Swim With Manatees at This Florida Resort Every Winter

Crystal River, Fla. is the only location in North America where it's legal to swim alongside the West Indian Manatee in the wild.

Florida isn't exactly known for its winter weather, but as temperatures drop, it becomes prime viewing season for the manatees who make Crystal River, Fla. their temporary home every year — and now a resort nearby has the perfect way to enjoy them.

Plantation on Crystal River resort's one-night package dedicated to swimming with manatees includes overnight accommodations in a garden view room and breakfast at the resort's West 82º Bar & Grill. Guests will also receive a welcome bag with a manatee plush toy and a guide with fun facts about the animal, as well as rules for interacting with them.

But of course, the crown jewel of this package is the manatee snorkeling tour with all equipment provided.

Plantation on Crystal River
Plantation on Crystal River. Courtesy of Plantation on Crystal River

Crystal River is the only location in North America where it's legal to swim alongside the West Indian Manatee in the wild. Tours depart from the Plantation Adventure Center & Dive Shop, which is located right inside the resort.

Semi-dry masks, snorkels, and wetsuits will be provided and are designed to retain body heat and help guests stay afloat, avoiding the need for a floatation device that may get in the way of your manatee interactions. All manatee tour boats, which are enclosed, also provide hot chocolate and coffee, warming boat coats, and towel service.

Jay Fleming/Getty Images

The Plantation Adventure Center & Dive Shop is headquarters for some of Florida's best spring dives, offering manatee tours year-round. The prime viewing season, however, usually runs from Nov. 15 through March 31, when these slow-moving mammals escape the cooler winter waters of the Gulf of Mexico and spend their time in the 72-degree waters of Florida's second-largest spring system in Crystal River. At this time of year, visitors can swim with hundreds of manatees as they eat, play, and socialize with each other.

Prices for the Swim With the Manatees package start at $299 for two guests. Booking for this year is closed.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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