Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

Our Story

The History of Dolphin Quest

Dolphin Quest relationship between humans and dolphinsDolphin Quest pioneered dolphin interaction programs in natural, ocean-water sea sanctuaries.

It all started in the early 1980s when two marine mammal veterinarians set out to create an alternative to the traditional oceanarium environment and “dolphin shows”. They envisioned pristine and enriching natural dolphin habitats where visitors could enjoy inspiring and educational dolphin encounters that fund wild dolphin conservation.

Dr. Jay Sweeney and Dr. Rae Stone, through their expertise and extensive experience, knew that dolphins thrive on attention and that strong relationships between dolphins and humans are enriching for both species.

These world-renowned marine mammal veterinarians formed a partnership and Dolphin Quest was born. Read more about Dr. Sweeney and Dr. Stone on the About the Founders page.

Dolphin Quest is the ONLY dolphin public display organization owned, managed, and operated by veterinarians.

Our dolphins receive state-of-the-art veterinary care, top-notch nutrition and lots of love and attention from our marine mammal specialists.

They have assembled a team of talented, creative, fun-loving people who are all equally passionate animal advocates.

Commitment to the animals will always be our number one priority.

Since our first location opened in 1988, Dolphin Quest has been widely recognized as a leader in establishing large natural habitats for the animals, in accomplishing successful dolphin breeding programs, in developing innovative interactive dolphin programs that combine fun and learning for the animals and the people, and in promoting environmental stewardship.

The First Big Step

Our first Dolphin Quest opened in 1988 at the spectacular Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village is a fabulous resort for families. It has boats and a tram to take you to your room, amazing swimming pools, waterfalls, a suspension bridge, casual and elegant restaurants, and a snorkel lagoon teeming with fish. This resort, when it opened in 1988, was on the leading edge of innovative design for destination resorts.

It was in this shared spirit of pioneering adventure that we designed our saltwater dolphin habitat within the natural lava rock lagoon area in the center of the resort.

Dolphin Quest Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii's Big IslandThis beautiful habitat set a new worldwide standard for the development of large, natural sanctuaries for dolphins.

It is a saltwater, sandy-beached tidal lagoon filled with several million gallons of filtered seawater with a surface area, at high tide, of approximately one full acre. The water in this lagoon is crystal clear because fresh seawater is pumped from a tidal well dug into the highly porous lava rock.

The well generates an unlimited supply of seawater, naturally filtered through the lava rock, and pumps it into the Dolphin Quest Lagoon at a rate of 10,000 gallons per minute, or 15 million gallons per day. At this rate of flow, the entire water volume of the lagoon is replaced at an average of every two hours.

Water visibility in the lagoon is often in excess of an incredible 200 feet.

Crystal clear waters provide Dolphin Quest Hawaii guests with a breathtaking glimpse into the watery world of the dolphin.

In the summer of 1994, Dolphin Quest Hawaii was expecting its first dolphin calves – four of them! What an exciting time!

Expecting a dolphin calf is a very big deal in the world of marine mammals. Expecting four of them all at once was colossal! The story of these first pregnancies and births is too exciting and too long to tell here, but we wrote it all down in a book called Dolphin Babies.

Moving Right Along

Never ones to rest on past accomplishments, Dr. Sweeney and Dr. Stone wanted to share our fantastic dolphin experiences with those on the U.S. East Coast, too.

Dolphin Quest Beginning of Bermuda LocationWe had thriving sites in Hawaii and in the South Pacific, and now their vision turned to the lovely island of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean.

Bermuda lies 570 miles to the east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Although it is often mistaken for the Bahamas, Bermuda actually lies about 750 miles north of the nearest Caribbean island. Despite its northern latitude, Bermuda actually has a sub-tropical climate because of the warm Gulf Stream current flowing from the Caribbean.

Bermuda is a beautiful and most charming island of 21 square miles.

It has been a self-governing British colony since 1620 and can date some of its conservation legislation back to that time. Bermudians are rightfully very proud of their picturesque island with its sparkling pink sand beaches and clear turquoise blue seas.

Dolphin Quest opened its second site at the elegant Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel in 1996.

The dolphin habitat was a beautiful three-acre semi-protected cove on the south shore of the island. In this exceptionally large area, we developed innovative programs in the protected cove areas as well as in the deep-water areas where guests could paddle surfboards and ride in the Dolphin Quest boat as the dolphins cruised beside them.


Dolphin Quest habitat destroyed by stormsIn October 1999, the combined fury of exceptionally high tidal waves and the approach of Hurricane Gert damaged the dolphin habitat at the Southampton Princess.

In an impressive coordination of dedication and hard work, our staff battled the winds and water to move our animals and operations to a protected area on the most southwestern end of the island, into the area known as the Keep in the Royal Naval Dockyard. The Keep contains a large, protective ocean-water lagoon within a historic fort that is now the acclaimed National Museum of Bermuda. This fortified lagoon area and the connected outer habitat provides the dolphins a safe-haven from hurricanes and inclement weather.

A New Paradigm

Since moving to the National Museum of Bermuda in 1999, Dolphin Quest Bermuda has established a wonderful home for our dolphins.

This was our first experience partnering with an organization outside a resort. It is very exciting, that not only can we share with Bermudians and visitors the wonder and excitement of dolphins, but we can also share the rich resources of the museum and Bermuda’s heritage of conservation.

Dolphin Quest move to National Museum of Bermuda in 1999Dolphin Quest Bermuda embraces the cool Bermuda cultural heritage.

It is located in the Keep of the Dockyard, a six-acre historic fort that was designed to serve the naval fleet at anchor in Grassy Bay. It was once one of the most strategic military installations in the world and was heavily protected with a moated entrance, cannons, shell guns, and other weapons.

It was designed so munitions and provisions could be moved by boat between the large Keep pond and the vessels in the harbor. The grounds and many buildings of the Keep are now home to the National Museum of Bermuda’s exhibits and serve as home base for its highly-regarded maritime research, restoration, and preservation efforts.

The fort provides probably the world’s most secure home for our dolphins, and we are enjoying exploring the many possibilities for expanding our dolphin programs within this historical context.

The dolphin’s habitat was expanded in 2016 to include the amazing Ocean Habitat sanctuary.

The Ocean Habitat is a large sanctuary that extends beyond the museum walls and allows the dolphins to swim out into the ocean waters via a connecting tunnel from inside the lagoon. The entire sanctuary is one of the largest and most natural dolphin habitats in the world. Dolphin encounters in this area allow guests to interact with dolphins while riding underwater scooters and they can also explore the Bermuda reefs and bountiful marine life.

An Invitation to Make a Difference

Dolphin Quest new location on OahuIn 1998, we received an invitation to care for the resident dolphins at the luxurious Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii Hotel on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

This landmark hotel housed dolphins in their central lagoon since the 1970s. They were looking for an augmented facility and were very interested in the programs and animal expertise that Dolphin Quest could provide.

The exclusive Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii, now The Kahala Hotel & Resort, is located on the north side of Diamond Head, away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The hotel was originally named the Kahala Hilton and it was widely known for its unparalleled service and elegance.

Dolphin Quest opens new location in March 2000 on Oahu.

The spectacular natural dolphin lagoon has an intricate design with intimate ocean-water lagoon areas for guests to interact and learn about dolphins.

There are also separate lagoons that house multiple species of beautiful reef fishes, protected Hawaiian green turtles, and some graceful stingrays.

This facility has ushered in a new era for Dolphin Quest because we now offer interactive experiences with multiple species of animals, in addition to dolphins.


The people of Dolphin QuestAs our story continues to unfold, Dolphin Quest remains committed to the animals as our number one priority.

Dolphin Quest is committed to protecting our planet and inspiring the next generation of ocean stewards by providing inspirational interactive experiences, educational programs and contributing funding, resources and field support to vital marine studies around the globe.

With resort partners in Bermuda, Hawaii, and Oahu, Dolphin Quest inspires tens of thousands of guests each year to care about and help protect dolphins in the wild.

Demonstrating its leadership as a responsible, humane steward of the marine animals living in its care, Dolphin Quest is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums with all three of its locations certified by the American Humane Conservation program.

We accomplish these goals because we have a great team of talented, creative, skilled, professional, happy, fun-loving people who are dedicated to the Dolphin Quest values.