Tubing the Rainbow River is a great family experience. Enjoy nature, relax, or get out of your tube and swim or enjoy some amazing snorkeling in the clear waters of the Rainbow River as you drift. While our family had an amazing trip, I do have a few tips for tubing the Rainbow River before you head out to the park. Note: children must be FIVE years old or older to participate.
All about the tubes
What tube works best on the Rainbow River? Anything that floats and can hold you. Large tubes, small tubes, and everything in between. I even saw two women floating down river on pool noodles! I wouldn’t suggest that myself, but they sat on their noodles and drifted and seemed to really enjoy themselves. Hey, whatever floats your boat..eh body. We had a few tubes with us. My immediate family purchased tubes with handles, bottoms, and rope. We got them from Academy for $12.99 each.
The bottom is a tough net. So you are sitting in water, but you can’t fall through the bottom. Great for the whole family, but if you have little ones, this is awesome because you don’t have to worry about them falling through. Also, if you go over rocks, it will protect your bottom. We did NOT go over any sharp rocks in the Rainbow River, but I have in Wekiva and it’s not fun! Downside to the tube above? If you don’t have good upper body strength and you jump or fall out, it’s harder to get back in. Going through the middle of an open tube is easier for sure. The solution if you do fall out and can’t get back in, is to swim over to the side and get up on shore or a dock and get back in. Also, the tube above has CUP HOLDERS!!! (also holds sunscreen or whatever else you may need to bring along)
If you’re on a budget, you can always grab a tube like above. I found this one at Academy for under $3. Notice there are no handles, cup holders, or bottom. But the price is great!
The one above has the rope and is definitely more sturdy than the $3 float. You can find this one on Amazon here.
What should I bring along?
Sunscreen. Put it on before you get in the water. Bring it along to reapply. You are a sun MAGNET in the middle of the water. I started to FEEL the burn after an hour or so and I reapplied. I still got burned. So, I should have reapplied a third time..sigh.
Sunglasses. You’re facing the sun. Bring your sunglasses. Preferably a pair that has a necklace/rope around your neck just in case.
MESH Laundry bag. A large laundry bag or multiple smaller laundry bags are perfect to hold everyones flip flops or sandals. Just tie them onto your tube and you’re good to go. If you have a go pro case, snorkel masks, etc, they can all go in there too. You may have luck finding these at the Dollar Tree too for a buck!
Snorkeling gear. So worth it! TONS of fish to see. We have the ProDive Premium Dry Top Snorkel Set. It does go on sale often. We use it a lot, so it’s definitely durable. We use it for swimming in the springs, river, ocean, and more. We use it when scalloping and lobstering. You don’t want to get a cheap set.
Quarters. If you need to blow up your tube upon arrival, there is a machine on site that takes quarters. Note: when we were there only one out of the 4 were working. We had 10 tubes to blow up. However, it would have been really hard to keep all 10 in our cars already blown up, so plan for an extra wait for this line.
Water, cups, ice. ESPECIALLY if you are planning to do the 4 hour trip. AND if you are going to be swimming/snorkeling. You are going to need water. The park does NOT allow disposable water bottles. You must take a reusable bottle like this Contiga bottle. Don’t go cheap on these either, or they won’t seal. We had the Contiga bottles. We filled up 4 with water and brought a bag of ice. It sat in it’s own flat raft. OR you can buy a cooler raft. OR just place your bottles full of just ice into your cup holders 🙂 But you will want a drink, I promise.
Waterproof case. Even if you don’t bring your cell phone along, you will need somewhere to put your keys and wallet or license, etc. I didn’t trust anything to hold my cell phone, but my husband and daughter did and they were BONE DRY when we got out of the water! They kept them around their neck or in the tube when they snorkeled. We also put our single car key in there and my husbands wallet. The one we used is HERE. It came with TWO in two different sizes. The larger one held his iphone 8+ , wallet, and a key. The smaller one held my daughters iphone 6+. If you want to keep the price down you can check out these phone cases too. I have no experience with those. I HIGHLY recommend NOT leaving anything of value in your car. That parking lot must be a thief’s DREAM.
Note: You may want to wear water shoes. If you are going to get out and you don’t like to touch slimy rocks and slimy grass with your feet…invest in water shoes. You’re welcome 🙂
Do you NEED absolutely everything above to have a successful trip? If you’re not snorkeling, and you really lather on the sunscreen, and hydrate a lot beforehand, I suppose you could probably survive with a tube and the case for your keys…..and you can just tie your shoes onto the rope of your tube. But if you want to be comfortable for 4 hours…I highly suggest taking some of the tips above. NOTE: We didn’t take our phones out to take pics..these pics were taken THROUGH the waterproof cases and still came out decent!
Where to park
There are a few options. We had multiple cars which worked out perfect. One car parked at the end. Right before the restaurant (Swampy’s) there is a parking lot. It’s on the small side, so get their early. Drop off ONE car there, this is the END of your tubing adventure. Then, take the other cars up to KP Hole where you will get into the water. This will avoid the extra costs for the tram to drive you back. When you get to the end, get out, and put some adults in the cars to drive back to get the other cars. Note that the KP Hole parking lot ALSO fills up fast and once the parking lot is full the park closes until parking spaces open up. If you park on the street or on private property you will be ticketed and your vehicle towed. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the parking lots are usually full by 10:00. We went on a Monday at 1030 and had no issues at either lot. NOTE: The K. P. Hole tubing trip will be about 4 hours starting at the KP Hole Park all the way to the State Road 484 bridge take out (where you left your car). There is a 2 hour shorter option as well. You can get that info on the Rainbow River website. We are happy we did the full 4 hours, even the younger kids loved it.
We didn’t bring food along with us this time as we were already on a trip when we went to the river, we were not coming from home. Your options would be to put some snacks in your cooler or extra float or keep a cooler in your car to eat after you’re done. We chose to eat at the restaurant at the end of the tube trip. Swampy’s is a bar & grille that serves burgers, seafood, salad, and more. They also have a kids menu and a happy hour.
One more small itty bitty note. This is Florida. And in Florida we have animals. We saw turtles, large and small fish, tons of dragonflies, birds, and one very small gator. It was VERY small and it was far behind us. I don’t want to scare anyone, but I want you to be aware that gators and snakes are a part of Florida’s wildlife. We stayed in the middle of the river and there were so many people around us, the animals have no interest.