Best Places To See Dolphins

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THIS ANIMAL TODAY: current situation and conflicts

The main threat to dolphins is fishing by humans that intentionally or unintentionally kills dolphins. Although western consumers now demand dolphin-safe on their tuna after an uproar over then number of dolphins caught in seine nets, others are still catching dolphins to eat on purpose.


Dolphin dive hunts, in which dolphins are herded into nets by boats, are still occuring in Japan, especially in Taiji. The 2009 Sundance winner The Cove depicts the slaughter.


Dolphins also face threats from loss of habitat from oil exploration and from polluted waters.


Part of the cetacean order along with whales, there are 33 dolphins species. Most live in the ocean (family delphinidae) but four species swim in rivers ( (family Platanistoidea).


Swim-with-dolphin programs may seem like fun--and it certainly leads to a greate appreciation for dolphins--but it may not be fun for the dolphins. For starters, they've generally been captured, often brutally, and trained to perform to get food. Some are signing pledges not to go see captive dolphins.



What's the difference between whales and dolphins?

Just size. According to Dolphin Mysteries, dolphins are whales are basically the same, but whales are generally 20 feet or longer.


Click on the region to see its dolphin-watching spots
U.S. northeast Down South Out West
States Alaska CA Hawaii FL TX
International Canada Latin America Europe Africa Asia Australia



northeast Northeast - See other animals in the Northeast


Cape May Dolphin Tours
Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, has several tour operators who take you out to the open water to see whales and bottlenose dolphins. Cape May Whale Watcher is so confident the marine mammals are out there, they have a moneyback guarantee that you'll see some kind of whale, dolphin or porpoise.


Stellwagen Bank

The Stellwagen Bank's shallow waters make it a popular feeding ground for whales. The Bank is part of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. When people talk about Cape Cod being one of the world's best whale-watching spots, they're really talking about Stellwagen, where the boats go. Once a big fishing area, now it's known for whale-watching. You may also get to see Atlantic white-sided dolphin. See our whale-watching page for all the tours that go out to Stellwagen leaving from Boston, Cape Cod, NH and Maine. You may also see  white beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Common dolphin, Bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, Horbor porpoises.

Trips from Provincetown, where U.S. whale-watching started, leave from Macmillan Wharf.


Dolphin Fleet Whalewatch (highly recommended for sensitive treatment of whales)
Boston Harbor Cruises big, comfortable catamaran

New Hampshire

Atlantic Whale Watch
Granite State Whale Watch



Maine has whale watching tours all along its coast, but Bar Harbor has the most. On any whale tour, you're just as likely to see dolphins, which are just smaller whales. The boats travel about 20 miles out into the Gulf of Maine, where humpback, finback and Minke whales live (along with dolphins, seals and seasonal puffins).
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co and Wanderbird offer trips


Lewes, DE

You can try to find whales and dolphin off Lewes, Delaware during the season, May to September. Their consolation if you don't see a whale is seeing a dolphin.
Fisherman's Wharf


Cape May, NJ

Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, has several tour operators who take you out to the open water to see whales and bottlenose dolphins. They often guarantee you'll see a marine mammal, with dolphins held out as a consolation prize if you don't see whales.
Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center
Cape May Whale Watcher

Staten Island Bottlenose dolphins
Bottlenose dolphins are sometimes spotted from the Ocean Breeze Fishing Pier in late summer.
south South - See other aninals Down South
Outer Banks Dolphin Watching
Ninth-generation Outer Banks resident Capt. John Stuart Wescott leads 2-hour, $26 tours to see pods of dolphins frolicking in the water. Sightings guaranteed. Cruises June - October only.
Outerbanks Cruises
Budleigh St, Manteo, NC (252) 473-1475
Dolphins Near Myrtle Beach, SC
You may be able to spot dolphins pretty much anywhere along the barrier islands. But to up your chances, take a tour. Blue Wave recommends going out as early as you can manage. You may also see some leatherback turtles.
Blue Wave Adventures Dolphin Watch
This $29 eco-tour goes out up to four times a day--though they say the earlier the better. They let dolphins approach the boat and put a microphone in the water to hear them. Capt. Dick's Marina Murrells Inlet, SC 4123 Highway 17, Murrells Inlet, SC (843) 651-3676


Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head Island's Coastal Discovery Museum leads night beach walks to see the threatened loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the island and kayak and boat tours to dolphins offshore. 100 William Hilton Pkwy (843)-689-6767

Pink (albino) bottlenose dolphin
A pink bottlenose dolphin has been spotted about 50 times since 2007 in the shipping channel between Lake Calcasieu and Lake Charles, mainly by charter boat captain Erik Rue. NOAA says the dolphin is travelling with its mother and two others. Stay 50 yards back from pinkie--if you see her--and limit your gawking to 30 minutes, they advise.
Virginia Beach Dolphin & Whale Watching
From December to March you might be able to see humpback and fin whales as they migrate past Chesapeake Bay. Bottlenose dolphins are around April through October.
Rudee Tours
The $28 tours leave several times a day on weekends. 757-425-3400 200 Winston Salem Ave Virginia Beach Virginia
out west The West - See other animals out West



Puget Sound and Washington Coast

One of the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island has boats that go out to see Killer Whales, Minke Whales, Harbor Seals, Dall's and Harbor Porpoise, Bald Eagles and Ospreys, Stellar and California Sea Lions,  Elephant Seals and other marine life.

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters has a biodiesel boat that may pass Spieden Island, home to European Fallow Deer, Sitka Deer and Moufalon sheep, which were introduced and now protected.
$72 360-376-6566
Deer Harbor Charters

Alaska Alaska - See other animals in Alaska

Glacier National Park

Glacier Bay National Park has black and grizzly bear, stellar sea lion, mountain goats, dall's porpoise (check the entrance to Icy Straight), harbor seal, otters and birds. Guillemots and puffins are in the northern bay. Bald eagles are all over the place. It has a huge population of the rare  murrelet.
Humpbacks eat there in the summer. Killer whales spend the year. Gray whales visit the outer coast in spring and fall.  Dall's porpoises like the open water; harbor porpoises prefer sheltered waters.




Anchorage is right in the middle of several great ports that go out to look for humpback, killer and gray whales. Along the way, animal tourists may see bald eagles, seals, porpoises and puffins.

The tours leave from different cities (Seward, Valdez, Whittier) and scope out various bodies of water (Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park) but they usually have convenient transportation from Anchorage. And they're are all looking for the same animals from May to Sept. The exception are the gray whales, which can only be found in April and May.

Prince William Sound Glacier Cruises
leaves from Whittier and costs $90 - $140 (2009). They look for otter and bear, too, and have overnight glacier trips.

Renown Tours, out of Seward, has special tours that look for the gray whales in early summer. $70-$150

CA California -- See other animsla in California

Los Angeles Area

Unlike most whale watches around the country, boats from Newport Landing go out all year.
During the warmer months, May to Nov., you may see giant blue whales, killer whales, seals, finback whales, or thousands of dolphins.
In December through April the California Gray Whale migrates through.
Some trips go by the Catalina Islands. A prime watching area is the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which keeps track of marine mammals seen.
Newport Landing Whale Watching (949) 675-0551

See enormous blue whales June-fall. See gray whales when they migrate by in the winter and spring. See bottlenose, common and risoo dolphins other times.

Harbor Breeze Cruises leaves from Rainbow Harbor, 20 miles south of LA.
100 Aquarium Way

seals and sea lions


Channel Islands

Sea Lions and blue sharks live off Santa Barbara Island, which is part of the Channel Islands National Park. Visitors see lots of dolphins--mostly common and Risso’s dolphins, but sometimes white-sided or bottlenose dolphin. Gray whales migrate past the islands. At
Point Bennett, on the west end of San Miguel Island, hundreds of thousands of northern elephant seals breed.
Here are some tips on how to get to the islands if you're not on a dive.
Some tours require scuba experience; others you don't even need to know how to swim.

Psalty Adventures offers diving tours to see the sharks and sea lions.
Aquatica Charters has a range of tours that leave from Long Beach.
Truth Aquatics offers kayak and diving tours.


seals and sea lions

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects marine wildlife in 948 square nautical miles off San Francisco. It started in 1981.
Host harbor seals, elephant seals, harbor porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, rockfish, and the Tufted Puffin.
20% of Calfornia's harbor seals breed here.
Biggest seabird breeding colony in US--more than 400,000.
Hosts some of the last populations of blue whales and threatened Steller sea lions.
The visitor center is West Crissy Field, near Old Mason Street in Golden Gate National Recreation Area of San Francisco (map) (415) 561-6625
Florida - See other animals in Florida

Key West

Dolphin Watch offers $85 (2009) tours on a 31 foot Gemini catamaran. They know the local pod. The late Pisces, the dolphin dog, used to ride their boat.
201 William St., Key West, FL

St. Augustine

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins live right outside St. Augustine. Occassionaly you may see manatees, too. ECO Tours offers kayak trips and a 90-minute $40 (2009) tour.
111 Avenida Menendez # 60 St Augustine, FL (904) 377-7245

Captiva Island

You can see dolphins, otters and sometimes manatees off the west coast of Florida.
Captiva Cruises
has $25 afternoon cruises and a 95% success rate. (239) 472-5300
Captiva Kayak Company & Wildside Adventures
can rent you a kayak to go out on your own,11401 Andy Rosse Lane at McCarthy's Marina
(239) 395-2925

Fort Pierce

Boats out of Ft. Pierce look for dolphins in  Ft. Pierce Inlet State Park and then at the Jack Island Preserve, which is a mile north of the park.
Florida Dolphin Watch
offers a 6-person pontoon charter for $175, 125 Fishermans Wharf

Hawaii Hawaii --- See other animals in Hawaii

Big Island

Huge, endangered humpback whales winter around Hawaii from December to April. Locals brag it's the only place in the country where whales breed and calve.

In the winter you can see humpbacks. Other times you may see spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, black whales, manta rays, sharks or sea turtles. 
Blue Sea Cruises Inc blue and yellow big catamaran with glass bottom


 Ko Olina Ocean Adventure gives you an underwater camera with your $107 (2009) tour, which leaves from the Ko Olina Resort & Marina. (808) 671-2512
92-1480 Aliinui Dr. Kapolei, HI


Texas - See other animals in Texas
Meet Wild Texas Dolphins
In a world where dolphins are often put on display for an overly adoring public, Erv and Sonja Strong have found another way. For decades they've been getting to know the dolphins of Corpus Christi Bay.
They know 250 by sight and personality and have names for about 100. They school visitors on how to interact with the friendly dolphins and show how the dolphins that know and like them play along.
Dolphin Connection 410 N Sandpiper, Ingleside, TX (361) 776-2887
Canada Canada -- See other animals in Canada

Nova Scotia

Cruises from West Brier Island out into the Bay of Fundy may get you to see the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, White-beaked Dolphins and Pilot Whales are ocassionally seen. Sometimes you might get lucky and see Bluefin Tuna, Sea Turtles, Ocean Sunfish,  Basking Sharks, Atlantic Puffins. In the fall, shorebirds and raptors often stop at the island. Mariner Cruises Whale & Seabird Tours(902) 839-2346

LATE SPRING: Finback Whales, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoises
JUNE: Humpback Whales return along with White-sided Dolphins
JULY-FALL: Everybody's out.

Lunenberg Whale Watching


Twilllingate, NL

The fishing village of Twillingate  is one of the best whale-watching sites in Labrador and Newfoundland You can see humpback, minke and finback whales, dolpins, seals, terns, black quillenot, kittewakes, seagulls, puffins, murres, and shearwaters.
Cecil Stockle MV Iceberg Alley calls himself Iceberg Man and goes in a small boat. Other boats tour, too.

Latin America Latin America -- See other animals in Latin America


The Island of Fernando de Noronha 200 miles off Brazil is part of a national park and home to at least 8 species of shark, many dolphins and sea turtles. You can see them in boat or by diving.



Playa Punta Norte, Argentina, is where the killer whales are famous for learning to beach themsleves to attack a sea lion colony. The site itself is rare, but you can also see them from the shore from. According to KidsCanTravel, orcas August - November and February - April.
Southern right whales May to December
Dolphins - dusky, long-finned pilot, Commerson and Peale - visit all but April-July. December to February is their peak.
Southern elephant seals and sea lions are here all the time but the peak is Dec. - April.
Magellanic penguins nest in Oct. and Nov. and the babies hatch in December and hang around till March.
Peninsula Valdes, Chubut, Argentina


Europe Europe - See other animals in Europe


Húsavík, Iceland, considers itself the whale capitol of Europe and its Húsavík Whale Museum is, predictably, pro-whaling.  Gentle Giants Whale Watching and North Sailing
Reykjavík, Iceland, has so many whale watching boats you can pretty much turn up in the harbor to find one. They have 95% success. Some are fishermen when they aren't taking you out. Many are tiny boats, so be prepared for sea sickness.
Species Seen: minke, blue, humpback whales, sei, fin and killer whales
Bonus Species: Puffin, white-beaked dolphin, porpoise



Sperm whales are the big attraction in the Azores. Boats leave from São Miguel and other islands.
Species seen: sperm, pilot, killer and Sowerby's beaked whales
Bonus Species: Risso, Atlantic Spotted and Striped dolphins
Responsible Travel Package

seals and sea lions


Penzance Boat Tours

From Penzance you can also take a 2-hour boat tour from Elemental Tours, Wildlife Extra recommends, to see Basking sharks--the giant 30-foot fish known for eating plankton with a gaping mouth--dolphins, orcas, porpoises, minke, fin or pilot whales, grey seals or sunfish.



Cardigan Bay, Wales

Cardigan Bay, off Wales, is one of the great basking shark locations in the UK, Wanderlust Magazine says. The bay also has puffins, seals, porpoises, dolphins and sometimes leatherback turtle.
Cardigan Bay tours takes off from Pwllheli Marina, Gwynedd LL53, UK

Africa Africa


You can dive with whale sharks and dolphins off the coast of Mozambique. The Manta Ray & Whale Shark Research Centre needs volunteers for weeks or months. Since fishing is one of the country's few industries, many sharks are killed for their fins. The Centre hopes an eco-tourism industry develops as an alternative--as long as its one that doens't burden the whale sharks, manta rays and dolphins that need the local reefs.
Responsible Travel recommends whale and dolphin conservation volunteer holidays.
The centre is based at the Casa Barry Lodge
Tofo, Mozambique
+27 31 767 0111

Asia Asia

Chilka Lake, India

Chilka Lake is a huge migratory bird stop and one of the few places the critically endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) lives. The local tourist board says the dolphin boat tours support about 500 families and are 95% successful. The lake includes the Nalbana Bird Sanctuary, where greater flamingos, sea eagles, storks, pelicans and waterfowl visit.



You can only get to the Ogasawara Islands by taking a 25-hour ferry from Tokyo. But once you get here, you have a 90% chance of seeing humpback whales. From February to April, you can see humpbacks from land. Sperm whales are seen in summer and fall. Dolphin swims year-round.

The island of Shikoku has whale cruises from many of its fishing ports.
 Whaleroute reports humpback (Feb - April), spinner and bottlenose dolphin all year, sperm whale (summer - autumn).

Oz Australia


Kaikoura Penninsula Dolphin & Albatross tours
You can get off these tour boats and swim or snorkel in the water with the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus). You may also see killer whales and the same company does a tour to see albatross, which also sometimes sees penguins.

New Zealand Dolphin Experience
Offers a 3-3.5 hour tour. Boats have showers. Cost is $150NZ or about $100US in 2009. 96 Esplanade, Kaikoura, Canterbury 7300, New Zealand
Tauranga, NZ Dolphin and Whale Viewing
The Bay of Plenty off Tauranga has the biggest population of the New Zealand Common Dolphin. You may also see Orcas (Killer Whales), Humpback & Pilot Whales, Turtles and Seals.
Dolphin Seafaris leave daily early in the morning.
Moko, the friendly dolphin
Moko, a bottlenose dolphin, showed up in Mahia beach in Spring 2007. He's a solitary sociable--dolphins that get separated from their pods and latch onto communities. He just wants to hang out with humans. He plays with toys and buoys and brings people fish as presents. He's famous for saving two pygmy sperm whales who almost beached themselves in the bay. In winter he gets lonely--so lonely he kept a woman stranded on a buoy once.
Mahia Beach, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand


Got a place to see dolphins in the wild? Tell us.


How is this animal doing?
Viewing Tips
Best Locations List
friends of the dolphin
The Dolphin Institute
Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute
Mote Marine Labratory
Project Jonah
ARKive Map of Threatened Marine Mammal Species
Cetacean Habitat
TerraMar Research
Trans-Species Institute for Learning
Campaign Whale
Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society
Defenders of Wildlife
Earth Island Institute
World Wildlife Fund
Ocean Care
National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
wildlife reading
The Cove's Richard O'Barry on Secret Dolphin Slaughter and Flipper's Suicide
NOAA's Dolphin Safe Program for the Southeast





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