Tips To Catch A Glimpse Of Dolphins At Your Next Beach Vacation

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Dolphins are intelligent, social animals, making them a delight to spot in the wild. It's not uncommon for them to swim up to boats out of curiosity or surf the wake behind you for a bit of fun. If you're lucky enough to encounter dolphins in their natural habitat, it can certainly add to the magic of your vacation.

For the best chance of spotting dolphins, sail on a clear day. Bring a hat and SPF to protect you from long hours in the sun and sunglasses to help you spot unusual movements on the water. Though where you're vacationing is probably warm, remember that the wind at sea can be chilly, so dress in layers. If you're one to get sea sick, drink some ginger tea. You can also bring some non-drowsy Dramamine or invest in a motion sickness bracelet.

Once you're on the water, observe the horizon for unusual activity. Dolphins move quickly, so keep your eyes scanning back and forth — right to left, left to right. Look for dorsal fins or clusters of splashes on the surface, as dolphins travel in groups known as pods. If you see something, you can use a pair of binoculars to scout further. Be sure to give dolphins ample space, about half the length of a football field, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some destinations, like Hawaii, prohibit tourists from coming within 50 yards (150 feet) of dolphins, so know the local laws before you go.

How to spot dolphins from the shore

If you know where to go, you can spot offshore dolphins from dry land. You might need to hike up a hill or take advantage of the highr stories of your hotel, if allowed possible. You can also ask resort or hotel staff or a few locals for the best places to spot wildlife. Ideally, you'll want a place where you can see up to a few miles offshore on a clear day.

It's easier to spot dolphins during the morning hours, when the waves will be the calmest. You might also spot them around dusk when they're feeding. One great indicator that dolphins are nearby is a group of birds hovering around one spot. When dolphins are hunting a school of fish or eating krill, birds will follow to try to get in on the action. A flurry of activity is a good sign.

Diving birds can sometimes be mistaken for dolphins, so bring your binoculars to be sure. While one or two dolphins will sometimes venture away from the pod, you're more likely to see a dolphin amid a cluster of splashes rather than one alone. Scan the horizon slightly offshore, near the areas where the water is at least eight feet deep. Most importantly, be patient and bring a chair and a snack. Though it may take awhile, the dolphins will be worth the wait.