Where to see dolphins in Tulum?

Dolphin in Tulum

Tulum is home to a rich and impressive marine fauna. Among the animals found on the Yucatan Peninsula is the dolphin, an iconic creature of the sea!

Encountering dolphins in Mexico is always a unique and exceptional experience. To observe them, Tulum offers two options to its visitors.

  • The first option for admiring dolphins is in their natural habitat, within a reserve.
  • The second option is to swim with them in a pool at an adventure park.

The choice between the authenticity of encountering them in their natural environment and the multitude of possibilities offered by parks to approach and interact with dolphins comes into play.

But what about the impact on dolphins and their ecosystem of an artificial pool?

When it comes to encountering dolphins in Tulum, is it better to prefer the authenticity of encountering them in nature or the benefits offered by human facilities?

In this article, I will try to answer these questions and provide you with all my tips for observing these animals that captivate both young and old in Tulum!

Dolphins in Tulum

Observing dolphins in their natural habitat in Tulum

At the heart of its turquoise waters, the Caribbean Sea is home to many wild animals. Tropical fish, turtles, stingrays, whale sharks, but of course, dolphins too!

This animal is particularly emblematic of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, located just a few kilometers from Tulum, south of the Riviera Maya.

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve offers an incredible spectacle, between land and sea, for observing the flora and fauna. The lush jungle surrounding the lagoon is a paradise for all the reserve’s animals.

Dolphin in Sian Ka'an

The immense biodiversity within the nature reserve makes it a haven of peace in this preserved corner of the planet, despite being just a few kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the Riviera Maya.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the nature reserve is home to over 300 different bird species as well as marine turtles, crocodiles, and also dolphins.

Off the coast of the small fishing village of Punta Allen, the world’s second-largest coral reef passes by, a paradise for thousands of tropical fish!

All these wild animals are here in freedom, free to move wherever they wish in this vast space preserved from any harmful activity.

Dolphins in Tulum

Thus, in the heart of the Sian Ka’an Reserve, it is very common to observe several families of dolphins swimming peacefully and playing among themselves.

With luck, one might even see them leaping out of the water!

🌍 Nature Lovers

If you’re a nature lover and wish to observe dolphins freely in their natural habitat, I highly recommend a day trip to the Sian Ka’an Reserve!

During your excursion, you’ll embark on a boat tour in search of the reserve’s wildlife. You’ll observe not only dolphins but also turtles, birds, and dive with the colorful fish on the coral reef!

To preserve the dolphins, it’s not possible to swim with them in the Sian Ka’an Reserve. You’ll observe them from the boat, respecting the animals and their ecosystem.

Dolphins in Sian Ka'an

Moreover, you’ll also observe the crocodiles reigning over the mangrove, and enjoy a relaxing time in the natural pools of Punta Allen.

The white sandy beaches of the fishing village of Punta Allen is one of the most beautiful beach in Tulum.

The full-day excursion to Sian Ka’an is perfect for spending a day discovering this preserved treasure away from mass tourism, where wild animals rule the land.

Observing dolphins freely in their natural environment in Sian Ka’an is definitely an emotionally enriching experience that will stay with you forever!

Sian Ka’an Boat Tour

Discover the wild beauty of Sian Ka’an by boat! Sail through turquoise lagoons, spot dolphins and turtles, and explore the mysteries of this preserved natural reserve. An unforgettable adventure in Mexico!

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Dolphins in Sian Ka'an

Swimming with dolphins in a controlled environment in Tulum

Swimming with dolphins in Tulum is only possible in controlled environments such as pools. Several adventure parks offer this activity in the Yucatan Peninsula along the Riviera Maya.

These parks provide activities with trainers to better understand the animals and swim with them.

Between the excitement of swimming with dolphins and deep reflection on the welfare of captive animals, swimming with dolphins in pools is still present on the Riviera Maya.

To swim with dolphins in Tulum, here are the options available to you: Delphinus and Dolphinaris.



Dolphinaris offers, in addition to swimming with dolphins, a visit focused on the 5 senses:

  • Touch: feeling its heartbeat
  • Sight: visual connection with the dolphin
  • Hearing: listening to its sonar
  • Taste: description of its tongue
  • Smell: correspondences between its dorsal fin and our nose

Although in captivity, the park emphasizes the educational aspect and strives to raise awareness about the environment and the differences in living conditions of the animal in captivity compared to its natural habitat.

Dolphinaris offers two options:

  • Dolphin Friendly encounter: Discovering dolphins with the 5 senses experience
  • Fintastic experience: Swimming with dolphins in addition to the first experience

Both experiences last for an hour, including 40 minutes in the water. A pool is also available for relaxation before or after the experience.


The park also offers paid options such as locker rental or purchase of photos and videos, which are quite expensive at $125 USD! (or $65 USD if purchased online in advance).

There is also the option to add hotel transportation for $5 to $15 USD depending on the hotel’s location.



The Delphinus Park offers visitors the opportunity to interact with dolphins.

A 15-minute briefing before entering the water provides more information about dolphins before spending 45 minutes alongside them in the water.

Once in the water, the trainers accompanying the dolphins provide more detailed information about their anatomy, behavior, and way of life.


The trainers emphasize the animals’ health and their living conditions within the park’s pools, which they guarantee are the best possible.

The park offers several options for interacting with the animals:

  • Splash: Alongside the dolphins, you’ll learn more about their way of life. You can touch them and play with them. Numerous activities are scheduled for the whole family.
  • Ride: In addition to the activities, you can swim with the dolphins while holding onto their dorsal fin.
  • Supreme: In addition to the activities, you’ll take part in an aquatic race propelled by the dolphins, pushing you with their feet.

These three experiences are conducted in small groups and accompanied by a park trainer.

Photos and videos are available at an additional cost and are quite expensive, with a photo package costing over $200 USD. Cameras and phones are prohibited in the park.

Delphinus Tulum

Why I Don’t Recommend Swimming in Pools with Dolphins

Swimming with dolphins is a dream for many of us, young and old alike. To live such a unique experience and to be able to interact and swim with them seems incredible.

However, it’s also important to be aware of the living conditions of these wild animals, which are not meant to live in captivity.

🌊 Natural Habitats vs. Artificial Pools

Dolphins are animals that need large spaces and a natural ecosystem, not to be confined to an artificial pool.

The Riviera Maya also hosts dolphins in their natural habitat, where they are comfortable and free to move.

Dolphins in Sian Ka'an Tulum
Dolphin in Sian Ka'an

If you wish to observe dolphins in Tulum, seeing them in the wild will be even more impressive and memorable.

In confined spaces, these animals cannot express all their natural behaviors they are destined for.

Group interactions, hunting for food, communication, movement—all of these are very limited or nonexistent in a pool.

🐬 Ethical Questions

Therefore, it’s these ethical questions regarding respect for the animal that lead me not to recommend swimming activities in pools with dolphins.

The Riviera Maya has so much more to offer than these artificial experiences, starting with observing these majestic marine creatures in their natural environment!

🌊 Observing Dolphins in Their Natural Environment

I prefer to observe these animals in their natural habitat without disturbing or touching them.

In a nature reserve, dolphins can play among themselves and sometimes even with small visitor boats, but they will never be forced to do anything they don’t want to do.

All interactions with dolphins will be genuine and not controlled by humans.

Observing Wildlife in Its Natural Environment in Playa del Carmen

For all nature lovers, the Riviera Maya will delight you with the diversity of wildlife present in the region.


The cenotes in Tulum are home to a multitude of colorful fish to observe during a snorkeling session.

My favorite cenotes for snorkeling in Tulum are:

  • Cenote Azul
  • Cenote Nicte-Ha
  • Cenote Dos Ojos

Some cenotes require a rental car to go as they are located far from the main road.

🐟 Natural Pedicure!

In some cenotes, there are also small fish that eat dead skin off your feet, providing a natural pedicure!

cenotes Tulum

The Coral Reef

The world’s second-largest coral reef is located off the coast of Playa del Carmen. It extends from Cancun to Honduras and runs along the entire Riviera Maya.

The Coral Reef is easily accessible from some beaches in the region. Bring your mask and snorkel in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to discover the corals and the numerous fish sheltered by the reef.

My favorite places to observe the coral reef and incredible fauna are:

  • Playa Xpu-Ha: From the beach, swim about fifty meters to reach the reef. Discover numerous fish!
  • Isla Mujeres: La Caleta Nomada is rich in colorful fish!
  • Sian Ka’an: The Sian Ka’an reef harbors incredible fauna.
Snorkeling in Mexico


In Akumal, you can observe young sea turtles coming to the bay to feed on the seagrass.

🐢 Akumal Ecological Center

Here, the Akumal Ecological Center (CEA) does its utmost to ensure the protection of turtles in Mexico.

At night, during the nesting period, the CEA patrols to ensure the turtles’ well-being, count and protect the nests from predators.

In Akumal, of course, the turtles are free and not fed by boat captains to attract them, as may be the case near the Tulum ruins.

turtle in Akumal

Yal Ku

Caleta Yal Ku is a cove where the Caribbean Sea flows inland. This cove is rich in corals, attracting hundreds of fish!

The water in the cove is calm and shallow, making it an excellent place to discover impressive marine fauna.

🐠 Colorful Fish

This hidden treasure of the Riviera Maya harbors an exceptional seabed of corals and underwater caves allowing colorful fish to coexist freely.

The Yal Ku cove ecosystem also houses some rays and turtles, which you may observe if luck is on your side!

Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, reaching up to 18 meters in length. During the summer months, they are present off the coast of the Riviera Maya.

It is then possible to swim alongside them for a few minutes and observe them while snorkeling, without ever touching them to protect them.

Swimming alongside whale sharks is a very impressive experience!

Whale shark


The island of Holbox is home to a nature reserve, the Yum Balam Reserve. Hundreds of birds are present in the heart of the reserve.

Holbox is the perfect stop during a Yucatan road trip to relax and enjoy the paradisiacal beach.

🦩 It is even possible to observe flamingos in season.

flamingos in Holbox

Rio Lagartos

The Rio Lagartos Reserve is located north of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to numerous wild animals.

In Rio Lagartos, it is possible to take a boat tour on the river and observe pelicans, eagles, egrets, herons, as well as flamingos and crocodiles…

Birds in Rio Lagartos

Choosing Responsible Tourism

Choosing responsible tourism means choosing tourism that respects animals and their living conditions.

This involves preserving animals’ health, behavior, living space, freedom of movement, group interaction, communication, and instinct for feeding. All of these are very limited or nonexistent in artificial pools.

Dolphin in Tulum

The interactions humans have with animals should not destabilize them. Yet in artificial pools, dolphins are no longer in control of themselves but under human control.

The high stress of dolphins in pool captivity and the distress caused by living conditions need to be questioned and are justified in the Riviera Maya only by irresponsible mass tourism.

Dolphins in Tulum

👉 Changing things is the goal of responsible tourism!

🌍 Responsible tourism means:

  • Leaving wild animals in freedom in their natural environment
  • Preserving their ecosystem
  • Avoiding parks with artificial pools

🌳 The Riviera Maya has everything to offer for responsible tourism.

Let yourself be seduced by a unique and unforgettable experience discovering dolphins, turtles, crocodiles, or whale sharks, but always with respect for the animals!

Dolphins in Sian Ka'an

Other animals in the Yucatán

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