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Tour operators near Riviera Maya

Discussion in 'Mexico Timesharing' started by MoPops, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. MoPops

    MoPops TUG Member

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    Im trying to set up a day to visit Tulum, and possibly snorkel. Looking through TripAdvisor I can find a lot tour operators with fantastic trips.. Each one has amazing reviews with 600-1000 excellent ratings, and 6-9 very good ratings. Nothing below that. I’m sorry, but these ratings seem bogus to me. With every tour operator having the same ratios on their ratings.
    Can anyone recommend a tour operator to go down to Tulum?
    Better yet. Is there something else there we might be missing? We’ve been to Chichen Itza, zip rides, and shopping areas. My LW is not a big risk taker. We would want to stay safe first..
    Going end of Feb.
    Thanks
     
  2. jssquared

    jssquared TUG Member

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    We have had a great experience with Altournative https://alltournative.com/. There are fantastic things to do in Riviera Maya: Xcaret, Xel Ha (probably not Xplor because it is the adventure park). These are parks that run all inclusive tours or you can easily rent a car and drive as they are all on the main highway. We did a fantastic Cenote tour at Rio Secreto which takes you through a cave system with a few different choices of wet or dry tours. You can go in to Akumal to snorkel with the sea turtles. We did a full day tour to Sian Khan which takes you through Tulum into the biosphere to see crocodiles and lots of bird and marine life. Tulum is a fantastic town, id addition to the ruins which you may find touristy if you have already been to Chechen Itza. Lots of marine snorkel/scuba options too. We love the area as there really is a tremendous amount of things to do.
     
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  3. MoPops

    MoPops TUG Member

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    Thanks jssquared. I’ll get a hold of them and set up a day. Just like to hear that at least one real person has had a good experience.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  4. rboesl

    rboesl TUG Member

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    We worked with the concierge at the resort to book our Tulum & Chichen Itza tours. Both were wonderful. The concierge showed us brochures from 3 or 4 tour companies of each tour. He also described the differences between each tour. Each tour that we booked was exactly what the concierge described it would be.
     
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  5. Phydeaux

    Phydeaux TUG Member

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    Tours are for people that can't. If that sounds harsh, relax. You can handle it. I'm going to help you here...

    Rent a vehicle and DIY. Come & go as you choose, whenever you wish.

    There are far too many BS stories out there about renting cars in this region, propagated by people that have never rented a car here in their lives.

    Truth of the matter is this: MILLIONS of us rent and drive here every year without a problem. Personally, I've been doing so for the past 27 years, logging several thousand km's on every trip. Not a problem yet. Such a shame you never hear from the millions of us that rent & drive there annually. Until now.

    Btw, by having your own wheels, you'll be at liberty to get off the beaten-down tourist path and discover your own gems in this region.
     
  6. jssquared

    jssquared TUG Member

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    Hi Phydeaux - I would respectfully push back on your statement that "tours are for people that can't." The decision to choose a tour operator or to travel on your own is very personal and dependent on the situation. We have been to RM numerous times and have done all of: organized tour, rent car and drive, take cabs. We have not taken a bus/collectivo and there are those that will say that if you are paying for a taxi you are a fool. You have to do what is best and most comfortable for your party.
    1. A very large number of activities along the Riviera Maya are located on the one major North/South highway. You can literally drive south to Xel Ha, Xcaret, Xplor, Rio Secreto and turn off the highway into their respective parking lots. You can very easily get to Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, and Tulum with maybe two or three turns. The road, especially during the day, is quite safe and controlled by police/army. I felt very comfortable driving, heading into town, getting gas, stopping at grocery stores etc. If you are going far afield, like Chitchen Itza, there is an added degree of difficulty. Not at all a problem, but just a bit more complicated and off the beaten track.
    2. Xcaret, Xplor and other parks will have buses that pick you up at the resorts and take you to their location. There is an upcharge in most instances for the transportation which may or may not offset the cost of the car rental. Here, it is basically deciding if you want the convenience of the bus picking you up at the resort and driving you home (after what might be a long day) in the evening. Or, do you want to rent the car, pick it up, drop it off, etc. Some resorts, like Vidanta, have you park in a lot that takes quite some time to get to and back from. If you go to Xcaret and stay for the evening show it is a very late night and if you have to weigh how tired those in your party will be.
    3. Tour guides - depending on your location you may want/need a tour guide. Obviously, in some locations you can find a guide at the destinations. In others, they may need to be pre-arranged. In our tour through Sian Khan having a naturalist tour guide was fantastic. We have been on many nature/wildlife tours where an expert guide will make or break the trip.
    4. Many cab drivers, guides, etc. work really hard for themselves and their families. I don't mind giving back where we can. I believe altournative might even give back a bit of the profit from each tour towards conservation efforts. Feel free to be skeptical if you want.
    5. Tulum - the OP mentioned Tulum. The archeological site and town of Tulum itself is very approachable on your own if you choose. Very easy to get to and well developed. Tour vs individual - really your preference for flexibility of having your own transportation and being able to explore as you wish or having everything organized for you but sacrificing some flexibility.
    Riviera maya is a fantastic destination full of wonderful places to explore with lots of options about how to do so. Pick the choice that is best for you and your party.
     
  7. easyrider

    easyrider TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    I think it is better to show up at the Tulum ruins and hire an official Tulum ruins guide at the ticket counter to get into the park. It isn't much and it gets your group through to the front of the line. The guide we had was a park employee and a genuine Mayan whose ancestry could be traced to inhabitants of the Tulum ruins , so he said. Very informative and fun person.

    It is an easy drive to the parking area. From the parking area you either walk about a half mile of ride a cart train pulled by a tractor. I think a taxi isn't much depending on where you are staying.

    As far as reviews go its hard to say. Trip Adviser reviews have always helped us when we needed a good idea on a tour or restaurant. I like to read the worse reviews first.

    Bill
     
  8. Phydeaux

    Phydeaux TUG Member

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    First, we avoid all of the X's, as every one of them is a tourist trap. To each their own, of course. Personally, we didn't travel that far to be stuck hanging around a bunch of gringos wearing wrist bands. Our idea of fun is adventure and exploring. I'll try to be brief..

    Our adventure to Mexico began 28 years ago when we visited Cancun for the first time. (Thus your tips above are reminiscent of times long, long ago). On that trip, we took the city bus downtown with our 1 year old son, got off the beaten path (even back then) and explored the rural side streets. We quickly noticed the absence of tourists, and were the only gringos in sight. We loved it, and found some great places down there. We returned subsequent years, and rented a vehicle each trip. Every year we expanded our explorations further and further from Cancun. This is how we discovered the spots we would stay in the years to come. Not by taxi, not by shuttle, not by colectivo. We talked with locals, and asked them for suggestions. That's how I learned about Punta Allen 25 years ago! Cancun then became simply the city where our flights landed, and kicked off our visit to the Yucatan, since we'd hop in our rental vehicle, and get out of Cancun.

    I'm well aware of how to get a guide, and my response would simply be this: the best guide for us are the locals we meet when we are there on vacation! Some have invited us into their homes for dinner, and to meet their spouse and children. One has been teaching me to speak Maya. I remain in touch with some of them throughout the year.

    Rental vehicles support the local economy, as does doing business with hole in the wall places that aren't frequented by tourists every day.

    Here's a tip from me: when you visit Muyil, stop by the booth and tell the old guy "Bax Ka' Wali!" Wait for that smile!

    And when you depart, "Ka Mah sik Malo Ki'in!"
     
  9. MoPops

    MoPops TUG Member

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    Thanks all for all the advice.
    I admit, we’ve always taken our trips to Cancun/Riveria Maya as a week off. I have a strong sense of adventure I’ve ridden all over the US (incl Alaska) on a motorcycle. Quite a bit of that on gravel roads.
    Our trips to Mexico, are pretty laid back. The last two years we never left the Vidanta resort. My LW really likes sitting by the pool, reading and relaxing. Years ago on earlier trips (with kids) we did rent cars etc, had our own snorkeling gear, went to Cozumel and had a blast. I really don’t want to rent a car this trip. Especially to just use it one day.
    I’m willing to pay someone to pick me up, take me to a couple of neat places (Tulum, and maybe snorkel with sea turtles, if that can be done in the same trip) and make a day of it.
    It’s not that I can’t do this on my own, it’s more that I just don’t want to, this time.
    Hopefully I can find a good tour operator and have a great day.
    I’m still a little suspicious of the TripAdvisor recommendations.
    Thanks
    Jeff


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  10. jssquared

    jssquared TUG Member

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    Phyd. - I understand where you are coming from. I do. But, I don’t think you can make blanket statements to a forum that has a wide variety of users. We have travelled the world too, and absolutely loved Xcaret and axel Ha. You just need to know what you are getting into. Yes, there are mostly tourists in both locations but they are so popular because they are fun. We too made it to Punta Allen by little skiff and enjoyed immensely wandering around the “town.”
    Mopops - Tulum and Akuma, are in a straight line. You can do both, but it will be a long day and will depend on how long you want to spend in Tulum (both ruins and town). For that trip, you probably don’t necessarily need an organized tour (don’t even know if they offer that type of combination) or even a guide. A driver would be perfect. You don’t need long to snorkel at Akumal with the sea turtles. Go to the biological center, rent snorkel equipment from the shop there if you don’t have your own, walk out the door to the beach and directly into the water. Swim to where the people are congregated. See sea turtle(s). Seriously, they are abundant and you should have no problem. You can do Akumal first on the way to Tulum so that way you can spend the evening in a Tulum, have dinner, and return at your leisure. If you do Tulum first you will need to plan to get to Akumal in time to rent the equipment and snorkel during daylight hours. The snorkel place even has a shower where you can rinse off when done.
    An idea for a driver. Talk to the driver that takes you to the resort from the airport or any other taxi drivers that you might at the beginning of your stay. Most kind of run side businesses as drivers. If you hit it off and feel comfortable, arrange a price for the day. We have actually done this a couple of times and works great.
     
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  11. Phydeaux

    Phydeaux TUG Member

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    As I wrote, to each their own. We all have our opinion. You have yours & I have mine.

    I would suggest the OP does their due diligence before taking your suggestion of snorkeling the overused & abused Akumal Bay to see the few diseased turtles. As someone that has previously visited & vacationed in Akumal, it was heartbreaking to learn of the disease outbreak among the turtles, not to mention the toppling of the Mayan statue in the entry square, subsequent permanent removal, street roadblocks and shutdown, and riots that all centered around the overuse of that bay. Yet people continue to go there, many based on recommendations from people that are either: A. uninformed or B. informed, but don't care about the recovery of the bay.

    "Restrictions and regulations need to be established and enforced in order to control the number of tours in the bay each day."
    https://mexiconewsdaily.com/opinion/akumal-suffering-from-unsustainable-growth/

    There are plenty of other sources to research this problem.

    No, there are other places to snorkel that haven't suffered and continue to suffer from overuse. Just in Akumal, you can access Half Moon Bay via La Buena Vida and see turtles and plenty of sea life at the reefs. They too have a shower, beach bar, restaurant, and great mezcal. I've seen many turtles, squid, and many varieties of fish. Further down the road, Yal Ku lagoon. Very good snorkeling.

    Or, if you absolutely must see turtles, how about seeing dozens of fresh water turtles? Snorkel Gran Cenote outside of Tulum.

    Again, imo, the best snorkeling that is unarguably unique to this destination isn't in the sea. It is the countless cenotes. Check them out. Some are beyond spectacular.

    And please, don't promote Akumal Bay to further stress this bay that desperately needs recovery. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. That's not my opinion, but a simple fact of life.
     
  12. whitewater

    whitewater TUG Review Crew TUG Member

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    back to original question.

    We used USA Transfers - on-time, clean, and friendly. tours of mayan ruins. we came/went as we wanted as we opted for private tour.

    http://www.usa-transfers.com/

    or do a combo trip to xel-ha'

    https://www.xelha.com/ they offer a tulum and park combo.
     
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  13. MoPops

    MoPops TUG Member

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    Thanks JSSquared and whitewater, appreciate the info and feedback.
     
  14. MoPops

    MoPops TUG Member

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    jssquared. We took the tour yesterday with alltournative. What a great trip! Talum, Cobá, a nice Mayan ceremony, and a swim in a cenote (sp). 13 hour day. Great guide, just six of us.
    Thanks so much for the tip on these guys.
    Jeff
     
  15. jssquared

    jssquared TUG Member

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    MoPops - Glad you enjoyed. They seem like a very reputable operator. We love Riviera Maya because there is so much to do in the area. Lots of nature culture, adventure.
     
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  16. petenjen

    petenjen Guest

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    My wife and I rented a car just for a day when we were in RM last December. We just road-tripped down to Tulum. Had one of the best (and by far the cheapest) meals of the entire trip there. Enjoyed the ruins. And then pulled off the highway on the way back to hit a "mom and pop" cenote. It was great.
     
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