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4 TOP Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours In 2024


Are you searching for top Isla Mujeres whale shark tours?

Swimming alongside these enormous but gentle ocean giants is an experience that is hard to put into words. It is literally breathtaking, and it is an accessible opportunity that should not be missed.

Unfortunately, whale sharks have been considered an endangered species since 2016. Many travellers may feel unsure about the ethics of intruding on and interacting with an endangered animal in its natural habitat. 

swim with whale sharks Isla Mujeres

However, it can be argued that witnessing these awe-inspiring animals will result in more travellers from nations around the globe becoming passionate about their protection and about marine conservation in general. 

Plus, unlike other animal encounters around the world, the rules and regulations to swim with whale sharks Isla Mujeres are tightly controlled and monitored. 

This article covers everything you need to know about swimming with whale sharks, including what to expect and what to pack. It also includes our recommendations for the best whale shark tours available from Isla Mujeres and from the Riviera Maya.

Top Pick Of Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

If you are short on reading time, this is the best whale shark tour Isla Mujeres has to offer. 

If you would like more detail about this excellent tour or to discover our other top picks of Isla Mujeres whale shark tours, there is more detailed information later in this article. 

#1 Whale Shark Tour Isla MujeresTOP RATED

top rated Isla Mujeres whale shark tour
Photo credit: Viator


This outstanding 8-hour tour from Isla Mujeres has justifiably received nearly 500 hundred reviews, and nearly all of the reviews are five-star rated

The organised and comprehensive tour includes breakfast, lunch and drinks, as well as all your snorkelling equipment. It is the best tour for foreign tourists as they offer an incredible eight languages among their guides and crew. 

Book your spot at the #1 whale shark excursion: 

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

When Is Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Season?

If you want to see whale sharks Mexico is one of the most accessible and most affordable places in the world to see them. 

The whale shark season in Mexico varies according to where you are in the country. For example, the whale shark season on the western Baja Peninsula is from winter to early Spring, whereas further east on the Riviera Maya and Isla Mujeres the whale shark season runs from June to September. 

best time to see whale sharks in Isla Mujeres

➡️ So, what is the best time to see whale sharks in Isla Mujeres?

The peak whale shark Isla Mujeres season is between July and August. This is when you will have the best chance of seeing the highest number of whales in the same location and in the best conditions. 

Tour operators in Isla Mujeres during these months are so confident that you will see whale sharks on your trip that they will usually offer you a free return trip if you do not see any whale sharks at all. 

You may see one whale shark, or you may see up to 50 whale sharks, but visiting the island in July or August will undoubtedly give you the best chance of seeing the most whale sharks. 

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

Things To Know About Whale Shark Tours Isla Mujeres Is Famous For

There are lots of whale shark operators in Isla Mujeres and on the Riviera Maya on mainland Mexico. Due to the number of tours on offer, it is important to shop around for the right tour for you – and for the whale sharks.

📑 It is essential to do your research to pick the right tour for you.

As well as price comparison, there are other factors you need to consider before booking a tour. Compare the different lengths and itineraries of the trips that are available.

Find out how much actual time you will spend in the water, how many turns in the water you will have, who the guides are (or if you get a guide!) and make sure you know what will be included in the tour, for example, equipment, food and drink.

If you prefer small group tours, be sure to ask what the maximum number of guests will be on tour. Plus, if you are prone to seasickness, make sure you know which type of boat your chosen tour uses. It is generally thought that mono hulls can make you more seasick than multi-hull boats such as a catamaran. 

Do your research thoroughly to choose the right tour for you. Choosing the right tour can give you the best snorkelling in Isla Mujeres with whale sharks experience. 

🛟 Think about your own safety on the trip. 

Check the tour company’s details online and read as much information as you can about the company. Are they registered with the Mexican government as a whale shark tour operator? Do they have adequate safety procedures on board and a trained First Aider on each trip? Does the boat in their online photos or brochure appear seaworthy? 

*In this post, we’ve done the work for you and only recommend eco-conscious and top-rated tours.

⏰ Your time in the water is limited to protect the whale sharks.

As whale sharks are considered to be an endangered animal, there are strict controls on whale shark tours in Isla Mujeres and from other departure locations. 

There are a limited number of licensed boats allowed in the area at any one time (though this number can be as high as 30 – 50 boats). Each boat will have a maximum passenger number, but this does not usually exceed 20 per boat. Although numbers are controlled, you must expect lots of other people in the water with you, especially during peak season and at peak times of the day.

Generally, only two people plus one guide from each boat are allowed in the water at a time. Passengers on the boats must take turns to enter the water, and you will only get 2 – 3 turns in the water, with each turn limited to a few minutes. 

It is people who do not expect these time constraints that usually leave negative reviews online about swimming with whale sharks. If you expect and accept the limitations before you go, you are unlikely to be disappointed. Don’t be put off by the relatively short time you will spend in the water – even one second in the water alongside these magnificent animals will be worth the effort and the cost. 

Plus, as the whale sharks are located in a national marine park, you may also see dolphins, manta rays, turtles and lots of tropical fish whilst on the boat waiting for your turn to swim with the whale sharks. 

🐋 Be prepared for the size of the whale shark.

Try to prepare yourself in advance for the immense size of these majestic animals. This means that you will be less likely to freak out in the water, to disturb the shark by splashing and therefore miss valuable minutes off your experience. 

Whale sharks can grow up to 12 metres long, so imagine yourself swimming next to a red London double-decker bus (which is also 12 metres long!) 

🏊‍♂️ You will enter the water with a certified guide.

Licensed Isla Mujeres whale shark tours provide in-water guides who are there for both safety and guidance. It is highly recommended to join a tour that provides an in-water guide. 

However, not all guides are equal, so before you pay your money, ask the following questions. Are the guides bi-lingual so you will be able to understand safety briefings, information about the whale sharks or instructions in the water? What are the guide’s marine qualifications and experience? 

🐳 Choose an environmentally responsible Isla Mujeres whale shark tour!

Isla Mujeres whale shark tours are extremely popular, and, as a result, there are lots of tour operators offering the experience. However, not all companies have the same level of environmental responsibility towards whale sharks.

Before parting with your money, do you get the impression that the company is trying to raise awareness of whale sharks or simply trying to sell tickets? Is the company or its crew involved in any other conservation initiatives? Do they require guests to bring reef-safe sunscreen, or is any sunscreen allowed?

One way of gauging whether the tour company you want to book with is ethically minded or not is if they limit the number of snorkelers in the water with the whale sharks at any one time. The rule is supposed to be two snorkellers to one guide, but some companies choose to overlook this in order to get good reviews from their guests. 

Although the time and number restraints could potentially impact the tourists’ enjoyment of the trip – and you will see online reviews complaining about this – limiting the number of people in the water is best for the sensitive Whale Sharks themselves. What does your company choose to do?  

Isla Mujeres is famous for its whale shark tours.

🏝️ You don’t have to stay on Isla Mujeres.

If you want to snorkel with whale sharks, Isla Mujeres is a fantastic location in which to do it. However, you do not have to stay on Isla Mujeres or take a day trip to Isla Mujeres to join a whale shark tour. 

There are several whale shark tours that depart from the nearby Riviera Maya on the mainland. So if you are not visiting Isla Mujeres but would like to swim with whale sharks Cancun and its neighbouring locations offer several possibilities. 

🤿 Snorkelling equipment is provided.

All the Isla Mujeres whale shark tours mentioned in this guide include snorkelling equipment as part of the tours, so you don’t need to have your own equipment. 

However, if you prefer to use your own equipment whilst whale shark snorkeling Isla Mujeres tours will allow you to do so. Only a few tours include wetsuits, so if you would prefer a wetsuit, especially if you are travelling with children, you will need to bring your own or hire one in Isla Mujeres or Cancun. 

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

What To Pack For A Whale Shark Tour 

If you want to swim with Mexico whale sharks, the following items are essentials to bring on your Isla Mujeres whale shark tours. Neglecting to pack one of these items could seriously impact your enjoyment of your day trip as well as the rest of your Mexican vacation. 

whale shark tours isla mujeres

☀️ Reef-friendly sunscreen

Have you heard the often-used sustainable traveller’s phrase ‘leave only footprints?’ The same ideology can be applied to the sea – leave only ripples, not toxic chemicals that will damage the fragile organisms that live in the turquoise seas around Isla Mujeres. 

An essential item for any trip where you plan to go sea swimming should be a reef-friendly sunscreen such as Sun Bum. In fact, some whale shark tour operators will only allow reef-safe sunscreen to be used on their boats, so make sure you pack your own. 

When you are engrossed in snorkelling with whale sharks (or snorkelling anywhere else), it is easy to forget how quickly you can get sunburned in water. Reflections from seawater increase UV rays by up to 50%, so it is imperative to apply sun cream both before and after swimming. 

Sun Bum is both reef and vegan-friendly, so you can liberally apply it knowing that you will not be affecting the fragile ecosystems around Isla Mujeres. 

🩱Sun guard 

Wearing a torso covering UPF 50+ Sun guard is an excellent way to further (and fully) protect your skin when snorkelling and swimming in Isla Mujeres. 

Sun Guards offer maximum sun protection, especially for hard-to-reach areas with sun cream, such as your back. The tops are lightweight, roll up small and are quick drying when wet. A sun guard is an essential item for any beach holiday and particularly for children’s sensitive skin. 

🥪 Extra snacks & water

You may be surprised how hungry and thirsty snorkelling can make you, and it is always a good idea to stay hydrated when out in the sun for extended periods of time. 

Pack snacks such as fruit or energy bars and bring lots of water for your long day trip, and remember to bring all your rubbish home with you.  

🥴 Anti-sea sickness tablets

Isla Mujeres whale shark tours entail a sustained period of time on the sea. If you know you are prone to seasickness, pack an anti-sea sickness medication such as Dramamine

Even if you usually don’t get sick on a boat journey, it is still a good idea to pack some anti-sea sickness medication on a whale shark tour, as you will be spending at least two hours stationery on a boat in the open sea. Even the strongest stomach can start to feel queasy in the swell.

Dramamine is a long-lasting, easy-to-swallow non-drowsy anti-nausea medication which works fast. Sea sickness is quick to get but can take a long time to shake off, so it could easily ruin your whole day trip. Don’t take the risk on your once-in-a-lifetime whale sharks swimming Isla Mujeres trip – pack some Dramamine!  

As with all medication, please read and follow the instructions carefully.

Photo credit: Pixabay

📸 Water camera 

A must-pack item for snorkelling with whale sharks is a waterproof GoPro HERO camera. You will not want to miss a second of your once-in-a-lifetime swim with whale sharks in the clear, sunlit waters of Mexico.

Make sure you record your video in high definition 4k. This will allow you to extract good-quality still images later on. Unfortunately, using 4k will drain your battery quicker, so don’t forget to fully charge your GoPro and pack a spare battery, just in case. 

🤠 Pack a wide-brimmed hat

You’ve packed your reef-friendly sunscreen and protected your body with a sun guard, now don’t forget your head!

It is easy to neglect your head on a boat trip as the cooling breeze as you bounce along the water hides the true strength of the sun. Plus, as you will spend more time out of the water than in the water on a whale shark tour, it is essential to protect your head, face and neck from the sun. 

A wide-brimmed cotton hat offers maximum protection but in a cool cotton fabric which is also quick drying when it gets wet. Although the under-chin tie look may not be on trend, it will keep the hat on your head in the sea wind, unlike a baseball cap! Plus, these hats are easy to roll and lightweight to carry in a day pack. 

The well-known outdoor brand Columbia also makes a similar cotton sunhat using Nosilife technology which is an effective anti-mosquito fabric.  

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

Best Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

It can be difficult to choose the right Isla Mujeres whale shark tour as there are so many tours on offer. Use our recommendations below to find the right tour for your travel style and budget. 

#1 Top Rated Whale Shark Tour

whale shark tour Isla Mujeres


This highly rated tour is by speedboat and has an average boat time of five hours (three hours of which will be with the whale sharks). All ages, abilities and diets are catered for on this tour, and reviewers cite the excellent customer care they received. 

This tour offers an incredible eight languages so everyone can feel included and informed, and it has a maximum of ten travellers per trip. Plus, a flexible free cancellation is allowed up to 24 hours before departure. 


  • a continental breakfast
  • a Ceviche lunch with totopos & guacamole
  • water and soft drinks
  • snorkelling equipment
  • life jacket
  • bi-lingual guides
  • hotel pick up and drop off


The tour starts with an on-shore breakfast at the departure pier before setting off on the one-hour sea crossing to the aquatic national park, where the whale sharks congregate to feed.

You will then spend three hours on average at the park, taking it in turns to enter the water two at a time with a guide. Then you will travel to Playa Norte for a delicious freshly cooked fish lunch before travelling back to your departure point for your transfer back to your hotel. 

Book this whale shark here before it sells out: 

#2 Small Group Eco Tour 

swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres


You can book this highly-rated tour if you are staying in Cancun or on the Riviera Maya, as the tour departs from Playa del Carmen, not Isla Mujeres. 

The tour lasts an average of seven hours and caters for a maximum of 20 travellers


  • lunch
  • water and soft drinks
  • a bi-lingual guide and naturalist (English and Spanish)
  • hotel pick up and drop off
  • use of snorkelling equipment
  • life jacket


The tour departs from Playa del Carmen and heads to the national park north of Isla Mujeres. Guests can expect two turns in the water though more are possible depending on numbers and weather conditions. 

The boat then travels to Playa Norte for lunch and time sunbathing or swimming on the beach before departing for Playa Del Carmen to meet the hotel transfers. During the sea crossings, the naturalist will give a talk about whale sharks and marine conservation. 

Book this whale shark here before it sells out: 

#3 Budget Tour

Isla Mujeres whale shark tours


This budget-friendly tour departs from Isla Mujeres and lasts approximately six hours. There is free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure. 

The tour offers a bilingual guide in English and Spanish, and guests can expect two turns in the water (possibly three turns, depending on trip numbers and weather conditions). 


  • snacks
  • lunch
  • water and soft drinks
  • all snorkelling equipment
  • life jacket
  • national park fees
  • hotel transfers


This tour follows a similar itinerary to the tours already mentioned. After the hotel pick-ups are complete, you will travel for around one hour to the national park to swim and snorkel with the whale sharks. 

Following a freshly cooked fish lunch, you will return to your departure point and meet your hotel transfer. 

Book this whale shark here before it sells out:

#4 VIP Private whale shark tour Isla Mujeres

swim with whale sharks Isla Mujeres


If you want to guarantee a small group and highly personalised service, and excellent customer care, this is the tour for you. 

This tour is for one to six people, so you could even have the tour all to yourself if you wanted to. The small group size means that you will have more chances to enter the water and swim with the whale sharks. 

The six-hour tour departs from Cancun, and there is a certified guide bilingual in English, Spanish and Italian on board. The tour also includes the use of a wetsuit which is invaluable for warmth and buoyancy, particularly for children and less confident swimmers. 


  • breakfast
  • lunch
  • snacks
  • water and soft drinks
  • snorkelling equipment
  • wetsuit
  • life jacket
  • hotel pick up and drop off
  • all fees and taxes


After departing from Cancun, the boat travels for approximately 50 minutes to the national park where the whale sharks can be found. You will then spend around 2.5 – 3 hours at the park, which will ensure that the small number on board have three turns in the water if they wish to. 

The crew will serve sandwiches before journeying to Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres for some downtime sunbathing and swimming. A freshly cooked fish lunch is served in Playa Norte, after which the boat travels back to Cancun. 

Book this whale shark here before it sells out:

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

Interesting Facts About Isla Mujeres Whale Sharks

Want to know more about the whale shark Isla Mujeres is famous for? Impress your fellow day-trippers with the following facts! 

🐳 Whale sharks are filter-feeding sharks that can grow up to 12 metres in length

🐳 Whale sharks are slow swimmers reaching an average speed of just three miles per hour

🐳 A whale shark’s mouth can stretch to four feet wide. But don’t panic, their tiny teeth cannot bite or chew. That’s the reason they filter feed on plankton and tiny fish. 

🐳 Sadly, the only known predator of a whale shark is humans. 

whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours: FAQ

Are there any Isla Mujeres whale shark diving tours?

There aren’t any whale shark diving tours available in Isla Mujeres as they are not necessary.

Whale sharks come to the surface to swim and feed, so it is sufficient to see them on snorkelling and swimming trips. You will not need to dive too deep depths to see whale sharks in Isla Mujeres. 

How far are whale sharks from Isla Mujeres?

The whale sharks gather approximately one hour off the coast from Isla Mujeres in a designated marine national park. This location is in deep open water, so you must expect some swell and waves even on calm, sunny days (see anti-seasickness medication advice above!)

Is swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres safe?

If you want to swim with whale sharks Isla Mujeres is one of the best locations in the world. 

It is generally considered a safe activity to do as whale sharks are gentle giants of the ocean and will not deliberately attack humans as they have no interest in eating you and do not feel threatened by you. 

However, as with any open water or adventurous activity, there is some element of risk. Make sure your travel insurance permits deep open water activities such as swimming with whale sharks and that you book with a reputable tour operator who has a trained first aider on board. 

isla mujeres whale shark tours
Photo credit: Pixabay

What is the water temperature when swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres?

The average temperature at the peak of the whale shark swimming season in Isla Mujeres is a pleasantly warm 27 degrees Celsius or 82 degrees Fahrenheit.  

When can you see whale sharks in Isla Mujeres?

Whale sharks start arriving in the waters around Isla Mujeres in mid-May and can usually be seen until the middle of September. The peak season for whale shark spotting and for tours is July and August. 

Where is the best place to see whale sharks in Mexico?

The Riviera Maya and Isla Mujeres are the best places to see whale sharks in Mexico as they are so close to the shore, just one hour by boat from either location. You can also see whale sharks on the Baja Peninsula in winter. 

Are there sharks in Isla Mujeres?

Yes, there are sharks in the waters around Isla Mujeres, as there are in most deep water locations around the world. Reef Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks and Bull Sharks are rarely seen but have been spotted in the waters near Cancun and Isla Mujeres. 

However, according to the Dutch Shark Society, there have only been 40 known shark attacks (not all of which were fatalities) in this area in the last 450 years. To put this into context, there have been 858 known shark attacks off the coast of Florida in the last 450 years!

Cancun or Isla Mujeres for whale sharks?

You will have to travel into the open sea to see the whale sharks from both Cancun and Isla Mujeres, so it does not really matter whether you start your trip from the mainland or from Isla Mujeres. 

However, the journey time on open water is around one more from Cancun than it is from Isla Mujeres, so if you want to minimise your sea time, choose to depart from Isla Mujeres.  

A beautiful beach in Holbox Mexico.

Which location is better for whale sharks, Holbox or Isla Mujeres?

Neither location is ‘better’ than the other, as nearly all the tours from both Holbox and Isla Mujeres end up at the same stretch of open water north of Isla Mujeres. However, the journey by boat will take one hour longer to reach if you depart from Isla Holbox. 

Therefore, if you want less time travelling in the boat and more time in the water, choose one of the whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres. 

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours

Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours Final Word

Swimming in the open ocean with whale sharks on one of the Isla Mujeres whale shark tours recommended in this article will be a travel experience that you will remember forever. 

It is an activity that is not for the faint-hearted or the very young. The seas to reach the national park are notoriously choppy, and unfortunately, seasickness is common among guests. 

Swimming in choppy, deep open water can be energy-sapping, and you must be a competent and confident swimmer. Plus, the sight of such huge animals alongside you can be alarming and disconcerting at first. 

But if you prepare yourself both physically and mentally and take anti-sea sickness medication, you will enjoy a magical animal encounter that you will savour and relive long after you leave Mexico. 

You may also find that you have a new or renewed passion and commitment for marine conservation, including the protection of the enigmatic whale shark, an endangered gentle giant of our precious oceans.

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