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15 Things to Know BEFORE Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cabo

15 Things to Know BEFORE Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cabo

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Seeing a whale shark up close is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most travelers, and luckily between October and April, the waters surrounding Cabo San Lucas are abundant with these “gentle giants” of the sea! Yep, more than 100 whale sharks can be found in the warm waters here during peak whale shark season, making your chances of seeing one on a tour extremely high!

And Cabo, as it’s affectionately known by almost everyone, is about more than just the majestic whale sharks which live in its waters. This area is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches in Mexico, plenty of luxury resorts, and a vibrant nightlife scene, making it an ideal vacation for almost every type of traveler.

So, if you want to tick “swim with whale sharks” off your bucket list – read on to find out everything there is to know about swimming with whale sharks in Cabo. We’ve included it all – from how much it costs to what essentials you should pack for the tour. We’ve even listed three of our favorite and highly-rated whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!

Now, let’s dive in (see what we did there). Here are a whopping 15 helpful tips you should know before booking a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas!

1. About whale sharks

A whale shark swims through the water off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
A whale shark swims through the water off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Whale sharks are slow-moving, filter-feeding sharks that are found in temperate oceans (near places like Cancun, also in Mexico, Exmouth in Western Australia, and of course, Cabo San Lucas). They are the world’s largest sharks, and when fully grown, they can weigh a whopping 18 metric tonnes and measure an impressive 5.5-10 meters (18-33 feet) long! To put it in visual terms, a whale shark is about the same size as a yellow school bus!!

Though whale sharks are technically sharks, don’t be scared off by this fact, as they don’t behave like a typical shark. They are more similar to most whale species as they mostly feed off plankton, small fish, and shrimp. They don’t pose any real risk to humans as they’re so docile and move very slowly through the ocean – they can only manage a speed of about 3 miles (5 kilometers) per hour!

Whale sharks are commonly nicknamed the “gentle giants of the sea” because of their tame nature and the fact they can’t bite (they have teeny-tiny teeth) and instead eat by sucking in huge gulps of water and thus trapping plankton etc., in the filter pads inside their mouths. 

Plus, they can live up to 150 years old! Uniquely too, their backs are covered in a mosaic pattern of stripes and white spots, which are unique to each whale shark – similar to a human fingerprint! 

It’s also worth remembering that these beautiful creatures are considered endangered, as their population has now fallen to 200,000-240,000. This means it’s so important to protect them and book an environmentally-friendly whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas (we’ve listed 3 of our favorites later in this blog post).

2. Where do you go to swim with whale sharks in Cabo San Lucas?

A person swims near a whale shark off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
You can get really close without disturbing them!

Whale sharks can be found in the Bahia de La Paz (La Paz Bay), off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. From October to April (which is peak whale shark season), over 100 whale sharks can be found in the waters here. FYI, they migrate here to feed in the plankton-rich waters!

To swim with whale sharks in Cabo, you can either join this tour that involves a 30-minute boat ride from the pier in Cabo San Lucas or book this one, which will transfer you by road to La Paz (about 2 hours away) and then hop on a short boat ride from there!

The Bahia de La Paz is one of only a few spots in the world where you can see such a huge number of this endangered species during these months. 

Whichever tour you choose, you’ll be on the boat for a minimum of 30 minutes until you get to your first diving or snorkeling spot. That’s because whale sharks like to congregate in deep waters (they can dive over 500 meters/1,640 feet deep), so your boat will need to travel out far into the middle of the ocean to give you the best chance of seeing these magnificent sharks!

Related Read: If you plan to visit Mexico between May and September and want to see whale sharks, then, consider visiting Cancun and doing a whale shark tour there instead!

3. When is whale shark season in Cabo San Lucas?

Whale shark swimming through the water Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
So cool!

It’s best to book a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas during “whale shark season” which runs from October through April. Unlike other parts of Mexico, some whale shark tours like this one operate year-round, but as we said, your best chance of seeing them is in peak season.

Keep in mind that whale shark season in Cabo San Lucas is different from other popular whale shark destinations in Mexico, like the Yucatan Peninsula. The whale shark season in Tulum, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Isla Mujeres runs from mid-May to mid-September!

As for the best time of the day to see whale sharks, that’s in the morning, hence, why most whale shark tours in Cabo leave early in the morning. 

4. What does it cost to swim with whale sharks in Cabo San Lucas?

Whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas range from $212-$299 USD per person. The prices vary by company and what’s included. For example, some tours include lunch. This particular tour includes lunch and beverages and is a full-day tour, which is why it’s a tad pricier than this half-day tour which just includes snacks and bottled water!

Remember that some tours don’t include hotel pick-up and drop-off, so you may need to pay extra for this or make your own way to their meeting point by renting a car in Mexico

Tours don’t include gratuities either, so be sure to take some cash with you for the staff on board!

5. What are the best whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas?

Two people take a selfie on a Whale shark tour off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
On our tour!

With so many different whale shark tours available in Cabo San Lucas, it can be hard to know which one to pick! Below, we have included our favorites and those with the best reviews so you can easily choose the best tour for you.

Half-day Snorkeling and Swimming Tour in Cabo

This half-day whale shark tour is one of our favorites and is a fantastic option if you’re short on time and want to experience all the best activities in Cabo San Lucas on a tight schedule. This tour is just 4.5 hours long, and you can choose from a 7:30 am or 1:30 pm departure time. Keep in mind, though, that hotel pick-up is not included, so you will need to make your own way to their sales booth at Cabo San Lucas Marina, next to Captain Tony’s restaurant.

The tour includes one stop to snorkel or dive (you’ll need an advanced certification to dive, FYI), and to get to the stop is a 30-minute boat ride. But, if you do have a certification, it’s so worth scuba diving here as it’s rated as one of the top diving spots in Mexico!

Along the way to your dive stop, your knowledgeable guide will point out any marine life he/she sees, but expect to see different species of sharks and sea lions. On the way back to Cabo Marina, you’ll pass by the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, where you can snap some stunning photos.

The price includes all your snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, fins, and lifejacket), bottled water, snacks, and underwater photos of your experience. This half-day tour costs $212 USD per person!

La Paz Whale Shark Snorkeling Tour and Lunch From Los Cabos

This full-day tour (it’s approximately 10 hours long) is a little different from the half-day option as it involves a two-hour scenic transfer in an air-conditioned minivan via the Baja California Sur desert to the town of La Paz from where you will catch your boat. On the way to your snorkel stop, keep your eyes peeled for other marine creatures, such as dolphins, humpback whales, and manta rays!

After getting up close to the whale sharks, it’s time to hop back on board to be transferred to your next stop – the town of Todos Santos. Walk along the Malecon, a gorgeous beachfront boardwalk, and here you’ll get to sample delicious tacos! You’ll also get to visit the famed Hotel California.

This seasonal tour (it can only be booked between November and March) costs from $259 USD per person. The price includes all snorkeling equipment, wetsuits and towels, lunch, beverages, and hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Small group tour to snorkel with whale sharks in Cabo

This particular tour is similar to the one above in that it’s also a full-day tour (around 10 hours long) and involves a comfortable transfer to La Paz to catch your boat. But the difference with this highly-rated tour is that breakfast and lunch will be served on board your boat. It’s a small group tour, which allows for a more personalized experience.

You’ll get the chance to snorkel with whale sharks as well as devil rays, and because it’s a smaller group, you’ll have more time in the water.

The price for this small group tour is $299 USD per person and includes all snorkeling equipment, a knowledgeable guide, breakfast, lunch, and bottled water. Return transfers from hotels in Cabo are also included!

6. What is included on most whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas?

A few people swim with a whale shark in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico as seen from a drone
They just swim past!

Most of the whale shark tours here in Cabo San Lucas include all snorkeling equipment and a professional guide. Some tours include complimentary underwater photos of the experience, and some tours include lunch, beverages, and even towels! While this small group tour includes lunch and breakfast on board the boat!

Hotel pickup and drop-off are mostly available on whale shark tours in Cabo, but you may need to pay extra for this service on some tours or make your own way to the meeting point to save the extra cash.

And even though seeing whales sharks on your tour from Cabo San Lucas isn’t a guarantee (nature is unpredictable, as we all know!) – you’ve got a great chance of swimming with them if you book for Cabo’s peak whale shark season which is from November to April. 

7. Is it safe to swim with whale sharks?

Whale shark swims near a group of people snorkeling off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
It’s very safe as long as you follow the rules!

Yes, it’s completely safe to swim with whale sharks in Cabo San Lucas, but that’s only if you listen to your guide’s instructions at all times and wear a lifejacket if you’re snorkeling!

As we explained earlier, whale sharks are referred to as the “gentle giants of the sea,” and because they are filter feeders and have tiny teeth, they pose no real risk to humans. Also, seeing as their average swimming speed is just 5 km (3 miles) per hour, and they are typically used to swimming next to humans, we say swimming with them in Cabo is a pretty safe bet!

But please remember that as with any boating activity and especially one that involves swimming in open water, there are a few risks involved, which is why you must abide by your guide’s instructions, wear your lifejacket even when you’re not in the water, and only book a tour with a reputable company. (FYI, the ones we’ve listed above are all highly recommended and well-rated companies).

8. How far in advance should you book a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas?

It’s a good idea to book your whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas in advance, as in this famous tourist resort, this bucket-list-worthy activity is quickly becoming THE thing to do! So, as you can guess, tours can book up pretty quickly, especially during peak whale shark season, which runs from October to April!

The best thing about booking through Viator is that you can change your booking up to 24 hours in advance (on most tours anyway), so if your plans do change, you can always select another date. You can also cancel and get a full refund if that’s your preferred option!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here!

9. Is it guaranteed that you’ll see whale sharks?

Whale shark swimming off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
No, it’s not!

No, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll see whale sharks on your tour in Cabo San Lucas. That’s because, like most creatures, whale sharks can be unpredictable and can suddenly move from their previously sighted location to search for food. And unlike whale shark tours in Exmouth, Australia, they don’t use spotter planes to scout the shark’s location here. So, that’s why they can’t guarantee a sighting. 

But, despite the above, you have a very high chance of seeing whale sharks if you book a tour between October and April, as this is whale shark season and a time when over 100 whale sharks flock to the waters off Cabo. Plus, the tour operators here have been doing this for years and know the best spots to find whale sharks!

Related Read: For another way to get out on the water, we love these sunset cruises in Cancun!

10. What should you bring on a tour to swim with whale sharks?

Tour group on a whale shark tour off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Our group!

Although your snorkeling equipment (like snorkel, fins, mask, and sometimes wetsuit) will be provided by your tour operator, there are some essentials that you will need to pack yourself. Of course, obvious items like a swimsuit and a towel are a must to take with you, but other items like a sun hat and a GoPro may not immediately come to mind when you’re packing but will be so handy to have on the tour!

To help you out, we’ve created a bulleted list of what we think are important items to pack for your whale shark tour in Cabo:

  • Swimsuit
  • Towel
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher (some tour companies request you wear reef-friendly sunscreen!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Light beach coverup to protect you from the sun
  • Sun hat
  • Flip flops or sandals for walking on the boat
  • Underwater camera/GoPro
  • A dry bag to protect your valuables
  • Cash for gratuities
  • Prescription snorkel mask if you need one, as the tour company will only provide a standard mask

11. How long do whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas typically last?

Whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas can last anywhere between 4.5 hours and 10 hours! And that’s because there are both half-day and full-day whale shark tours available in Cabo.

The half-day option involves a short 30-minute boat ride to the first dive or snorkel site and includes just one stop, whereas the longer full-day tours like this one involve a 2-hour transfer to La Paz from where you will catch the boat. This particular tour also includes breakfast and lunch on board the boat!

Pick-up from your hotel or the assigned meeting point varies between 6 am and 7 am if you choose the full-day tour options. Whereas if you’d prefer the half-day option, you can choose from a 7:30 am or 1:30 pm departure time.

12. Will you get seasick on whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas?

A person feels sick on a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
A person on our tour did!

As with any boat tour, you may suffer from seasickness on your Cabo San Lucas whale shark tour. Most of the tours are small group tours, which is great because it means a more personalized experience, but it also means you’ll be on board a smaller boat. And smaller boats can be rocky in choppy waters.

In saying that, it’s highly likely you’ll be fine and won’t feel any sickness as the water here in Bahia de la Paz is mostly calm, but on a windy day, it’s best to be prepared and take seasickness medication before you hop on board the boat. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and assume you’ll be fine!

Dramamine is one of the most popular motion sickness tablet brands, and it should be readily available in most pharmacies in Cabo San Lucas.

You will need to take the Dramamine 30-60 minutes before you get on the boat and keep some close by when onboard in case you need to take more.

13. Can kids/families swim with whale sharks in Cabo San Lucas?

A child and father swims beside a whale shark in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Kids love it!

There is an age limit for whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas, and this varies from 8 to 12 years of age. For example, this tour has a minimum age requirement of 8 years, but this half-day tour requires all participants to be at least 12 years old!

And keep in mind that even if your kids do meet the age requirement, they don’t have to go swimming if they don’t want to, but if that’s the case, an adult will need to stay on board with them while the others are in the water. And as we mentioned earlier, many travelers get seasick on whale shark tours, so you will need to consider your child’s age and whether or not they may suffer from seasickness before booking. 

To summarize, we think swimming with whale sharks is a fantastic family-friendly activity in Cabo San Lucas. Swimming with these gentle giants is something your little ones will remember for many years! 

14. Do you need to be a strong swimmer on whale shark tours in Cabo San Lucas?

Yes, we recommend only confident swimmers book a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas.

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be the best swimmer but confidence while swimming in deep, open water is a must. Now, if you still want to see whale sharks during your vacation in Cabo and aren’t a confident swimmer, you can still book a tour and stay on the boat – as you’ll likely still see the sharks frolicking in the bay and coming to the surface.

15. Is swimming with whale sharks in Cabo San Lucas worth it?

Tourists snorkel next to Whale Shark off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Yes!

YES, it’s 100% worth booking a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas. 

Think about it, seeing a whale shark from a boat is a truly memorable experience, but on a whale shark tour here, you’ll get the chance to swim beside them, and that’s an encounter you’re likely to remember for the rest of your life! After all, they’re the world’s biggest sharks – they can be as long as 10 meters/33 feet, so you will feel teeny-tiny in comparison, and it will really put into perspective how amazing the natural world is. 

Plus, if you get really close to them, you’ll be able to see the spots and stripes on their backs, and the pattern is different for each whale shark! 

We must admit, this whale shark tour from Cabo San Lucas was the best activity we did during our time in this part of Mexico. On our tour, we were lucky enough to see blue sharks, silky sharks, and hammerhead sharks, as well as sea lions. We also got to get up close to the famed Arch of Cabo San Lucas. 

So, if you love the ocean and want to experience something that is sure to make your friends and family back home extremely jealous, book a whale shark tour while you’re in Cabo! 

Related Read: Another bucket list-worthy experience is taking a hot air balloon tour over the ruins of Teotihuacan!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Cabo San Lucas

A whale breaches the water on a whale watching tour Cabo San Lucas
This was a surreal experience!

After your whale shark tour, the fun’s not over yet – there are lots of exciting things to do in Cabo. From trying out Baja’s delicious craft beers to riding on a camel, there are so many epic adventures waiting for you above and below the sea here in Cabo San Lucas!

  • Relax on a sunset cruise – Need a relaxing way to wrap up an epic day in Cabo? We highly recommend trying out this sunset cruise on a trimaran boat! For just $60 USD a person, you’ll sail past Cabo’s top sights while enjoying an open bar and snacks galore. There’s no better place to cheers the day’s adventures than on deck with a cocktail in hand as the sun dips down over the horizon.
  • Eat authentic Mexican food – If you’re craving some tasty Mexican food, you’re in the right place! This 3-hour walking culinary tour is one of the best ways to try the city’s tastiest local eats. With an expert guide, you’ll discover hidden foodie gems and sample everything from traditional tacos to quesadillas. It’s a delicious way to experience authentic Cabo flavors!
  • Try camel riding – For a one-of-a-kind Cabo adventure, saddle up and ride a camel along the coast! This unique beach safari takes you to an oceanfront ranch where you’ll meet your new camel friend. I was really surprised by just how relaxing it was, it’s a whole new perspective from up there! Your guide will dish on all the sights as you make some seriously cool Cabo memories.
  • Go whale watching – While you’ve hopefully checked whale sharks off your bucket list if you want to see huge humpback whales, I highly recommend trying this 2.5-hour whale watching cruise. With groups limited to 10 and guides who are marine biology pros, you’ll get epic up-close views of these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
  • Drink some craft beer – If you’ve read a few of our blogs, you’ll know that we’re nuts about craft beer! So, if you’re a crafty like us, then make sure to stop by Baja Brewing Company on the rooftop terrace of Corazón Cabo Resort and Spa. With tons of great-tasting beers, this spot also has one of THE BEST sunset views, so I’d highly recommend giving them a call to reserve your spot in advance.

Where to Stay in Cabo San Lucas

Breathless Cabo San Lucas - Adults Only
Photo credit: Breathless Cabo San Lucas – Adults Only

Cabo has lodging options galore! From hostels to swanky resorts, and everything in between, you can find the perfect place to rest your head after a day of epic diving. If you’re watching your pesos, no worries, I’ve included some of my favorite budget options below. Or if you’re splurging for that special celebración, I’ve also included some great luxury options too!

Mayan Monkey Hostel Los Cabos – $

Located in downtown Cabo, Mayan Monkey Hostel keeps you in the action and party atmosphere Cabo is famous for while being easy on the wallet. It’s only five minutes from the beach or there’s an outdoor swimming pool to cool off in. There’s entertainment and activities like DJs in the evenings or ping-pong tables, and it’s a fun place to meet new people.

If you’re okay with sharing a room, you can stay here for SUPER cheap. You can find a bed in a dorm-style room with 6 to 12 beds for around $20-30 USD a night, or there are private rooms in the $100 USD range. You can grab your spot on Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Playa Grande Resort – $$

Located on a private beach in Cabo and close to the marina, you’ll love the feel of Playa Grande Resort. There’s a spa, three outdoor pools, and beautiful Mexican décor and tiled floors. You’ll also have a kitchen or kitchenette and a balcony. This resort has the option to be all-inclusive if you want meals taken care of, or you can enjoy all the local food in the area.

Rooms here are around $200-300 USD a night for just the room and $400-500 USD a night for the all-inclusive package. Check prices and book Playa Grande Resort online here.

Cabo Vista Hotel (Adults Only) – $$

If you’re planning to rent a car while in Cabo, then Cabo Vista Hotel is a great mid-range option. It’s a little out of the way, but still within walking distance of the city center and the beach. My favorite part of this place is that every room is a mini-suite, so you have lots of space and your own kitchen! You’ll also get free breakfast daily and complimentary towels and umbrellas for the beach.

The nightly rate here is around $100-200 USD a night. You can book online on Booking.com.

Grand Velas Los Cabos Luxury All Inclusive – $$$

Looking to go all-out on accommodation? One of the most luxurious resorts in Cabo San Lucas is Grand Velas, which even has its own private beach. This all-inclusive property also features three infinity pools, a spa, and every room has a view of the sea. There are also five restaurants on-site including Mexican, Italian, and French cuisine, so you’ll never get tired of the selection!

This is an upscale property, so rooms start at around $1,500 USD per night. You can check availability online here.

Breathless Cabo San Lucas – Adults Only – $$$

Location is a huge plus with Breathless Cabo San Lucas as it’s located right in front of El Medano Beach. You can walk out the doors of the hotel and be on the beach in under a minute! This is an all-inclusive property, so all your meals and snacks are included, along with 24-hour room service. There are also fun theme parties here!

It’s an average of $500 USD per night, but can be a bit more or less depending on when you book. You can easily check prices and book on Booking.com.

Renting a Car in Mexico

Bailey and Daniel in a rental car in Mexico
Bailey had to drive at first because Daniel is used to driving on the other side!

Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car. 

I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Cancun in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically. 

I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend. 

The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too. 

Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit. 

Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your rental will be much cheaper! 

Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!

If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)

It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on a catamaran tour from Cancun
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog post has eased any worries and answered all your questions about booking a whale shark tour in Cabo San Lucas! Honestly, you won’t regret booking this bucket-list-worthy tour.

For more, check out our Mexico page. It has all our blogs about Mexico laid out to make planning your trip easy! Or maybe at a glance, you’ll find some of these related guides helpful too!

Is Mexico Safe? Safety Info about Traveling in Mexico

22 Best Things to do in Acapulco, Mexico

6 BEST ATV Tours in Puerto Vallarta +Tips Before You Book!