There’s no doubt about it; dolphins are terrifically fun animals to watch. Films like “Blackfish” have raised awareness about the “animal entertainment” industry, questioning the wisdom of keeping marine mammals in captivity.

But on Oahu, there’s a guilt free way to have a dolphin encounter: a cruise aboard the “Dolphin Star.”

Ready to take you away: the "Dolphin Star." (Gillian G. Gaar)

 

The “Dolphin Star” offers Oahu’s Eco-Friendly Cruise for Dolphin Lovers with their dolphin-watching tours, off the coast of Wai’anae. If you don’t want to drive to the harbor yourself, there’s a transportation option (for an additional fee), taking you to Wai’anae Boat Harbor in a comfortable coach.

The two-deck, 65-foot vessel has plenty of room, seating, and shade. Once the boat leaves the harbor, head outside on the wrap around decks to secure a good spot for dolphin viewing. Dolphins are plentiful around Hawaii, and sightings are guaranteed; if by chance the cruise doesn’t find any dolphins, guests can get a “dolphin check” for a future cruise.

It doesn’t take long for the captain to find dolphins. Unlike tours where you swim with dolphins, where the animals tend to swim off once the tour group gets in the water, on a dolphin watching tour you’ll find they hang around in your vicinity a lot longer. The captain makes announcements when dolphins are seen, but if you’re on deck you’ll be well aware if any dolphins are around, as the passengers themselves call out with excitement when a dolphin is spotted. If they’re feeling especially frisky, you’ll see them leap out of the water, and, if it’s a spinner dolphin, leaping and spinning. Have your camera ready!

Learn dolphin facts on your voyage. (Gillian G. Gaar)

 

There are two cruises a day, and the afternoon cruise offers a snorkeling option. When the dolphin watching is done, you’re taken to another spot where you get to plunge beneath the waves and see a variety of fish and large turtles. One of the crew will take a group on a snorkel tour of the area; you’ll be expected to keep up with the group, so if you’d rather have a more leisurely time in the water, skip the tour and stay near the boat. No need to bring any snorkel gear; they provide it. Refreshments are also offered after snorkeling, including a sweet cocktail.

There’s also a lunch option, with freshly grilled burgers served up, along with potato chips and dessert. Even if you don’t have lunch, be sure to take advantage of the free ginger pills the crew passes out, to help alleviate seasickness.

This is a great tour for families Kids will love seeing the dolphins, and there are plenty of crew members on hand to ensure that the snorkeling time is safe. There are also a number of special discounts for children offered throughout the year; check the website for the latest news.

 

And anyone who’s interested in observing dolphins in their native habitat won’t be disappointed either.  The Dolphin Star is Oahu’s Eco-Friendly Cruise for Dolphin Lovers. If you’re a dolphin fan, you may be inclined to hop on board more than once — for the experience will be different each time.