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Dolphin Encounters on Kauai

One of the most magical Hawaiian experiences is witnessing a pod of playful dolphins frolicking in the Pacific Ocean. The only opportunity you’ll have to see them on Kaua‘i is in the wild as the island does not harbor dolphins in captivity. While this might be considered a drawback for those who long to get close, it actually gives you the chance to see these marvelous creatures in all their natural glory instead.

Hawaiian waters are home to two types of dolphins—Bottlenose like “Flipper” and Spinner named so because of the acrobatic twists and turns they make while leaping from the ocean. You will most likely encounter the more prevalent Spinner dolphins—which in comparison to Bottlenose are smaller in size and have longer pointier beaks—as they make their journey across the water in large pods. Some of the best places to view them from land include the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge or Kealia Beach.

But maybe you’re tempted to get closer. Strong swimmers who enter deeper waters might also stumble across dolphins. However, please do not approach them as they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Moreover, they are resting during daylight hours when you’re most likely to see them. Dolphins forage and feed at night and approach shorelines and protected bays during the day. They shut down half of their brain, which is akin to ours in size, during this resting state, and it’s not a good idea to rouse them as it may affect their behavior and disturb their population, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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The most ideal way to closely enjoy these awe-inspiring sea animals is by embarking on a boating adventure. Early morning sails to the Nā Pali Coast almost always treat you with dolphin sightings. Their curious nature causes groups of them, including their babies, to dance alongside vessels, delighting visitors with every move. As long as you’re spending time in the water on Kaua‘i, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to experience these friendly, enchanting animals. And if they see you, they’ll almost always want to say, “Hello.”
dolphins on Kauai

Spinner dolphins along the Napali Coast. Photo: member George C.

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Dolphin Encounters