A girl in a red kayak over clear water with Manatees swimming below her

10 Perfect Places to Kayak with Manatees in Florida

Kayaking with manatees in Florida is a fantastic experience for everyone who enjoys being outside surrounded by Florida’s natural beauty.

Spending time in a kayak among manatees in Florida is sure to reawaken your love of the outdoors.

Sea cows, as these marine mammals are sometimes called, are great company on a day when you just want to relax.

Kayaking with manatees is the most incredible way to enjoy an up-close encounter with these massive sea mammals while soaking up the sun and getting a little exercise.

After we spent a weekend kayaking with them in Crystal Springs, I can definitely attest to this being a bucket list item while in Florida.

They are not shy and love to come up and say hi to you while you are kayaking.

To be a decent human being, you should observe a few simple rules to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time without disturbing the gentle giants.

Rule # 1

You shouldn’t go too near the manatees or touch them.

Rule # 2

Never throw anything, even food, at a manatee.

Rule # 3

Always be careful and kind to the manatees when you are in their environment.

Top Places to Kayak with Manatees in Florida

Fresh Spring Water with Palm Trees in the background

1. Silver Springs

Silver Spring is one of Florida’s most beautiful springs because its water is so clear that you can see straight down to the bottom.

You may get an even better view if you rent a kayak with a glass bottom. Not sure if that is your jam, why not try canoeing with manatees in Florida.

Silver Springs is best visited between November and February.

Remember that pets are only allowed in selected places, such as campgrounds and hiking paths.

Bring your own kayak, take a kayak tour or adults may enjoy a glass-bottom tour for $12.

Be sure to bring your camera.

A Manatee swimming in fresh water springs in Florida

2. Homosassa State Park

Another great spot to kayak with Manatees is in Homosassa State Park.

This park is nicknamed manatee park, for good reason.

The park has an underwater observatory where you can see them every day. People start their trip by taking a pontoon boat down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park, where they can see Florida panthers, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators, and many different kinds of birds.

In the winter, the gates to the first-magnitude spring are opened, and wild manatee rush to the warm waters.

You can say that this is the start to peak manatee season.

You might kayak with dozens of wild manatees on these cold days.

Homosassa springs has many attractions, and it costs $13 for an adult to get in and $5 for Kids over 5.

Orange kayak on crystal springs in search for Manatees

3. Crystal River

This river, Crystal River,  is known as the “Manatee Capital of the World,” and is probably the best spot to kayak with Manatees in Florida.

It has the only National Wildlife Refuge in the country that protects the endangered manatee species.

During the winter, manatees come here to stay warm in the warm waters that come from freshwater springs.

From November to March, you’ll likely see a lot of these gentle giants at Three Sisters Springs and nearby.

There are safe zones for the manatees, which makes it a great place for kayakers who want a calm ride down the river.

Crystal River tries to keep the area clean and quiet, and kayakers and paddlers are asked to stay on the water’s edge to help protect the manatees’ home.

The most amazing thing about Crystal River is that people can swim with manatees there.

This is the only place in the US, where you are able to do so.

So when you take your kayak out for a paddle, you can jump in and swim with the manatees.

Pretty cool

A girl in a red kayak over clear water with Manatees swimming below her

4. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Some of the best springs to kayak with Manatees in Florida are in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

The Weeki Wachee Springs are home to many slow-moving but cute manatees.

Signs have been put up to tell people not to bother the manatees when they are sleeping. 

Here you will also find a lot of different kinds of trees, like palms, oaks, and cypresses, line the river and provide shade while you kayak.

It costs $6 to launch your own kayak, to rent kayaks it costs $22 for one person.

Try kayaking tours to get a closer look at all the marine life.

Life jackets and paddles are included in the price, and you can take the park’s free shuttle back to your car after your paddle.

From the time you pick up the rental, you have two hours to bring it back. Plenty of time to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of this fresh water spring.

Manateees swimming at Weeki Wachee Springs

5. Ginnie Springs

This place is a must-see for anyone who kayaks, paddleboards, camps, or dives.

At Ginnie Springs, they think about what you need and are ready to give it to you.

Snorkeling gear, inner tubes, kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes are all available for rent.

You can rent equipment for as little as $8 and as much as $30.

Ginnie Springs is privately owned, so people must sign a waiver before going there. It’s a popular place for a weekend getaway.

People come from all over to ride tubes down the Santa Fe River.

Even though the number of manatees has gone down in the last few years, Ginnie Springs is still a fun place to kayak with manatees in Florida.

It is a great spot to camp out for the weekend.

6. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

From a canoe or kayak, this is another great place in Florida to see wild manatees.

It’s also interesting that you can kayak in these waters and see the bioluminescence. How cool is that!

This park, which is home to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, is a great place to take a relaxing kayak trip or learn about the ecosystem in the area.

Manatees, who are in danger of going extinct, are given a safe place to live and can sometimes be seen here.

Many species of both freshwater and saltwater wetland ecosystems live here and create a natural habitat for marine life.

You can find birds, reptiles, fish, mammals, and even some very interesting plants.

Two Manatees swimming in clear fresh water in Florida

7. Vero Beach – Round Island

Vero Beach’s Round Island is another one of those unexpected treasures!

Due to the quantity of food and the lack of boat traffic, the waters near Round Island are a popular hangout for manatees. Making it a great spot to kayak during manatee season.

You can watch manatees from the boardwalk here, or you may join a kayak tour excursion to go even closer.

Manatees are present here all year, with the summer months seeing a higher concentration of these gentle giants. you can still find them playful in the winter months too.

8. Three Sisters Springs

These springs are a collection of three of the seventy springs spread out throughout King’s Bay’s 600 acres.

About 600 manatees visit the springs every winter to take advantage of the constant 72-degree water. This mush be what they call manatee season.

Sometimes you won’t be able to access the headwaters, but you may still go swimming or kayaking in the nearby springs and river and hopefully see some Manatees.

Manatee Up close and Personal

9. Chassahowitzka River

Observing manatees in their natural habitat is a rare and special experience, and here is one of the best spots in Florida to do it.

There is no lack of life-changing experiences to be had along The Chaz because of its crystal clear waters and abundance of flora and fauna.

The manatee population thrives in the Chassahowitzka River, which receives warmer water from Seven Sisters Springs.

More manatees congregate here in the winter, so that’s the best time to visit.

Blue Kayak with Manatees underneath

10. Manatee Springs State Park

Manatees and cool water are what draw people to Manatee Springs State Park. Paddle a kayak or canoe down the Suwannee River in peace and quiet.

Manatee Springs State Park is about 10 miles downriver by canoe. You can get a kayak at Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures.

One of the best things about the State Park is the 800-foot boardwalk that goes through a beautiful cypress grove and gives great views of the spring. Enjoy the nature trails and natural beauty.

The amazing boardwalk lets you walk through the cypress swamp and see many different kinds of animals.

You might want to bring your bike so you can ride on one of the many beautiful paths. The 8.5 miles of nature trails are linked to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail.

Early Paleo Indians used this spring more than 10,000 years ago.

This makes it one of the oldest in Florida. You can also camp here, but firewood from outside the park is not allowed.

man on a kayak with a manatee on the side in the water

When is the Right Time to Kayak with Manatees in Florida?

Florida manatees spend the summer months in the Gulf of Mexico, where there is enough seagrass to eat.

Manatees migrate inland to the warm blue spring of Florida and other neighboring freshwater springs when ocean temperatures decline.

The winter months in Florida (November through March) are ideal for kayaking alongside manatees.

5 Cool Things to Know About Manatees

  1. West Indian manatees are the ones you see in Florida. There are three kinds of manatees. The Amazonian and West African manatees are the other two.
  2. They only eat plants. About half of a manatee’s day is spent eating seagrass, which is about 10% of its body weight. For a full-grown manatee, that’s more than 100 pounds a day.
  3. Even though they are big, manatees have almost no fat on their bodies. Their stomach and intestines make up most of their body.
  4. Manatees need warm water above 68°F to live because they don’t have much fat on their bodies. Crystal River is a great place for manatees to spend the winter because it has natural springs that are always 72°F.
  5. West Indian Manatees can live in both fresh water and salt water, and they usually move between the two depending on the season. When the water warms up in the spring, these manatees move from Crystal River to the Gulf Coast.

In Conclusion

Kayaking with manatees at any of the Florida Springs is a unique and fun experience, but it’s essential to remember that these are living creatures.

If you want to engage with them while kayaking, you should do it from a safe distance and on the water’s surface rather than getting too close and perhaps disturbing them when they are resting or eating.

Do not approach a resting manatee and never poke, prod, or harass a manatee.

Never attempt to remove a mother and her baby manatee from the group. You also must not remove any tags from a manatee involved in research or disrupt the study.

Remember you are in their living environment, so be respectful.

That’s all; those are the ground rules. Enjoy your time kayaking with Manatees in Florida.

Remember they do not live in captivity, and you aren’t in a petting zoo.

It would be best if you never interfered with or altered their normal behavior to keep them safe.

Thanks for reading we hope that you will take this opportunity to book a trip and kayak with Manatees as it is a unique and fun experience.

When Is the best time to see Manatees in Florida?

The best time to see Manaatess in Florida is from December – April or Florida’s winter months, with the best months being December – February. This is when they flock to Florida’s spring water to warm up as they stay above 72 degrees. Down here we call it manatee season.

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