Snorkeling at Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove offers an all-inclusive experience with gluten-free dining

Florida is well known for its white sand beaches, abundant ocean wildlife, and world-class hospitality. If you’re looking for a way to experience all three, with gluten-free menu options too, check out Discovery Cove in Orlando.

This all-inclusive day resort provides guests the opportunity to snorkel with fish, swim with dolphins, float down a lazy river, and lounge around with a tropical drink in hand. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks, snorkel gear, wetsuits, sunscreen, towels, and parking are all included in the price of admission.

A day at Discovery Cove starts at 7 a.m. when you’ll check in, have breakfast, and get situated at your lounge chairs or cabana (cabanas cost extra). Get fitted for a wetsuit and grab your snorkel gear and then you’re ready to start your adventure! Head over to the Grand Reef, where you can swim and snorkel with thousands of tropical fish and rays or visit the Freshwater Oasis where you can see energetic otters from the other side of their underwater enclosure or get a peek of the marmosets as they play on their island. Check out the Wind-Away River where the water’s gentle current and a pool noodle tucked under your arms will help you coast down the river as you relax to the views of the aviary, gorgeous plant life, and a few refreshing waterfalls (pro tip: hang onto your sunglasses when going under the falls!).

Discovery Cove’s menus include gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly options. For breakfast, enjoy a variety of gluten-free offerings such as scrambled eggs with sausage, a yogurt parfait, applesauce, a Glutino bar, and coffee. Gluten-free lunch options are plentiful! On my visit, I enjoyed a gluten-free lunch of churrasco with chimichurri, mixed vegetables, roasted red potatoes, house salad, cantaloupe, and a couple pre-packaged desserts: a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie from David’s Cookies and a gluten-free brownie from Sweet Street. As mentioned, drinks are included – this means coffee, tea, water, assorted Coca Cola products, and alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and cocktails. You can upgrade to a Premium Drink Package to get access to top shelf liquor and additional brands of beers. (Note: they do not have gluten-free beers, but they do have hard seltzers if you’re looking for a carbonated cocktail.)

Drinks in Cabana at Discovery Cove

Just off the famous International Drive (aka I-Drive) and almost equidistant between Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, Discovery Cove is conveniently located in the heart of the theme park capital of the world. This means you can stay at any of the local hotels, and you’ll be a quick drive away. The resort’s website offers deals for hotels and lists their affiliate hotels that offer shuttle service to the park.

The price of admission varies based on the season and how far in advance you purchase your tickets. Their website frequently offers discounts, including those for Florida residents, hotel packages, and bundles that include admission to other parks like Busch Gardens and Aquatica. People of all ages are welcome at Discovery Cove, but please note they do not have a designated children’s area and certain water areas and activities have age restrictions. Children ages 2 and under get in free with a paid adult ticket. A regular day admission to Discovery Cove grants you access to plenty of fun activities and amenities, but if you’d like to upgrade your resort experience, you can add options like a dolphin swim package, shark swim package, an underwater walking tour called SeaVenture, and animal interactions that allow you to meet birds and small mammals.

My visit to Discovery Cove in June 2022 was an unforgettable trip that I would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for a unique experience in Florida, whether to celebrate a special occasion or just for a vacation. 

Learn more about Discovery Cove.

Discovery Cove Grand Reef

Tips for Making the Most Out of Your Visit to Discovery Cove:

  • If you plan to drink alcohol, either take a shuttle if your hotel offers it or grab a Lyft or Uber to the resort. Rideshare vehicles can drop you off and pick you up right at the entrance.
  • Wear water shoes. With obstacles like rocks, slippery areas, and the hot sand, your feet will thank you.
  • Do what you’re most excited about first. If you want to see the otters and marmosets, go to the Freshwater Oasis first. If you want to snorkel with the fish, do that first. It’s easy to get caught up with all the activities, meals, and drinks there are to indulge in, so don’t miss out on what you’re most excited for!
  • Keep the weather in mind. It rains a lot in Florida, primarily in the summer months. A short afternoon shower here or there won’t ruin your visit. Lightening in the area, however, can interrupt the park’s ability to let guests in the water. Visit in late fall, winter, or early spring for the most storm-free potential.
  • For something extra special, book a cabana. If you have a group of 6 to 10 people, you can split the cost or consider a cabana if it’s a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. Cabanas are a great experience, and they offer some seclusion and much-appreciated shade. We hid from an afternoon shower under our cabana, and it was like being under the canopy of a rainforest! Looking to splurge? The VIP cabanas come with a personal host, which is helpful because she/he will stock your cabana, give you tips on where to go first, etc. Shout out to June Staley, who was our very knowledgeable, friendly, and memorable host!

Note: Our editor received two free tickets to Discovery Cove and she paid for an additional ticket. The decision to write about Discovery Cove and her recommendation of the resort was solely the decision of our editor, and neither she nor Gluten Free & More was paid to promote them.

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