Many of the kayaking and snorkeling trips offer dolphin options (both viewing and swimming with dolphins), since Kealakekua Bay has it all and the majority of boat trips will state that whale viewing is available during the winter season. Listed here are outfitters and excursions that are fully dedicated to dolphin and/or whale swims and watches. If you want to swim with the dolphins it’s best to join an organized trip so that you have some instruction and assistance with this undertaking.

[One Love One Spirit] is all about communing with spinner dolphins in the most respectful manner possible.Dan McSweeney loves whales and wants you to love them too. At Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Learning Adventures (Honokohau Harbor off Hwy. 19, 888/942-5376, Dec.-Mar. only, $90 adults, $80 children), he personally conducts each tour and guarantees that you will see whales. If you’re interested in learning about whales, this tour is for you. There is no open bar on the boat. Morning and afternoon departures are available and the tour lasts three hours.

A pod of spinner dolphins photographed underwater.

You can swim with spinner dolphins in Hawaii. Photo © Marty Wakat/123rf.

One Love One Spirit (808/987-0359, 4-hour tour $185 plus tax per person)—the name gives it away (doesn’t it?). Phillipa, the company owner, runs morning tours, mini-retreats, and week-long retreats training visitors how to connect with the dolphins. This company is all about communing with spinner dolphins in the most respectful manner possible—but this is a good thing. Hang up your hangups about connecting with another living being and by the time you’re done with this swim, you’ll really get dolphins.

Sunlight on Water (Honokohau Harbor off Hwy. 19, 808/896-2480) offers whale-watching tours (afternoons daily during winter, $75 per person), a three-hour tour to swim with spinner dolphins (mornings daily, $110 per person if booked online, includes snorkel gear) and manta ray swims (nightly, $71 per person if booked online). The good deal here is that they will offer you a discount if you book more than one trip with them. They are highly recommended for the dolphin swim since that is their real passion, but other companies might be better for whale-watching and manta ray trips.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.