Swimming with Whale Sharks – Isla Holbox

Trip Highlights: Swim alongside the largest fish on the planet, snorkel in crystal clear Caribbean waters, and discover the charms of Isla Holbox
When: June – August (mid-July – mid-August for greatest number of sharks)
Duration: 5 days/ 4 Nights


Yum Balam Protected Area: The waters in and around Yum Balam are some of Mexico’s richest fishing grounds. These waters are also home, for five months of the year, to the world’s largest known congregation of whale sharks. From May to September, the plankton rich waters serve as a feeding ground for an estimated 800 – 1,400 of these gentle giants. Surprisingly, scientists don’t know where the whale sharks come from before they reach Yum Balam each May or where they go when they leave in September.

Isla Holbox: Situated just north of Cancun at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea. Only a small portion of Isla Holbox is inhabited with the town covering only a narrow part of the island. Located at the point where the Caribbean Sea merges with the Gulf of Mexico and flanked on the south side by the Yalahau Lagoon, Holbox’s geography combines tropical forests, wild intact beaches, lagoons, cenotes, and meandering rivers.

Sample Itinerary

DAY 1: Arrival to Isla Holbox  ~ Upon arrival at Cancun International Airport, you will be met for your private road transfer to the port of Chiquila, approximately an hour and 45 minutes away. There you will catch the ferry to Holbox. You will be met at the ferry dock on Isla Holbox by a local representative and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is on your own to explore the island. Overnight at Casa Sandra.

Whale Sharks ~ The gigantic, polka-dotted whale shark (Rhincodon typus), called “domino” by locals, is the largest living fish on the planet. One of only three filter-feeding sharks, the whale shark feeds on minute organisms including krill, fish eggs, crab larvae, and jellyfish. They are able to open their mouth wide to optimize feeding. They can also feed via suction while vertical in the water. Even though the whale shark has a sizable mouth, it shows no evidence of large, sharp teeth characteristic of most shark species.

DAY 2: Whale Shark Tour ~ After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll set out for your whale shark adventure. The arrival of whale sharks commences out at sea off Cabo Catoche in May and the experience is practically guaranteed at Isla Holbox from mid-June through September. You have the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants as they glide close to the surface, mouth wide open like a vacuum, filtering food from the water. After your whale shark adventure, you’ll return to Holbox where you’ll have the rest of the day to explore. Overnight at Casa Sandra. (B)

DAY 3: Classic Island Tour ~ Spend today visiting some of Holbox’s highlights. Points of interest include Isla Pajaros (“Bird Island”) and Yalahao Lagoon. Isla Pajaros is outstanding for viewing nesting cormorants, grey and white pelicans, frigate birds, ducks and other species. From May to October, more than 40,000 flamingos visit the region providing an incredible spectacle of pink on blue water. Overnight at Casa Sandra. (B)

DAY 4: Free Day ~ Today is yours to spend as you choose. Walk the beach in search of seashells, snorkel with colorful marine life, watch dolphins playing off shore, relax as the sun sets – Holbox is truly an authentic island, far, far away from your city tribulations. Overnight at Casa Sandra. (B)

DAY 5: Departure or Yucatan Extension ~ Transfer back to the airport for your flight home or continue your stay in Mexico with an optional extension on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Optional Extensions: Due to its close proximity to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Isla Holbox is a wonderful starting point for discovering the Yucatan Peninsula’s diverse cultural, archaeological, and biological diversity. Reefs to Rockies offers a selection of extensions in the Yucatan. Contact one of our travel consultants for suggestions and pricing.



Meals: B=Breakfast

Pricing from $1225/ person based on double occupancy.

Package includes a whale shark tour, classic island tour, local guides, round-trip ground and ferry transfers from Cancun International Airport to Isla Holbox, accommodations and breakfast daily as listed in the itinerary. A donation to whale shark conservation efforts will be made on behalf of all trip participants.

Exclusions: international airfare, optional activities, add-on extensions, alcohol, passport/visa fees, gratuities, airport transfers, ferry tickets, taxis, and travel insurance.

This sample itinerary is a suggested outline.  It can be customized to best suit your travel plans.

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