What Do Maui Dolphins Eat?

One of the top attractions in visiting Maui are the spinner dolphins that take up year-round residence in the waters surrounding the island.

The spinner dolphins earned their name because when they come up to the surface of the ocean for air, they leap out of the water and spin around in circles.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into spinner dolphins and show you what their diet consists of.

Two dolphins swimming in the ocean.

What do Maui Dolphins Eat?

The spinner dolphins that surround the coast of Maui are carnivores and they spend much of their time hunting for food.

Their diet primarily consists of:

  • Small fish
  • Shrimp
  • Squid

Maui’s spinner dolphins tend to be smaller than other dolphins. Most spinner dolphins reach a weight of approximately 180 pounds, and a length of up to just under seven feet long.

How a Maui Dolphin’s Diet Determines Where They Can be Found

No trip to Maui is complete without a sighting of the dolphins that live in the ocean waters surrounding the island.

Knowing what the Maui dolphins eat and where and when they find their food is critical to ensuring that you catch a glimpse of these playful and majestic creatures.

Because the spinner dolphins like to eat small fish, shrimp, and squid, most of their hunting for this prey is done at night in the deeper parts of the ocean.

Maui Dolphins at Rest

In the shallower waters closer to the coast, the spinner dolphins can better protect themselves from the ocean life that might be trying to hunt them, like sharks.

Here, even while at rest, the spinner dolphins of Maui put on a show for onlookers. The dolphins return to the ocean’s surface to breathe and spin themselves out of the water in their signature style.

They are most often found in groups, ranging from a handful of dolphins to hundreds or even thousands.

What Time of Day do Maui Dolphins Eat?

At night, the spinner dolphins of Maui head away from the island’s coast for deeper waters, where they hunt for their prey, their most active feeding time.

The dolphins rest for approximately four to five hours per day, so much of their time is spent hunting in the deeper ocean waters.

Maui’s dolphins typically end their rest period in the afternoon and become significantly more active as they move toward the deeper waters of the ocean to begin feeding again for the night.

Why do Maui Dolphins Eat at Night?

Maui’s spinner dolphins spend most of their time eating and hunting for their prey at night because it is the safest and easiest time for them to eat.

Their prey species, such as fish and shrimp, follow a migration pattern that brings them closer to the shallower waters of the coast at night. It also brings the dolphins closer to the ocean’s surface.

Normally, this food source for Maui’s dolphins is found during the day at depths of 600 to 1000 feet below the ocean’s surface.

While Maui’s spinner dolphins are capable of diving to up to 900 feet and holding their breath for up to eight minutes, they have much easier access to their prey at night.

When is The Best Time to See Maui Dolphins?

The best time to see Maui’s spinner dolphins is during their rest period from sunrise until early afternoon when they come closer to the coastal waters of the island.

During this time the dolphins will put on acrobatic and playful displays for their visitors.

But know that swimming with the spinner dolphins of Maui is not allowed because of their endangered status.


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