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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Tours

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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
If you've ever dreamt of swimming with manatees in their natural habitat, Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is where to go. Established in 1983, the 177-acre (71-hectare) refuge is home to America’s largest concentration of the 1,000-pound gentle giants. West Indian Manatees flock to the more than 70 turquoise-colored springs in Crystal River for warmth during winter. With hundreds of manatees in a small area, sightings are frequent.

The Basics
Visitors to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge must approach the area by boat. Trained wildlife experts lead excursions onto the river for visitors to view the sea cows and snorkel among them. Whether on a private or a group tour, visitors should receive safety instructions to give the wild animals plenty of space and admire their beauty from a distance. In addition to manatees, you may see dolphins, birds, fish, and turtles. Though manatee encounters are never guaranteed, the refuge is one of the few natural habitats where people are permitted to swim with them.

Things to Know Before You Go
  • The waters at Crystal River are comfortably warm, about 72°F (22°C) and clear year-round. 
  • Most guided tours are led by US Coast Guard-licensed captains and include a wetsuit and snorkel gear.
  • Travelers should not intentionally approach the manatees; touching, chasing, and feeding are prohibited.
  • Tours often include underwater photography and meals or snacks for the day.
  • Manatee season is mid-November to late March and most tours start early in the morning.

How to Get There
The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge sits alongside the town of Crystal River in Kings Bay, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) north of Tampa and 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Orlando. The refuge doesn’t offer water access facilities for visitors. 

When to Get There
The manatee season at Crystal River refuge begins in mid-November and ends in late March. The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 4pm in winter and on weekdays from May through October. The refuge staff may close parts of the sanctuary during winter.

Three Sisters Springs
There are three major sites within Crystal River from which the Florida manatee can be observed. King Spring, where the refugee started, is the largest. Three Sisters is considered the most beautiful and important to the manatees. Shuttles from the Three Sisters Springs Center to a boardwalk along the water run daily.
Address: 1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida 34429, USA
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10 Tours and Activities to Experience Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

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Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge

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Get to know central Florida’s endangered manatees on this boat tour. Swim and snorkel with these gentle giants at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, located in King’s Bay in the town of Crystal River — well known as the home of the manatee. Photos above and below the water will be taken throughout the tour and can be purchased afterward, if desired. Use of a mask, snorkel gear and wet suit, plus fees and beverages are included.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$74.16
From
$74.16
Taking safety measures

Crystal River Manatee Snorkeling Tour with a Professional Guide

Crystal River Manatee Snorkeling Tour with a Professional Guide

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Snorkel with manatees in the Crystal River on a wildlife tour that gets you close to the West Indian Manatees that flock to the Crystal River's many freshwater springs. Learn about the remarkable manatees and the ecosystem they depend on, then slip into the water to see the manatees as they swim and feed. Wetsuits and all snorkeling equipment are included in this Crystal River manatee tour, with warm drinks served on board the boat.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$60.00
From
$60.00
Taking safety measures

Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour

Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour

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Swim with the manatees on a half-day pontoon boat tour of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, a marine refuge designed to protect the threatened Florida manatee. Learn about the fascinating marine mammals on a tour designed for spotting manatees without disturbing them or disrupting their habitat, and explore a scenic Florida ecosystem. This small-group experience is limited to six people for personalized service, and all equipment, entrance fees, water and hot drinks, and snacks are included.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$102.78
From
$102.78
Taking safety measures

Small-Group Swim with Manatees Adventure

Small-Group Swim with Manatees Adventure

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Get up close to Florida’s manatees on this small-group snorkeling adventure. With an expert guide leading the way, swim alongside these gentle giants in Kings Bay. All tours include a full wetsuit, mask, snorkel, towel service, heated changing facilities, and hot showers. Photos and video of your excursion are available for purchase.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$63.60
From
$63.60
Taking safety measures

Small Group Swim with Manatee Adventure

Small Group Swim with Manatee Adventure

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One of the densest populations of West Indian manatees can be found in Crystal River, Florida. Swim alongside the gentle creatures on a trip into the river, with a wetsuit and snorkel mask included. Your guide, who navigates to the best spotting locations, accompanies you into the water in addition to taking souvenir photos available for purchase. To ensure your comfort, dry towels, hot drinks, and showers are provided.
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  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$89.04
From
$89.04
Taking safety measures

Private Manatee Tour

Private Manatee Tour

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Get to know central Florida’s endangered manatees on this private, 3-hour tour and boat cruise. Swim and snorkel with these gentle giants at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, located in King’s Bay in the town of Crystal River — well known as the home of the manatee. Photos above and below the water will be taken throughout the tour and can be purchased later, if desired. Use of a mask, snorkel gear and wet suit, plus fees and beverages are included.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$602.64
per group
From
$602.64
per group
Taking safety measures

Private Swim with Manatee Adventure in Crystal River

Private Swim with Manatee Adventure in Crystal River

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Crystal River is home to one of the densest manatee populations in the country. With the trained eye of your guide, visit the best spotting locations to swim with the gentle giants of King’s Bay. The private tour ensures the full attention of your guide, as well as closer interaction with the manatees. For your comfort and convenience, wetsuits, hot drinks, and towel service are included.
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  • 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
  • Taking safety measures
From
$477.00
per group
From
$477.00
per group
Taking safety measures

Private Tour: Custom Snorkeling Tour with Manatee Swim

Private Tour: Custom Snorkeling Tour with Manatee Swim

star-4.5
Manatees, dolphins, aquatic turtles, and more make the waters off the coast of Florida an ideal snorkeling location for nature lovers. This private tour keeps your experience special by limiting participants to just your group, a swim guide, and the boat captain. This private tour can be customized by the type of animals you would most like to see, and includes swimming near manatees at the Crystal River Refuge.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$480.00
per group
From
$480.00
per group

Swim with the Manatees Includes In-Water Guide and Photographer

Swim with the Manatees Includes In-Water Guide and Photographer

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Snorkel with manatees in the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and get an up-close, underwater view of the unique marine mammals. Since each boat is limited to six passengers, you’ll enjoy personalized assistance as you snorkel through clear water where manatees eat and swim. A provided wetsuit helps ensure you’re comfortable throughout the experience.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$66.00
From
$66.00

Private Manatee Tour

Private Manatee Tour

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Want to swim with the manatees but looking for a more private experience? Book a private tour for just your group to have the boat all to yourself. On this tour, you can bring up to 10 guests for the same price. Call for larger groups. We are committed to transparency, so all gear is included and there are no additional charges for anything!! Our boats are US Coast Guard Certified meaning they can safely accommodate more than 6 passengers, have all necessary safety equipment, and are in tip top shape. Dont fall for the "small tours" of "only 6" and get stuck on a clunker! Book with Explorida!! Swimming with the manatees is a once in a lifetime experience so do it right! Dont cram into a small dive shop. Spread out and enjoy plenty of space at Explorida! The Explorida Adventure Center offers a large, top notch facility that is climate controlled with indoor changing rooms for your privacy. We are dedicated to the customer experience and will not disappoint! Let us prove it!
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$537.07
per group
From
$537.07
per group

Frequently Asked Questions

The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
Q:
What's the best way to experience Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge?