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Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins

When it comes to wildlife sightings on our Holo Holo Kauai boat tours and Niihau boat tours, spinner dolphins are usually the star of the show.

Generally, spinner dolphins can be described as relatively small, with varying shades of grey and often a creamy white patch on their belly. They have long, thin beaks with a dark tip. That said, individual spinner dolphins display quite a lot of physical variance and thus, their acrobatic dance moves are hands-down the most reliable way to recognize them. You’ll know them when you see them!

As the name implies, spinner dolphins’ signature move is leaping energetically out of the water and spinning (up to seven full revolutions!) before hitting the water again. It’s terrifically impressive and downright fun to watch. It’s impossible not to smile when you see a spinner dolphin doing its thing!

Kauai dolphin boat tour

Spinner dolphins hunt at night, feeding on the ocean’s “scattering layer” of marine life (fish, jellyfish, krill, squid, etc.) that rises to the water’s surface in the evenings. During the day, spinners dolphins seek sanctuary in nearshore waters, where they socialize, rest, nurture their young and yes, spin!

There’s debate as to why spinner dolphins do what they do. Is the spinning for echolocation, playing, communicating, shedding parasites? Scientists and researchers still aren’t sure but suspect there’s a combination of reasons.

The spinner dolphin population around Kauai is strong and sightings are extremely common on all our Kauai and Niihau boat tours. However, please know that our captains will never chase down, follow, or otherwise harass spinner dolphins to fulfill any sort of dolphin-sighting “guarantees,” unlike some other tour boat operators.

For years, Holo Holo Charters has voluntarily participated in NOAA’s Dolphin Smart Program, and we wholeheartedly believe that respecting these beautiful creatures’ space is our responsibility to the dolphins, to the planet at large, and to future generations of humans as well.