A Guide to Seeing Manatees in Crystal River, FL | Discover Crystal River

A Guide to Seeing Manatees in Crystal River, FL

Crystal River is the only place in Florida where you can swim with manatees. Find out how to meet a manatee and get to know these awe-inspiring creatures better.

Did you know that Crystal River in Citrus County is the only place in Florida where you can swim with manatees? During the winter months, hundreds of manatees head to our bays to warm up and escape the colder temperatures throughout the Gulf of Mexico. If you’d like to see manatees up close, here’s everything you need to know about experiencing these “gentle giants.”

Which months are best for seeing manatees?

The peak season for observing manatees is November through April, and the local manatee population swells to its largest size between December and February. You can spot manatees in our waterways all year round, but the population is much smaller during the summer months.

What time of day is best for swimming with manatees?

When planning your trip, consider visiting the springs in the early morning and during the middle of the week. Local springs will be less crowded on weekdays and the manatees are most active and playful in the mornings.

Where can you go to see manatees?

Manatees typically live and play near the warm waters of natural springs. Three Sisters Springs and Homosassa Springs are two of the best places to find manatees. Local tour operators and nature guides provide a variety of options for experiencing these awesome sea creatures. From swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding to snorkeling and diving, there are many ways to meet a manatee while you’re here!

Can you touch the manatees?

We’re so glad you asked! Thanks to our community's commitment to the health and safety of our large manatee population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encourages passive observation, which means not initiating contact with manatees and calmly observing from a distance and at the surface. Visitors must NOT approach a resting or feeding manatee, chase a manatee, kick/splash/poke a manatee, or touch a manatee.  For more information, we recommend watching the US Fish and Wildlife video Manatee Manners for a complete overview of the legal guidelines. If you head out on a swimming tour, then your guide will also share all the do’s and don’ts for interacting with these precious creatures. Swimmers and divers should minimize noise, avoid splashing, and make slow, deliberate movements. Manatees are very curious and social and they will frequently approach humans in the water. 

manatee plush dolls

Can you see manatees without getting in the water?

There are many ways to meet manatees without taking a swim. You can view manatees at the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, which serves as a refuge for rehabilitating captive-born manatees and helping them return to the wild. The park’s daily educational programs are open to the public. Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is another location where you can observe manatees by land. You may also find a local tour guide to set up a boat tour, kayak tour, or paddleboarding trip.

Where can I learn more about manatees?

Check out our amazing manatee facts page or visit the Save The Manatee Club website for more information.

How can I help protect manatees?

Visit the Save the Manatee Club website to find out how you can donate and get involved in protecting this endangered marine mammal. You may also find opportunities to help on the Defenders of Wildlife Website.

Don't miss the chance to meet a manatee up close! Start planning your Crystal River trip today. Find the perfect place to stay and other cool outdoor adventures to experience in our beautiful area.


Discover Crystal River
Official Guide to Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida