Most of us have a bucket list, and along with things like finishing the New York Times crossword puzzle, it’s usually chock-full of exotic destinations we hope to visit one day. Unfortunately, if you actually get the opportunity to take one of these trips, sometimes the result doesn’t necessary live up to the hype. We’ve gathered a few of the biggest bucket list busts from some of our favorite travel writers, who prove that sometimes dreams are better left unanswered.
Erica Bray, The Blue Hole
The Blue Hole in Belize (Eric Pheterson/Flickr)
I traveled to Belize to dive the Blue Hole, a massive underwater sinkhole in the middle of the ocean made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the ’70s. It has since become a “must” for avid scuba divers, and aerial photos of the Blue Hole are absolutely amazing, so I felt confident it would be an epic adventure beneath the vibrant blue surface. But … I hated it. First, I got sick on the boat ride out to the site. Second, I was given a wetsuit that barely protected me from the frigid temperatures at 140 feet below. Third, I was completely underwhelmed by what I saw once undersea: nothing. I had problems with my facemask, so it was just an eerie, blurry blueness with no fish or other animals in sight. (Yes, I would have been thrilled to see sharks. Even blurry ones. While shivering in my cheaply made wetsuit rental.) For me, the Blue Hole was a #bucketlistfail.
Bill Fink, Bora Bora
Bora Bora? More like Bora boring. (Thinkstock)
Bora Bora was a snore. Sure, it’s pretty, but so are a dozen other closer, cheaper, friendlier islands. It was on my bucket list as the tropical ideal, the ultimate island paradise, but it’s really just a long strip of hideously overpriced hotels surrounding an island barren of fun, populated by snotty French expats and surly locals.
Lisa McElroy, Scuba Diving in Hawaii
Scuba diving looks peaceful, but it can be a real pain. (Thinkstock)
I’m a fish lover, and when I got certified to scuba-dive, I couldn’t wait to check out all that coral way below the surface. But when I headed to the North Shore of Oahu, I was in for a big disappointment. On this, my first shore dive, my klutzy side came out, and I couldn’t balance walking through rocks with my oxygen tank and flippers. I keeled over in the water and twisted my ankle. Then the water was hazy, I couldn’t see very many types of fish, and our dive master got off course, resulting in our having a lot less time among the ocean life because we were trying to find our way back to shore. Next trip? I’m flipping backward off the boat, preferably in a super-active reef with an experienced guide.
Laura Begley Bloom, Sleeping in a star bed in Africa
Sleeping under the stars in Africa. (Aardvark Safaris)
I’ve always dreamed of sleeping in a star bed in Africa. It sounded so romantic: sleeping in an open-air bed set up on the roof of a safari lodge under the starry African skies, with the sound of elephants rumbling in the distance. The reality was a different story entirely at the Namibia lodge where my husband and I tried it out. The duvet was waterproof because of the dew, so we ended up sweating under the covers. There were mosquitos everywhere, and even copious amounts of repellent didn’t help. (My husband woke up with bites all over his face and described it as “getting gang banged by mosquitos.”) By the time the sun came beating down on us at the crack of dawn, we were just miserable. No romantic Out of Africa experience there.
Matt Bell, Panama Canal
Turns out canals aren’t really that exciting. (Thinkstock)
I was excited to see the Panama Canal. It’s a big part of history and one of mankind’s huge engineering feats. Still, it’s a canal and really not terribly exciting. Enough said. I would have much rather stayed out on the San Blas Islands, where I’d been earlier, than watch some boats slowly move through rusted locks.
Kristine Hansen, Sunset at Easter Island
The Moai statues at Easter Island (Yulin Lu/ Flickr)
I experienced a solar eclipse on Easter Island a few years ago. Great fun, right? Um, not really. All the hotels were booked solid I flew there and back from Santiago in a day — no easy feat, as it’s a five-hour trip one-way), which perhaps explains why entrance to the famed Moai statues was denied after 4:30 p.m. that day. Imagine flying all that way and arriving five minutes before they closed, only to be told that if you run down the hill and take a few photos, then, yes, you can see what you have been waiting years to view.
Ann Abel, Exploring the caves of Actun Tunichil Muktal
(Caves Branch Tours)
As a (soft) adventure junkie whose alter ego is Girlie Badass and whose tag line is “Will try almost anything once,” I was overdue and eager to add caving to my list of activities. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to go to Actun Tunichil Muktal in Belize. I was warned that it was strenuous and not for the claustrophobic and that there would be river crossings to get there. What I wasn’t prepared for was cold water. I forded three rivers in chest-deep water to get to the cave entrance, idly wondered if anyone else’s hands and feet were numb, persevered through the first swim in 12-foot-deep water … and turned back when the guide noticed I was shivering and blue. I have a new tag line: “Will try almost anything once, but not cold.”
Jenny Adams, Stonehenge
Objects may be smaller than they appear. (jacsonquerubin/Flickr)
My family actually has a long-standing joke about Stonehenge. We pulled up to it and all thought it was a model of the real thing, which must surely be around the corner and much more impressive. I was 7 years old. When something famous fails to impress even a bright-eyed 7-year-old, it’s pretty bad.
Jimmy Im, Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay (Thinkstock)
I was completely disappointed with Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Vietnam. It’s considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world, but it’s completely overrun with tourists. It was a zoo on water. There are literally hundreds of junkets out cruising at a given time, which puts a dent in the allure. The water was pretty gross: Trash and debris floated at all times. The excursions — like Surprise Cave — were way too crowded and disorderly. There’s no need to be out there for more than two hours (keep in mind it’s a four-hour drive to get here, so it’s a full-day trip). I did happen to experience a gorgeous sunset, but it’s definitely something I would never do again.
Kelly O’Mara, The Sahara
Who knew getting to the desert would be so much work? (Alan Lamb/Flickr)
When I was in Morocco, I really wanted to see the Sahara. But, it’s a huge ordeal. I had to take a bus for six hours or something — like not a nice bus, a bus that I shared with people carrying chickens, and that stopped at random places on the side of the road — to a small town on the edge of the desert. And, then, you’d think this tiny town would be quaint, but it was mostly people trying to hustle you to pay for a trip into the sahara, since that’s what that town really is there for. So, I had to go into a random shop and drink tea and negotiate with a guy, who then drove me in his car another 30-40 minutes to a dirty compound, where we met up with the group and got on camels. Once we finally were headed into the desert, it wasn’t as cool as I’d been hoping. There were still trees, cars and camel tracks. It wasn’t as remote as you think. It was mostly sort of just the rundown edge of the desert? I guess you really have to go deep into the sahara for it to feel remote and cool? It was still fun, but not what I was hoping.
Daniel Noll of Uncornered Market, New Delhi
A case of Delly belly could ruin any trip. (Thinkstock)
I was 26 years old when I took my first trip outside of North America. “It’s the trip of a lifetime,” I told myself. “I’ll start easy in India.” Upon my arrival in Delhi after midnight, I found out that my bags had been lost. Then I got “Delhi belly” multiple times, contracted dengue fever, and nearly died. P.S. Despite this, I still love India.
Leah Ginsberg, Yahoo Travel
The art is impressive, but you might need a magnifying glass. (David McKelvey/Flickr)
As an American, when you visit a country with centuries of rich history, you really feel it in your bones - you feel it walking the cobblestone streets of London or looking at ancient Italian architecture. And that’s what I was expecting the first time I went to the Louvre in Paris to see the Mona Lisa. To me, at 21, I imagined it being larger than life; I thought it would be an awe-inspiring, towering masterpiece. Not so much. There I was, fighting a crowd a dozen rows deep, staring at a picture that I could probably fit in my carryon. D’oh. Sorry Leonardo, but I wasn’t impressed.