October
14

#Getoutthere Guide to Vanuatu

MI OLA ambassador Ellen visited Vanuatu recently. Vanuatu is an archipelago made of more than 80 islands, on which 250,000 people live.  It’s located to the East of Northeast Australia and the west of Fiji and features great scuba-diving and wrecks, waterfalls, volcanos and extraordinary cultural diversity – with over 1000 languages being spoke in the archipelago.  Now that it’s become a new destination on our bucket list, we had to get the inside scoop on this pristine group of islands to #GetOutThere!

Originally from the tiny island of Jersey, UK, Ellen now lives in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia, the Northern Rivers, home to the world famous Byron Bay.  Ellen’s passion is being in or under the water. Fins, mask and underwater camera in hand, exploring the reefs and wrecks around Byron Bay is this adventurer’s game.

Ellen-in-Vanuatu

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

#Getoutthere Guide to Vanuatu

You could be forgiven for not having heard of the Pacific island archipelago that is Vanuatu. Until the nation gained independence in 1980, the group of islands went by the name of the New Hebrides, reflective of its colonial history that at various times were claimed by Portugal, Spain, France and England. Only 1750 km (about 1000 miles) northeast of Australia, it makes a great place to escape the southern hemisphere winter, and that’s exactly what my partner and I did recently.

Starfish-in-the-Erakor-Lagoon

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

What to see/do:

As you may know from my past #GetOutThere Guides, I like to spend my time in the water! In Vanuatu we deliberately chose to stay in places with great snorkelling and based many of our other activities around the water. Honestly, it would be criminal to go to Vanuatu without snorkelling or diving!!! The corals really are pristine, and there are some famed dive sites. In Efate, you must visit the Hideaway Island marine sanctuary, and the island of Santo is famed for the SS President Coolidge, the largest and most accessible wreck dive in the world, jammed with the machinery of war and personal effects.

Ellen-snorkelling-at-Hideaway-Island

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

Chase Waterfalls
Vanuatu is also littered with stunning waterfalls, many of which you can swim in. In Efate, the Mele Cascades (located in lush rainforest) are worth a visit, as are the Cascade Waterfalls and the Blue Lagoon on the east coast.

Surf
This may come as a surprise to some, but Vanuatu is famed for its surfing. Pango Point on Efate is a reef break that has fairly consistent surf. To cater to the surf tourism market, a number of great hotels have recently popped up on Pango peninsula. Vanuatu represents a much cheaper, less crowded alternative to other Pacific Island surf destinations such as Fiji or Samoa.

Explore Volcanoes
On the island of Tanna you can stand on the rim of the live volcano (Mount Yasur) and witness the shooting lava bombs and volcanic ash clouds. Plus, the Ambrym volcano (on the island of the same name) is in the top ten for earth’s most active volcanoes.

Experience the culture
Finally, a few words on culture. Most people in Vanuatu live in villages that, and despite hundreds of years of European rule they have retained much of their traditions. Visiting or staying in a traditional village can provide a rare glimpse into a very different way of life.

Ellen-at-Hideaway-Island

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

When to visit:

Like most tropical destinations in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s advisable to visit in winter (April to October) when the air and sea temperature is still consistently warm. Tropical summers (November – March) are hot, humid and wet, so if you visit during these months expect an almost daily storm, though you’re still likely to get plenty of sunshine and beach time. Tropical cyclones (or hurricanes to our US readers) occur every few years, usually between December and April. Year round the sea temp doesn’t deviate much from 25°C, so whether you’re surfing, snorkelling or kayaking, all you need to wear is your MI OLA bikini!!!

Ellen-hairflip-Erakor-Island

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Cyclone Pam: In March 2015, Vanuatu was devastated by Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm. The cyclone crippled Vanuatu’s infrastructure: an estimated 90 percent of the nation’s buildings were impacted by the storm’s effects, telecommunications were paralyzed, and water shortages plagued the small nation. The impacts are still visible in Port Vila, one of the worst hit areas, but an incredible amount of work has been done to rebuild and restore key infrastructure, particularly that related to tourism, which is a key part of Vanuatu’s economy. So don’t be put off by Pam’s legacy – visit these beautiful islands, spend your money, and help them rebuild!

 

 

Where to stay:

With only a 7 days for our trip, we decided to focus our visit on the island of Efate and its associated smaller islands. In doing so, we stayed in and visited a number of resorts and accommodation options, and I can safely say that Vanuatu has something for every budget, family situation, and activity level. Here are my (brief!) thoughts on a few different types of places that we saw:

Hideaway Island – great on a budget, great for diving

A short boat ride from the mainland sits the coral-fringed Hideaway Island resort and marine sanctuary. Home to the only underwater post office in the world (yes, you can actually mail waterproof postcards!), it is a snorkelers paradise, with shallow bommies, and deep walls alike. The diversity of fish and coral species is incredible. There are accommodation options to suit your budget, from a backpacker style dorm room right up to private villas. The food is simple but delicious, and the bar does some great deals at happy hour. There are a number of free, water-based activities such as boat tours, paddleboarding and kayaking. The island is also home to a PADI dive school, and runs regular tours to a number of great dive sites, including two wrecks. Be aware that because of the great snorkelling/diving, Hideaway Island is a haven for day trippers, and can feel crowded at times.

Underwater-Post-Office---Hideaway-Island

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

Erakor Island – great for relaxation

A great place for couples to escape for a relaxing time, Erakor Island is a small resort located in the middle of a turquoise lagoon. On one side, the island is fringed by seagrass beds and on the other by soft corals so while snorkelling or kayaking expect to encounter lots of starfish and juvenile tropical fish. Rumour has it that a family of dugongs (similar to a manatee or sea cow) live in the lagoon and can often be seen around sunset. The rooms are individual villas, with a balcony overlooking the lagoon. There is a spa on the island, and the overall vibe is one of relaxation and spoiling yourself. If you’re on a tight budget or have children to entertain, this isn’t the place for you.

 

Iririki Island – great for families

Nestled inside the Port Vila port, Iririki is the type of resort designed to cater to everyone. For families, there’s a large pool complex with a snack bar serving all the kid’s favourites, plus tennis courts and playgrounds. For the grown-ups there’s a spa, an adults only infinity pool, and great cocktail bar. There’s some great snorkelling from the island’s one beach area, but you’re fairly limited as to how far you can go exploring before you reach the boating channels. On this island you’re a mere stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Port Vila, making this a great location from which to catch a bus or an organised tour to venture out and see other parts of the island. Probably not the best location for those looking for peace, quiet and tranquillity.

Ellen-relaxing-in-a-hammock

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

The Warwick Le Lagon – great for teenagers/active people

On the edge of the Erakor lagoon, The Warwick is what I consider to be a ‘typical’ big resort hotel. Firstly, it’s enormous, so you’ll be sharing your holiday with 500 of your new best friends. This is great if you’re looking for people to join you in paddleboarding, sailing, golfing, kayaking, or any of the other activities that are on offer. It’d be hard to be bored at this place! However if you’re looking to lounge on a beach all day, and enjoy some peace and quiet, this probably isn’t the resort for you.

 

Getting there:

Vanuatu is made up of 65 inhabited islands and a handful of uninhabited islands, stretching across 1300 km (about 800 miles) of the south Pacific Ocean. The larger islands (Espiritu Santo, Malakula, Efate, Tanna & Pentecost) are the most popular with visitors, and there are a number of cruise ships that allow you to visit multiple islands as part of your itinerary.

International flights arrive at Port Vila, the nation’s capital and the main city on the island of Efate. Flights from New Zealand or the east coast of Australia take around 3 hours. As one of the central islands in the chain, and the most populous, Efate makes a great base from which to explore the other islands. Air Vanuatu offers flights between about 20 of the larger islands, so you can island hop to your heart’s content!

Vanuatu map - geographicguide.com

 

What to eat:

Unsurprisingly for an island nation, the seafood is not to be missed! Tropical fruit is also in abundance, as are coconuts, and thanks to the fertile volcanic soils a range of vegetables grow well, and root vegetables feature frequently in local cuisine. The local beef is also well worth a try.

Vanuatu’s multicultural past is reflected in the variety of restaurants represented in the larger towns and resorts. French, Mediterranean, Thai, Chinese, Italian and Spanish cuisines are all represented in Port Vila, and many of them are excellent, thanks to the high quality chef training at the country’s Hospitality School.

A trip to Port Vila would not be complete without a trip to the Mumma’s Market, where the matriarchs of each village on the island come to sell their wares. As well as local fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, the Mummas cook up incredible local delicacies that you can try for bargain prices, like the national dish lap lap, which is a baked pudding made up of grated yam, banana, or taro that is mixed with coconut milk and salt, then baked under hot stones.

Ellen-at-Iririki-Island

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

Interested in joining the MI OLA Ambassador Program?

Know of anyone who should #GetOutThere with us?

Then shoot us an email at info@MI-OLA.com

August
11

#GetOutThere Guide: Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park

Our MI OLA brand ambassadors inspire us everyday to #GetOutThere – – these amazing women surf, paddle, hike, salute the sun, mountain bike, ski, kite surf,   and so much more. One of these amazing ambassadors is Ashley B. (@ayeboulet). Whether she is downhill skiing at her home base in Lake Tahoe, CA, hiking up a 14,000 footer White Mountain, beach hiking the coast in the Kalalau Valley on Kauaʻi, Hawaii, or exploring in the Turks and Caicos, we love following Ashley’s adventures. We caught up with this awesome mermaid and got the details on her latest #getoutthere adventure: hiking the Kesugi Ridge in Denali State park in Alaska.

(If you are in hiking shape and ready to tackle a challenge, read on and #GetOutThere.  BUT, if you are just starting out or need to refresh the basics, have another look at Hike Like a Girl, and work your way up to this challenge by doing shorter, less ambitious hikes.)

Denali-1

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

#GetOutThere Guide: Kesugi Ridge

The Kesugi Ridge trail is to date one of the best, most rewarding, and beautiful backpacking missions I have done.  Being a mountain girl from the Sierra Nevada’s I had high expectations for this backpacking trip, and this trail surpassed any preconceived notions I may have had.  I would highly recommend this trail for any intermediate backpacker wanting to explore the various terrain of Alaska.   Expect your jaw to drop around each bend on this one of a kind North American trail.

Denali-8

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Kesugi Ridge- Denali State Park

This trail is located in the Denali State Park, bordering the Denali National Park. The state park and national park vary in regards to regulations, permits, trail access, etc.  The Kesugi Ridge is a well-defined 30 mile trail. Most backpackers will opt to hike the ridge one-way requiring the need for a shuttle to the trailhead, carpooling, or hitch hiking.

 

Getting there:

The trail is best accessed from Little Coal Creek Road.  I would recommend arranging a trail head shuttle with Byer Lake Campground.  A local family operates a daily shuttle from the day parking lot at Byer Lake to Little Coal Creek trailhead.  Call in advance and be sure to make a reservation.  Overnight parking in Byer Campground is $5 per night.

Denali-6

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Distance and trail maps:

Byer Lake Campground is about a 2.5 hour drive from Anchorage. After arranging a trail shuttle, park in the campground day lot. Most backpackers prefer to hike from north to south as the vertical rise is less this way. Below are the maps we carried with us and used on this hike.

Northern section: http://dnr.alaska.gov/Assets/uploads/DNRPublic/parks/maps/kesuginorth.pdf

South section: http://dnr.alaska.gov/Assets/uploads/DNRPublic/parks/maps/kesugisouth.pdf

Denali-2

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Pacing:

We hiked this trail in 3 nights/4 days.  We were hiking the duration of most days but wanted to make sure to allow ourselves enough time to enjoy the landscape and scenery. We camped alongside a small lake around mile 6 the first night.  The second night we camped near Ermine Hill junction around mile 15.  The third night we camped near Mini Skinny Lake around mile 25. Our last day (hiking out by way of Byer Lake) consisted of a mostly downhill hike for 4 or so miles.

Denali-4

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Weather:

We were lucky when it came to weather on this trail. We had an opportune window of fairly dry weather for most of our days hiking.  Of course the highlight of clear sky day is seeing Denali (Mount McKinley) towering above the horizon.  This monstrosity of a mountain can be seen to the west for most of the trail.

I would imagine that certain sections of this trail would be much more challenging and difficult had it been raining.  If possible, leave yourself a window of time for hiking so you can plan according to the weather.

 

Wildlife aware:

Bears are a serious concern when it comes to hiking in the backcountry.  Be bear aware by packing smart, staying loud on the trails, and knowing what to do in case you come across a bear. There is other wildlife to be aware of in these areas as well, be sure to read up on what to do in case you come across any animals when hiking.

Denali-3

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Decompression after hiking:

Talkeetna is a nearby mountaineering town where you can enjoy a Denali brewing company beer and burger while viewing Denali in the distance.   This is the ultimate stop for refueling and decompressing after hiking.  This small town has several patio restaurants, cafes, and shops to walk around. Live music can be heard from several restaurants or in the park on certain days of the week. I would recommend the Wildflower Café and Mountain High Pizza for something local and satisfying to eat. Couple that with a local beer, and you will be in mountain heaven.

Remember to stay hydrated and stretch after hiking to prevent sore muscles and cramping.

Denali-7

MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

What to pack:

Backpack – I love my women’s 65L Osprey backpack. My pack is lightweight, has lots of compartments, and provides a great fit for my body. A good backpack is always worth the investment.

Water proof/water resistant hiking boots- The weather is variable in Alaska, especially in the mountains.  Be sure to pack water worthy hiking shoes as you will likely cross some creeks, muddy areas, and wetlands. Pack extra socks too!

Mole skin- In case of blisters you will want to be sure you have mole skin in your first aid kit. Happy feet is critical for long duration hiking!

First aid kit- Backpacking first aid kits are not only smaller size but also lightweight.  It is always wise to backpack with some basic medical items, just in case.

Bear mace/repellant- This is a must.  Although you cannot bring bear repellant in your checked luggage with most airlines, be sure to purchase some when arriving in Alaska.

Bear canister- This is mandatory in the National park, but not in the state park.  Regardless, I would highly recommend bringing one.  Be sure to place all scented items in the canister.  Aside from food items that would include sunscreens, toiletries, lotions, etc.

Flare Gun- We carried a flare gun in case we found ourselves face to face with a charging bear.  The flare gun supplements having a loaded gun with you.  The flare gun is much lighter and safer when it comes to protecting yourself.

Bear bells- This will help put your mind at ease when hiking in more lush areas where a bear, moose, or other animal may be near.  You do not want to sneak up on any of these animals, so be loud on the trail.

Bug spray- This is a MUST.  There are many flies and mosquitos in this area, especially in the wetlands.  Repellant is necessary to help prevent the likelihood of irritating bites while hiking.  That being said, Benadryl cream is a worthy item to pack in your first aid kit.

Sunscreen- Even if you’re lucky enough to get a clear sky day with lots of sun, you should always be protected.  Even with cloudy days, you will want to be sure to wear sunscreen to prevent any uncomfortable burns.

Meals- Backpacker meals are not only lightweight but packed with the protein necessary for hiking. Depending on the amount of time you plan to backpack, you will want to pack as lightly as possibly. Every pound counts when it comes to food within your bear canister. I would recommend freeze dried meals, rice, pasta, granola bars, oatmeal, jerky, etc.  Canned food products tend to weight more than other freeze dried meal options.  Fruits are difficult to pack and perish quickly.  Be sure to pack enough food and snacks to supply energy and satisfy hunger throughout your trip.

Jet boil (or similar cooking device) – The jet boil helps store the items necessary for cooking conveniently in your backpack.  I have a mini backpack burner, small propane, and pot which I also pack for the convenience of cooking a few items simultaneously. Be sure to pack a cook utensil, small sponge, and environmentally safe soap as well.

Water purifier- You will find yourself purifying stream or lake water several times a day.  The water is fairly clean, yet I would recommend treating the water before drinking. Be sure to always top off or fill your water containers when passing a water source.  You do not want to find yourself hiking without water or desperately searching for the next water source. Plan ahead.

Face/eye mask- Depending on when you plan to hike, the sun may be a bit of a nuisance.  In July, the sun was shining until after 11pm.  This in mind, if you are light sleeper I would recommend bringing an eye mask.

Binoculars- You will want binoculars to view Denali (Mount McKinley) in the distance.  You will also want these on hand for bird and animal watching.

Other miscellaneous items:  There are a few items that I like to bring to help lift my spirit when backpacking.  On this mission I brought the following items:

Peanut butter – this sweet treat and can be mixed into oatmeal in the morning, making breakfast that much better.

Ipod/small speaker- music is always nice when decompressing in camp or leisurely hiking along the trail.

Camp pillow/sleeping pad- although not necessary, they do help make for a more comfortable night of sleep.

Hot sauce- This will help add some much needed spice to any generic meal.

Sugar/sweet treat- Something sweet to look forward to while hiking such as a fruit snack, lollipop, snickers bar, etc.

Essential oil- I love my oils especially when outdoors.  A little goes a long way when it comes to aromatherapy.

Interested in joining the MI OLA Ambassador Program?

Know of anyone who should #GetOutThere with us?

Then shoot us an email at info@MI-OLA.com

 

July
21

Top Five Amazing Beaches in Puerto Rico

Bienvenidos a Puerto Rico! Welcome to Puerto Rico! This tropical island paradise is the home of MI OLA brand ambassador Andrea (@mermaid.drea ). When she isn’t in the water – free-diving to 40 feet, surfing, fishing, lobstering or playing in the waves – she’s on land doing yoga and exploring the outdoors. We caught up with this mermaid to get the scoop on her favorite beaches in Puerto Rico. Check it out below!

Our Top Five Amazing Beaches to Visit in Puerto Rico

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR 3

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

 

Playa Peña Blanca, Aguadilla, PR

I love this beach because it’s where the sea turtles like to hang out in the West! I can literally spend hours snorkeling this beach – – I’ve encountered the most marine life thus far in PR.  Playa Peña Blanca is also a great place to spend the day lounging and tanning on the sand. However, if there is swell, the shore disappears and this place looks like a completely different beach!

Playa Peña Blanca, Aguadilla, PR

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

This is also a special spot because it is a part of the “Playuelas” sector, where community members are fighting against the construction of a massive resort, “The Christopher Columbus Landing Resort,” that would destroy this beautiful un-touched land. (For more information about the cause and how you can help “Save Playuela,” click here.)

Sea Turtle Andrea

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

 

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)—In Puerto Rico we call these beauties “Peje blanco” or “Tortuga verde.” Sea turtles are such beautiful creatures that when I encounter one I get lost just staring at them while they swim or eat sea grass.

Green Sea Turtle

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Juvenile French Angel Fish (Pomacanthus paru) – Another one of my favorite marine organisms are Angel Fish! This one here is a Juvenile French Angel Fish. You can tell because it has yellow stripes – – when they become adults their stripes disappear and they develop yellow specs.

Juvenile French Angel Fish

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

 

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR

This is literally a beach bum’s playground!  This is my all-time-favorite go-to beach because when its flat, it’s the best place to kick back and pop open some beers or go practice your free-diving skills. When there are waves, you can spend all day surfing this fun sand bar or just playing in the huge shore break!  Coming to this beach can turn into an adventure.  On the opposite end of this beach, within walking distance, there is a beautiful tide pool called “La Poza de las Mujeres,” which is very popular among the locals. Some locals made the coolest palm tree hut which makes spending a day under the sun a lot better.

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR Scooby Doo

This is our dog Scooby Doo, he is a Labrador who LOVES the beach. I don’t think I had ever seen Pata Pata this calm before, it looked like a swimming pool! There is nothing more relaxing than spending the day just floating in these crystal-clear waters. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR

This day was one of the gnarliest shore breaks I have seen thus far! During the winter I love coming here to shoot the barrels that form on the sand bar and play under the shore break. No matter how rough the waves get, the water is always clear. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR 10

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Playa Pata Pata, Manatí, PR 11

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

 

Playa Tamarindo, Culebra, PR

Culebra is a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico. To arrive, you must take a boat, ferry, or an airplane. If you really want to go an adventure, camp on Flamenco Beach. Take your vehicle filled with food so you can cook over a campfire because there are very limited options (especially if you have dietary restrictions because there are only a few restaurants and not many supermarkets).

Tamarindo beach is walking distance from Flamenco. It is a bit of hike because there is a hill you have to go over, but it is another spot I love to dive! This is the best place to see marine life. The beach lies within the Luis Peña Channel Natural Reserve—and all of Culebra’s sea grass is listed as a critical habitat for endangered species and is protected by law. In other words, there are tons of sea turtle to see here because sea grass is a Green Sea Turtle’s favorite snack. I love coming here because you really get a chance to photograph and appreciate nature. Although snorkel gear rentals are available on Culebra, it’s better to bring your own snorkel gear. Flamenco Beach also has a reef you can snorkel, but during the winter there are huge waves. Tamarindo is located inside a bay so the water is flat all year-round.

Sea Turtle

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

 

 

 

Playa Caza y Pesca, Arecibo, PR

Caza y Pesca is located in Arecibo in a sector called “Islote.” There are many fun breaks in this town, but this is one of my favorite surfing beaches because it is where I learned to catch waves! Some of the clearest waters I have seen on Puerto Rico are at the Arecibo beaches like this one. If you like to get barreled, then I suggest you surf Hallows Beach—a shallow reef break. Another one of my favorite surfing beaches in Arecibo is “La Cueva del Indio,” I like it because the wave is very long. The actual “Cueva del Indio” is a tourist attraction where scenes of the film “The Goonies” was filmed and it has a lot of our native Indians, the “Taínos,” hieroglyphics engraved in the walls.

Playa Caza y Pesca, Arecibo, PR

This day was one of the toughest days for me at Caza y Pesca because the waves were all over the place, there were very strong currents, and it was super windy, but I gave it a shot anyways! I caught about 2 waves and decided to go relax on the sand with my friend photographer friend, Elvin, and have a little photoshoot. Photo by Elvin of MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

Playa Caza y Pesca, Arecibo, PR 2

Photo by Elvin of MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @mermaid.drea

July
14

#GetOutThereGuide: Learning to Kiteboard

 One of our favorite mermaids just so happens to be MI OLA brand ambassador Adrienne @yokeens. She moved to the Outer Banks, North Carolina a couple of  summers ago to spend her days surfing, windsurfing, beach bumming…and working at one of the coolest outdoor outfitters, REAL Watersports.  Jealous? Yeah, us too! We caught up with this adventurous mermaid to learn how to #GetOutThere on learning to kiteboard.

#GetOutThereGuide:  Learning how to Kiteboard

Hey there mermaids!  Love the water and seeking new exciting ways to enjoy it?  Kiteboarding is an amazing sport that with the right gear and the proper instruction, anyone can do!  It is always best to take some lessons to build a safe and solid foundation of skills before trying on your own.  Once you are up and riding, the possibilities are endless as you can kite all over the world in the ocean, the sound, on lakes, and even in the snow!

Guide-Kiteboarding-MI-OLA-3

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Where to Kite:  One of the BEST places in the world to kite is the Outer Banks, North Carolina.  This barrier island has super consistent winds, miles of protected flat water which is mostly waist deep and multiple seasons in which kiting can be enjoyed.  You can kite on the sound side which is similar to a lake or you can go ocean side and slay the waves.  Traveling here is fairly easy compared to going somewhere out of the USA, so taking a weekend to learn to kite is totally achievable. Plus, you can easily find a spot all to yourself, or hit up one of the more popular launch areas to kite with new friends.

When to Kite:  Spring, Summer and Fall are the best times to come.  Both spring and fall offer less crowds, higher winds and mild weather/water temps (60s-70s). Summer is hot (80s air/water temp), but more crowded with more days of lower wind speeds.  And with the right wetsuit and a great attitude, you can absolutely kite in the winter (a full wetsuit, gloves and booties are needed)!

Guide-Kiteboarding-MI-OLA-1

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

What to Expect:  3 full days of instruction is the typical recommendation to get up and riding.  You will learn how to fly a trainer kite, how to board ride, how to control a kite in the water while body dragging, then combine everything to actually kiteboard.  There is a lot of safety and rigging of the kite to learn, but after a few times, everything will make sense!  If you have any background in other board sports (like surfing!), or wind related sports, these skills will for sure transfer over.

Kiting can seem intimidating as you are attached to a large kite.  But after you learn that small movements control the kite, flying becomes easy and fun….something you can do for hours on end!  The more finesse and timing you have the better, so a lot of times women tend to pick kiteboarding up more quickly than men because woman listen to their instructor and do exactly what they are told instead of trying to muscle or fight through it.  Patience and commitment is key, along with determination! The falls are actually pretty fun since you are in water (doesn’t hurt as much as learning to snowboard or ski)!

Guide-Kiteboarding-MI-OLA-4

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Gear to Get:  Once you take a few lessons, getting a complete kite gear package is a great idea to continue kiting at home.  Be sure to talk to your instructor about what size will be best for you based on your weight, hometown average wind speed and the style of riding you want to progress into.

My go-to kite size is a 9m, while I also have an 11m and a 7m which rounds out my quiver.

Look for a kite with swept back wing tips and a small leading edge.  This will make the kite easy to relaunch and feel stable in the wind window, making smooth arching turns.  Kites such as the Core Free or Liquid Force NV are good options.  If you get a bar that is adjustable, then you will be able to use it on all sized kites, like the Liquid Force Response bar 46cm-56cm.

Board size will range based on weight and riding style, but for women, size 130cm to 140cm is a basic range. Getting a board with low to medium rocker and that is light in weight is a great idea to help progress to staying up wind and starting to jump. I ride a 134cm when doing freestyle, while I also ride a strapless surfboard (5’6).

A starter package will range in price, but lowest would be around $1200 for (new) 1 kite, bar, board, harness and pump.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and ask!  I’d be happy to lend a helping hand getting you to the Outer Banks to become a kiteboarding babe as I have a wealth of knowledge!  Also for gear selection check out Realwatersports.com as everything listed above can be found there.  Plus we offer lessons, camps and accommodations….and even jobs if you want to become a pro yourself.

Guide-Kiteboarding-MI-OLA-2

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

July
7

#GetOutThere Guide: Escalante, Utah

You might think Escalante, Utah, is just a blip on the map. It’s a town with less than 1000 residents, a small handful of restaurants, a few lodging choices, and a gas station. However, Escalante is the hub for all things outdoors in south central Utah where visitors can hike, rock climb, race around in ATVs, explore amazing slot canyons, and just get away from it all. The land surrounding Escalante, UT is public land for everyone to do what they enjoy. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument encompasses almost 3,000 square miles of pristine backcountry paradise.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

Recently Becca, a MI OLA ambassador, and her husband pulled into town. Here is her #GetOutThere Guide to Escalante!

 

Hola MI OLA Mermaids! I’m Becca, a fellow mermaid who travels to the little obscure places on the map just to see what’s there. My husband and I call our 1978 Toyota Chinook home as we roam around the American West doing what we do best – exploring! I’ve narrowed down the many recreational activities available to my personal favorites for you to do your own exploring in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The best beginner slot canyons : Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

With Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons, you get a two for one deal! In one ½ day hike you can access two remarkable slot canyons. These slots aren’t technical, just a little rock scrambling with enough adventure to get your feet wet in the world of canyoneering.

To get there: Follow Hole in the Rock Road (BLM 200) for 25.9 miles. Turn left on BLM 252 and continue to the trailhead.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The best overnight backpacking trip : Reflection Canyon

Backpacking to Reflection Canyon is not for the faint at heart. You will be guaranteed blisters, sweltering heat, a hellacious desert slog, tricky navigating with a GPS, and incredible views. It’s 20 miles of rough going to say the least. With that being said, sunrise and sunset on the edge of a sandstone cliff overlooking the colorful lines of Reflection Canyon is an adventure you will surely never forget.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

To get there: Follow Hole in the Rock Road for 52 miles to the following GPS coordinates (37°15’21.70″N, 110°57’47.25″W). You will need a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance to make it to the trailhead. From the trailhead, be sure to have GPS waypoints, a compass, plenty of water, and be sure to tell someone where you are going. Stop at the Visitor Center in Escalante before you go to get all the up to date information.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The best desert waterfall: Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls is a gorgeous, 126 ft waterfall smack in the middle of the desert providing relief on the hot days. An easy 6 mile roundtrip trail leads hikers to a Lower Calf Creek Falls plummeting into a pleasant swimming hole. It’s the perfect place to relax during the heat of the day for a picnic!

To get there: From Escalante, follow UT-12 west towards Boulder for 16 miles to the trailhead on the left hand side of the road.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

Where to Stay:

The newest lodging option in the area are Escalante Yurts! A friendly husband and wife duo personally welcome into beautifully decorated yurts with homemade breakfast scones from a local bakery. If you visit Escalante, you must stay here!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Where to Eat:

Escalante doesn’t have too many restaurants to choose from but every single one of them are delicious. Believe me, I tried them all! My personal favorites are Circle D Eatery and Escalante Outfitters. Circle D Eatery has locally raised beef to refuel after a long hike, Escalante Outfitters offers delicious pizza as well as lunch to go.

To Keep in Mind as you Plan your Adventure

  • Be sure to carry plenty of water and snacks. Hiking in the desert is not a casual stroll in the park!
  • Stop at the Visitor Center to talk to the local rangers. Pick up trail maps and ask about weather conditions. Escalante is wayyyyy out there, be prepared.
  • Plan a few days in Escalante to really get to know the area. You won’t be disappointed!

Happy Travels Mermaids!

 

March
17

#GetOutThere Guide: Jamaica

MI OLA brand ambassador Lauren @rock3roll was born in Houston (the birthplace of Beyoncé…) and spent time living in the Midwest before moving to NYC six years ago.  Now, she professionally wanders every four weeks, and is an incessant adventurer.  We caught up with this sandy mermaid and got the details on her latest #GetOutThere adventure to Jamaica.

 

#GetOutThere Guide: Jamaica

How to get there: I flew from JFK to Miami, and onward to Montego Bay. I would highly recommend flying into MBJ, as your trip from the airport to your hotel in the Montego area will be no more than 20 minutes!

Where to stay: I stayed at the SeaGarden Beach Resort. My intent in Jamaica was to explore (as is always!) The SeaGarden had great views (grab an ocean view room) and authentic Jamaican food. It was perfect for what we were looking for! If you’re looking for more of a “stay-put” type of vibe, I would definitely stay at one of the Sandals locations. Partly because of The Office, but also because they seem to have a lot of properties to choose from, and great reviews!

When to go: I traveled to the island in July and had great weather. It’s always good to be aware of the rainy seasons on any island. Jamaica has two main rainy seasons. May is the first, followed by October- November.  Also, keep Hurricane Season in mind from June through the end of a November. Island rain typically is brief and patchy (in my experience), but if this is your one and only escape for the year, better to not take your chances!!!

Negril:

Jamaica has no shortage of beaches. The most famous, and well worth it, is ‘Seven Mile Beach’ in Negril. Endless white sand, turquoise water, and palms for days makes for one epic beach experience.

If you’re not staying in Negril, travel by cab or by catamaran. The Dreamer is a fun snorkel (booze) cruise that takes you from Montego Bay to Negril. If traveling by car, it’s best practice to rent a driver for the day (prices very from $100-$200, not including tip). Your driver will stay with you, affording you the flexibility to go and stop where you please!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

While you’re in Negril, make sure you stop by The Cliffs, more specifically, Rick’s Café! There are multiple spots along the cliff where the brave can jump in from various heights. Not interested? No worries grab a drink at the bar and watch the professionals do what they do best: jump. If bar food isn’t up your alley, head to Ivan’s. Located not far up the road from Rick’s Café, Ivan’s is nestled within the cliff side, offering up stunning ocean views. It’s the perfect place to nom on jerk lobster and drink flaming rumrunners while the sun floats down.

 

 

Montego Bay:

Centrally located between tourist haunts Negril and Ocho Rios, Montego Bay is the perfect spot to find an all-inclusive for your stay. Walk down to Margaretville for a Bob Marley (your new favorite drink for all-of-time) and a bounce on their ocean trampolines and slides.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

 

 

Ocho Rios:

Up the road roughly 1.5 hours from Montego Bay is a plethora of unique island experiences. Popular among locals and tourists, the Blue Hole is made up of a combination of waterfalls and swimming holes. Interested in cruising around the watery landscape solo? Take the paths, and wander. Looking to jump and swim? Hire a guide. Water shoes are recommended, and sold at the entrance for you to comfortably cruise around the falls. Have a GoPro? Your guide will happily become your professional photographer (just make sure you’ve got a waterproof case!) You’ll be able to jump off of falls as steep as around 20 feet. Expect to pay around $15 to enter, plus a little extra for a guide!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

After the Blue Hole, take a car back down towards Montego Bay for an afternoon stop at Bamboo Blue. Located in Mammee Bay, you’ll get a first class beach seat and bright blue water, all for the cost of a Piña Colada. Rent a cabana, and sip on whatever frozen concoction floats your boat.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

Finish up your trip back to Montego Bay, by stopping at the Luminous Lagoon in Falmouth, Jamaica. The brackish water in the Lagoon is home to millions of microorganisms called dinoflagellates, that when disturbed emit a light-blue GLOW.

YES. YOU CAN SWIM IN GLOW-IN-THE-DARK WATER!

Get to the Lagoon around 6-6:30 p.m. (in the Summer months; in the Winter, arrive an hour earlier,) to grab your free rum punch (included in the $25 USD per person tour) before the tour starts. It’s not enough just to go on the boat to look at the glow in the boat’s wake; you will want to swim, so wear your MI OLA suit and bring dry clothes to change into (I made that mistake; I swam in a dress…WORTH IT). There are four other places where this phenomenon exists: Indonesia, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico. It is said that Jamaica is home to the brightest Lagoon out of the four!

 

Roadside Stops

If you do end up taking a cab to various places (or renting a car), make sure to stop for roadside soup and porridges. Some of the best porridge I’ve ever had was on the road (full disclosure, it was also the first time I’ve ever had porridge).  Jerk Chicken stands, and highway restaurants are frequent sights, so absolutely jerk the wheel to pull into any one you see. On your way out of town headed towards Ocho Rios, you’ll pass a few coconut stands. Stop at the LAST one that is nestled in the woods. The coconuts are known among locals as THE BEST.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Lauren – @rock3roll

 

Jamaica is home to beautiful people and culture. Get out there and have a blast!

 

 

 

March
3

#GetOutThereGuide: Discovering Winter Warmth

Are you ready for summer yet? Yeah, us too. It will start warming up soon, we promise.

While you’re missing the warm temperatures, we’ve got some tips for generating your own heat, along with a great guide on the hot springs of Colorado.  Check out our #GetOutThere Guide to Discovering Winter Warmth by brand ambassador Briana (@openheartadventure).

 

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

Not all mermaids live with their toes in soft sand beside the salty sea. Some of us thrive in mountains that rise to the sky beside cold, clear alpine lakes. From January until the warmer temperatures of spring arrive, mountain mermaids are chilled to the bone from winter. Living in the mountains my entire life often has me dreaming about warm ocean water and tropical sunshine, although it isn’t always practical to escape to the beach. So when my body and mind need winter warmth, I explore, soak, stretch, breathe, and relax. Here is a guide for staying warm when the beach is just out of reach.

 

The Mountain Mermaids Guide to Creating and Discovering Winter Warmth

Do Yoga to Heat Up!

Hot yoga, hatha yoga, salted infrared yoga, restorative yoga, vinyasa inspired yoga – – the preference is up to you! One thing is certain, a yoga class will warm you up. As a yoga teacher, I wake up before the sun to practice a gentle morning flow in a warm space. Moving the body with intentional breathing brings warmth to my entire being and allows me to start my day from a grounded place. Some like it hot, and hot yoga classes are sure to heat you up. For me personally, a gentle flow does the trick, is only as strenuous as I shape it to be, and brings warmth to my body through the breath and movement.

Yoga is the simplest way to create warmth in the winter. It also doesn’t hurt that it supports a healthy physique so in the Spring, you feel fit and well. Whether you are most comfortable practicing yoga in the comfort of your home with an online class or in a studio with the warmth of community, the movement and deep breathing is sure to warm your body.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

My favorite indulgent yoga class is a salted infra-red practice. While it may not be easy to locate this type of healing space, I highly recommend a visit, near or far, to experience this! At my local studio in Colorado, Fahrenheit, there is a floor to ceiling Himalayan salt crystal wall (reference your bedside salt lamp times times 100) with infrared lighting, and a gentle fan that moves the salt throughout the studio space. It is heavenly. The salt is amazing for respiratory wellness and neutralizing negative ions. Whether taking a gentle flow class or a restorative practice, I leave here feeling like I went on a beach vacation, if only for an hour.

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Fahrenheit Yoga. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

 

Another special studio is, with bias, the one I teach at: Kula Yoga. It is a simple studio with a balance of natural light and mountain warmth, with a rich color palette. The studio holds space for inspiration, expansiveness, and rest. Most classes flow and all are uniquely different- from gentle early morning sun salutes to midday energizing practices to evening restorative. This is the place where locals come to stretch, warm up, flow, and breathe together.

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Shree Yoga. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

An ode to amazing yoga studios wouldn’t be complete without including Shree Yoga in Taos. This studio is worth a trip in itself, not to mention nearby hot springs listed below. Old wooden floors with authentic wood beam ceilings and a fireplace in the corner create a space that is beaming with grounded energy. Windows on both sides of the studio let in the abundant southwest sunshine. I’ve yet to experience a yoga practice here that didn’t leave me feeling completely inspired and filled with love. This studio even has a feng shui expert visit regularly to clear out stale energy and revitalize the already radiant space.

 

 

 

Hot Springs

For those times when heating up via yoga doesn’t do it for me, I head to the hot springs.

 There is no shortage of hot springs in the Western United States. In fact, globally, I’ve had no problem finding natural pools of warm water to soak my tired muscles in. Wherever I travel, I seek them out. Below are a few of my favorites right here in the Rocky Mountains.

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Hot Springs! Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

 

Penny Hot Springs (Carbondale, CO): These road side pools are easily accessible yet still offer solace from the ski resort crowds nearby. The shapes, sizes, and temperatures of the handful of riverside pools vary greatly from hour to hour, month to month. Some days the pools are shallow and hot while other days they may be bath water temperature and full. The Crystal River naturally fluctuates which influences instability in the pools, but it is always worth the trip! Check out the #GetOutThere Guide to Penny Hot Springs for more information!

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Penny Hot Springs. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

 

Black Rock Hot Springs (Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico): Two lithium hot springs pools sit beside the Rio Grande River, just a short drive from Shree Yoga. Because of the lithium content, as opposed to sulfur, these pools do not smell. They can be cool in the winter when the river level is high, but my experience has proven that it is worthwhile to explore. A quarter mile hike down an unmarked trail at the bottom of a gorge rewards you with epic views, solitude (at times), and a warm soak in clear water. Volcanic rock nestles these pools on the riverside. Phones will not get service so you can be sure to experience a healthy disconnect with this soak! I recommend a mellow early morning soak to assure a peaceful experience.

 

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Black Rock Hot Springs. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs and Resort (Redstone, CO): If exploring unmarked trails and searching for steam in valleys of sagebrush isn’t your style of hot springs soaking, there are many developed, resort style pools that are equally relaxing and warming. The benefit to going to a developed pool is that the water temperature is regulated, bath houses are nearby, and some even have lodging on site so you can soak until you fall asleep. Avalanche Ranch is one that I highly recommend. They offer onsite yoga classes and day retreats, have beautiful rustic accommodations, and remain among the least crowded in the area. Each day is capped at a certain number of guests so call ahead. Views of the nearby mountains can be seen from any of the soaking pools. These are perfect for a day or weekend retreat when warming up and relaxing are high priority.

 

Valley View Hot Springs on the Orient Land Trust (Moffat, CO): This place is a little slice of hot springs heaven situated on the hillside of the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Here you get the best of both worlds- natural pools that you may hike to and developed pools that are easily accessible and temperature regulated. There is also a sauna that has a small dipping pool in the center so you can regulate your body temperature without having to step outside of the cedar planked room. This is hands down one of the best hot springs experience I have had and like Avalanche Ranch, reservations are recommended because they have a daily maximum for guests.

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Valley View Hot Springs. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana.- @openheartadventure

Exploring dirt roads, secret trails, and pools in the wild is one of the absolute best ways to discover winter warmth. I highly recommend exploring your region for the best pools, natural or developed, to warm your body any time of day. Morning soaks wake you up gently while evening soaks are ideal after a day of work or winter activity. And if an outside soak isn’t in your cards, a nice Epsom salt bath at home will warm you up.

Lastly, the uncategorized way to get warm is vapor caves. In Colorado, there are caves that have channels of natural geothermal water to create a sauna like experience in underground caves. This is a special way to breathe warm air, revitalize the body, nourish the skin, and relax in a nurturing space. Think ‘sauna’ gone natural.

#GetOutThere and stay warm!

 

 

 

January
27

#GetOutThere Guide: Glacier National Park

It’s the middle of winter but if you’re like us, then you’re probably dreaming of the summer heat, bikinis, and all things outdoors!  Why not start making your summer travel plans now before all of your bucket list adventures book up for the season? One of our top places to visit (and one that books up really fast) is Glacier National Park  –  a favorite of brand ambassador Becca.  Imagine jagged peaks reaching towards the Heavens, turquoise water inviting you to take an alpine dip and hiking trails zigzagging every which way you could want to explore. Check out Becca’s #GetOutThere Guide to Glacier National Park for more!

Soaking us the sun at Grinnell Lake

Soaking us the sun at Grinnell Lake. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

Glacier National Park is an incredible landscape for many different reasons. The park is quite literally changing before our eyes. The glaciers have been melting at an unprecedented rate so much so that they could be entirely gone by the next generation. This video put out by National Geographic shows physical evidence of the glaciers melting in a period of less than 100 years.  Take a look!  

If you need further persuasion to visit this iconic National Park, read on as I share my favorite spots in the park.

 

The Best Hikes

Hiking in Glacier National Park should not be taken lightly. Unless you are used to hiking at a high elevation, start gradually to avoid elevation sickness. Also, grizzly bears are quite common so be sure to carry bear spray and hike with a buddy. Please stop at the Visitor Center upon arrival to know about recent closed areas due to bear activity and talk to the rangers about any concerns you may have. It’s a WILD park, be sure to grant it the respect it deserves and you’ll have a great time! 

P.S. Just starting out with hiking? Check out our guide to hiking, Hike Like a Girl by brand ambassador Ashley B.

St. Mary Falls/Virginia Falls (3.6 miles round trip) – This is a great hike to start with leading you past thundering waterfalls and along turquoise pools.

St. Mary Falls Hike

St. Mary Falls Hike. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Grinnell Lake (a very flat 7.6 miles round trip) – The hike to Grinnell lake is a great beginner hike simply because it is so flat and the scenery just keeps on painting gorgeous landscapes at every turn!

Taking an alpine dip in Grinnell Lake

Taking an alpine dip in Grinnell Lake. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Highline Trail (11.8 miles one way, requires free shuttle) – My favorite hike in the entire park, the Highline Trail begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and stretches along a ridgeline of jagged peaks with 360 degree views at all times. If you do not want to go the full 11.8 miles, turn around at any time to get back to your vehicle.

Hiking along the Highline Trail

Hiking along the Highline Trail. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Mt. Oberlin (a very steep 4 miles round trip) – If you’re dreaming of being on top of one of Glacier National Park’s famed peaks, this is the summit for you! In the realm of peaks, this summit is fairly easy because you do not need any mountaineering experience. However the trail is very faint, sometimes nonexistent. Stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center for more information.

Summit of Mt. Oberlin

Summit of Mt. Oberlin. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

Best SUP and Kayak Locations

Apgar Village on Lake McDonald is the hub for all things water. There are reasonably priced rentals for kayaks, paddleboards, rowboats, and even motorboats. Many Glacier and Two Medicine also offer a boat rentals but their fleet is much smaller than Apgar.

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SUP on Lake McDonald. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

Whitewater Rafting

Whitefish, MT just outside Glacier National Park has many whitewater rafting outfitters to get you your adrenaline fix. Plan this as a full day activity to stop in town and grab ice cream afterwards at the world famous Sweet Peaks!

 

Lodging and Good Eats

Glacier National Park is a huge area spanning a couple hours drive. It’s a good idea to stay in one location for the entire trip and plan activities where you stay to avoid spending half the day driving.

If you’d like to camp, I suggest snagging one of the coveted sites at Rising Sun Campground or Apgar Campground. Both of these campgrounds offer amenities nearby while being close to day hikes.

If you’d like to stay in a hotel, the historic lodge at Many Glacier is beautiful beyond words. Lake McDonald Lodge offers rustic rooms with dining accommodations and stellar views! If you aren’t one of the lucky ducks to snag a reservation, there are lodging options in West Glacier, Whitefish, the town of St Mary and Columbia Falls.

You can’t miss the mouth-watering eats in Whitefish. If you’re visiting in summer, don’t miss out on the Farmers Markets in Columbia Falls and Whitefish. Both are markets offer great food as well as very talented artists.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

When to Visit

The best time to visit Glacier is during the heat of the year – July through September. The Going-to-the-Sun Road doesn’t open until it is cleared of snow, typically opening late June, early July. Be sure to make your reservations in advance as things book up quickly! Yes, even though it’s still winter (right now), start making your plans now!

 

Happy Travels Mermaids! Live well, travel well.

Sunning in MI OLA on St. Mary Lake

Sunning in MI OLA on St. Mary Lake. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

 

January
20

#GetOutThereGuide: Chasing the Northern Lights

Chasing the Northern Lights by MI OLA brand ambassador Susi

Many people dream of experiencing the breathtaking phenomenon that is the Northern Lights and the mystic feeling that comes with it.

I moved to Norway 6 years ago and have seen some very powerful Northern Lights, and a lot of weaker ones. All are beautiful! My first 3 years here I saw nothing spectacular as each time there was a sun storm, there also happened to be an overcast, rainy sky so we were unable to see the Northern Lights. And other nights we were often too late or too early and we missed the show, only seeing a mild, green glow. Various times the light show is short and other times it seems to go on forever. You have to go inside eventually before you freeze to death!

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Brand Ambassador Susi taking in the Northern Lights. Photograph by @kkbrunvaer

What are Northern Lights?

Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as Northern Lights, are the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.

The auroral oval is a circle that sits above the Arctic and sub Arctic, and is the place where you can experience the Auroras. The countries close to the auroral oval are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Alaska, and parts of Greenland & Russia. Southern Lights can be seen from Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Australia & New Zealand.

It is extremely rare, but if a sun storm is enormous or if there is a strong south shift in the Earth’s magnetic field, Northern Lights can be witnessed in the south of Germany and some say even northern Italy. Two such witnessed occurrences down south were just before the World War 1 and just before the Cosovo war, where the sky was blood red. People saw the Northern Lights as a bad omen and not long after the wars started.

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Photograph by @kkbrunvaer

All the things that need to happen…for you to see the Auroras

  1. Location: The closer you are to either of the poles, the better your chances of seeing an Aurora Borealis or Aurora Australis
  2. Weather: Clear night sky (NO overcast or rainy days)
  3. Sun storm
  4. Surroundings: no city lights or bright lights – – best in dark, remote places
  5. Season: most common during fall & winter (as one needs dark night skies to see them)

How to predict the Northern Lights:

To help chase the Northern Lights, you can download apps to your smartphone or tablet to tell you when to keep an eye on the sky. Suggested apps are Aurora Now and My Aurora Forecast. There are plenty of others to choose from, so go with one that makes it easy for you to read the forecast!

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Aurora Now App showing the auroral oval

Two great ways to see the Northern Lights:

If you happen to be in Norway in the winter months, you can book a special tour with the aim to hunt and experience Northern Lights. At these week long workshops you learn how to best photograph the Aurora whilst capturing the beautiful nature around. These tours are up in the Lofoten and are perfect for those with camera skills. (One day it is my dream to learn more about photography and join one of these tours!) If that sounds like something for you, go check them out at www.lofotentours.com or check out the stunning Instagram accounts of the two people 2 who run these tours @stianmklo and @arildheitmannphotography.

If you want to enjoy the Aurora but don’t like the long, cold nights outside in the wilderness, than Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland is a dream come true. Here you can spend a night in a glass Igloo and hopefully get lucky with nature’s light show! If this tickle your fancy, than have a closer look at www.kakslauttanen.fi

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Photo courtesy Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

 

Photographing the Northern Lights:

Wondering how to best photograph the Northern Lights and get that perfect shot? Be prepared with a camera with a long exposure setting, a tripod, and good post processing editing. Those beautiful images that you admire of the Northern Lights are created by layering numerous shots of the same spot over each other, highlighting the foreground in some pictures and the background in others to create the perfect image. For some Northern Lights photographer inspiration, check out @worldaurora @tommyeliassen @arnarkristjans_photography @stianmklo @arildheitmannphotography and of course my favorite nature photographer of all time, @chrisburkard!

 

Mystical Meaning:

The Aurora, with it’s abundant colors and dance like movements, seems otherworldly. This phenomenon gives some people and whole communities feelings of comfort and happiness, while others dreaded its appearances, considering it a bad omen or that the dead tried is trying to contact you.

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Photograph by @kkbrunvaer

 

I wish you all good luck in chasing Northern Lights and remember that patience is the key! Have fun chasing the Northern Lights!

With love from Norway,

Susi

December
30

#GetOutThere Guide: Vieques, Puerto Rico

When MI OLA Ambassador Andrea (@vitiviti) isn’t in the water – free-diving to 40 feet, surfing, fishing, lobstering or playing in the waves – she’s on land doing yoga and exploring the outdoors. Recently Andrea visited the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico and explored both the land and the sea. Check out her #GetOutThereGuide to Vieques below!

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

#GetOutThere Guide: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico is a great place to go if you want for a true remote island getaway. Not only is the island surrounded by beautiful beaches, but also there are wild horses all over the place and tons of places to get good food!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

A little history of Vieques:

From 1938 until 2003, the United States Navy controlled 70% of Vieques Island. Approximately 10,000 inhabitants were removed from their homes and forced to relocate to the center of the island, where they lived surrounded by training grounds, weapon depots, and bomb sites. Vieques was used by the Navy for live-fire practice, air-to-ground bombing, ship-to-shore shelling, and many more dangerous activities. After years of protests, the Navy withdrew from the island in May 2003. The land was then given to the Department of the Interior who began to build a wildlife refuge, which requires cleaning up every single unexploded ammunition. The immediate bombing range is still closed due to severe contamination, but a lot of the island has opened giving us access to the many beautiful undeveloped beaches.

 

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One of Vieques many beautiful beaches. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

 

Where to Go:

I totally recommend visiting all the beaches, if you have time. But if your stay is too short, don’t miss out on what I would say were the best beaches: Bahia La Chiva (a.k.a. Blue Beach), Punta Arenas (a.k.a. Green Beach), Playa Pata Prieta (a.k.a. Secret Beach), Mosquito Pier, Navio, and Playa Negra (a.k.a. Black Sand Beach). Be aware, these beaches are a lot farther than they seem on the map, but the trip is well worth it! Also, there are no lifeguards, and currents can be strong so swim at your own risk, or don’t swim too far from shore.

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La Chiva Beach. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

La Chiva—A MUST SEE!

If you’re a novice snorkeler, I recommend you snorkel La Chiva since the reef is not too far from shore. Turn into marker #4 ( designated on the Vieques free maps, available at the airport) and park, snorkel to the right side over to the rocky point. I ended up driving to marker #10 and spending the rest of the afternoon here. The beach is just so beautiful, clear, and warm you won’t want to leave!

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Underwater at La Chiva. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

Mosquito Pier

I really enjoyed the snorkeling here because there were starfish everywhere. You can definitely stay along the shore and see great things. The beach gets deep very quickly, but there’s not much to see past the shallows. Rumors have it that underneath the actual pier you will find sea turtles. I wasn’t aware of this when I visited, but I hope to find out next time!

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Mermaiding at Mosquito Pier. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

Pata Prieta

This was my absolutely favorite spot to snorkel because I got to swim with a Hawksbill Sea Turtle!! (If you follow me on social media, it is pretty obvious how obsessed I am with Sea Turtles.) This reef was one of the most biodiverse reefs I’ve encountered in Puerto Rico (most are dead due to over-fishing). I can’t stress how happy I was to see some healthy live coral. Beware of the currents in this beach as the beach is literally open ocean. Do not go out if you don’t have a pair of fins! Also, I’d recommend not to have on anything shiny while snorkeling anywhere. We ran into a huge barracuda at this spot and things can get nasty if they think you are a small shiny fish.

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Swimming at Path Prieta. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

Playa Negra

Don’t be fooled by the black sand, the water here can get very clear with the right conditions! This is not a beach that has direct beach access from the parking lot. To get to Playa Negra, you park across the street from the sign pointing towards the beach. Then there is a 30-minute path to Black Sand Beach. This is truly a unique beach as the sand is literally black and the shore is covered in pebbles. (Fun fact: black sand is composed of dark-colored volcanic minerals and lava fragments. Such sand is especially common on the coasts of volcanic islands…like Puerto Rico!)

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Black sand beach at Playa Negra. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

 

Navio—What a fun place to body surf!

What’s a day at the beach without getting tumbled in some waves?! The water clarity at Navio was just breathtaking! I can literally spend hours diving under these waves and letting them just slam me on the sand.

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Waves at Navio. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas was the most remote beach, located on the Northwest side of the island. This is a calm beach to relax, and enjoy the view. I didn’t get a chance to snorkel here, but I could definitely see some reef from outside on the shore. The dirt road that leads to Green beach is extremely lush and full of bent palm trees, it really makes you feel like you’re on a remote tropical island! I really loved all of the palm trees along the coast. You could really tell this beach is almost completely undisturbed by humans because it is located in a nature preserve. Also, you have a perfect view of El Yunque Rainforest located on the main island from this beach.

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On the beach at Punta Arenas. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea – @vitiviti

 

How to Get There:

To get there, I highly recommend booking yourself a round trip ticket on Vieques Air Link – – the plane fits 8 passengers and the $72 round-trip flight is only 10 minutes each way if you choose to leave from Ceiba. (You can also leave from the capital, San Juan, but prices and travel time will vary.) As with any airline, make sure you arrive with enough time to check-in! Be sure check out Vieques Insider magazine on the plane – – I really enjoyed flipping through the free magazine. The magazine offers a lot of information about where to eat (make sure you eat at a restaurant called “Bili”) and gives you the best spots to visit. Pretty much anything you should know about the island is in this magazine!

How to Get Around:

The island is pretty big, but it is very possible to visit all of the beaches within 2-3 days. You will need to rent a Jeep and be sure not to leave any items of value in the car. The best thing you can do is travel with as little as possible. I recommend getting the Jeep Wrangler because a lot of the roads are not paved; it will be a very bumpy ride to get to most of the beautiful remote beaches like La Chiva (a.k.a. Blue Beach)! Most of the car rental places will even offer to pick you up and drop you off at the airport for free! Definitely take advantage of the free maps they offer at the airport and at the car rental places.  GPS is not very reliable.

What to Pack:

When packing for this trip, make sure you bring your MI OLA Surf bikini, some snorkeling gear (there are places on Vieques that rent gear at a reasonable price if you don’t have any), a camera (if you own a GoPro, this is a must, you’ll regret not being able to capture the underwater beauty!), and some sunscreen.

Where to Stay:

We stayed in the cutest little hotel called Villa Coral Guesthouse (call 787-741-1967 for reservations). The best part was that every room had a set of beach chairs and beach towels for you to take to the beach. At night, my boyfriend and I would go up to the roof to stare at the milky way. Who needs TV when you have nature?! There also was an area on the balcony where you could warm up your food in the microwave and enjoy your meal.

Interested in joining the MI OLA Ambassador Program?

Know of anyone who should #GetOutThere with us?

Shoot us an email at info@MI-OLA.com

November
25

#GetOutThereGuide: Big Island, Hawaii

MI OLA Ambassador @MarinJayden is a yogi, mother, influencer, and entrepreneur who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii. One of Marin’s favorite things to do is to get out there with her family, especially if yoga and digital media are involved! Of all the places in the world she’s traveled to, the Big Island of Hawaii was so remarkable that her family just had to move there. Check out her #GetOutThere Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii below!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

#GetOutThereGuide: Big Island, Hawaii

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and the youngest. It hosts roughly 187,000 residents on its 4,028 square miles. In my opinion, the Big Island has the most diversity in natural beauty, activities, and Aloha spirit of all the Hawaiian chain. From Mauna Kea (the tallest mountain on Earth – much of the mountain is under water), Pele’s volcanic lava, gorgeous tropical beaches, lush jungles, cool country land, to beautiful snorkeling, diving, hikes, tours, helicopter rides, and resorts, the Big Island has plenty for people of all interests!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

How to get there:

The Big Island is the furthest South East in Hawaii. It’s located roughly 2,400 miles off the coast of California. The most efficient way to get there is to fly. There are two main airports located on either side of the island: Hilo International and Kailua-Kona. If you’re looking to save, check into flying to Honolulu first, then island hopping over to Big Island. This can often reduce the cost of flights significantly.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

What to do:

The biggest reason we moved to the Big Island is because there’s tons to do, but it still maintains that local island flavor and feel. If it’s your first time on the island, I always recommend taking the time to tour the entire island. Just be aware, unless you are here for an extended period, you most likely won’t get to it all! Some of the major must-do’s are:

  • See both Sides: Check out Kona Town and Hilo’s farmers market for some good eats.
  • Get an underwater view!: Whether you dive, snorkel, or just prefer looking down from a glass boat, you must check out marine life while you’re here! Two-Step is my favorite snorkel spot and if it’s whale season, get up early and head to a bay to see the gentle giants play.
  • Visit Pele at Volcano National Park: If you can get on a helicopter, the sights are well worth it.  Click here to to see where the action is before you go and be sure to check the weather.
  • See some waterfalls: Waipio is a top notch spot. You’ll have to rent a 4 wheel drive or hike down (and back up the steep cliff). This pristine, sacred land, with breathtaking sights and wild, roaming horses, is worth the trek.
  • Get above the clouds on Mauna Kea and visit the observation center: You will also need a 4 wheel car or hire a shuttle to take you up. If you love physical challenges you can schedule a hike to the top by foot.

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    Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

  • Eat local!: Coffee, macadamia nuts and cacao are some of the islands many fresh agricultural draws that are worth checking out if you’re a foodie, so pick your poison and get on a farm tour or tasting.

Where to stay:

I think it’s totally worth spending nights on both sides of the island as the social feel can be as diverse as the climate and geography. VRBO is growing here like everywhere else and the value of staying with residents can not be overlooked. At the same time, if you want a plush getaway and to be on one of the best beaches, Mana Kea Resort is probably the most ideal. Waikoloa Beach, and Kailua Kona also have nice resorts on smaller beaches and with different amenities.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

Big Island tips:

  • Look for car rental options from local groups or Harper trucks that allow off road use. So many of the really cool adventures here require getting a little bumpy.
  • Pack reef safe sunscreen.
  • Drive slowly with aloha and see more of the hidden gems.
  • If you are a member of Costco, stop at Costco if you land on Kona side.  It’s a great place to get deals on local adventures, water and snacks for long adventures or beach bum days.
  • Pack genuine smiles and family attitude! Hawaii is tight nit and aloha driven, so if you want to fit in and feel the splendid warmth of the people here, you need to bring it yourself.  If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a sense of love and generosity that is the real magic of Hawaii outside of the beautiful landscapes.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden Yoga may by Free Thirty Three

October
28

#GetOutThereGuide Rincon, Puerto Rico

We usually find MI OLA ambassador Jessica (@jessicabellofatto) practicing yoga in her studio or on the water near her home on the Long Island coast. But when she’s not in NY, she leads yoga retreats in beautiful places like Rincon, Puerto Rico, and Greece. Jessica has been visiting Rincon for years and it’s on our bucket list of tropical places to visit, so we asked her to give us her best tips on visiting Rincon.

Check out her #GetOutThere Guide to Rincon, Puerto Rico below!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

I started visiting this little slice of heaven in the Northwest corner of Puerto Rico about 10 years ago when I started taking clients and students here to practice Yoga, learn to surf, and enjoy the crystal clear clean waters on a stand up paddleboard. Rincon is a surfer’s paradise for sure, and churns out some of the most incredible surfers in the world.  However it is also an amazing place to learn to surf – with smaller, beginner friendly waves on many days.  And if surfing is not your thing, just around the bend from the main surfing beach – Maria’s, there is a quiet marina with flat water,  perfect for stand up paddleboarding.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

I love Rincon mostly because it is where I really learned to surf on an long trip 10 years ago. I spent countless hours in the water with a local instructor, overcoming my fears of bigger waves, perfecting (sort of!) my timing, and starting to feel as if I was DOING something on the wave. I still have a long way to go, which is why I love this sport so much. It reminds me of Yoga in that way- it is a truly endless practice.

 

Learn to Surf or Become Even Better

Hands down the best place to learn to surf is Albert Lash’s surf school RD2Happiness. The surf school’s name “road to happiness” is borrowed from the road, Rt 113, with the same nickname. Albert offers surf lessons at both Maria’s and Sandy Beach for all levels and abilities. He and his instructors are amazing surfers in their own right and will keep you safe and having a blast in the water.

Check out our Surf Guide to Rincon, Puerto Rico for more surf info!

 

Get Outside!:

Rincon is home to some world-class diving and snorkeling spots, like Steps Beach at Tres Palmas or Desecheo Island, as well Humpback Whale sightings during their migration between the months of January and March. There are plenty of things to do outside in addition to surfing, from hiking, exploring waterfalls, taking a yoga class, SUPing, to just relaxing on the beautiful beaches.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

 

Getting There:

Several airports are within very close proximity to the two surfing towns of Aguadilla and Rincon. JetBlue flies direct from JFK, New York to Aguadilla. There is an awesome break literally RIGHT off the plane, a block from the airport and down a dirt road through a golf course! You can also fly into Mayaguez, or for more convenience in terms of travel times, fly to San Juan, and rent or hire a car to take the 2.5 hr drive to this area.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

 

Where to Eat:

There is an awesome Farmers market every Saturday in Rincon in the main square, La Plaza, as well as a CSA and farm stand open almost every day for local goods. I am pretty picky about food and only eat organic and local at home. Generally when I host a retreat here in Rincon, I rent a house and my boyfriend – an amazing professional chef – prepares all of the meals for the retreats.

For restaurants, check out Estela’s  for dinner and Carta Buena for a post surf smoothie or light lunch!

(MI OLA influencer Caitlyn (@sunburntandsalty), who lives in Rincon, also recommends checking out Happy Bowls at the Puntas Bakery for awesome acai and pitaya bowls, fruit, granola, coffee, and other delicious breakfast and lunch treats. For lunch, she recommends sticking to local food trucks like Jack’s Shack Food Truck, overlooking Maria’s Point, for fresh, local, organic meals, or try Kabanas Food Truck (across from Sandy Beach) that serves a variety of food from burgers to falafel to fish tacos. The locals’ spot for after-surf Happy Hour is El Bohio, a cute little bar located near Maria’s Beach.  El Bohio has the best Happy Hour in town offering $1 Medallitas and $2 Rum Punches. Grab a drink and watch the sunset.)

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

Where to Stay:

With me!!! I host an annual Yoga/ SUP and Surf retreat here every January. The dates for this year are January 19-23. We stay at an AMAZING beachfront compound: 4 acres, two pools, two villas and smaller cottages, located right on the beach. Say hello to gorgeous sunsets! The retreat includes twice daily yoga, daily paddleboarding and sup yoga, optional daily surf lessons, organic delicious food, and great company! My clients return year after year to this retreat because they love it so much! Details are on my site: JBYoga Yoga/ SUP/ Surf Retreat to Rincon, PR

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Jessica- @jessicabellofatto

 

Other great options for accommodations in Puerto Rico are:

Casa Islena Inn: right on the beach in front of a fun sandy bottom surf break (aptly named Sandy’s)

Casa Verde Hotel: great rooms, comfortable, and decent price!

Interested in joining the MI OLA Ambassador Program?

Know of anyone who should #GetOutThere with us?

Then shoot us an email at info@MI-OLA.com