When traveling to Mexico, there is often one thing on people’s bucket lists (besides getting their money’s worth at the all inclusive resort). Adrenaline junkies, animal lovers, and those looking for a unique experience are all eager to swim with whale sharks. The largest fish in the sea can grow up to 40 feet long, but don’t be intimidated by its enormity because they feast on plankton, not humans. These majestic creatures are quite docile and a great swimming companion when venturing to the beaches of Mexico.

But where is the best place to swim with whale sharks? Two common destinations are Cabo San Lucas and Cancun. Keep reading for the pros and cons of Cabo vs Cancun so you can plan your next vacation and check off that bucket list item. 

Price

In both Cabo and Cancun prices for swimming with whale sharks are relatively the same, averaging about $200 for a quality tour. The price usually includes a guide, transportation lunch, beverages, and snorkeling gear. You can find cheaper prices if you negotiate at store fronts rather than paying online, but many of these stores are not ecologically friendly. Since whale sharks are an endangered species, it is better to pay more for a reputable company that will keep the whale sharks safe so we can keep swimming with them for years to come!

Cabo San Lucas

where to swim with whale sharks

When to go

On the Pacific coast of Mexico, high season for whale sharks is between October and February. Because of this, water temperatures are in the low 60’s F (16 C). Early in November is a popular time because the season is just starting and water temperatures are not as cold as in February, but a wetsuit is still necessary. 

Where to stay

Pros

Although most whale shark tours leave from La Paz, people tend to stay in Cabo San Lucas. It is less than a two-hour drive from Cabo to La Paz, and most tours will pick you up from the hotel before taking you to the coast. 

Since the high season for whale sharks is in the winter, there are fewer tourists than if you went in the summer. This provides for a more relaxing, less crowded experience where you get more one-on-one time with the sharks.

Cons

Although the beaches are less crowded in the winter, the water temperature is very cold. A wetsuit is necessary and even with it, the water is chilly. This can provide an unpleasant experience for some snorkelers.

What else to do in Cabo

Compared to Cancun, Cabo offers a slightly more upscale experience with warm, sandy beaches and sprawling golf courses to explore. Of course, there is still plenty of nightlife to keep tourists entertained as well.

Take a quick boat ride to Land’s End rock formations where you can walk on Lover’s Beach and Divorce Beach. The beaches are connected, but the water on Lover’s side is calm while the waves on the Divorce side are choppy and rough, hence how these two contrasting beaches got their names. 

If spending the day putting around pristine, green grass sounds like heaven, you will definitely find your paradise in Cabo. There are almost too many golf courses to choose from, most of them offering stunning views of the ocean and a variety of terrain. Two popular destinations among professionals and golf enthusiasts are Club Campastre San Jose and Palmilla Golf Club. 

Looking to get out of your comfort zone as you explore the sandy beaches? There are many tours offering camel rides to take you around the coast. On this camel ride, you can learn about the local flora and fauna and taste authentic Mexican food, all while riding alongside the pacific ocean.

Cancun

where to swim with whale sharks

When to go

The Caribbean is a hub for whale sharks between the summer months of June and August. Water temperatures are very pleasant, at about 80 F (27 C) so you won’t need a wetsuit. Make sure to bring biodegradable or reef-friendly sunscreen to help protect the marine ecosystem.

Where to stay

Pros 

Whale sharks can be found off the coast of the Philippines, Honduras, Australia, and many more places around the world. However, Cancun has the largest congregation of whale sharks in the world. You are likely to see multiple sharks in one location, rather than boating around to see each individual shark.

Cons

A large population of whale sharks can be found about two hours from the coast of Cancun, near Isla Mujeres. You will need to take the two-hour boat ride from Cancun and waters can be choppy. People prone to seasickness might want to take non-drowsy motion sickness medication beforehand.

What else to do

At first glance, Cancun may seem like a Mexican Las Vegas. However, if you are looking to get away from the Hotel Zone and thumping nightlife there are still plenty of options. 

To get a feel for the local life, head to Downtown Cancun. You’ll get to see where the locals actually live as you explore the streets and get a better understanding of the “real” Cancun. Make sure to stop by any of the street vendors and taste the delicious local food.

If you want to learn more about Mayan culture, experience a Temazcal ceremony. This purification ceremony takes place in a tiny hut and is led by a local shaman. The hut is filled with hot rocks and water, turning it into a steamy sauna. You’ll cleanse the body, mind, and soul as you participate in this ancient Mayan ritual.

Cancun has plenty of Luche Libre’s, or Mexican wrestling matches. Enjoy one of these theatrical performances where the wrestlers dawn face masks and exotic costumes. They usually last about three rounds and don’t end until the villain is thrown out of the ring.

Cabo vs Cancun?

where to swim with whale sharks

Taking all things into consideration, if swimming with whale sharks is your main priority we recommend going to Cancun. The water is warmer, providing a more enjoyable experience when snorkeling. Also, there is a larger congregation of whale sharks which means you’re more likely to see multiple sharks at once. However, both cities offer beautiful views and plenty of fun activities, so you really can’t go wrong when planning your next beach vacation.