Peacefully Float with Manatees in Crystal River, Florida

Manatees are often referred to as the gentle giants of the sea. They spend their lives slowly drifting from river, to bay, to canal—grazing on aquatic plants along the way. In most areas, it is illegal to intentionally swim with a manatee. Crystal River, Florida is the rare exception. Visitors can float alongside mellow manatees as they watch the sweethearts of the sea float towards their next snack.


Photo by Alex Couto/Shutterstock

The waters of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge are the ideal place for a manatee sighting. Visitors can don snorkel gear and spend hours floating with families of manatees. Manatees are most plentiful from late fall-early spring, when they are migrating south towards warmer water. It is best to remain as quiet and relaxed as possible when you’re in the water to avoid startling the timid manatees. If you remain tranquil for long enough, a curious manatee just might paddle your way and give you a gentle sniff in the style of a dog or cat.

Crystal River offers boat tours, hiking trails, and kayak rentals for those who wish to view the area’s manatees from different vantage points. The sapphire-tinted waters of Three Sisters Springs is the ideal place to spot numerous types of marine life, including the occasional tarpon. On a peaceful day, a whooping crane may grace the shoreline.

Endangered Florida manatee

Photo by USFWS

Crystal River is also home to numerous cozy places to stay and plenty of delectable restaurants which serve fresh seafood. If you’re looking for a sleepy yet breathtakingly beautiful place to unwind and commune with nature—Crystal River should top your list of places to visit. If the wild spring break beach scene isn’t your cup of tea—consider floating with the manatees instead. High-strung humans can learn a lot from the serene dispositions of the gentle giants of the sea.


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