1. Get there early. Check-in time starts an hour before the park even opens, so get checked in and grab breakfast before the crowd hits. This means you’ll have an extra hour for time in the water. Not to mention, stingray feedings happen early in the morning (and later when the park closes) at The Grand Reef, so you can experience that before your dolphin swim.
2. Visit Explorer’s Aviary first. As the day goes on, the birds get fuller from all the feedings so they’re less likely to perch on your arms. (Hungry birds = better photo ops.)
3. Don’t bother wearing jewelry. You have to take it off to swim the dolphins, and the birds you’re feeding might have a penchant for a spot of silver or gold.
4. Come hungry. Food is included! Breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks and even alcoholic beverages are all part of the package. The main snack shack in the middle of the park can get busy, so head to the other two on the outer edges for quick access. (Gluten-free snacks are also available — just ask!)
5. Pick up your complimentary photo in the middle of the day. Before you enter Discovery Cove, your party will pose for a photo, and this one’s on the house! (How’s that for a souvenir?) Around closing time, the line at the photo station gets super long. Skip the crowd by grabbing your free photo when everyone else is enjoying the park.
6. See more animals at the Conservation Cabana. Located just across from the Laguna Grill, the Conservation Cabana has different critters randomly throughout the day. Our favorite? The sleepy sloth who’s a big fan of back scratches.
7. You will get soaked on the Wind-away River. There are two separate waterfalls that stretch across the whole waterway. (Hold on to your sunglasses! The cascade is fairly strong.) Keep an eye out for otters, marmosets and other critters as you float along.
8. A vest or a wetsuit is required in all wet areas. When you arrive, you can pick out either a vest or wetsuit for the day. Keep this with you at all times if you want to swim or snorkel — Disovery Cove requires these in the water. Yes, even the Wind-away river!
9. Have your own space. Private cabanas for up to six people are available to rent for an extra cost.
10. Swim with sharks — almost. Further out on The Grand Reef, you can swim right up to sharks with only glass separating you and these predators. But the rest of the reef is just like being in the ocean. Grab your mask and take in thousands of rainbow-colored fish and stingrays that are as big as people. (We weren’t kidding about that best snorkeling thing.)