After college, I volunteered to support a team of scientists studying Common and Striped dolphins in the Alboran Sea off the coast of Marbella, Spain. On one particular day, we spotted an enormous pod of dolphins playing, mating, and swimming with their young calves. It was a rare and wonderful experience to witness so many of these majestic creatures at one time in their natural habitat.
As the volunteer driver of the Zodiac, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive in the water with more than a hundred wild dolphins. That was an epic, incredible adventure that’s hard to replicate and impossible to fully describe in words.
While I cannot take my 8-year-old on an extended scientific research expedition, I have taken her to Duck Key, Florida for a dip in the ocean with trained dolphins. If you have ever dreamed of interacting with an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, read on for our list of the best places to swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys.
Where to Swim With Dolphins in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is comprised of a collection of small tropical islands stretched across 120 miles. Located at the southern tip of Florida, the Keys are a popular destination for various water sports, including fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
There are also a few great places to book a memorable experience swimming with dolphins.
Theater of the Sea
Founded in 1946, Theater of the Sea is one of the first facilities to specialize in marine mammal education and live entertainment. General admission to the park includes a trainer-led dolphin show as well as various programs with sea lions, alligators, and other marine life. The popular parrot shows are also quite entertaining.
Admission includes access to a fish and reptile tour as well as a bottomless boat ride and access to the on-site lagoon beach. Dolphin interaction programs include both shallow water and deep water experiences.
Animal encounter programs extend beyond dolphins. This is the best place for a broad selection of interactive programs with marine life. You can choose to meet and feed sea turtles, swim with sharks, swim with rays, or swim with sea lions.
Location: 84721 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, Florida
Dolphin Swims at Theater of the Sea
Select from various dolphin interactions designed for all ages and levels of swimming experience. Current rates range from $115 to $235 per person, depending on the selected swim program.
Dolphin Research Center
Established in 1984, the non-profit Dolphin Research Center encourages the advancement of peaceful coexistence between humans, marine mammals, and the environment through research and education.
The DRC is open daily with the exception of select holidays, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Location: 58901 Overseas Hwy, Grassy Key, Florida
Dolphin Swims at Dolphin Research Center
Current rates start at around $100 per participant per program. The fee includes general admission to the Research Center.
Dolphins Plus offers four different types of encounters with bottlenose dolphins. Prior to getting in the water, the staff at Dolphins Plus will present an educational briefing about dolphin anatomy and biology, ocean conservation, descriptions of dolphin interactions, and safety guide.
Location: 101900 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, Florida
Dolphin Swims at Dolphins Plus
Select a personal experience that will be the best way for you and your family to swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys. Based on the age and swimming experience of the individuals who plan to participate, you may want to choose a shallow water encounter or deep water swims.
Current rates for this interactive program range from $120 to $225 per person. Swimmers aged 7 – 17 must be accompanied by an adult. Advanced reservations are recommended to secure the date and time slot that works best for your schedule.
Dolphin Connection at Hawks Cay Resort
Hawks Cay Resort is the only resort in the continental United States that has a swim-with-dolphins program onsite. The Resort’s Dolphin Connection is located in the ocean-fed saltwater lagoon near the main lodge. This is a great way to witness Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in action at nearly any time.
Book a reservation in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on this interactive swimming experience during your stay.
Location: 61 Hawks Cay Blvd, Duck Key, Florida
Dolphin Swims at Dolphin Connection
Enjoy a presentation to learn about the marine ecosystem and safety precautions before getting up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins in the Florida Keys. Dolphin Connection provides wet suits that you can wear for the in-water experience. Both dockside and in-water programs are offered. A paying adult must accompany minors.
Current rates range from $25 to $400 per person, depending on the program selected (and excluding private platform group experiences). Digital photos are included in the price of all programs.
Hawks Cay Resort
If you’re visiting from out of town, you can book a Hawks Cay Resort vacation to enjoy the dolphin swim as well as other activities and local attractions.
This family-friendly resort has a kids club area with age-appropriate activities, a water splash, a playground, and mini golf. The resort also offers a lagoon-side beach, swimming pool, cafe, and a couple of restaurants on the property. Other activities include tennis, boating, fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling trips, among others.
Florida Keys Swim With Dolphins
Founded in 1995, Florida Keys Swim offers family experiences to swim with dolphins, snorkel trips, and sea lion swims. As with the other swim with dolphin programs, the encounters at Florida Keys Swim With Dolphins include the chance to experience a dorsal fin ride with two dolphins, a foot push, or possibly a belly ride.
Location: 101425 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida
Dolphin Swims at Florida Keys Swim With Dolphins
Current rates range from $185 to $310 per person, depending on the selected dolphin encounter program. Participants must be at least 5 years old. Reservations are required.
Which Florida Keys Dolphin Swim Will You Choose?
We always love to hear from our readers. Remember to leave your suggestions, questions, and comments below. Any tips you provide can help others who are planning their trip to the Florida Keys. We can’t wait to hear about your next incredible, memorable, outdoor experience!
Related Reading: Top RV Parks in Florida Keys
After graduating from college with a degree in animal behavior, Isabel allowed herself some time to get closer to nature. She took a leap to the European countryside and hiked her way through Switzerland, Italy and Portugal before returning to the US. It’s clear now she was meant to be an outdoorsy gal as she spends her days camping and hiking the trails along both coasts and cozies up to the campfire with pen and paper to chronicle her travels. TREKKN is fortunate to have her on the team.