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5 BEST Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen [2023]

Looking for whale shark tours from Playa del Carmen or Riviera Maya? Listed below you’ll find the best options on the market, which offer great value while being friendly to the environment. 

Playa del Carmen, and the Riviera Maya as a whole, are famed for the vibrant marine life that inhabits its shores. Set along the iridescent blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, and home to the second-largest reef in the world, the region is a sought-after destination for exploring the underwater world.

That’s why you can find numerous excursions from Playa del Carmen to go snorkeling and diving.

But starfish, colorful corals, and tropical fish are not the only attraction the sea offers. Between May and September, the waters around Playa del Carmen receive the largest congregation of whale sharks in the world, and it’s the best place to be to marvel at or even swim with the giant creatures.

Two snorkelers swimming near a whale shark, inserted in a post about the best whale shark tours in Playa del Carmen.

In this article you’ll find the best whale shark tours from Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya, each offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

🌳 We care about responsible tourism, especially when the activities involve wildlife. We try and screen tour operators and only recommend activities with a good track record that guarantee a responsible interaction with the whale sharks. Unfortunately, we can’t possibly go on every single tour. If you go on a tour and the activity was not sustainable, PLEASE write us so we can eliminate it from our list.

⚠️ Please note that these tours are seasonal, as the whale sharks are only in the area for a few months a year. Sometimes, if you try to reserve tour months in advance, the activity might look unavailable on the tour platform. No worries, it will become available again closer to the whale shark season.

I use and trust Viator and Get Your Guide to book tours during my travels. I especially recommend both platforms because of their cancelation policy, which offers a full refund on most activities if canceled up to 24 hours in advance. This allows you to be fully flexible with your travels, while still ensuring your spot on the tours. 

The 3 BEST Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen

▶️ The Eco-Friendly Whale Shark Tour operates with small groups, ensuring an intimate and overall more enjoyable experience – for both tourists and sharks. The tour is led by an expert guide who will give you all the instructions you’ll need for the encounter, and also teach you about the whale sharks’ behavior and migration patterns. 

Once you find the gentle giants, you’ll jump in the water and snorkel alongside them, possibly one of the most memorable experiences of your life. You’ll then feast on a Mexican lunch on the boat, and keep an eye out for spotting rays, turtles, and even dolphins. 

Small-Group Eco Friendly: Whale Sharks tour in Cancun & Riviera Maya

📝 This tour includes: A biologist guide, snorkel equipment, lunch with soft drinks, and pick-up and drop-off from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, and Riviera Maya. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ This Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Riviera Maya lasts a full day. It includes hotel roundtrip transfers and a continental breakfast to get you energized and ready for an unforgettable encounter. 

A boat will take you to a prime snorkeling location, offering the chance to see other marine creatures along the way, and you’ll then get in the water to swim and snorkel among the whale sharks. Experienced guides will be with you at all times, ensuring a safe and overall enjoyable experience swimming with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen.  

Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum and Riviera Maya

📝 This tour includes: Roundtrip transportation, a continental breakfast, snacks and beverages, snorkel equipment, and expert guides. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ This Whale Shark Encounter is a full-day, all-inclusive experience that takes you off the coast from Playa del Carmen in search of the magnificent giants of the sea. You’ll have the chance to snorkel with rays or dolphins if you find them along the way, and then float close to the whale sharks as you see them glide by. 

After the magical encounter, the tour continues toward Isla Mujeres, where you’ll do some more snorkeling on colorful reefs before relaxing in Playa Norte with a tasty lunch. 

Whale Shark Encounter Full-Day all inclusive Tour from Riviera Maya

📝 This tour includes: Snorkeling gear, lunch, beverages, a professional guide, and all stops. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Private Playa del Carmen Whale Shark Tours

▶️ If you’re traveling with a group, you might want to book a Private Whale Shark Experience. Accommodating up to 10 people, this tour guarantees private transfers, both by land and sea, and a knowledgeable guide to accompany you. Learn about the area’s ecosystem and the lives of the whale sharks as you glide across the sea, and get geared up to snorkel among the beautiful creatures once you find them. 

The tour provides breakfast and lunch, and in the rare case that you don’t see the whale sharks, it offers to either reschedule or get a voucher to repeat the tour. 

Private Whale Shark All Inclusive Experience

📝 This tour includes: Private transfers, a guide, lunch, breakfast, and snorkel gear. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

▶️ Another fantastic option is the Quintana Roo Whale Shark Swim, a half-day boat trip curated for you and up to 9 friends. You’ll be picked up from your hotel in Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Puerto Morelos, and driven to the port for a quick breakfast before boarding your private boat. 

Your professional guide will give you a briefing of the encounter along with safety tips, and you’ll then jump into the water to swim with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen’s coast and around the island of Contoy.

Taking advantage of your personalized tour, you’ll get to snorkel among them for as long as you desire, and then head to nearby Isla Mujeres. There, relax on the beach and indulge in fresh ceviche before it’s time to go back. 

📝 This tour includes: Private transfers, a professional guide, snorkel equipment, breakfast, lunch with beverages, and insurance. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Whale Shark Tours Playa del Carmen FAQs

What are the best whale shark tours from Playa del Carmen?

I believe that the best whale shark tours in Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen include the following: 
Small-Group Eco-Friendly Whale Shark Tour
Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, and Riviera Maya
Private All-Inclusive Whale Shark Experience

Can I book a whale shark tour with transportation from Riviera Maya?

Yes, you can certainly book a whale shark excursion from Riviera Maya with hotel pick-up and drop-off included. 

Are there any private Playa del Carmen whale shark tours?

If you’re traveling with a group, you can check out this whale shark excursion from Playa del Carmen, a private tour curated specifically for you and your friends. 

When is the whale shark season in Playa del Carmen?

Between the months of May and September, you will find a large congregation of whale sharks in Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya’s coast – the largest in the world, in fact. During the season, numerous whale shark tours run in the area. 

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.