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5 BEST Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen [2024]

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.

The area is set along the iridescent blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Besides, it’s home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef!

That’s why you can find numerous excursions from Playa del Carmen to explore the reef. I personally try and book a snorkeling tour every time I’m in the area. But starfish, corals, and colorful fish are not the only attractions the sea offers…

During the summer season, between May and September, the waters around Playa del Carmen receive the world’s largest congregation of whale sharks. 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 or the tour company is 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 a 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 great cancelation policy. They offer a full refund on most activities if canceled up to 24 hours in advance.

Limited time? These are the top options 👇

THE BEST TOUR Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen
PRIVATE TOURPrivate Whale Shark All-Inclusive Experience

OUR PICK: The BEST Whale Shark Tour from Playa del Carmen

▶️ This Whale Shark Tour from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Riviera Maya lasts a full day. It starts with a continental breakfast so you’re 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. Then, get in the water to swim and snorkel among the whale sharks.

Expert guides will be with you at all times, ensuring a safe and overall incredible experience. Plus, they’ll be ready to tell you all about the creatures!

Swimming with whale sharks in Playa del Carmen is not the only thing you’ll be doing, though. After a memorable snorkeling session, sail to Playa del Carmen for a delicious seafood lunch on the beach.

👉 Why is this the best tour? It allows you not only to swim with the magnificent creatures, but to understand them and learn about them. Led by a professional, you’ll be well-informed and safe.

Plus, it includes both breakfast and lunch, ensuring you’re satisfied and fueled for the memorable encounter.

Read what the reviews say 👇

Our tour guide Pia was so sweet and knowledgeable. She stayed my my boyfriend’s side as he got seasick and knew so much about the whale sharks, you could tell she loved what she does. The experience was AMAZING!! I had so much fun and would recommend it to everyone. All the equipment you need is provided, just being the adventure and smiles.”

Tamara_J – Read more reviews

📝 This whale shark tour includes: Roundtrip transportation, breakfast, snacks and beverages, snorkel gear, life jackets, and expert guides. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Other GREAT Whale Shark Tours from Playa del Carmen

▶️ The Small-Group Eco-Friendly: Whale Shark Tour in Riviera Maya ensures an intimate and overall amazing experience. This is for both tourists and sharks!

The tour is led by an expert who will give you all the advice you need for the encounter. They’ll also teach you about the whale sharks’ behavior and migration patterns. 

Once you find the gentle giants, you’ll jump in the water and swim alongside them, possibly one of the most memorable encounters of your life.

You’ll then feast on a Mexican lunch on the boat, and keep an eye out for spotting manta rays, sea turtles, and even dolphins. 

📝 This tour includes: Pick-up and drop-off, a biologist guide, snorkel gear, lunch, and soft drinks. ➥ BOOK IT HERE


▶️ This Whale Shark Encounter Full-Day All Inclusive Tour is a phenomenal alternative. It 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. Then, float close to the whale sharks as you see them glide by. 

After the magical encounter, the tour continues toward Isla Mujeres. You’ll do some more snorkeling on colorful reefs, and relax in Playa Norte with a tasty lunch. 

📝 This tour includes: Transfers, snorkeling equipment, 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 All-Inclusive 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. Then, get geared up to snorkel among the amazing 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. If you have an underwater camera, you’ll want to bring it with you!

📝 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. Then, have a quick breakfast at the port before boarding your private boat. 

Your professional guide will give you a briefing of the encounter along with safety tips. 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 a beautiful beach and indulge in fresh ceviche before going back. You’re guaranteed to have an amazing time!

📝 This tour includes: Private transfers, a professional guide, snorkel equipment, breakfast, lunch with beverages, and insurance. You’ll need cash for the dock fees, which are excluded. ➥ 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 an eco-friendly 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 private, all-inclusive whale shark excursion from Playa del Carmen, 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. 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.