Are you ready to swim with the largest fish in the sea? Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz is one of the most incredible and memorable experiences.
Travel to the East Coast of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to see the whale sharks. La Paz is one of the best places in the entire world 🌎 that you can swim with these magnificent creatures! Whale sharks are currently endangered, so it’s a rare opportunity to get up close to them.
My husband and I recently swam with the whale sharks in La Paz and we immediately wanted to go back and do it all again. It’s so hard to comprehend their size, until you are swimming right next to them. It’s a little intimidating, but also incredibly awe inspiring ✨.
If you’re going to La Paz, then you need to add this to your itinerary! Read below for a complete guide on swimming with whale sharks including the best tours, a packing list, and guidelines to follow.
You Might Also Like These Posts:
- Guerrero Negro: The Best Whale Watching in Baja Mexico
- A Spectacular Baja Trail: Punta Lobos Hike
- 7 Best Things to Do in Todos Santos Mexico
Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this article. I may get a small commission if you use these links at no extra charge to you. Thanks for your support! <3
Table of Contents
Seeing Whale Sharks in La Paz Details
When is Whale Shark Season in La Paz?
Whale Sharks swim into the Bay of La Paz from the months of October through April. During this time of year, plankton is abundant in the waters of the Sea of Cortez. So, whale sharks swim through the surface feeding on the plankton.
During the late Fall and early Spring the water is warm and there are plenty of whale sharks swimming in the Bay. It’s much colder in January and February, but it’s still enjoyable. Most tours will provide you with wetsuits that will keep you warm even in the cooler months. We went in late January and had an amazing time on our tour.
As the waters get warmer, the whale sharks will migrate further up North. So, you won’t be able to see any during the summer months in La Paz.
What Should I Expect on a Tour?
Before you get to go near the whale sharks, you need to learn how to swim with them. Tour guides will give you a full orientation on the boat 🚤 to teach you everything you need to know. But, you can read below for some prior knowledge.
How the Tour Works
After you set off from the port, you will sail for about 20 minutes to the Bay. Once you get to the bay, your guide and captain will be on the lookout for any whale sharks.
You may see other boats or pangas in the waters around a whale shark. But only 6 people are allowed around a whale shark at a time, so your boat may keep moving to find your own shark.
Once your boat spots a whale shark, you will then be divided on your boat in groups of 6. The guide will hustle you off the boat and you will then swim out 🏊♀️ to the shark. You will get to swim alongside the shark for a few minutes and then you will be sent back to the boat. That way the next group can enjoy time with the whale shark.
If you have enough time, you will get to swim with the whale sharks a few times in this way. It gets a little bit chaotic as you rush off the boat, swim to try and keep up with the whale shark, and then return back to the boat. It can feel a bit like you’re on a conveyor belt constantly moving.
But, despite all the chaos, as soon as you are next to a whale shark, you will realize it’s all worth it. It’s crazy seeing them right next to you, where you’ll be able to fully comprehend their size. 🤩 I was in awe the entire time. It was truly one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had.
How to Swim with Whale Sharks
Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz is one of the most exciting things you can do. But, there are a few things you have to keep in mind when you go.
Whale sharks are gentle giants and they will not intentionally harm humans. However, they’re HUGE 😮, so you need to take precautions when swimming with them.
Important Guidelines to Follow:
- You must always stay at least 5 feet away from their body, 10 feet away from their tale, and never touch them.
- You want to make sure that you are swimming alongside them. So, if they are going one way, you will follow them. If they turn, then you will also turn along with them.
- Do not swim above, below, or in front of them.
- Try to keep your fins underwater and do not splash 💦. The whale sharks are sensitive to this kind of vibration and movement.
Timing and Location of Tours
You’ll notice that tours do not list a start time on their page. That’s because the area with whale sharks is extremely regulated. Every day they assign times to the tour groups, so that there are not too many people at once. Once your tour provider knows the time, they will communicate with you 📲.
Although it’s frustrating to not know what time you’re leaving, it really helps to have less boats by the sharks.
The coast guard watches from the coast as the boats pass by to make sure they’re entering at the correct time. They will also radio you and enforce the leaving time as well.
The water in the Bay of La Paz is fairly murky. You should not expect to always get a clear vision of the whale sharks. However, if you get the chance to swim next to them and stay just about 5 feet away you will still be able to see them 👀 in entirety.
I swam with a whale shark for 5 minutes. At points I was so close that I could see other fish 🐟 hanging onto its face as it swam by. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen and I cannot wait to do it again one day!
Whale Shark Fun Facts
🦈 Whale Sharks are actually sharks not whales! They have gills and their tales are vertical, which sets them apart from whales.
🦈 These magnificent creatures are the largest fish in the ocean! Whale sharks can grow to 40 feet and weigh more than 21 tons or the equivalent of 3 elephants.
🦈 They are filter feeders, so their mouths open wide to capture as much food and nutrients as possible. There are 3,000 tiny teeth to help them break down the small bits of food.
🦈 Mothers do not stay with their children, when they’re born. As a result, only 10% of whale sharks make it to adulthood. But, they can live up to 100 years old.
🦈 Whale sharks swim through the ocean at very slow speeds of just 3 mph. However, they travel very long distances.
Is Swimming with Whale Sharks Dangerous?
No, it’s not dangerous!
Although whale sharks are a type of shark, they do not feed or bite humans. Even though their mouths can open up to more than 1 meter, they can only filter out small items. Simply put, whale sharks have no interest in eating you.
However, you do need to be respectful and give them their space. The largest concern is that the whale shark’s back fin will accidentally hit you. But, that’s why you should always maintain a distance of 10 feet from it. If you follow the guidelines and simply swim peacefully next to the whale sharks, you should have no problem at all!
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 Tours to swim with whale sharks in La Paz can cost anywhere from $60-$250. It really depends on the tour and what is included. Tours last 2.5-3 hours usually.
☀️ It can get very windy in La Paz. Tours can get cancelled for weather, so it’s best if you have flexibility on your trip. That way you can reschedule your tour if bad weather happens.
⏰ You will find out the time of the tour on the day of the tour. Make sure that the tour companies have a way to communicate with you that morning, so you know when to show up.
🤿 Tours will provide you with wetsuits, flippers, and snorkels. However, if you feel more comfortable using your own, then you’re welcome to bring them.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
What are the Best Whale Shark Tours in La Paz?
There are plenty of options for Whale Shark tours in La Paz. It can be overwhelming trying to choose the right tour.
Most tours will provide you with a similar experience, but with a few differences. Some options have less people on board, meaning you get more time with the whale sharks. Others have add ons like a visit to sea lions or the famous Balandra beach 🏝. Tours are usually anywhere between $90-250.
We chose the Baja Pelagica tour and it was a great decision. This tour is locally run and is significantly cheaper than most of the other tours at just $60 a person. The guides on the boat are bilingual and they do a great job of explaining everything.
Although these boats allow up to 12 guests, which means you may have less time with the sharks. Our boat only had 6 people on it, so we were able to go in just two groups.
We got the chance to swim with whale sharks in small groups. Plus, at the end of the tour they gave us all snacks and cold drinks 🍺 (including beers). I would definitely book them again.
Best Whale Shark Tour Providers:
If you want a great tour at a lower price point, then look no further. Guides on this boat are bilingual and provide a great experience. Boats can hold up to 12 people, but they make sure that everyone gets their fair share of time with the whale sharks. I learned about this experience here, which had great sources about ethical tours!
Price per Person: $60 USD
These tours leave out of La Paz and are some of the top rated. You can choose from the normal 2-3 hour tour or do an extended trip with a visit to the sea lions. They also provide transportation from Cabo or Todos Santos
Price per Person: $140 USD, Minimum of 4 people
People love these tours because they only allow much smaller groups. Each tour only has 6 people on the boat and you swim in groups of two. That means you get a much more intimate experience with the whale sharks.
Price Per Person: $170 USD
Another fantastic locally run tour, these bilingual guides provide a great experience. They offer many different tours throughout La Paz and have a great reputation. Your tour comes with a donation bracelet for whale shark conservation and you’ll have a marine biologist on board.
Price per Person: $110 USD
What do I Bring on a Whale Shark Tour?
Most people will want a small bag on the tour, but you do not want to overpack. The boat should have a place to store your belongings that will keep them from getting wet.
Although La Paz is warm and sunny much of the year, the boat can get very cold. It’s important to bring something to layer up as the wind whips you on the boat ride. I brought a sweatshirt and sweatpants for the tour and was very glad that I did.
Also, the sun is incredibly strong ☀️ out on the water, so wear plenty of sun protection. The sun will easily penetrate the water’s surface and you do not want to leave the tour with a gnarly burn. Read below for my entire packing guide for the trip:
- Small Pack or Day Bag
- Bottle of Water
- First Aid Kit
- Biodegradable Sunscreen
- Hat to block sun
- Light jacket or Sweatshirt
- Sweatpants or pants to cover up
- Go Pro or Waterproof Camera Case
You can find all my favorite gear here!
Is it Ethical to Swim with Whale Sharks?
Yes, it is ethical to swim with whale sharks as long as you are respectful of them and you go with certified guides.
There are many guidelines and rules that the La Paz government puts in place to protect these animals. All of the tour operators have special licenses to be provide them. As a visitor to their natural habitat, you need to simply observe them without bothering them.
There are a few places to swim with whale sharks in the world, but this is one of the best 🙌🏻. They do a great job of allowing tourists to see them, while still respecting their space.
Whenever you are in a natural area, make sure that you leave no trace. Do not litter in the sea or touch the whale sharks. That way whale sharks will continue to swim these waters for years to come and other visitors will get to enjoy these amazing tours.
Last Tips Before You Go
Swimming with whale sharks is one of the very best things to do in La Paz! Ensure that you are keeping the sharks and yourself safe by following all the guidelines. If you haven’t booked a tour yet, you should add this to your bucket list!
Let me know if you enjoyed this guide in the comments!
📍 Pin Your Guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks in La Paz to Pinterest