What makes the Swim with the Dolphin at Theater of the Sea different from other facilities in the Keys?

  1. Our Swim with the Dolphin includes BOTH trained behaviors like dorsal tows as well as swimming, snorkeling, and diving underwater with the dolphins.
  2. Our programs include a dolphin show, as well as sea lion, parrot, fish, and reptile shows, bottomless boat ride, and access to the lagoon-side beach.
  3. In addition to dolphin interactions, we also have sea lion, crocodilian, shark, ray, sea turtle, and parrot programs.

What makes Theater of the Sea a unique marine animal facility?

Theater of the Sea lagoons and lush, tropical gardens are home to dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and birds. Our mission is to provide a wonderful home for our animals while sharing them with visitors in up close and personal shows and interaction programs. Loving and caring since 1946, we are family owned and located in the Florida Keys, halfway between Miami and Key West. Learn more about us, our animal care & training, and rescue programs.

What is included in the price of general admission? How long does it take to see the shows?

General admission to the park includes dolphin, sea lion, and parrot shows, fish and reptile tour, bottomless boat ride, and lagoon-side beach. One of the shows is always taking place; guests join the one that is in progress when they arrive and should plan to spend 2 to 3 hours in the park. After enjoying the shows and programs, guests can browse in our unique gift shop, dine at Papa’s grill, and visit our private lagoon-side beach to snorkel, sunbathe, or just relax.

What is the lagoon-side beach?

Included in the price of general admission, the lagoon-side beach is open for guests who want to sunbathe, cool off and take a dip, and/or snorkel with a variety of tropical fish.

Chaise lounges, showers, and changing rooms are provided.

Snacks and drinks can be purchased.

The lagoon-side beach is typically open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weather permitting.

Do you have a kennel for pets?

No, but you can bring your well-behaved leashed dog into the park if you clean up after them.

What kind of pools do the animals live in at Theater of the Sea?

The animals live in natural salt-water lagoons pumped in from the Atlantic Ocean.

How big is the lagoon?

The lagoon is three acres in size with an average depth of 15 to 20 feet. The rest of the property is about 17 acres in size and rich with tropical foliage and orchids.

Do you have a restaurant on the property? Do you serve alcohol?

A snack bar/grill is available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m (closing time will vary with season) and serves a variety of delicious foods including pizza, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and seafood.  There are several vending machines with cold drinks located throughout the property. Click here for more information on dining. We do not serve alcohol.

Can we bring in our own food and drinks? Are there any prohibited items?

No outside food, drinks (including alcohol) are permitted in the park. For a complete list prohibited items click here.

What types of payment do you accept?

We accept all major credit cards. Theater of the Sea is cashless except for our vending machines.

Are any discounts available? Do you have a season pass?

Click here for discounts and coupons.

Do I need to make a reservation for general admission?

You do NOT need to make a reservation for general admission.

What are your hours?

Theater of the Sea is open 365 days a year.
Park hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

What is the water temperature/weather?

Water temperature is a median of 77.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the same as the local ocean temperatures. Check local weather and water temperatures.

Are you open in inclement weather?

We conduct our shows and programs even if it is cold or raining. Postponements will occur if there is lightning in the area, but these storms are typically short lived and transient.

Are you wheelchair accessible?

Yes we are.


How long has Theater of the Sea offered dolphin swim programs?

A pioneer in animal interactive programs, Theater of the Sea offers several animal interaction programs including:
  • Swim with the Dolphin (since 1987)
  • Meet the Sea Lion and Meet the Dolphin (since 1994)
  • Swim with the Rays (since 1997)
  • Swim with the Sea Lion (since 1998)
  • Shallow Water Swim with the Dolphin (since 2000)
  • Paint with the Dolphin and Paint with the Sea Lion (since 2007)
  • Meet the Sea Turtle (since 2009)
  • Swim with the Sharks (since 2013)
  • Meet the Alligator (since 2017)

How do I sign up for an animal interaction program?

Reservations are accepted online, by phone, or in person and are recommended well in advance.

Are there any requirements or restrictions for participating in animal interaction programs?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for information on requirements and restrictions.

Can I participate in an animal interaction program if I have special needs?

Yes. Please inform us of any special requests, needs, and/or medical conditions so that we may prepare for your visit. This can be added to the booking notes or can be emailed to animalcare@theaterofthesea.com.

What if I have to cancel or change a reservation?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

What time should I arrive for my Animal Interaction Program?

We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes prior to the programs start time to account for traffic and check in. Allow 2.5 hours before or after your program if you want to see the shows. Click here for show schedule.

What do I need to bring the day of my animal interaction program?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

Can I bring my own masks, fins and snorkels?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

How old do you have to be to swim with the dolphins or participate in any animal interaction program?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

Do I have to be a good swimmer to participate in an animal interaction program?

The Swim with the Dolphin takes place in a 15 to 20 foot deep lagoon and even though participants do not tread water the entire time, they need to be comfortable swimming without a life jacket, without using their hands, and with fins on their feet. Life jackets may affect content of the deep water dolphin swim; Shallow Water Swim recommended.

The Meet the Dolphin, Meet the Sea Lion, Paint with the Dolphin, Paint with the Sea Lion, Meet the Alligator, and Meet the Sea Turtle are out of the water programs.

The Shallow Water Swim with the Dolphin and Swim with the Sea Lion take place on a shallow water sandy beach and is suitable for non-swimmers and swimmers alike.

The Swim with the Rays and Swim with the Sharks take place on a shallow water sandy beach and snorkeling is available.

Do the trainers get in the water with us during the swim?

Typically the trainers oversee the Swim with the Dolphin interaction from out of the water. Trainers may be in the water with you for the other programs.

Can I take photos of my swim?

Yes. Non-participating guests can take photos from designated areas. Typically, cameras are not allowed while you are interacting with the animals for their safety and the quality of the program. Theater of the Sea has staff photographers who may be available to take digital photos and videos by request. Please visit our Photo and Video Services page for more information.

What do non-participating guests get to do?

Non-participating guests may observe and take photos of their party’s program poolside with general admission to the park/shows. While observing the program, non-participating guests are not allowed contact with the animals or the water.

What is the difference between the Swim with the Dolphin and the Shallow Water Swim with the Dolphin?

The Swim with Dolphin takes place in 20 feet of water, includes behaviors like kisses, snorkeling, and dorsal tows or foot pushes. Swimmers must be comfortable treading water without a life jacket, without using their hands, and with fins on their feet. The Shallow Water Swim is for all ages and swim levels, takes place in 3-4 feet of water on a sandy beach, and includes behaviors like kisses, pets, and cradles. We recommend you watch the Swim with the Dolphin and Shallow Water Swim with the Dolphin videos and visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

Will we be able to freely swim with the animals?

Depending on your abilities, you may swim, snorkel, and dive under the direction of a trainer during the Swim with the Dolphin, Swim with the Rays, and Swim with the Sharks programs.

Can we feed the animals?

Participants will have the opportunity to feed the animals during the Meet the Sea Turtle, Meet the Alligator, and Swim with the Rays. Participants do not feed during the dolphin or sea lion interactions.

What do you recommend for sun protection?

The best sunscreen for the environment and your health is a hat and a shirt or a mineral sunscreens (zinc or titanium). Chemical sunscreens have inferior stability, penetrate the skin, and contain potentially harmful chemicals.

What are the Animal Interaction Program rules?

View the Animal Interaction Program Rules

Why can’t pregnant women swim with the dolphin or participate in any in-water interactions?

For safety reasons, pregnant women are discouraged from participating in vigorous physical activities. These are vigorous physical activities.

How long are the animal interaction programs? How many people participate in an animal interaction program at one time?

Please visit our Animal Interaction Program Comparison and Policies page for more information.

Can I do anything extra?

Each animal interaction can be reserved as a private program and you can request an Ultimate swim.

Do the stingrays have barbs?

Yes, they do, but they are conditioned to allow human contact and have never injured anyone since the program began in 1997. Rays use their barbs for defense only and are harmless unless stepped on.


How do you become a trainer/animal care specialist?

A biology or psychology degree, participation in internship or volunteer programs, strong swimming skills, SCUBA certification, and public speaking experience are all necessary.

Please visit our Careers page.

Does Theater of the Sea have an internship or volunteer program? Are you hiring?

Please visit our Careers page.

How do you train the animals?

Please visit our Animal Care and Training page.

Is food deprivation used to train the animals?

No. Our animals are offered their full diet daily.

How long does it take to train a behavior?

Depending on the trainer, the animal, and the behavior it can vary from one session to months.

Is it easier to train males or females? Young or older animals? Dolphins or sea lions or alligators?

It depends on the individual.

How intelligent are the dolphins (or any animal at the park)?

This is a difficult question to answer since we cannot even accurately assess human intelligence. They learn well and are very cooperative.

Different species have variances in brain development that correlate with their lifestyle and ecology. For example, the auditory portion of the dolphin brain is more developed than ours, however, the olfactory portion is not. This makes sense for dolphins, who are sound-oriented animals who do not have a sense of smell.


Is the dolphin at Theater of the Sea the same dolphin I see listed on restaurant menus?

No, the dolphin you see on the menu is a dolphin fish, also known as Mahi Mahi or Dorado. Like any fish it is cold-blooded, has scales, gills, and lays eggs. The dolphin at our facility is a warm blooded, air breathing mammal who gives birth to live young, nurses its young, and has hair…a mustache that falls out shortly after birth.

Do dolphins save people?

Anything is possible, but this is most likely a myth.

Can dolphins heal you?

No scientific data exists to suggest that dolphins can heal people. However, there are many human/animal interactions that have therapeutic benefits.

How long do dolphins live?

Life span varies with the dolphins just as with humans or any animal.

Their median life span at United States facilities is 29.2 years and we have had them live into their 50s at Theater of the Sea. We provide the animals here with superior care and train them to participate in medical behaviors so that we can closely monitor their health.

Their median life span in the wild is up to 17.4 years.

Are the animals happy?

They certainly seem to be and we wouldn't work here if we didn't think so. Our mission is to provide a wonderful home for our animals, many of whom were rescues, and we are proud of the care they receive. We wish all animals were as well cared for as the ones who live here.

Do the animals enjoy interaction with people?

Yes, they have the option of participating. It is extremely rare that they chose not to.

Where do you get your animals?

Some were born here, some came from other facilities, and many are rescues.

What is your opinion on the Japanese Drive Fisheries?

Theater of the Sea condemns the Japanese drive fisheries. It is a centuries-old practice, but it is time for it to come to an end.

Is the government involved with your facility? Are you non-profit?

We do not receive any government funding, but Theater of the Sea houses a number of species that are protected by the state and/or federal government, including the sea turtles, crocodilians, dolphins, and sea lions. To display them at the facility we must have permits which are granted only if we meet the established government criteria for their care and maintenance. The health and well-being of the animals takes precedence over all other interests and their care is supported by patronage alone.

Will you ever release your dolphins (or any of your animals)?

No. We would no more release one of our animals than you would abandon your dog in the woods. Also, it is prohibited by state and federal agencies for any of our animals to be released.

Animals who have lost their natural fear of humans are at risk for boat injuries, being fed poor quality or inappropriate food items, and being deliberately injured by those who view them as a nuisance.

Other concerns include:
  • unsuccessful past attempts
  • ability to adequately forage and avoid predators
  • disease transmission
  • unwanted genetic exchange
Please visit our Wild Dolphins page for more information.

What would happen if I swam with a wild dolphin?

It is prohibited by the Marine Mammal Protection Act to harass a marine mammal, which includes approaching, swimming with, or feeding a wild marine mammal. This is for the safety and well-being of both marine mammals and humans.

Please visit our Wild Dolphins page for more information.

What are the threats to wild dolphins?

Please visit our Threats page for more information.