While there are currently 38 species of dolphins, the most common ones you may see in the San Diego area are Pacific white-sided dolphins, short-beak common dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins.
However, the dolphins you will encounter at SeaWorld San Diego are bottlenose dolphins. While swimming with dolphins is not part of the program at SeaWorld San Diego, California, you can still get in the water with them for a personal and playful experience.
While sighting a dolphin out in the bay or ocean in San Diego can be exciting, you should keep your distance. However, it can be invigorating to get to have an up-close encounter or swim with the bottlenose dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego.
Let’s look more closely at the two types of dolphin experiences available at Sea World to see which one allows you to swim with dolphins.
- Two Types of Dolphin Experiences at Sea World San Diego
- Where Are the Dolphin Experiences at SeaWorld San Diego?
- How to Book a Dolphin Experience at Sea World San Diego
- What to Bring with You to a Dolphin Experience at SeaWorld
- Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming with Dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego
- Final Thoughts on Swimming with Dolphins at SeaWorld in San Diego
Two Types of Dolphin Experiences at Sea World San Diego
Sea World San Diego has two different types of dolphin experiences available to allow you to see and experience their bottlenosed dolphins:
- Dolphin Up-Close Encounter
- Dolphin In-Water Interaction
Can you swim with dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego? While you will be poolside near the dolphins in the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter, you will not be able to get in the water and swim with them.
The option at Sea World San Diego that includes getting in the water with dolphins is the Dolphin In-Water Interaction, which costs about $100 more per person. However, actual “swimming” is not a part of the program.
Let’s look a little closer at the difference between the two dolphin experiences at Sea World San Diego.
Dolphin Up-Close Encounter
The specialized up-close encounter with dolphins at Sea World San Diego is poolside and allows you a chance to:
- Spend time with dolphins
- Learn about the natural history of bottlenose dolphins
- Learn about dolphins’ aquatic adaptations
- Learn hand signals to communicate with the bottlenose dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego
- Enjoy playtime with the dolphins
While you will get an opportunity to interact with the dolphins in the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter, you will be poolside and not be able to get in the water and swim alongside them.
More Information to Know About the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter
- Program length: 10 minutes (must arrive 15 minutes early)
- Price: The price starts at around $70 per person and can go up to around $100. Keep in mind that tickets tend to cost more on weekends or high-demand days. You also must pay for park admission.
- Party size: To ensure social distancing space, party size is limited. Since there are a limited number of spots available for each encounter, there’s no guarantee you can add extra people to your party after you reserve a spot.
- Restrictions: A parent or guardian must accompany participants under age 18. A paying parent or guardian must accompany participants under 50 inches tall. Covid-19-unvaccinated participants must wear a mask. No loose jewelry or sunglasses. No smoking.
- Photos: You can take pictures of the dolphins during the encounter. However, SeaWorld ambassadors cannot take pictures for you during the encounter.
Dolphin In-Water Interaction
The Dolphin In-Water Interaction at SeaWorld San Diego is a more personal experience because it allows you to:
- Get to know playful and friendly bottlenose dolphins through a personal in-water experience
- Learn about how the professionals at SeaWorld take care of the dolphin’s welfare
- Be in the water alongside bottlenosed dolphins
- Feed the dolphins
- Touch and play with the dolphins
Unlike the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter, the Dolphin In-Water Interaction allows you to actually get in the water to touch and be with the dolphins.
More Information to Know About the Dolphin In-Water Interaction
- Program Length: The part of the program with the trainer is about 60 minutes, while the in-water part of the program is about 20 minutes.
- Price: Prices start at around $170 and go up to around $230. Tickets cost more during weekends or other high-demand days. You must also pay park admission.
- Party Size: Each group will contain about 12 guests
- Restrictions: Participants must be 50” or taller. A paying adult must accompany anyone under age 14. If you’re not vaccinated against Covid-19, you must wear a face mask. No jewelry in the water. No smoking.
- Swimming: Swimming is not a part of the program, and participants don’t need to know how to swim. However, all participants should bring a swimsuit and be comfortable being in water up to their waist or chest.
- Photos: Photographers from SeaWorld can take photos for you to purchase after the interaction for an additional fee.
Extras the Reservation Includes
- SeaWorld-issued wet suit and booties to wear in the in-water interaction (required and not to keep)
- Shower facility use
- Personal locker storage
- Soap and shampoo
- Hairdryer usage
- A souvenir towel to keep
Where Are the Dolphin Experiences at SeaWorld San Diego?
SeaWorld San Diego is located at 500 Sea World Drive in San Diego’s Mission Bay Park, which is at the intersection of I-5 and I-8.
The two dolphin experiences at SeaWorld San Diego are at two separate places in the park:
- Dolphin Up-Close Encounter location: The encounter is near the Dolphin Amphitheater, north of Splish Splash
- Dolphin In-Water Interaction location: The interaction is near Dolphin Point, just north of the SeaWorld gift shop.
How to Book a Dolphin Experience at Sea World San Diego
Because space is limited, you will want to book a reservation early to ensure that you are able to have an experience with dolphins during your time at Sea World.
Keep in mind that the busiest and most expensive times to book a dolphin experience are during the weekend and popular times like spring break. Ordering tickets up to two months ahead of time for weekends or popular visiting times can ensure there’s a spot available for you and your group.
You don’t have to worry about your experience being canceled because of bad weather unless there is lightning. However, if you decide to cancel your experience, you must give 48-hours notice in order to receive a refund.
What to Bring with You to a Dolphin Experience at SeaWorld
You can wear your regular clothes to the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter. However, you should bring your swimsuit to the Dolphin In-Water Interaction to wear under the wetsuit SeaWorld requires participants to wear during the interaction.
It may be helpful to leave your jewelry at home or in your bag since you shouldn’t have loose jewelry at the Dolphin Up-Close Encounter and can’t wear your jewelry into the water at the Dolphin In-Water Interaction.
Otherwise, there’s nothing special that you should bring with you. The Dolphin In-Water Interaction even comes with a souvenir towel that you can use to dry off after your time in the water with the dolphins.
Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming with Dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego
Here are the answers to some questions you might have about swimming with dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego.
Is swimming with dolphins safe?
The Humane Society of the US says that even strictly regulated programs involving swimming with or getting in the water with dolphins can pose a safety threat to both dolphins and humans. Captive dolphins can become agitated or aggressive under stressful forced-interaction conditions.
Reported human injuries include broken bones, scrapes, internal injuries, and shock. Meanwhile, dolphins can catch bacterial and viral infections from humans and suffer from stress-related conditions like ulcers.
Can you go swimming at SeaWorld?
There is no pool or guest swimming available at SeaWorld. Swimming is also not a part of any of the dolphin experiences, including the in-water interaction.
How are dolphins treated at SeaWorld?
The dolphins at SeaWorld endure a lot of stress during confinement, training, and performances. Housing involves crowding up to 140 dolphins into just seven barren tanks. They also have a breeding program for its bottlenosed dolphins, which often includes artificial insemination.
Final Thoughts on Swimming with Dolphins at SeaWorld in San Diego
Can you swim with dolphins at SeaWorld San Diego? No, but you can enjoy them poolside with a Dolphin Up-Close Encounter or get in the water with a Dolphin In-Water Interaction. The In-Water Interaction allows you to get close enough to touch a dolphin in the water in a small group setting. Plus, feeding them can give you a chance to get closer and gain their trust.
If you’re in the San Diego area and want the opportunity to experience these playful aquatic mammals up close and personal, you’ll want to be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time. Ticket prices are lower on weekdays, except during high-interest times like spring break.