Home ACTIVITIES Top 10 Tips – Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen 2018
Top 10 Tips – Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen 2018
(Last Updated On: June 27, 2018)

Top 10 Tips – Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen 2018


We book a lot of whale shark tours at 20% off here at PlayaDelCarmen.com.

It only makes sense that we also get A TON of questions.

As a dive instructor and former whale shark guide, I am often the go-to source for the best advice on eco-adventures and sustainable tourism.

Well summer is right around the corner and you know what that means, right? Sun, heat, sand, relaxation, laying down motionless working on a perfect tan, etc.

Wait a minute!

Here is one major thing that happens during the summer around here: whale shark season!

Yippee!!!whale shark tours mexico


The gentle giants of the ocean decide to come every year to do pretty much what everyone else does on vacation… stuff themselves full!


Prepare for one of the most amazing adventures of your life and dust off your bucket list, because this is happening!

Whale shark season begins on June 1st and runs through September 15th.

Before you go out, however, we want to share 10 THINGS you should know about swimming with whale sharks from Playa del Carmen.

That way, you’ll have the best possible experience while respecting nature and safety at all times.


whale shark swim playa del carmen

Whale sharks are amazing creatures, and this tour is happening out there in the wild.

This is NOT a zoo, so please be respectful of their natural habitat and give ‘em a break!

They came all the way here for the Mexican buffet (just like you did) so please let the encounter be with ZERO direct interaction and respect their beauty in a humble way.

What does this mean?


whale shark swim playa del carmen

Why no touching?

They are vulnerable to endangerment, which means they are protected by international laws.

Plus, whale sharks are pretty big creatures (20-30 ft. average). You really don’t want to be that close, so please keep your distance at all times.

Also, they are in the middle of a meal, so just leave them alone!

Who likes to be touched and poked by noisy curious strangers when having a bite? Not me!


whale shark tour playa del carmen

You have to stay snorkeling at the surface since that is where they generally feed.

Furthermore, they don’t really like it when someone is under them so they dive down as soon as you do that.

In other words,  you won’t just mess up the encounter for everyone else, but you’ll also interrupt their lunch!

whale shark feeding, mexico

This is the most popular activity during the summer season

There will be PLENTY of boats out there when you go, cruising close to each other and to the sharks… the last thing we want is for a person to disappear from the surface.

That’s why life jackets or wetsuits are mandatory for this experience.

Remember, it’s for your own safety.


juvenile whale shark swim mexico

Make sure to only use a little biodegradable sunscreen (apply it before they pick you up at the hotel, and only reapply after the swim with them).

Remember, the best way to protect yourself from the sun is to wear clothing.

Bring your long sleeve rash-guards or t-shirts, hats, sunglasses, towels, etc…


mexico whale shark tours

The rules allow only a few people to jump at once with the guide.

Please make sure you always know your guide’s name, boat or captain, and follow his/her lead.

Communicate with your guide if you have any concerns or doubts and ask for help if needed.

Yes, you have to have basic snorkeling/swimming skills for this tour.


whale shark

Going out in the wild on a speedboat to find fish is not that easy.

The spotting of the sharks is done by sight… no radars, no sonars, just with the eyes (so keep ‘em open!).

You may find 1 shark or none; perhaps many together in one spot…

Remember that this is a natural encounter so you should be prepared mentally that you might not see any sharks.

It could be a very difficult and long day with a very short swim (which in my opinion is still SO WORTH IT!, and it’s still better than swimming with dolphins).


mexico whale shark tour playa del carmen

In all seriousness, make sure you have some breakfast, drink lots of water, bring snacks, and DO NOT go to the tour the morning after Coco Bongo or any wild party.

Your hangover won’t go well with this tour.

Speaking of which…


whale shark feeding on plankton, mexico

Last but not least: please, please, pretty please prevent SEASICKNESS.

If you’ve never gotten seasick in your life, still consider taking either a ginger tea, bring seasickness bracelets or get some medication to prevent it.

Prove to seasickness or motion sickness? You definitely will on this tour… so get your medication in advance.

This is one of the most amazing things you will ever do, don’t risk it by playing a seasick Jacques Cousteau.

The main challenge is not when going out or coming back at full speed… it is once you find the Whale Shark and you are waiting for your turn (which can be long). The engines of the boat are off… boat rocking… engine fumes…feed the fish… repeat… not a nice way to spend your time and definitely not a way to enjoy your whale shark tour.


Whale shark feast mexico

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean… let me rephrase that: there is no other fish (remember sharks are fish!) as humongous as these beauties and as such, well: they swim pretty fast compared to us (even with flippers).

As I said before, they are here to eat, they are HUNGRY! But don’t worry, they won’t eat you since they only eat teeny-tiny fish and organisms called plankton.

swimming with whale sharks tour mexico cancun

That being said, they are big fish, moving and eating all over the place.

If you get the chance to be in the water next to them while they do that, YOU NEED TO SWIM FAST… unless you just want to see them pass by for 1.5 seconds and your chance is up.


whale sharks mexico tour

Look at the shark with your own eyes and cherish that moment… and only after that think of taking a picture, or just hire someone to do it for you!

Remember that there is nothing set when it comes to nature, it might be that you only have that one jump to see them, so keep up and enjoy their majesty!

whale shark filter fish mexico

Ok, as I said in the beginning, this is one of the best things you will ever do.

It is important to handle your expectations and start the day with a humble heart, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst… this never fails when it comes to nature!

You will have the privilege to go out and encounter all sorts of marine wildlife like dolphins, manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, hundreds of marine birds, and well the turquoise waters of the Caribbean…

manta ray whale shark tour

Whale shark season begins June 1st and goes till mid-September.

Last year we had a few days with a lot of whale sharks in the same area around the first week of August.

BUT it all depends on the whale sharks, their food, the weather, and also on your motivation to make this an amazing experience.

Want to hear from somebody else’s experience? Check out Lisa’s whale shark tour review on our blog!

whale shark tour isla mujeres

Ready to Snorkel with the Sea Titans?

Our travel gurus are whale shark expert extraordinaire who also happen to know about everything Playa del Carmen.

Save 15%book the Whale Shark tour online or Call us toll-free at 1-888-537-9797 to book this tour today.

Mention this article and get a special discount!

Photo credit: Many thanks to Encounters and Ocean Tours for the beautiful pictures.


Elizabeth Urraza Elizabeth is a travel expert that has called Playa del Carmen home for the last 5 years. This ex dive instructor loves to share her experiences on travel, cultures and is passionate about organizing vacations and weddings as a travel consultant for PlayaDelCarmen.com.


    1. Hi Anthea,

      We don’t have the prices yet for next year’s tour but there shouldn’t be much variation in the price. As for being a first-time snorkeler, you may want to practice a little before going so that you can swim alongside these ocean titans.

  1. Hello. I know that whale shark season starts June 1. However is mid June too early see them reliably? I have read that they really don’t start coming in numbers until July. What is your experience with Mid June?


    1. Hello Rick!

      Thanks for reaching out!

      The Whale Shark tour is very hard to forecast as every year, at least in the past 4 that I have been involved with it, has been very random. I can tell you that mid June two years ago was very very hard… and mid June last year was perfect… in my opinion, mid June is definitely worth a shot. If this is something you really want to do, and being prepared and aware that it might be a long day and that you might not see the big groups but maybe a few or even one.. go for it!

      Also, I would do it in the beginning of the trip, to leave room for a second chance in case there was no luck on the first try. But that is me! I love nature and never ever mind a day out in the ocean… as there are always chances to see amazing creatures like Mantas, Sea Turtles, Dolphins…! Whale Sharks are so majestic and mind-blowing, that I would try without hesitation, even if it would be early in the season.

      Let me know if this helps!

      Don’t forget, you can save you up to 15% on Whale Shark tours us here.

      You can also call us, PlayaDelCarmen.com, at 888-537-9797 or email customerservice@playadelcarmen.com to book too.

  2. Hello,

    We are in playa del carmen right now and wondering what the changes are of spotting whale sharks at the last week of may? Sincerely

    1. Hi there,
      Most tour companies start the season on June 1st, so there is definitely a chance of spotting whale sharks a few days before that if you have a tour company that takes you out on a tour…. It may just take a little longer to find them, and there will be less than later in the season.

    1. Hey Marco, unfortunately not, Whale Shark season starts in June through till September, due to their migration habits.

  3. You are the first location we have investigated to mention a specific season. Is that unique to PDC or generally true in areas such as Cancun, La Paz, etc. Pls respond so we don’t expect to see WS’s and we are visiting the wrong time of the year. Our family is likely to be available only in April. Is there a location best to see WSs in early April?f Thank you,

    1. Hey Dave! It is true of the whole region, due to the Whale Sharks migration patterns they only migrate to the Yucatan Peninsula during the months June – September. Very sorry to disappoint you.

  4. Hi! I’ve read that whale shark season starts at June 1. I have read that they really don’t start coming in numbers until July. I would love to swim with them and have fun. Having lots of whale sharks to swim with is the best option. Can you please tell me when is the right time to experience swimming with lots of whale sharks? Thanks!

    1. Hey there, the Whale Sharks come in numbers anytime from June -September. I will have one of our expert Travel Gurus reach out to you via email to get you booked in for this tour. 🙂

  5. Hi can you do tour in pdc area or do you have to be closer to Cancun ? Also can my five year old go or if not snorkel stay in boat with me ?

    1. Hello Jennifer, yes, of course, we can arrange the tour and take care of the transport for you as well at minimal cost. Yes, however, as you are out at sea we should note that the sea can be quite choppy so seasickness is a risk for you and your young child. They do give you tablets when you board the boat so we advise you take these. I will have one of specialist Travel Gurus reach out to you to discuss the ins and outs with you in greater detail. 🙂 All in all, it’s an amazing tour! Have a great time. 🙂

  6. Hi,
    how long is the boat trip from Playa del carmen? Do you go to the same area as the trips from cancun?

    1. Hey Allison, it all depends on the Whale Sharks movements that day. It can be anything from 1-3 hours. I hope that helps. If you would like to speak to one of our travel planners that have done this trip before just contact us via customercare@playadelcarmen.com


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