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Where To See Manatees In Marco Island – 2024 Guide

Welcome to Marco Island where the warm waters are home to some of the most gentle and fascinating creatures on earth – manatees!

On my recent trip to Florida, I spent a couple of days in Marco Island and made it my personal mission to find as many manatees as I could!

I found that the best place to spot manatees are in the canals that run through Marco Island as well as the surrounding Ten Thousand Islands.

For the best chance of spotting manatees, I’d recommend joining a wildlife viewing boat tour or a guided kayaking tour.

You’ll be able to explore Marco Island and the Ten Thousand Islands with an experienced tour guide who will know where to find manatees without fail. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll be revealing all of the exact locations where you can see manatees on Marco Island.

Best Places To See Manatees In Marco Island

Map of Marco Island showing where to see manatees.

You have a great chance of seeing manatees in Marco Island as there is a resident population of manatees that live there year round.

Here’s exactly where you can find them…

1. Ten Thousand Islands

I found that, by far, the best place to see manatees in Marco Island was at the Ten Thousand Islands where you are basically guaranteed to see them.

Ten Thousand Islands is a chain of islands and mangrove islets that lie just off the coast of southwest Florida.

Marco Island is the largest and only developed island that forms part of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands.

You will need to book onto a boat tour to see more of the islands. I’d recommend this wildlife viewing boat tour which will take you out from Marco Island.

The guides know exactly where to find the manatees without fail so you have a super high chance of spotting a manatee on this tour as well as dolphins and turtles.

When I visited a saw several huge groups of manatees just happily bobbing around in the water searching for food.

Manatees in Marco Island

Alternatively, you could join a manatee kayaking tour like this one. This tour is dedicated to spotting manatees in the Ten Thousand Islands so it’s very likely that you’ll see one!

This is the best way to see manatees up close and personal in Marco Island as you’ll kayak through an extensive mangrove forest searching for them.

2. South Marco Beach

South Marco Beach is a stunning big beach with white sand made from shells. It’s one of the few beaches on Marco Island that is open to the public.

South Marco Beach

Manatee sightings are frequent here and you can even get out into the water and swim alongside them. I actually saw several manatees within minutes of getting into the water!

It can be hard to spot the manatees from the beach so look out for large circles in the water (these are known as ‘manatee footprints’) as well as large, dark spots in the water.

💡 Pro Tip: Wear polarized sunglasses to help see through the glare on the water. This will make spotting manatees so much easier.

3. Tigertail Beach

Tigertail Beach is a very unique beach that only came into existence in 2005 due to a large hurricane.

Prior to 2005, an off-shore sandbar existed. When Hurricane Wilma hit, sand piled up towards the southern end, connecting it to the mainland and creating Tigertail Beach.

Today manatees tend to hang out in the warm, shallow waters here and can be spotted frequently.

I visited this beach recently and had a really lovely day there. The beach is so serene so I just spent a few hours lying on the sand, reading my book.

I even got into the water and saw a few manatees swimming around in the distance.

💡Tip: Bring a waterproof camera like the GoPro Hero 10 to get some photos and videos of you with the manatees.

4. Marco Marina

This beautiful waterfront marina has a dock and a boardwalk where you can look out into the glistening waters, keeping your eyes open for manatees.

You’ll need a good eye to see manatees here. Scan the water for a snout or tail breaking the water’s surface.

I had to stand around for around 20 minutes before my first manatee sighting but it was totally worth it.

It felt like this little guy was putting on a show just for me as he popped his head out of the water and did a little twirl (I’m sure it wasn’t actually a twirl but it sure looked like one).

Find out where to see manatees in Miami.

5. Marco Island Canals

You can actually see manatees all over Marco Island in the canals that intersect the whole island. 

The manatees prefer waters that are about 3 to 7 feet deep so keep this in mind when looking for them.

Just keep your eyes peeled for long enough and you’ll likely spot a snout or tail in the water.

manatees in the canal in Marco Island.

I found that the best spot is just behind the Florentine Gardens Condo complex on Swallow Avenue. 

There is a seawall just behind this building and you can often see manatees splashing around in the water from here. I saw a group of 3 there when I visited recently.

Check out the video below to see some manatees spotted in the canals of Marco Island:

Best Time Of Year To See Manatees

Manatees can be spotted on Marco Island year round however the best time is during the winter months from November to March. 

During the winter, water temperatures drop so manatees migrate from places like Fort Lauderdale to Southern Florida to stay in the warmer waters over winter.

The West Indian species of manatee, which lives in and around Marco Island, can only breed in warm waters. 

In fact, they will die in water that is colder than 60 degrees so they wouldn’t survive in the winter further north.

That being said, the manatees also don’t like it when the water is too hot so during the summer, they tend to migrate back up north where it’s a bit cooler.

For this reason, your chances of seeing a manatee in Marco Island during the summer is low (but not impossible).

Best Time Of Day To See Manatees

Manatees can be spotted at any time of day in Marco Island but the best time is in the early morning as this is when they’re most active.

In the morning, manatees often move around in groups and are very playful. You can often see them eating and playing.

The manatees spend about half of their day eating and half sleeping. You’ll often spot them throughout the day when they’re looking for food.

Manatee Spotting Tips

Manatees are still an endangered species so it’s important that we do all we can to protect them.

Unfortunately manatee numbers are declining. This is due to a variety of factors including habitat loss, collisions with boats, entanglement in fishing gear and climate change.

It is actually illegal to touch or feed the manatees in Florida so to make sure you are keeping them safe, follow these simple tips:

  • Don’t feed the manatees.
  • Don’t touch the manatees.
  • Try not to be too loud as this could startle them.
  • Don’t get too close. Give them enough space to move.
  • If you are in a boat or on a jet ski, stay a safe distance so the manatees do not get injured.

These simple guidelines help keep both you and the manatees safe.

And that’s it!

Thanks for reading this post on where to see manatees in Marco Island. 

You should now have all the information you need to get out there and spot some manatees!

Why not use these fun Florida Instagram captions, puns & quotes for any photos you post to Instagram from your stay in Florida?


Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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