5 of the Best Crystal River Boat and Kayak Tours

by Cedric Pentonville  |  Published December 15, 2021

Swim with marvelous creatures, paddle through mangroves and whizz over the swamps in an airboat on one of these top Crystal River boat tours.

(Photo: Getyourguide.com)

The general Crystal River area (there’s a city, river and state park all bearing the same name) is a great place for unique outdoor experiences without the huge crowds you might find elsewhere in Florida. There are plenty of great ways to experience the water, including from a boat, through to actually getting right in there and swimming. You’ll share the space with other mammals, particularly the magnificent manatees. Here are five unique tour options.

Crystal River, Florida: 3-Hour Swim with Manatees

One of the things that makes Crystal River (the city) such a perfect place for clear water is that there are dozens of natural springs all around the area. This means water wells up from the ground and hasn’t had time to be sullied by the pollution that humans always manage to add to our water supplies. This clear water is also essential to a number of endangered species, such as manatees, which flock to the area. This tour takes guests snorkeling around these creatures at Three Sisters Springs. From $68 per person.

Book at Getyourguide.com

Clear Kayak Tour of Crystal River

You’ll soon notice, when you see the water, just why Crystal River gets its name. These wonderfully clear waterways are great for spotting wildlife beneath the water’s surface and the only obstruction would be a kayak. Unless, that is, the kayak is also perfectly clear. This Crystal River tour is the perfect way to explore the manatee-rich environment without getting wet. On most days there are three departure times during the morning and afternoon, with each trip lasting two hours. From $70 per person.

Book at Viator.com

(Photo: Viator.com)

Swim with Manatees Tour from Orlando

Many Crystal River tours start and end in Orlando, making it a great day out for families visiting the city’s theme parks. Starting out at a variety of meeting points around Orlando and Kissimmee, the 11-hour tour heads for Homosassa State Park, where you’ll access the Crystal River, have a chance to snorkel and swim with the manatees, and take a boat ride to spot other species that call this area home. Tue and Sat departures only. From $99 per person.

Book at Getyourguide.com

Crystal River Small Group Swim with Manatee Tour

All tours to Crystal River have to be respectful of this delicate ecosystem and respect the manatees in their native habitats. As such, group sizes should rarely be over a dozen people. This tour goes one step better by restricting the group to six people. King’s Bay Wildlife Refuge is one of the many wildlife preserves guarding the fragile Crystal River ecosystems. You’ll learn all about the animals on this trip and the interaction is designed to be passive in order to limit your disturbance to the gentle creatures. From $100 per person.

Book at Getyourguide.com

(Photo: Getyourguide.com)

Orlando Manatee Encounter, Snorkeling, and Airboat Ride

For a longer tour that incorporates a boat trip along Crystal River into a larger itinerary, this 12-hour excursion from Orlando is excellent value and offers many memorable experiences. Take for example the thrilling airboat ride along the Withlacoochee River, where the noise and rush of wind are an exhilarating experience. There are also plenty of chances to see wildlife, including manatees and alligators. Please note that this tour does bring up to 15 people and only runs on Mon, Wed and Fri each week. From $139 per person.

Book at Getyourguide.com