Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

If you happen to be visiting the Riviera Maya between May and September and you are looking for an adventure then you have to go swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. Having spent a lot of time here and done this several times I’ve put together this post for Roaming Nanny to help you make sure you have the best day possible!

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Guest Post by Claire Summers of Claire’s Itchy Feet

When can you go swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico?

There are actually two different areas that you can swim with whale sharks in Mexico, The Riviera Maya, and Baja California. 

Whale shark season in the Yucatan peninsula is from the end of May until September and in Baja California from October until February.

As I’ve only ever had experience swimming with whale sharks in the Yucatan Peninsula that’s what I’m going to focus this blog post on.

 where to swim with whale sharks

The first thing you need to know is that the dates of the whale shark season are fixed by the Government and they change each year. Although the season will officially start towards the end of May, in reality, the best time to go is during July and August. So, if you are traveling to Mexico for the sole reason of swimming with these gentle giants then plan your trip during these months.  

I would also strongly recommend checking the luna calendar and trying to book a tour around the full moon. You are almost guaranteed to see a lot of whale sharks during this time. 

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Where to swim with whale sharks in the Yucatan Peninsula

Okay, so you have two options for swimming with whale sharks in Mexico when in the Riviera Maya, Isla Holbox, and Isla Mujeres. I have done both, and I would choose Isla Mujeres over Holbox personally, but there are a few things to take into consideration.

Firstly getting to Holbox isn’t that easy, so unless you are on vacation there, or planning to visit then you should probably rule this out. The tour from Holbox leaves around 6 am so you will need to sleep over on the island the night before.

 swim with whale sharks in mexico

If you are staying in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, or anywhere in between then your only option is to go to Isla Mujeres. All tours will pick you up in your area and then transport you to Cancun where you will meet the boat. 

Some other pluses about the tour to Isla Mujeres are that the water has better visibility as it’s a much clearer shade of blue, and the journey is much quicker. When I did the tour in Holbox there wasn’t much visibility and we were in the boat for over an hour looking for them. The boat ride was a little over 30 minutes from Isla Mujeres. 

How to choose a tour operator to go with

 whale shark tours

Now, this is the tough one, there are a lot of tour operators that really aren’t that great. Their main objective is to make as much money as they can and they don’t really care all that much about your experience. What is very common is that you see a cheap price online but then there will be a lot of added extra charges that aren’t clear from the start. Like you have to pay extra for a wet suit, photos, snorkel gear etc. So by the time you add it all up, it really isn’t that different from one of the better quality tours.

My advice is to start with the reviews, take price out of it, to begin with and pick the best 2 or 3 companies. Once you have your shortlist then look at prices but be sure to check what is included, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Never ever book a Whale shark tour through one of the sellers on the street or your hotel. Book direct with a tour operator online, that way you know exactly what you are getting. 

Things that will make your tour special

There are two things that are going to really make your tour special, photos and getting there early. Seriously. If you are on a boat that gets there later in the day you are going to be among a big crowd of other boats and may not get much time in the water. Everything is going to happen pretty quickly once you get the signal to jump in, so if you want to make sure you get some great photos then its worth getting the company to take them for you. They are the pros and will do a way better job than you can.

 swimming with whale sharks

The first tour I did the photos I got were terrible! Seriously there was not one I could use and they charged me $10 for them. We also got there very late and I probably had about 2 minutes in the water. 

The second tour I took was with Kay.tours and it was a totally different experience, it cost a little more but it was worth every penny! Plus just take a look at the photos they took of me and my sister. It’s an all-inclusive tour that git me to the site way before most of the other boats. I worked with them to create this video you can watch on YouTube.

What to take with you on a whale shark tour

The tour company should give you a list of things to bring with you, but just in case there are a few things I suggest taking:

  • Clean dry clothes

Do’s and don’ts while Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

There are a few things you need to be aware of that are pretty important if you want to be an environmentally responsible tourist. So I’m just going to list them out for you here:

DON’T TOUCH THE WHALE SHARKS. I’m going to say that again, don’t touch the whale sharks. In fact, don’t touch anything underwater. We have bacteria on our hands that can cause serious hard to them so please keep your hands to yourself. 


Don’t wear sunscreen. Even the reef safe stuff isn’t okay if you are going to be close to them. It may be safe for the reef but the whale sharks really don’t need to be getting a mouthful of your sunscreen…

Do check out the company you choose to go with. Read the negative reviews and make sure they are not being called out for doing anything that might put the Whale Sharks in Mexico at harm. This is so important!

About the Author:

Claire Summers is a dedicated traveler and Digital Nomad. At 34 she sold all her worldly possessions that wouldn’t fit into 3 boxes and hopped on a one-way flight to Guatemala.

She started writing her blog Claire’s Itchy Feet as a way to inspire other women to pack their bags and head off on their own solo adventures. With no plans to ‘settle down’ anytime soon she is always looking for her next crazy adventure be it attempting to surf, hiking volcanoes, or hunting for sharks. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

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7 thoughts on “Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico”

  1. Fab post with really good advice (especially about what to look for when booking!) They are such amazing animals!

    What do you do about sunscreen? Do you just put it on afterwards, once you have got out of the water with the Whale sharks?


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