9 Great Dolphin Tours in Panama City Beach

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Florida doesn't get nearly enough credit for its spectacular marine wildlife. Between the manatees that cruise the local canals and the loggerhead sea turtles that nest on its beaches, the Sunshine State is home to some seriously majestical creatures. 

But of all the aquatic critters you can observe on shoreside excursions while staying at a PCB vacation home rental, none are as beloved as bottlenose dolphins. Booking a Panama City Beach dolphin tour is an easy way to get up close and personal with these smart, curious mammals.

So whether you're a local looking for a family friendly excursion for the the weekend or a romantic day date, here are nine great dolphin tours that will introduce your group to the world's favorite ocean dweller.


1. Island Time Sailing

  • Website: islandtimesailing.com
  • Tours: 2 hour Dolphin Sunset Cruise or 3 hour Shell Island Snorkeling and Dolphin Adventure

It's no secret that PCB is an epic party destination—especially during Spring Break. The city's affordability and white sand beaches make it a Top 10 choice for college students who want to blow off steam. So if you want to keep the party going and get your dolphin fix, look no further than Island Time Sailing.

Their three-hour snorkel and sailing tour takes passengers out to Shell Island via a sailing cruise catamaran. After the anchors drop, you can search for seashells, sip on their famous Rum Punch, or take out one of their paddleboards.

No matter how you choose to spend your time in the water, you'll have a front-row seat to the wild dolphins that call the island home.


2. Blue Dolphin Tours

If "swim with dolphins" is written on your bucket list, Blue Dolphin Tours is where to check that item off. This highly-rated dolphin tour company offers an up-close-and-personal experience with these friendly mammals, allowing passengers to get in the water and swim alongside them.

Unlike other large tours, Blue Dolphin's signature small pontoons can only hold up to six people (though larger tour boats for larger parties are available). This intimate approach increases the likelihood that the dolphins will come to the boat and interact with passengers, making this private tour a must for any wildlife enthusiast.


3. Panama City Dolphin Safari Tours

Ever wondered why dolphins jump or follow boats? If you book a tour with Panama City Dolphin Safari Tours, then you can get the answers firsthand. This popular tour company offers an educational experience as well as an exciting one, with highly-trained captains providing passengers with information about the dolphins' behavior throughout the tour.

During their three-hour "seafari," your guide will snorkel alongside you and your party, pointing out dolphins, starfish, pufferfish, welch conchs, sand dollars, and other local wildlife. You can also hop on one of their signature cruises or a private charter for a more personal experience.


4. Sea Screamer

  • Website: seascreamer.net
  • Tours: 2 hour Daytime Dolphin Cruise or 2-hour Sunset Dolphin Cruise.

Dolphin spotting is definitely a more leisurely activity. But if you're looking for a heart-racing adventure, Sea Screamer is the way to go. This dolphin sightseeing tour company offers an unforgettable twin turbo-powered 73-foot boat ride that is "smooth, yet thrilling," according to their website.

Hang on tight and feel the wind whip through your hair as you glide 10 miles along Shell Island's surrounding waters while searching for dolphins in their natural environment.

You'll also be able to enjoy the sights of several other local landmarks, such as St. Andrews State Park and the Gulf Coast's iconic jetties. Tours last approximately two hours, and there is a sunset cruise option as well.


5. Lagoon Pontoons

  • Website: lagoonpontoon.com
  • Tours: 2 to 3 hour Dolphin Boat Snorkeling Trip or 2 hour Jet Ski Dolphin Adventure Tour.

Yes, Lagoon Pontoons offers the standard dolphin snorkeling excursions up and down PCB. But if you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary, hop on one of their signature jet ski dolphin tours.

This two-hour small group tour loads you up on your own jet ski (fitting up to three people per ski) and takes you on an action-packed ride to Shell Island.

Once you reach the island, your guide will lead you through the lagoon, pointing out dolphins and sea turtles, manatees, stingrays, starfish, hermit crabs, and more along the way. You can take a break to jump off the jet skis, explore the island, or hit the waves with your trusty steed.


6. Coastal Wildlife Adventures

The only thing that could make a wild dolphin tour better? A sunken shipwreck! Coastal Wildlife Adventures has an incredible snorkeling tour that takes you to one of the most secluded beaches in Florida: Crooked Island.

There, in one of the most untouched parts of the Gulf of Mexico, you'll have a chance to go snorkeling around Simpson Shipwreck, a 93-foot tugboat that sank in the late 1870s.

During this half-day tour, you'll also get to explore the beach, do some shallow-water snorkeling and shell collecting (so long as there are no live animals calling it home, you can take it!), and observe dolphins in their natural habitat. You'll likely spot even more pods on your route to and from the island.


7. Water Planet

  • Website: waterplanetusa.com
  • Tours: 4 hour Dolphin Swim Tour or 2 hour Dolphin Swim and Cruise Tour.

Unless you're chartering a private cruise or embarking on an all-day adventure, most tours will take you out for two or three hours max.

Florida doesn't get nearly enough credit for its spectacular marine wildlife. Between the manatees that cruise the local canals and the loggerhead sea turtles that nest on its beaches, the Sunshine State is home to some seriously majestical creatures.

However, Water Planet sets itself apart from the crowd by tacking on an additional hour of exploring, giving you double the time to observe dolphins and take in all that Panama City Beach's waters have to offer.

This four-hour Shell Island tour includes several "live swim-ins" with dolphins and the chance to snorkel over the 80-foot Percy Payne shipwreck. It's also pretty intimate, with only six people allowed to book per tour.

The only downside is that they don't offer any food or beverages other than bottled water, but you can bring your own cooler with snacks and drinks.


8. Paradise Adventures

  • Website: paradiseadventurespcb.com
  • Tours: 3 hour Shell Island Adventure Tour, 3 Hour Dolphin Snorkeling Tour, 1.5 hour Dolphin and Mimosa Tour, Private 6 pax Dolphin Sightseeing Tour

Got some adventure-hungry kids in your group? They'll go nuts over Paradise Adventures' inflatable water park they have anchored out at Shell Island. After boating over to this popular snorkeling destination—spotting tons of wildlife and dolphins along the way—you're free to bounce on the inflatable trampoline or rock on the water see-saw.

If you'd prefer something a bit calmer, you can take one of the kayaks or paddleboards out for a spin. You can even sit back and soak up some of those infamous Florida rays on the boat's two sunning nets.

Whatever activity you choose, you'll get to enjoy a full three hours of dolphin-spotting and beach-exploring fun.


9. Gulf World Marine Park

Swimming with dolphins in the wild is absolutely magical—but you're required by law to maintain a good amount of distance. Harassing or feeding them is prohibited, and breaking the law can lead to hefty fines.

If you're looking for a way to get close and personal with dolphins without risking your wallet (or their safety), then Gulf World Marine Park has got you covered.

This eco-friendly marine park offers a variety of ways to interact with dolphins in captivity, including swimming with them in a controlled environment. All of the dolphins in Gulf World's care have either been rescued and deemed non-releasable or were born into human care, so they're very used to humans and are comfortable getting up close and personal—especially for a photo-op.


Why Go on a Dolphin Tour?

Seeing these beautiful creatures in the wild is an experience like no other. You'll be able to witness firsthand their amazing agility as they leap and splash around your boat, and you may even get a glimpse of them playing with each other.

Plus, you never know what other marine life you might encounter when out on the water—manatees, jellyfish, and stingrays are all common sightings in Panama City Beach!

Most tours include restroom access and snorkeling gear, but be sure to check each tour listing for details.

What Can You See on a Dolphin Tour?

No tour company can guarantee dolphin sightings. Weather conditions, time of day, and migrating seasons can affect visibility. But most high-quality charters are well-experienced in where to find pods and how to approach them. Some even boast a 99% success rate for seeing wild bottlenose dolphins.

But even if you don't spot any, there's still plenty to see on a dolphin tour. You may be able to observe other amazing wildlife, like sea turtles and crabs, or explore the beauty of St. Andrews Bay and in some cases, Shell Island.

Are Dolphin Tours Family Friendly?

Dolphin tours are for everyone! Children are welcomed on most, if not all, charters, so it's a great activity for families. And while some tours are tailored to adults, plenty of boat trips are suitable for all ages.

If anyone in your party can't or doesn't know how to swim, you may want to avoid the tours that include snorkeling—though you can always opt out of the swimming portion.

Dolphin Dreams Come True in PCB

Now that you've gotten the 411 on Panama City Beach dolphin tours, it's time to hit the waves and get your fill of these lovable creatures!

Looking for the perfect place in between excursions in PCB? Look no further than Panama City Beach Properties to find your perfect Riviera retreat or sunkissed cottage! We offer stays that range from brand new beach houses to roomy villas to accommodate any kind of traveler or group size!


Featured Image Credit: EvaL Miko