See various packages available on the website.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t possible imagine an animal experience more cool than swimming with dolphins. There is just something about their smiling faces, inquisitive nature, and gentle dispositions that draws us to them. When I realized that Hilton Waikoloa had its own dolphin program, the kid inside of me squealed with excitement. I knew I had to experience it for myself. I knew it would be fun but I didn’t realize there would be babies!!!!
We couldn’t have arrived at Dolphin Quest at a better time. Keo the dolphin had just had a baby a month ago, another Kona had a calf a couple months earlier, and yet another dolphin was scheduled to go into labor at any time. The day after my dolphin experience, a baby was born! Dolphins are cute but baby dolphins are A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E. Especially 6-hour-old dolphins. 19 dolphins have been born at Dolphin Quest since it opened in 1988, leading me to believe they must be doing something right in the breeding department.
There is always that question of whether dolphins in captivity are happy. All of the dolphins at living at Dolphin Quest were born in captivity and though I am certainly no expert, they all seemed really happy. The bond they share with their trainers is evident to anyone who spends time watching them interact, their medical care is top of the line, and they eat extremely well. I spent quite a bit of time watching families have their own dolphin experiences before I had mine. Each group appeared to be having an amazing time, especially the kids.
I experienced the “Encounter Deluxe” which is for ages 5 and older. During our experience, we got in the water with the dolphins and were able to spend time with Kona and her wee little one. The trainer gave us snorkel masks so that we could head underwater and view the baby dolphin as it swim past us just inches from our faces. It was in incredible experience. While weren’t allowed to touch the baby, we were able to give the mom plenty of pets, rubs, fish, and even a kiss. After our time with Kona and her baby, we also got the chance to see one of the other dolphins do a couple tricks initiated by arm commands taught to us by the trainer. The entire experience in the water was about 30 minutes but felt much shorter because we were having such an incredible time. It was one of those moments that burns into your memory forever.
Tip: Pictures and video can be purchased for an additional fee but if you have someone in your family stand just on the other side of the short fence to watch, they should be able to get some great shots as well.
Pricing: As with everything in Hawaii, Dolphin Quest is expensive. The standard 30-minute dolphin encounter is $210 and available to ages 10 and older. The deluxe encounter is 45 minutes in length, $260 and available to ages 5 and up. There is a special program designed for kids ages 5-9 that is 75 minutes long and includes 20 minutes in the water with the dolphins for $220. There is even a program designed for toddlers (2-4) which gives them 10 minutes of dolphin time for $110. Yes, it is definitely a significant cost and prices are more expensive in Hawaii than dolphin experiences I have researched in Florida. But the difference isn’t huge (about $25) and the experiences could very different. Regardless, there seemed to be a constant flow of people eager play with the dolphins, no matter the cost.
Bottom line: If your dream or your child’s dream is to swim with dolphins, the experience is worth the splurge. There really is nothing like being in the water with a dolphin, especially when it’s a baby dolphin!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary deluxe encounter in order to complete this review and write a story about Hilton Waikoloa Village. All opinions are unbiased and my own.
This is one of a few options for dolphin encounters on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is located on the Hilton Waikoloa Resort property, which is an experience in itself to visit. If you can get past the problem of keeping dolphins in captivity and want to enjoy and up-close encounter, keep this place in mind. Having compared a few options on the islands, this one is one of the most expensive--well over $100 for a 10-minute encounter (and rapidly rising in cost after that). You may have the option to do a lower cost or free encounter if you want to sit through a two-hour sales spiel at the Resort. Check with one of the several time share sales offices on site for this option.