From Snorkeling to Serenity: A Perfect Day at Discovery Cove, Orlando

Family photo at Discovery Cove

The O'Hallorans

The OHallorans

We’re made up of Lyndsey, John and Erin, who all love a new adventure. We try to get away as much as possible, especially during school holidays and variety is a must for us. That means staying anywhere from a luxury hotel to a hostel and it’s not often we go to the same place twice. 

As we were in Orlando for John’s 40th birthday, I wanted to book something a little bit special for all of us. Discovery Cove, an inclusive day resort, seemed like the ideal choice for us as a family. 

What is Discovery Cove?

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort in Orlando, Florida. You can enjoy unlimited food and drink while enjoying a fun family-friendly day, filled with activities such as swimming, snorkelling and meeting a variety of tropical birds. 

Address and contact information

6000 Discovery Cove Way

Discovery Cove map

Arrival and checking-in

You can arrive any time from 7:15 am ready to check in for your day. We got there at around 6:50 after getting an Uber from our hotel. There was already a fair-sized queue at this time however, once the doors opened check-in moved quickly. 

The reception area is fairly large and there are plenty of staff members checking everyone in. We were greeted with a huge smile and enthusiasm and it was a really nice start to our day. At this point, you’ll be booked in for any extras you may have added such as a dolphin swim. 

Top tip: If you have a dolphin swim booked, the earlier you get checked in, the earlier swim time you’ll get. We checked in quickly and got a swim time of 8:30. 

At check in you get given lanyards with your ticket on as well as a map on the back of one of them. The lanyards are waterproof and can be taken in the water with you at all times. 

Discovery Cove reception

All-inclusive breakfast

• Discovery Cove Breakfast Hours: 7:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M.

As soon as we were checked in we headed to the Laguna Grill to have something quick to eat. Breakfast is one of the meals included in your day at Discovery Cove and we had so much to choose from. For food, options included:

  • Sausages
  • Chicken
  • Waffles
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes
  • Cereal
  • Fresh fruit
  • Muffins
  • Toast
  • Pastries
Discovery Cove breakfast

Breakfast was really delicious and there was something for all of us. Erin was especially excited about having chicken and waffles for breakfast, something we wouldn’t normally have at home. Drinks are also included and you can get a range of fruit juices, hot drinks like coffee and other soft drinks.

We actually ended up having breakfast twice. As we had an early slot for our dolphin swim, we didn’t have time for much food to start with. We grabbed something quick to start with, as we hadn’t eaten yet, and then went back for something a bit more substantial after the dolphin swim. 

Wetsuits and snorkels 

Not only is Discovery Cove all-inclusive when it comes to food and drink but also the equipment you might need during your day. Guests have free use of snorkel gear and wet suits or swim vests. Sizes start from toddler and go right up to 16XL. As a plus-size woman, with a plus-size husband, it was nice to feel included and not have to worry about whether or not something would fit. Staff were great at knowing what sizes people would need without having to ask. 

Don’t forget to use suncream

Being out in the sun all day means that you need to be safe and remember to use suncream. Discovery Cove provides reef-friendly suncream for guests and you’re welcome to use as much as you want throughout the day. We did take our own suncream as well. 

Animal friendly suncream

Grab a sun lounger!

Discovery Cove has sun loungers everywhere and there are plenty to choose from. You’re welcome to pick one to use as a base for the day, much like you would in a hotel. Some areas might be better than others, with some having shade. We only spend a short amount of time on a sun lounger but if you want to sit and relax more, definitely get one sooner rather than later. 

Discovery Cove dolphin experience

Discovery Cove has quite a few additional animal experiences that you can add to your package such as SwimVenture, swimming with sharks and feeding rays. We chose the signature dolphin swim experience as a birthday treat and something the whole family would always remember. 

At check-in you are allocated a time for your dolphin swim and told where to go. Before the swim there is a safety briefing and you can ask any questions. At this point, make sure you’re not wearing any jewellery and tuck in your lanyards to your vest or wetsuit (which must be worn for the dolphin swim).

Erin with a dolphin

This unique experience is held in small groups and led by Discovery Cove’s expert dolphin trainers. Our group consisted of us 3, another family of 3 and a pair. These small groups allow you to get the most our of your experience and so it’s safe and nice for the dolphins. 

During our experience the trainers talked about the bottlenose dolphins, their time at Discovery Cove and we were able to ask loads of questions if we wanted to. Each of us got to stroke the dolphin, swim with the dolphin and have pictures taken by a photographer. We were able to see the dolphin in action, being shown tricks they’d learned and to see how they interact with the trainers and other humans.

The experience is really very intimate, as there’s only a few of you there. It’s worth knowing that the dolphins will only interact if they want to. I asked a few questions about this and our trainer reassured me that if the dolphin wanted to stop it would just swim away. 

All-inclusive lunch

  • Discovery Cove Lunch Hours: 11:00 A.M. – 3:30 P.M.

Even though you might feel like you’ve just had breakfast, lunch starts being served at 11am in the Laguna Grill. Some items that were available during our visit were:

  • Burgers
  • Fries
  • Jerk chicken wraps
  • Sweet plantain
  • Salads
  • Chicken tenders
Discovery Cove lunch

For fussy eaters there is quite a limited selection, but great for children. John was happy that there was a good selection of meat with some fish options too. We chose to eat lunch fairly late and sadly, there was a very minimal amount of desserts left and it didn’t look like any more were being put out. 

Discovery Cove snacks and drinks

During your day at Discovery Cove you’re able to help yourself to a selection of snacks and drinks. Snacks included crisps and biscuits as well as ice cream! Hibiscus Hideaway serves pizza between 10:30 AM and 4:30 PM if you want a hot snack instead. 

Some alcohol is available as part of the basic Discovery Cove package, including beer, and bar service hours are between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Soft drinks are available all day including fruit juices and fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola and iced tea etc. 

Snacks at Discovery Cove

What else is there to do at Discovery Cove?

After our dolphin swim experience we were free to explore Discovery Cove for the rest of the day. There’s so much more to do and see than I originally thought.

The Grand Reef

The Reef can be found at towards the edge of the resort. This area is perfect for snorkelling as you’ll find lots of sea life under the water. From rays to tropical fish, there’s so much to see here. You can borrow snorkels free of charge, for as long as you like and there are no restrictions on how long you can spend here. 

Erin absolutely loved snorkelling! Me and John struggled a bit but me mostly because I hate having my face in the water. Luckily, for anyone else who doesn’t like this you can see into the water anyway as it’s really clear. Under the water you’ll be able to see the beautiful coral reef as well as the fish. Some areas have much deeper water than others so just be careful about how far you go without checking the water levels. 

Snorkling in the Great Reef at Discovery Cove

Serenity Bay

One of our favourite areas was a clear pool with an underwater cave and waterfall that you could swim through. This was a bit more relaxing for me as I knew that I could take everything at my own pace and go where I wanted. The water isn’t too deep here either so it’s a lovely place if you have smaller children with you. Once through the cave, you can lead on to the Wind-Away River, which isn’t quite as relaxing as you may think. Be sure to keep children close to a grown-up just in case the water gets too fast or deep.

Swimming under a waterfall at Serenity Bay

Explorer’s Aviary

Sadly, one area we missed out on seeing during our visit was the Explorer’s Aviary. Here, in this free-flight aviary, you can see and feed exotic birds. This was something I wanted to do however, time does tend to slip away from you at Discovery Cove, especially when you’re having so much fun. Be sure to leave plenty of time to experience one the of up-close animal encounters at Discovery Cove. 

Did you forget something?

Discovery Cove has a few different gift shops dotted around the resort. The shops stock absolutely everything you could need and are great for if you’ve forgotten something. You’ll find items such as waterproof phone cases, swim gear and water shoes available in a range of colours and sizes for guests of all ages. Discovery Cove has some beautiful sandy beaches and children might want to build sandcastles. You can buy buckets and spades and the shops too and that’s bound to keep children happy. 

Discovery Cove shop

Time to go home!

Discovery Cove closes at 5 p.m., which is sadly when you have to go home. As you’ll have probably been in and out of the water all day, you might want to shower as well as get changed before leaving. Discovery Cove has quite a lot of showers available, both indoors and around the resort. 

As we were getting an Uber somewhere else afterwards, it was nice to not have to worry about being wet and being charged for damaging the car. 

What isn’t included in the Discovery Cove package?

Although there is a lot included in the Discovery Cove package there are some things that incur an additional cost. This includes some of the most exciting animal encounters such as SeaVenture, ray feeding and swimming with sharks. 

Another possible upgrade is to hire your own a private cabana or day bed. When hiring a cabana for the day you can expect towel service, a mini fridge stocked with drinks, a snack basket and somewhere to sit and relax, such as on lounge chairs. If you choose a more elite cabana extras include a photo package or extras during your dolphin swim. 

Discovery Cove entrance view

Final thoughts

Discovery Cove was a much-needed break from the busy theme parks we’d been visiting. Although there is a lot to do here, you can make your day as busy or as relaxing as you like. The all-inclusive aspects mean that you don’t have to worry about additional costs for food and drink and you can have as much as you like throughout the day.

Something I will say is that you can make this experience perfect for you and your family. This might mean the basic Discovery Cove package or the Discovery Cove ultimate package if you want something more. This day was exactly what we needed for a break from the amusement parks in Orlando and such a unique opportunity in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere. 

Should we go back to Orlando, I would definitely go back to Discovery Cove but book a different animal experience. 

Read more about our Orlando holiday:

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