The Best Whale Sharks Tours in la Paz, and Los Cabos, Mexico 2023

The Best 7 Tours + Best Practices to Swim with Whale Sharks in La Paz and Los Cabos

Wondering where to swim with whale sharks in La Paz? You have landed in the right place. I have been to La Paz many times and in this post, I will share all the best ways to swim with these gentle giants of the sea.

Swimming with a whale shark is a magical experience. Many scuba divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts dream of the opportunity to see one of these gentle giants in the wild.

Whale-shark feeding itself

Where can you swim with the whale sharks in Mexico?

Mexico has two destinations where you can see whale sharks on snorkeling day trips, the Caribbean and the Sea of Cortez.

You can find whale sharks off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from mid-May to mid-September.

There are whale sharks off the coast of La Paz, Mexico from October to April.

If you want to check swimming with whale sharks off your bucket list, La Paz, Mexico, is a great spot to do it.

La Paz is located on the Bahia Paz, two hours’ driving north of Los Cabos, in Baja California Sur.

If you are planning a trip to Los Cabos during whale shark season, you can still experience the joys of swimming with these amazing creatures.

There are two options that take you from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz.

Ready to make your dream a reality? Keep reading to find out where to swim with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico. 

snorkeler swimming over a Whale-shark

Interesting Facts About Whale Sharks

If you have ever seen a video of a whale shark, you can picture a majestic creature effortlessly gliding through the water. They are easy to recognize with their spotted patterns and iconic huge gaping mouth.

You know that you want to swim with one, but how much else do you know about these enormous creatures? 

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Is a whale shark a whale or a shark?

First, the question that many people are wondering…Is a whale shark a whale or a shark? Whale sharks, rhincodon typus, are the sharks, in fact, they are the biggest fish on the planet!

They get the name whale shark because of their huge size, they average between 5.5 and 10 meters (18 to 32 feet).

How big are whale sharks?

The longest recorded whale shark was over 18 meters (60 feet) long! Another similarity that whale sharks have to whales is that like blue and humpback whales, whale sharks are filter feeders.

What do whale sharks eat?

Their enormous mouths can stretch to 4 feet long. They filter around 6000 liters of water every hour. They feed on plankton and have tiny teeth that allow them to eat small shrimp. 

Despite the size and feeding similarities to whales, whale sharks are indeed fish. They breathe with gills and have cartilage instead of bones.

They are found all over the world. They migrate long distances but move at slow speeds. They swim around 3 miles per hour. It is not easy for scientists to study whale sharks.

They are constantly moving around the globe, and very little is known about how they mate and give birth.

Whale-shark mouth open

How old are whale sharks?

Some form of the whale shark has been roaming the ocean for over 70 million years- that means they were on the planet when the tyrannosaurus rex was alive! 

Engendered species

Like so many other marine animals, whale sharks are an endangered species.

Worldwide their numbers are dropping due to commercial fishing, shark finning, oil, and gas drilling, and the damage climate change is doing to their environment.

As filter feeders whale sharks are susceptible to ingesting plastic that is found floating in the ocean.

Thankfully, governments across the world are realizing the value of whale sharks and working to protect their environments. 

La Paz Malecon beach at sunset
La Paz Malecon

La Paz Whale Shark Season 

The whale shark season in La Paz runs from October to May. In October the water temperatures can reach up to 80 degrees and the visibility is up to 60 feet.

As the season changes to winter, the water temperature will drop. You can expect the water temperature in the winter months to be in the low 60s, so plan to wear a wetsuit and bring a towel and jacket for after you get out of the water.

Along with the water temperature dropping, the visibility will decrease. This is because the water will fill with plankton and krill.

This is what attracts the whale sharks to the area! They follow the food to La Paz during these months and can be seen feasting on the plankton bloom.

The best time to see whale sharks in La Paz is when there is the most plankton. This will attract the most whale sharks and help you get a great view of these animals. 

Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz: the best tours

You know that seeing a whale shark up close will be an unforgettable experience. A great tour will help you make the most of this experience.

Knowledgeable guides, great boat captains, and fun tours will make it a day you will never forget. Here are some recommendations for some of the best la Paz whale sharks tours to swim with whale sharks. 

Whale shark and fishes over coral reefs
Whale sharks and fish over coral reefs

1. Whale Shark snorkeling tour in a reduced group with a local marine biologist

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This is the top-rated la Paz whale sharks tour on Viator. For this tour, you will meet at Marina in La Paz and get suited up in your complimentary snorkel gear and wetsuit.

As you head out to the whale shark area your local marine biologist guide will teach you about whale sharks and explain all the safety protocols for swimming with the whale sharks.

Guests love that these guides take caring for the whale sharks seriously and explain how close you can get to the whale sharks, and do not allow guests to use selfie stick cameras that could hurt the whale sharks.

This tour is limited to eight guests, and you will jump into the water in groups of 2 to 4 snorkelers.

You will get plenty of time with the whale sharks and the tour allows you multiple snorkels with the whale sharks.  This tour lasts approximately 2-3 hours. 

👉 Book your whale shark snorkeling tour in a reduced group with a local marine biologist on VIATOR

Whale shark view from below

2. Whale Shark Swim Adventure (La Paz)

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You will hop on a catamaran to get to the whale shark snorkeling spot. Guides will provide you with snorkeling gear, including a wetsuit.

The captain and guide will take great care of you, and you will get to spend around 50 minutes swimming with the whale sharks.

This tour operator limits snorkel group sizes to 5 people for your comfort.

Guests love that the guides took the well-being of the whale sharks seriously and helped them enjoy their views of the whale sharks. This tour lasts around 2 and a half hours. 

👉 Book your Whale Shark Swim Adventure (La Paz) on VIATOR

Whale shark view from below

3. Reduced Group Whale Shark Snorkel

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Enjoy your tour with passionate guides who are either marine biologists or dive masters. On your way to the snorkel spot, they will give you a detailed briefing about the whale sharks.

The boat only accepts 6 snorkelers per tour, so you will have a small group, personalized experience. The tour includes snorkel gear and snacks and drinks.

The guide will swim with you in the water and your tour includes a package of photos and videos that the guide takes for you.

You will get multiple jumps to swim with the whale sharks, depending on the conditions in the water.  This tour lasts around 3 hours. 

👉 Book your reduced group tour whale shark snorkel on VIATOR

Whale shark surrounded by other fishes
Whale sharks surrounded by other fishes

4. Sea of Cortez Combo: Whale Sharks, Sea Lions & Island Visit Private 1 to 6 Group

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This private tour is a great way to swim with the whale sharks and enjoy the beauty of La Paz. You will meet at Marina Cortez and head out to where the whale sharks are.

Your fun and educational guides will give you a detailed briefing and then you will hop in the water to enjoy the beauty of these enormous fish.

After you finish with the whale shark swimming experience you will head to the reef where you will have the opportunity to swim with sea lions.

From there you will visit Balandra Beach, a beautiful beach where you will enjoy food and drinks.

This private tour accommodates up to 6 people and is a great way to swim with the whale sharks and relax and enjoy La Paz. This tour lasts between 6-7 hours. 

👉 Book your private whale shark snorkeling tour combo on VIATOR

Whale-shark in a circle of fishes

5. Sea of Cortez Whale Shark Encounter 1-6 Private Group in La Paz

You will have a great time on this private whale shark snorkeling adventure.

You will meet at the Marina Cortez and your friendly guide will give you a detailed briefing on the protocols for swimming with the whale sharks.

After a short boat ride you will be ready to hop into the water.

This private tour will give you a great chance to get close to a beautiful whale shark! Snorkel gear, snacks, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are included. This tour lasts between 2 and 3 hours. 

👉 Book your whale shark snorkeling tour in a reduced group with a local marine biologist on VIATOR

Whale Sharks tale

6. Swimming with WhaleShark Experience in La Paz

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You will love the friendly and knowledgeable guides on this tour. After giving you instructions on how to swim with the whale sharks, you will head out to the snorkel area.

Your guide will help you make the most of this experience, and you will get multiple jumps into the water to swim alongside these amazing animals.

Snorkel gear and snacks are included in the tour. This tour lasts around 4 hours. 

👉 Book your whale shark snorkeling tour in a reduced group with a local marine biologist on VIATOR

Swimming With Whale Sharks From Los Cabos

The whale sharks do not stay in the waters near Los Cabos. However, if you are planning a trip to Los Cabos you can still have the amazing experience of swimming with whale sharks.

There are tour options that will shuttle you the two hours from Los Cabos to La Paz, where you will get on a boat and get to snorkel with the whale sharks.

Another option to snorkel with the whale sharks as a day tour from Los Cabos is to book a tour that takes you on a luxury catamaran from Los Cabos to La Paz.

From there you will jump onto a smaller boat used to enter the whale shark area, swim with the whale sharks, then return to Los Cabos on the large catamaran. 

If you plan to do a day trip from Los Cabos remember to take dry clothes to change into after snorkeling with the whale sharks- this will make your return trip much more comfortable. 

7. La Paz Whale Shark Snorkeling Tour and Lunch From Los Cabos

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On this tour, you will take a van from Los Cabos to the marina in La Paz. The trip will take about two hours and you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

In La Paz, you will hop on a boat and head out to the whale shark area. After enjoying a swim with these amazing animals you will head back to downtown La Paz and enjoy lunch before returning to Los Cabos. The tour takes around 10 hours. 

👉 Book your whale shark snorkeling tour in La Paz from Los Cabos on VIATOR

Where Else Can You Swim With Whale Sharks in Mexico?

Mexico has the great luck of having two different areas where you can snorkel with the whale sharks. From October to April you can swim with whale sharks in La Paz Bay in Baja California.

From mid-May to mid-September you can swim with whale sharks off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Tours depart from Cancun, Isla Mujeres, or Isla Holbox. The boat ride can be between one and two hours to where the whale sharks are, depending on the day.

The whale sharks are in the area off the Yucatan Peninsula due to plankton bloom and plentiful food sources. 

If you want to scuba dive with whale sharks, book a liveaboard to the Socorro Islands. Located a day’s travel from the coast of the Baja Peninsula, here you can find many large and rare marine animals. 

The only issue with the Socorro liveaboards is that you need to book more than one year in advance as they get booked up.

Diving With Whale Sharks

Diving in Socorro Islands
Manta rays – Diving in Socorro Islands

When you swim with whale sharks, your guide and captain will scan the surface looking for these animals.

They will then get you as close as possible to the whale sharks, so you can swim along next to them and get a great view.

This is a thrilling event. Now, imagine how exciting it would be to be scuba diving, and out of the blue, an enormous whale shark passes by you. Amazing right? It is no surprise that many scuba divers dream of diving with a whale shark. 

You cannot scuba dive in the Bay of La Paz with the whale sharks.

However, if you are scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez during whale shark season, you have a chance of seeing one swim by.

Like all activities that rely on animals in their natural habitat, you need to be in the right place at the right time and have a bit of luck.

If your dream is to scuba dive with whale sharks, check out liveaboard dive trips that go to the Revillagigedo Archipelago, better known simply as the Socorro Islands.

There you have the chance to see whale sharks from November to January, in addition to a lot of other impressively big marine life. 

Girl Diving among corals

The Best Practices to Swim with Whale Sharks in La Paz for Respecting the Environment

Government officials and local guides and captains are working hard to respect the whale sharks that visit La Paz.

In recent years, the government has created a program to regulate which boats approach the whale sharks.

In order to ensure the safety and comfort of the whale sharks, the number of boats allowed to be swimming with the whale sharks is controlled.

Whale-shark about to eat a plastic bag
Whale-shark about to eat a plastic bag 😥

✅ A limited number of boats

Snorkel boats will be assigned times to enter the whale shark feeding area (they are feeding on plankton, no guides or boats feed them).

It is important that you respect and understand this system, and do not get frustrated with your tour operator if your boat must wait its turn to go into the whale shark zone.

✅ Each boat needs to wait its turn for the passenger to jump in: be patient

Typical tours to swim with the whale sharks last around 2-3 hours; however, if your boat needs to wait to enter the snorkeling zone, your tour will run longer.

Do not stress yourself out try not to plan other tours directly after your whale shark tour.

Give yourself a window of time so that you are not stressed waiting for your chance to swim with the whale sharks.

If you want to try to avoid waiting for other boats to leave the snorkel area, try to book a tour that leaves early in the morning.

If you are one of the first boats to arrive in the area, you will be able to directly go in. 

Limiting the number of boats in the area allows officials to monitor boats and make sure guides are enforcing proper whale shark swimming rules.

It also helps keep the whale sharks safe from the boats because captains do not need to worry about maneuvering around so many boats and can focus on keeping the boat at a safe distance from the whale sharks. 

In addition to the regulations that snorkel boats have to follow, your local guide will give you a detailed briefing on how to swim with the whale sharks.

La Paz marina malecon
La Paz Malecon

✅ Don’t get too close to the whale shark and don’t touch them

You obviously want to get close to the whale sharks, but it is important that you do not touch them. Touching whale sharks will stress them out, possibly causing them to dive deep to get away from you!

Think about it, you would not like someone poking you while you are trying to enjoy a nice meal. Not only does touching them stress them out, but it is also harmful to their skin.

Whale sharks have a delicate layer of mucus that protects them from bacteria and parasites. Touching them harms this mucus layer, leaving them vulnerable to sickness and discomfort. 

As a snorkel, it is your responsibility to keep a safe distance from the whale sharks. The water can be choppy and it can be windy, so make sure to be careful and respectful while approaching these animals.

✅ Don’t use sunscreen or lotion before getting into the water

Some tour operators will ask that you do not wear any sunscreen or lotions that have fragrances on them to your whale shark experience.

It is believed that these animals are sensitive to the smells and chemicals in many beauty and personal hygiene products. 

You may want to take an underwater camera or go pro with you on your snorkel. It is easy to get distracted with a camera in your hands, so remember to be extra vigilant about where your body and camera are.

✅ Don’t use flash in your camera

Operators will tell you not to use flashes when taking pictures so as to not disturb the whale sharks. 

✅ Choose an operator that respects the best practices

Swimming with whale sharks is ethical when it’s done in the right way. Choose your tour operator carefully. Support tour operators who work hard to respect the whale sharks and demand that their clients behave appropriately.

Ask them plenty of questions before booking and checking out reviews. You will enjoy your tour more knowing that you are supporting a business that cares for the health and well-being of whale sharks. 

La Paz Malecon beach
La Paz Malecon beach

Is It Safe to Swim With the Whale Sharks

Yes! These enormous animals are often called gentle giants. They are very docile, making it a safe and enjoyable experience to swim next to them.

Your guide will brief you on safety, but it is important to remember to not swim near their tails. Even a gentle swipe from the tail could send you for a ride in the water.

Try to approach the whale shark near its head and stay at least 10 feet away from its tail. 

Tips for Making Your Whale Sharks in la Paz Tour the Best Experience

Swimming next to a whale shark is an unforgettable experience. Your tour operators will try to help you get the best views of these amazing animals possible.

Want to make sure you have a great tour? Here are a few tips to make the most of your whale shark experience.

✅ Take seasickness medicine

The water can be choppy around La Paz. If you get seasick (or even if you normally don’t) it can be a great idea to take seasickness medicine before hopping on a boat. You do not want to ruin your experience by feeling sick. 

✅ Bring warm clothes

Depending on when you visit La Paz, the water can be quite chilly. It gets down into the 60s during the later months of the whale shark season.

Even with a wetsuit, you may finish the tour and feel cold. Bring a towel and windbreak for on the boat.

If you can, take warm clothes to change into after getting out of the water. You will enjoy your boat ride back to the marina so much more if you are not shivering! 

✅ Book your tour early!

The best tours have knowledgeable guides. They will share their knowledge and passion with you, making your experience even better. Book early to make sure you get a bilingual, informative guide. 

✅ Be patient

As mentioned, the protocols for visiting the whale sharks mean you might end up waiting your turn. Instead of getting frustrated, take this time to relax and enjoy the experience.

Remember, the system helps protect the whale sharks, hopefully, to keep them coming back year after year to La Paz. 

✅ Use lifejackets

Practice water safety. The water can be a bit rough and you will want to be able to swim fast to keep up with the whale shark. Use a lifejacket to make the experience safer and easier. 

What to Pack to Swim With Whale Sharks

You do not need a lot to have a great time swimming with the whale sharks. Here are a few things you will want to take with you on your tour.

GoPro or a similar underwater camera – You will want to remember this amazing experience. Just remember, do not use flash. 

Sun protection – Ask if you can use reef-safe, eco-friendly sunscreen. If not, plan to take sunglasses, a hat, and a rash guard to keep you safe in the sun. 

Mask, snorkel, and fins – If you are an avid snorkeler or scuba diver, you probably have your own mask, fins, and snorkel. All tour operators will provide snorkel gear, but you may be more comfortable with your own gear. If you do not have your own gear, do not worry, you can use the provided gear. 

Towel – It can be chilly so you will want to dry off when you get out of the water.

Jacket and dry clothes -You will be happy to be able to dry off and change into something warm for the boat ride back. 

Dry bag – A small dry bag to store your wallet, phone, and towel on the boat can be really helpful. It will let you have easy access to your things, without worrying about them getting wet. 

Swim With Whale Sharks in la Paz FAQ

What Is the Best Month to Swim With Whale Sharks?

There are large numbers of whale sharks near La Paz from the end of November to April. In November the water is warmer and the water is clearer, because there is not as much plankton (which is the whale shark food) in the water, so there is less chance to see the whale sharks.

As the months go on, the water will get colder and the visibility will decrease because there is more plankton in the water. This will attract even more whale sharks to the area. 

The best month to go depends on your preferences. If you prefer warmer and clearer water, go at the beginning of whale shark season.

If you are happy to jump into the cooler water and swim with less visibility, go later in the whale shark season. No matter when you go, seeing a whale shark is an unforgettable experience. 

How Much Does It Cost to Swim With Whale Sharks?

You can expect to pay around $150 to swim with the whale sharks if you are staying in La Paz. Luxury or private tours can be more expensive.

The price for all tours will depend a bit on additional services offered, such as transportation to the marina, and the food and beverages offered. 

If you are planning on doing a day trip from Los Cabos the tour to swim with the whale sharks in La Paz will cost around $250. 

These prices do not include tips. Your guides and captains work hard to make sure you have a great experience, so remember to tip them at the end of the tour. 

whale sharks in the sea with a photographer

Do Whale Sharks Bite You?

No, whale sharks are filter feeders. They have tiny teeth that are only capable of eating small shrimp. They filter up to 6,000 liters of water an hour through their gills.

Their mouths can open up to 4ft wide while eating, but you do not have anything to be afraid of. They are called gentle giants because they are very calm and not known to get aggressive. 

Why Can’t You Touch a Whale Shark?

There are two reasons you should never touch a whale shark. First, it is important to always respect marine life when we snorkel or scuba dive.

We are visiting them in their habitat and should not bother them. Poking, touching, or trying to grab their fins stresses the whale sharks.

It can also cause them to dive deep to get away from you! Secondly, whale sharks have a delicate mucus layer on their skin to protect them from bacteria and parasites.

Touching them can damage this mucus layer, leaving them prone to infection. 

Are Whale Sharks Blind?

Many people believe that whale sharks have bad vision. The biggest problem with their vision is that their eyes are very small compared to the size of their bodies.

Their small eyes are located toward the back of their head on either side, giving them a limited range of vision.

Because of the placement of their eyes, many people believed they cannot see well and instead rely on their sense of smell to find food. 

whale sharks in the sea with a sorkeler

Is There Anything Prey on Whale Sharks?

Whale sharks have very few known predators. On occasion, blue marlins or blue sharks will attack small and juvenile whale sharks.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to whale sharks today are humans. Humans are responsible for overfishing, shark finning, and the destruction of whale shark habitats. 

Can Kids Swim With Whale Sharks?

All tour providers will have different rules about children swimming with whale sharks. Many tour operators do not allow children under 5 years old.

That said, the water can be choppy around La Paz, so parents should use discretion when taking young children.

For children to enjoy the snorkel they should be very comfortable in the water. For their safety, they should wear a life jacket at all times. 

whale sharks in the sea with a sorkeler

Can You Swim With Sharks Pregnant?

As with all activities, while pregnant, the decision to participate depends on the individual and their doctor.

Pregnant women should consult their doctors before traveling and ask if they have any concerns about them participating in this activity. T

he water can be choppy, so if you are pregnant and thinking about swimming with the whale sharks, you will want to make sure you still feel stable and mobile to climb up the ladder. 

How Old Do You Have to Be to Snorkel With Whale Sharks?

Check with your tour operator to find out the minimum age they accept on the tours. Many tour operators ask that guests be at least 5 years old.

If you want to take your children on this experience, make sure they feel comfortable swimming in deep water, and make them wear a lifejacket at all times. 

whale sharks in the sea with other fishes

Swimming With Whale Sharks in la Paz: Final Thoughts

Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz is an unforgettable experience and one of the best things to do in La Paz in winter. There is nothing quite like seeing these gentle giants up close and it’s one of the activities that Mexico is known for.

There are so many things to do in Baja California Sur, but if you are planning a Baja California road trip (which I recommend), make sure you start off in La Paz and spend a couple of days swimming with whale sharks and checking out the sea lion colony by Espiritu Santo Island.

If you have been dreaming of swimming with whale sharks, La Paz is a great spot to do it! 

Worldwide whale shark population numbers are down. Tour operators in La Paz are working hard to provide a safe and sustainable way for people to swim with whale sharks.

As a tourist, you can do your part in protecting the whale sharks.

Follow all your guides’ instructions for safe interaction with them, and report any tour operators who are not respecting the animals.

After your tour you may find you fell in love with these creatures, and you can continue to help them by supporting shark sanctuaries, signing petitions to end all shark finning, and continuing to support eco-tourism that raises awareness. 

Adrienne in the water

Meet the Author – Adrienne Banka

Adrienne Banka is a Michigander and fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom.  When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog and her newborn daughter.