Swimming with the Dolphins on the Big Island!

The Big Island has a very unique kind of dolphin called a Spinner Dolphin (nai’a).  These dolphins found in the warm Pacific waters are shaped and colored differently than most dolphins.  They have been thus named “spinners” for their playful antics, leaping out of the water and spinning in the air.

The dolphins are also friendly to people and aren’t afraid to come up to boats. They have been known to surround ocean kayaks and even playfully bump up against them.  You’re not allowed to chase them but you can “be near.”  It’s quite the experience to hear them take a breath of air.   If you look closely you can see the Dolphins taken with a point and shoot cheap underwater camera.

Spinner Dolphins in Hawaii

Where to Swim with the Dolphins

Dolphin QuestDolphin Quest

To have a guaranteed dolphin experience, Dolphin Quest at the Waikaloa Hilton is the way to go.  You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to participate in the experience.  The dolphins are in a pool where you can (for a fee) go in with the dolphins.  They allow you to scratch their tummies and even signal for them to do tricks.  It’s quite a memorable experience to see and touch these creatures up close.  The dolphins in the Dolphin Quest are bottle-nose dolphins as the spinner dolphins need deeper waters.

Dolphin Quest Website

See Dolphins in the Wild

Seeing dolphins in the wild is not a guarantee but there are locations that they like to hang out.  Some are easy to get to and some not so much.  There are also boats you can charter that will help you search out pods of dolphins.

Kayak out to Captain Cook where Dolphins Like to Play

Captain Cook is the best place to snorkel on the island and also a place where you can see dolphins.  It’s just that it’s not easy to get to.   For years you could kayak out to the monument area but the 2006 earthquake changed a lot of that.  There’s been some instability in the rocks as well as geographical concerns for the area.  It’s been a bit in dispute and so you will need to call beforehand to make sure it is still available.  I have gone with Kona Boys and had a great experience.   The dolphins often come out in the morning around 10’ish though no guarantee.  But I”ve been several times and every time have spotted dolphins.  You can also hike to Captain Cook which is a good path, but fairly steep.

Boat Tour to See Wild Dolphins

Another way to see the wild dolphins is to take out a boat tour with an experienced local guide.  There are a few companies who offer such tours.

Kona Dolphin Swim Adventure

Dolphin Journeys

Dolphin Discoveries


Extra:  Amazing Video of Dolphin Asking for Help

Several years ago a diver was swimming with the Manta Rays when a dolphin kept coming near him.  He finally realized the dolphin was tangled in fishing net and was asking for help.  Watch this amazing rescue!