Dolphin Cove Jamaica Trip Review

Dolphin Cove Jamaica – Trip Review

We visited the Ocho Rios location of Dolphin Cove Jamaica in June 2015. If you want the full story, keep reading. If you just want the highlights or the key tips, scroll to the bottom.

Dolphin Cove Jamaica – Dolphin in flight
Photo Credit: Dolphin Cove Photo CD

Dolphin Cove presents preservation of marine life and the environment wrapped in a tourist attraction. In fact, it is the top marine attraction in Jamaica, if not the Caribbean. As long as you realize what it is and have a reasonable level of expectation of the experience, you will be fine. If you are the kind of person who thinks that no animal should be in captivity, this experience will not change your mind. And, you should probably not bother reading the rest of this article.

We bought tickets and made reservations for the 11:30am Dolphin Encounter the following day. There were different tour options available but since our son, Darrian, isn’t a good swimmer yet, we wanted something that he could enjoy fully.

The park opened at 10am that day. We got there about 10:50am thinking that we were early. You really should try to get there closer to 10am as there is a lot more to do than we realized. We needed to leave at about 1pm and really could have used more time.

Even with the receipt for the tickets in hand, it took us 20-25 minutes at check-in (from when they started attending to us) to get our wrist bracelets and sign the liability waivers. Although there was a computer at the desk, quite a bit seemed to be done by hand in notebooks with handwritten receipts. So, be prepared for a little wait.

The Dolphin Encounter

At 11:30am when the experience started, everyone with reservations for that time sat on the benches on the deck. The arm bands not only identify the type of tour you have paid for but also the group with which you will be for the dolphin encounter. It doesn’t really matter where you sit during the pre-encounter briefing. There is no “good” spot because based on how everyone stands in the water, you will get your turn to touch or otherwise interact with the dolphin.

Dolphin Cove Jamaica – Touch the Dolphin
Photo Credit: Dolphin Cove Photo CD

The trainer started off talking about Dolphin Cove and dolphins in general. Once that piece was over, we were placed in groups of about 10 people each. We lined up in the water and each person interacted with the dolphin in turn getting and giving the dolphin a kiss, touching the dolphin’s back, and giving it a belly rub. Using the signals that we were taught, we got the dolphin to sing, dance and flip. It was about 15 minutes of group time, not individual time, with the dolphin.

Was it enough time with the dolphins? Darrell thought it was enough. Darrian and I thought it could have been a little longer. They are such friendly creatures that a few minutes more would always be welcomed.

What else was there to do at Dolphin Cove?

There is a miniature petting zoo with rabbits and guinea pigs. There is bird feeding. There were some friendly exotic birds including macaws, love-birds and parakeets.

Dolphin Cove Jamaica – Beautiful birds
Photo Credit: Darrell Looney

There is a water slide and a beach area but we didn’t have time to experience those. We also didn’t get to do the glass-bottom boat ride.

We did the short speed boat ride going from Dolphin Cove towards Dunns River Falls next door. On the way, you can see Mick Jagger’s former estate. Now called Rio Chico and owned by Butch Stewart of Sandals fame, it is a villa which rents for US$40,000 to $70,000 per week! Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous! The ride was choppy but fun. The boat captain was the only person who asked for a tip.

The boat ride was Darrell’s favorite part of the visit. My favorite thing was the section with the vendors. This was for one simple reason – Nobody asked me if I wanted to buy anything and I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything.

You can also swim and snorkel with the sting rays. There are maybe two sting rays. The barbs have been removed. You can take your picture holding one. Interacting with the stingray is included with the admission so you may as well do it. It isn’t as though you are snorkeling or interacting with many of them. If that is what you are expecting, you will be disappointed.

Now, about the Shark Show…

It was difficult to hear them very well. I’m not one who cares for activities specifically designed to make tourists laugh. Maybe kids under 12 might find the show funny but it needs more work to keep the average adult entertained. That said, their main “pirate”, whose voice announces the show, is pretty good. He really fits his role. I won’t let the cat out of the bag with that one.

The Shark Show is free. The Shark Interaction is extra. 

The music in the area with the sharks is in the flavor of Jaws. They make a big show about how dangerous sharks are; however, the sharks that they have are nurse sharks.

Dolphin Cove Jamaica – Shark Show
Photo Credit: Dolphin Cove Photo CD

It is one thing to spill the beans to kids that Santa Claus isn’t real. I think it is responsible to spill the beans on the shark experience given that there are people who die each year from real shark attacks. Are there people who will do the shark experience at Dolphin Cove and leave believing that all sharks can be tamed or that they interacted with a potentially dangerous shark? Quite possibly, which would be very unfortunate.

The idea of interacting with sharks, even if they are only nurse sharks, sounds scarier than it actually is. These are not Great Whites like from Jaws! You do sign a liability waiver; but, there is no way the company would be irresponsible enough to put tourists in a swimming area with sharks that are likely to harm humans. Nevertheless, nurse sharks are sharks, making it a unique experience with bragging rights.

So what’s the deal with nurse sharks? According to National Geographic, “Nurse sharks are slow-moving bottom-dwellers and are, for the most part, harmless to humans. However, they can be huge—up to 14 feet (4.3 meters)—and have very strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth, and will bite defensively if stepped on or bothered by divers who assume they’re docile.” states, “The threat to humans is very minimal. There have only been a few attacks ever recorded, and only one of those attacks was unprovoked. No fatal attacks have ever been recorded.” So in reality, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.

The main reason we enjoyed Dolphin Cove Jamaica was because it made our son very happy. Surprise!

Parents, your kids will enjoy it. There are enough activities here to make you happy too.

Have you visited the Ocho Rios location of Dolphin Cove Jamaica? How was your experience? Let us know. Leave a comment below.

Just so you know …

  • Reservations, paid in advance, are highly recommended for any of the dolphin experiences. If you are only paying for admission and not doing a dolphin interactions, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you have reservations.
  • If you have a prepaid reservation, make sure you bring your receipt with you.
  • Absolutely do not go on cruise ship days. This is true for the most popular activities.
  • You must be able to swim and over age 8 to do any of the dolphin programs other than the Encounter. Children age 8-10 must be accompanied by a paying adult. Those over age 10 can participate without a paying adult.
  • Pregnant women are not allowed to participate in the Dolphin Swim programs.
  • Check in and purchasing the tickets is time-consuming. Make sure you allow enough time to get to your tour on time.
  • There is a liability waiver which you are required to sign.
  • Plan on about 3-4 hours, at least, to get your money’s worth. Dolphin Cove is pricey, but if you stay at least 3-4 hours, you will be able to get your money’s worth.
  • Wear a swimsuit or shorts. Their staff and website will tell you that the encounter is held in knee deep water. Unless you are over 8ft tall, you will find that is not true. We were in at least 3ft of water for the Dolphin Encounter. Look at the pictures to see for yourself.
  • Wear light-weight clothing so that they will dry quickly.
  • Don’t forget to bring a towel.
  • Lunch is available at a restaurant on the beach. We didn’t stay for lunch so we can’t comment on the quality of the food. The menu has hot dogs, burgers, fries, jerk chicken.
  • Like Disney, the exit is through a gift shop offering primarily Dolphin Cove memorabilia
  • If you plan on interacting with the dolphins at all, don’t wear earrings with hoops, hats, sunglasses, or rings unless the backs are smooth. All such items have to be removed prior to interacting with the dolphins due to concern for possible injury to the dolphin.
  • Don’t put on sun tan lotion before interacting with the dolphins for their safety. Unless you used biodegradable sunscreen, you will be asked to wash it off for the safety of the animals.
  • You are not allowed to take pictures of yourself doing any of the dolphin programs. There is an observation deck from which a member of your group could stand and take pictures of you. The encounter program is the closest to the observation deck. The dolphin swim program was much further away. You couldn’t expect to get good pictures that far away without a zoom lens. Don’t bother bringing a waterproof camera either. You cannot have any cameras of any kind in the immediate area with the dolphins. This is non-negotiable.
  • We got the CD and video combo. The CD alone was about US$45 or $50 so we figured we would just get the combo for $79. They played snippets of them so we knew that the disc worked and that the included pictures were ours. What we didn’t realize was that the CD and video included photos of all the people who did the encounter with us. If you are with a group, there is no need to buy individual CDs or videos. Get the CD/video combo instead.
  • You pick up the photos in the same general area where you bought them. The DVD though is clear across the property closer to the exit. If you buy the CD/DVD combo you have to trek to two places. Be prepared to wait.
  • The property is not handicap-accessible as far as I could tell. We went down a series of stairs to get to the main activity area on the beach. It is certainly not stroller or wheelchair-friendly. The path trough the Jungle Trail is fine for able bodied people; but, it is narrow, unpaved and uneven. Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If you have babies with you, you may have some challenges. I doubt that you can or should take an infant with you on the motor boats. The boat holds two adults and a child plus the captain. The sea is rough, at least when we went. We needed to hold on to the grab bar on the boat. If you have a child with you, that child will need to be able to hold on himself or herself. Yes, you are wearing life vests; but, I am very vigilant about recognizing potential safety risks. Strollers are difficult. There are age requirements for some experiences.
  • Dolphin Cove sports membership in The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums, which prohibits them from using dolphins from Taiji, Japan. I was happy to learn that.
  • If you have seen dolphins before and are not interested in interacting with the dolphins, I don’t see much point in going to Dolphin Cove. You can snorkel elsewhere and for less money. Aviaries are quite popular at the many gardens around. You can kayak at the beach near our villa and the beach there is bigger and less rocky. It seems there are only two sting rays. As for the water slide, Jewel Lagoon Water Park and Mystic Mountain both have water slides. Konoko has iguanas. Swamp Safari has iguanas and snakes.
  • There is no Dolphin Show so don’t go expecting one like at SeaWorld or the Aquarium in Chicago or Atlanta.
  • The 15 minutes or so with the dolphins in the Dolphin Encounter experience is not per person but per group. More time was spent on the introductory talk than with the actual dolphin.
  • If you read the Trip Advisor Dolphin Cove Jamaica online reviews, people who did the swim with one dolphin or the ultimate experience with two dolphins enjoyed it but almost everyone points out how short the time is, especially given the price. The swim is about 10-15 seconds. For the nose push, where the dolphins push you up by your feet, it is one shot deal.
  • For the little individual time that each person has with the dolphins, I don’t know that I would spring for a more expensive program than the Dolphin Encounter. The other experiences seem like fun but are pricey. If swimming with the dolphins is on your bucket list, then go for it; otherwise, the Dolphin Encounter might be a good option for you.
  • A little bird told me that if you swim to the end of the snorkeling enclosure, you can interact with the dolphins through the fence.
  • Yes, it is expensive; but, Dolphin Experiences anywhere are pretty pricey. Photos, videos, food and transportation are not included in the price. Expect to pay extra for those.
  • If it is windy, you won’t be able to do the boat ride or the kayaking for safety reasons. Snorkeling would be equally challenging. If the sea is rough, the stingrays have a tendency to stay close to the sand and try to burrow in the sand. This will make it almost impossible to get to pet them.
  • It is best to be dropped off than for you to drive yourself. The parking is very limited and the entrance is literally at the side of the road almost in a corner.

Dolphin Cove is located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, near Dunns River Falls and Mystic Mountain, and is about 30 minutes drive from Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, Discovery Bay. Contact us now to book your Mais Oui Villa vacation.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Til next time,

Sherry & Darrell

Considering a visit to Jamaica? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups.

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!