow River/KP Hole tube run is 12pm daily due to the 4 hour float duration time.
If you find yourself at Rainbow Springs State Park and want to do an activity outside the head springs, we would recommend swimming with a manatee in Crystal River.
Crystal River is 30 minutes drive away from Rainbow Springs State Park.
Can you bring your own tube?
It is possible to use your own tube in Rainbow Springs State Park tube run. The tube cannot exceed 60 inches.
If you want to use your own tube make sure you have your own transportation. The $20 tube rental includes transfers. It is too far to walk between the the tubing start and finish, over 5 miles.
A ranger at the Rainbow Springs State Park camp told us if we had 2 cars in winter, we could do the tube run ourselves. If you have a group of friends, this may be an option in winter (after 30 September).
You can also bring your own tube to float the Rainbow River & the KP Hole. You get $5 off the admission cost if you choose to use your own tube here.
Rainbow Springs State Park Kayak Rental
You can rent kayaks year round at Rainbow Springs State Park.
It costs $16 an hour or $50 a day for kayak rental.
As the water is so clear, we would recommend renting the clear bottom kayaks so you are able to see the wildlife including fish and turtles beneath you.
Rainbow Springs Swimming
Rainbow Springs allows swimming until 6.30pm each day.
Some State Parks in Florida do not allow you to swim (for example, the Three Sisters does not unless you come in by boat) so we were pleased to find that swimming is encouraged at Rainbow Springs.
In saying this, you cannot swim anywhere you like in the State Park, swimming is only permitted in certain roped off areas in the State Park.
In these designated swimming areas you cannot tube, kayak or dive. Snorkeling however is permitted.
The water is crystal clear and very inviting. It is advisable to bring noodles for comfort because the water is quite deep and in most places you won’t be able to touch the bottom.
If you have a family, your kids will love jumping and diving off the floating dock into the crystal clear water.
Rainbow Springs Snorkeling
Maybe people take advantage of the perfect, crystal, clear water by going snorkeling in the headsprings. There is 0 vegetation in the designated swimming area at rainbow springs so it is perfect for snorkeling.
As far as we are aware, there is nowhere to rent snorkels at Rainbow Springs so you will need to bring snorkels, flippers and anything else you require along with you.
As with swimming, you can only snorkel within the cordoned off area in the headsprings. You can also snorkel from the campgrounds.
If you are an adult and don’t want to put your head under the good news is that you can see fish, turtles and whatever else lies beneath from the comfort of the floating dock.
Rainbow Springs State Park Hikes
If you don’t feel like tubing, kayaking or swimming, Rainbow Springs State Park has the most amazing hikes leading to picturesque waterfalls.
If you are a family traveling with kids, don’t fear as the ‘hikes’ are only very short.
The walks in the State park only take around 20-30 minutes and are relatively flat so a small child should have no problem coming with you.
The nature we saw on the Rainbow Springs little hikes were unreal. We felt like we had been transported to the jungle book.
Rainbow Springs State Park Waterfalls
The waterfalls in the State Park are very beautiful and one of the reasons people are so drawn to this particular State Park.
Interestingly, these waterfalls are not naturally formed waterfalls. They are man made waterfalls from when Rainbow Springs was privately owned.
From 1930-1970, Rainbow Springs was a bit of a theme park with a treetop monorail, a zoo and a rodeo.
The Old Zoo, Rainbow Springs
Talking about the old Rainbow Springs, one of the things to do in the State Park is to take a walk around what remains of the Old Zoo.
Not many people venture to this end of the State Park as it is a little off the beaten track so if you want to see something a little spooky you can check out what remains of the animal cages from Rainbow Springs zoo, last in operation in the 1970s.
We were a little weirded out to see all the old cages but the squirrels seemed to love it!
Nearby the Old Zoo is large grassy areas which are perfect for a game of frisbee or soccer. There are also picnic tables in this area.
Rainbow Springs Butterfly Garden
Nearby the Old Zoo you can go take a leisurely walk through the Rainbow Springs Butterfly Garden.
The garden is well shaded so it is a nice activity to do in the middle of the day when the sun is in full heat.
We sadly did not see any butterflys on our walk but people swear they are there.
Rainbow Springs State Park Food & Picnic Options
As you enter the State Park you will find a cafe with all you need for lunch in the park.
It is handy that it is not essential to have to bring food into the State Park if you do not wish to.
Alternatively, there is sheltered picnic tables near the headspring and also in the grassy area near the Old Zoo with additional tables.
In low season (after 30 September) you will have no trouble securing a table. In peak season, you will need to arrive early if you wish to secure a table for your family for the day.
It is also possible to reserve tables for large groups in advance at a cost of $100.
There are clean public restrooms at the State Park near the picnic area. The toilets are flush toilets (not composting) – yay!
We did not notice any showers in the restrooms however, we were not really looking. If someone has this information please let us know!
State Park Hours
The park is open every day of the year from 8am to sunset.
If you wish to camp, the campground office is open:
- 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Sunday – Thursday
- 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., Friday – Saturday
When we arrived at the campground gate we could not access the office without a code. The office is located a few minutes drive from the gate.
There is a phone number located on the entry gate, you need to call this number. From there, they will provide you with the access code to the campgrounds.
The campgrounds is not in the same location as the headspring, it is located a few minutes down the road.
The address of the campgrounds is 18185 SW 94th St, Dunnellon, FL 34432.
Rainbow Springs State Park Map
When you enter into the State Park they will provide you with a map of the park which shows you how to find the waterfalls, head springs, zoo, butterfly garden and kayak rental area.
If you would like a copy before you visit, you can access a map of the Rainbow Springs State Park here.
A map is not all that necessary though as everything is located within a fairly small space.
Rainbow Springs State Park Weather
Temperatures get as low as 49° in winter and as high as 90° in summer.
The water temperature in the State Park remains at a constant 72° due to the springs.
While tubing is far more popular in summer, you also have the increased chance of thunderstorms. Make sure before you go tubing you check the weather as you cannot exit the run until the very end (2 hours later!)
The constant warm water is why manatees are drawn to springs around Florida in winter.
They are not drawn to this particular spring due to a dam that was constructed. After the dam was constructed, manatees in Rainbow Springs were separated from those in Crystal River.
The manatees in Rainbow Springs were harassed by tourists and officials made the decision to move the few manatees that remained in Rainbow Springs to the other side of the dam.
Rainbow Springs State Park Camping
There is some fabulous camping at Rainbow Springs State Park which we would recommend.
It costs $33 USD a night at the State Park including tax per camping spot.
At the campsite you will find a BBQ, a picnic table and a large camping spot, big enough for a RV and an additional car.
The campgrounds do have some tent only spots which are rather picturesque.
The bathrooms at the campground are clean. There are even a few single, private (non communal bathrooms) with toilet & shower in one which I loved. Late night toilet runs felt more secure with a private bathroom.
In the campground, there is also washing machine facilities and a camp store.
At the camp store you can also rent kayaks which you can launch into the rainbow river from the campgrounds.
The campground is located at a different entrance to the headsprings. The address of the campgrounds is 18185 SW 94th St, Dunnellon, FL 34432.
Rainbow Springs Alligators
Technically alligators do live in Rainbow Springs. There is a risk of an alligator anywhere with water in Florida.
We did not see one during our visit and the ranger informed us they tend to keep clear of people. If you would like to see an alligator, you have a far better chance in the Everglades National Park, in particular we would recommend Anhinga Trail or Shark Valley Trail if you like to bike.
The water is completely transparent so if an alligator was approaching you would see it well in advance!
You are more likely to run into a snake in Rainbow Springs. Rangers at the park are continually on the look out to ensure the public is safe from any venomous snakes.
If you are curious as to whether it is venomous look at the eyes. If they are little and beady – you are fine. If they look like the eyes from the snake in the Jungle book – better run!
Aside from the occasional alligator, you can also regularly see otters, turtles, fish, birds including divers and hawks as well as the endangered gopher tortoise.
We spotted 2 adorable racoon while we were at the campgrounds.
It is such a beautiful State Park that many people actually choose to get married in it.
If you visit the park and would like to book your wedding there, you need to reserve it 11 months in advance.
There is a fee of $106 to hold a wedding at the Rainbow Springs. Here is some additional information.
Alcohol in the State Park
Before we sign off, sadly, we should mention that alcohol is not allowed in the State Park.
As far as we are aware, the only springs that allows alcohol to be consumed there is Ginnie Springs. If you are looking for a party weekend, hens or bucks event, it may be better to head there.