Where to Meet Manatees in The Palm Beaches

November 12, 2021

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’re 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.  

There are several locations in Palm Beach County where you can practice “passive observation” to have a safe and incredible manatee encounter.

Group of manatees in the water
Manatee Lagoon

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. 

Manatee Lagoon opened for its sixth season in November 2021 with new upgrades, including daily Lagoonside Chats with their Manatee Masters on the first-floor observation deck. On select days of the week, you can join the Manatee Masters for a morning Waterfront Walk to learn about the Lake Worth Lagoon ecosystem.  

Other unique offerings on their schedule include outdoor yoga classes and Manatee Tales Story Time for the kids. There’s also a new augmented reality solar exhibit, where guests can use their smartphone to interact with Sunny the Solar Tree and learn about clean-energy initiatives.

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

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 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 boat, 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. 

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 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

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Mandy Mizell
Mandy Mizell
Mandy Mizell is a local blogger, avid paddler and beachcomber. With a background in Environmental Science, she is a self-proclaimed Florida naturalist. Her blog, thegloballocal.world, inspires people to live global and stay local with ways to experience culture, respect the environment and live the best of the Florida lifestyle.