Big Island Dolphin Watch

Posted in: Big Island 2021, Environment, Things to Do

Along with whales, dolphins could be called the ‘brainiacs’ of the marine world. Intelligent in ways that are different from humans, studies indicate dolphins are playful, quick learners and demonstrate empathy, grief and joy.

Anytime you’re out in Hawai‘i’s waters, be on the lookout for our resident marine life that includes whales (in addition to seasonal Humpback whales), the endangered Green Sea turtle and Hawaiian monk seal, as well as pods of dolphins.

According to the non-profit Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund that engages the community in research, education and conservation projects, there are three dolphin species most commonly seen in Hawai‘i’s waters—Spinner, Spotted and Bottlenose.

If you’re headed out on an ocean tour, then there’s a good chance you’ll see our finned friends doing their thing. Intelligent and playful, these mammals hunt at night and rest in shallow bays near the shoreline during the day—except for the Spotted dolphin that’s usually seen in the channels between the islands.

Tour boats can respectfully view dolphins from a distance, and are not allowed to engage or chase them. But there are many times when dolphins will approach a boat as it’s cruising and ride its bow wave. On a tour, learn fascinating facts about dolphins from a trained naturalist and find out why they they do what they do!


See resident dolphins in their natural habitat with Dolphin Discoveries
See resident dolphins in their natural habitat with Dolphin Discoveries

Dolphin Discoveries provides exciting and exhilarating ocean tours for all. View dolphins and other marine life in their natural habitat. Aboard one of many tours, immerse yourself in two of the island’s best snorkel sites—Kealakekua Bay and Place of Refuge. All trips include a trained marine mammal naturalist guide. You’ll see sea caves and lava tubes along your journey, as well as other year-round marine life like Spinner, Spotted and Bottlenose dolphins and Pilot whales. State-of-the-art adventure rafts have shaded canopies. The evening tour takes guests on an experience of a lifetime on a nighttime snorkel with elegant and graceful manta rays feeding in Keauhou Bay. Explore the ocean with Dolphin Discoveries!


Kona Boat Rentals offers a unique opportunity for those who want to be their own captain and get away from the crowds. They’ve provided fully equipped, Coast Guard-inspected, center console runabouts for the last 19 years in Kona.

“With Kona’s leeward calm waters and visibility second to no other spot in Hawai‘i, Kona is the perfect place for boating,” says owner Eric G. McCormick.

No license is required, but some experience is needed. “We’re licensed by the state to provide the training and skills necessary for a safe adventure,” says McCormick. “Our staff provides an orientation to familiarize each guest with the local rules and regulations. We have a full set of charts (maps) of the coastline, as well as color chart plotters that help map their course.

“Our mission is to find out a client’s interest whether it’s snorkeling, fishing, swimming (with dolphins), whale watching (in season) or just cruising the coast,” he says, “and helping them develop a plan that helps them manage their time and get the most of the day. We’re also committed to adhering to federal and state guidelines in regard to mammal and animal conservation. It’s part of our philosophy and orientation to ensure our beauty and wildlife are respected and maintained.”

McCormick adds that safety is the number one concern and goal with Kona Boat Rentals. When weather or ocean conditions are deemed uncomfortable or unsafe for the average boater, they err on the side of safety, and cancel, reschedule or refund as necessary. As island residents for 39 years, they’re very familiar with the island climate.

“We often hear ‘This is the best thing we did on our vacation,’” says McCormick. “The reasons are obvious. A lot of people, especially those who have their own boats on the Mainland, want to be on their own where they have the freedom and autonomy to go where they want to go and do what they want to do on their own schedule. From a value aspect, many people find that it’s less expensive for the family than a snorkeling cruise. Plus they can do it all for one price—fish, snorkel, sightsee and cruise.”


Interact with dolphins at Dolphin Quest
Interact with 
dolphins at Dolphin Quest

Did you know that the Hilton Waikoloa Village is home to a family of dolphins? These ocean ambassadors live in the saltwater, sandy beached tidal lagoon filled with filtered seawater, the Dolphin Lagoon, and are part of Dolphin Quest’s mission to better connect people with marine mammals, other marine life and our oceans.

Through educational, experiential learning programs, the human-animal bond is strengthened and is meant to educate and inspire guests with compassion, empathy and the desire to make a difference in the future of dolphins and all ocean wildlife.

In addition to being a fun and educational experience, swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Quest directly supports wild dolphin conservation efforts.

To date, Dolphin Quest has contributed over $4.8 million in support of vital marine mammal conservation, education and scientific studies. These efforts directly aid wild dolphin populations, and it’s all due to guest participation—you can make a difference with Dolphin Quest.


[A version of this article appears in print in the pages of This Week Big Island]


See resident dolphins in their natural habitat with Dolphin Discoveries


Plan Your Trip

Book Your Vacation

Book Your Vacation

Plan your own idyllic getaway with the Hawaii travel experts. Our partner, Pleasant Holidays, has created unforgettable vacations to the Hawaiian Islands for more than half a century, and can help you with all your travel arrangements.

Book now

Book Your Activities

Experience Your Hawaii

Enhance your vacation with activities and experience the very best of the islands. From helicopter flights to snorkeling adventures, from luaus to eco-tours, Pleasant Activities has hundreds of engaging activities that will catch your fancy.

Book now!

Follow Us

Follow Hawaii's #1 visitor guide magazine for the latest happenings! Hashtag #thisweekhawaii to be featured on our page!

Follow Us On Instagram Follow Us On Facebook