A guide to how you can see manatees in Florida this year

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Seeing manatees in Florida is a great experience for those who don’t live in the Sunshine State. Not only is this a unique activity to have with some of Florida’s most beloved native marine species, but it’s something that can be done quite easily. With so many places to see manatees and a wide enough time frame, visitors should have no problem observing these beautiful animals in their natural habitats.

That being said, there are some things visitors to Florida should know before swimming with manatees. Some places are better than others, and many of them have rules and guidelines in place to protect this amazing species. Additionally, certain times of day are better for seeing a manatee in the wild than others, as detailed in this guide.


Where Are The Best Places To See Manatees In Florida?

The biggest, and most important, question concerns manatee habitats. Some places are known as frequent breeding grounds and feeding grounds for manatees, making them more likely to yield a manatee sighting than others. Among some of Florida’s most popular locations, these offer visitors the best chance of seeing one during a visit.

crystal river

Known as one of the best spots in Florida for manatee sightings, Crystal River is popular thanks to the many natural springs that make up its waterscape. Visitors to Three Sisters Springs have the chance to potentially see hundreds of manatees during its high season.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

It is a protected park where visitors can see manatees in Florida all year round. The sanctuary has greatly benefited the manatee population, and many people visit the site to explore and observe other native species – not just manatees.

Blue Springs State Park

Blue Springs State Park is home to Blue Springs, where visitors can often see more than one manatee swimming at a time. The walks through the park and around the springs provide excellent viewing platforms and allow visitors to relax and watch the manatees all day.

Tarpoon Springs

This natural spring is known for kayaking, but often those who kayak also encounter manatees on their travels. The best time to see manatees here is during Florida’s colder months, when they’ll be most active in the area near Tampa.

Related: 10 of Florida’s Best Swimming Holes for Cooling Off

Which months are the best to see manatees?

The special thing about manatees in Florida is that they can be seen all year round. There is no “bad” time to look for them, but there are certain months that visitors will benefit from during their visit. If the goal is to see manatees, the best time to visit is during the state’s colder months. This means that between November and Aprilvisitors are more likely to see manatees in Florida’s waterways than they would during the summer.

The cold months are when the population is more active and rather than seeing two or three, you could see dozens, depending on where they are.

The months when you will find the most manatees are December, January and February – the coldest months in Florida are also the most active for the species.

What time of day is it best to see manatees?

Additionally, those looking for manatees in the local waterways should plan their visits early in the morning. This is when manatees are known to be more active and playful, and also when springs are less crowded. To avoid the crowds even further, visiting Florida’s natural springs during the week, rather than the weekend, is a safe bet.

Can you touch manatees in the wild?

The short answer is yes – however, it is important to remember that manatees are an endangered species. Therefore, there are rules and guidelines regarding any type of human-animal interaction. A few things to remember when interacting with a manatee or any sea life:


  • The best chance to see and interact with manatees will be on a marine tour, guided by an expert.
  • Swimmers and divers should avoid making louder noises than necessary as they may scare the manatees.
  • Avoid excessive splashing.
  • All movements should be done in a calm and calculated manner; no fight.
  • Manatees are quite comfortable with humans, and it’s not uncommon for them to swim up to a person out of curiosity.
  • A person is allowed to touch a manatee on its back or stomach, but it is illegal to touch a manatee with both hands – one hand at a time, only!

That being said, visitors to Florida’s natural springs can see manatees without ever entering the water with them. They are a spectacular sight to behold and an incredible species to observe, discover and experience in person.


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