Manatees are the gentle giants of the Sea. While we as humans usually don’t get to see them too often, there is one place in the world where it’s possible to swim with manatees. During the winter months, Crystal River, Florida is home to a high population of manatees that swim from the Gulf of Mexico into the river systems of Florida in search of warmer waters and better food. We flew down to the gulf coast of Florida to check a major item off of our bucket list and swim with manatees in Crystal River, Florida!
How to Get There
Luckily, for most Americans, it’s extremely easy to get to Crystal River, Florida. Simply fly into Tampa (about 1 hour from Crystal River) or Orlando (about 2 hours from Crystal River) and drive to Crystal River.
Who to Swim With
There are many outfitters that offer snorkeling tours with manatees. We chose River Ventures for our adventurous escapade. While they offer a wide variety of tours, we highly recommend the early morning tour (the best chance of seeing manatees and staying away from tourists). We also recommend choosing a VIP tour to keep the experience more intimate.
When to Visit
The best time to see manatees is during the winter months when the manatees swim from the Gulf of Mexico into the rivers of western Florida. We recommend visiting in January or February for your best chance at seeing the manatees in the wild.
Where to Stay
There are various Airbnb’s and hotels in the area. We chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Crystal River, which was just minutes from the pick-up point for the manatee adventure.