TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

The Top 7 Swimming with Dolphin Tours in Hawaii

Nick A, Senior Travelers, US
05 September 2017

Dolphins are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and experiencing them up close and personal is a life-changing experience.

If you are in Hawaii and are looking for a way to interact with the natural world differently, taking a dolphin tour is one of the best ways to interact with a social animal that has a long connection to humans. Whether you want to get in the water and swim with the dolphins, or simply observe them, there is a Hawaiian dolphin tour on every island that is perfect for you.

A Unique Dolphin Adventure for Everyone

If you are looking for a unique adventure in Hawaii, look no further than a tour that takes you to swim with the dolphins. Splash around in the blue Hawaiian ocean and experience these magnificent creatures up close and personal. Whether you choose to go on a wildlife tour or explore a water park, a swim with these creatures will be one of the highlights of your trip to Hawaii.

Catamaran and Snorkeling Tour with Dolphins

If you are in Waikiki and want an all-inclusive dolphin tour, why not head out on a beautiful Catamaran to see these swimming mammals first-hand?

Upon arrival at the dock in Waikiki, the experienced staff will provide a safety briefing for the entire tour group. Keeping everyone visible in the water is of utmost importance to the tour guides, and they are specially trained to keep their eyes on everyone.

After the safety briefing, you’re off to see some of the most beautiful natural sights in the world! The boat will whisk you by colorful Hawaiian flora and fauna, including flowers and jungles that are unique to these islands. This tour through the natural wonders of Hawaii might even include some unexpected visits from dolphins or whales, so be sure to keep your eyes open!

After you’ve taken in all that the coast line has to offer visually, it’s your turn to jump in and explore underwater with some of the world’s most stunning creatures. On this tour you’re likely to see more than just dolphins. As you dip below the surface of the water you’ll have the chance to see the stunning aquatic world populated by dolphins, turtles, and colorful fish.

This tour offers many perks, including free transportation from several Waikiki hotels, snacks and cold beverages on-board, a free barbecue lunch, and a dolphin guarantee that gives you a free re-booking if you don’t see any dolphins.

There is even a professional photographer on board to make sure that your family can take home a piece of this unforgettable adventure. This small family-owned business goes the extra mile to make sure that this 6-hour tour is the highlight of everyone’s trip to Hawaii, so they treat their customers to some of the best service out there.

The Catamaran Snorkeling Tour with dolphins costs $120 for anyone over the age of 13 and just $102.49 for anyone ages 5-12. It lasts for about 6 hours, so it’s well worth the money.

If you choose this half-day adventure you will have an option of doing a sunrise tour with a pickup time between 6:00-6:30 in the morning and ending at 12:00, or an afternoon tour that has a pickup time between 9:30-10:00 in the morning and lasts until 4:15 in the afternoon. Regardless of which tour you take, you are guaranteed to see dolphins or receive a free re-booking for your adventure. There is a strict 48-hour cancellation policy, but we’re sure you won’t want to miss this experience!

To learn more, visit our tour description page here.

“We all had an awesome time with you guys. Fun, laughter, beautiful burgers and most of all dolphins…”

Premium Dolphin Swim Tour

If you are visiting Oahu, another option that you might want to consider is the Premium Dolphin Swim Tour.

Beginning with a morning wake-up call and a free pick up from your hotel, you’ll get VIP treatment to make sure that you have an incredible dolphin swimming experience. In fact, to accommodate your schedules, you even have two different times to choose from when booking your tour!

If you’re an early bird or want to beat the tourists, the 5:00 a.m. wake up might be the better choice for you. If you want to move at a more leisurely pace in the morning, you have the option of snoozing until the 9:00 a.m. wake up call. You’ll be picked up at your hotel lobby in a large white bus, and you’ll head straight for your snorkeling adventure!

After learning more about traditional Hawaiian culture, you’ll plunge into the waters to meet some friendly dolphins! This is truly an incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with the Spinner Dolphins who are known for their playful attitudes.

After you set sail, you’ll participate in the E’Ho Mai Ceremony, a traditional cultural song written by well-known cultural icon Edith Kanaole. This ceremony is meant to ensure a safe passage through the waves as you head out to meet your aquatic friends.

Review from the Premium Dolphin Swim Tour
Photograph courtesy of Trip Advisor

After swimming with the dolphins, your guide will take you to another area to continue snorkeling among the thousands of tropical fish that are part of the underwater ecosystem of Hawaii. There is also an opportunity to try a stand-up paddleboard or sea kayak while you’re at it. You will also have lunch on board consisting of either an all-natural beef burger or veggie burger. As you eat you’ll get a hula show, and maybe even learn a few moves of your own!

This tour focuses on traditional Hawaiian culture, incredible underwater experiences, and a fun-filled day for all. At $156 for adults age 12 and over and $124 for children ages 2-11, this 6-hour excursion is still remarkably affordable for the whole family. The early tour lasts from approximately 5:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and the later tour goes from approximately 9:15 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

To learn more about this tour, visit the web page here.

Dolphin Swim Adventure

If you want to get to know dolphins in a more up-close-and-personal way, the Dolphin Swim Adventure is the right tour for you. A sea park with trained animals, the Sea Life Park gives you the opportunity to touch, ride on, and kiss the dolphins.

The Dolphin Swim Adventure is a unique experience within Sea Life Park that gives you an intimate interaction with these curious animals. As a 60 minute tour it is the shortest option we feature for swimming with dolphins, however the interactive nature of the park might make it worth the while! Additionally, the shorter time makes this excursion more flexible with busy schedules, and Dolphin Swim Adventures are offered several times throughout the day.

With only 60 minutes you’ll dive right into the water to meet the dolphins. The animals will swim right up to you as you stand on a waist-deep platform and greet you with a kiss. After petting and observing the dolphins, you’ll have the opportunity of a lifetime to actually swim and play with them!

As you slide into the water, these trained dolphins will give you the ride of your life. You will have two rides with your dolphin: a belly ride and a single-dorsal tow. For the belly ride, the dolphin will turn upside down and you’ll hold onto its flippers as it uses its tail to propel you through the water. For the dorsal tow, you will simply hang onto the dolphin’s dorsal fin as you glide through the water together.

Though this is an expensive excursion at $189 for ages 8 and older, included in this price is a ticket to the main Sea Life Park. After your dolphin adventure you can spend time wandering around the park which offers other attractions such as a dolphin show, sea lions, shark tanks, turtle enclosure, and a tropical bird sanctuary.

While it only has an average of 3.5 stars on TripAdvisor because of the small size of the park, it is a great place for children to go and see lots of animals in a short period of time.

However, the dolphins are the highlight of many visitor’s experiences!

To learn more about this experience or book your adventure today, visit this link here.

Big Island Dolphin Encounter

Are you on the Big Island and looking for a way to experience the wildlife? Look no further than the Big Island Dolphin Encounter, a snorkeling adventure designed for education, fun, and experience!

You’ll start your 4-hour trip traveling along the Kona coast in a boat, where you’ll see spinner and spotted dolphins playing in the wake. The tour guides are devoted to finding a pod of dolphins for your group to see in their natural habitat. Seeing the dolphins at their most playful and free is a uniquely inspiring life event, and it is an unforgettable experience.

You will begin snorkeling at the beautiful Kealakekua Bay. Located near the Captain Cook monument, this area offers some of the best diving waters in the State of Hawaii with depths ranging from 5 to 120 feet. With a life vest to keep you safe, you’ll have the chance to explore the pristine waters of this marine sanctuary and catch sight of the stunning coral reefs, schools of fish, and of course dolphins. While your snorkeling experience won’t be dolphin-focused, don’t be surprised when some curious animals come up to you to say hello!

After snorkeling you will have a light lunch on the deck of the boat as you gaze over the natural wonder of the Big Island.

This tour lasts 4 hours and costs $135 for adults and $95 for children. There is also a special ride-along price of $65 for those who want to come on the boat but prefer not to swim! This price does not include transportation to and from the harbor, so you will have to ensure that you are at the harbor at 8:30 a.m. on your own.

Overall, this tour is very popular with an average of 4 out of 5 stars. All of the equipment is provided for you, though you do need to bring a towel. You should also be sure to bring your camera so you can capture memories of this incredible experience!

To learn more about the Big Island Dolphin Encounter tour, click here.

Sunrise Dolphin Snorkel Experience

The Sunrise Dolphin Snorkel Experience located on Big Island, combines the best of both worlds: a chance to explore the exotic reefs of the Red Hill marine sanctuary and the opportunity to swim with 20-200 dolphins.

When you leave the dock, your lifeguard-trained crew will take you on a beautiful journey of the Kona coastline as you search for a pod of dolphins to swim with. You’ll learn about the social nature of these animals while you sip a cocktail from the cash bar on board.

Eventually you will reach Red Hill, home to a marine sanctuary with over 600 different types of fish. This is the location of your snorkeling experience, and you’ll be able to see first-hand the vibrant colors of Hawaii’s coral reefs and fish. As you paddle along keep your eyes open for bright yellows, purples, and pinks of the butterfly fish!

Of course, along with the beautiful fish, expect to see groups of dolphins swimming alongside and join you in the adventure!

Prices for this tour are $135 for adults, $88 for children ages 6-17, and free for children 5 and under. For this price you get a 4-hour tour (2.5 of which are on the water), a continental breakfast, a barbecue lunch with either beef or vegan taro patties, access to a water slide and stand-up paddleboards, and educational information.

There is also a dolphin guarantee that allows you to come back for free if you do not see any dolphins, so you’re sure to have an amazing time. This tour has an average of 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, so we think it’s definitely worth the price!

For the Sunrise Dolphin Snorkel Experience, you will need to arrange your own transportation to the launch point. The boat leaves at 8:00 a.m., meaning an early wake up, but you will get out on the water before most tourists so it’s worth it!

To learn more about the Sunrise Dolphin Snorkel Experience, click here.

Don’t Want to Swim with Dolphins? No problem, Try a Dolphin Observation Instead

If you are interested in getting to know some dolphins but don’t necessarily want to swim with them, then look no further than these tours.

Maui Dolphin Watch

If you are in Maui and want to explore the sea, look no further than this Maui Dolphin Watch. On this tour you will glide through Lahaina Harbor on an eco-friendly luxury sailboat and learn all about the different types of dolphins in Hawaii while dolphin experts explain their behavior to you.

This tour is focused more on education and sustainability than the tours we have discussed so far. Run by the Pacific Whale Foundation, an organization dedicated to ocean preservation through education and advocacy, you can rest assured that your money is being put to good use. All profits from tours run by this company go towards ocean protection and preservation and since the 1980s they have raised thousands of dollars for marine research.

This tour is also the cheapest tour that we feature on this list! At $46.95 for anyone age 13 or older and $30.95 for anyone younger than 13, the price is unbeatable. The tour lasts 2.5-3 hours and free snacks and drinks are provided on board the ship.

However, there are some restrictions on this tour. First, you will have to arrange your own transportation to and from Lahaina Harbor. Second, the tour only has very limited time slots, running at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays. If you want to take this environmentally-conscious tour, we suggest you book early and plan ahead for it!

If you would like to learn more about this tour, click here.

Na Pali Snorkel Adventure

While seeing dolphins might be exciting, perhaps you are simply looking for a snorkel tour in Kauai. The Na Pali Snorkel Adventure is the perfect tour for you, and you’re very likely to see dolphins along the way!

Explore the Na Pali coast of Kauai, one of the oldest inhabited areas in Hawaii. First settled by Polynesian navigators in 1200 A.D., the coast has seen its fair share of history, including visits from Tahitian migrants and Captain Cook himself. It is also astoundingly beautiful, with steep mountains covered in lush jungles. This is picture-perfect Hawaii, and snorkeling along this stunning landscape will be a memory that lasts a lifetime!

On this tour, you’ll have the chance for lots of adventure. In addition to snorkeling and seeing thousands of exotic fish, you’ll get to explore 5-6 natural sea caves and boat past cascading waterfalls. This trip will open your eyes to the natural wonders of Hawaii and give you a new appreciation for the incredible ecosystems on the islands.

You will snorkel in Nualolo Kai, a protected reef that is open to only a few select tour companies. At this point you will get to spend an hour exploring the reef and the wildlife that lives in it, including turtles and reef fish. Dolphins are also a common feature on this tour, so even though it is not dolphin-specific you won’t be missing out!

This tour has an average of 5 stars and over 800 reviews on TripAdvisor, so you are guaranteed an amazing time. Most people commented that the staff was remarkably friendly and knowledgeable, and that the tour itself was spectacular. However, make sure to pack lots of sunscreen and a hat, because there is very little shade on board. You’ll also get wet if you sit in the back of the boat, but this could make your trip even more fun!

This 4-hour excursion costs $195 per person, so it is on the more expensive end of the tours that we review. You will also have to arrange your own transportation to and from the launch site. However, the high reviews, deli-style lunch, sea cave exploration, and unparalleled access to the Na Pali coastline make this trip worth every penny.

To learn more about the Na Pali Snorkel Adventure, and to book your tour, go here.

Conclusion

Seeing dolphins is a must-do in Hawaii, and these Hawaiian tours almost guarantee to give you an incredible experience with these intelligent animals. Whether you are looking to get up close and personal or simply observe from afar, there is a tour out there that will bring you closer to these animals in an incredible setting.

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