How to Swim with Dolphins on Maui


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Having the chance to watch and swim with dolphins while in Maui is one of the most magical and enjoyable activities that one can experience. The dolphins in this region are intelligent and also playful at the same time. We’ve encountered many dolphins across the Hawaiian Islands, and each time was just as exciting as the last. Below, we talk about the different types of dolphins you will find on Maui, the best places to encounter dolphins on the island, and how to swim with them.

Different Types of Dolphins You Will Find in Maui

Spinner Dolphins

Spinner Dolphin

These are the most common types of dolphins you will find while in Maui, and Hawaii for that matter. They are typically between 4 feet and 7 feet in length, and their weight is between 50 and 170 pounds. Spinner Dolphins usually feed at night primarily on squid, shrimp, and other small fish. They are famous for their acrobatic displays in the ocean and are a joy to spot out at sea. They can spin multiple times in one jump, nearly ten feet high! We have encountered Spinner Dolphins on a catamaran tour and also have spotted them putting on a show from the beach.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphins are somewhat common in Maui, and they look almost similar to Spinner Dolphins. However, they’re much larger! Their length varies between 6 feet and 13 feet, while their weight can be up to 650 pounds. These dolphins have a shorter and thicker rostrum or beak. They are gray on top, and their belly is white.

Short-finned Pilot Whales

Short-finned Pilot Whale

Short-finned Pilot Whales are somewhat rare in Maui and belong to the dolphin family. They feature rounded snouts and foreheads, resembling whales. Their color is mostly dark, with light gray throats and stomachs. These dolphins can grow up to 18 feet in length, and their weight can be up to 6,500 pounds. Big, right?! Short-finned pilot whales are the second-largest dolphin in the world!

False Killer Whales

False Killer Whale

False Killer Whales are rare in Maui, and you should consider yourself lucky if you catch a glimpse of one. Despite their name, they are large members of the dolphin family. These dolphins are quite large. They can grow up to 16 feet in length, while their weight can be as much as 5,000 pounds. False Killer Whales have gray throats, and their bodies are black. They also hunt other marine mammals, similarly to killer whales.

Best Places to Encounter Dolphins on Maui

Swim with Dolphins in Maui Hawaii

Maui is known for some of the best snorkeling across the Hawaiian Islands. Maui has become quite popular because of the abundant marine life, as well as the large coral reef formations that span the island. Staying close to these habitats will improve your experience while you are viewing dolphins either on land or by boat.

If you book a snorkeling tour in Maui, you may get an opportunity to observe Spinner Dolphins welcoming you from a close distance. However, if you want the best possibilities of spotting dolphins from the water, then a snorkel tour to the Molokini Crater may be your best bet.

Molokini Crater is a ring of lava in the shape of a crescent that was formed by a volcano. The uninhabited island is a well-known spot for snorkeling, with an abundance of sea life to explore. You will be able to get the best view of marine life in this beautiful snorkeling area because it has clear waters that are full of flourishing coral reefs. If you’re lucky, you might see a Spinner Dolphin pop up from the water surface and put on a show for you.

You might also opt for a cruise to Lanai, which is one of the most popular routes for encountering dolphins! There is a large population of Spinner Dolphins between Lahaina and Lanai, making it a great route to travel. You’ll probably have the chance to spot Spinner Dolphins near Hulopo’e Bay or Kamaiki Point.

It is also common for a pod of Spinner Dolphins to patrol the West Maui coast. You may spot dolphins close to Honolua Bay, another incredible snorkeling destination. When the locals in Maui told us the best snorkeling spot was Honolua Bay, many of them mentioned spotting dolphins in the water and from the shore.

Last but not least, another great spot to witness groups of Spinner Dolphins is at La Perouse Bay in Makena. The water here is crystal clear and a favorite hangout for Maui dolphins. I’ve seen several videos of people snorkeling in La Perouse Bay and having dolphins swim under them, completely unexpected. 

I should also mention, last time we visited Maui we saw many Spinner Dolphins off the shores of Big Beach in Makena. Big Beach is just north of La Perouse Bay, so it makes sense that we saw them in the area. They put on a show for us for quite some time! We weren’t swimming with them, but it was still a special and memorable experience. 

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Can You Swim with Dolphins in Maui?

A common question people have is if you can swim with dolphins in Maui, and the truth is you probably will not be able to swim with them around the island.

If you try to swim with dolphins during the day, you might end up disturbing their sleep cycles. The reason for this is that dolphins tend to sleep during daytime hours and start hunting and swimming at night. How is it possible for visitors to watch them putting on a show during the daytime? Dolphins do that while they are asleep, too. How cool is that?!

Just like many other species of marine life across the Hawaiian Islands, the dolphins of Maui are an endangered species. Special regulations have been established for safeguarding the native dolphin populations, meaning no visitor or tour operator is able to touch them or approach them beyond a specific limit.

However, you’ll come across some particular locations on and around Maui where you may get the opportunity to view them. The dolphins around the island will often come out in these areas to welcome you on their own.

Although we can’t guarantee you’ll have the chance to swim with dolphins in Maui, we’d still recommend taking tours where they are known to be spotted! One of the best things about Maui is the thriving marine life and encountering it up close. 

What about you? Have you encountered dolphins on any of the Hawaiian Islands? We’d love to hear about your experience!

SOURCES: Hawaii Ocean Project,, Four Winds Maui

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