8 Best Places for Swimming with Sharks

Is swimming with sharks on your bucket list? Here are the best places to get up close and personal.

Shark Week isn't the only time to indulge yourself in some shark content. Have you ever been curious about what it's like to swim with what many perceive to be the death-and-killing machines of the ocean (thanks, Jaws)? With their razor-sharp teeth and sometimes aggressively spear-like heads, these gentle creatures are often times misunderstood. So, what better way to get to know these misrepresented sea creatures than by going for a swim with one or a few?

Even if only once, a swim with sharks can help you connect with our marine neighbors. Here are some great places around the world for shark encounters.

Swimming with Sharks: tiger sharks in Oahu
Swimming with tiger sharks in OahuJuan Oliphant/Oneoceandiving.com

Oahu, Hawaii

About three miles off Oahu's legendary North Shore, it's common to see Galapagos sharks, sandbar sharks and the occasional tiger or whale shark. You may also find green sea turtles and spinner dolphins patrolling the blue-green abyss. Sign up for a shark snorkel sesh with Ocean Ramsey's One Ocean Diving, and you might meet Captain Pancakes, Frankenfin and Miss Aloha.

Because Ramsey wants the interaction to be as natural and positive as possible, there’s no chum used and no shark cages, either. Instead, these tours are all about promoting shark conservation, research and education, making Oahu one of the best places to swim with sharks.

Swimming with Sharks: Whale shark
Whale sharkShutterstock

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Whale sharks are the biggest sharks in the ocean, and swimming with them is quite a treat. Hundreds migrate to Isla Mujeres from June through September each year, and snorkeling is the best way to float alongside them since they’re often near the service. You can even get close enough to the gentle giants to clearly see the perfectly patterned pale yellow dots and stripes on their skin. Don’t worry, though: Plankton is their snack of choice.

Swimming with Sharks: Cage diving with great white sharks
Cage diving with great white sharksShutterstock

Guadalupe Island, Mexico

The super-clear water here makes it one of the world’s best places to photograph great white sharks. Dive operators will take you out 150 miles offshore to the Pacific Coast for cage diving. If you aren’t quite ready for that much action, opt to just chill on the boat and spot sharks from above (either way is thrilling). Plus, since you’ll be between temperature and subtropical ecozones, you’ll see yellowfin tuna, super cool zooplankton and butterflyfish.

Swimming with Sharks: Reef sharks
Reef sharks in TahitiShutterstock

Moorea, French Polynesia

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, a 25-minute ferry ride from Tahiti, will arrange for you to go snorkeling with sharks, octopi, bright-colored coral and stingrays. It's a great way for newbies to get comfortable with dozens of sharks swimming around them. Plus, there's a good chance your guide will serenade you while strumming the ukulele on the boat ride back.

Swimming with Sharks: Hammerhead shark
Hammerhead sharkShutterstock

Bimini, Bahamas

The great hammerhead shark, which grows up to 20 feet long, is one of the more unusual sharks to dive with. In December and January each year, you can find them just off the coast of the small island of Bimini. Some people have dubbed the spot as the “hammerhead capital of the world,” and the Great Hammerhead Shark Safari offered by Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina is a great way to encounter them. You’ll also see bull sharks, nurse sharks and stingrays.

Swimming with Sharks: Blue shark
Blue sharkShutterstock

Channel Islands, California

This archipelago 11 miles off the coast of California has been called North America’s Galapagos due to its diverse plant and animal life. Snorkeling or diving in within this national park is some of the best in the world. Among the impressive underwater kelp forests, you’ll find many shark species, like blue sharks, Pacific angel sharks and horn sharks. This stunning location is also home to shipwrecks and sea caves.

Swimming with Sharks: Tiger shark
Tiger sharkShutterstock

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, this area has a slew of shipwrecks, which attract loads of fish. And tiger sharks are on the prowl here. This is one of the few places in the world where you are nearly guaranteed a shark sighting with no need for chum or bait of any kind.

Swimming with Sharks: leopard shark
Leopard sharkShutterstock

The Cove, La Jolla, California

Diving here is easy: You descend directly from the shore, so no boats are needed. Nearby, it’s common to come across sevengill sharks during the summertime. And, in the fall, top sharks, angel sharks, horn sharks and schools of leopard sharks are the norm. For the super adventurous, go 10 miles offshore to find mako sharks, the fastest bad boys in the ocean.