Manatees in Florida Are Easy to Find with This Simple Trick

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swimming with manatees in florida

Florida isn’t just home to Disneyworld and tourist attractions; its home to the Manatees in Florida too.

Wildlife is Everywhere, but Manatees in Florida are tougher to find.

If you dig a little deeper you’ll find that Florida has incredible wildlife at every turn just waiting to be explored by you and your family. If you step out to the ocean or any of Florida’s incredible springs, rivers, and waterways, take a second to look just below the water.

crystal river springs with manatees

Under the waves, you’ll find an incredible array of aquatic life and different animals that enjoy the warm waters of Florida year-round. One of the best animals to spot in the springs, rivers, and oceans of Florida are manatees! Manatees in Florida are gentle giants of the water and love swimming around humans when they come to visit.

There are so many different ways to see manatees in Florida. From viewing them on gentle boat rides to getting up close and swimming with manatees in the water. If you’ve always wanted to see manatees in Florida, they are actually quite easy to find!

Check out our extensive guide to learn the simple trick to finding manatees in Florida. 

florida manatees in water

What are Manatees? 

Manatees are large, aquatic mammals that live in warm waters. Even though they’re very big, manatees in Florida are actually herbivores and pose no threat to humans whatsoever.

They are slow-moving and docile and love being in warm water. Manatees are also known as sea cows because their primary food source is seagrass, which they can spend up to eight hours a day grazing.

Even though manatees look like they have a lot of blubber, they only have about one inch of fat to help keep their large bodies warm. This is why they will migrate inwards to warm natural springs, rivers, and water near power plants in the winter. Manatees can’t survive in water that is colder than 68 degrees.

This is why Florida is such a great place to see manatees. With its diverse landscape and warm waters all year round, manatees in Florida can live all winter in the various warm water supplies. Some natural springs will even have hundreds of manatees floating around at one time, making them incredible places to go see the creatures in their natural habitat.

Since they’re so gentle, manatees in Florida are great animals to swim around. Just don’t touch them!

Stick with the look don’t touch rule as to not upset the manatees and their natural habitats. 

best times of day to see manatees in florida

Where Manatees in Florida Live 

Florida is a large state with diverse landscapes and wildlife. Despite its size, you can come across manatees in many different parts of the state.

Depends on Climate

There are manatees in Florida that live off of the beaches from April through October when the waters are nice and warm. Come fall, manatees in Florida will tend to migrate towards many of the freshwater springs around the state.

Depends on Type of Water

Manatees can live in saltwater and freshwater, making it easy for them to move around to find warm water whenever they need it. Although the water might be very chilly to us humans, for the manatees in Florida the springs stay at a pretty consistent temperature making them great spots to hang out in through the winter months.

Freshwater Springs

Visiting a freshwater spring in the winter is probably one of the best places to see manatees in Florida. There are many different types of springs that you can visit. There are some with boardwalks and viewing platforms, while others are large enough to kayak and swim in. 

best months to view manatees in florida

Where to See Manatees in Florida 

Crystal River, Florida

Now that we know you can see manatees in the ocean or freshwater springs, we can check out a few of the popular spots to go see manatees in Florida.

If you want to see over 100 manatees in one place, then you can’t miss Crystal River, Florida. There are plenty of rentals nearby for water gear to enjoy the springs.

There are also tons of guided manatee tours you can go on to go see the manatees in Florida up close. The Crystal River Spring can get pretty busy so don’t be surprised if there are many other people there also on the lookout for manatees.

Even when it’s busy it’s still a great spot to enjoy a day and get up close with nature and wildlife. 

Seeing Manatees in the Ocean Vs. Freshwater Springs 

There are many different springs across the state that manatees will migrate to during the winter times so they can continue to live in the warm waters.

You can also see manatees in Florida in the summer in different ocean areas! In the summertime, you can spot manatees on the west coast of Florida.

In the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, manatees can be spotted as far west as Louisiana and Texas! The best time of year to see manatees in Florida is in the fall and winter months. Fall and winter are when manatees will migrate to the warm inlets, freshwater springs, and even power plant runoff canals.

During the fall and winter, you can sometimes spot over a hundred manatees at one time! So one of the best places to see manatees in Florida is in the freshwater springs.

Remember to keep Crystal River manatee swim and other popular freshwater springs on your list for almost guaranteed manatee sightings after October.  

How to See Manatees in Florida 

There are so many ways to see manatees in Florida, it’s hard to pick the best one! Florida is home to plenty of water activities, so it will depend on how close you would like to get to the manatees when picking how you want to see them.

Here are all of the different ways you can see manatees in Florida to help make the choice a little easier. 

Best ways to view manatees in their habitat


Renting kayaks is a great way to see manatees in Florida. Whether you’re out on the ocean or want to enjoy a float down a river, being in a kayak will keep you right on the water.

It’s nearly impossible to miss a manatee swimming up near you from a kayak. Kayaks are easy to use and handle, even if you’re never used one before. Beginners and experts alike can hop into a kayak, pick up an oar and get going to see the manatees in Florida.

If you’re looking for a kayak rental to see manatees in Florida, feel free to search for kayak rentals in your area for the best options. There are so many different types of kayaks to choose from that can make your experience even better. Consider renting a kayak with a clear bottom.

You’ll never miss a manatee in Florida in a clear-bottomed kayak, even if they swim right beneath you. Kayak rentals are a great option for any budget. Rentals start as low as $15 for an hour in certain locations. Everyone in your group can enjoy time out on the water in a kayak, no matter how big or small the group or their experience.

Kayaks are a great choice if you are going to see manatees in freshwater springs and rivers, as larger boats with motors can’t make it through to those locations.

Renting kayaks gives you the flexibility to take the boats out to state parks by yourself, or hop on a guided tour to ensure you can paddle out to the best spots to see the manatees. 


Like kayaks, paddleboards rentals are great options to take out on the water to see manatees in Florida. Floating along on a paddleboard is a wonderfully relaxing daytime activity that can be made even more special by paddling alongside the manatees.

Even if you’ve never tried paddle boarding before, it’s a great option to be closer to wildlife and the water. Beginners can take it nice and slow and paddleboard in calm springs and rivers. Paddleboards are great options for the rivers and freshwater springs if you are a beginner so you don’t have to worry about maneuvering through waves on the ocean.

Almost anyone can paddleboard and if you have little ones you can seat them on your paddleboard while you lead the way. While you’re paddleboarding through the gentle waters you should be able to move right along with the manatees!

You can bring paddleboards to boat launches at state parks and can look for paddleboard rentals near you to make it easier to find a great spot to see manatees in Florida. 

Pontoon Boats 

If you want to enjoy a full day out on the water then renting a pontoon boat or a party boat is a great option.

Not only can you take in the sights but you can also stop along the way to see some manatees in Florida. Pontoon boats can’t be taken out on every type of water though, so make sure you check the rentals in your location to figure out the best place to take your pontoon boat.

Pontoon boats are the perfect choice if you have a large group that wants to go out and enjoy the manatees in Florida. Most boats can fit up to 12 people and can be driven by a member of your group. They are relatively easy boats to learn how to drive so don’t worry if you aren’t too familiar with boating.

Florida does require a boating license to operate the boat if you were born after 1988, see more information on boating safety course article. Just make sure to always be safe and careful when operating a large vehicle, especially in busy and popular boating areas. 

The Best Way to See Manatees in Florida

Guided Tours 

One of the best ways to see manatees in Florida is to take a guided tour. There are many different guided tours to choose from, so you can guarantee there will be one that is perfect for you and your group to go out and see manatees in Florida. Here are some of the different guided boat tours that will help you see manatees in Florida. 

Airboat Tour 

Airboats are one of the most fun and immersive ways to enjoy the water in Florida. When it comes to wildlife, taking an airboat is the best way to get up close and see what Florida has to offer. You can take airboats through the everglades to enjoy some of the beautiful nature Florida has. You are sure to not only see manatees when you’re on an airboat tour in the rivers and springs, but also dolphins and other wildlife like birds of prey. The airboat can fit up to six people, so it’s a great fit for a family looking for a high-speed ride and a chance to see some of the manatees in Florida! 

Crystal River Manatee Tour 

To guarantee that you see manatees in Florida you can book a spot on this marvelous Manatee tour in Crystal River. Crystal River is already known as one of the most popular spots to see manatees in Florida, and this tour will take you out of the boat and right into the water with the manatees. So if you were thinking about taking a swim with the manatees this is one of the best ways to do it. Time to get in the water and experience how beautiful these creatures are. The tour includes everything you will need to dive in and see the manatees up close. It includes a wetsuit, mask, snorkel, and your very own professional manatee guide and captain. This tour takes you to spots that had manatee sightings the day before, to almost ensure you’ll get to see manatees in Florida.

These tours are quite small, with a capacity of six people, so if you don’t have a full group you might get to make some friends along the tour. Three full hours of fun on the water make this tour in Crystal River one of the best to choose if you want to see manatees in Florida. 

Kayak or Paddleboard Tour 

If you find yourself in central Florida, then taking the kayak or paddleboard guided tour in Cocoa Beach is a great way to see manatees and dolphins.

This tour will take you out with a guide in the Indian River Lagoon on either a kayak or a paddleboard, whichever you prefer. Taking a kayak tour is a great way for beginners to get out on the water and learn the ropes while seeing manatees along the way. 

swimming with manatees in florida

How to Swim with Manatees in Florida 

The best part about manatees is their gentle nature. Manatees enjoy being around humans and are very docile when people come to take a swim with them. Manatees are a rare mammal though so make sure that you look and don’t touch them!

You can have a great time swimming with manatees in Florida without harming them or their environment. Here are some great ways to swim with manatees in Florida if you want to jump out of the boat and get nice and close to the wildlife.

Tips for Swimming with Manatees in Florida 

Whether you’re on a tour or out on your own in the water to see manatees, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when you decide to swim with manatees in Florida. The most obvious rule is to make sure you enjoy looking and swimming near the manatees without touching them.

Unlike dolphins that you can grab and ride through the water, manatees do not have the strength or power to do that and also don’t always enjoy being touched by humans.

You wouldn’t want someone coming into your home and messing up your environment right? So you should make sure when you swim with manatees that you are respectful of their environment and keep everything exactly the way you found it.

Just think about how you would like to be treated if someone swam up to you in the water, and go with that when swimming alongside the manatees. 

Manatee swimming in water

Tips When You Find Yourself Near Manatees in Florida 

Manatees are very social creatures and like to be around humans, but just like people, sometimes manatees don’t want to socialize. So if a manatee in Florida starts swimming away from you, don’t chase it, just let it do its thing and find another manatee that is a little more friendly to swim alongside.

On occasion you may run into a manatee that is extremely comfortable with humans or was even trained by a guide, in this instance they may flip over like a dog for a belly rub!

You may witness this more on a guided tour where the guides are more familiar with the animals. This is the only instance in which it is okay to touch a manatee. Overall a good rule of thumb is to treat the manatees like you would want to be treated.

Avoid poking or prodding at them. Make sure you keep their habitat clean and avoid adding any trash or litter to their environment. 

Rules to Follow When Swimming with Manatees

Just like other wildlife you should not feed manatees in the wild. You could end up doing more harm than good. Manatees tend to eat seagrass so feeding them other foods could hurt them.

When you are swimming with manatees make sure you don’t start chasing them or back them into a corner.

Manatees in Florida are not aggressive creatures but they will become uncomfortable and agitated if you threaten them. You are there to enjoy swimming alongside them in their natural environment so make sure to treat manatees with respect and everyone will have an incredible time!

Where to See Manatees in Florida on Your Own 

If you don’t want to go out with a guide and would rather take a rental out on your own, there are a couple of different types of places in Florida you can go to see manatees.

You don’t have to be a huge adventurer to go out and find manatees on your own. While taking a guided tour is a great way to get used to exploring the natural environments of Florida, once you get out on your own you can make your own adventure and enjoy looking for manatees on your own time.

You can also take a guided tour one day to learn the ropes, and then take your boats or snorkeling gear out the next day on your own when you feel more comfortable. If you are ready to get out there and create your own adventure, here are some of the places that you can see manatees in Florida on your own. 

State Parks 

There are a couple of state parks in Florida that have water areas that manatees live in.

The most popular state park is Blue Spring State Park. This state park has viewing platforms so you don’t need to go in the water if you don’t want to.

The park also has a boat launch so you can bring your kayak or canoe rental to the park and enjoy the manatees from the water too! State parks usually have parking fees to use the park for the day per vehicle at around $4-$6 per vehicle.

Another popular state park is Manatee Springs state park which features an 800-foot boardwalk for optimal viewing of manatees. You can also enjoy walking trails and other natural features when visiting Florida’s beautiful state parks. Most state parks feature boat launches and have kayak rentals nearby so you can enjoy a day out on the water any way you’d like.

Manatee Sanctuary 

There are multiple manatee sanctuaries scattered around Florida that you can visit to see the manatees.

Wildlife sanctuaries are crucial for the survival of manatees in Florida in the winter since they cannot survive in waters colder than 68 degrees. Manatee sanctuaries are great places to view tons of manatees in Florida. Although you can’t boat at many manatee sanctuaries they are great options if you want to see them quickly.

You can also learn a lot about manatees at different manatee sanctuaries as many are there to offer educational tools to learn about the wildlife and their habitats in Florida. 

Warm Water Canals 

Manatees are always looking for warm water to live in so during the winter months you can find tons of manatees around the warm water of power plants with their steam and runoff.

Some of these warm-water runoff areas are quite popular spots to see large groups of manatees. A popular viewing center is the TECO Manatee viewing center located right next to the waters of the Big Bend Power Station. This viewing center is also a manatee sanctuary and has viewing platforms, walkways, and educational centers.

If you don’t find yourself with enough time to get a boat rental or jump in the water yourself, going to one of these power plant runoff areas is a great way to still see manatees in Florida. 

The Simple Trick to Seeing Manatees in Florida 

While there isn’t one way that is best when it comes to seeing manatees in Florida, a simple trick is to make sure you visit a source of warm water!

If you are visiting in the summer you can scour the beaches for manatees. If you want to try to see them in the ocean you should try renting a boat for a day or two. This is the best way to get out and be in touch with the ocean and the natural wildlife that lives there.

You may even see more than just manatees and run into dolphins, seabirds, and other wildlife. Boat rentals also allow you to have a bunch of people out with you so you can all experience the magic of seeing manatees together. 

If it’s the winter months, finding a warm water source on land is a sure-fire way to see manatees. Since they have to live in warm water they flock in the hundreds to places like Crystal Springs and other state parks all around the state.

The simple trick to seeing manatees in Florida is to think like a manatee and head to warm water. The winter months in Florida are still very warm so you can enjoy water activities without worrying about being too cold. If the water is still a little too chilly for you to swim in, you can take a kayak, paddleboard, airboat, or any other type of boat out on the warm water sources and enjoy spotting manatees in their natural habitat. It doesn’t matter where you are visiting in Florida, as long as you can find warm water you can find manatees! So the simple trick to seeing manatees in Florida is sticking to warm water. 

Seeing Manatees in Florida

Florida is filled with incredible wildlife and natural areas to explore. The best way to get out and enjoy Florida is to get out on the water! Whether you take a guided snorkeling tour, rent a kayak with a see-through bottom or enjoy an entire day out on the water in a pontoon boat, you are sure to see some incredible manatees in Florida.

No matter where you are visiting in Florida be sure to look up water activity rentals near you. There’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful warm waters of Florida than with an incredible boat rental.

Enjoy your time seeing the manatees from viewing platforms, lazy boat rides, or exciting dives into the water, and enjoy these simple tricks to see manatees in Florida.

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