As a traveler, I have a pretty extensive bucket list. One of the items on that list is swimming with wild dolphins. Ever since I was a kid, dolphins have been one of my favorite animals. I remember watching TV shows like Flipper and Seaquest, and being so excited to see dolphins on the screen.
Now as an adult, I realize there’s a difference between the dolphins we see on screen (and in dolphin shows), and the dolphins that live in the ocean. The former are, for all intents and purposes, domesticated and living in captivity. The latter, on the other hand, are free, though sometimes living a perilous life. Despite all this, my fascination with dolphins still remains.
We saw wild dolphins when we were in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. It was such an amazing experience to see these creatures up close and personal. So when I found out there are wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, I knew I had to see them too. I wanted to have that quintessential swimming with dolphins Mexico experience.
This post was updated on May 22, 2020.
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Things to know about the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is located in Banderas Bay, on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The dolphins in Puerto Vallarta are primarily bottlenose dolphins. However, you can also find spotted dolphins, rough toothed dolphins, and occasionally, spinner dolphins. Orcas are rare, but some still do come to Banderas Bay.
Although the bottlenose dolphins are not endangered, the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta still face a few threats. Human activities can impact dolphins in several ways. Pollutants in the water, or dense human development along coastal areas, can greatly impact the habitats of dolphins.
Additionally, dolphin shows and dolphin encounters, which are popular tourist attractions, can pose potential dangers to the animals’ mental well-being. Watch the movie, Blackfish, to gain insight on the dangerous effects of cetaceas in captivity.
In August 2017, Mexico City passed a law banning the use of dolphins and whales in shows, therapy sessions, and scientific experiments. But outside the city limits, dolphin shows and dolphin interactions are still common. Cities like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun are popular cities for these attractions.
Experiencing swimming with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta
Some companies in Puerto Vallarta offer a swimming with dolphins Mexico experience where you can touch and interact with dolphins. But it’s important to know that these are captive dolphins.
Although the companies claim to treat the animals humanely, dolphins are not meant to live in captivity. There are much more ethical ways to experience dolphins in Puerto Vallarta.
In my opinion, the best way to see dolphins in Puerto Vallarta is by taking a dolphin ocean excursion. This way, you can experience swimming with wild dolphins and you can have an educational experience while you’re traveling too.
One of the companies that offers these types of experiences is Ecotours de Mexico. They recently invited us to do one of their wild dolphin encounters.
Read more about how you can travel more responsibly here.
Dolphin excursions with Ecotours de Mexico
Ecotours de Mexico was founded in 1991 and offers nature excursions, adventure-based activities, and expeditions throughout Banderas Bay. A founding member of the Mexican Association of Adventure Travel and Eco-tourism (AMTAVE), Ecotours de Mexico continues to play a role in animal conservation through its support of a local non-profit organization called Ecobac (Ecología y Conservación de Ballenas, Ecology and Conservation of Whales). Ecobac conducts whale research, and also promotes whale conservation in Banderas Bay.
The Wild Dolphins and Snorkeling Combo excursion offered by Ecotours de Mexico is a great way to stay active during travel and have a swimming with dolphins Mexico experience in a more ethical way. Rather than swimming with dolphins in a tank, you’re swimming with wild dolphins, in their natural environment!
Book the excursion here: Wild dolphins encounter & snorkeling at Los Arcos
During the excursion, not only can you see the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, but you’ll also have a chance to see other marine life. We did an excursion with Ecotours de Mexico recently, and in addition to seeing bottlenose dolphins, we also saw various kinds of tropical fish, rays, and puffer fish!
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Other activities offered by Ecotours de Mexico
If swimming with wild dolphins isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other activities that Ecotours de Mexico offers. You can take your pick between bird watching, a sea turtle encounter, snorkeling, scuba diving, whale watching, and more.
Take a look at the selection of tours you can do with Ecotours de Mexico:
Encounter with nature at the sea turtle camp
Marietas Islands snorkeling & hidden beach
What to expect when you’re swimming with wild dolphins
Before you go and book your wild dolphins excursion, there are a few things that you need to know. Unlike a dolphin show, this experience is not going to be non-stop entertainment and excitement. In actuality, it’s much like any nature excursion where you never really know what you’re going to get.
With that said, our kids still had a lot of fun! And for me, I enjoyed the chance to teach my kids about nature, while being out in the wild. If you’re planning to see do some swimming with wild dolphins, here are a few things you can expect.
1. Expect to swim a lot
Dolphins are FAST! Especially wild dolphins. Most of our dolphin excursion time was spent driving out to where the dolphins were and trying to spot the dolphins. Once we spotted them, we had to jump in the water quickly and try to swim over to where they were. Ecotours de Mexico offers flippers and life vests to help you stay afloat, but you’ll still need to be able to swim if you want to have a chance to see the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta.
2. Expect not to touch the dolphins
Wild dolphins have a protective layer on their skin that helps prevent them from getting sick from any of the bacteria in the water. Before our swimming with wild dolphins excursion, our guide at Ecotours de Mexico advised us to avoid touching the dolphins. Doing so could potentially rub off some of that protective layer on their skin. Additionally, we could run the risk of passing our germs on to the dolphins.
3. Be prepared to wait
Waiting is a normal part of any nature excursion. I think we get too spoiled by animal shows, thinking that we need to be entertained every single minute in order to get our money’s worth. In actuality, most of the animal encounters you experience during nature excursion are simply by chance. Unlike the dolphins you see in dolphin shows, wild dolphins are shy. So unless they feel like it, they won’t automatically come up to the boat and swim with you. Expect to wait around a lot for the dolphins to show up. We certainly did.
4. Know that they might not want to swim with you
Our swimming with wild dolphins experience was a lot of fun, but to be honest, we didn’t actually get to swim with the dolphins. Since dolphins are naturally shy, none of the dolphins wanted to swim with us that day. We did, however, get to see many dolphins from our boat. Don’t be disappointed if this happens to you as well. Just seeing the wild dolphins in their natural habitat is amazing enough!
Curious about what else to do in Jalisco state? Read more posts here.
A memorable swimming with dolphins Mexico experience
All in all, we had a memorable experience with Ecotours de Mexico. Even though we didn’t get to actually experience swimming with wild dolphins, we still had a chance to see them. And we also were able to see other amazing sea animals during our snorkeling experience.
Our kids were very excited after our excursion, and couldn’t stop talking about all the animals we saw. I think that, alone, makes the trip a success in my book!
Have you had a chance to experience dolphins in Puerto Vallarta? Share your swimming with dolphins Mexico experience in the comments.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received a complimentary Wild Dolphins and Snorkeling Combo experience for our family from Ecotours de Mexico in exchange for this blog post. However, the views and opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.
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I’ve been lucky to do this quite a few times in Australia. Such amazing creatures!
Yes, they really are. Lucky you!
This is such an amazing experience. We visited wild dolphins in the south of Spain a few years ago but we didn’t have the chance to swim with them. After swimming with sea turtles this past Spring I’d love to give my kids the opportunity to do this. Next time we’re in Mexico we’ll definitely seek out Ecotours de Mexico!
I’ve always wanted to do this in my home town Perth. Such incredibly intelligent animals. I love seeing them in the wild.
That is a bunch of interesting information on what to do when swimming with dolphins. I didn’t know that dolphins are shy. They do give an impression of being very friendly. Looks like it was a fabulous day.
I’m glad you have highlighted the importance of choosing a responsible tour company to go with. You have provided useful pointers on how to swim with wild dolphins in an ethical and responsible way. I would also love to try this one day.
While I think it’s interesting to see marine life from up-close, I’d be as worried about swimming with dolphins as I’d be around sharks or any other massive, powerful, wild animals. Even if they’re known to have a friendlier nature than other wild animals 🙂
What a great post, Astrid. That is kind of ironic that CDMX banned using the animals in shows despite being nowhere near water. Hopefully PVR and Cancún will follow suit soon. Your experience reminds me a lot of whale watching near Monterey, CA. It may not be as “up close” as a show with animals in captivity, but it’s honestly a lot more exciting since like you said, you never know exactly what you’ll see. And for the welfare of the animals, it’s definitely worth it. Thanks for sharing and providing such good info!