Looking for the Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in Florida? You have come to the right place.
A family vacation to Florida should be filled with thrilling, once in a lifetime, amazing experiences, and there is no better way to have that than swimming with the ocean’s most friendly and majestic creatures, dolphins!
Florida is known for its wildlife, warm weather, and premier destinations, that is why it is no surprise that it is one of the best states to experience the magic of marine life and get up close and personal with dolphins. Book a visit to splash around at one of these 11 best places to swim with dolphins in the Sunshine State.
11 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in Florida
1. Gulf World Marine Park
In Panama City you will find a park bursting at the seams with interactive learning, shows featuring the many animals who live at Gulf World Marine Park, and a plethora of options to find exactly what you’re looking for when choosing a place to swim with dolphins. At Gulf World Marine Park, you will find a friendly staff who not only love the marine life they care for, but also a staff who love to educate parkgoers about the dogs of the sea.
Some of the dolphin swimming packages include the Bottlenose Dolphin Royal Swim, Bottlenose Dolphin Swim Adventure, Bottlenose Dolphin Encounter, Rough-Toothed Dolphin Encounter which all include approximately 30 minutes of dolphin interaction and fun.
If you’re looking for a longer experience to fill your day, the Trainer for a Day package might be exactly what you are looking for. Not only do you get to participate in food preparation, make a stage appearance in the dolphin show in front of an audience, but you also receive a complimentary Gulf World Marine Park trainer t-shirt to remember the amazing experience forever!
After swimming with the dolphins, Gulf World Marine Park also has many other attractions and marine life for your family to see to get the most out of your visit. Enjoy the Stingray Interactive Program, the Harbor Seal Encounter, attend the Sea Lion Meet N Greet, see Russell the crow, and so many more! There is something for everyone at Gulf World Marine Park to enjoy.
2. Miami Seaquarium
Located in Miami, the Miami Seaquarium has so much to offer its visitors! The park is one of the oldest marine parks in the United States and that goes to show that they really know what they are doing when it comes to entertainment and upholding an excellent reputation! The park houses many different species of marine life and with that variety comes many different attractions and packages to choose from when choosing what to do with your vacation time!
Swimming with the dolphins is the Miami Seaquarium most popular attraction. Some of the different packages based around swimming with the dolphins include the Royal Swim, Dolphin Odyssey, and Dolphin Encounter. The interaction time for each of these is approximately 30 minutes.
If you aren’t interested in getting in the water with the dolphins, there is an option to book the Meet a Dolphin package that includes a lesson about all thing’s dolphin with a trainer, and for approximately 10-15 minutes you will get to touch and feed the resident dolphins.
Even though offering customers a chance to swim with the dolphins is this parks bread and butter, they also offer many other attractions for every member of the family to enjoy! The Seal Swim, Penguin Encounter, Sea Trek Reef Encounter, Shark and Crownose Ray Interaction, touch pools, Caribbean Flamingo sightings at the park’s entrance, sea turtle exhibits and many more presentations to choose from during your visit to Miami Seaquarium! With this many opportunities to get up close and personal with the marine life, your trip to the Miami Seaquarium is sure to be fun filled and educational!
3. Epcot Sea Adventures Dolphins in Depth at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World in Orlando is known for giving its parkgoers a magical experience and keeping the Disney spirit alive through everyone who steps foot in the park. One of the ways to get that magical experience is meeting and swimming with the dolphins at The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. The staff at Epcot are highly trained and ready to give you a firsthand look at how they research, learn from, and train the dolphins that call Disney World home.
During the visit, you will interact with the dolphins and gain access to the backstage areas where the dolphins are trained. In addition to watching a training session, you will gain knowledge about what it takes to care for Bottlenose Dolphins daily. The trainers encourage everyone to participate by asking questions and engaging in the activities to get the most out of your time with the dolphins. For three hours total, you will be surrounded by education, fun, and Disney magic.
Other than swimming with the dolphins, there is an endless list of things to do and see at Epcot! If you are looking for more marine life fun, then check out the Epcot Sea Adventures – Aqua Tour for the opportunity to snorkel with 6,000 sea creatures from over 60 aquatic species in a 2.5-hour experience. The Caribbean Coral Reef is a 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium and is sure to deliver amazing views and the time of your life!
4. Fury Water Adventures Dolphin Watch and Snorkel ECO Tour
In Key West there are so many things to do as a family, but swimming with the dolphins at Fury Water Adventures would make your vacation one for the books! The Dolphin Watch and Snorkel Tour offers the opportunity to witness Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitat, as well as the chance to take in some of the best views Key West has to offer.
A catamaran will take the group into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and to the Key West wildlife refuge to embark on a mission to observe, swim with, and learn about Bottlenose Dolphins. The equipment needed to snorkel in the shallow backcountry waters is provided for your experience, as well as complimentary cold beer and chilled wine for the ride back. Use your drinks to cheers to a great day out on the water!!
One of the many great aspects of Fury is that they are the only “Dolphin SMART” destination in the Florida Keys. Dolphin SMART is essentially a program dedicated to the protection and responsible observation of dolphins. Not only is Fury offering a wonderful experience by showcasing the natural habitat of the Bottlenose Dolphin, but also ensures the protection and safety of the species.
5. Dolphins Plus
Dolphins Plus in Key Largo, Florida has made a name for itself by being top-notch in research and delivering some of the best educational programs built around Bottlenose dolphins. Aside from offering animal care internships, independent research, and hosting educators from around the world, they are also delivering a safe, unforgettable, and enriching experience swimming with the dolphins!
Some of the packages for swimming with the dolphins include the Signature Swim, Shallow Water Dolphin Encounter, Shadow A Trainer for a Day, and Dolphin Exploration Lab. Not only do you get to splash around with the dolphins, but also get an education on their social behavior, reproductive biology, echolocation, and conservation. Outside of the water there are even more chances to get up close and personal with the dolphins with the Meet a Dolphin, Dolphin Dockside package that offers guests to join a trainer on a floating dock to learn about the anatomy of the dolphins as well as experience behaviors like poses, handshakes, and belly rubs!
One of the great things about Dolphins Plus is the care and passion for the species that is demonstrated here by the staff. The employees really take the time to get to know each individual dolphin and each of their personalities. During your visit you will be introduced to the many dolphins they care for like Leo the 18-year-old Bottlenose that loves to impersonate laughing babies and other animal sounds! Luna, another Bottlenose at Dolphins Plus is the youngest female and is said to be very gentle and brave! There are so many other wonderful dolphins to get to know at Dolphins plus, too!
6. Theater of The Sea
In Islamorada, Florida Theater of The Sea has been operating since 1946 as a family business and is home to dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, fish, alligators, birds, stingrays, parrots, and reptiles. Many of their animals are easily viewed by a bottomless boat ride or by taking a trip to the private lagoon-side beach where you can snorkel and animal watch, by catching one of the many shows offered in general admission, or by booking an animal interaction program for a more hands on experience!
The many action-filled packages offered featuring swimming with the dolphins gives you a chance to get firsthand experience in observing their behaviors and learning all you can about the species. Theater of The Sea offers programs such as: Swim with the Dolphin, Express Dolphin Swim, Ultimate Swim – Wade with the Dolphin, and Wade with the Dolphin. For an out of water experience Meet the Dolphin and Paint with the Dolphin would be the programs for you.
Not only does Theater of the Sea offer incredible programs for swimming with dolphins, but they also offer an abundance of opportunities to swim with other aquatic animals like sharks, sea lions, and stingrays! Theater of the Sea has so much for you and your family to explore and experience!
7. Discovery Cove
Much like most places in Orlando, Florida, the fun at Discovery Cove includes getting your feet wet and bringing your swimsuit along. At Discovery Cove you will find a facility that not only has passion for the animals, but also has a passion for giving its guests the time of their lives! With its amazing ratings and reviews, there’s no doubt that the whole family will enjoy their trip to Discovery Cove!
At Discovery Cove swimming with the dolphins is part of the all-inclusive resort package and the resort staff and dolphin trainers are there to ensure you are getting the most out of your day in paradise. The Signature dolphin swim is a group activity where you get to meet a dolphin and learn all about the species. Once the lesson is over there will be a chance for each group member to interact with the dolphin one-on-one!
At Discovery Cove the fun doesn’t seem to end! With every visit to the park comes a long list of amenities each guest has unlimited access to, such as complimentary snacks and drinks, wetsuits, snorkeling in The Grand Reef, swimming with sharks, taking a SeaVenture wearing a dive helmet on an underwater walking tour, hand feeding exotic birds in the Explorer’s Aviary, up-close animal encounters, hammocks and loungers to relax in, a lazy tropical river, sandy beaches to cool off from the Florida heat and so much more!
8. Dolphin Research Center
In Grassy Key, Florida, Dolphin Research Center offers an expansive amount of knowledge to the many guests who visit to learn about the dolphins they care for at the facility. Dedicating their lives to the field of marine mammal care, education, and research, the Dolphin Research Center hosts more than 70,000 visitors a year to educate and provide unforgettable memories to dolphin lovers who come to participate in all the research center has to offer.
Swimming with the dolphins is one of the many amazing perks of visiting the Dolphin Research Center. As you swim with the dolphins, you’ll be gaining knowledge and viewing their behaviors during the interaction.
The Dolphin encounter package and Family Dolphin Splash are typically 20-25 minutes long, while the VIP Experience and Researcher Experience lasts for approximately 4 hours! But if you are looking to spend the whole day getting to know the dolphins at the research center, the Ultimate Trainer of the Day package offers guests to work alongside trainers and participate in actual training sessions with the dolphins, swimming and painting with the dolphins, as well as helping with feeding!
For an out of water but still, hands-on experience, the Meet the Dolphin, Paint with a Dolphin, and Play with the Dolphin programs are great options. Each let you get up close and personal with the dolphins without submerging into the water.
While at the research center you’ll be gaining knowledge about preservation, how the facility cares for and trains the dolphins, as well as viewing the many educational presentations at the Dolphin Research Center!
9. Dolphin Connection
Like many places in the Florida Keys, Dolphin Connection offers an exciting and unforgettable experience to ensure you never forget your vacation in the Sunshine State! With four interactive programs to choose from, everyone is bound to have a great time getting to know the Bottlenose Dolphins at Dolphin Connection.
The Royal Swim package is the most popular and offers guests to spend 15 minutes gaining knowledge and learning how to handle the dolphins they are about to spend 30 minutes in the water playing with. The hugs, shallow water handshakes, melon rubs, rides, and other play included in The Royal Swim make for a plethora of memories to last a lifetime.
If you and your family are looking for a more deep-water experience, the Dolphin Discovery program offers the same behaviors as The Royal swim, but it also includes handshakes and other deep-water behaviors. While the Dolphin Encounter package doesn’t include riding the dolphins, it still is sure be the highlight of your vacation.
For a more VIP experience, Dolphin Connection offers a 3-hour program dedicated to giving their guests the ultimate trainer experience that allows the guest to have a behind the scenes look at what it is like to train and care for a dolphin on a daily basis. The Marine Mammal Specialist will guild the guest in feeding, training, and interaction with the Bottlenose Dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery facility.
10. Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder (DPMMR)
In the heart of Key Largo, Florida, DPMMR has made it their mission to the conservation and protection of marine mammals all while educating and giving guests incredible encounters with the animals they care for at the facility. The non-profit organization offers educational courses and an ample number of programs offering a swimming with the dolphins’ experience.
The programs designed for guests to get into the water and splash around with the dolphins include a thorough educational briefing before entering the dolphin habitat to teach the guests about the anatomy, behaviors, and conservation of the Bottlenose Dolphins. At DPMMR, the trainers and staff are there to guide and educate each guest, so they can have a safe and fulfilling time with the dolphins in the lagoon.
Whether guests opt for a private swim, the flagship program Connect to Protect, Splash and Wade, or Splash and Swim the dolphins and trainers are definitely going to be providing guests a memorable experience! The Enrichment in Action program offers participants to engage in activities listed on the “Wheel of Enrichment” that is used to select which activity is done with the dolphins.
The wheel lists activities such as giving the dolphins their favorite toys, spraying a water hose into the pool for the dolphins to interact with, blowing bubbles for the dolphins, and many more. This program gives guests who aren’t interested in submerging into the water a chance to interact and be hands-on with the dolphins.
11. Water Planet
Water Planet located in Panama City Beach, Florida is one of the best offshore dolphin encounter companies in Florida! With the freedom of the open water there really isn’t a limit of Florida marine life guests can see. From beautiful birds, fish, turtles, dolphins, starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, crabs and so much more.
A few of the impressive packages offered to guests include the 3 Day Dolphin Swim Program and the 1 Week Dolphin Swim Program. These two programs offer guests a deeper understanding of dolphins, how they interact, social behaviors, and more time observing them in their natural habitat. Even though guests are likely to be in the arm’s reach of the dolphins, it is expected that no one touches the dolphins.
While swimming with wild dolphins is exciting and a total thrill, it is also important to remember they are wild animals. The guides enforce safety precautions, the conservation of the wildlife, and make sure guests are respecting the dolphins they wish to see and swim with.
Water Planet encourages getting to know the dolphins in their natural habitat and understanding that even though dolphins are naturally social creatures, they are not there to entertain humans and do not usually like being touched. Guests are expected to not pet or reach out to the animals unless the animal is giving a clear indication that is what it wants.
Even though a Water Planet dolphin tour is not as hands on as a captive facility, there is no shortage of fun to be had and things to be learned from the amazing dolphins! One of the best places to swim with dolphins in Florida for sure.