A dolphin swims in front of our boat on a tour of the Na Pali Coast

Species of Dolphins You Can Find in Kauai

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Whale watching tours are a rage in Kauai. And you are probably wondering why dolphin tours aren’t as popular. 

But, they are. 

Unlike humpback whales, dolphins are a common sight on the island throughout the year. Thousands of dolphins occupy Kauai’s marine ecosystem. They are predominantly out in the wild, as Kauai doesn’t harbor dolphins in captivity. 

Most tour companies on the island don’t offer exclusive dolphin tours. Primarily because dolphin sightings are fairly common on the way to the Napali coast via boat. So, a dolphin tour is a tour within a tour. 

Dolphins are extraordinarily intelligent, compassionate and playful animals. It always lights us up seeing our customers enjoy the friendly animals put on a splendid show for their guests. 

Species of Dolphins You Can Find in Kauai

Hawaiian waters are home to mainly four dolphin species- Spotted, Rough-toothed, Spinners and The Pacific Bottlenose dolphins. Spinners and Bottlenoses are the common species of dolphins you can find in Kauai. Collectively, they are called Nai’a in Hawaiian.

1. Spinner Dolphins

Hawaiian spinner dolphins are the prevalent species on the island. They are smaller compared to bottlenoses, weigh around 130 to 170 pounds and can grow up to six feet long. 

Kauai’s spinners have a characteristic are three-coloured appearance – a pink or white belly, light grey on the sides and dark grey dorsal fins. The easiest way to identify them is by their snout. Spinner dolphins have thin and long snouts.

All love spinner dolphins for their playfulness and acrobatics. They can jump into the air and spin multiple times before plunging back into the water. This is why they are called “spinners”. It is ingrained in their nature to twirl. They do so to communicate, remove parasites and sometimes, just for fun. 

2. Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are the species we see at marine parks. They are the second most commonly found species of dolphins in Kauai. Bottlenoses are comparatively heavier and can grow up to 13 ft long. 

Considered one of the smartest animals on the planet, they are also curious by nature and often approach humans with an investigative sense. 

Common Differences Between The Two Species

  • Snout: Spinner dolphins have longer, pointier beaks. In bottlenoses, the snout is significantly shorter. 
  • Fins: Dorsal fins of spinners are dark and triangle shaped. Bottlenoses have longer, sickle-shaped fins. 
  • Size: Spinners are the smaller species. Bottlenoses are considerably longer and heavier. 
  • Group Behavior: Spinner dolphins form a large group as they display their acrobatics. Bottlenoses swim in smaller groups and occasionally display a refreshing jump out of the water. While spinners call for an exciting experience, watching bottlenoses is more of a serene feeling. 
  •  Feeding Habits: all dolphins feed on smaller fish and squids. Spinner dolphins prefer to rest during the day and feed at night. Bottlenoses are more active during the day and can sometimes be seen traveling and eating with whales. 

Swimming with Dolphins in Kauai

Kauai doesn’t support dolphins in captivity. This also means that there are strict rules for violating their space.

Swimming with dolphins in Kauai is more of a lucky circumstance than a planned one. Unlike in Big Island and Oahu, Kauai tour companies do not specialize in getting into the water to swim with dolphins. 

Although it is common to see dolphins swimming by the vessel, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the pod at any point in time. 

Where Can You Find Dolphins in Kauai

Dolphins are in abundance on Kauai. But if you’re serious about finding them, your timing has to be right. 

We say that because dolphins are active during the night and rest on sheltered onshore bays during the day. Any disturbance during their resting phase might cause them unnecessary harm. 

Your best bet for finding them is on a Napali Coast Boat Tour. The Kilauea Lighthouse and Kealia beach are the best places to spot them from land. 

You might also want to head to Secret Beach and Kalihiwai Bay on the north shore, preferably in the evening. If luck is on your side, you may even swim with a friendly pod. 

Seeing Dolphins on our Napali Boat Tour

The best way to closely enjoy these enthusiastic animals is by going on a boating adventure. When you finally see them, they’ll be more than glad to welcome you. 

Dolphin sightings are pretty common on our Napali Coast Boat Tour. To give you a virtual experience, we shot a video of a pod of friendly dolphins swimming by our catamaran during one of our Napali Coast Tours. Can you identify the species yet?

For an in-depth dolphin watching experience, join us on one of our Napali expeditions. You can choose from 4 different catamarans for an amazing 4 hour experience.

Together, let’s play with some dolphins along a memorable tour of the Napali Coast, Intriguing Sea Caves, Hawaiian history and much more!

Species of Dolphins You Can Find in Kauai
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Species of Dolphins You Can Find in Kauai
Unlike humpback whales, dolphins are a common sight on the island throughout the year. Thousands of dolphins occupy Kauai’s marine ecosystem.
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Makana Charters
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