Swimming with Dolphins in the Azores Islands

What to Expect from a Swimming with Dolphins Experience in the Azores


Picture yourself floating in the middle of the crystal clear, deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean while a group of wild dolphins flits by, swirling and twirling beside you, below you, and all around you: This is exactly what you can expect when swimming with dolphins in the Azores

Located in the Atlantic between the coasts of Portugal and North America, the Azores are a permanent home and natural point of passage to a variety of dolphin species, making the islands one of the world’s best places for observing dolphins and whales in their natural habitat.

The Azores’ winning combination of unique volcanic origins, deep waters off the coast, and mild air and sea temperatures from the Gulf Stream make this Portuguese archipelago the ideal location for visitors to come and spot a wide array of species on an ultimate swimming with dolphins experience.  


Dolphins on the way to Corvo Island from Flores, Azores, Portugal
Boat trip from Flores Island to Corvo

Up-Close Wild Dolphin Encounters in the Azores Sea 

While swimming with dolphins in the Azores, you’ll be close enough to hear and observe these magnificent creatures up close and personal! Swimming along with wild dolphins in their natural environment is a unique experience unlike any other. So, what exactly can you expect on your dolphin adventure?


Whale and dolphin watching excursion in São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal.
Whale and dolphin watching excursion in the Azores

What to Expect from a Swimming with Dolphins Experience in the Azores

When most people hear the phrase “swimming with dolphins”, they picture the shallow waters of a beach and dolphins that are trained or accustomed to interacting with humans. During an Azores swimming with dolphins experience, you’ll be taken out in a zodiac boat a few miles offshore to waters that are several hundred feet deep. Once there, you’ll be given snorkeling gear to dive right into the mid-Atlantic ocean for an exhilarating Azores swimming experience with wild dolphins! 

Put your head underwater to hear their fun and cute whistles and quirky squeaks, and although many wild dolphins in the Azores are shy, don’t be surprised if some approach you. After all, they are just as curious about you as you are about them! But don’t worry about such an encounter, as everything is perfectly safe and thought out. Specifically, your tour providers will brief you on specific safety procedures, and fill you in on exactly what to expect before you even head out on your dolphin swimming trip. 


Dolphin excursion between Flores and Corvo Island, Azores, Portugal
Dolphins are known for being friendly animals 

Types of Dolphin Species You Will See During your Azores Swimming with Dolphins Excursion 

While common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins call the Azores home year-round, some other dolphin species are migratory and only pass through the islands during specific seasons. Some of these migratory dolphin species include Striped dolphins and Atlantic Spotted dolphins, among others. 

It is important to note that on guided excursions in the Azores, you are officially only allowed to swim among five certain species. We will go into further detail about each of these five dolphins species you may expect to encounter below:

Bottlenose Dolphins: These dolphins are the largest dolphin species you will see in while swimming with dolphins in the Azores. In fact, the Bottlenose Dolphins in these islands are known to be even larger than elsewhere.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins: These dolphins are among the seasonal dolphins that travel through the Azores´ waters only once each year. You can expect to see these beauties arriving in the Azores—newborns in tow—in later June each year. 

Common Dolphins: Often seen gliding through the Azores´ waters in large groups up to the hundreds, these dolphins distinct markings (they are known to have an hourglass color pattern that is highlighted by yellow on their hind regions). 

Risso´s Dolphins: Next largest in size following the Bottlenose Dolphins, these dolphins are most readily recognized by their round noses. An interesting fact about Risso´s is that the adults´ bodies become dotted with white scars that accumulate throughout their lives. For this reason, by the time they reach old age, many of the species are almost entirely white!

Striped Dolphins: Known for being famously a bit more shy and standoffish, these gorgeous creatures are less inclined to approach visitors too closely during a swimming with dolphins experience. However, the great news is that they are known to porpoise at very high speeds, which means they are the ideal subjects for that perfect Instagram worthy photo!


Whale and dolphin watching excursion in São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
Whale and dolphins watching excursion in São Miguel Island

Not Just Dolphins 

Although swimming with dolphins is understandably the highlight of dolphin swimming tours, the Atlantic waters surrounding the Azores are also home to a wide variety of other exciting wildlife, including birds and other exotic species. Visitors heading out on a dolphin swimming excursion can also keep their eyes peeled for exhilarating encounters with sea turtles, Manta rays, ocean sunfish, whale sharks, and more. And for bird enthusiasts, you may even get lucky enough to spot a Cory’s shearwater, a seabird that is emblematic in the Azores, and which has a very interesting call that you will certainly never forget after hearing it. You have to hear it for yourself to understand, but it is very unusual to say the least!


Vila Franca do Campo Islet in São Miguel Island, Azores.
Vila Franca do Campo Islet, São Miguel Island

Best Time of the Year to go on a Swimming with Dolphins Experience in the Azores

Due to the Azores’ mild temperatures year-round and the large number of species that call the Portuguese island archipelago home, it’s possible to venture out on an excursion to swim with dolphins in the Azores any time of the year. No matter what season you choose to come and visit the Azores, you’ll always be able to spot some new friends at sea.  


Caldeira Velha hot spring pools in São Miguel Island, the Azores, Portugal.
Caldeira Velha hot springs

Swimming with Dolphins in São Miguel Island

Not only is São Miguel Island, Azores, known for being the largest island in this Portuguese archipelago, but it is also considered to be among the absolute best spots to experience dolphin swimming in the Azores. So, if you are looking for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of connecting to marine wildlife in an incredible and unique way, swimming with dolphins in the Azores should be at the very top of your Azores Island vacation itinerary.

So, what exactly can you expect when perusing Azores dolphins on São Miguel Island? Most excursions are led by professional expert guides and offer you the opportunity to both swim in the Azores with dolphins, as well as whale watching, and take our word for it: Nothing quite matches the awe and joy you will experience while swimming around in the water surrounded by majestic Azores dolphins.


Capelinhos Volcano in Faial Island, the Azores, Portugal.
Road to Capelinhos volcano

Swimming with Dolphins in Faial Island

Whale and dolphin experts have been known to attribute the title of one of the “Best Places in the World” to Faial Island for spotting cetaceans especially. And for those seeking an epic experience with Azores dolphins, Faial is also a fantasy land of marine life. 

As you are swimming with dolphins in the Azores on the island of Faial, you should also keep your eyes open for krill and squid (known to love the nutrient-rich water found here), as well as sperm whales, which just happen to be the local species that call the Azores — and Faial — home. Non -esident whales that often migrate through the island archipelago include: humpback, pilot, fin, sei, beaked, and even blue whales. The opportunity to spot such an exciting array of marine species only makes dolphin swimming in the Azores even more appealing, as there is so much more to see, especially on Faial!


Cabras islets in Terceira Island, the Azores, Portugal.
Cabras Islets

Swimming with Dolphins in Terceira Island

Now, if you are heading to Terceira Island and are wanting to go swimming with dolphins in the Azores while here, we have excellent news for you: Terceira Island is a terrific place to spot — and swim alongside — Azores dolphins! There is simply nothing more magical than swimming in the Terceira Island sea while being absolutely surrounded by a pod of playful Azores dolphins frolicking in their natural habitats.

Most dolphin swimming within the Azores experiences that take place on Terceira Island depart from the iconic Marina Angra do Heroísmo. Once you are out on the water, such wonders and beauty await you, including an abundance of Azores dolphins! Also adding to the allure of a guided tour in Terceira Island is the fact that most outings are led by expert marine biologists or guides, who amplify the experience by adding their insights and fun facts about the magical species en route.


Whale and dolphin watching excursion in São Miguel Island, the Azores.
Start planning your swimming with the Azores' experience! 

Tips for Your Azores Swimming with Dolphins Excursion

  • Swimming with dolphins is permitted in the Azores, but swimming with whales is prohibited
  • Guidelines set by local environmental agencies forbid touching the wild animals
  • If you are considering swimming with dolphins during your trip to the Azores, you should be comfortable with swimming in open water in the middle of the ocean
  • This type of activity is not recommended for young children, or for those with certain health conditions; Check with your tour provider and voice any concerns or questions before booking this experience
  •  Most tour providers will include masks, snorkels, and wetsuits as complimentary gear for this activity, but you can also feel free to bring your own if you prefer!


Whether you are young or old, and whether it is winter, summer, spring or fall, the Azores is the perfect destination for all who wish to experience the thrill of viewing the mystical mammals of the Atlantic close-up on a swimming with dolphins experience!

Azores tourism board - Visit Azores.

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