Visitors are often surprised at how often they see dolphins during their time on Hilton Head Island. It’s common to see a small pod sneaking a peak at the beachgoers just off the waterline, and of course, those navigating the marshes lining the intracoastal waterway looking for some grub as well. However easy it may be to see a dorsal fin or two pop out of the water, those magical moments can seem like they’re over before they began if you’re stuck on land. For the full experience and the chance to get out on the water, make reservations for your group to venture out on a dolphin cruise.
But which cruise is right for you? Read on for a basic breakdown of what to expect out of each of our favorite cruising companies.
Ocean Dolphin Cruise
Sunset Dolphin Cruise
Groups of any size will love either dolphin cruise—or any other cruise, for that matter—by Vagabond Cruise. Leaving out of the Harbour Town Marina, you’ll have some pros and cons. On one hand, you’ll be able to see the iconic lighthouse, beautiful yacht basin, and be surrounded by plenty of shopping and dining to spend a few hours before or after your scheduled cruise. The only down side of this location is the limited parking in the busy summer season.
Because you’re leaving from the Harbour Town Marina, you are already in the thick of the beautiful Calibogue Sound with great views of not only Hilton Head, but Daufuskie and even Tybee Island’s Lighthouse. Your pictures will be incredible to say the least.
The boat used is the biggest on our list. The Vagabond, measuring 82 ft. in length, has two levels for seating and is mostly used for nature cruises. You approximately 148 other passengers will be comfortable during the cruise—but that’s not saying every scheduled cruise will have that many people on board.
Disappearing Island Dolphin Cruise
Smaller groups will love hopping aboard Island Head’s boat to discover the inland waterways and of course, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitat. Leaving out of the Broad Creek Marina, you’ll have an easy time finding parking and finding your boat. This marina is also where the restaurants, Up the Creek Pub & Grill and Fishcamp are located if you’d like to plan on eating a delicious lunch or dinner in an easy-going atmosphere. You’ll also be close to Adventure Hilton Head, the island’s adventure sports center.
Island Head’s Dolphin Tour is 90 minutes, and the Disappearing Island Dolphin Cruise is 2.5 hours and includes a visit to a stunning sandbar that’s perfect for collecting shells and soaking in the beauty of the surrounding Lowcountry. Remember to bring sun protection such as sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, etc. as you’ll be in constant sunshine for both tours!
Hilton Head Island Dolphin Tour (Private Available)
Sunset Dolphin Tour
Dolphins & Donuts
Disappearing Island Dolphin Tour (Private Available)
Sunset & Fireworks Dolphin Tour (Private Available)
Depending how big your group is and how long you’d like to be out on the water for, Lowcountry Watersports guarantees that guests aboard any of their boats will have one thing in common: they are guaranteed to see dolphins.
Leaving out of Palmetto Bay Marina, visitors of all ages will love getting out on the water and observing wild dolphins. Guides are extremely knowledgeable about not only the area, but the wildlife in the Lowcountry. The boats are on the smaller side, making it a more intimate and comfortable experience no matter the size of your group. These pontoon boats will also feature a cover so you don’t overheat—but make sure to bring some sunscreen anyways!
If you want to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures, try booking yourself on the Dolphins & Donuts tour! The earliest tour of the day, this is your chance to see dolphins and enjoy some fresh, delicious donuts. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend your morning!
One Hour Private Dolphin Tour
Two Hour Private Dolphin Tour
Two Hour Large Private Dolphin Tour
This is the best option for those wanting to go with their group, and their group alone! Get personalized service and create memories with your loved ones that will last a lifetime. Knowledgeable guides will navigate the inland waterways to find the most chances of spotting dolphins—perfect for those wanting to take plenty of pictures.
A normal tour will seat up to 6 passengers in one of the fleet’s newest boats. If you have a group bigger than 6 and less than 20, Hilton Head Boat Charters will accommodate and plan the excursion. Want to see dolphins and more? Let this award-winning company help plan a custom tour for your group to explore the Lowcountry.
Dolphin Experience Tour
The Mermaid of Hilton Head is known for teaching visitors of all ages—especially the kiddos—about marine life and conservation efforts. For a totally magical experience with the chance to see dolphins, plan on getting tickets for the Mermaid Encounter Tour. This specific tour is recommended for ages 2-10, and all passengers will be able to see a real-life mermaid!
Otherwise, if your sole purpose is to see dolphins, book seats for the Dolphin Experience Tour. You’ll have 75 minutes out on the water on board a covered boat with a restroom. It’s comfort and fun at its finest! This tour is great for all ages, and will be a perfect outing for your family.