Where to see manatees in Key Largo

I feel lucky every time I get to see a manatee. Just last night I came across a group of six on my kayak, what a great way to end the day! I hope you’ll be lucky enough to see them while you’re here in Key Largo. Read on for my top spots to see them on around the island.

Enjoy viewing these magnificent creatures!

Fun Facts

Often called “sea cows”, manatees can grow to over 1000lbs and much like a cow they spend their days grazing and sleeping. Manatees eat a volume equivalent to 15-20% of their body weight every day. That’s a daily intake of 120lbs of grasses and other plants for a 600lb animal. That’s a lot!  The side effect of eating all of those plants is just what you’d expect too. Manatees are well known for their voluminous, stinky farts. Maybe you’ll get to experience that too!

Manatee Viewing Rules

Before I tell you where you might see one in Key Largo you should know that manatees are protected by law. It’s illegal to make contact with them or to feed them including giving them water. The full viewing rules can be found here.

That face! Photo taken at Bayside Grille. She had a young calf with her too, how lucky! We were in the right place at the right time.

Where to see manatees in Key Largo

If you want an almost guaranteed sighting then I highly recommend Captain Sterling’s Everglades Eco tour. I have no affiliation with this business but I’ve taken friends visiting on it a few times and we’ve seen a ton of manatees every time. You’ll also enjoy a tour of the mangroves and learn about the history of the Everglades. Win-win.

Here are some free and mostly free places:

  • At the Pilot House restaurant. We’ve seen them in this canal a few times. One time two huge ones were hanging out under the glass bottom bar the whole time we were there having lunch, very lucky!
  • Behind the Murray Nelson Government center is a great spot to see them.
  • The Hampton Inn. If you’re staying here then you kinda hit the manatee jackpot! They consistently hangout just off the beach area. If you don’t see one during your stay I’d be surprised.
  • Grab a beer at Sharkey’s and sit looking out at the canal. The shop we dive with leaves from this canal and we see them all the time here. This is also a fun local hangout with live music most nights, enjoy!
  • Have lunch at Skippers and sit along the rail bordering the canal. This is the same canal that Sharkey’s is on.
  • Pennekamp State Park – I’ve seen them in the bay and in the mangrove tunnels. We were snorkeling the tunnels last month and came across a mom with her adorable calf, what a treat!
  • Between Sundowner’s and Cactus Jacks. They like to come into the marina cutout from the bay to get away from the boat traffic and take a rest from grazing. There’s also fresh water flowing with people washing boats – irresistible to manatees. Go grab a drink, enjoy the gorgeous view and maybe you’ll get lucky and have a manatee come by for a visit.

They could be anywhere at anytime so keep your eye out for them! One of the best ways to spot them is to notice their “footprint” on the surface. Google it for a pics but it looks like a smooth circle of water on the surface created by them flipping their tail.

 

Happy viewing! 

 

Stay warm friends!

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