Intelligent, playful, and plentiful, Maui dolphins flourish in the warm waters of the Pacific in every season of the year. A chance to swim with dolphins in Maui is an unforgettable part of an island getaway and a simply amazing option for eco-tours. Many people wouldn't consider a trip to paradise complete without dolphins as a part. These animals have been a feature of island lore for longer than anyone can remember and they continue to enchant and delight.
Known in Hawaiian as naia, the marine mammals can be spotted throughout the year. Although several species are have been sighted, bottlenose and spinner dolphins are the most common. The smallest of the pack, spinner dolphins are aptly named. They leap high in the air and spin several times before returning to the water. While they congregate in large groups at night, they break into small pods during the day and swim closer to shore.
The narrow, protected channel connecting Maui with the neighboring islands of Molakai and Lanai is a fantastic place to find dolphins in Maui, in addition to sea turtles, whales, and other amazing examples of marine life. Every November, humpback whales arrive by the hundreds and stay nearby until they begin heading north in the spring. On the sunny shores of Maui, the major resort areas along the channel—Kaanapali, Kapalua, Makena, and Wailea—feature hotels, lovely beaches, fantastic waves, and plenty of places to watch for dolphins in Maui.
While vacationers are enjoying time in the water, they may have the chance to turn an ordinary excursion into a Maui dolphin swim. These creatures are quite inquisitive and comfortable around people. Even though dolphins are protected animals, meaning swimmers shouldn't approach them, the dolphins just may swim up to the humans to say hello.
Heading over to Lanai and Molakai, which can be reached by ferry or air, vacationers will find plenty of opportunities to find Maui dolphins. Hulopoe Bay, the prime spot for Lanai's beach activities, features white sand, lava outcroppings, and sparkling blue waters for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the tide pools. Schools of spinner dolphins hang out in the bay, as do the humpback whales in season. Maui dolphins also can be spotted from the shores of Molakai, an island primed for outdoor adventure.
Many locals know the perfect time and place to swim with dolphins in Maui, and a wide array of local tour companies offers excursions featuring dolphins in Maui. After booking a tour, vacationers can step aboard a catamaran, kayak, sailboard, raft, or canoe for a guided tour of the dolphins' watery playground. Or they can get even closer to the dolphins by taking a dip in the waters when diving, snorkeling, or swimming. Those who are not comfortable with getting in the water will still have plenty of chances to spot dolphins, however; some tours don't even leave the shore.
Those with a strong desire to swim with dolphins in Maui won't find any attractions that offer formal programs, though the Maui Ocean Center aquarium offers a shark diving program in its Open Oceans exhibit. Vacationers can, however, make plans to do some island hopping. Dolphin Quest has two locations on the Big Island and Oahu. These dolphin-friendly habitats offer an array of interesting programs that connect animals and humans, including snorkeling, a kids' camp, trainer-for-a-day experiences, and individual sessions with friendly dolphins. Some resorts, especially those on Oahu, also offer dolphin swims.