Crystal River is 80 miles North of Tampa up the coast. It is exactly how it sounds, a crystal clear river. The river is absolutely beautiful but the best part is the manatees that call Crystal River home! There are many tour operators that will take you on a boat or kayak tour but you can easily go on your own.
We rented kayaks for $10/hour and they provided us with a map where manatees were last seen. It was an easy trip up the river and only a short distance before we saw our first manatee. You can rent snorkel gear (or bring your own) and easily park kayaks along the bank of the river to get out and swim.
Since manatees are an endangered species, there are coves/areas in the river blocked off which are safe havens for manatees and off limits to people. Otherwise, manatees can come right up to your kayak. They must always have a way to escape from your presence and harassment is against the law (defined as anything to inhibit the manatee’s natural behavior, such as swimming away). It is also illegal to touch or feed a manatee.
Kayaking with manatees is a wonderful experience as long as you follow the law! It is my favorite place inside the United States.