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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

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.

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Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
$79.81 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Awesome personalities
Awesome experience. We are from Vermont so getting to interact with a manatee was pretty neat. The personality of the driver (Pete)and diver (Kelly) were amazing. They were able to give a ton of information about the animals. We left there with pictures, info and an amazing memories.
Michelle_R, Jan 2022

Recent reviews from experiences in Crystal River

star-5
Amazing experience!
Michelle_R, Jan 2022
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
When we arrived to check in the staff was so nice from the start. Our tour guide and Captain were knowledgeable and fun. We got to see so many manatees and some came out and played with the tour guide a little. Crystal River is beautiful. I would strongly recommend everyone going at some point!
star-5
Fun day!
Patty_S, Jan 2022
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
We had a super time and swam with several amazing manatees. and appreciated Shelly and Kelly. They are a great manatee guide team
star-5
Living the dream
Stephanie_N, Dec 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Our tour was amazing! My best friend and I never did anything like this and we highly recommend to anyone any age ! It was very informative . And a once and a lifetime experience!
star-5
Put on your bucket list!
Darlene_M, Oct 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim or Boat Ride from Orlando
Swimming with the manatees was great. Our boat crew, John, Neil and Jerry were perfect. The nature preserve was interesting and relaxing. Ismael was a wonderful driver and guide. He was friendly, professional and had many fun facts about the area. Breakfast was bagged but plentiful. Lunch was at Sara's cafe it was soooo yummy and our service was good. I recommend the fish basket. Some of the best fish I have ever had.
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
Wonderful experience
Sara_A, Dec 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Faith and shelbie were excellent! They made sure we as a group were happy and gave us the option to choose where to spend our time. They were knowledgeable and friendly. We are glad we finally made the trip up to crystal river after living in tampa the last 2 years. It is 100% worth it and we will be back!
star-5
Manatee swim
susan_h, Dec 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
The whole experience was fantastic but sharing the water with the Manatees was amazing. Our guide JJ was so knowledgeable and helpful. And Captain Mike as well.
star-5
Amazing, gotta do it!
Bobbie_P, Nov 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Capt. Wade and guide Trish were amazing. We saw a manatee grazing, a mom and a calf, various birds, various resident fish and a blue crab.
star-5
Very fun, definitely...
TARA_G, Oct 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Very fun, definitely recommend this cool experience & our boat captain and tour guides were a great team!!
star-5
Great for kids!
Sarah_S, Oct 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
We had the best experience with Lindsay and Peter! We saw two manatees and lots of fish. Lindsay was so friendly and informative and both of my girls really loved the experience. It’s a must-do, bucket list item that’s great for kids!
star-5
Best memorable trip
Lizz_F, 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-5
Great experience
Andrea_A, Sep 2021
Crystal River Manatee Swim in Kings Bay National Wildlife Refuge
My best friend and I had a great experience. The company does a great job being respectful to these animals.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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