Island Explorer
Island Explorer
5
Boat ToursEco ToursDolphin & Whale WatchingNature & Wildlife Tours
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Monday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Tuesday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Wednesday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Thursday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Friday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Saturday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Sunday
7:00 AM - 9:00 PM
About
Now offering Premium Tours for your comfort and safety, Island Explorer is a great choice for your family or group. With over 30 years experience in dolphin and nature cruises around Hilton Head Island, Island Explorer offers unique and memorable tours. With three 12-passenger boats Island Explorer can accommodate larger families or groups and still offer intimate experiences. Choose a Sunset Dolphin Cruise, a 1-Hour Discovery Tour , a 2-Hour Dolphin Encounter, or our 3-Hour Vanishing Island Expedition™ to disembark on a secluded sandbar to search for sand dollars at the low tide. Every cruise will explore Hilton Head Island with scenic views of the marshlands, birds, and dolphins that make the Lowcountry special. Our captains are experienced, friendly, and informative.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Meets animal welfare guidelines

Awards
Travelers' Choice
2023

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Tours and Tickets by Island Explorer
Travelers talk about
(255 reviews)

Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

5.0
5.0 of 5 bubbles2,178 reviews
Excellent
2,059
Very good
85
Average
23
Poor
6
Terrible
5

nreynolds342
Virginia30 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2020 • Family
I called on Saturday afternoon, and they were able to book a sunset dolphin tour for the next evening. Because of the COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, they limited our boat to just our group so we paid extra $$ to accommodate 6 passengers even though we only had 4. It was well worth it! There was plenty of room for us to stretch out and when we did spot dolphins, we could move about the boat easily to see them. The first group of dolphins we spotted were on our right, but they swam to the left side of the boat to resurface just a few feet away. There were other tour boats in the water that were packed like sardines, and I imagine that if you weren't in the right spot, you might have missed seeing the dolphins. Capt. Cody was friendly, knowledgeable and he kept us entertained. He took us all around the island and showed us on a map where we were. He even took us to an uninhabited barrier island, and told us about the trail cams that have spotted Carolina panthers out there. I would highly recommend the very relaxing 2 hour tour. There's nothing like being on the water at sunset in Hilton Head!!
Written June 23, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
We sincerely appreciate your kind review and your understanding and support of our current policies regarding your safety and comfort. We continue to offer all tours as Private Charters only on our 12-passenger boats. Captain Cody along with the entire staff at Island Explorer thanks you for the great review. It's always our goal to offer an engaging, entertaining, and educational tour to guests of all ages. Thanks for your recommendation, and please join us again on your next visit.
Written June 25, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

James H
1 contribution
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020 • Family
There are hardly words to describe how amazing this excursion was for me and my family. The captain of the boat takes the time to explain the beauty of the island, its multiple creeks and sounds, local wildlife, and so much more. On the way to the vanishing island, you get a breathtaking view of Hilton Head and neighboring islands; if you're lucky, a couple of dolphins may pop up to say hello. Once we arrived at the island, there were legitimately thousands of starfish, sand dollars, shells, and a multitude of wildlife there for your viewing. The time on the island (which appears just twice per day at low tide) goes by so quickly! On the way back, you will most assuredly see dolphin and their young calves. We got quite a show from 2 pods of dolphins showing their young calf how to hunt for food. It was amazing!

Quick tips:
1. Make sure you apply and reapply sunscreen. The breeze from the boat and the water are deceiving!
2. Arrive for the tour early! Being as little as 5 minutes late can cause you to miss the vanishing island (it is called that for a reason!) The tides do not care if you are running late!
3. Tip your captain! He is very knowledgeable and will take great care of you! Take care of him!
4. Bring waters or other cold drinks...again, the breeze is deceiving!

I will return to take this tour again and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a really great way to spend a few hours!
Written August 19, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hello James, Thank you for your thorough and flattering review. Our Vanishing Island Expedition™ is one of our most popular tours because it includes so much or our Lowcountry eco-system. We're delighted that you found it a good investment of your vacation dollars. Our future guests will certainly appreciate your description of the tour and your great tips. We sincerely appreciate you choosing Island Explorer and look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Written August 21, 2020
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

tiffanydM2538UC
9 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021
We took the 3 hour Vanishing Island tour. Pros: The boat went fast except in the no wake zones, and the kids loved that. Vanishing Island itself was fantastic. We had a great time exploring and saw all kinds of sea creatures. The kids all found plenty of shells and deceased sand dollars. On the boat ride, we saw a handful of dolphins (no jumpers). Our captain allowed us to sit for quite awhile with a mother and baby. Definitely a trip highlight! We also had a boat to ourselves. The views are great of houses and other island landmarks. Cons: We arrived 30 minutes early and were rushed onto the boat by the check-in lady who acted like we were an hour late instead of quite early. I think this had to do with tide issues, but it was never fully explained to us. While I wouldn't call her rude, she wasn't friendly. Our captain never introduced himself or asked our names. He wasn't much of a guide. He answered questions we asked but didn't provide any info on his own. The kids were just there for the boat ride and island tour, but I would have enjoyed learning about the island, any history, or names of the birds we saw. I would still recommend this as you might get a different captain or some might even prefer a quiet ride, and the experience on Vanishing Island is truly remarkable.
Written June 22, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hello Tiffany, We're glad to know that you and your family has a "fantastic" visit to Vanishing Island™. Our Premium Private Tours have been very popular this season allowing your family to have the whole boat to yourselves. We make every effort to include a good bit of dolphin watching while on our way to and from the island. Regarding your arrival for the tour: This week we experienced "king tides" giving us exceptionally high and low tides. Because our dock location is near the end of Broad Creek, it's necessary for us to leave the dock before the tide gets too low, else you will be stuck in the creek for three hours. Because the tides were lower than predicted this week our shore team focused on getting all of our guests on their boats as quickly as possible. We have the friendliest staff on the island, but perhaps the urgency of insuring that you were safely on your way as quickly as possible may have put you off. Our captains are among the most experienced and knowledgeable on Hilton Head Island. Because each tour is private each captain assesses the responses of our guests and does their best to adapt the narration accordingly. If there seems to be a lack of interest in the narration, the captain will allow more time for family conversation and bonding. Questions are always encouraged and answered. For our future guests: It will always be in your best interest to let your captain know your interests and expectations. Our Premium Private Tours are designed to give you a unique, memorable, and complete experience, and we will do everything possible to meet your expectations. It's always our goal to offer every guest a 5-star experience. We thank you for choosing Island Explorer and invite you to join us again on your next visit.
Written June 24, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

APiratesLifeForMe
Cincinnati2 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2021 • Family
This was our 4th trip on Island Explorer, and our 3rd year with Captain Cody for the fireworks sunset tour. The communication with Robbi during booking was super smooth and clear (we needed to be rescheduled due to rain). Our tour with Captain Cody was absolutely fantastic! We’ve been SO lucky to have him as our guide for 3 years!!! He grew up in the area, has a degree in environmental studies, and is a true expert in the island waters. He helped us avoid the inevitable rain that was coming towards us on the tour and we saw parts of the waters we’d never seen before. There were lots of dolphins and sea life, and Captain Cody is wonderful with kids, teens, and adults. We’re so grateful for our experience with Island Explorer and it’s always the highlight of our annual trip. Seeing Captain Cody again felt like seeing an old family friend! He’s given our family a lot of great memories over the years!
Written July 22, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for continuing to support Island Explorer through the years. It's always such a pleasure to have your family on board. Captain Cody is flattered by your kind words. He, along with our entire staff, strives to offer every guest the best possible experience. We sincerely appreciate your wonderful review, and we look forward to seeing you again on your next visit.
Written July 24, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

leigh
Wake Forest, NC1 contribution
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2021 • Family
Captain Cody was fantastic. Knowledgeable about the area, he gave us interesting facts about the local environment, showed us interesting things and generally entertained us on the ride to and from the vanishing island. And what an experience that was! He advised us where to walk and what to look for. I will recommend Captain Cody and Island Explorer to family and friends who visit the area.
Written May 10, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thanks for letting us know that you had an "amazing adventure" with Captain Cody. Our captains are carefully chosen and trained to offer engaging, entertaining, and educational experiences to every guest. We've designed our Vanishing Island Expedition™ to include the best of everything to be found in the Lowcountry waters. Our entire team sincerely appreciates your support and recommendation, and we look forward to seeing you again on a future visit to Hilton Head Island.
Written May 12, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Jen L
Cleveland, OH10 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2021 • Family
Our family loved every second of this 3 hour Vanishing Island boat trip. Captains Jim and Robbie are so knowledgeable about the island, ocean life- pretty much anything you can think of to ask! We had our own private boat and took a 3 hour journey to the Vanishing Island where we found starfish, sand dollars, shells, and saw all kinds of sea life. On the journey there and back we saw a TON of dolphins- just feet away from our boat! Plus many birds and a ton of love oysters. It was magical not only for my 7 and 9 year olds boys, but for my husband, dad and myself. We did the hour long sunset cruise last year and are SO DELIGHTED we decided to upgrade to the 3 hour Vanishing Island tour this year. We will do this annually for sure. If you are on the fence about booking this tour, I’m telling you, DO IT! You won’t be disappointed. Memories that will last a lifetime. (And so many great photos too!
Written August 15, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Everyone at Island Explorer sincerely appreciates your amazing review and recommendation. It's our goal to offer exceptional adventures to every guest. Our Vanishing Island Expedition™ is our most popular tour. We designed it to take you up close to nature and the best that the Lowcountry waters have to offer. We are fortunate to live and operate tours in such a beautiful location, and it's our passion to share it with our visitors. Thank you for choosing Island Explorer, and we'll look forward to seeing you next time.
Written August 17, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Cruiser521320
Pickerington, OH6 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2021 • Family
When we come to Hilton Head we also schedule a Dolphin excursion with Captain Jim/Island Explorers. Last year we took the sunset trip and we saw a beautiful sunset twice, once over Dafuskee Island and then once we hit the opening between Dafuskee and Buck Island. This year we went on a Low Tide excursion in the morning and saw a dolphin using their tail to incapacitate fish to eat and something we had never seen before. We saw a three dolphins working together to round up fish and drive them up on shore to eat. Captain Jim called this Strain Fishing. Captain Jim is very knowledgeable about the low country. Can't wait for next year's trip.
Written October 24, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Nothing is more flattering than to have our guests return year after year for an Island Explorer tour. Every day is different out on the water, so every tour is a new experience. Captain Jim is the owner of Island Explorer and brings more than 30 years of experience on the Lowcountry waters. It's our goal to offer unique and memorable tours to every guest. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to seeing you next year.
Written October 26, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Sue_K850
Hilton Head, SC4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2021 • Family
Our family of 8 had the pleasure of taking a sunset dolphin cruise with Capt. Jim. We chose a Tuesday night when there was also a fireworks display at Shelter Cove Marina. This turned out to be a spectacular evening with a beautiful sunset, multiple dolphin sightings and the best view ever of fireworks not far from the barge where the fireworks were launched!! We have taken a daytime cruise with Island Explorer before and loved it but we would highly recommend that you take a sunset cruise and if at all possible do it on a Tuesday night when there are fireworks in the summer.
Written July 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Hello Sue, It's our greatest compliment to have guests return for another cruise, and we're delighted that you had a "fabulous evening" with Captain Jim on your Sunset and Fireworks Cruise. Thanks for taking time to post such a wonderful review and recommendation. We look forward to seeing your family again on your next visit to Hilton Head Island.
Written July 5, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

211stephanie
Inman, SC1 contribution
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023
This was my 5th time doing a tour of Vanishing Island, always with 5 people in my group. I’ve always spent the money for the private charter rather than going on a large boat because our group prefers privacy. When booking the reservation it states you can have up to 12 people in your group but we have only ever had 5 on the excursion. That is until this weekend when another group of 7 people was also on our little boat. They were very nice people but we were caught completely off guard and felt misled about what we had signed up for. The reservation page needs to be updated to state that if you don’t have 12 people in your group the remaining spots will be filled by other customers.
Written July 17, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ShanA003
Ohio53 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2022 • Family
From beginning to end we had a great experience. First, I was coordinating a trip for possibly 12 to 18 people and Robbi spent 30+ minutes on the phone with me on my first call answering everything and providing me with price estimations to take back to my group. My entire booking process with Robbi was so incredibly helpful, she was fantastic.

We booked a sunset cruise for 12 (ages 4 to 62), and we were treated to an evening with Captain Cody! His sense of humor was on point, and he tailored our evening to our group. Our kids found the experience incredibly relaxing (!!) and the adults were just as relaxed with a couple of drinks in hand enjoying the beauty around us. It was a great evening with family - so thank you Captain Cody for being a great guide! Next time we come on island we will be booking the vanishing island tour!

After the cruise we stayed on the deck at Old Oyster Factory and enjoyed a few drinks and appetizers. What a gorgeous spot!
Written July 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
The entire Island Explorer team thanks you for your kind words and 5-star review. Our shoreside team does their best to communicate with our guests and make sure everything is planned and executed properly. As one of the few operators on Hilton Head Island that accommodate 12 passengers per boat, we specialize in offering top notch experiences to larger families and groups. Our base at The Old Oyster Factory is the perfect location to start and end your tour. Thank you for choosing Island Explorer. We look forward to seeing your again on your next visit.
Written August 1, 2022
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

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