If you’re looking for something completely different and a break away from the hustle and bustle of the busy theme parks in Florida, then my Discovery Cove review should explain why a visit is essential when visiting Florida – and how to book directly with Attraction Tickets Direct.
There’s no denying that the theme parks are one of the biggest attractions when you go on holiday to Orlando. But sometimes all the fun and excitement can mean that you need a day to rest, recharge and just enjoy some ‘down time’ – and that’s exactly why we went to Discovery Cove on our trip. Despite having been to Florida multiple times in the past I’d never been before so it was a wonderful new experience for all of us and a day we won’t forget. I wanted to write a thorough Discovery Cove review in the hope that anyone who is travelling to the area will know exactly what a visit entails and why it’s something I don’t recommend you miss.
Discovery Cove is effectively an all-inclusive day resort in the heart of Orlando. It’s owned and run by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment so you can rest in the knowledge that it’s maintained to the highest standard in every regard. The notion of a day resort was new to me, and that’s why it’s so unique. It’s a full resort with so much to do, eat, see and get involved with and yet there’s no hotel to stay in, so everyone who visits is only there for the day. They also restrict daily attendance which means that there’s space and luxury for everyone, which makes things feel even more intimate. It’s luxurious, relaxing and completely unique when it comes to places to go.
When buying through Attraction Tickets Direct who are the UK’s largest provider of Florida park and attraction tickets you can chose between the Discovery Cove Package or the Ultimate Package. The ‘basic’ package gives everything you’ll need to enter and enjoy Discovery Cove including free parking for the day, it also includes access to SeaWorld and Aquatica. However, if you are planning to visit more of the SeaWorld Parks, then the Ultimate Package works out as great value as this package offers 14 day access to SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens with free parking for the whole 14 days! You can then add on the option of a dolphin swim if you would like to, to either Discovery Cove Package. All tickets also cover your full day in the resort and you can enter from 7:15am and the resort closes at 5:30pm so it’s a good amount of time for the price. They also include unlimited access to all amenities as well as your breakfast, lunch and all you can eat snacks and drinks throughout the day. When you go to Discovery Cove the ticket price also includes special touches like free sunscreen, use of towels, wet suits, snorkels and locker use. You don’t pay for anything once you’ve booked your ticket – which was a big plus point for us as we realised how many little extras can add up in the theme parks, and they’re all included in your ticket price for Discovery Cove. You won’t even need to bring your wallet.
After this then you can add your extra’s which are is what Discovery Cove is known for: it’s Dolphin and marine life experiences! So if like me you’ve had swimming with dolphins on your bucket list for years then this is the perfect time and place to tick it off and add that option to your booking!
Our visit started early so we could take advantage of the breakfast offering which was seriously impressive. In fact, the food overall during the whole day was fantastic – the best food we’ve had at any ‘attraction’ during our whole stay. The selection on offer was large with healthy options and treat options available which helps when travelling with three hungry boys! We had a cooked breakfast with fruit, French Toast, pastry and drinks to start our day. It was delicious and perfect for families and the food court areas were comfortable with sections in the sun and in the shade depending on your preference. The restaurant was centrally located in the middle of the park so it gave us easy access throughout the day. The lunch was also fantastic with large variety and a good selection of fruit and sweet offerings. The boys enjoyed salmon, roasted vegetables and rice while I had a burger and amazing carrot cake – all delicious and well portioned. We honestly couldn’t recommend the food at Discovery Cove any more.
I should also mention that in the morning hours there were staff dotted around the entrance route of the resort to direct you where to go – they were helpful, friendly and polite and it really gave you that ‘cared for’ feel. They explained everything you needed to do, showed you where to collect towels and wetsuits and explained where you needed to be on the map for your dolphin encounters. You didn’t have to worry about a thing and it set the standard of the whole day. The attentive nature of the staff was another take away memory of our trip.
After our breakfast we went to get our wet suits – which everyone is required to wear at Discovery Cove. You can go for a full wet suit which is three quarter length or you can go for a half, which covers the top half of your body. Whichever you decide, you must wear it when in the water and on your encounters. There’s a huge amount of sizes available in both styles so we went for a full wet suit for Hayden and Josh and half for Bryn and I. We felt that the children having full suits would limit sun exposure so it served an extra purpose there. But the resort has sunscreen dotted round the communal areas which is free to use and completely animal friendly too. After getting our wet suits, we collected our snorkels and towels, got changed and placed our bags in the lockers and we were good to go.
Part of the draw for Discovery Cove is that it’s like an exotic escape with multiple beaches that really make you feel like you’re far away from the business of the other local attractions. The beach we settled on for the day was called Serenity Bay and was full of gorgeous and soft white sand that’s exactly the type that falls through your toes and is soft to walk on. It’s pure beach-time bliss! There were sun loungers dotted around everywhere which meant there was no shortage of space to pick from. But if you want to you can also book private cabanas throughout the resort which have undercover areas, hammocks and offer more privacy – I think these would be perfect if you’re there for special occasions etc.
The Wind Away River was one of our favourite parts of Discovery Cove and is connected to the beach and waterfall area at Serenity Bay and we spent many hours lazing away here – I’m a sucker for a lazy river! It takes you through caves, waterfalls and the aviary so you get to see amazing birds of different varieties while you float away and relax. It was such a wonderful experience and I could have easily spent my whole day there if there wasn’t so much else to see and do! All along the river there are Life Guards positioned at regular intervals so you have full peace of mind if you have the children with you and I found that really reassuring. There’s also flotation devices by every entrance to the water which you can use throughout your time and we took full advantage of those too, especially on the Wind Away River as with them you literally didn’t need to do any work at all except float away in bliss.
As well as Serenity Bay and the Wind Away River there’s also the Freshwater Oasis which gives you the opportunity to get face to face with otters and The Grand Reef where you can go and snorkel with thousands of tropical fish. You can also go one step further and add on other extras like swimming with sharks, feeding sting rays or SeaVenture, an underwater walking tour of The Grand Reef if you want to. Those are the ‘extra’s’ that you can add on to your ticket if you would like to when you book. Discovery Cove really is the perfect place for the most exotic experiences and for creating some once in a life time opportunities.
As we dotted throughout the park during the day we kept hydrated with the regular snack and drinks areas which are also fully included in your ticket price – this includes all fizzy drinks, fruit juices, slushies, hot drinks and many more. As well as snacks like fresh pretzels, cookies, crisps, cakes, fruit and cereal bars which are there for you to take as often as you want. With all the swimming you’ll do, it’s hungry work! I have to say that the Pina Colada slushies (alcohol free!) were my favourites and I’ve been dreaming of them since.
By early afternoon the time came for what we were waiting for – our dolphin experience. As mentioned, I have always wanted to swim with dolphins and it’s been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. We didn’t get any photo’s because we were all in the water but we filmed the whole thing for my YouTube channel so keep your eyes peeled for that! We got to get up close and personal with two dolphins in small groups of 8 or so people. Each group had two trainers and we got to touch and kiss the dolphins as well as get close to them, interact and understand more about them as animals. We all then got the opportunity to swim with them and it just blew me away! Our dolphins were fun and friendly and they both had such unique personalities – one was very vocal and happy, almost child like which was explained when the trainer said she was 6 years old. The other was much older, bigger and more chilled – they just both had lovely and unique temperaments. But both loved their trainers and being around humans and it was so nice to see that they seemed so happy in their environment and so people-friendly.
Having waited my whole life to swim with dolphins, I can 100% say that the experience at Discovery Cove didn’t disappoint at all and was everything I had dreamt of and more. Although the interaction is listed as 30 minutes, we spent more like 45 minutes in the water with the two dolphins we met. The care they received and the genuine affection between the animals and their trainers was so heartwarming to watch as well and really reassures you – and they have a huge amount of space to swim around in their salt water pools. I can’t believe that I got to experience the whole thing with Josh too – such a magical memory for us as a family and something we’ll never forget. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat! I’d also note that photographs are taken by professional photographers during the experience so you can have them forever, but budget $200-$300 for these if you want to purchase them in one of the offered packages.
Discovery Cove like SeaWorld and Aquatica is an autism friendly resort and is an officially Certified Autism Center which means it’s equipped to offer guests and families with autism a memorable day. We mentioned to our group leader during the dolphin encounter that Josh was autistic and the whole group just supported Josh in the most touching way. The trainers both gave him a little extra time, they had patience when his sensory disorder meant he struggled with instructions initially and they were just generally very attentive and caring. Part of the resort being a Certified Autism Center means that all staff receive training to ensure they have the appropriate knowledge and skill sets to know how to approach and handle guests with autism and this definitely showed in their care towards Josh. It meant so much to me to see his condition so accepted.
So in conclusion for my Discovery Cove review I’ll say this: we can’t fault it! A unique day resort that offers luxury and attention to detail that’s on par with some of the best resorts I’ve ever stayed in on holiday. It was spotless throughout, perfectly maintained and well kept, everything was immaculate in appearance and looked perfect – exactly like you’d expect from actual paradise. The food was brilliant with a good selection to pick from, a great kids option and the snacks and drinks offerings throughout the day were faultless too. The range of amenities and different types of water areas give it variation that means there’s something for everyone and it’s great for all ages. As a resort it’s completely child friendly so it’s great for families as well as adults individuals and groups. It really was the perfect place for us to take a breather from the queues and business of the theme parks for a day. Josh says this was his favourite day of the whole trip – which tells you something!
If you want to book your visit then I highly recommend booking through Attraction Tickets Direct. They offer a fantastic value Discovery Cove Ultimate Package which is a 14 day pass including entrance to SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and a visit to Discovery Cove that can be booked in advance and all come with free parking. When booking your Discovery Cove visit with them you’ll be able to pick the day you want and make all your plans around this – I highly recommend a visit midway through your trip to give you that day of relaxation that you’ll need after the thrills of the busy theme parks. Prebooking will also remove all the fuss and faff at the entrance as you’ll have your tickets sent to you before your visit so you’re good to go on the day.
Discovery Cove is a must-do if you’re visiting Orlando and I can guarantee that your trip won’t be complete without a visit! We had the best day and made some amazing memories in their tropical paradise and there’s not a single thing I’d change.
**This Discovery Cove Review is a sponsored post in collaboration with Attraction Tickets Direct but as ever all opinions are entirely my own. Please refer to my Disclaimer page for more details.