Michael Gulden

Adventurer. Husband. Father.

October 4, 2019 · 5 min read

Snorkeling with Wild Dolphins in Oahu

One of my favorite things to do in Oahu

Anticipation. Waiting at the front of my pod of masked and finned humans, I could see dorsal fins glide by in the distance. It took some self-control and coaching from the guide to stop me from swimming out to meet those graceful animals. And then, it happened. Out of the ocean blue, preluded by their playful melodies, the dolphins cruised by to check us out. From what I signed up for, I was expecting an experience where we would be discovering and watching the dolphins, but this was quite the opposite. I felt like we were the ones being watched and examined. My fellows and I floundered awkwardly in our gear and the dolphins effortlessly flowed around us staying as close or as far from us as they wanted. They were in full control and I felt privileged to be hanging out in their world for a bit.

Our First Dolphin Sighting!
Our First Dolphin Sighting!

I was able to feel the magic of swimming with dolphins and I totally enjoyed the experience. The dolphins aren’t the only draw for joining Oahu’s best dolphin tours hosted by Dolphins and You. I felt like there was never a dull moment on our trip starting with the Hawaiian chant then continued on to, swimming with dolphins,  waterslide from the second deck, snorkeling with turtles, freediving, floating on paddleboards, lunch, hula, and hanging out with the crew on the way back. I’ll expound on all that and share some photos of what we experienced so you get a better idea of the whole experience.

Since I’m an early riser, I chose the first dolphin excursion that required us to meet bright and early at the Waianae Boat Harbor. Usually, you catch a comfortable ride from Waikiki or Ko’Olina in one of their deluxe buses. I took a quick walk around in those busses and it’s definitely not the low budget option. You get a safety video and more information setting up your trip as you cruise to the harbor. If you are looking for the most stress-free experience, catch a ride with their shuttle.

When we arrived it was easy to spot our group even though there were other boat tour companies about. The crew had distinctive bright teal shirts and gear. We were told, when we made our reservation the day before, that the boat was only about half full, but they seemed to have almost a full boat with plenty of night before bookings. Our whole group ended up being a great mix of people from all over.

Check-in was easy and signing in me and my wife was seamless. We followed the crew to the boat and I was impressed with it. It isn’t too big, but it definitely isn’t small. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it turned out to be an awesome ride. My wife and I were handed some fins and mask and we headed up the ladder to the second story of the boat for plenty of fresh air and great views. The hills were fabulously green (not normal on the west side in summer) due to the recent rains and then combined with the morning sun rays piercing the clouds lingering over the island made for a sight worth waking up early for. 

Geared up and ready to Snorkel with Dolphins
Geared up and ready to Snorkel with Dolphins

From then on out, it was non-stop activities with a bit of relaxing in-between. We started out with a Hawaiian chant then a briefing about the wild dolphins we would be swimming with.

Leaping in to swim with wild dolphins
Leaping in to swim with wild dolphins
Its almost worth it to just hang out underwater hearing the dolphin songs
Its almost worth it to just hang out underwater hearing the dolphin songs
This dolphin loved hanging around us
And here is that dolphin again! This same dolphin kept coming back.
And here is that dolphin again! This same dolphin kept coming back.

It’s hard to believe that wild dolphins even want to be near ppl, but I guess us humans are weird and awkward enough to not be seen as a threat and interesting enough for the dolphin to want to show off. They seem so calm, powerful and super sleek. I enjoy just hearing them sing when I have my head underwater, but seeing them and them seeing you is a step above. Their eyes speak volumes, but I can’t decipher the language. 

I grew up watching all sorts of nature shows, National Geographic and more, but being in a wild animal’s habitat with them transcends anything you can watch, listen or read. You’ve just got to be there and experience it. 

Our Tour Group
Our Tour Group.

Our pod of humans was quite large, and I’m not sure if everyone had the same experience as me, but I loved it and got my fill of the dolphins.

As we were getting out of the water we saw the dolphins jumping just 100 meters from our boat doing all sorts of spins. 

At the point, I was satisfied, but wait! There’s more! The trip was not even half done. 

Going out for a snorkel while they inflate the slide

We then anchored off the coast of Makaha and the crew rolled out their two-story waterslide while my wife and I and much of the other passengers went snorkeling. 

Free Diving with Sea Turtles

I saw multiple turtles just hanging out near the boat and decided to do a bit of free-diving to get a bit closer to one. The reef is pretty deep where we anchored, but luckily the visibility was great. The snorkeling was enjoyable, but by the time the waterslide was all inflated, I was ready to check that out.

Waterslide into the ocean
It was awesome to waterslide into the ocean

I couldn’t go down that slide just once. It was awesome. It’s pretty novel to have a mini paradise just off the coast of paradise.

It was nice to just relax on the standup paddleboards they had out for anyone interested. We were the last ones back on the boat before we headed back to the harbor. 

The crew kept us talking and entertained to the end. We had an entertaining hula presentation while we were served lunch. My wife and I appreciated the vegetarian option.

I really enjoyed the micro-interactions we had with the crew and felt like they were also having a great time. After talking to some of the crew, I felt like we could have totally brought our kids with us on the trip. They would have loved it all since they are pretty adventurous and have been snorkeling before. 

Overall I felt like the trip was a success. For me, swimming with dolphins on the West side of Oahu was awesome. Everyhing afterward was a bonus. It was just adventurous enough with entertainment and relaxation mixed in. If you are into snorkeling, this is a great trip for you. 

If you end up doing this tour, be sure to chat with the crew, they are experienced and fun to interact with.

Dolphins and You has some other great Oahu nature and food tours through their company And You Creations. I’m looking forward to experiencing those for myself and maybe I’ll bring my kids this time.

Check out the tour details here. 

Book your Oahu dolphin tour direct with Dolphins and You