Dolphin Tours in Hawaii

By Andy Beth Miller

Few things compare with the exhilarating sensation of frolicking in the tropical waters of Hawaii with its most mesmerizing ocean mammal—the dolphin. Called Naiʻa in Hawaiian, many island tour companies offer the chance to see these spectacular beings in their natural habitats, as well as in tamer, educational environments.

Photo courtesy of Sea Life Park.

Photo courtesy of Sea Life Park.

On Oahu, opportunities abound to swim with dolphins. Many popular tour companies choose to whisk participants away to a dream dolphin outing along the remote west shore of the island, known for its calm and clear, sparkling waters. Imagine actually getting in the water to swim with dolphins in the wild, and in some cases, even enjoy a delicious complimentary lunch on your return to the west side’s popular departure spot of Waianae Boat Harbor. Several companies offer private charter tour options, and for those seeking a bit more tame dolphin swim adventure, Sea Life Park, found on the east side of the island, offers the chance to swim with dolphins in Hawaii, with its tours including education about daily dolphin life as well as the chance to interact with them up close. Dolphin Quest, at the Kahala Hotel, offers dolphin encounters in a private lagoon setting.

More dolphin adventures await on Maui. Too numerous to mention them all, one best bet is via snorkeling adventures, with many tour companies offering excursions lasting all day! Imagine getting whisked away on an ocean dolphin odyssey, cruising past one of Maui’s most popular dolphin sighting spots—the jaw-dropping Molokini—which is definitely a side of Maui that few get to experience, complete with amazing reefs, pods of wild dolphins and the unreal acrobatics of Pacific Bottlenose dolphins!

On Kauai, every local will tell you that nothing beats the Na Pali Coast for capturing a gander at these gorgeous creatures. Bottlenose dolphins typically swim near the shoreline or in the lagoons of the region, and no shortage of tours may be found to take you right to where these fun, playful sea mammals love to frolic — try a tour with Blue Dolphin Charters or Kauai Sea Tours. Visitors may also drive to Kauapea Beach on the North Shore, known to be a lovely swimming spot where dolphins are often found.

The Big Island boasts equally exciting options. The majority of tour companies offer delightful dolphin excursions departing from Kailua-Kona. Aquatic adventures of a lifetime, these tours give guests the chance to snorkel in Hawaii’s sparkling waters while seeing dolphins in their natural habitats. Dolphin Quest, located at the gorgeous Waikoloa Hilton Hawaiian Village, leads guests on a magical, up-close encounter hosted by marine mammal experts, where children and adults alike will enjoy touching, feeding, playing, swimming and learning all about these amazing creatures.

Best suited for visitors who value peace, quiet, and more of a do-it-yourself mentality for dolphin spotting, Lanai is home to some of the best reefs and water activities in Hawaii. In fact, it’s not uncommon to spot pods of Hawaiian Spinner dolphins while snorkeling the island’s Hulopoe Bay.

As you can see, no matter what island you find yourself on, you will have no shortage of spectacular dolphin discoveries to choose among. Enjoy!