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The WORST Tours in the Riviera Maya Awards!

worst tours playa del carmen

What are the worst tours in the Riviera Maya?

Everyone coming on vacation wants to enjoy themselves and go on a good tour or two. Overall, the quality of the tours in the Riviera Maya are pretty good, but there are some in our opinion that are either overrated, tacky or just not that good. Would you like to know what they are? We don’t name tour companies, but rather the types of tours or where they are. Often there are multiple tour operators offering the same tours, so this list will give you some ideas. Of course, some people love these tours, otherwise they would not keep operating. Here is our list of the worst tours to take, let us know what you think about it in the comments below. These are in no particular order.

ATV jungle tours (4 wheelers)

People like ATV’s (all terrain vehicles)  because they are fun to drive and it is an easy way to let your hair down. These tours are often billed as a way to get out into nature and enjoy the Riviera Maya. However, the loud engines and speed will rarely allow nature to enjoy you passing by. These really are not “eco tours” except for the fact you can see plants and trees as you zip around. 

Another reason these are some of the worst tours is the amount of injuries that happen. ATV tours in the Riviera Maya are as safe as anywhere else, it is just the fact that driving a powerful machine and sometimes the inexperience of drivers causes accidents. We have been on several of these tours and safety is taken seriously, but evidently some participants don’t take it all that serious at times.

In talking to friends that work with some of these tour operators, the amount of serious accidents that require a doctors visit do happen often. When this happens, this certainly is not the amazing day of adventure you had hoped for. 

There are many more tours that are active and you can enjoy the uniqueness of the Riviera Maya without zooming around on an ATV. For example, there are some bike tours that are great to get off road and see nature. There is even a combo bike tour on Cozumel that lets you bike and use the electric bike option when you want to coast along. 

Swimming with the sea turtles

Many people love the idea of seeing turtles in the ocean and swimming with them. Not many people get this opportunity in their lifetime, so it is a popular thing to do in the Riviera Maya. The most popular place is Akumal Bay, where the turtles can be seen all of the time. The popularity of this tour has led to overtourism. Blockades, protests,  and new regulations have been the result of so many tour companies trying to get in to offer this tour. 

The area is fairly well regulated now. The amount of tours allowed daily and where you can swim is outlined in local guidelines. 
However, there are still tourists that try to touch the turtles and get close up photos with them. The bay is endangered and the popularity of the area makes the future of this area look like it will decline in wildlife. The development of all the Riviera Maya has removed natural areas for wildlife including nesting sea turtles. 

Although there is nothing wrong with visiting this area, the sheer demand is pushing it to the limit. We recommend visiting areas of  reef like Puerto Morelos and Tulum where you can see turtles often among other wildlife. Spreading out tourism to other locations will lessen the impact and also help smaller scale tourism. 

Worst tours

An example of what you see when you snorkel off the coast of Puerto Morelos.

Catamaran from Cancun to Isla Mujeres

What could be more perfect that watching the sunset from a boat in the Caribbean just off the coast from Cancun? Spending the day snorkeling and exploring Isla Mujeres as well. It might sound good from a salesman, but the reality of many of these tours is something different. 

Cancun is known for its package tourism and many people are there on a budget, so these tours appeal to people wanting to spend the day with open bar and sailing for a small fee. The time you spend sailing between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is a little downtown and the cheap drinks start flowing. Do you like a red alcoholic drink or blue? Yeah, the bar is open, but it offers super limited variety and super cheap quality. You will be sure to remember your tour by headache you have the next day. 

Cheap drinks not your thing? How about the cheapest buffet filled with calorie filling pasta and bread? Maybe some breaded meat and boiled vegetables? Yeah, the “lunch” is often a stop at a buffet beach restaurant where many other tours stop also.  Again, the cheap price of these tours is reflected in the quality of offerings. 

It is not all bad, the views are great and some of  the snorkeling can take you over the underwater statue museum. It will depend greatly on what boat you get in as to how your day might go. When you book these tours they lump you together with other people. You just might get on a party boat with drunken young people or you might be with other families. 

Alternatives

There are two main ports in the Riviera Maya. Cancun and Puerto Adventurous. Depending on where you are staying, you might be closer to one or the other. The boat tours from Puerto Adventurous are calmer and more family friendly. If you are going to one in Cancun, be sure to check the company’s website or get details from the seller of the tour. A word of caution though, most people selling the tours will say anything to make the sale since they probably wont see you again. In general, the price of the tour will tell you something about the quality. 

worst tours Riviera Maya

Sunset between Cancun and Isla Mujeres is special, just don’t let a bad tour sour the experience.

Swimming with the dolphins

The idea with an up close and personal encounter with dolphins excites many. The popularity of these tours is evident by the amount of locations in the Riviera Maya where you can swim with the dolphins. It is also very controversial among people that consider this just a common tourist activity and others that see it as inhumane captivity of creatures that need space. 

We do not have any swim the dolphin tours on our website. It is impressive to see dolphins jump and swim, but seeing them in nature is even more spectacular! We have been sailing around Isla Mujeres and to see dolphins playing in the wake of the boat was amazing. 

Most likely these tours will be banned in the next 5 years. There is a lot of pressure to close them from activist groups, however, there is a lot of financial support from the many who go daily on these tours. 

Cheap Chichen Itza tours

Chichen Itza is a wonder of the world and on many peoples list to see. We do like it, just not some of the cheap tours that try to beat our the competition by having the cheaper tour. Some tours are around $50/60 USD and these are the cheapest tours. Considering the entrance to the ruins is around $25 USD, that does not leave much for a bus ride, tour guide, and lunch let alone another stop like a cenote. Often on these tours you are getting the cheapest food, low quality guides, big bus tour loaded with people and a get them in and move them out mentality to make the dollar stretch. 

A tour to Chichen Itza should be special for each visitor. Spending a little bit more will make your day much better for you. After all, these tours are some of the longest due to the transportation times from the Riviera Maya. We have a full guide if you want to drive here yourself or if you want a good tour, we have this article on recommended Chichen Itza tours

worst tours

This is what everyone wants to see at Chichen Itza and one of the most popular day tours from the Riviera Maya. Just take a good tour, otherwise it might just be the worst tour you take ruining your experience. 

So what do we recommend for tours?

We hope whatever tours you take while on vacation, you enjoy them and they don’t disappoint you. 

Worst tours

Tourist trap! Some tours stop at places like this where you can overpay for crappy souvenirs. 

1 Comment on The WORST Tours in the Riviera Maya Awards!

  1. Excellent list! About that catamaran tour from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, some other irritants are that on most tours there’s usually a fellow talking loudly on a microphone, attempting to manufacture fun the whole time (are you having a good time??), hoping for a tip at the end of the tour! I’ve seen dozens of these boats arriving with the guides talking in an amplified voice and I hate to admit this but it’s pretty obnoxious.
    Secondly, a lot of tours take you to a piece of beach that they own or rent and which isn’t Playa Norte, as you know easily the nicest beach on the island. Generally, the beaches they take you to are actually on the other side of the island as well. You’re also correct suggesting the port as definitely the way to get to the island and travel around on your own. All good advice. 👍

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