Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise [And How to Book Tickets]

October 11th 2023
Mike Fisher
Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise [And How to Book Tickets]

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is when the best time to watch dolphins is. I may not be an expert on dolphins, but I have been on several dolphin tours in Panama City Beach. Fortunately enough, I have never been on a tour that has not yielded a dolphin or two.

These tours are a must-do, and they are great for families looking for some inexpensive entertainment in Panama City Beach. If you’re trying to figure out what is the best time to take a dolphin cruise, maybe I can help bring a little insight to you.

Table of Contents

  • When is the Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise?
  • How Do I Book a Dolphin Cruise?
  • Why Take a Dolphin Cruise?
  • Best Places to Take a Dolphin Cruise
    • Pensacola Beach
    • Destin
    • Panama City Beach
    • Orange Beach
    • Clearwater
    • Key West



When is the Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise?


olin marler dolphin cruise at sunset in destin florida

Pictured above is a sunset dolphin cruise, with Olin Marler’s Dolphin Cruises and Fishing Charters, departing from the Destin Harbor


First off, I learned on one of my most recent tours that dolphins do not sleep like most animals do. They have the ability to shut down parts of their brain, while other parts are still active (to protect from predators and such). This means that dolphins really don’t have a concrete schedule, but they are generally most active during the day as the sunlight is necessary for hunting and other social activities.

If you’re wondering when is the best time to take a dolphin cruise, it’s recommended to go when the boats are less crowded and the water is the calmest - Morning or Noon. When the afternoon rolls around, the temperature rises and the wind kicks up. Having calm water allows for better visibility. Some tour boats also don’t have A/C so it can be uncomfortable on a 2-hour cruise in very hot and humid conditions.

Going for a late afternoon sunset cruise sounds like a great idea since the humidity and temperature has cooled down, but this is prime time. Expect higher ticket prices and maxed out capacity (In the peak season anyway). It’s never fun being on a crowded boat when you want the perfect dolphin photo.


bottlenose dolphins jumping out of the water

Pods of dolphins, like the one pictured above, can be enjoyed from a scenic dolphin cruise, no matter what time of year


During the Fall and Winter, most tour companies will shut down or cut back their schedules due to the limited demand for tours. This by no means has any impact on dolphin sightings, as they can be seen all year round. You’ll not only find great rates on tours, but smaller trips give you plenty of room to move about the boat.

From Pensacola Beach to Panama City Beach and beyond, there are a ton of boat cruises to choose from. They all offer different variations of tours that combine activities such as snorkeling and shelling. I would highly suggest booking online for the best boat cruise discounts and coupons.

{Read Reviews & Book Pensacola Beach-Navarre Boat Tours Online}


How Do I Book a Dolphin Cruise?


booking dolphin cruise tickets on tripshock

A few of the many Destin dolphin cruise deals offered online with TripShock


With dazzling dolphins jumping for joy against a scenic, coastal backdrop, a dolphin cruise is sure to be the highlight of any beach vacation! And now that you know the best time to take a dolphin cruise, you’re probably ready to go ahead and book this unforgettable excursion for yourself. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to book a dolphin cruise, for your convenience.

First of all, it is recommended to check with your vacation rental company/hotel or condo, as many will offer free or discounted dolphin cruise tickets to their guests. Another great place to look for dolphin cruise tickets is by strolling along the local marinas, harbors, and boardwalks. Most dolphin cruises will depart from areas like these, and have activity kiosks for those looking to book tickets on site. Great places to book dolphin cruise tickets in popular beach vacation destinations include the following:

One of the best, easiest, and most convenient ways to book dolphin cruise tickets, however, is online. offers the top activities, including dolphin cruises, at the top destinations nationwide. Not only that, with a wide variety of different dolphin cruises, from thrilling jet boat excursions to scenic sunset sails, in multiple locations across the country, TripShock can save you time, money, and stress!


Why Take a Dolphin Cruise?


Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise [And How to Book Tickets]

There are plenty of reasons to take a dolphin cruise.


Dolphin cruises are so much more than just eco-tours that take travelers out to search for Flipper and friends. While that is definitely one of the best parts, dolphin cruises also allow visitors to truly immerse themselves in the local history and culture of the area. Other dolphin cruise highlights include:

  • Scenic views of city sights, waterways, and landmarks
  • Possible wildlife sightings including dolphins, pelicans, sharks, turtles, and more
  • Hear stories and narration from a local and knowledgeable guide
  • Learn about the native flora and fauna
  • Music, dancing, and memories that will last a lifetime

And let’s not forget to mention the dolphins themselves. When it comes down to it, the magic you feel when you see a beautiful bottlenose dolphin jumping the wake of your boat is the ultimate highlight, and something your group won’t soon forget! Check out these fun facts about bottlenose dolphins, and be in the know during your next dolphin sighting excursion:


fun facts about dolphins


Dolphin cruises are also the perfect activity for any occasion, as they come in all shapes and sizes! Many tour boats come equipped with plenty of comfortable seating, making it the perfect excursion for family reunions, corporate events, and bachelor parties, just to name a few. Some dolphin cruises offer a more intimate setting, which is perfect for proposals, date nights, and small family gatherings. As you can see, any reason is a good reason to enjoy an unforgettable dolphin cruise!


Best Places to Take a Dolphin Cruise


Now that you know the answer to when is the best time to take a dolphin cruise, and how, it’s time to discover where is the best place to take a dolphin cruise. Many locations along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast are known for their large population of dolphins. A trip to any of these fabulous vacation hot spots is sure to yield spectacular sea-life sightings, and more!

Pensacola Beach


Pensacola beach dolphin cruise

Dolphins jumping the wake of a boat during a dolphin cruise departing from Pensacola Beach


The best time to take a dolphin cruise is any time you’re in Pensacola Beach, FL! With gorgeous waters, white sand, and dolphins galore, a Pensacola Beach dolphin cruise is definitely one for the books. Cruise along the pristine and protected Gulf Islands National Seashore, soak up the sun and scenic views, and have a blast with bottlenose dolphins on this experience that’s like no other!

{Read Reviews & Book Pensacola Beach-Navarre Dolphin Cruises and Tours Online}



destin dolphin cruise

Visitors having a blast on the Screaming Eagle dolphin cruise in Destin, FL


The crystal clear waters of Destin, FL, not only mean unmatched views and a picturesque setting, but also makes for the perfect dolphin-spotting scenario! The Gulf of Mexico, Choctawhatchee Bay, and Crab Island are full of fun and friendly dolphins, so the chances of seeing one on a Destin dolphin cruise is extremely high. Destin also has a ton of options when it comes to dolphin excursions, so there is a cruise to accommodate every age and interest! The different types of Destin dolphin cruises include the following:

  • Sightseeing cruises
  • Jet ski tours
  • Tiki cruises
  • Private charters
  • Combination tours
  • Sailing charters
  • Thrill rides
  • Sunset cruises
  • And MORE!

{Read Reviews & Book Destin Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}

Panama City Beach


panama city beach dolphin cruise excursion

Sail through gorgeous waters in search of scenic views and sea-life on a fun and fabulous dolphin cruise through Panama City Beach, FL


Panama City Beach, FL, dolphin tours are another great way to get out on the water and experience the area in a whole new way! Not only do customers get to flip out over Flipper, but they get to enjoy amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico, Shell Island, St. Andrews Bay, the historic Grand Lagoon, and more.

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}

Similar to Destin dolphin cruises, Panama City Beach dolphin experiences come in many forms, as well. The top dolphin cruises in the area include sightseeing tours, combination tours, sailing charters, speedboat rides, and jet ski tours. Panama City Beach also offers incredible dolphin swim tours, for those who want to kick it up a notch!

Swimming with dolphins in Panama City Beach is an experience like no other. Whether you choose to do it in a controlled setting at the local aquarium, or in their natural habitat at Shell Island, there’s nothing quite like diving in and seeing these majestic creatures all around you! Those who choose the Shell Island route will get to learn about dolphins and their natural habitat while enjoying an unreal, real-life dolphin encounter. Those opting to experience dolphins at Gulf World Marine Park will experience some, or all, of the following interactions:

  • Dorsal Tow
  • Kiss
  • Hand Target
  • Handshake
  • Hug
  • And MORE!

{Read Reviews & Book Panama City Beach Dolphin Swim Tours Online}

Orange Beach


orange beach alabama dolphin cruise aboard the sunny lady

Pictured above is the Sunny Lady Dolphin Cruise.


Orange Beach, AL, is home to some incredible nature that attracts tons of visitors to the area, year after year. With the Orange Beach Islands, Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and more to explore, the Alabama Gulf Coast is a nature lover’s paradise. A Gulf Shores-Orange Beach dolphin cruise is the perfect way to get an up-close-and-personal experience with the local flora and fauna in a fun and unique way!

{Read Reviews & Book Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}



Dolphin adventure in Clearwater Best Time to Take a Dolphin Cruise [And How to Book Tickets]

*Pictured above is The Tropics Boat Tours, one of the top dolphin cruises and tours in Clearwater. *


Set out for adventure in search of dolphins for a family-fun experience the whole crew is sure to love! Be sure to look out for dolphins and other wonderful wildlife while cruising the warm waterways of Clearwater and beyond. Boasting a spectacular display of dolphins and the area in all of its glory, a Clearwater dolphin cruise is certainly the adventure of a lifetime!

{Read Reviews & Book Clearwater Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}


Key West


dolphin swimming in key west

A dolphin swimming in the water next to a boat on the Key West coastline


Key West, FL, is known for natural beauty and beachy vibes; what better place to see majestic bottlenose dolphins? A dolphin cruise in Key West will yield hours of fun and relaxation aboard a premium boat cruise. Explore the world-renowned waters surrounding Key West for your chance to spot dolphins and other marine life including sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, and plenty of tropical fish. Another great thing about dolphin cruises in Key West is the affordability. Boat cruises like sunset cruises and “booze” cruises made it on our list of the most affordable activities in Key West, Florida.

{Read Reviews & Book Key West, FL Dolphin Cruises & Tours Online}



While there are things to consider like temperature and crowds, the best time to take a dolphin cruise really boils down to preference. Bottlenose dolphins are plentiful throughout the Gulf Coast and the inlets of Myrtle Beach, so your chances of seeing them are extremely high, no matter when you go. Just rest assured, as long as you’re on a dolphin cruise, you’re in for a fin-tastic time!



Be in the know!

Be informed about our latest offers
You can unsubscribe at any time


© 2024 Tripshock
This website uses cookies. Please visit our Privacy Policy to learn how we use cookies and how to control your cookie settings. By clicking or navigating this site you consent to our use of cookies.