Where to Swim with Dolphins on Oahu: Dolphin Quest Review

Are you looking for things to do in Oahu with kids? Keep scrolling to find out where to swim with dolphins on Oahu and why it’s a top thing to do on Oahu with kids, teens, and even adults.
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Are you looking for a unique adventure to do on Oahu with your family?

Our family recently did a dolphin experience through Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Resort in Hawaii Kai. It was incredible!

In this post, I’ll share our experience with kids, teens, and adults (including grandma) and give you tips to plan the ultimate Oahu dolphin swim.

You can read about our amazing day below! And if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii soon, be sure to check out my other posts on things to do in Honolulu or where we stayed while visiting Oahu. We hope it helps inspire your next Hawaiian getaway!

Keep scrolling to learn more about swimming with the dolphins in Oahu!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Oahu.

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Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Oahu Swimming with the Dolphins FAQs

Where is the best place to swim with dolphins on Oahu?

If you want a formal swimming with dolphins on Oahu experience, your two choices are Sea Life Park and Dolphin Quest. Dolphin Quest offers a lot more programs for all ages. You can also do some snorkeling trips that claim you can swim with dolphins, but that’s more hit/miss.

Do you need to stay at the Kahala Resort to do Dolphin Quest?

Nope! We stayed at a different Waikiki hotel and had no problem doing Dolphin Quest on Oahu. Their programs are open to tourists and residents no matter where they are staying.

How far in advance do you need to book Dolphin Quest?

You’ll definitely want to have a reservation. If you know you 100% want to do it (maybe it’s on your Hawaii bucket list) then book it as soon as you’ve booked your trip. Otherwise you can usually wait until a month before your trip. However, you’ll want to book sooner if you are traveling during Hawaii’s high season.

What is Dolphin Quest?

Dolphin Quest is an organization that offers hands-on experiences with dolphins in Hawaii (Oahu and the Big Island) as well as the Bermuda. The company is owned by marine animal veterinarians who put dolphin health as a priority.

All of their programs are pretty intimate (usually only 5-6 people) and instead of keeping a rigid format, they keep it pretty organic.

On their website they say, “At Dolphin Quest we believe that a dolphin encounter should be the beginning of a love affair with one of the earth’s most amazing creatures.”

Plus, a portion of all proceeds go towards marine conservation, education, and research.

Where is the Kahala Hotel & Resort?

The Kahala Hotel & Resort is located in Honolulu’s residential area of Kahala. This is just a little bit East of Diamond Head. It takes about 15 minutes to drive there from Waikiki.

Once you arrive, it will take about 10 minutes to walk from the Kahala Hotel & Resort parking area to Dolphin Quest. Most dolphin experiences at Dolphin Quest come with parking vouchers, but you’ll want to double check. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay for parking.

Find out where to swim with dolphins on Oahu. Image of a dolphin jumping out of the water at the Kahala Hotel & Resort on Oahu
Dolphin jumping at Dolphin Quest at the Kahala Hotel & Resort. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

Why Did We Choose Dolphin Quest vs. Sea Life Park?

My mother-in-law had a big dream that she wanted to swim with dolphins in Oahu with her grandkids. So, I did a bunch of research to figure out the best place to swim with dolphins on Oahu.

The two main places were Sea Life Park and Dolphin Quest.

At Sea Life Park, it seems like their dolphin encounters are geared for families with young kids. Kids as young as 3 years old can participate and it sounds like you’re in the water and the dolphins do some tricks. Find out more information about swimming with dolphins at Sea Life Park HERE.

I had heard good things about Dolphin Quest from friends and they told me they liked how they offer a variety of options. Kids need to be at least 5 years old for most of their programs. Find out more about swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Quest HERE.

After reading reviews and fully looking at the packages, we decided it was worth spending a little more to do Dolphin Quest. My main reason is that the people who were most excited to do it were ages 14 and older, so they might not have as much fun with a program geared for little kids.

And since this was probably the only time we’d all be getting together to swim with dolphins on Oahu, it seemed worth the splurge.

Honest Dolphin Quest Review

We chose a 10am time slot so that no one had to wake up super early (ahem teens) but it would leave our afternoon open to do other stuff. I hate it when activities take up the entire day.

Our party arrived early enough that people were able to order breakfast at one of the hotel restaurants. Unfortunately, it took a bit longer than expected and we ended up getting it to go to enjoy after the experience.

Image of a dolphin experience at Dolphin Quest on Oahu with people watching behind an iron fence.
It’s easy to watch as a spectator. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

Not everyone in our group wanted to go in the water, so it was nice that they could stand behind the little fence and just watch.

The experience itself was pretty awesome! It started off with an educational component about dolphins and gave an overview of what would be happening.

Then it was time to get to interact with the dolphins!

Part of this Oahu dolphin experience is learning hand signals to communicate with the dolphins. Image of a group putting their fists together to talk to a dolphin.
Learning hand signals. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

The instructors did a great job of teaching everyone hand signals so they could communicate with the dolphins. And we could feed fish to the dolphins.

Image of a man feeding a fish to a dolphin inside the pool at the Kahala Hotel & Resort on Oahu.
Feeding the dolphin on Oahu

Everyone had the opportunity to swim alongside a dolphin. My 7yo is still a beginner swimmer, so he was a bit nervous at first. But since he had on a life vest, it was easy for him to just stay near the dolphin.

Image of a boy swimming with a dolphin on Oahu.
My son swims alongside a dolphin on Oahu. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

My husband is a stronger swimmer and so he was able to fully swim with the dolphin. He thought it was a really cool opportunity!

Image of a man wearing glasses swimming with a dolphin.
My husband swimming with a dolphin in Hawaii. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

And then there was time for everyone to get individual photos with a dolphin plus a group shot. The photographer got several cute shots of each person in our group.

You can swim with dolphins in Hawaii at Dolphin Quest. Image of a boy wearing glasses posing with a dolphin.
My son poses for a photo with the dolphin. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

After swimming with the dolphins on Oahu, everyone was able to rinse off at the showers before getting changed into dry clothes.

We would definitely recommend this Oahu activity for families!

Tips for Swimming with Dolphins in Oahu at Dolphin Quest

What to Wear

You’ll want to arrive wearing your swimsuit underneath your clothing or swimsuit coverup. That way you are ready to go as soon as you get there. We recommend these SPF swimsuits.

I also recommend that everyone wear sunscreen since you’ll be in direct sunlight. However, it’s really important to only use reef-safe sunscreen.

What to Bring

You’ll want to bring an extra set of clothes to change into after your dolphin experience. They do have lockers near Dolphin Quest you can use for no charge.

Another thing to bring to Dolphin Quest is a towel for everyone in your group. These are not provided and if you forget, you’ll have to buy one there.

Is the Photo Package Worth It?

Absolutely! All the photos used in this post are from the photo package. My father-in-law took some photos with his phone and they didn’t compare at all to the professional photos.

I think the photo package is worth it when swimming with dolphins on Oahu through Dolphin Quest. Image of a boy and dad doing hand signals with a dolphin in Hawaii.
I love this photo of my husband and son signing to the dolphin. Photo credit: Dolphin Quest

My thinking is that if you’re already going to spend a decent amount of money on a dolphin experience in Hawaii, might as well spend a little more to get the professional photos. I mean, they know exactly how to pose you with the dolphins for cute pictures.

You also aren’t allowed to bring a phone/camera into the experience, so this is another reason to get the package.

Is it Cool for Kids Who Don’t Love Animals?

So, my 7yo is really ambivalent when it comes to doing animal-related activities. He’s not a fan of zoos or aquariums or anything like that. He mostly wanted to do this because his older cousins were going.

But, he LOVED it! I think it’s because it was only our group in the water and the staff were really good about making sure everyone had a good experience. They could tell my son was a bit nervous at one point and they were able to distract him so he could relax.

How to Book Dolphin Quest on Oahu

We booked through Hawaii Activities because it was the cheapest rate I could find. You can check rates and availability HERE.

They actually offer a few options. We did the Dolphin Adventure, which gave us a 35 minutes with the dolphins. Kids ages 5 and up can participate in this one. Get more info about the Dolphin Adventure HERE.

There’s also the Dolphin Encounter, which gives you 25 minutes with the dolphins and it’s slightly cheaper. This is also for kids ages 5 and up. Get more info about the Dolphin Encounter HERE.

You can also do a Private Dolphin Swim for up to 3 people. Get more info about the Private Dolphin Swim HERE.

And you can always check the Dolphin Quest website to see any new programs they are offering.

Oahu Swimming with Dolphins Wrap Up

If you are thinking about doing an Oahu family vacation, then don’t leave this off your list. It’s a great way to make memories with the kids and it is something they’ll never forget!

We’ve done it too and if swimming with dolphins on Oahu is on your bucket list, be sure to book a dolphin encounter at Dolphin Quest. They’re awesome! We’ve also done it on the Big Island and you can read about it HERE.

Looking for more things to do on Oahu with kids? Read my guide to Sea Life Park, learn how to explore Pearl Harbor with kids, find out the best luau on Oahu, and check out the best things to do in Waikiki.