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Where To See Dolphins In Los Angeles – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for somewhere to see dolphins in Los Angeles then you’re in the right place.

Nothing can beat that amazing feeling of seeing a dolphin up close and personal in their natural habitat! Why not try it for yourself?

This post will tell you exactly where to see dolphins in Los Angeles including the exact locations and key information.

Can You Swim With Dolphins In Los Angeles?

Unfortunately, you can’t swim with dolphins in Los Angeles as it is actually illegal to do this in California.

According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act it’s illegal to feed or harass dolphins.

In fact, doing this could land you in serious trouble as swimming with dolphins in California can get you a fine of up to $11,000 and up to one year in jail (at the time of writing). Totally not worth it in my opinion.

Of course, if you’re just out swimming in the ocean and you happen to see a dolphin swimming near you, you won’t face any legal action.

The laws mainly prohibit you from harassing the animals and they state that a distance of 150 ft (100 yards) from the dolphins is an ideal distance.

If you happen to see one, just keep your distance and don’t try to get up close to the dolphin to try and touch it (as that will land you in trouble).

Disclaimer: This is definitely not legal advice.

Although you can’t swim with dolphins in Los Angeles, you can join a dolphin tour which gives you the opportunity to see them out in the wild.

I’d really recommend doing one of these if you can as it’s often a once in a lifetime experience to see these magical creatures up close.

And I personally think that seeing them in their natural habitat is far more fun than swimming with them yourself. They’re out in the wild where they belong.

Best Dolphin Tour In Los Angeles

I get asked this question a lot. What’s the best dolphin tour in Los Angeles?

The answer depends on the type of tour that you’re looking for.

Here’s an overview of the options available:

Small Group Dolphin Watching Tour

This dolphin and whale watching tour is ideal for most people and gives you a chance to escape the crowds and get up close with the dolphins.

  • A boat tour which lasts 2.5 hours.
  • See whales, dolphins, seals & more.
  • Stunning views of local landmarks.
  • Departs from Newport Beach.

Your local guide will point out all of the landmarks and will tell you about the different types of animals that you’ll see from the boat which can include dolphins, whales, sea lions and various birds.

Kayak & Stand Up Paddleboard Tour

This kayak or paddleboard tour in Marina del Rey is ideal for anyone looking for a bit of adventure.

  • Tour lasts 2 hours.
  • Suitable for beginners.
  • Small-group tour.
  • Learn about the marine life from your guide.

As well as dolphins, you’ll likely be able to spot sea lions which are super common in and around Marina del Rey.

Private Sailing Adventure

This private sailing tour is ideal for anyone who wants a luxury, private experience just for them.

  • Private tour for groups up to 6 people.
  • Boat tour lasts between 2 and 3 hours.
  • Tour takes you around Santa Monica Bay looking for wildlife.
  • Gourmet food and wine is served onboard.

On this private sailing experience, you’ll have the chance to spot dolphins, whales and seals up close and personal.

Best Places To See Dolphins In Los Angeles

Dolphins live in the coastal waters surrounding Los Angeles and are spotted super frequently. 

In fact, LA is home to various different dolphin species. The most commonly spotted ones are the Common Dolphin, the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Pacific White-Sided Dolphin.

You can easily tell these three different dolphin species apart based on their color and size.

Different dolphin species found around Los Angeles, California.
Different dolphin species found around Los Angeles, California.

Orcas and whales can also commonly be spotted off Los Angeles shores at certain times of year.

It’s actually super easy to see dolphins in LA if you know where to find them. 

Luckily, I’ve done all the hard work for you and listed the exact spots and locations below.

You can often spot pods of dolphins swimming in the ocean from the shores of many LA beaches. It’s worth bringing a pair of binoculars to see them properly.

Otherwise, you could head out into the water yourself on a kayak or stand up paddleboard for a closer up view. You can also try surfing.

Remember not to get too close as you don’t want to frighten the dolphins! Just watch them from a distance and let them do their thing.

Dolphins in Malibu

One of the best places to see dolphins in Los Angeles is in Malibu. Sightings of dolphins in Malibu are actually super frequent.

In particular, check out Zuma Beach which is popular with surfers and has a long stretch of sand. It’s also pretty popular with dolphins.

Surfrider Beach is also another good location for dolphins.

A great way to see the dolphins up close and personal is to get out onto the water. Why not join a stand up paddleboard tour in Malibu or book a surfing lesson on Surfrider Beach?

You could also hike up to Point Dume for a high-up view. This provides a broad view of the ocean giving you a great chance of spotting dolphins.

Check out the huge dolphin pod that was spotted from Point Dume in the video below:

There are actually also several restaurants and cafes which overlook the ocean in Malibu. This offers a more relaxed atmosphere where you can sit back and chill whilst looking out for dolphins.

Gladstones is an ocean view restaurant which offers seafood and cocktails. Dolphin sightings from its terrace are common. 

Duke’s is also another great option if you love Hawaiian food and drinks.

For an easy experience, you can book onto this private sailing tour which will take you and your group out onto Malibu’s waters searching for dolphins. You’ll get a great up close view from the boat.

Catalina Island

Catalina Island is a small island that lies off the coast of Los Angeles. It’s pretty famous for its wildlife and dolphins, in particular, are regularly spotted here.

Your best chance of seeing dolphins is on the ferry ride over to Catalina Island. Visitors regularly spot huge pods of up to 20 dolphins during this journey from the mainland.

The dolphins can usually be spotted jumping in and out of the ocean, playing with each other and sometimes searching for food. 

Check out what you can expect from the ferry ride and the dolphins of Catalina Island in the video below:

Pretty impressive, right!?

Visiting Catalina Island can be a bit of a hassle on your own. To make things easier, I’d recommend booking onto a day tour to Catalina Island from LA.

This tour includes the 1-hour ferry crossing, hotel pick-up and drop-off and a sightseeing tour of the island which includes all of the top sights.

As you make your way to and from the island on the ferry, you’ll get a great opportunity to spot dolphins in the waters surrounding the coast.

The ride takes approximately 1 hour each way which is more than enough time to see a pod of dolphins or two.

Marina del Rey

Marina del Rey features North America’s largest man-made harbor which is home to around 5,000 boats. 

It also features several beaches, swimming areas and lagoons which are home to a wide variety of animals including sea lions and dolphins.

There’s tons of activities that you can take part in from Marina del Rey.

One of the most fun activities in my opinion is joining a kayak or stand up paddle boarding tour.

These are suitable for beginners as the guides will show you how to use the equipment. It gives you a chance to get out onto the water and see the wildlife of the marina up close and personal.

The marina is home to a wide range of wildlife including dolphins, sea lions and birds.

South Bay

There are several beaches in the South Bay area where pods of dolphins are super common.

South Bay is located just south of the city and is actually a super popular surfing location. If you hang around long enough, it’s almost impossible not to see the dolphins, just keep your eyes peeled.

You could rent a surfboard and get out onto the water or, if surfing isn’t your thing, just look out for them on the shore.

Luckily, the dolphins in South Bay do come fairly close to the shore so it’s not impossible to get a good view of them from the beach itself.

Dolphins are often spotted off Hermosa Beach in South Bay, particularly in the afternoons just before sunset. If you walk to the end of the pier, you can usually see the dolphins playing in the ocean.

You can also commonly see dolphins at Redondo Beach.

Santa Monica

Another place where you have a good chance of seeing dolphins in Los Angeles is in Santa Monica.

These magical creatures are frequently spotted off the coast, as are various types of whales at certain times of the year. 

All you need to do is plonk your towel down on the beach and keep your eyes peeled. Sooner or later, you’ll likely see a dolphin! 

You can often see pods of up to 15 or 20 dolphins and sometimes even more.

Mornings and evenings (just before sunset) are the best times to spot dolphins in Santa Monica.

Check out the huge pod of dolphins spotted in Santa Monica in the video below:

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach, which is located just southeast of Los Angeles, is another fantastic place to see dolphins.

I’d suggest walking down the long Huntington Beach Pier and standing at the end, overlooking the ocean. This is a great spot where you can often see dolphins out in the ocean.

Dolphins are super frequent here and you’ll often be able to spot them frolicking in the ocean and playing with each other.

Best Time To See Dolphins In Los Angeles

Dolphins are present in the waters around Los Angeles all year round however the highest numbers of dolphins can be found in the winter months.

Dolphins use the coastline of LA as a thoroughfare to move southward and as a feeding ground so there are pretty much always dolphins around.

Whilst their numbers are higher during the winter, you’ll still easily be able to see dolphins if you join a dolphin watching tour during the spring, summer or fall.

Thanks for reading this post on where to see dolphins in Los Angeles which includes the exact spots and locations as well as the best rated dolphin watching tours in LA.

If you love seeing animals out in the wild then you may also be interested in seeing seals in California.


Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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