Today we took a long bus drive out to Waianae Harbor to board the Dolphin Star, a large catamaran built specially for ocean viewing.


The bus drive was in a Royal Star motorcoach, with comfortable seats, leg rests, and many LCD displays on which a short, introductory video played that informed us about the different dolphin and sea-animal types we might be able to see from the boat. An important note, because it took us about 90 minutes to get from Waikiki to Waianae and almost two hours to get back due to traffic.


The Dolphin Star itself was fairly comfortable due to its size, and had an interior dining room as well as its top viewing deck. Waianae was dry as usual, but the weather wasn’t too hot and the sea breeze kept us comfortably cool. After a short welcome and introduction from the captain and crew, we set off from the harbor and began our search for dolphins.


We quickly spotted a small pod of bottlenose dolphins, which according to the crew hadn’t happened in months. We were told that bottlenoses are typically shyer than spinner dolphins and didn’t often come towards boats, but this pod came real close, giving us a good look and allowing Mikiko and Eriko to take some great pictures.

Photo credit: Mikiko


The pod stayed near us for a while before disappearing (important dolphin business, no doubt), but soon after that we spotted a pair of honu.

Green sea turtles aren’t nearly as curious as dolphins, but we were able to snap a few pictures from afar before they dove out of sight.


A honu, or green sea turtle

We then headed further up the coast in search of more dolphins.



The captain explained that spinner dolphins were a common sight for them, as they often rested in shallow waters. As a nocturnal species, spinner dolphins sleep with one half of their brain awake and swimming, so they stay near the surface during the day.


Soon enough, we spotted them.


There were a lot of spinners. We spotted at least two pods. Most of them didn’t come as close to the boat as the bottlenoses did, but we still got some great pictures.



After a while, we were informed that lunch was being served. We were pretty surprised with how awesome lunch was. We had freshly-grilled burgers on taro buns, with fresh lettuce, tomato, avocado, and pineapple, served with a side of taro chips. It was delicious and really filling!

Photo credit: Eriko
Photo credit: Mikiko

I’m glad we got the chance to go on the dolphin watch. The entire experience was fun, and we got to see many more marine animals than I expected.

Mikiko, Eriko, and I went in the morning, which was just a dolphin watch tour, but Emily and Marisa got to attend the afternoon tour which included a snorkel as well.

If you’re on Oahu staying on Ko Olina, you should definitely go on a dolphin watch from Waianae Harbor, and the Dolphin Star is as good as it gets.

Even if you’re staying in Waikiki, the long bus ride is a great way for you to see the southern coast, as you drive past a lot of major Oahu landmarks such as Ala Moana, Kakaako, Downtown Honolulu, the airport, Aloha Stadium, Pearl Harbor and Pearlridge Center, Wet’n’Wild, and Ko Olina.

If you’re don’t feel like driving out, there are popular snorkeling destinations in Waikiki, such as Turtle Canyon, as well as whale watching cruises in the winter months (December to April).


Got questions about dolphin watching? Planning your first dolphin watch or snorkeling trip? Let us know in the comments!