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One of the top activities that frequent the list of best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is swimming with dolphins. And while I completely understand the appeal of swimming alongside these magnificent animals, the truth is most of the places to swim with dolphins in Puerto Vallarta are not ethical.

Here’s why you shouldn’t swim with captive dolphins in Puerto Vallarta and other ways you can interact with these creatures in a way that supports their conservation.

Why you shouldn’t swim with captive dolphins in Puerto Vallarta

Walking around Puerto Vallarta, you’ll see signs and tour operators advertising swimming with captive dolphins (places like dolphin discovery and dolphin adventure).

While it may seem like a fun thing to do on your vacation, once you realize the negative consequences for the dolphins, you’ll want to reconsider partaking!

swim with dolphins in puerto vallarta

It’s cruel for the dolphins.

The dolphins you are swimming with are kept in captive, often cruel conditions that cause terrible side effects for them.

In the wild, dolphins might travel hundreds of miles a day! But in captivity, they are confined to tanks that are 200,000 times smaller than their natural range. Not only is this uncomfortable and stressful, but it can be harmful.

For example, dolphins often escape hot weather by swimming in deeper, cooler water to get out of the heat which they cannot do in these environments. This may result in them getting blisters from too much sun exposure.

The pools they are kept in are often heavily chlorinated tanks, leaving the dolphins exposed to harmful conditions that can damage their eyes and skin.

In the wild, dolphins swim, forage and reproduce young. A dolphin’s life in the wild is incredible, but in captivity, they are forced to do tricks for dead fish. It’s no wonder they become so aggressive!

swimming with dolphins in puerto vallarta

It supports captive breeding.

As long as people keep paying to swim with dolphins or see them perform, tour operators will keep breeding dolphins in captivity.

Every ticket bought directly supports the continuation of captive breeding programs, which essentially means that dolphins are forcibly impregnated. This puts both the mother and calf at risk of dying due to birthing complications.

What’s even worse is that these programs often forcibly take the young from their mother soon after they are born to start training them, but in the wild dolphin calves stay with their mom for up to six years!

As you can imagine, this is incredibly traumatic for both the mother and calf (as well as the trainers who were forced to do this – many have quit after doing this).

dolphins swimming in the wild puerto vallarta mexico

It can be dangerous for you.

It’s not just the dolphins that are in danger either – you are too! There have been multiple incidents of people swimming with dolphins who have been bit, hit by tails, and even pulled under the water by frustrated dolphins.

These animals are still wild, and they’re being forced to interact with people all day in exchange for being fed, which can lead to aggression.

A sample disclaimer from SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove states in part:

“You are agreeing to let your minor child engage in a potentially dangerous activity. You are agreeing that, even if the released parties use reasonable care in providing this activity, there is a chance your child may be seriously injured or killed by participating in this activity because there are certain dangers inherent in the activity which cannot be avoided or eliminated.”

Don’t believe any lies about these animals being domesticated – that is a process that takes thousands of years. These animals have been taken out of the wild.

Many tour operators will tell lies that the dolphins enjoy performing, but the truth is they are only doing this because they have been trained they will get food if they do. Yes, dolphins are naturally curious animals, but this doesn’t mean they want to perform tricks for you all day.

By the way, dolphins aren’t smiling. It’s just the shape of their face.

How to see dolphins in the wild in Puerto Vallarta

dolphin jumping

Hopefully, this information could help you understand why swimming with captive dolphins is so cruel. But don’t be discouraged, there are still ways to see encounter dolphins in Puerto Vallarta that support their conservation. It’s one of the best wildlife experiences here!

Ethical Dolphins and Whale Watching Tours

The best way to interact with dolphins is to watch them from shore, where you can be sure that you’re not causing them any harm. But if you want to get a closer look, choose a dolphin watch operator that follows a responsible code of conduct.

This tour with wildlife connections takes you out to see dolphins and whales while participating in a research project that helps them understand and protect the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta.

whale tail in mexico

The guides are specialists in cetaceans, biologists, and professional wildlife photographers who will share their knowledge with you, making this excursion a unique experience where you can get some pretty cool information about the marine life around Puerto Vallarta.

You might see bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, and maybe even orcas on the tour. If you’re visiting during whale-watching season (December to March), you may also see humpbacks!

Swim with wild dolphins

swimming with dolphins underwater

If you’re interested in getting closer with dolphins, wildlife connections run another tour where you can go swimming with free WILD dolphins.

On this tour, you’ll go to visit a resident bottlenose dolphin group where sometimes spotted dolphins live. They also have a cool hydrophone on board, which gives you a chance to see how the dolphins communicate.

Depending on the dolphin’s activity and mood, you’ll have a good chance to jump in and go swimming with them. Of course, they are wild, so this all depends on them!

Since a research organization runs this tour, you’ll learn about the important work they are doing and even participate in their research!

They even have a money-back guarantee if they can’t find the dolphins, so what’s to lose?

I hope this post could change your mind if were considering swimming with captive dolphins in Puerto Vallarta. Instead, choose an ethical dolphin tour that gives back to their conservation so they can be around for a long time!

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 Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. She lives a nomadic lifestyle and is on a quest to visit every country in the world - always on the lookout for new adventures, hidden gems, and dogs to pet. You can follow her adventures on Explore with Lora and Instagram

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  1. Vallarta Adventures have dolphins that has bruises on them. When I asked how they get those bruises, they said from the guess. Get this company to stop doing swimming with the dolphins. They also get The Tour Agency to help them make money by booking guess to swim at there property with dolphins. There contact phone number is 322 22 64000 ext 51127. Representative is Rafael

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