Last Updated on March 31, 2024

Are you visiting the Sunshine State and looking for the best Dolphin Cruises in Pensacola Beach?

You’re in luck because they are plentiful (both the tours and the dolphins)!

The Pensacola region on Florida’s panhandle has long been popular for its sugary-white sand beaches and clear emerald waters.

In fact, it’s home to one of the most fragile and diverse ecosystems and intercostal marine waterways in the world.

The shallow waters of Pensacola’s surrounding bays and estuaries are prime breeding and feeding grounds for marine life, including the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin.

The most common dolphin seen in the area, Bottlenose Dolphins are world famous for their playful and intelligent demeanor.

They can of course be seen in wildlife parks and aquariums, but the best way to encounter these majestic mammals is in their natural habitat.

You can spot them from nature trails while fishing off a pier, or even while strolling down one of the region’s many nearby beaches.

However, the best and most eco-friendly way to site dolphins is on a local dolphin cruise.

I’ve put together a great list of the best dolphin cruises in Pensacola Beach below.

Read on to learn more about these incredible sea mammals and how you can incorporate them into your upcoming Florida vacation.

Top Dolphin Cruises In Pensacola Beach!



Top Choice √ Best Dolphin Cruise In Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach Jolly Dolphin Cruise And Scenic Tour



Photo Credit- Jolly Sailing & Dolphin Cruise

This two hour cruise will take you around Pensacola Bay in search of pelicans, blue herons, skimmers, ospreys, stingrays, sea turtles, and of course, dolphins!

This tour is rated 5 Stars on Viator with over 65 reviews!


Tour length- Approximately 2 Hours

This two hour cruise will take you around Pensacola Bay in search of pelicans, blue herons, skimmers, ospreys, stingrays, sea turtles, and of course, dolphins!

To help beat the Florida heat, the 42′ Tritoon vessel is fully shaded and is equipped with cushioned seating, a restroom, and a professional and informative Captain and Crew.

Carrying up to 28 guests, it’s less crowded than other boat tours, but can still accommodate mid-size to larger groups.

The crew will educate you and your group about dolphin behaviors, their relationship with humans, as well as other wildlife species and area attractions.

It’s important to note that tours are dependent on weather conditions and are at the discretion of the captain and crew.

If tours are canceled, the company does its very best to provide as much advance notice as possible along with a refund or rescheduled tour.

Here’s what a past guest said about this tour:

“Our captain did his best to find dolphins despite the fog and windy conditions. He succeeded! The marine biologist onboard did a great job explaining dolphin behavior and anatomy. The boat was comfortable, clean and offered good visibility from every seat. We enjoyed every minute of our excursion.”






Photo Credit- Frisky Mermaid Dolphin Tours & Boat Rentals

This tour is rated 5 Stars on Viator with over 125 reviews!


Tour length- Approximately 2 Hours


You’re sure to have a “mer-mazing” time on the water on this two hour dolphin cruise around Pensacola Beach!

You can choose between a morning or evening departure time for a chance to see the most variety of marine life.

During the tour, it’s likely you will spot different species of fish, sea turtles, and the star of the show, dolphins.

No matter the time of day that you sail, you’ll be sure to enjoy a warm Gulf breeze and plenty of Florida sun on your journey.

Along the way, your captain and crew will provide educational commentary about the wildlife you encounter.

In addition to dolphins, this can include fish, species of birds, stingrays, and sharks.

Make sure to bring extra cash for food and beverage purchases onboard, and don’t forget your Go Pros, cameras, and waterproof cases!

Here’s what a past guest said about this tour:

“Dolphins knows why we were there and they are familiar with the tour boat. It was such a great experience. Dolphins came right away from beginning when we left the dock. Easy parking, close to the boat. It was so worth it. Nice boat, and tour guide lady and the captain of the boat was so awesome.”

Natsuki_C ⭐




Photo Credit-  Jolly Sailing & Dolphin Cruise

Perfect for groups of up to six people, you'll sail a 26' powerboat tritoon boat around Pensacola Bay, the Pensacola Pass, and Big Lagoon.

This company is rated 5 Stars on Viator with over 15 reviews!


Tour length- Approximately 3 Hours


You’ll explore four different areas on this private three hour dolphin cruise around Pensacola!

Perfect for groups of up to six people, you’ll sail a 26′ powerboat tritoon boat around Pensacola Bay, the Pensacola Pass, and Big Lagoon.

The tour is jam-packed with multiple activities including a stop at a beautiful remote beach accessible only by boat.

Here, you can enjoy beach combing, picnicking, or swimming in the warmer months.

You’ll also sail by the pre-civil war Fort Pickens, the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and the Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Along the way, you will search for wild dolphins on the National Seashore.

These naturally curious animals are known to get up close and personal with the vessel to investigate those who visit their home!

Here’s what a past guest said about this tour:

“We saw more animals than expected. The weather and the water cooperated magnificently. Captain Paul was a great host and guide. He has eyes like a hawk as he spotted the manatee well off in the distance before any of us.”

DonnaM_B ⭐




Photo Credit- Jolly Sailing & Dolphin Cruise

This three hour private dolphin cruise is perfect for larger groups of up to 15 people.

This tour is rated 5 Stars on Viator with over 7 reviews!


Tour length- Approximately 3 Hours


This three hour private dolphin cruise is perfect for larger groups of up to 15 people.

With a vessel equipped with a restroom, shade from the Florida heat, and a professional Captain and crew, it’s the perfect excursion for any age.

Along a 20 mile route, you’ll sail through the Pensacola Bay, the Pensacola Pass, and Big Lagoon.

You’ll stop at a private beach where you can easily get off the boat to beach comb, walk, or swim in warmer months.

This private adventure cruise is a great way to skip the crowds of the Pensacola area beaches and get an up-close-and-personal glimpse at Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitats.

As with most water activities, this dolphin cruise is subject to weather and water conditions.

The tour may be canceled at any time, however, advance notice is given where possible.

It’s best to call the day or morning before your scheduled cruise to check the weather and water conditions.

Here’s what a past guest said about this tour:

“We saw a lot of dolphins. They were great, complimentary beverages. The remote stop was my favorite and we saw the Blue Angels practice, it could not have been better!!”

A Tripadvisor Reviewer 




What to bring to a dolphin cruise.

What To Bring To A Dolphin Cruise

On most Pensacola Beach Dolphin Cruises, life jackets and bottles of water are complimentary.

However, to ensure the most comfortable and enjoyable tour possible, below is a short list of items are great to pack along for the ride:

Go Pro / Camera

You’ll want to capture the amazing wildlife you encounter on your dolphin cruise Pensacola Beach tour!

It’s best to bring a GoPro or a camera that can capture high-speed moments accurately and clearly.

Since you’ll be around water, don’t forget to put your camera gear into a protective waterproof case.

There are a number of companies that make waterproof casings for both Go-Pros and many DSLR and digital cameras.

When not actively using your equipment, place them into a camera bag or backpack for safekeeping.


If there’s one item you shouldn’t leave your hotel without for this tour (other than sunscreen), it’s sunglasses.

The rays of the sun in Florida are more intense than in most other states.

Without your sunnies, you may end up squinting into the sun more than actually spotting dolphins.

Be sure the sunglasses you bring also offer protection from UV sunlight.

Comfortable / Waterproof Attire

There’s a good chance you’ll get wet on a boat, especially if the water is choppy.

Plan accordingly and wear breathable, waterproof clothes and waterproof shoes or boat shoes.

Florida is known as the Sunshine State for a reason, so it’s even better to wear clothing that blocks UVA and UVB rays including fabrics like polyester and rayon.

If you don’t own any sun protective clothing, apply UV-Block such as Atsko U-V-Killer onto light color clothes.

If you’re visiting during the spring and summer months, expect hotter average temperatures.

Snacks/Non-Alcoholic Beverages

While certain tours may include snacks, waters and sodas, and even an adult bev or two, it’s best to bring your own reserves.

Pack snacks that are high in protein and light on your stomach, especially if you’re someone who is prone to sea sickness.

Prior to packing the goods, you’ll want to check the company’s website or call ahead to make sure you’re allowed to bring outside food and drink.


This may not be something everyone needs to pack, but if you have a sensitive stomach or are prone to seasickness, it may be a good idea.

Take as directed (one pill at least an hour prior to boarding your boat), and avoid eating heavy foods in the hour leading up to your tour.

Dramamine is a generally safe over-the-counter medicine but check with your physician or medical provider to make sure it’s right for you.





Pensacola Beach Dolphin Cruise FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Best Areas Around Pensacola To See Dolphins?

Did you know there are more than 10,000 bottlenose dolphins living in the waters off the coast of Florida?

This means that you will have plenty of chances to see them!

There’s an abundance of beaches, Intercoastal waterways, and bays close to Pensacola — many of which are wild playgrounds for bottlenose dolphins and their pods (even babies!).

Of course, the best way to view them is to get out on the water.

However, there are plenty of opportunities to spot these playful mammals from land, too.

You can spot them while surfing the waves, walking the Pensacola Pier, or simply taking in a sunrise or sunset while strolling Pensacola Beach.

To make sure you are in the right place at the right time for prime dolphin viewing, check out some of these spots favorited by the locals below:

On A Dolphin Tour 

Book one of the many above dolphin tours out of Pensacola Beach or nearby Perdido Key for the most unique dolphin encounters.

Many of these tours are customizable and are taken in the morning or afternoon hours when the dolphins are most active for feeding.

You can book small group or even private sailing adventures, as well as jet ski dolphin excursions, and larger cruise boats for larger groups. 

Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier

You can stroll out onto the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier with the purchase of an “observer’s” ticket.

The pier in its entirety spans 1,470 feet out over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This makes it a prime spot for viewing wildlife, including dolphins!

You will enjoy a bird’s eye view of dolphins feeding, hunting, and even playing with their young during certain times of the year.

The constant presence of dolphins is mostly due to the many anglers that come to try their rods at fishing.

If the water is clear,  you might even spot other amazing species of marine life swimming around the pier including sea turtles, fish, and stingrays.

Perdido Key

Just 25 miles south of Pensacola, the barrier island of Perdido Key is a great alternative for dolphin watching.

The island is home to two state parks and one national park which are perfect for hiking, biking, swimming, and wildlife viewing.

These include Perdido Key State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Big Lagoon State Park.

In fact, you can see numerous species of wildlife in these parks including alligators, sea turtles, and of course, dolphins.

The best way to closely yet safely interact with these mammals is on a kayak or paddle board.

If you prefer to take a boat tour, there are a number of those, too!

Most dolphin cruises from Perdido Key take guests to the Ono Islands to look for wildlife and even some A-list celebrity homes.

Pensacola Dog Beach (East and West)

Spend some time with dolphins and your four-legged friends at Pensacola Dog Beach.

The designated dog beaches located at parking lots 21.5 and 28.5 are the only dog beaches in Pensacola.

All other public beaches and parks in the area are off limits to your furry friends.

Don’t worry, however. Not only are these beaches a dog’s paradise, they are popular with dolphins, too.

In the early morning hours as well as golden hour in the afternoon, dolphins love to scope the sandbar for fish.

Continuously scan the top of the water for signs of their presence — waves can often resemble a dorsal fin!

One thing to remember if visiting the dog beaches: keep your pups on a leash at all times.

Pensacola Beach Eco Trail

If you’re looking for an all encompassing land and sea adventure, be sure to check out the 8.5-mile Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail.

Running from shore to shore, the trail showcases 29 stops across Pensacola Beach to educate visitors about conservation and the island’s unique ecology.

It’s a great place to walk, bike, drive, run and even swim!

Each stop tells a story about the region’s sea life and flora, and provides pictures and maps as a guide.

The entire trail is a great place for bird-spotting or looking for sea turtle nests and hatchlings (emphasis on looking and not touching!)

You can also learn about the different species of dolphins that inhabit the coastal waters at each stop, or take a dolphin cruise along the eco-trail’s coastline.

Regardless of how you enjoy the trail, take note of its namesake and leave only footprints behind.

Can You Swim With Dolphins In Pensacola Florida?

One of the only ways to responsibly swim with bottlenose dolphins is under professional supervision in a controlled environment.

A great place near Pensacola to do just that is at The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach.

It is here that you can have the experience of a lifetime with the Gulfarium’s VIP “Trainer for a Day” adventure.

This experience is tailor made for people ages 13 and up and includes a fully-immersive day-long crash course in what it takes to be a bonafide marine mammal trainer.

You’ll work side-by-side with a trainer to learn about dolphin behavior, biology, and their special relationships with humans.

If you encounter a Bottlenose Dolphin in the wild, don’t approach, pursue, touch, or interact with it.

Dolphins are extremely friendly and social animals, but physical interaction in the wild can lead to injury or transfer of disease.

According to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it’s best to respect nature and simply admire these beautiful animals from afar.

What Is The Best Time Of Day To See Dolphins In Pensacola?

The best time to spot dolphins in the wild is any time the water traffic is low.

When there are fewer boats and people out on the water, dolphins come out to feed and play.

This is usually in the early morning hours, between 10 am and noon, and at dusk (after sunset).

When booking a dolphin cruise, you will likely get to choose from a 10am, noon, 3:00pm, or 6:00pm departure for this reason.

Even if you don’t have a boat, you can see plenty of dolphins from land on a beach next to Perdido Bay at the time mentioned above.

Regardless of the day of day you set out to spot dolphins, remember to always bring your Gopro and your DSLR with a telephoto lens and a waterproof case for each!

What Is The Best Month To See Dolphins In Florida?

You will likely see dolphins in the Pensacola Beach region any month of the year.

However, their populations are largest in spring and summer, from late May through early August (spring and summer).

When searching for dolphins either from a boat or land, there are a number of tell-tale signs of their presence.

Look for seagulls circling above a particular spot, oily slicks (footprints), wave crests or waves moving in the ‘wrong’ direction, splashes, and exposed tail fins or dorsal fins.

Dolphins are also very vocal mammals, so listen for chirps or long periods of whistles or clicks.

Dolphin Cruises In Pensacola Beach- Final Thoughts

For an unforgettable experience, Pensacola Beach is the perfect place to take a dolphin cruise.  With its stunning beaches and abundant wildlife, this area provides the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day out on the water.

Whether you’re looking to observe dolphins in their natural habitat or just enjoy some peaceful time floating along the coastline, these excursions are sure to be a highlight of your Florida vacation!



Additional Pensacola Beach FL Blogs

Spending time at Quietwater Beach in Pensacola Beach!

Me enjoying a nice quiet night at Quietwater Beach in Pensacola Beach! 

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Booking a last-minute trip to Pensacola Beach?  

If so, we have you covered.  Here are some top recommended hotels and accommodations!

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