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A Guide To Hawaii’s Marine Mammals: Dolphins, Whales, & More


The ocean surrounding the islands of Hawaii is home to some of the most amazing marine mammals. From playful dolphins to majestic whales, Hawaii’s waters are teeming with life. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most common marine mammals found in Hawaii and learn about their habits and habitats. Let’s dive into the world of Hawaii’s marine mammals!

The Dolphins Of Hawaii

Hawaii has a few different types of dolphins, and they’re all interesting in their own ways!

Spinner Dolphins

These dolphins are normally out and about at night, as it’s the best time for them to feed. They are well known for there huge groups they travel in, which can be upwards of 100 dolphins! If you’re lucky enough to see some, you’ll witness these 6-7 foot animals and their awesome water acrobatics.

Bottlenose Dolphin

When they are close to shore their groups are smaller, but when witnessed offshore their groups can get up into the couple hundred range. They can grow up to 12 feet in length!

They are considered one of the smartest animals in the world, and use sound for communicating and hunting for food. 

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

Their long, slender snouts or beaks distinguish them. Atlantic spotted dolphins and pantropical spotted dolphins both do not have spots when they are born but develop them as they age until their bodies are nearly covered with overlapping patterns. Pantropical spotted dolphins typically exist in large groups numbering from several hundred to thousand individuals. They are considered very social, often pairing up with other dolphin species.

The False Killer Whale

As you may have guessed, this is a dolphin that typically gets mistaken for a killer whale. Because there are so few of them (less than 200) and their numbers have been declining since the early 2000s, false killer whales that live around the main Hawaiian Islands are listed as endangered. While some may insist these are whales, they are biologically a member of the dolphin family.

They are normally found in smaller groups of just a few, with larger groups spread out over a few miles.

The Whales Of Hawaii

You can read our full guide to the whales of Hawaii if you’d like to learn even more about these amazing animals.

Humpback Whale

The humpback whale is by far one of the most common whales seen in the oceans of Hawaii. Up to 10,000 of these marine mammals come to Hawaii every year to mate, nurse their calves, and give birth.

Blue Whales

While it is extremely rare, blue whales are sometimes seen in the waters of Hawaii. The most interesting part of this is that most of the blue whales confirmed to be in Hawaii are known to be there because of their unique songs, and not actual sightings. Their call is the loudest sound in the world that is made by an animal.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk seals are some of the most endangered seal species on Earth. For six decades their numbers have been dropping, and though current populations are increasing, they’re only at about one-third of what they used to be.

The Hawaiian monk seal inhabits both the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well as Johnston Atoll. These animals are only found in these locations and nowhere else in the world.

All Hawaiian monk seals have one-of-a-kind patterns on their fur, like scars or discolored patches (white spots), that help researchers identify them. Seals that spend most of their time foraging in the sea can grow algae on their fur. If you see a green seal, it means they haven’t shed in a while and might be getting ready to shed into a new coat of silver fur.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our in-depth guide to the Hawaiian Monk Seal, the Hawaiian State Mammal!

See Hawaii’s Marine Mammals With Kauai Sea Tours!

Looking for an unforgettable experience on your Kauai vacation? Then be sure to book a tour with Kauai Sea Tours! Our knowledgeable and experienced captains will give you the opportunity to see some of the most amazing marine life in Hawaii, including dolphins, whales, and the Hawaiian Monk Seal. We know that you’ll have an incredible time and leave with memories that will last a lifetime. Book one of our snorkeling or whale watching tours before they fill up!

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