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Meet Hawaii’s Pelagic Dolphins: Oahu Dolphin Species Guide

When exploring Hawaii’s marine wonders, swimming with dolphins becomes an enticing adventure, especially with the diverse array of species inhabiting its waters. There are up to 18 species of dolphins that can be seen in the Hawaiian Islands. 

Dive into the captivating world of Hawaii’s pelagic dolphins, where each Oahu dolphin species offers a unique and enchanting experience. From the iconic spins of Spinner Dolphins to the playful antics of Bottlenose Dolphins, Hawaii’s ocean waters are alive with the magic of these intelligent creatures.

Use the Oahu Dolphin Species Guide below to identify which dolphin you may have seen during an Aloha Ocean dolphin swim tour or other Oahu activities:

Oahu Dolphin Species Guide

Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris)

Spinner Dolphins

Spinner Dolphins, known for their playful spins and jumps, grace Hawaii’s coastal waters in abundance. Because these species rest in Hawaii’s shallow bays during the day to reserve energy for hunting at night, regulations prohibit swimming with Spinner Dolphins to ensure that their resting is undisturbed. Observing them from a boat at a respectful distance remains a rewarding experience, allowing for admiration of their social interactions and acrobatic displays.

While Spinner Dolphins are protected from swimming encounters by state law, other dolphin species offer remarkable opportunities for immersive experiences in the ocean. The other species listed in this article are pelagic (deep-water) species.

Research has not shown sleep pattern disruptions from short-term, day-time human interactions in the following pelagic species. Aloha Ocean only interacts with these pelagic species underwater during our tours.

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose Dolphins

 

Bottlenose Dolphins are perhaps the most iconic dolphin species, known for their social demeanor and high intelligence. They are the dolphins you are most likely to be familiar with, with famous public figures like “Flipper” among them.

About three times larger than Spinner Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins can occasionally be seen swimming along the coast in Hawaii, but they most often hunt in deeper waters. Their distinctive curved dorsal fin and playful behavior make them a delight to observe.

Rough-Toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis)

Rough Toothed Dolphin

 

Rough-toothed Dolphins are named for the ridges on their teeth, which give them a distinctive appearance. These elusive dolphins are often found in deeper offshore waters, where they hunt for fish and squid.

While encounters with them are less common, their sleek bodies and curious nature make them a sought-after sight for wildlife enthusiasts.

Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus)

Risso Dolphins

 

Risso’s Dolphins are easily recognizable by their unique scarred appearance, caused by interactions with other dolphins and parasites. These solitary dolphins are often found in deeper waters, where they feed on squid and other deep-sea creatures.

Swimming with them is a rare but exhilarating experience.

Short-beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Common Dolphins

 

Common Dolphins, with their striking patterns and playful personalities. While Common Dolphins may appear similar in appearance to Spinner Dolphins at first glance, their colorings are different. Spinner dolphins are shades of grey and white, while Common Dolphins underside is more tan or yellow in color. 

Swimming encounters with these dynamic creatures is captivating, as they dart and dive through the waves with unmatched agility and grace.

Other Species

 

Hawaii’s pelagic waters are also home to other dolphin species, including False Killer Whales, Pilot Whales, Pygmy Killer Whales, and Melon-Headed Whales.

Swimming encounters with these lesser-known species provide opportunities for discovery and appreciation of the diverse marine life inhabiting Hawaii’s oceanic realm.

 

Experience the Beauty of Oahu's Dolphin Species on a tour with Aloha Ocean

 

Hawaii’s pelagic waters are also home to other dolphin species, including False Killer Whales, Pilot Whales, Pygmy Killer Whales, and Melon-Headed Whales. Swimming encounters with these lesser-known species provide opportunities for discovery and appreciation of the diverse marine life inhabiting Hawaii’s oceanic realm.

Many of Aloha Ocean‘s tour guests have the opportunity to encounter at least one of these fascinating dolphin species on their tour. 

Hawaii offers ample opportunities to embrace the enchanting world of pelagic dolphins through respectful and immersive encounters. By fostering a deep connection with these magnificent creatures and their ocean home, visitors can gain a newfound appreciation for Hawaii’s rich marine heritage.