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Where to Meet Manatees in The Palm Beaches

Where to Meet Manatees in The Palm Beaches

As temperatures cool in The Palm Beaches, it provides the ultimate opportunity to meet one of our most-loved local residents, the Florida manatee.

If you’re not familiar with our beloved “sea cows,” the iconic Florida creatures are massive marine mammals that occupy the coastal waterways of our state.

Manatees on average weigh up to 1,000 pounds and stretch up to 10 feet in length. They are docile herbivores that feed on seagrass and algae, earning them the reputation of being gentle giants. Their paddle-like tail and flippers propel them through the water at a leisurely pace, making them easy to spot from the shore. 

From mid-November to late March, the mesmerizing mammoths migrate from the cold ocean waters to seek refuge in warmer inland waterways. The peaceful and playful nature of manatees makes for a magical wildlife encounter, but before you go seeking sea cows, there are a few things you should know first. 

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. They’re a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and are also guarded under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It could pose a fine of up to $100,000 if you chase, touch, feed or harm a manatee.

Here are three places where you can spot manatees in The Palm Beaches!

Manatee Lagoon, West Palm Beach

For a manatee experience for all ages, be sure to visit Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach. Manatees congregate at the Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center every winter where the clean, warm water outflows of the power plant meet Lake Worth Lagoon. 
This free-admission facility is a designated FPL Eco-Discovery Center, with a mission in environmental education and stewardship. In addition to manatee viewing, its scenic location offers brilliant views of Peanut Island, sailboats mooring in the lagoon and crystal-clear waters where you can witness tropical fish at play. Unique offerings on their schedule include outdoor yoga classes and Manatee Tales Story Time for the kids. Visitor can also explore featured exhibits, where they can learn more about the local environment.

Manatee Lagoon

Cato’s Bridge, Tequesta

Cato’s Bridge is a popular local hangout for snorkeling, swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. Manatees are frequent swimmers in this area since they’re attracted to the freshwater outflow of the Loxahatchee River into the Jupiter Inlet. The area has perpetual clear water views and is the best way to encounter nature like a Florida native.
Since this area is trafficked by boats, it’s required by law to have a dive flag if snorkeling the area. If you prefer to stay dry, the area is accessible by foot and manatees are easily visible in the water as you stand in the sand.

People observing manatees from a viewing platform
Photo courtesy of Florida Power & Light

Keylypso of The Palm Beaches Snorkel Charters, Lake Park

One of the best ways to find manatees in the wild is by way of a local guide. Keylypso of The Palm Beaches offers snorkel charters launching from Lake Park Marina. If you’re new to snorkeling, you can feel confident that you’re in good hands under the supervision of one of Keylypso’s U.S. Coast Guard-certified captains.
The 34-foot power catamaran cruises through the Lake Worth Lagoon to various local snorkel locations. By encountering manatees at areas only accessible by boat, it allows for a more peaceful interaction without the crowds. Keylypso provides a mask, fins, snorkel and vest, with the option to purchase underwater cameras to capture your manatee moments.

Two manatees underwater
Photo courtesy of Keylypso of the Palm Beaches

John D. Macarthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is an environmental treasure that offers 1.6 miles of pristine beach, and many outdoor activities like kayaking, bird watching, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing! Occasionally, you might be able to spot a manatee while adventuring in the waters!

The park boasts four different habitats: beach and dune, estuary, maritime hammock, and Anastasia limestone rock reef. Make sure you also visit the nature center, where you will find different exhibits displaying local flora and fauna.

Aerial view of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

Best Time of The Year to See Manatees

Although they can be seen all year round, manatees are easier to spot during the winter months between November 15 and March 31. Manatees are known to seek out warmer waters when the temperatures drop, and during this period, they often gather in areas such as freshwater springs, estuaries, or coastal waters where the water temperature remains relatively stable and warmer than the surrounding environment.

Keep in mind that while these months are generally the best time to spot manatees, their presence can still vary due to weather conditions and other factors.

ManateeFest 2024

Visiting in February? Don’t miss ManateeFest 2024 at Manatee Lagoon!

Manatee Lagoon’s 8th anniversary at ManateeFest 2024 will be held on Saturday, February 3, 2024. This a FREE, family-friendly event is an annual celebration where you can explore the wonders of manatees, the Lake Worth Lagoon and environmental conservation. During this special day, Manatee Lagoon will offer free family-friendly festivities, including free admission, free face painting, a KidsFunZone, and complimentary parking. Additionally, you can dine at one of the food vendors or shop at one of the many arts and crafts vendors onsite.

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