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Behold the bottlenose dolphins at Dreams Cancun, where guests can get up close for a hug and a kiss.

By Valerie Moloney

In my house, dismissing the opportunity to see “Dolphin Tale,” the fuzzy movie about “Winter,” the bottlenose dolphin whose real life home is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla., would be the equivalent of canceling Christmas. To skip the movie, which opens Friday, would not be worth the heartbreak of a 7- and 5-year-old. I’m game, if only as research for what I really want to do with the family next spring break: Take a beach vacation that involves a dolphin experience. At these 5 resorts, suit up to swim with the most elegant creatures in the ocean.

1. Atlantis
The grandaddy of Bahamas hotels awaits your water babies with several experiences customized to their comfort and curiosity levels. A 30-minute encounter in shallow water invites you to touch (go ahead, give Flipper a peck and a hug, too) bottlenose dolphins in waist-deep water, while the more experienced swimmers can go on a deep-water swim. Would-be trainers can shadow professionals for a day, too, picking up enviable skills such as the dolphin foot push and double dorsal tow.

2. Hawks Cay Resort
Flipper and friends don’t actually live at this sprawling resort, but it’s still close enough to the action at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, Fla. The dolphins are so talented that they paint t-shirts with the colors you choose. Now that’s what we call water colors.

3. Dreams Cancun
Believe it or not, Cancun isn’t all about spring breakers and honeymooners. This all-inclusive Mexico hotel has its own resident dolphins that twirl, jump, kiss, hug and make bubbles on command.

4. The Kahala Hotel & Resort
Luxury suites and a lagoon? Yes, please. This secluded Oahu hotel teases with a 26,000-gallon lagoon where five bottlenose dolphins — Hoku, Kolohe, Liho, Lono and Nainoa — come out to play. Just by their names, we love them already.

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Tagged: Bahamas, Caribbean, Feature, Mexico

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