Can you swim with dolphins in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico? Yes…
Should you? The answer is complicated.
Hands and legs outstretched in the “Superman” position, I (Janice) tried not to do a face-plant as I bobbed unsteadily on the surface of the water.
I was waiting for two dolphins to push me up out of the water in the famous “foot push.”
The dolphins didn’t disappoint as I followed in the wake of hundreds of other excited tourists before me.
Both dolphins in unison – each pushing on the arch of one foot – shot me along the water. Then I was up, up, up and completely out. For a few thrilling moments, I felt like I was flying before splashing down.
Swimming with dolphins in Cabo San Lucas is one of the most popular activities in Cabo.
I swam with dolphins in Los Cabos (at a center that is now closed).
Read on for our Cabo dolphin swim review to find out if you’d like to enjoy a similar experience at Cabo Dolphins…
Dolphin swim in Cabo (About Cabo Dolphins)
Cabo Dolphins runs two spots where you can swim with Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Los Cabos.
The first, found at the Cabo San Lucas Marina, houses these friendly dolphins in a spacious tank, almost like a massive aquarium.
Their second new dolphinarium is located in the hotel zone of San Jose del Cabo.
Managed by Cabo Adventures, it’s worth noting that this dolphin center holds the Humane Conservation certification from American Humane. That means they go above and beyond to meet or surpass American standards of animal care.
The certification program was developed by scientists, vets and wildlife experts.
Its goal is to encourage zoos, aquariums and other places where hands-on animal encounters take place to operate under higher quality standards – and to show that they are helping with animal and wildlife conservation and rehabilitation.
The most popular swim with dolphin experiences
All of the following dolphin swim experiences include hotel transfers and a tour of the dolphin center.
1) Dolphin Signature Swim
In the Dolphin Signature Swim program, you’ll first learn a little about the dolphins and how to properly interact with them by touching, hugging and kissing them.
Afterward, you get in the pool for your 40-minute encounter.
Get nose-to-nose with your dolphin. Let your dolphin give you a belly ride. And more!
What was incredible for me was to feel first-hand how fast dolphins swim and how strong they are!
I had to hang on tight if I didn’t want to fall off my dolphin.
Time in the water: 40 minutes
2) Dolphin Encounter
In the Dolphin Encounter, you stand on a submerged platform in the water, and kiss, hug and pet a dolphin as you learn a little about dolphin behavior.
Families can be together to experience this (infants as young as one year old can participate). Kids can shake a flipper, pet the dolphin’s slippery skin and even give it a dolphin smooch.
A trainer will be in the water to teach you about the dolphin’s anatomy and behavior and to guide you through your dolphin encounter.
Time in the water: 20 minutes
3) Dolphin Trainer for a Day
The Dolphin Trainer for a Day program is the “Cadillac” program, and it’s also family-friendly.
Learn to communicate, train, feed, touch and swim with these amazing creatures. Your adventure includes lunch, a trainer’s t-shirt, diploma and a professional photo.
You’ll also be giving back when you join this tour.
A portion of the tour cost goes toward supporting education and rehabilitation initiatives at Cabo Dolphins.
Time: 4½ hours
We mentioned that during your dolphin swim in Cabo, trainers share educational information about dolphins.
For example, you’ll probably learn these 8 cool facts about dolphins:
- Dolphins don’t drink water – they get what they need from eating fish.
- Killer whales are actually part of the dolphin family.
- Dolphins never totally sleep – half their brain needs to be awake to breathe.
- Adult bottlenose dolphins are known to teach young dolphins how to wrap sponges around their bottle noses to protect against abrasions when foraging for fish buried in the sandy sea floor.
- Dolphins live in pods of up to 12 dolphins; young dolphins swim with their mothers for up to 6 years.
- A mom-to-be bottlenose dolphin is pregnant for about 12 months.
- Dolphins use “echolocation” to move around and find food – they send out clicks that bounce off (like an echo) from other objects under water (e.g., rocks, food, other dolphins).
- Like female humans, female dolphins can take pleasure in “making love.”
Should you swim with dolphins in captivity?
We’ve swum with whale sharks in the wild at La Paz (a 2-hour drive north of San Jose del Cabo) – and it’s one thing to be with creatures roaming wild.
So to be honest, we were a little concerned about the ethics of interacting with captive dolphins.
It’s worth noting that animal rights organizations, like People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), are opposed to all swim-with-dolphin programs (and also all marine parks and aquariums).
On the other hand, there is research showing that swimming with dolphins isn’t all bad.
Proponents say that people who participate in dolphin interaction programs ultimately learn more about them and become more interested in helping to protect dolphins and conserving the marine environment.
Also, new research shows that, in general, bottlenose dolphins live longer in captivity than in the wild.
Bottom line? Swim with dolphins, Cabo San Lucas, review
Would we go swimming with dolphins in Cabo now?
Several years have passed since I enjoyed my dolphin swim.
And the more we’ve traveled and observed animals in the wild (like our “Big 5” safari in Africa), the more our views have changed about interacting with wild creatures.
In an ideal world, dolphins would live out their lives in freedom in their natural ocean environments.
If we wished, we could go to them and swim in their world. And they might even welcome us and say hello (like the wild dolphins in Mozambique that we swam with).
So, personally, we wouldn’t swim with dolphins in Los Cabos now. (And we know it’s easy for us to say this, having already enjoyed the experience.)
But the issue is complicated. And we understand the desire to rescue injured and orphaned dolphins and the need for better dolphin protection awareness and education.
The question is probably not whether to swim with dolphins (which stimulates them) but rather: Should dolphins be kept in captivity in the first place?
Have you gone swimming with dolphins?
What do you think about dolphin swim programs? You can share your views in the Comments below (and read other people’s comments too).