Best Dolphin and Whale Watching On The Big Island

big island whale watching

What’s a trip to the Big Island without whale watching or a dolphin encounter? The Big Island is one of the most popular places in Hawaii to go whale watching during the season, from December to May, especially along the Kohala Coast on the island’s north shore. Dolphins, on the other hand, can be seen year round–and doing so with a professional guide is the best way to ensure that both you and the dolphins are safe. Learn more about the best whale watching Big Island tours and find out where to go swimming with dolphins!

whale watching big island

#1 – Classic whale watching from Kailua-Kona

Body Glove offers an educational and fun whale watching tour lead by a marine naturalist. This tour takes place on the Kanoa II, a 65-foot long catamaran, which provides a comfortable and smooth ride. The tour lasts two and a half hours, which gives you plenty of time to see humpback whales. This is a rather large tour, as the catamaran can host up to a hundred people, so make sure you scope out the best seats on deck. This tour is perfect for kids 5 and up!

Departs from: Kailua Pier, Kailua-Kona

Choose this for: classic whale watching tour

whale watching big island#2 – Small-group dolphin encounter from Kailua-Kona

Here’s your chance to swim with Hawaiian spinner dolphins in their natural habitat. Sea Quest offers small-group tours out of Kailua-Kona that will take you to the best places to see dolphins. This tour also includes a chance to snorkel at Kealakekua Bay, the Big Island’s top snorkeling spot and home to plenty of fish and colorful coral reefs. Parents note, a lot of swimming takes place in the open ocean, so this tour is not suitable for children.

Departs from: Keauhou Bay, just south of Kailua-Kona

Choose this for: small-group dolphin encounters

#3 – Rugged dolphin encounter from Waimea
Waimea, South Kohala

Staying in Kohala? Check out Adventure X Boats in Waimea. A little less crowded than the tours operating out of the Kona area, this morning dolphin swim combines a dolphin encounter with the best snorkeling the Kohala Coast has to offer. Children aged three and up are welcome on this cruise—though note, there are no snacks on this one and this boat is a bit more rugged than the luxury cruisers.

Departs from: Puako Point, Waimea

Choose this for: Waimea dolphin adventures

whale watching big island#4 – Rugged whale watching from Waimea
Waimea, South Kohala

If you’re not looking for the full bar and deli lunch option, Adventure X is for you. They offer straight-up whale watching out of Waimea in South Kohala in their zodiac. they’ll take you out to several whale watching spots so you can see these gentle creatures up close. Hang on tight! These rides can be bumpy!

Departs from: Puako Point, Waimea

Choose this for: rugged whale watching

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It’s important to be respectful of all marine life. If you want to learn more about NOAA Fisheries guidelines for safely and respectfully viewing marine life, check out this page on their website.