Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Tours

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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.
Location
Address: 1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida 34429, USA
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7 Tours & Activities to Experience

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The New Perspective Manatee Tour, See The Manatee - Crystal River Segway Tours

Explore Crystal River via Segway with a certified guide. After a short training session, hop on your personal craft and hit the streets. Glide through the historic part of town, past parks and waterways, and through quaint neighborhoods. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees—although not guaranteed, during season a spotting is highly likely.
  • Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
From
$52.00 USD
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  • Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
From
$52.00 USD

Crystal River Manatee Swim

Get to know central Florida’s endangered manatees on this guided, 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 afterward, if desired. Use of a mask, snorkel gear and wet suit, plus fees and beverages are included.
  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$67.84 USD
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  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$67.84 USD

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Crystal River Manatee Snorkeling Tour

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. You'll 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.
  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$60.00 USD
$72.80 USD  $12.80 USD savings
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  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$60.00 USD
$72.80 USD  $12.80 USD savings

Small Group VIP Manatee Pontoon Tour

Swim with the manatees on a 4-hour 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, hot drinks, and snacks are included.
  • Duration: 4 hours
From
$94.00 USD
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  • Duration: 4 hours
From
$94.00 USD

Private Tour: Custom Snorkeling Tour with Manatee Swim

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.
  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$450.00 USD
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  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$450.00 USD

Private Manatee Tour

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.
  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$551.20 USD
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  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$551.20 USD

3-Hour Manatee Swim and Paddle Tour in Crystal River

See West Indian manatees in their native environment on this 3-hour tour in Crystal River, a town on Florida's Gulf Coast. With a guide, you'll explore Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge by kayak or stand-up paddleboard, and you'll have the chance to snorkel to see the manatees in the waters of Kings Bay. Wetsuits, equipment, and beverages are provided.
  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$78.44 USD
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  • Duration: 3 hours
From
$78.44 USD

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