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a dog swimming in the waterNo matter how long locals have lived along the Emerald Coast or how many times the tourists have come to visit, catching a glimpse of a dolphin, or pod of dolphins playing in the emerald green waters never fails to delight. The Emerald Coast is home to  both Atlantic spotted dolphins and bottle nose dolphins and they are here all year long. Curious by nature, dolphins will often come close to unassuming swimmers, kayakers, paddle boarders, and tour boats. If you’re considering getting up and close and personal with these playful mammals, there are ethical ways to ensure their safety and long term well-being.

a person riding a surfboard in the water

Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are another great way to respectfully and ethically get up close and personal with these playful animals. Since the kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards are unmotorized, you’ll go unnoticed by the dolphins, almost guaranteeing a close encounter. Choctawhatchee Bay, Crystal Beach, and Henderson Beach State Park are all great spots for a dolphin encounter, especially early in the morning when they feed and late afternoon. Your rental company may also have some favorite spots for dolphin watching.





a bird swimming in waterIf you opt for a “swim with the dolphin” style encounter, your ethically oriented operators will not try to trap or coral the dolphin’sinn shallow areas. This makes it harder for the dolphins to rest and eat, and could endanger them long term. Ethical  dolphin encounters will bring you to a dolphin spot and let you snorkel in the area, patiently waiting for the dolphins to find you- which they almost certainly will. You can check out the social media platforms and websites of both the Born Free Foundation and the World Cetacean Alliance for more information about ethical dolphin encounters.

The Pier on Okaloosa Island is another great spot to ethically watch for dolphins. Finally, many of Destin, Okaloosa Island, and Fort Walton Beach’s water front dining establishments offer some of the best views of dolphins. You can grab a cocktail, catch the sunset and watch the evening dolphin show. Cheers of “look, there’s a dolphin!” are so much more enjoyable when you know that you are helping to protect these amazing sea creatures!


The Southern StarOne of the best ways to see dolphins is to hop on the Southern Star Dolphin Cruise from  HarborWalk Village. Our experienced dolphin boat captain, Captain Jason, knows where to find the most playful dolphins around. Many times, the dolphin will race along the boat before jumping and twisting in the air.  Our dolphin trips observe the animals in their natural environment are respectful of the dolphin’s space, and let’s the animal come to us; Captain Jason and our team will never encircle a pod or drive through their “playground” which can injure them.  Our ethical dolphin tours will approach the dolphins slowly, and never from the front or rear. Responsible dolphin cruise operators, like Captain Jason, will have a knowledgeable guide on board, who can educate as well as entertain, reminding their guests that humans are visitors to the dolphin’s domain, and will work to keep that delicate balance intact.

To book the Southern Star, click the “Book now” button at the top of this post!

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