Welcome fellow dolphin enthusiasts!
My boyfriend and I recently returned from yet another amazing Oahu vacation. After countless boat tours (and some unforgettable sunburns), we’ve compiled a list of the best dolphin-watching tours in Oahu, so you can avoid disappointment and ensure your trip is truly magical.
You see, over the years, we’ve learned that not all dolphin tours are created equal. Some offer breathtaking views of bottlenose dolphins playfully leaping through crystal-clear waters while others… well, let’s just say they leave much to be desired. That’s why we took it upon ourselves to sift through the endless options of family-friendly outings and adrenaline-packed adventures to present you with only the creme de la creme of dolphin excursions.
Now, let me tell you about one time when our catamaran captain was expertly navigating through a pod of spinner dolphins – those little guys sure know how to put on an impressive aerial show! So whether it’s a private charter or a larger group tour that floats your boat (pun intended), we’ve got your back.
Warning: These top-notch tours might have you planning yearly trips to Oahu just for the chance to encounter these fascinating creatures again!
So buckle up, my friend – or should I say “batten down the hatches?” – because we’re about to dive into an ocean of aquatic amazement filled with captivating coastlines, majestic marine life, and memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s set sail on this exhilarating journey!
#1 Turtle Canyon Snorkel (Semi-Private Boat Tours)
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes (approx.)
Address: Captain Max Boat Tours: Oahu Turtle Snorkeling and Whale Watching Tours, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd Pier B, Honolulu, HI 96814
This is my favorite tour for several reasons. As a rule, they only do a maximum of 6 people (even though the 36ft High-Speed inflatable boat seats many more) and guarantee that you will see dolphins. If you don’t see them on your first time, they invite you back for free, to see them on another tour. They also provide excellent snorkeling gear, friendly instructors, and excellent service.
We have done this tour several times and they pick the best spot for snorkeling ( Turtle Canyon). Even if you don’t have any experience you can safely snorkel with a lifevest on. We have seen many types of tropical fish, coral, seals, and turtles. The instructor is in the water with you and can help spot some amazing creatures, an untrained eye might miss. This is all a bonus to seeing several types of dolphins like bottlenose and spinner dolphins.
After the snorkeling part, they always take us on an adrenaline-filled ride across the coast. The views are stunning, the mountains majestic, and I love the reverse view of the shore. I took some of my best pictures during the ride. They can go quite fast at times, so it’s also fun and adventurous. The only downside is that it’s so much fun, I wish it lasts longer.
Make sure to check out Turtle Canyon Snorkel (Semi-Private Boat Tour) because:
- The tour is done with a maximum of 6 people on a 36ft High-Speed inflatable boat.
- They do a great snorkeling session with gear and vests provided at Turtle Canyon.
- You are guaranteed to see dolphins or you go again!
- It’s a perfect opportunity to see dolphins, tropical fish, turtles, whales, and even seals.
- This is a family-friendly activity too, and you don’t need to be skilled to participate in snorkeling (the instructor is in the water with you the entire time).
#2 Waianae Coast Snorkel Cruise with Dolphin and Seasonal Whale Watching from Oahu
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
Address: Wai’anae Small Boat Harbor, 85-491 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96792
This is a super fun and safe tour led by a lifeguard and marine biologist. If you are not comfortable with snorkeling or taking children on the tour, I would pick this one. The tour is limited to under 15 people so it doesn’t feel crowded. They also have a lot of knowledge and information to share in an interesting and fun way.
This is one of the longer tours and lasts a little over three hours. You can bring your own food and drink or take advantage of discounted offers they have. We brought our own and it added to the trip.
On our trip, we saw lots of dolphins (in ferally big pods) and a few whales (splashing with their tails and fins). The snorkeling portion of the trip is also awesome. We saw lots of tropical fish and turtles. They provide all the gear and lifevests (or you can bring your own). They also rent out wet suits.
Asides from all the awesome sites, the staff here is wonderful. They even took pictures of us at request. The atmosphere was generally fun and we got to see a lot of marine wildlife (and learn about them). Ts quite overwhelming and also a great family activity. They make the trip authentic.
Waianae Coast Snorkel Cruise with Dolphin and Seasonal Whale Watching from Oahu is my second pick because:
- They have a great and long snorkeling portion of the trip where you can swim with the dolphins, and turtles and see some amazing tropical fish (sometimes eels and seals too).
- In the winter this doubles as a whale-watching tour and a professional marine biologist on board can teach you a lot about the animals (really interesting!)
- The tour focuses on safety. They use lifevests and have trained lifeguards on board.
- The tour offers great views, and picture-perfect moments and is a family-friendly activity.
- The staff is professional, well-trained, and knowledgeable about the area and all the incredible animals.
#3 Dolphin Watching & Snorkel in the West Coastline of Oahu
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
Address: Waianae Small Boat Harbor, 85-491 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96792
This tour is done in a double-hulled catamaran and takes out groups of about 40 people. It’s one of the longer tours and they even have an option in Japanese. We took advantage of their shuttle service too, so check out their options from Honolulu and Waikiki.
This was a great tour for couples and families and there were many children on our tour. All the staff is certified lifeguards, so everyone can feel safe. They are very knowledgeable and informative and give great instruction.
After doing some dolphin watching (and we saw many dolphins close up jumping around), we did some snorkeling off Makaha shore. The company provides all the equipment needed and even provides snacks and water. During snorkeling the instructors are in the water, so even first-time adventurers can enjoy themselves. They picked an amazing spot, so we got to see colorful tropical fish of all sizes, eel, turtles, and even some seals.
This tour shows off the natural beauty of the area safely and respectfully. There are great views of the shoreline and the water is pristine. We took amazing pictures and loved the ride. Just make sure to bring sunscreen and a hat for extra protection.
Dolphin Watching & Snorkel in the West Coastline of Oahu is a top tour choice because:
- The tour is done on a spacious double-hulled catamaran.
- The groups are relatively small with about 40 people each time.
- They have certified lifeguards and are focused on safety, especially during the snorkeling portion.
- There are amazing opportunities to see all kinds of wildlife including different types of dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, seals, and even whales.
#4 Dolphins & You (Ocean Slide & More) Oahu Private Boat Charter Waikiki, Hawaii
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)
Address: 85-471 Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96792 (Waianae Boat Harbor)
We were incredibly lucky to do a private boat charter for dolphin watching, and this experience was amazing. The service was impeccable, staff was on point and friendly. The experience is of course customizable but there was so much content, you shouldn’t miss out on any of it.
We went on this charter with two of our best friends. The boat is spacious at 55 feet and they provide lots of toys. After enjoying some views of dolphins we were able to get into the water and even get close to some. They provide all the equipment you could need including snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and a huge inflatable slide off the boat. As a bonus they served lemonade.
We saw plenty of marine life and enjoyed some seclusion away from the crowds and tourists. The boat had an incredible sound system so we even listened to some music while playing on the slide and snorkeling. The staff is lifeguard certified and incredibly entertaining. My favorite part was seeing a sroup of seals sunbathing at a close beachside.
Dolphins & You (Ocean Slide & More) Oahu Private Boat Charter is a must because:
- The trip is completely customizable and all the attention is on you and how you want to use your time (although the staff also has amazing suggestions).
- The boat is almost new with great equipment like a slide, kayaks, snorkeling gear, and paddle boards.
- You can get in the water with the animals and get quite close to them. The instructors will help.
Oahu is a top destination for enjoying dolphin tours. The waters are clear and there is so much marine life activity that it’s hard to miss out on the dolphins, whales, seals, turtles, and many colorful fish.
That’s why if you are looking for a small group adventure with great instructors and snorkeling opportunities check out my top two picks at Turtle Canyon Snorkel (Semi-Private Boat Tours) and Waianae Coast Snorkel Cruise with Dolphin and Seasonal Whale Watching from Oahu.
For a larger group experience, take a double-hulled catamaran adventure with Dolphin Watching & Snorkel in the West Coastline of Oahu.
And for the most exclusive experience including a private charter and many water toys (including a 20-foot slide) check out Dolphins & You (Ocean Slide & More) Oahu Private Boat Charter.
No matter what choice you make you will have the time of your life. Check out more than one if you get the chance, because they are all special in their own way.
But whatever you choose, have a great time and enjoy!
Last Updated on April 20, 2023 by Brigitte