10 Best Dolphin Sighting Destinations in North America

See these unique mammals in their natural habitats.

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Photo By: Visit Florida, photo by Peter W. Cross & Patrick Farrell

Photo By: Visit Ventura, visitventura.com

Photo By: South Padre Island CVB

Photo By: Outside Hilton Head, www.OutsideHiltonHead.com

Photo By: Destination BC, photo by Jordan Manely

Photo By: Bob Krist/Florida Keys News Bureau

Photo By: Southeast Adventure Outfitters

Photo By: Hornblower Cruises & Events, www.sandiego.org

Photo By: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Photo By: Visit Florida, www.visitflorida.com

Naples-Fort Myers, Florida

Often considered one of the world's most intelligent animals, dolphins inhabit a wide range of oceans around the world with more than 40 species in existence. Some breeds prefer warmer waters, while others thrive in colder climates. The coastal areas of North America offer plenty of prime dolphin sighting locations, such as Naples, Fla. The Gulf of Mexico is home to several dolphin species, and you can book eco-tours to see them in the Naples-Fort Myers area.

The Channel Islands, California

Located off the coast of southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel is a chain of eight islands known as the Channel Islands. These waters are home to an amazing variety of marine life, including whales and sea lions, but also the common dolphin. You can spot dolphins on chartered tours operating out of Ventura and other nearby harbors.

South Padre Island + Port Isabel, Texas

Texas is famous for many attractions, but you probably wouldn't think dolphin sighting is one of them. Yet the coastal waters around South Padre Island and harbors like Port Isabel are popular destinations for dolphin sighting excursions.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

A popular resort destination since the '60s, Hilton Head offers a variety of recreational activities such as golf, tennis, swimming and spa getaways, but it's also an excellent location for dolphin sightings. You can book marine life excursions from local tour operators as Outside Hilton Head, which traverses the nearby Intracoastal Waterway and other prime dolphin spotting areas.

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Pacific White-sided dolphins and other species that prefer colder waters are a familiar sight off the coast of Canada along the west coast of Vancouver Island. You can book specialty tours for dolphin, porpoise and whale sightings from such local outfits as Vancouver Island Tours.

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys have always been a dream vacation getaway for those who love snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, deep sea fishing and more. It's also an ideal destination for dolphin sighting tours which are offered along Route 1 from Key Largo to Key West. One of the more unique and family-friendly options is the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Fla., a non-profit, educational facility that's home to bottlenose dolphins and sea lions, many of whom are rescued or rehabilitated animals.

The Golden Isles, Georgia

When you hear people talk about vacationing in the Golden Isles, they're referring to the four barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, which includes St. Simons, Jekyll Island, Sea Island and Little St. Simons. Beautiful beaches, golf, fishing and nature preserves are some of the top attractions, along with eco-cruises where you can spot dolphins and other marine and coastal wildlife from providers like SouthEast Adventure Outfitters.

San Diego, California

One of the key places in Southern California to see a wide variety of dolphins (Pacific White-sided, Bottlenose, Risso's dolphin, etc.) and whales is off the coast of San Diego where you can view marine mammals from such local outfits as Hornblower Cruises and Events.

Gulf Shores-Orange Beach, Alabama

There are approximately 20 species of dolphin and whale that make their home in the Gulf of Mexico, and one of the best places to see a variety of marine life is off the coast of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Ala., where numerous eco-tours are available.

St. Augustine, Florida

If you love sandy beaches and collecting seashells, St. Augustine is an ideal location. But if you want a different kind of seaside experience, you should consider exploring the nearby wetlands and coastal marshes via sightseeing tours where you can spot all kinds of marine life, from dolphins to manatees to sea turtles. The Dolphin Conservation Center (pictured) is also close to St. Augustine.

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