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

Cold-Beer-Joint

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.

SUP on Lake McDonald

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

October
21

#GetOutThere Guide: Natural Swimming Holes in Northern Rivers, Australia

MI OLA brand ambassador Ellen lives in one of the most beautiful regions in Australia, the Northern Rivers (home to the world famous surf break Byron Bay). Ellen’s loves being in the water.  When she is not surfing or diving, she is exploring natural swimming holes near her home.  Here’s her guide on her favorite “wild” swimming holes in Northern Rivers.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Wild Swimming in the Northern Rivers region of Australia

Hi there MI OLA mermaids, it’s Ellen here a.k.a. @artemis_eleven! The focus of today’s #GetOutThere guide is wild swimming in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia. Our area is famed for its white sandy beaches and world renowned surf breaks (think Byron Bay & Snapper Rocks).  And as the name implies, it’s also rich in inland waterways – lakes, rivers, creeks and waterfalls; these make a refreshing, change from the busyness of the coast. Most out-of-towners are lured to the Northern Rivers by the promise of great surf (see my Surf Guide to Byron Bay).  But the the region has so much more to offer. It’s well worth making time to explore the hinterland (or the inland) – you never know, you might just stumble upon a magical place!

 

How to get there:
The Northern Rivers is the most northeastern region of NSW, making the border with Queensland. There are three regional airports (Lismore, Grafton and Ballina) that service other towns in Australia, and our nearest international airports are the Gold Coast and Brisbane, both over the border in Queensland. To get to the wild swimming spots, you’ll need a car.

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Map courtesy of rdanorthernrivers.org.au

Where to stay:
Most of the towns in the Northern Rivers have great accommodation options. If you come here with surfing as your priority, stay in Byron Bay, Evans Head, or Yamba, and then venture out from there. If you’d prefer to stay closer to the Hinterland, try the bigger towns such as Murwillumbah or Lismore, or the smaller villages such as Nimbin or McLean. There are also plenty of unique options – why not check out Airbnb for some inspiration!

Where to eat:
All of that wild swimming is bound to work up an appetite! As most of the swimming holes are a fair way from the nearest town, I’d recommend taking a picnic with you. Stop at one of the regular farmers markets (Saturdays in Lismore & Kyogle, Thursdays in Byron Bay, Sundays in Ballina) or take advantage of the big monthly markets (2nd Sunday in The Channon, 4th Sunday in Bangalow) to stock up on local produce and create a feast fit for a king!

Wild swimming:
Below are some of my favorite spots for fresh water swimming in natural settings. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I’m sure there are plenty of other great spots out there if you’re willing to do a bit of searching! You can find a map with all these locations by clicking here.

Whian Whian Falls, Whian Whian Road, Dunoon
This spot is a favorite with the locals on a hot summer’s day, and has lots of options depending on what you’re looking for. The top of the falls has many smaller rock pools to lie in, and below the falls there are a number of terraces that extend for around 1 km downstream that you can swim or paddle in. The main pool is fed by the waterfall, and there’s plenty of room to either side of the pool to lay out a picnic rug and take in the scenery. The pool itself quite small, so while you can swim around in it you won’t be far from the edges. It’s deep enough to jump in from the surrounding rocks, but take care and ask the locals for advice – they’ll know where the hidden rocks are.

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Photo by Toan Toan- @toanscamerabag

Parking: 3 stars
There is space on the side of the road for about 10 cars. Can be difficult to find a space in the height of summer

Access: 4 stars
You’ll need to either climb down the riverbank, or the rocks to the side of the waterfall. Neither route is particularly challenging, but take care.

Waterfall rating: 3 stars
The waterfall itself is quite small, but can be much more impressive after heavy rain.

Seclusion: 3 stars
You’re unlikely to ever get this swimming hole to yourselves, but there are lots of smaller pools in the terraces below, and you should be able to find some space away from the crowds.

Cannonball potential: 5 stars
The main pool is about 2.5 m deep (9 ft), and there are good jumping points about 1.5 m (5 ft) and 3 m (10 ft) up. Check the pool before you jump though, there are some hidden rocks near the edges so make sure you avoid them!

 

Lake Ainsworth, Pacific Parade, Lennox Head
Situated at the north end of town, just across from the beach, this tea tree stained fresh water lake is popular with tourists and locals. Don’t be put off by the red color of the water – it comes from the tannins and oils from the surrounding tea trees. As a result your skin and hair will feel amazing after a swim! The lake is huge, and fairly deep in the middle. It is used by open water swimmers, paddleboarders, kayakers, as well as people just wanting to splash around. There are small, sandy beaches on the southern end, as well as grassy spots with BBQ facilities. Although the shallows are likely to be busy, if you’re prepared to swim/paddle out to the middle you’ll find all the peace and quiet you need!

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Parking: 5 stars
There is plenty of parking on the south and eastern sides. It’s also only a short walk from the main town.

Access: 5 stars
No access issues here – walk straight in off the grass.

Waterfall rating: 0 stars
No waterfall I’m afraid – this lake is fed by groundwater.

Seclusion: 3 stars
The lake is often busy, but it’s so big that you’ll be able to find space to yourself.

Cannonball potential: 3 stars
There’s nowhere to jump off, so you’ll need to go in search of the rope swings that have been set up in the bigger trees by the locals. Be sure to time your release right though or you might end up in knee deep water!

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

Dalwood Falls, Dalwood Road, Dalwood

This waterfall is a pretty well kept secret. It can be tricky to find (look out for the concrete barrier near the ‘Dip’ sign) and you’ll have to walk past a number of warnings that swimming here isn’t safe. In reality, it’s not the swimming that’s the problem, it’s the accidents that have resulted from people jumping off the 12 m (40 ft) cliff face. The scramble down to the main pool isn’t easy, but once you’re down there you’ll be rewarded with one of the most picturesque scenes. The pool is large, deep and circular, and the waterfall itself is medium sized. This is a great waterfall to take an inflatable mattress to float around in the sunshine.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Parking: 3 stars 
You’ll have to park on the side of the road, but it’s a country road so there’s plenty of space on the shoulders.

Access: 1 star 
Of the swimming holes featured here, this is definitely the most difficult to access. Follow the path around the cliff face into the trees, and scramble down to the rocks below. Make sure you wear proper shoes (flip flops won’t cut it) and use the tree roots for foot holds.

Waterfall rating: 4 stars
The falls are impressive, and make the scene very picturesque.

Seclusion: 5 stars 
I’ve been here a number of times when there’s been no-one else here. In the height of summer you may have to share it with another group of people, but it’s big enough to not be a problem.

Cannonball potential: 0 stars 
DO NOT, I repeat, do not jump off the cliff! People have died doing it, it’s not cool. Just enjoy the beauty and the tranquility of the pool.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

Blue & Green Pools, The Crescent, Angourie
These two pools are old stone quarries that flooded, and have been allowed to return to nature. They are so named because one has a definite green-ish tinge, the other a blue-y tinge. They both make great safe swimming options when the surf is firing at nearby Spookies. The pools are easy to find- they’re marked on most maps, and there are sign posts from the car park at the end of The Crescent.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Parking: 4 stars 
A large car park, but as it also serves the nearby beaches it can get busy in summer.

Access: 4 stars 
An easy walk from the car park brings you to the Blue Pool. You’ll have to do a bit of scampering across rocks for an easy entry point, or just jump in! The Green Pool is along the track to the right of the Blue Pool, and is easier to get in to.

Waterfall rating: 0 stars 
No waterfalls here – these lakes are fed by groundwater

Seclusion: 3 stars 
Can get busy in the summer, but the Blue Pool is quite large so you’ll be able to find a spot to yourself.

Cannonball potential: 5 stars
The top of the old quarry face is now about 4 m (13 ft) above the waterline of the Blue Pool and extends down to about 15 m (50 ft) deep. It makes a great place to cannonball! The Green Pool has a few low spots where you could get a great run up into a cannonball too.

 

Killen Falls, Killen Falls Drive, Tintenbar 

Probably the most impressive waterfall on the list, Killen Falls was also the first one I discovered. The walk from the car park takes about 15 minutes, but if you’re not up for the full walk there’s a good viewing platform about 1/3 of the way along that looks out over the top of the falls. The walk itself can be challenging and slippery, so proper shoes are advised. You’ll need to ‘jump the barrier’ just before the viewing platform to continue down, but the path is obvious and well worn. The pool itself is large but shallow and presents easy, safe swimming. You can also scramble around behind the falls which is quite an experience.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Parking: 5 stars 
There is a dedicated car park, and I’ve never seen it completely full.

Access: 3 stars 
A moderate challenge, so not for the unfit, or for small children.

Waterfall rating: 5 stars
One of the most impressive waterfalls I’ve seen. The sheer volume of water that comes over is incredible!

Seclusion: 3 stars 
You’re unlikely to be the only visitors to this waterfall – it’s popular amongst locals, tourists and photographers – but there’s something so awe-inspiring about these falls that give it a tranquil feel, even at busy times.

Cannonball potential: 0 stars
Unfortunately, the water is just too shallow for any kind of jumping. Float around, and take in the beauty.

 

Currumbin Rock Pools, Currumbin Creek Road, Currumbin Valley

Technically not in the Northern Rivers, but a mere 500 m over the border into Queensland so I’m still going to include them! There are a couple of great spots along Currumbin Creek for a swim, the first is to the left of the main road and is well signposted. This has picnic areas and plenty of space to lay a rug on the grass and set up for the day. This large pool is often busy, and I’d recommend continuing up Currumbin Creek Road to the National Park and checking out the pools there. This series of pools has something for everyone – there are the shallow pools towards the top, great for sitting and relaxing in. There’s the ‘waterslide’ in the middle section – a channel carved out in the rocks and smoothed out over the centuries that makes for an exhilarating ride. Finally, at the bottom, there’s the main waterfall and pool that makes for easy swimming. There’s also a beautiful walk up through the ancient forest, and a history lesson to be had if you walk as far as the old timber mill.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

Parking: 3 stars 
There are dedicated car parks but they fill up quickly in summer. Head there early!

Access: 4 stars 
You may need to do some scrambling over smooth rocks to get to the water, but it’s fairly straightforward.

Waterfall rating: 4 stars 
More cascades than waterfalls, but still very impressive!

Seclusion: 1 star
Likely to be busy in summer.

Cannonball potential: 2 stars 
There are places you can jump from, but recently people have been caught out by hidden underwater rocks. Be careful, and check properly for rocks before you jump.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ellen- @artemis_eleven

 

 

September
23

#GetOutThereGuide: Sanibel Island

When brand ambassador Amanda (@mermanda_) isn’t teaching yoga, running her very own yoga studio, or getting out there in her town town of Marathon, Florida, she is exploring sandy beaches. Recently she took a trip with her boyfriend to Sanibel Island on the southwest coast of Florida to explore one of Florida’s most pristine beaches. Known for its wide variety of beautiful shells, Sanibel Island is a beachcomber’s paradise. We just had to catch up with Amanda to get all the insider details on how to #GetOutThere in Sanibel Island!

#GetOutThereGuide: Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is nothing short of magical. According to the Sanibel tourist board, there are 250 different type of shells, 230 types of birds, 15 miles of beaches, and zero traffic lights! I really felt drawn to this sea shell covered island and I guess most MI OLA mermaids would be too. Every store on the island sells tools for building sand castles – I liked that about it! You could still hear the ocean over everything else and there wasn’t anything in the way of connecting with nature and my sweet sweet boyfriend, Andy.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @mermanda_

How to get there:

Sanibel Island is located off the coast of southwest Florida, just west of Fort Myers, Florida (between Naples and Tampa). The island is roughly 12 miles long and three miles across at its widest. The only road in and out of Sanibel is the Sanibel Causeway Road, which connects the island to the mainland.

What to do:

Every inch of beaches are covered in sea shells of all shapes and sizes, and species. We bought sifter shovels and buckets and spent hours between the beach and the ocean floor collecting and sorting the most precious pieces. Did you know the best time to shell is an hour before or after low tide?

I have always found my self deeply inspired by sand and the vast amounts of grains and speck that lie in a single square inch, but this was different. The creative inspiration flowed through my finger tips to my soul with ever shell I touched.

Ideas of shell art and shell inspired mandalas that I could hang in my home and my yoga studio to continue to be in awe of this place and this feeling.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @mermanda_

Where to stay:

We stayed at a sweet little inn called the Parrots Nest, covered in shell decor and more romantic than a Ritz. The place was a sanctuary tucked away from the road, consumed in the most elegant way by moss, trees, and a deep connection to nature; and with in walking distance to the best breakfast and coffee shop on the island called Easy Over cafe.

We took our coffee to the Sanibel Island Lighthouse for a morning stroll along the trails and coast line of the south end of the Island.

What else to do:
Besides collect shells and build sandcastles, my boyfriend and I didn’t do much else! But, there is a plethora of other outdoor activities, like riding bikes all around the island, playing tennis, kayaking/canoeing, fishing, playing golf, practicing yoga, SUPin, and much more!

Go. Let yourself Relax. Be inspired.

For more information, check out Sanibel Captiva’s tourism website.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @mermanda_

September
16

#GetOutThere Guide: Columbia River Gorge

We’ve all seen photos of lush green foliage with a rushing waterfall cascading down the center. Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge is subject of many of these photographs with incredible views, hiking, and an extra special emphasis on the waterfalls!  MI OLA ambassador Becca is currently on an 8 month road trip with her husband traveling in a 38 year old Toyota Chinook. They take the time to explore diverse landscapes in every area they visit. Here Becca give us her insight into an epic day of chasing waterfalls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls 

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area boasts 292,500 acres of beautiful landscapes, incredible hiking, and the infamous waterfalls. The Gorge is just a short drive out of Portland making it a perfect after-work jaunt or a weekend getaway. There are a plethora of waterfalls. I could go on and on about how many days you could spend here, however, I’ve shortened the list to my favorites that YOU CAN SEE IN ONE DAY.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Multnomah Falls

Where to start/ How to get there:

From I-84, take exit 28 and follow the Historic Columbia River highway 3 miles to the Multnomah Falls parking area. You will want to arrive early as parking is limited and may be full by 9AM.

Multnomah Falls:

Begin your day early at Multnomah Falls to beat the crowd.  This is one of the most photographed waterfalls.  It’s a must see, but you don’t want to be jocking for space as you focus. Multnomah Falls, at 620 feet, is the 2nd tallest waterfall in the United States with over 2 million people visiting far and wide stopping to see her beauty.

Weisendanger Falls:

After viewing Multnomah Falls, hike along trail #441 (Larch Mountain Trail) up the switchbacks to the brink of the falls. Follow the trail up the creek to Weisendanger Falls. You can either continue on to complete a loop trail to view more waterfalls or continue back to the Multnomah Falls parking area.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Weisendanger Falls

Upon returning to the Multnomah Falls Parking Area, drive 2.2 miles east along the Historic Columbia River highway to Oneonta Creek. Park here along the side of the road in one of the pullouts, grab your MI OLA bikini and get ready to cool off from your hike in Oneonta Gorge!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Oneonta Gorge

Oneonta Gorge and Oneonta Falls:

From the parking area, head towards the obvious creek and start walking upstream. After a short ways, you will be met with a giant log jam. Carefully scramble over the logs. Pay close attention as they will most likely be wet. After scrambling over the log jam, continue walking upstream. You will shortly come to a narrow portion where you will be required to wade chest high in the creek. After wading through the water, you will be rewarded with Oneonta Falls!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Exploring Oneonta Gorge just after the log jam.

From the pullout next to Oneonta Creek, continue heading east along Historic Columbia River highway 0.5 miles to Horsetail Falls Trailhead.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Ponytail Falls

Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls:

From the Horsetail Falls trailhead, walk along trail #438 viewing Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls. Walk behind Ponytail falls and continue walking along the short trail to a gorgeous lookout of the Columbia River Gorge. Retrace your steps to the Horsetail Falls Trailhead.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge from the lookout just past Ponytail Falls

Upon returning to your vehicle at Horsetail Falls Trailhead, drive back west along the Historic Columbia River HWY to I-84. You’ve completed some of our favorite hikes in this beautiful landscape!

A few things to keep in mind:

  • These hikes are not considered strenuous, but be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.
  • The Columbia River Gorge is a very popular destination for locals and travelers alike. Respect the land, pick up trash and be courteous to other hikers.
  • The Columbia River Gorge can be accessed year round. Spring boasts the “most impressive” waterfalls with increased water volume. The waterfalls in Summer will offer relief for hot hikers. Autumn will reward hikers with beautiful leaves. Hikers in Winter can be awestruck with frozen waterfalls. Pick your season, it won’t disappoint!

 

LODGING & EATS

  • The Columbia River Gorge does not have much to offer in the lodging department. It would be best to stay near or in Portland.
  • The only food options in our waterfall guide are located at Multnomah Lodge. Reservations are recommended for a table at Multnomah Lodge. However, they do have a small snack bar with coffee. Packing a lunch with lots of hiking snacks is a great option to keep yourself going!

Happy Travels Mermaids!

 

Be sure to check out Becca’s guides to Southern Utah and Northern California Highway 1!

 

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

September
2

#GetOutThere Guide: Northern California Highway 1

 

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

MI OLA ambassador Becca just spent over 3 weeks traveling up the coast of Northern California along Highway 1. She is in the middle of an 8 month journey around the American and Canadian West discovering the most incredible landscapes along the way. Read on to plan your own NorCal Highway 1 journey!

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Highway 1 twists and turns through massive Old Growth Redwood Forests, traverses across rocky shorelines and takes the traveler through vistas one can only imagine. Exploring Northern California along Highway 1 is not a quick 70mph drive. Although Google Maps says the 324 mile trip from Bodega Bay to Crescent City takes just over 7 hours, you’ll want at least 4 days! My husband and I spent over 3 weeks exploring the coastline by backpacking the Lost Coast Trail, hiking among the Redwoods and finding private beaches along the way. We narrowed down our favorite spots just for you!

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Backpacking along The Lost Coast. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The Best Backpacking Trip

The Lost Coast Trail is located in the King Range National Conservation Area – which encompasses over 68,000 acres of wilderness along 35 miles of untouched shoreline. Enthusiastic backpackers enjoy a one-way, 25 mile trip along the shoreline with awe-inspiring views for the entire way. This backpacking trek does require a shuttle unless you would like to double the mileage. We backpacked a small portion of The Lost Coast Trail departing from Black Sands Beach. Don’t forget to register for a permit and rent a bear canister! If you want to spend more time on the Lost Coast Trail, check out our more in depth Lost Coast Trail #GetOutThere Guide by Ashley B.!

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Mountain biking in Jackson Demo State Forest. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The Best Mountain Biking

A mountain biking paradise lies right outside one of the larger towns along HWY 1, Fort Bragg. The biking is in the Jackson Demo State Forest, just a few miles outside of town. There is enough singletrack that any biker will have fun for days and chances are you won’t see a soul! This area boasts soft trails through a towering Redwood Forest. What’s not to love?! Stop in Fort Bragg at Fort Bragg Cyclery for more info and directions.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The Best Beaches

EVERYWHERE! Literally everywhere. While we were traveling along the coast, we drove an average of about 30 miles/day stopping at every beach we saw along the road that looked promising. Our rule of thumb – If there’s a beach, stop and soak up the sun! Some of our favorites were in Salt Point State Park, Sonoma Coast State Park and MacKerricher State Park.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

The Best Day Hikes

The Humboldt Redwoods in Northern California boasts the largest remaining old-growth forest of coast redwoods. It’s impossible not to be humbled and inspired all at the same time as you’re meandering through the forest. These trees live up to 2,000 years and can be over 200 ft tall. Stop at a visitor center to learn more about these impressive trees and find the right trail for you!

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Hiking in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

The Best Place to Get Off The Grid

If you’re looking for a place to get off the beaten path, Usal Beach at Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is your paradise! To get to this deserted beach and hiking paradise, visitors need to travel along a very steep, narrow and rough dirt road for 6 miles. From the trailhead, hike along the beautiful coast and through a Redwood grove for sweeping, 360-degree views. Don’t forget ample food and water as there aren’t any modern facilities. Usal Beach is camping only.

California is known for being sunny and 75 almost every day of the year. Lucky you, this means you can plan your road trip anytime you feel the need to get away! Be aware that this area can become quite crowded during the summer months because of families on vacations.

 

 

What to Bring and Where to Sleep

Your journey along HWY 1 will consist of a whole lot of gorgeous scenery and not a whole lot of amenities. The sleepy coastal towns that you’ll pass through will provide gas, one or two B&Bs, a local restaurant and the obligatory bar. First, decide if you’d like to camp (many people choose this option as there are a plethora of campgrounds along the route) or stay in a plush bed! You can’t go wrong with either! I’d recommend bringing the following whether camping or not.

• Reusable Water Bottles or a Water Jug – There aren’t too many public drinking sources along the way. Make sure you don’t get dehydrated and fill up along the way!

• Snacks, and lots of them! – As you’re traveling along HWY 1, you won’t see many options for quick eats. Pack a cooler with lunch food and snacks to avoid hanger!

• Athletic clothes to enjoy the outdoors, hiking boots or good walking shoes and plenty of SPF.

• Your favorite MI OLA bikini!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Becca.- @roamwildandfree

 

August
5

#GetOutThere Guide: Rio de Janeiro

Sun, Samba, surf, Caipirinhas, Carnival, Copacabana, bikinis, beach, football, Havaianas, sophisticated beach city, amazing landscapes, and a massive urban forest are just a few of the wonderful things that come to mind when you think about Rio de Janiero.  This city is amazing to visit anytime.  And now- starting today – it’s hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics.

MI OLA Brand Ambassador Ashley Averill(@theviewfrom6ft), visited Brazil for Carnival earlier this year.  Here is her scoop on Rio and its outdoor adventures  just in time for the opening ceremony of the 2016 summer games. If you are in Rio for the Olympics, or just planning a trip anytime, check out our #GetOutThere Guide to Rio de Janeiro.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

#GetOutThere Guide: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ashley grew up in the beach town of Clearwater, Florida with a love of all things water-related and shopping. She now lives in Texas working as an engineer and takes every opportunity she gets to travel, with her most recent adventure to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro sits on the Atlantic coast of Brazil and is the country’s second-largest city. The city is home to over 6 million locals, known as “Cariocas”. The year-round temperature averages  70-80 Fahrenheit, which means you can grab an Uber (equipped with a surfboard rack) and head the beach, hike from the city streets up to rain forest covered mountains, or if you dare, get a running start and jump off these same mountains to hang glide.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

Hike:

While New York has Central Park, Rio has Tijuca National Park. Framing the city opposite of the Atlantic Ocean, this urban rain forest is home to miles of trails, waterfalls, monkeys, and most famously, the Christ the Redeemer statue. Most visitors get to Christ the Redeemer by train or bus, but MI OLA girls believe hiking beats hours spent waiting on transportation.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

To find the trail head, enter the forest behind the old mansion at Parque Lage, a property owned by the city’s botanical gardens, and follow signs to Corcovado, the name of the mountain the famous statue sits on (translates to “Hunchback”). Most of the 6km uphill hike is a natural staircase formed from tree roots. There is one scramble up a rock face, and the final stretch of hike is along the road. There are many online blog posts and guides for the hike, but it definitely is worth a Google search and a read to ensure you know where you are going.

As always, please go with friends, and let others know of your planned hike.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

Paraglide and Hang Glide:

Farther south in the park, the lush peak of Pedro Bonita (literally “beatific rock”) offers year round paragliding and hang gliding! Both involve trustfully running off a cliff strapped to a tandem master.  Paragliding uses a soft parasail with the flyers in a seated position, while hang gliding uses a triangle-shaped wing supported by a rigid frame with the flyers in a horizontal position. Paragliding can offer longer flight times for heavier passengers, but doesn’t get as close to the “I’m a bird” feeling as hang gliding.

To take part in either, head to Voo Livre in the Sao Conrado neighborhood. At the end of the road on the right-hand side there is a small hut that’s crowded with people early in the day. You’ll know it’s the right place if the sky above is speckled with the small multicolored silhouettes of the other flyers. In the small hut a demo video plays on loop to get future flyer’s adrenaline going and their hands reaching for their Brazilian Reals (currency in Brazil) – cash payments will get a better deal.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

Before each flight there’s some quick paperwork to fill out. It helps to have your passport number and an introduction to your tandem master. Before ever getting to the beach hut in Sao Conrado, most tourists are offered a hang gliding or paragliding excursion from hotels or friendly Cariocas on the street. It is advised to avoid these offers, booking through these middle-men takes more time, costs more money, and most aren’t official tourist bookers, but rather locals who leverage speaking English and Portuguese to earn a profit.

Go early in the day. Each tandem master has a limited number of flights they are permitted to do a day. After lunch many of the guides will have already exhausted their flights.

Hop in the car with your tandem master behind the wheel and the wings or parasail in the back.  You’ll get a quick briefing during the drive into the forest. Once on top of Pedro Bonita, you’ll meet the other flyers and tandem masters. Each flyer/tandem master pair practices running in sync for take-off a few times, making sure to maintain speed and not look down. Once confident with your running off a cliff skills it’s time to get strapped into the paraglider/hang glider and wait for the right wind.

While you might be nervous, rest assured.  The tandem masters do this a few times a day, every day.  Many of them compete or hold records in the sport.  So trust them. For instance, my tandem master held the South American record for longest flight time- 8.5 hrs! Our flight was breathtaking, but much shorter at around 5 minutes.  (Flight time can vary a lot depending on weight and wind conditions.) The flight offered bird’s-eye views of Christ the Redeemer in the distance, the clear teal ocean, and Rio’s many neighborhoods below. The flights land at Pepino Beach, not far from the hut where flyers fill out paperwork.

The key to landing is the same as take-off: run as fast possible and look straight ahead. Try to avoid tripping and face planting into to the sand as I did!

Beach:

Once you’re back at the beach, swim or paddle out to cool off and then dry off on the sand! To blend in don’t bring a towel to the beach as Cariocas either sit on sarongs, rent chairs along the beach, or just enjoy sandy cheeks. In Rio, the less bikini the better – pack your MI OLA Casita Boythong or Thong Tha Thong and you will fit right in!

Drink:

As you sit on the beach, a wandering Caipirinha salesman will pass. Buy one! The Caipirinha is made out of Cachaça (similar to rum), limes and sugar. It is the national cocktail of Brazil and a perfect anytime drink, but is especially good freshly muddled under the hot sun. All sorts of flavors of Cachaça and Caipirinhas can be found all around Rio, with the most memorable flavor being Cachaça de Jambu. Jambu is a Brazilian leafy green herb that causes the tongue and throat to tingle and go numb. Taking a shot Cachaça de Jambu had my life flashing before my eyes way more than hang-gliding did.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

Eat:

Most mornings in Brazil begin with an acai smoothie from a local juice shop. (Acai is a small red-purple berry from a palm which is high in antioxidants and is said to boost energy- beyond being flat out delicious.) Almost every street has a small open aired juice shop, with a few stools along the counter and pile of fresh fruit behind the counter. Common tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, guava are offered, as well as amazonian fruits such as cashew fruit, guarana, pitanga and the most famous, acai. Grab and go pasteis (fried meat and cheese-filled pockets) and Pao de Queijo (cheese bread) will also tempt you from the glass display boxes at the juice shops. For more sustainable food to fuel adventures, look for flavorful stews, hearty rice and beans (black beans and rice, or Feijao, is a Brazilian staple), and authentic sushi (Brazil has more Japanese immigrants than any other country).

Where to Stay:

The best places to stay in town are along the beach. In particular, Ipanema blends tourists, trendy locals, and the LGTB party crowd. It offers options from hostels to luxury hotels. Bonus points to any lodging in the east side of Ipanema that is positioned walking distance to the General Osório subway station.

Copacabana is a good plan B, although it has become more commercially touristy. While in town check out the slightly inland neighborhoods of Botafogo for brunch, Santa Teresa for an art gallery walk, and Lapa for nightlife.

The business focused Centero, the true downtown of Rio, doesn’t offer much for tourists. It is best to avoid on weekends and nights when it is empty and possibly seedy.

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft

Transportation:

The best tip for getting around Rio de Janerio is Uber. Uber is great because the same app that works at home in the US will work in Rio. The digital interface allows users to enter the destination and have confidence that the driver is going to the right place without putting their Portuguese skills to a test.

Rio even has UberEnglish and UberSurf for those willing to pay a few extra Reals for an English speaking driver or a surfboard rack. When out of Wi-fi range, the city also offers taxis (though not too many taxi drivers speak English so be prepared with a written address), two subway lines and buses (the most cost effective option).

For transportation to Rio the city has two airports: Santos Dumont for domestic connections and Galeao-Antonio Carlos (GRU) for international flights.

Tchau and enjoy your travels MI OLA babes!

Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Ashley A.- @theviewfrom6ft