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What’s it Like to Swim With Dolphins in Cabo, Mexico?

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
There are two swim-with-dolphin centers in Cabo (Credit: 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.

Me (Janice) kissing a dolphin

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.

Dolphin Swim in Cabo San Lucas
These dolphins look happy, don’t they?

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. 

Greeting a dolphin during a dolphin swim
Greeting a dolphin during a dolphin swim

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

Dolphin facts

We mentioned that during your dolphin swim in Cabo, trainers share educational information about dolphins.

A dolphin with its teeth showing
Cool! Dolphins have teeth!

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?

Probably not.

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).

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About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

KC Krause

Thursday 21st of April 2022

As a lifelong surfer/ocean lover and lover of all living things, I have huge daily empathy for all things living, including plants, insects, molecules in the fresh air, and pretty much anything that is living in any sense of the word.

Yet, we live in a world with billions of human beings... How many human beings are treated inhumanely? How many human beings are fed and clothed with a roof over their head - even in the US, the wealthiest country in history, millions of Americans are not living a humane life.

So given all of this, I feel human contact education with any living thing is a net positive result. If you get rid of all zoos and contained interactions with living things, the net effect is increased inhumane treatment and killing of living beings due to lack of knowledge and experience.

I have seen and surfed with 100s of dolphins over the decades in the wild ocean and think/feel this is a great educational life-affirming opportunity that every human, especially kids should experience at least once in a lifetime...

Janice and George

Thursday 21st of April 2022

Thank you for sharing your views :-).

Lindsey

Thursday 20th of February 2020

This is really disheartening to see. I really don’t understand how people can promote these places. Their website states the dolphins weren’t taken from areas of conflict, but they weren’t rescued so they were captured and separated from their families. There is no such thing as a humane way to capture a dolphin. They only look happy because that’s the expression a dolphin carries, they do not perform these tricks in the wild they are forced to learn unnatural behaviors. It’s all around awful.

Janice and George

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Thanks for reading our post and sharing your views :-).

We've mentioned that the issue is complicated. And the previous comments go into detail about the pros and cons.

We've also mentioned that we personally wouldn't swim with dolphins again (unless it was in the wild). But if visitors want to go (and we understand the desire to interact with dolphins!), we want them to know that we think Dolphin Discovery is the "better" program.

Nour

Thursday 4th of October 2018

Amazing photos ! I would like to experience swimming with the dolphins. I'm sure it'd be a wonderful adventure

Rebecca

Sunday 3rd of April 2016

We were visiting Cabo San Lucas staying in a hotel that overlooks the swim-with-the-dolphins pen. This is the height of inhumanity - penning wild animals for the entertainment and amusement of humans. Highly intelligent animals in, essentially, the equal to solitary confinement for humans ... prison for the rest of their natural born days. Rescue sanctuaries are one thing - where healing and release take place. This is quite another. "Happy" dolphins? More like the tears of a clown.

MelPass

Sunday 25th of June 2017

Vacations, oceans, beaches and family is wonderful. Making money is great. You do not have to exploit animals to do it. People need to know the truth how these animals are captured and treated. You should be ashamed.

Janice and George

Tuesday 5th of April 2016

Thanks for reading our blog post and for commenting. As travel writers, we've seen several swim-with-dolphin programs over the years - in Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc. This looks to be one of the better programs. But our views are changing. The more we learn about the needs of wild animals (like the elephants in Africa - see our post), the more sympathetic we are to their plight. Keeping wild animals in captivity purely for profit or the entertainment of humans does sadden us. We don't believe this is the case with Dolphin Discovery in Los Cabos. The staff we met and talked with were committed, intelligent and caring. But we probably won't participate in future dolphin swims again :-).

Roger Proudfoot

Friday 27th of February 2015

Janice and George,

Very sad to see you promoting swim with dolphin programmes. You say you are aware of the Cove, have you actually watched it? If you truly love dolphins you would not be promoting this experience. I recently returned from Baja and went out on a small boat from Loreto to see dolphins for the same cost as the Cabos swim with dolphins. We spent a couple of hours with a bottle nose super pod which was truly an amazing experience.

Your blog only promotes swim with dolphin programmes and irrespective of where these dolphins were from by default it promotes the dolphin drives in Taiji. Once dolphinarium specimens are chosen the rest are slaughtered in the most barbaric way (a spike is driven into their spine and a plug is put in their blow hole so the cove doesn't go as red as it used to).

They have been around a lot longer than us, and are likely to be the most intelligent beings on the planet - they have a complex language, names for each other, have a more highly developed emotional cortex than humans - the list goes on. I think if you did your research you would come to love dolphins in a different way and not feel the need to promote such appalling entertainment.

By the way they are not happy - they are slaves to food.

Janice and George

Friday 27th of February 2015

Roger, you raise some very good points. We actually don't aim to promote swim-with-dolphin programs. Our blog post is a report on our experience and the research we came across. Personally, we prefer to see creatures in the wild. Your experience seeing dolphins in the wild in Loreto is one we're sure we'd enjoy too :-). Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts...