Swimming With Whale Sharks in Cancun: The Complete Guide

Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun is one of the top attractions in Mexico a lot of tourists (and even locals) go to Cancun just for it.

If you are afraid of them, worry not. Whale sharks are docile and extremely agreeable to swimming with human beings.

Their diet is comprised of tiny micro-organisms like plankton, fish eggs, and other small fishes. Swimming with these gentle sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you should not pass on if you’re in the area.

Now that we’ve established that it’s definitely something you must experience when you’re in Cancun, let’s know a little bit more about whale sharks.

swimming with whale sharks
Me swimming with whale sharks in Cancun

About the whale sharks

Whale sharks are the largest animals in the ocean, but, despite their size and having whale in their name, they’re sharks.

These majestic creatures can grow as much as 40 feet long, but their average length is somewhere between 18 to 32 feet; on average, they weigh around 20 tons.

While they’re sharks, whale sharks are not predatory animals; they’re filter-feeders. What this means is that they ingest a large amount of water, filter their food from it (which consists of plankton and other small organisms), and let the water out afterward.

So you have nothing to worry about when swimming with whale sharks, you’re not on the menu for them.

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have. Let’s see when and where you can swim with whale sharks in Cancun.

whale shark swimming to the surface

When to swim with whale sharks in Cancun

Whale sharks visit the ocean around Cancun from June to September. You can also find them around Holbox and Isla Mujeres, and book trips from there.

If you really want to visit them, I highly recommend not waiting until September. Book your tour as soon as possible (anywhere from June-August).

Sometimes whale sharks can leave the area a bit earlier, and you might miss your chance of seeing them. So when it comes to booking your trip, the earlier the better!

Read also: Is it safe to travel to Cancun right now?

Where do the whale shark tours leave from?

The tours for these underwater marvels leave from many different places. The most popular ones can be found in Cancun, Holbox, and Isla Mujeres.

These tours leave at around 9 in the morning and usually take a whole day (which means a delicious lunch on the sea!). Below, I’ll tell you briefly about the tours leaving from the places I mentioned.

snorkeler swimming with whale sharks

Things you should know before booking your whale shark tour

Here below I am going to share the top-rated whale shark tours from Cancun but there are a few things you should know:

  • The tours in Cancun to swim with whale sharks are all organized by expert fishermen or authorities dedicated to the preservation of these species in order to make the experience safe for both you and the whale sharks.
  • You can either book a tour from your hotel’s reception or book it online using one of the tour services there below that I have selected among the top-rated ones
  • The tours usually include pickup from your place of stay and cost around 150 to 200 USD. Be wary of the people who offer you a tour for less than that, it might be a scam or their tour wouldn’t be a very good experience after all.
  • Kids are usually accepted from a certain age and each tour company makes its own rules, so make sure you check before booking
  • The majority of the boat for swimming with whale shark tours are small fisherman boats with no bathroom in them, so keep that in mind
  • Sometimes the sea can be rough even if suitable for swimming, so keep that in mind. Also when you are at the whale shark’s site the boat stays anchored for some time to allow people to take turns and swim with these gentle animals. Therefore it can get nauseous for many.
Man swimming with a whale shark

Top-rated whale shark tours from Cancun

Ok now that you know the most important things about whale sharks tours, here are the top selected ones.

1. Small-Group Eco Friendly: Whale Sharks tour in Cancun & Riviera Maya

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 709 Reviews

Full-day group snorkeling tour from Cancun or Riviera Maya. An expert guide will lead you as you encounter the world’s largest fish, along with dolphins, manta rays, and turtles.

Enjoy a delicious lunch on the boat near Isla Mujeres, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Complimentary hotel pickup and drop-off from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum are included.

Kids accepted from 8ys old and up.

The tour guide was amazing, engaging, friendly helpful and knowledgeable. The tour was great. Really enjoyed ourselves. It was our best tour this trip.

Glori_S, Jul 2023
    people swimming with whale sharks

    2. Whale Shark Tour from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Riviera Maya

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️556 Reviews

    Experience the thrill of swimming and snorkeling with whale sharks during this guided tour in Cancun.

    A high-speed boat will take you to the best viewing spot, offering opportunities to spot dolphins, turtles, and manta rays along the way.

    With knowledgeable guides ensuring your safety and enjoyment, you can make the most of this unforgettable encounter.

    This tour also includes breakfast at the pier, snacks, unlimited beverages on board, and hotel transportation.

    You have the option to purchase videos and photos of your incredible whale shark encounter.

    Kids from 3 ys old accepted

    Great time. The crew was professional and experienced. Our guide Xena was knowledgeable, professional and fun! WOUL DO AGAIN AND AGAIN. AWESOME.

    PETER_C, Jul 2023
    Woman swimming with whale shark

    3. Whale Shark Encounter Full-Day all-inclusive Tour from Riviera Maya

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 360 reviews

    This tour includes:

    • Swim and snorkel in 15-minute rounds near whale sharks
    • Some relax time in the postcard-perfect North Beach on Isla Mujeres
    • Delicious local lunch on Isla Mujeres plus Snacks, lunch, and beverages
    • Hotel transport from Cancun and Playa del Carmen included

    Kids 6 ys and older permitted

    Alexandra and the whole crew were top notch! We swam with whale sharks, mantra rays. Lunch hit the spot, and the fresh cevuche and stop at Isla Mujueres was just beautiful. My husband and I had a wonderful time!

    Meghan_M, Jun 2023

    4. Swimming with whale shark private tour

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 8 Reviews

    If you are traveling with a group of friends it may be worth booking a private tour just for your party. It can even be more cost-effective, but surely more fun!

    In this tour, you will embark on an exclusive 6-hour private whale shark tour in the Caribbean, accompanied by your family and friends.

    After swimming with the gentle giants of the sea, you will sail to Isla Mujeres for a delectable beachside lunch featuring ceviche and chicken sandwiches.

    Your comfort is ensured with private chauffeur service to and from your hotel in Cancun or the Riviera Maya.

    This tour is available only from May to September and can accommodate up to six passengers for an intimate and unforgettable adventure.

    Best value. Great people. Great for small groups 🙂 they catered the trip to how we’re were feeling and what we wanted to do most. Made us feel very safe with no worries coming into the water. Super professional and fun guides during the whole process.

    Sophia_T, Aug 2021
    Isla Mujeres Playa Norte
    Playa Norte Isla Mujeres Mexico – Check out the full article on the things to do in Isla Mujeres

    5. Whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 144 reviews

    This tour will leave from Isla Mujeres.

    But you may be able to see different animals on the way to the Whale Shark area. There you will take turns and swim in couples with these giant animals.

    On the way back we will stop at the North Beach of Isla Mujeres for about 30 minutes where you will have a great Ceviche snack, sandwich, and soft drinks while you swim off of the most beautiful beach.

    The crew was great. Gabriel was the guide and explained the process before be jumped in. The captain positioned us so the whale shark was coming at us. which was an amazing experience.

    EDMUND_T, Jun 2023
    whale shark swimming surrounded by fishes

    Whale shark tours from Holbox

    Whale shark tours were the main attraction in Holbox before they became available (and popular) in Cancun and Isla Mujeres. But it’s still the long-established place to go if you want to join a whale shark tour.

    While you’re visiting Holbox, you can also experience the awe-inspiring phenomenon known as bioluminescence.

    The waters of Holbox Island come to life at night with millions of glowing stars in them. It’s a breathtaking sight and I highly recommend seeing it, together with many other amazing tours about which I will talk soon in another post.

    The best way to book your tours though, it’s directly on the island either with your hotel or hostel or with the fishermen at the pier. Just make sure you agree with the price and discuss what’s included.

    Isla HOlbox
    Isla Holbox

    Things to keep in mind

    It can be incredibly exciting to swim with these majestic creatures. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when swimming with them:

    ✔️ Use biodegradable sunscreen when going on a whale shark tour.

    ✔️ Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from the whale sharks, and don’t swim under them. They’re docile and not dangerous, but you can easily hurt them without even knowing it.

    ✔️ Unfortunately, these majestic creatures are currently endangered and need to be protected. Respect the instructions of the tour guides and abide by them.

    ✔️Don’t try to swim with the sharks on your own, you can only do it with authorized touring guides and services. Firstly, the tours in a controlled environment are an effort to preserve the species. Secondly, it’s because you won’t be able to find them on your own. The whale sharks move around as they please. Your guides/fishermen communicate with each other to locate exactly where the whale sharks are and then take you there.

    ✔️ Make sure to pay extra attention to the “no touching” rule. Even though it might be tempting to touch these majestic creatures, you might unknowingly hurt them if you do so. So avoid doing it in any case.

    ✔️ If you followed everything I mentioned in this post, along with the instructions your tour guide would give you, I’m pretty sure your swim with the whale sharks will be one of the best things you do.

    Whale Shark swimming
    Whale Shark

    Other places where to swim with whale sharks in Mexico

    If you cannot travel in the summer, you should know that you can find whale sharks during the winter months in Baja California Sur.

    From December through January, you can swim with whale sharks in La Paz. You should also know that the destination is renowned for its spectacular beaches and wealthy marine life. So if you are a sea lover you should definitely visit for some great snorkeling and diving.

    Whale Shark full image

    Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun: FAQ

    How much does it cost to swim with whale sharks in Cancun?

    Price for swimming with whale sharks usually ranges between 170 to 200 USD

    Is it worth swimming with whale sharks?

    In my opinion it is, it was one of the best experiences I have had. However, I reckon it’s a bit pricy in Cancun. Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz Mexico is possible in winter and it’s much cheaper.

    Where is the best place to swim with whale sharks in Mexico?

    In my opinion, the best place to swim with whale sharks in Mexico it’s La Paz. Groups are smaller, it’s cheaper and the tour guides are keener on following the rules and respecting the whale sharks’ behavior.

    What time of year is best to swim with whale sharks?

    In Cancun you can swim with whale sharks from June through August, however, the best time should be from mid-July to mid-August.

    Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun: Final Thoughts

    I am hoping this article was helpful for you to decide where and when is best to swim with whale sharks in Cancun.

    Most of all I hope you have an idea of what the experience will be like and what you can do to have the best time ever while respecting these beautiful creatures in their natural ambiance.

    While booking your tour, make sure you read all the details of what is included and not and spend some time reading the reviews to make a mindful choice.

    Other than that have fun!!