Recent Searches
Clear
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

star-5
4,418 Reviews
1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive, Crystal River, Florida, 34429

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.

Show all

Recent reviews from experiences in Crystal River

star-5
Memorable
Alysha_S, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
We had so much fun!! Our driver Paul, was super friendly and kind. Our tour guides were “Tom and Jerry” and they did a fantastic job at finding us manatees to swim with! The lunch was spectacular as well! Because of covid they could not provide breakfast but instead, upgraded us to free gear to use!
star-5
Amazing experience!
Danielle_N, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Shelly and Chrissy were amazing! They were knowledgeable and friendly. Our trip was fantastic and we saw two manatees. A female sleeping and a male that was eating and was very active. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!! Thank you so much!!
star-5
Yes!
Kayleigh, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
All around great experience. Saw and swam with several manatees and enjoyed one of the local spots with a natural spring! Very memorable excursion!
star-5
So highly recommended!!
Laura, Jul 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was one of the best experiences! Lindsay L, our guide and Ross, our boat driver were fantastic! So helpful and knowledgeable! We saw a momma manatee and her baby! Precious experience!!!
star-5
Best memorable trip
Lizz_Daniel, Apr 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
Most wonderful trip and best memories that we will cherish for forever ! Once in a lifetime opportunity that we now have pictures to last a lifetime!
star-4
Where are they?
Holly_P, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was such a cool experience. We only saw a couple of manatee and swam with one. Trish and Wade were wonderful and I enjoyed the boat ride.
star-5
A great experience. I would do it again
Angela_V, Jun 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Exceeded my expectations. Informative guide and captain. Plenty of Manatees to see and even 2 babies that came up to see us. That was unexpected.
star-5
Manatees
Juliann_E, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
We Saw so many Manatees, it was such a cool experience. The guides were great and did a good job. My son was 10 and loved it.
star-5
A must do!!
Christine_N, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Fantastic!!! It was such a fun day. Swimming with the manatees is an amazing experience! Are tour guides Emerson and Dave were top notch! They new everything you needed to know to have a great day in the water with the manatees. Will defines be back! Thank you guys!!
star-5
Great experience, highly recommended
Jessica_L, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Our boat crew of Tricia & Wade were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Even though they are out there every day several times a day, they seemed genuinely just as excited as us to be out there with the animals. They knew the different animals that were in the area and where is best to look for them so we spent very little time looking and lots of time watching Manatees.
star-5
Do not miss!
Erin_O, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
They were all so amazing. All staff were all so nice. Floating over the manatee was an experience like none other. The wet suit is a must in the cold, clear water. So shallow, yet you have to float over with a pool noodle so that you do not stir up the shallow floor underneath. Even if you don't go in, they can be seen with the 2-5 foot depths of the river. If you put your face in, can hear them munching on the sea grass. Very gentile, graceful, peaceful creatures. A shame that they are on the endangered list. An Iconic Florida experience. Highly recommended!
star-5
AMAZING!
Jennifer_P, May 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
This was an amazing experience! We almost didn’t schedule this with all the other things to do in Orlando. So glad we did. IT WAS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCE!!! Wade and Trish were great. Everyone was friendly from the moment you arrive! The actual swim was beyond words. Trish would guide and direct you to where you have the best views of the Manatee’s. They took some awesome pictures of us with the manatee’s. Thanks for the memories. We will be back again!

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.

Show all

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.

Show all

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.

Show all

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.

Show all