Discovery Cove is Orlando's only all-inclusive theme park. With incredible animal encounters like the Dolphin Swim, snorkeling with stingrays, a beautiful lazy river, beaches for relaxing and endless food and drinks included, it's the perfect getaway during your Orlando vacation. As amazing as it all is, there's still a lot you can do to get the most out of your day at this fantastic water park and animal theme park in one.
Book in Advance and Get There Early
Since it is the only all-inclusive park in Orlando, there are a limited amount of tickets sold for Discovery Cove each day. While that means a much more relaxed day for guests of the park, it also means it can sell out on some days. Be sure to book your ticket in advance, and reserve the date of your visit before you arrive. Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the park's scheduled opening time (and up to an hour before, if you want the best parking spot). When you arrive, you will book your Dolphin Swim time. Choose a time slot in the morning, but allow yourself at least an hour before to prepare and grab a bite to eat. A line to get into the park can form at opening, so getting there early not only skips the wait, but also lets you enjoy this tropical paradise sooner!
Know What to Bring (Or Rather, What Not to Bring)
Discovery Cove provides you with nearly everything you'll need for the day. All you need to bring is your bathing suit. Guests must wear either a vest or a wet-suit in all of the pools. You can ask for one of each if you're not sure which one you'd like. The wet-suit is best for the cold water Dolphin Swim and stingray lagoon, while the vest is best for the warm-water swimming areas. They may run out of certain sizes later in the day, so grab what you need early. You can keep whichever you are not using in your free locker. Remember not to wear jewelry to the park. Only wedding bands and waterproof watches are allowed. Other jewelry, like earrings, necklaces and bracelets, are not allowed for the safety of the animals. Do not bring any sunscreen either. Special animal-friendly sunscreen is provided for free. You will also be provided with towels to use during the day, a snorkel and mask just for you, shower amenities and more.
Don't Forget to Bring Your Appetite
All of your meals are included at Discovery Cove. But that's not all: Snacks, beverages and even alcoholic drinks are completely free throughout the day. Get there early so you can relax and enjoy a big breakfast. Enjoy yummy snacks like giant pretzels, fresh cookies and potato chips from stands located in several areas of the park. Adults can enjoy free beer and other grown-up beverages, while kids can partake in free frozen Icees and assorted soft drinks. There's even a spot with special lounge chairs in shallow water just for enjoying your snacks while cooling off. Lunch and dinner are served all afternoon, and there is no limit, so don't be afraid to try more than one entree while you're there. In addition to the usual burgers and hot dogs, they also offer healthier options like salads, grilled chicken and delicious fish dishes.
Know When to Visit the Animals
The exotic birds of the aviary tend to be more active, and hungry, during the first half of the day. Since it's free to feed the birds, you'll want to be some of the first folks to get there, while they're still hungry. This way they're more likely to perch on your arm for a bite to eat, which makes for an amazing photo opportunity. The stingray feedings happen early in the morning and again right before the park closes as well. Stop by the Conservation Cabana a few times throughout the day for your chance to encounter other unique creatures as well, including macaws and an adorable two-toed sloth.
Pick Up Your Complimentary Photo Early
Every group that visits Discovery Cove receives a complimentary souvenir photo. They'll take the photo when you first arrive, so be prepared to be photographed early in the morning. Most guests wait until it's time to leave the park to pick up their free photograph, but if you stop by in the afternoon – after lunch time, for example – you can grab your photo with little to no wait. Just place it in your locker until it is time to leave. Plus, if you would like to purchase additional photos from your Dolphin Swim or other animal encounters, you can do that at the same time as well. You'll be thankful you did when you see the picture pick-up line on the way out.
Consider Additional Add-Ons to Your Day
While everything is included, and you'll probably have an incredible day with the standard offerings, there are additional perks and tours you can purchase to enhance your stay. While there are plenty of beach chairs, hammocks and more areas to relax, you can also book a private cabana for your family. Private cabanas make the perfect home base, and ensure you'll always have a nice quiet place to relax that's all your own. If you're feeling brave enough, Discovery Cove offers a Shark Swim, (featuring friendly sharks, we promise). Other fun additions include the SeaVenture tour, where you get to walk on the sandy bottom of the water wearing a unique underwater helmet, and the Trainer for the Day program, where you can get up-close to all sorts of creatures and learn more about their care.