Best time to visit Cancun

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Who would miss the opportunity to swim and snorkel with these harmless and surprisingly gentle sharks?

Best time: mid-June–August

Swimming with Whale Sharks
Swimming with Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are as beautiful and majestic as they are gentle. They come around Cancun to feed on plankton, which is normally abundant around Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Contoy—right at the parting of the Carribean Sea and the G​ulf of Mexico.

Isla Holbox is perhaps the most famous whale shark spot. Being Quintana Roo’s northernmost point, it is located about 150 km (93 mi) from Cancun and an additional 20 minutes by boat from mainland Mexico. You can stay in Holbox for a few days to enjoy its amazing marine light or take a one-day tour from Cancun or Isla Mujeres.

Mexican tour operators offer exotic 7-hour tours during whale shark season that is largely dependent on the amount of plankton. It can either be a private tour on a small boat or a more crowded excursion on a large boat. Snorkeling is included either way.

The whale shark season may sometimes continue from mid-May to mid-September, but nature isn't that predictable, and in fact, rather changeable​. So, if you want a sure thing, then the best time to go for this kind of adventure is between mid-June and August.

Practical info

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

The popular spots for whale shark sighting in Cancun are Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Contoy. The Isla Holbox is the most in-demand as its location is the northernmost point of Quintana Roo. If you want to glimpse these creatures, you can spend a few days on Holbox or join a day-long tour in Cancun or Isla Mujeres. Show more

What is the duration of the typical tour to swim with whale sharks in Cancun?

Whale shark swimming tours in Cancun usually last for seven hours, whether on a private small boat or a crowded large boat. These snorkeling tours include the chance to see whale sharks up close and personal. Show more

When is the best time of the year to swim with whale sharks in Cancun?

June through August is the best time to swim with whale sharks in Cancun due to the abundance of plankton in Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Contoy, located on the meeting point of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Plankton is a whale shark's primary food source. Although the whale shark season may vary, there are some predictable patterns that you can expect. Show more

How far is Isla Holbox from Cancun and what would you experience there?

Isla Holbox is about 150 km (93 mi) away from Cancun and is known for its serene beaches with crystal-clear waters. Isla Holbox is located in the Yum Balam Reserve. You can also enjoy engaging in activities such as paddleboarding, kiteboarding, and windsurfing. Its stunning marine light makes it an ideal destination to relax and unwind. Show more

What do whale sharks in Cancun feed on and why do they migrate to these areas?

Whale sharks feed primarily on plankton, which is found in abundance in Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Contoy – the point where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea meet. These areas are where whale sharks migrate to feed or mate, often following a predictable pattern. Although their migration period may vary, conditions in these areas usually remain consistent. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin