WRITTEN BY: KRISTINE HANSEN

7 Best Dolphin Experiences in the Caribbean

With crystal-clear waters as warm as a hot bath, a popular activity in the Caribbean is to experience dolphins’ natural habitat during a shore excursion. Imagine slipping into a life jacket and paddling alongside these wild, gentle animals. Finding them out in the open water isn’t easy but thankfully trainers and guides have crafted areas near the shoreline where the dolphins can meet and greet visitors.

The following are the best places to swim with dolphins in the Caribbean. 

1. Chankanaab National Park in Cozumel, Mexico  

What makes this destination special is its group size, which is kept small to ensure that you have a very personal experience. During your session, you’ll practice a “foot push” (the dolphins push you through the water via the bottom of your feet) and “dorsal tow” (a high-speed swim as you hold onto the dolphins’ fins). At the end of the tour a photo gift documents the experience, as proof you did it.  

Excursion Time: 1 hour 

2. Sanctuary Bay Lagoon in Freeport, Bahamas  

Before your 30-minute swim session with a dolphin, this 2.5-hour excursion kicks off—no pun intended—with a boat ride to the nine-acre Sanctuary Bay lagoon. (Keep your eyes open en route: you might see a macaw!) You’re encouraged to hug and kiss the dolphin as you frolic together in an enclosed natural area.   

Excursion Time: 2.5 hours 

3. Grand Cayman

The literal peak experience of this hour-long shore excursion—which starts with a show in which trainers coax the dolphins to perform tricks—is a belly ride with a dolphin. Each experience receives free admission to Boatswain’s Turtle Farm, adding another animal encounter to your trip. Pay a bit more for a photo of you with your new dolphin pal.

Excursion Time: 1 hour

4. The Blue Lagoon in Nassau, Bahamas

A new dolphin experience in the Bahamas, this six-hour excursion is at the Blue Lagoon, a short ferry ride from the port. It also includes lounging time at a beach with double hammocks that beckon as well as drinks and food. Time with the dolphins lasts about one hour, including kissing, hugging, petting and feeding the animals, followed by swimming. A boogie board helps you do the ultimate “foot push.”

Excursion Time:  6 hours

5. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

This one-hour tour is a smart use of time at this port because in addition to swimming with a dolphin you also receive lunch (choice of five menu items) and there is ample time to relax at the beach club (lounge chairs and showers included). After working alongside a trainer and learning more about a day in the life of a dolphin, you’ll interact with the animals in waist-deep water.

Excursion Time: 1 hour

 6. Kitts

Once you’re schooled in the lifestyle of a dolphin, you’ll descend—with a trainer—a flight of stairs to a submerged platform within waist-deep water. Photos of you—including a dolphin kiss—are available for sale after the experience. Each participant gets to do a “belly ride,” “hand target,” (gently touching the dolphin’s nose) hug and “boogie push” (also called a “foot push”) with a dolphin.

Excursion Time: 1 hour

7. Key West, Florida

The U.S.’s southernmost tip is not only a cool spot for key lime pie and gingerbread-style architecture, it’s also a sweet spot to snorkel with dolphins. On this four-hour excursion you’ll hop onboard a solar-powered electric catamaran (the genius idea of a husband/wife team) and be whisked away to a dolphin-pod site where you can snorkel among sponge gardens. If you’re lucky, you might spot a dolphin alongside you! Note that this tour is more about education and observation versus swimming with the dolphins, but for some this kind of content only enrichens the experience.

Excursion Time: 4 hours

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