The island of Oahu is one of the best year-round destinations in the world for seeing dolphins since the weather is consistently in the low 80s and sunny.
As such there are a number of dolphin-based tours and attractions as well as several wild locations where you’re likely to encounter these incredible aquatic mammals.
Dolphin Experiences In Oahu
There are a number of dolphin experiences available in Oahu depending on the type of interaction you’re looking for.
While it is also possible to see dolphins in the wild while on the island, booking a dedicated experience like this one provides a guaranteed chance of seeing these incredible mammals.
1. Sea Life Park Hawaii
One of the best places to see dolphins (and many other animals) in Oahu is at Sea Life Park Hawaii.
This family-friendly marine mammal park, bird sanctuary, and aquarium is located in Waimānalo on the eastern side of Oahu.
Not only can you see dolphins in the Dolphin Lagoon at Sea Life Park, but there are also many other ways you can get up close and personal with these amazing animals.
Sea Life Park offers three dolphin interactions;
- Dolphin Aloha: Meet, touch & feed a dolphin (additional cost)
- Dolphin Exploration: Swim with a dolphin trainer (additional cost)
- Aloha Nai’a Dolphin Show: See the dolphins in multiple performances each day (included with park entry)
In addition to dolphins, you can also see and interact with sharks, sea lions, seals, sea turtles, and many other aquatic animals.
2. Oahu Dolphin Swim Tour
One of the best ways to see wild dolphins in Oahu is to book a dedicated dolphin tour.
These tours typically set sail from Waianae Boat Harbor around 35 miles north of Waikiki Beach and take you out on a passenger catamaran boat into the open ocean to some of the best spots where dolphins can be found.
This tour picks you up on a passenger bus from selected hotels in Honolulu and offers a thrilling swimming and snorkelling adventure in search of dolphins, humpback whales and Hawaiian green sea turtles in their natural habitat.
During this four-hour boat tour, you’ll sail along the Waianae coast looking for Hawaiian spinner dolphins, before mooring in a beautiful bay where you’ll have the opportunity to experience some fun ocean activities including;
- Swimming with sea turtles and tropical fish
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Rock climbing
In addition to the snorkel gear, you will receive lunch, beverages, and snacks at no additional cost.
3. Dolphin Quest Oahu
Dolphin Quest Oahu is one of the best dolphin excursions in Oahu if you want to get up close and personal with these majestic aquatic mammals.
Located inside the beautiful Kahala Hotel, Dolphin Quest Oahu allows you to both swim and interact with dolphins through multiple different package offerings;
- Dolphin Encounter: This experience lasts for 30 minutes and allows you to touch, play with, swim with, and feed the dolphins in shallow waters.
- Dolphin Adventure: This experience lasts for one hour in total and allows you to spend more time with the dolphins while learning amount these incredible animals from marine biologists.
Each encounter only has small groups limited to six people, as such the experience is very personal and interactive.
However, if you’re looking to enhance your experience consider booking a private group session instead.
Where To See Dolphins In The Wild In Oahu
Seeing dolphins in the wild while on the island of Oahu is not guaranteed.
However, wild dolphins can predominantly be found on the west side of Oahu from Yokohama Bay down to Waianae.
As such some of the best locations for dolphin spotting while on the island include;
4. Yokohama Bay
Yokohama Bay on the far west side of Oahu is one of the best places to go on the island to spot dolphins in their natural environment.
Located on the westernmost tip of Oahu, Yokohama Bay may be reached from Honolulu in a little over an hour.
This is one of the most secluded beaches on the island with crystal clear waters, white sand, and lush, dramatic scenery surrounding it.
It’s also a great place for spotting dolphins or even swimming with wild dolphins. However, it’s important to note that swimming in Yokohama Bay is for strong swimmers only.
During the winter season, the currents increase and it becomes a popular surfing destination. It’s not recommended to swim in Yokohama Bay during the winter if you aren’t a very experienced swimmer.
5. Electric Beach
Another place on the west coast of Oahu that is great for seeing dolphins and other aquatic life like Hawaiian sea turtles and tropical fish is Electric Beach.
The Hawaiian Electric Plant can be seen from this beach, which is where the term “Electric Beach” originates from.
The water is a few degrees warmer than other Oahu beaches, making this a popular spot that attracts a lot of wildlife including dolphins.
If you want to swim with wild dolphins at Electric Beach, keep in mind that this is also not a snorkelling or swimming destination for beginners.
When you enter the water from the small beach, the waves can be extremely strong and the water is murky.
However, once you swim further out, the water clears up and this is where you’ll be able to start spotting incredible marine life including dolphins.
6. Waimea Bay
Waimea Bay is another popular spot to go dolphin-watching on the North Shore on Oahu.
While dolphins are typically found on the west coast of the island, they do migrate towards the north sometimes and Waimea Bay is one of their favourite places to go.
This beautiful North Shore beach is known for its clear water, pristine white sand, and great surfing during the winter.
If you’re lucky, then during your visit here you’ll also be able to spot some dolphins and other aquatic life like sea turtles and colourful tropical fish.
The water is most calm during the summer, and this is the best time of year for snorkelling.
As you swim out from the beach, be sure to keep your eyes wide open for dolphins and other sea creatures that may be swimming beneath you.
7. Makua Beach
Makua Beach is known for being one of the most secluded and beautiful beaches on the western side of Oahu.
It is also one of the island’s top swimming and snorkelling destinations due to the extremely clear water and abundance of wildlife.
Although once again, if you actually want to swim with dolphins at this beach, you will need to be a strong swimmer.
Makua Beach gets extremely powerful swells and large waves during the winter months, so it’s not recommended to swim at that time.
However, one of the great things about Makua Beach is that you might be able to spot pods of dolphins from shallow water or the shore.
Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins like to come to the warmer, shallower water in the late afternoon to rest, so this is the best time of day to increase your chances of spotting one.
Oahu Travel Planning Guide
🏥 Should I Buy Travel Insurance for a Trip to Oahu?
Yes, you should definitely buy travel insurance for any vacation to Oahu. Basic travel insurance coverage with Safety Wing averages between $5 – $10 per day and offers peace of mind.
🚘 Do I Need to Rent a Car for a Trip to Oahu?
I would recommend hiring a car for a trip to Oahu. Even if it’s only for a couple of days of your vacation. I personally use Discover Cars to find the best car rental deals.
However, if you are on a tight budget or you don’t plan to explore much of the island then you, then you may want to consider comparing the cost and convenience of Uber and rental cars in Oahu instead.
🏨 Where to Stay in Oahu?
The vast majority of accommodation in Oahu is located in Waikiki. If you enjoy shopping, then you may want to stay further north by the Ala Moana Shopping Mall.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to spend your vacation at the beach, then consider staying as close to Waikiki Beach as possible.