Published on November 24th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut


Kiss, Shake Hands, Fly: How to Swim with Dolphins in Puerto Vallarta

It’s not your usual swimming pool. Even before you jump into the water, you can see the fins — and likely, the faces — of the cheery residents of Dolphin Discovery Vallarta, a water park located in Nuevo Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit, just outside of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

During my most recent visit to this Mexico beach resort destination (during which I stayed at the Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta and participated in the deliciously decadent annual Gourmet Festival), I was invited with a group of journalists to visit Dolphin Discovery and enjoy their top-of-the-line dolphin swim experience: The Dolphin Royal Swim. During this memorable encounter, I learned about these fascinating sea mammals and got to know a couple of them up close, while participating in the following experiences:

Dolphin Swim Training: Before we got into the water, our group took seats near the pool and received expert instruction from one of the trainers, who told us the details about what we’d be doing with the dolphins — a male named Poseidon and a female named Cleopatra — and showed us the positions we’d be taking to make the experience as comfortable and easy as possible for these intelligent and friendly marine mammals.

Dolphin Hand Shake: Once in the water, we first stood on a ledge against the side of the pool. We took turns stepping forward for this trick, so the dolphins would know who to approach and offer their flippers for a unique handshake.

Dolphin Kiss: These dolphins know how to romance. We were able to kiss (and be kissed by) them, and they patiently stayed in place for multiple photo opportunities. They earned every fish they were fed!

Dolphin Dorsal Tow: To participate in another impressive trick, I swam out to the far end of the pool and waited for Poseidon and Cleopatra to come out to me. They swam swiftly by my side, their dorsal fins sliding up against my hands on either side. I held on as I’d been instructed, and they towed me quickly, comfortably and safely to the side of the pool.

Dolphin Foot Push: This was the biggest rush of the day. For this, I swam out to the far end of the pool yet again and waited, stomach down and with my legs open. Before I knew it, I felt a dolphin poking against the bottom of each of my feet, pushing me at an incredible speed toward the side of the pool as I rose up miraculously out of the water. It felt like flying. The strength of these creatures is truly impressive, and their snouts are so firm that it barely felt like animals pushing me skyward. We also did a variation on this using a boogie board.

The trainer also taught us about the dolphins, showing how to determine a dolphin’s gender and how they make their chirpy noises. After we bid farewell to the dolphins, we made our way to another part of the park to meet a gigantic South American sea lion named Pepe, who posed gamely for photos and gave each of us a kiss (you haven’t felt heavy breathing until you’ve felt the rush of air coming out of this guy’s gigantic nostrils).

Dolphin Discovery Vallarta is located inside Aquaventuras Park Vallarta, an attractive water park that’s ideal for families and adults alike, with 10 different water slides. Dolphin Discovery offers dolphin swim programs in several locations, including Cancun, Cozumel and the Costa Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, Los Cabos and Vallarta on the Pacific coast, and Anguilla-St. Maarten, Grand Cayman and Tortola in the Caribbean Islands.


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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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