Home Travel The 10 Best Everglades Tours

The 10 Best Everglades Tours

by Atlanta Business Journal

Note: Some tour providers on this list may be running more limited operations due to COVID-19 or may impose testing or vaccine requirements. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.

If you’re planning a trip to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, Florida, visiting Everglades National Park should be on your to-do list. The park is known for its expansive beauty as well as its varied population of wildlife that includes everything from bobcats to alligators. To see all the Everglades has to offer, sign up for a guided tour. U.S. News consulted both traveler sentiment and expert opinion to identify the top tours of the Everglades. Before you go, make sure you read through the National Park Service’s Wildlife Viewing Ethics to keep both yourself and the animals safe during your time in the park. Additionally, you’ll need to pay a fee to enter the park, which may not be included in your tour ticket. You should also keep in mind that many of these tour operators are at least 30 miles west of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Several of these tours run on airboats, which are vessels with huge fans at the back that propel the boat. As such, they can be very loud. Companies will generally offer ear protection, but if you or your companions are sensitive to loud noises, discuss options with your tour provider before you book.

Everglades Holiday Park offers an hourlong narrated airboat tour that teaches participants about the various wildlife inhabiting Florida’s famous wetlands. In addition to the airboat ride, travelers can take in a gator show and enjoy up-close animal encounters with snakes, pigs, alligators and more. (Note that animal encounters cost extra.) In general, reviewers enjoy the tour and the show and say it’s a great outing for families, but a few travelers feel uncomfortable with the earnest request for tips from staff members at the attraction. Tours operate seven days a week with departures from the park every 20 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. When purchased online in advance, adult airboat tickets cost approximately $35 while tickets for children ages 3 to 11 cost around $25. Kids 2 and younger ride free. Everglades Holiday Park also runs a VIP Tour, which includes round-trip transportation from Fort Lauderdale hotels or Miami hotels.

Shurr Adventures Everglades – Three Hour Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Tour

Enjoy an up-close view of animals and nature, and get some exercise in too, on this three-hour kayak tour of the Everglades’ mangroves. As you paddle your way through the mangrove tunnels, you may spot orchids, birds and, of course, alligators. Kayakers say this tour is excellent and appreciate the patient, experienced guides who share a wealth of information about the plants and animals that reside in this unique ecosystem. What’s more, reviewers appreciate that the tours are limited to just eight participants. Tours depart daily at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., though there may be additional tours depending on the month. Tickets start at $109 per adult and $99 per child 11 and younger, though kids must be at least 7 to participate. Shurr Adventures Everglades also offers a full-day tour of the mangrove tunnels, as well as a motorboat tour in the Ten Thousand Islands region of Everglades National Park, among other options.

Everglades Swamp Tours – One Hour Group Tour

This hourlong exploratory trip takes you out on the Everglades’ main waterways in search of alligators, birds and interesting vegetation on an airboat. Throughout the ride, knowledgeable guides share facts about the area’s history and ecology. Many travelers recommend booking this tour, describing it as fun and informative, with plenty of wildlife sightings. Departures generally take place daily at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $60 per adult and $30 per child ages 6 to 12; reservations are required. Also check out Everglades Swamp Tours for private airboat tours that last up to two hours.

Most people boat through the Everglades, but you can take a hike instead with Everglades Nature Tours.(Courtesy of Everglades Nature Tours)

Everglades Nature Tours – Take a Walk Tour

If boats aren’t your thing, consider this walking tour of the Everglades, which departs about 35 miles west of Miami. During this approximately two-hour tour, you’ll walk, climb and hike through water, rocks, cypress trees, fern trails and other local vegetation. Travelers rave about the tour saying they felt completely “immersed” in nature and call the experience a highlight of their trip. Tours are available daily and depart every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets start at $40 per person. Everglades Nature Tours also operates airboat rides.

Sitting about 30 miles west of Miami, Gator Park operates airboat rides and offers travelers the opportunity to enter its on-site alligator park to see alligator wrestling at its wildlife show (both the ride and the show are included in your ticket price). You may even get the chance to hold a baby alligator. The park and the boat tours receive favorable reviews, with many visitors saying they had a fantastic experience and saw tons of alligators. Tickets start at $27.99 for adults if you buy online ($29.99 at the gate) and $18.99 for kids ages 6 to 11; children ages 5 and younger enter for free. Tickets do not include the entry fee to Everglades National Park. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with boat rides and wildlife shows taking place on the half-hour. The last wildlife show starts at 4:30 p.m. and the last boat ride leaves at 5 p.m. Gator Park also offers private tours.

Everglades City Airboat Tours

Everglades City Airboat Tours sets itself apart from other companies by offering participants two-way headsets, which allow passengers and guides to better engage with one another throughout the hourlong ride. As you navigate through narrow creeks and shallow bays, you may spot alligators, manatees and native birds. Tourists enjoy the ride and appreciate the headsets. Reviewers are also complimentary of the boat captain, who they describe as entertaining and knowledgeable. Tours depart multiple times Monday through Friday, although timing may be modified based on the season. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults and $25 for kids ages 4 to 10; tickets for children 3 and younger cost approximately $10. Everglades City Airboat Tours is located approximately 85 miles west of Miami and 35 miles southeast of Naples, Florida.

Buffalo Tiger Airboat Tours – Standard Airboat Tour

For an excursion that combines cultural immersion and wildlife viewing, consider this outing from Buffalo Tiger’s Airboat Tours. The company’s standard tour focuses on introducing visitors to the homelands of the Miccosukee people: an American Indian tribe that migrated to Florida before it became a state. During the tour, you’ll not only see local wildlife but also will get to see a Miccosukee Indian camp and take a nature walk. Visitors recommend the tour, describing it as an amazing experience thanks to the small, intimate group size. Tickets for the 30-minute tours start at $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 5 to 12. Kids ages 4 and younger tag along for free. The company also offers longer 45-minute tours, as well as private outings.

Best Everglades Tours

(Getty Images)

These naturalist-led excursions not only include a tour around Everglades National Park in an open-air tram, they also give tourgoers the chance to explore on foot. Halfway through the 15-mile tour, participants can climb a 45-foot-tall observation deck to see sweeping views of the surrounding vegetation. During the two-hour tour, travelers also have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. Tourgoers enjoy learning about the Everglades from the expert guides and say riding the tram is part of the fun. Many also recommended taking a morning tour to avoid the midday heat. Tickets start at $28 for adults, $22 for seniors ages 62 and older and $15 for children ages 3 to 12. Note that you’ll have to pay a separate fee to enter Everglades National Park. From late December through April, tours depart on the hour daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. From May through mid-December, tours depart only at 9:30 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. Shark Valley Tram Tours also offers self-guided bike tours.

The River of Grass Adventures – Semi-Private River of Grass Airboat Tours Everglades

One perk of this tour is that it is capped at eight travelers per boat. During the approximately 90-minute excursion, you’ll get the chance to see the famous flora and fauna of the Everglades, including herons and alligators. Visitors say this tour is fun for the whole family and call the trip “memorable” and “amazing.” This tour will set you back around $85 per person, although children ages 5 to 12 can come along for half the price. These tours run seven days a week, and since they’re semiprivate, you must call or email to find out the best times to depart. River of Grass Adventures also offers sunset tours of the Everglades.

Everglades Safari Park – General Airboat Tour

Everglades Safari Park sits about 35 miles west of Miami, making this tour a great option for travelers interested in a quick daytrip. In addition to an up to 40-minute airboat ride, the tour also includes access to a nature trail and observation tower, as well as a wildlife show. Reviewers praise the professional guides, who they say provide a wealth of information in a fun and engaging manner. Travelers report seeing a variety of birds, alligators and turtles during the airboat ride. Boat tours depart every 20 to 30 minutes; reservations are not required. Everglades Safari Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the last tour departs at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for adults cost approximately $35; tickets for children ages 3 to 9 cost about $20. Private airboat tours are also an option.

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