Dolphin Quest: Swimming With Dolphins In Hawai’i

Bourn Family Dolphin Quest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village

Not ones to sit around the hotel and lounge by the pool, we do a lot of different activities while vacationing and our trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was no different. Of course we made time to hit the incredible pools and waterslides a few times, but we also kept busy visiting coffee farms in Kona, historic sites along the coast, waterfalls surrounding Hilo, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

We don’t plan much of what we do in advance.

I research everything there is to do, pinpoint the activities on a map so we can see what items are close together and can be done on the same day, and put together an activities binder to reference later. But we don’t usually make firms plans. Most of the time, our trips include one or two things that need to be planned in advance and everything else is left up in the air to figure out as we go.

For our Hawaiian family vacation, the only time-sensitive activity we did that required reservations was swimming with dolphins. The minute I saw the Dolphin Quest lagoon on the Hilton Waikoloa Village map, I knew we were going to:

  1. Stay in a room overlooking the Dolphin Lagoon
  2. Swim with the dolphins

I have wanted to swim with dolphins since childhood and I couldn’t wait to have this experience with my children!

When we checked into our room, I was delighted to see the Dolphin Quest Village right outside our balcony. We walked over to the check-in desk to book our experience and while they were sold out for the first couple days of our stay, we were able to get a reservation for later in the trip no problem.

We arrived for our Dolphin Encounter Deluxe Experience 30 minutes early, in our bathing suits, ready to go. It took about 20 minutes to get everyone in our time slot checked in, fitted for masks and snorkels, and separated into small groups. And another 10 minutes or so getting educated about how the process was going to work and what to expect.

Then it was time to step into the crystal blue, ocean lagoon and meet the dolphins. We were so excited! And, I was really appreciative of the fact that our group was only the kids and I and one other woman — the small group made for a much more personal, intimate experience.

What was really interesting is the the marina mammal specialists at Dolphin Quest Hawaii don’t force the dolphins to anything they don’t want to do. They invite them to play and interact with guests using touch and food as incentives, but how much the dolphin interacts with you during your experience is totally up to the Dolphin.

When we were in the dolphin lagoon, the beautiful animals and even a baby dolphin, were feeling playful. During our 30 minute in-water encounter, we were able to pet and hug two different dolphins, learn hand signals to encourage them to do tricks, swim with a dolphin, and even give the dolphin a kiss, all while learning more about these incredible creatures!

About Dolphin Quest Hawaii

Established in 1988, Dolphin Quest Hawaii has one of the largest and most natural dolphin habitats in the world.

The habitat is a saltwater and sandy beached tidal lagoon filled with sea water pumped from a well dug into the highly porous lava rock. The well generates an unlimited supply of sea water, naturally filtered through the lava rock, and pumps it into the Dolphin Quest lagoon at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, or 15 million gallons per day. That means the entire water volume of the lagoon is replaced roughly every two hours.

The five building Dolphin Quest Village was built in 2008 and includes an information and check-in desk, a photo and gift shop, and a learning center where classes are held, as well as the Grand Lanai where you can watch dolphins swimming and playing with each other, and the Encounter Club with interactive exhibits and activities.

Dolphin Quest is owned and operated by marine mammal veterinarians and a portion of all proceeds supports marine education, conservation, and research.

Know Before You Go

  • Dolphin Quest Hawaii is located at the Hilton Waikoloa Village at 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa Village, Hawaii 96738.
  • Reservations to swim with dolphins can be made up to one year in advance, however, we booked our Dolphin Quest Hawaii experience at the hotel the day before we wanted to do it with no problem.
  • You’ll be in direct sun during your entire Dolphin Quest experience. It’s okay to wear sunscreen but try to use ocean-safe products.
  • You may not take your own photos during your Dolphin Quest experience. A non-participating member of your party can take photos from the shoreline or your can purchase a video and/or photo package after your experience.
  • Come with your bathing suit on, ready to get in the water, and bring a towel as one is not provided.
  • There are lockers, bathrooms, and showers available for guests.
  • The Hilton Waikoloa Village Lagoon Tower overlooks the Dolphin Quest Lagoon, which means if you have an ocean view room in the Lagoon Tower, you will be able to see the dolphins swimming in their lagoon right from your room!
  • You don’t need to be a guest at the Hilton Waikoloa Village to experience a Dolphin Quest program. If you’re a Dolphin Quest participant, request parking validation from Dolphin Quest during check in to avoid the Hilton’s parking fees.

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