Swimming with Dolphins in California

Swimming with Dolphins in California


Considering that dolphins are regarded as one of the most gentle and intelligent animals on Earth, it is no surprise that swimming with them has become a popular activity among adventure seekers and vacationers alike. With a number of centers that accommodate dolphin interaction and attract visitors from far and wide, California is a great place to begin your dolphin adventure.

Difficulty Rating


Step 1

Travel to Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, Calif. to experience up close interaction with dolphins with the Dolphin Discovery program, where participants can swim with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins inside a 200,000-gallon pool. This program, located in Northern California allows you to learn about marine mammals along with trainers, who explain how they care for and train them. Although the minimum height requirement for visitors is 52 inches, space is limited and fills up fast, so if you’re planning to go, an early reservation is necessary. The program costs $149.99 per person and runs Wednesday through Sunday during spring, fall and winter, and every day during summer. Participants who meet the height requirement but are under 12 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Step 2

Head down the coast of California to Seaworld in San Diego where you can join dolphins for a swim and learn about everything from training them to their anatomy at Seaworld’s Dolphin Interaction Program. After your training session, you can don a wetsuit and interact with these mammals of the sea. Participants that are six years old or over pay $170, and Passport Members get a slight discount at $140 during non-summer months. You are advised to bring a bathing suit to wear under your wetsuit, which will be provided by the program. The height requirement for this program is 44 inches, and the park provides locker rooms and showers for your convenience.

Step 3

Try Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari located in Dana Point, California, where you can sail the seas with Captain Dave Anderson, a dolphin and whale expert and producer of the documentary “Wild Dolphins & Whales of Southern California.”You will be traveling on a catamaran, where you can venture out on the “Tram Net” for a close encounter with dolphins that will be swimming and zigzagging next to the boat. You can also watch what’s going on below the surface of the water with a “Dolphin and Whale Cam.” You will even have the ability to hear the language of dolphins on a hydrophone. This trip will allow you the opportunity to see and touch whale baleen and teeth, fossils and scale models of the animals you encounter on your adventure. The dolphins you will be able to see on your trip might include the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and Risso’s Dolphin. Pacific whitesided dolphins are seen usually October through May.

Step 4

Visiting the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary might be another option you can consider. The MBNMS is a federally protected area off California’s central coast and home to many animals, including dolphins and whales. The 276-mile stretch of shoreline extends from Marin to Cambria. Because of warm water conditions, many species of dolphins, including the long-beaked and short-beaked common dolphins have been known to congregate at the edge of the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Although swimming in this sanctuary is prohibited, if you go at the right time, you will be able to watch dolphins and whales. During winter and spring, gray whale populations migrate through the sanctuary, and in warmer months, blue whales and humpback whales migrate as well. Depending on what time you visit, you will be able to see minke whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, northern right whale dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and even a killer whale or two.


Always take sunscreen and appropriate swimwear when interacting with dolphins. You might consider a water resistant digital camera to capture some of your favorite moments.


Remember that you will be interacting up close and personal with animals. Always follow the instructions of the trainer. Make sure children fit the height and age requirement if you plan on bringing them along.


Sea World San Diego

Dolphin Safari

Monterey Bay

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