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27 Jul 2018
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We love this time of year. Summer to us means return of the Whale Sharks, the largest fish in the ocean. The return of the Whale Sharks means a great day trip! For the past 15 years we have been heading up to the Gulf of Mexico to swim with our favorite fish, the Whale Shark, and hang out with some other great sea friends; manta rays and dolphins. In the early days, we would head up to Holbox and spend at least two days on the island. Our guide was the same person every year, and we would leave from the shores of this little island we love. In recent years we have been hopping on a boat that leaves from Cancun. This is a one day tour and takes you directly to the Whale Sharks. Manta Rays and dolphins sometimes cross our path on this route so our one day trip feels complete.

So which Whale Shark tour is best for you? We will tell you.

Whale Shark Tours from the Riviera Maya

This one day trip is the most popular way to see the Whale Sharks when on vacation in the Riviera Maya. Local tour operators will pick you up at your hotel or a designated pick up point, and drive you up to Punta Sam in Cancun. Coffee and snacks are generally served as registered guides provide an overview of the tour, how to snorkel with the Whale Sharks, environmental policy reviews and the plan for the day. You will hop into a boat, and off you go to the location of the Whale Sharks. Most tours will stop off at Isla Mujeres for a snorkel and another snack/lunch and return you to Punta Sam in Cancun for the drive back to your Riviera Maya destination.

Benefits of the one day Whale Shark Tour:

  • Remain in your vacation rental, no need to find a hotel in Holbox
  • Enjoy pick up service at your hotel, vacation rental or a designated pick up point
  • Worry free trip with nothing to arrange. Just bring yourself and biodegradable sunscreen
  • Guides speak multiple languages so take your pick of the language of your choice

Average price for this complete service is approximately 195 USD per person.

Whale Shark Tours from Isla Holbox

Admittedly we have a romantic view, drawn from experience, of Whale Shark tours that leave from Holbox. This island, just off the mainland in the Gulf of Mexico at the northern tip of the Quintana Roo State, is a gem. Transportation is by golf cart, all buildings are no higher than the local palm trees, and roads are sandy trails. Hotels are quaint, the town square is small, but the community is friendly. If you choose to travel to Isla Holbox for your Whale Shark tour, you will not be disappointed. It is just a bit more work, but well worth the extra work.

You will need to stay over at least one night on Holbox Island for this tour. Tours leave early, 7.30 am.

Tours leave from the beach in front of your hotel, so enjoy a coffee and some sweet breads beachside before you get on the boat. Your captain and guide will speak Spanish and English with other languages on request. Tour briefings are done in the boat as you drive to the Whale Sharks. A snorkeling trip and lunch will be part of your trip back to Isla Holbox. You will return to the beach at 3 pm. We like to stay another night on the island as this is a super great place to hang out. If you are short on time and want to hit the mainland, you can check out before your tour and hop on the local ferry when your tour is completed. Note that this option does not include transportation from your original destination. You can rent a car and leave it safely parked in Chiquila on the main land or take public transportation the entire way. With the new toll road from Playa del Carmen, driving to Holbox is a dream and fast. Note: you will need 1.5 days to two days if you wish to access the Whale Sharks from Isla Holbox. This is not a one day tour.

Benefits of Whale Shark tours from Isla Holbox

  • The island is beautiful so a great addition to your vacation
  • Boats that leave from Holbox get to the snorkel sites faster than Cancun boats. This advantage gives you some personal time with these really big fish
  • Logistics are easy the day of your Whale Shark tour. Tours leave from the beach on Holbox so you avoid an initial long drive to the boat.

Whale Shark tours out of Holbox are a bit less expensive as transport to the boat is not required. Prices are 155 USD per person with most tour groups.

No matter how you decide to get to the Whale Sharks, you will not be disappointed. If you are short on time, do the one day tour from the Riviera Maya. If you want an entire experience and have two days/one night to hang out on Isla Holbox, this is our favorite way to see these really big fish.

Not sure what is best for you? Let us know when you are booking your vacation rental and we are happy to share our experiences.