October
20

#GetOutThere Guide: Tampa, Florida

MI OLA Ambassador @MarinJayden is a yogi, mother, influencer, speaker, author, and entrepreneur who recently relocated with her family from the Big Island of Hawaii to Tampa, Florida. One of Marin’s favorite things to do is to get out there with her family, especially if yoga and anything active are involved. We caught up with this gorgeous and talented mermaid to get the scoop on Tampa – – check it out below!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

Florida is often taken for granted and underrated when it comes to mainland destinations in the U.S. After living in Hawaii for a few years we wanted to find a destination that was in between the tropical sunshine of the islands and the social bustle of Southern California. We thought we’d give Tampa, Florida a try. With it’s gorgeous landscapes and endless beach fronts, Tampa has so much to offer in nature as it does in the city. Check out my #GetOutThere Guide below!

#GetOutThere Guide: Tampa, Florida

What to Do:

Beaches:

What’s a getaway if it isn’t complete with a beach trip? Fortunately, Tampa has more beachfront than you can imagine with many options available. Some of the favorite ocean beachfronts in Tampa are; Clearwater Beach know for it’s crystal beachfronts, St. Pete Beach stocked with restaurants and boutiques, and Honeymoon Island low key, perfect for families and a relaxed beach day. 

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

Nature:

Florida landscapes are just beautiful and there are plenty of places you can soak in as much as you want. If you’re looking to get some sun and water, the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a wonderful place to walk the Tampa Riverwalk and stop for a place to cool off. It’s also a great space to bring the family!  If you’re looking for more wildlife the Lettuce Lake Regional Park provides plenty of greenery and animal sightings like gators and birds. These are just a few places you can explore for your nature fix. However, there are endless parks and trails all around the Tampa Bay area.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

Thrills:

Whether you’re a thrill seeker or looking for some experiential entertainment, Tampa is loaded with plenty of amusement parks from Busch Gardens to the Florida Aquarium, or Adventure Island and the Museum of Science and Industry. Enjoy an exciting adventure that best suits your style.

Culture:

From the Straz Performing Arts Center to the Tampa Museum of Art there are many venues that offer insights to culture and arts. Be sure to check out the host of Cuban restaurants, nightclubs, and historic architecture in the heart of Tampa Bay City.

As you can see, Tampa has a lot to offer. And if that isn’t enough for you don’t forget Orlando, Miami, and the Florida Keys!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

Where to Eat:

Ocean Prime for fine seafood dining
Brocato’s Sandwhich Shop – for penny-saving bites
Columbia Restaurant – Spanish & Cuban with vegan and gluten-free options!
Ulele – Seafood! Also with Vegan / GF options
Bahama Breeze – Caribbean!
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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Marin- @marinjayden

How to Get There:

Either fly into Tampa International airport, or if driving take I-75 or I-4.

Where to Stay:

Tampa has a plethora of options for any budget, from hotels, motels, to AirBnbs!

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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!

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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)!

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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)!

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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.

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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!

 

June
9

#GetOutThere Guide: Cuba

Cuba is on everyone’s radar, especially since travel for Americans has become more lenient in the past year. Traveling to Cuba is like stepping back in time, to a time when the internet didn’t rule over our attention and days went by slowly. Friendly smiles greet you as you stroll lazily around town. For American travelers, travel is still restricted to a dozen broad categories in order to obtain a visa.  Once you get this detail sorted, check out this biking guide by MI OLA brand ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri) to #GetOutThere in Cuba!

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

#GetOutThere Guide: Cuba

We arrived in to Havana mid-week, in the afternoon. The sun was blazing. After a Rocky Mountain winter, there is nothing like Caribbean humidity! Long distance biking was at the top of our list so we headed directly to a small bike shop to set ourselves up for a week in Cuba. The best part about this trip was the minimal planning, which set us up for many moments of adventure and spontaneity. The only plan we had upon arrival was to rent bikes, aim toward Trinidad and take each day as it was.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Day 1: Bike ~20 km from Havana to Guanabo.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Havana is bustling, full of locals and tourists, cars older than my grandparents, beautiful architecture and crumbling buildings. All together in one city, beside the sea. The energy of the city will bring you to life! Our bike path wandered along residential streets and along busy streets. We eventually met the ocean and followed along the shoreline until we arrived at the ferry dock. A ferry is one of two options to cross from Havana to Casa Blanca: cars and buses commute through a tunnel and cyclists and pedestrians travel by ferry. The adventure in Cuba began!

Biking out of the city and into the country felt invigorating and inspiring. We biked through small towns, heading west. The hills are sustained and the descents are refreshing. At times the ocean was in our view, watching the sun move effortlessly through the humid air. As the sun approached the horizon, it was clearly time to discover accommodations for the first night. “Casa Particulares” are home stay lodging options that range from hostel style rooms to private apartments. Government authorized Casas display a blue and white symbol on the entry way. Rooms can be reserved in advance but since internet usage is so limited here, we decided to find a room by biking around each evening in the local town.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Day 2: Bike ~80 km from Guanabo to Matanzas.

We woke up to a view of the ocean from our Casa. On the second day, the bikes felt heavy. We loaded up our things, strapped everything on, and trudged up the first hill of the day. It seemed that our initial optimism drowned out the reality of many hill climbs. I highly recommend a topography map or a slower pace if you have intentions to bike around Cuba!

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Day 3: Beach Day!

Its hard to believe that we spent a week on a Caribbean Island and only got a single beach day! I packed four MI OLA bikinis, hopeful that I would find myself living in them, beachside everyday. But the long mileage objectives the first couple of days meant that we had limited beach access. This morning, I made clear that we weren’t doing anything important- I needed to feel the sand between my toes, the exfoliation on my tired body, and the warm salt water to revive me!

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

With some pieced-together Spanish dialogue, we found the local bus, which is really just some benches in the back of a big truck, and headed to Varadero. This peninsula is a resort filled area with a stunning 18km long beach. Initially we were concerned it was too developed and wouldn’t be peaceful. But, to our surprise, it was sleepy enough, and we found a slice of heaven on a nearly deserted beach. The water was so blue, with some of the most beautiful shades of aquamarine I’ve never seen before. The fine sand is like magical fairy dust. I strapped on my goggles and walked into the great ocean. Floating in the water was perfection; letting the gentle movement of the waves carry me into shore and out to sea, back and forth.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Later, we found all the resorts we had worried about, but they are clumped into an area on the end of peninsula. Don’t let this change your plans to enjoy this beautiful area. You can walk along the long stretch of white sand, wander the streets of Varadero, or hike around the Reserva Ecologica Varahicacos (a nature preserve with a simple trail system). While resorts often seem ubiquitous with tourists, it should be noted that this area is also enjoyed by locals. It isn’t far from Havana (a couple hours by bus) so even a single day or night venture is possible.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Day 4-6: Havana City Exploration.

We headed back to Havana by bus after the reality of distance, humidity, and a short length of time shifted our biking objectives. When in Cuba, plan to move leisurely and without too much planning! Here, plans evolve, buses don’t rush, and people are just living a relaxed island lifestyle.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

I’m not much a city explorer; I prefer wide open spaces along the sea and in the mountains. But, here are some must sees in Havana:

Mercado Tulipa: The markets are the heart of the people. Everywhere I travel, I seek the markets to enjoy local fruits and vegetables, to find spices to bring home, and to enjoy the local foods. This market is just outside the city center. You can get here by bus, taxi, or a nice walk through some of the historics sites along the way.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Eat street food: In many places around the world, street food gets a bad reputation for making people sick. But, this is where the local flavors are and for cheap! For less than a dollar you can enjoy fresh breads piled with smoked meat, arroz con griz (rice and beans), and fresh juices. La Riviera in the heart of downtown offered the absolute best Pan con Lechon! Think fresh rolls with freshly sliced pork roast, a pinch of salt and some pepper infused vinegar. So delicious! And don’t forget to get an orange soda to wash it all down. Enjoy the bustling city street as you sit on the sidewalk and basque in the energy of Havana.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Callejon de Hamel: On Sunday at 12pm every week, locals and tourists gather in an alleyway that has been covered in art. It is a cultural hub for Afrocubana art and music. There is live music, dancing, good food, galleries to explore and art hanging from ornately created pillars of what most would consider junk. It is beautiful and vibrant. If you visit any other day, it is likely to be much quieter than Sundays- this is the gathering day! At every turn, your imagination will come to life.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Coppelia: Cubans love their ice cream. There are little spots to get a cone of delicious ice cream all over the place. But here at Coppelia, it’s a scene worth seeing. Stand in line for a while then get guided into the largest ice cream parlor you’ve probably ever seen. Its a gathering place for the local people and well worth a visit. They only serve ice cream in a variety of ways- scoops, sundaes, shakes. But only ice cream!

Walk around: Make time to walk around the city. The architecture, corridors of culture, colors and energy are best enjoyed by foot. There is so much to see and feel that this experience should not be rushed. If you want to cover a little more ground, consider a bike rental. Ruta Bikes offers an inexpensive bike rental with lock, helmet, and everything you need to stroll around the city. At some point, jump in an old classic car to feel the energy of the 50s, but trust me on the walking part- move slow.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Other Cuba Tips:

Get out of the city! Beautiful beaches, lush green forest, sleepy fishing villages, and a truly connected experience exist away from the bustling city. Bike, train, bus, taxi, and car are all great options for exploring. Many locals bike so drivers are very respectful and give plenty of space (except in the tight city streets). Trains are few and slow. Buses are relatively frequent yet they are not cheap. There are a few types of public transportation, but many are segregated between locals and tourists. If you are well spoken in Spanish and can talk your way on to a co-operativo bus, you are guaranteed friendly interaction with local people. The tourist buses are more comfortable, with air conditioning and wi-fi, but the local modes of transport are vibrant and give beautiful insight to how the people move. Taxis are a great way to get around the city or across short distances, but they will get quite expensive if you intend to use them for long distances. Be sure to agree on a taxi price before getting in. Lastly, cars are an option for exploration although without personal experience with renting, insurance, etc, I don’t have much to offer for tips.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

Don’t expect to find much wi-fi connection. For the moments when a connection is absolutely necessary, locate a wi-fi park on a map. Yes, its an outdoor plaza where there is a random internet connection. Look for someone selling wi-fi cards at about $3 cuc for an hour. Where the people are congregating is likely the best connection. Then log on and enjoy your brief connection into modern time…then log off and enjoy the simplicity of life without constant connection.

Download Cuba maps on Maps.me . These maps are great for seeing wi-fi zones (parks with wi-fi), casa particulares, playas (beaches), and more.

When: We visited in early May. The weather was hot, & humid: island perfection!

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

How to get there: Flying in and out of Havana from the states is simple and direct. While Havana has a lot of character and historic sites to see, I highly recommend wandering outside the city to truly experience the Cuban culture.

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Photo by MI OLA ambassador Briana (@wanderlovebri)

May
26

#GetOutThere Guide: Florida Keys Roadtrip

Road trips are a great American classic. There’s just something about having the radio on and volume up, windows down, and pedal to the metal that invokes an element of mystery and excitement unlike any other way to travel. Follow our ambassador Amanda (@Mermanda_) on a mermaid style road trip down the Florida keys where she uncovers and discovers sunken treasures in her own backyard.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

The MI OLA girls guide to a Florida Keys Road Trip 

The Florida Keys are an archipelagic collection of 43 islands connected by a 113 mile, 42 bridge leap frog roadway known as the Overseas Highway.

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On this journey we’re starting at the top, mile marker (MM) 102.5 Key Largo, John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park. The first underwater park in the United States and home to Christ of the Abyss, the underwater Jesus statue. While most of the park is underwater, the coral rock beaches are a truly keysie spot for ocean side meditations, a yoga class inspired by the sea, and pirate style exploring through the mangroves. If you stay long enough you’ll probably catch a glimpse of a few marine mammals, if not, cruise on down to our next stop.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

 

Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, MM 84.5, is home to rescued sea turtles, sea sions, and dolphins turned educators. The trainers and residents of Theater of the Sea are eager to tell you all about proper use, disposal of and alternatives to plastics, as well as what fish to and not to eat right now. There are always new, innovative ways we can keep our oceans healthy, especially the Marine Sanctuary that is the Florida Keys.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

Also in Islamorada is an eclectic little must see known simply as “Robbie’s.” At MM 77.5 bayside  you can grab lunch, check out some local art, and you can …wait for it… HAND FEED wild, 200 pound, 6 foot long, giant scale-y Megalops sea monster’s, commonly known as Tarpon. Yep, adrenaline is a go and you’re gonna need a MI OLA suit for this one!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

While we’re on the subject of “Hand Feeding Things Your Mother Doesn’t Want You Anywhere Near,” head south 25 miles and you will find Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. A fully interactive aquarium where you can feed, by hand, everything from sharks and stingrays to turtles and rainbow fish.

For more adrenaline adventures and action sports check out Keys Cable. They have a full menu of board sports for which you’re gonna want your MI OLA. Most of their offerings can be done on site in their 5 acre lagoon; read: wake boarding, paddle boarding, SUP yoga. If the winds are right they can take you and teach you to kite board.

Also located in Marathon, Florida, affectionately known as “the Heart of the Keys” is Sol Shine Yoga at MM 50.5. This your yoga studio for hot, private, aerial, yin, and even full moon beach yoga.

Check out Amanda’s #GetOutThere Guide to Marathon, FL.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

 

Keep heading south over the Seven Mile Bridge, through Keys with crazy names like Cudjoe, Sugarloaf, and Shark, another 50 miles or so and you will reach MM 0; Key West – the southern most point in the United States where you’re closer to Cuba than to a Wal-Mart, we like it like that.

Key West is a world of it’s own. There is so much to see and do; a stroll though the butterfly sanctuary, wreck and reef diving until your heart’s content, parasailing, or bar crawling in the footsteps of some of the great paradise dreamers like Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney, and Ernest Hemingway. Of course, you could also spend days, or years, relaxing on the beach sipping rum runners, margaritas, and Miami vices.

The only downside to this MI OLA girls dream is the limitation on where to stay. Camping is hard to come by, hotels can be pricy, and Air BnB’s aren’t always allowed. Check out the hostel in Key West or Gulf View Resort on Grassy Key as your home base for this once in a lifetime, passport not required, road trip.

Go, #getoutside!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @Mermanda_

May
19

Last Minute Memorial Day Weekend Ideas

Mermaids, we have made it to the start of another summer! With Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start to summer next weekend, if you’re like us and can’t believe how fast this year is going, then you may have forgotten to make Memorial Day plans. But, we have your covered – – with surf bikinis AND some awesome last minute Memorial Day Weekend trip ideas! Check it out below:

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Andrea V- @vitiviti

 

Last Minute Memorial Day Weekend Ideas

Day Trip to Rockaway or Long Beach
Calling all New York City + surrounding area mermaids! Escape the concrete jungle, hop on the ferry, the subway or LIRR, and head to the beach. Two of our favorites are within an hour train ride from Manhattan. And the best part? You don’t even have to worry about finding a hotel or AirBnB – – Rockaway and Long Beach are perfect day trip destinations.

Check out our Surf Guides to Rockaway and Long Beach

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Sanibel Island, FL

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 and 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!

Check out our Guide to Sanibel Island

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Amanda- @mermanda_

 

 

Have Fun in the Mountains in Lake Tahoe
The Lake Tahoe Basin has the glistening gem of a lake at its heart; ideal for summer swims, reading on the beach, paddle boarding, and kayaking. The lake is approximately 72 miles around, by road, and makes for a beautiful, scenic drive; Emerald Bay is a highlight of the drive; a natural bay surrounded by steep mountainous terrain jutting from its edges. The Tahoe Rim Trail is an amazing long distance hike that circumferences the lake, in and out of state park land, wilderness, and forest.

Check out our guide to Lake Tahoe

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Briana- @openheartadventure

 

Road Trip(!) to the Outer Banks
Hop in the car, and head to the Outer Banks, a 200 mile long barrier island that sits off the coast of North Carolina in the Atlantic Ocean. With ocean on one side and the Pamlico Sound on the other, the sun rises and sets on the water. Be sure to pack all of your outdoor gear, as the Outer Banks offers something for every outdoor enthusiast, fishing, hang gliding, world class surfing, kite boarding, windsurfing, SUP boarding, jet skiing, boating, kayaking, biking, or just relaxing on the beach!

Check out our #GetOutThereGuide to the Outer Banks and our Surf Guide to OBX.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

 

Costa Rica
Itching to hop on a plane and travel outside of the USA for the long weekend? Costa Rica has many direct flights from all over the continental US, perfect for a quick getaway. Our tropical home base, Costa Rica is paradise for surfers and outdoor enthusiasts. Some of our favorite beaches to surf and explore included Tamarindo, Playa Avellanas, Playa Grande, and Playa Guiones.

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Lifestyle photo shoot for Kim (@_thesunnyside_) at The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica. Kim is wearing a MI OLA surf bikini. Photographed by Kristen M. Brown, Samba to the Sea Photography.

Kim (@_thesunnyside_) photographed by MI OLA team rider Kristen M. Brown, Samba to the Sea (@sambatothesea).

 

 

 

May
5

#GetOutThere Guide Turks and Caicos

If you’re seeking amazing tropical turquoise waters, relaxation and quiet, head to Turks and Caicos.  These islands are visually stunning and any beach dwellers dream. The islands do not draw the large crowds of other more developed Caribbean islands, but don’t let that fool you. This place is a jewel. We caught up with world traveller and MI OLA ambassador Ashley B. to get the inside info on these islands. Check out her #GetOutThere Guide to Turks and Caicos below.

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

 

The Islands:
Providenciales is the most popular and populated of the Turks and Caicos islands.  While the other islands are equally beautiful, you need to take a ferry, private chartered boat, or inter island flight to travel between them.  Some of the islands are uninhabited. Nearby the island shores are “cays”.  These smaller bodies of land are accessible only by boat. The cays are white sand beaches only a few inches above the ocean reef. Some cays are private property, so be mindful of possible trespassing when arriving ashore.

Best Beaches:
Sapodilla Bay
Malcolm’s Beach
Pirates Cove-west harbor

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

What to Do:
Fishing: Most areas inside the reef are protected, so no fishing unless you’re outside the reef. There is ample fishing to be had, however a charter can be expensive. So if possible, bring your own gear and rent a boat for a morning or day. This will save you money and make the experience more personal.

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Boating: When renting a boat for the day, be sure to get a navigation GPS system and a map. While Providenciales is fairly easy to navigate, the waters are more challenging. There are shallow reefs and rocks which can be a problem if you don’t know your way around the waters. Visit the other nearby “cays” and enjoy a secluded beach to yourself. You may also want to dock your boat in the Blue Haven marina or Turtle Cove marina for a bite to eat or a drink.

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.


Snorkeling: Snorkeling in the shallow waters or coral gardens is beautiful. You can expect to see starfish, sea turtles, various types of fish, lobsters, sharks, and sting rays. Having your own gear is easiest as you will likely want to snorkel at most beaches and reef sites.

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Diving: Best if you are certified before your trip. Beginner dives (resort dives) include pool simulation and the depth for diving is only 40ft. This is a very expensive experience. Anticipate $300 for resort dive and $150-$200 for a 2 tank dive if certified.
Other activities include kayaking, paddle boarding, walking/running on the mile long beaches
Where to Dine:
Bella Luna is an Italian restaurant with very cool ambiance and delicious food. Order a homemade pasta dish or any of their fish entrees.
Shark Bite is a casual island food eatery located on the marina in Turtle Cove. This is a great place for a cocktail or simple bite to eat. The conch fish and chips are best.
Da Conch Shack is located right on the beach. Put your feet in the sand as you sip on the rum punch and snack on the conch fritters.
Coco Bistro is an upscale restaurant serving delicious eclectic dishes that are unlike anything else on the island. This restaurant has a reputation as one of the best restaurants on the island. Make a reservation in advance!
Las Brisas is the best place by far on the island. The food and the view are unparalleled. Everything on the menu is amazing and cooked to perfection. This is a small restaurant located right on Chalk Sound. Be sure to make a reservation before sunset.

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

Getting Around:
A car is a necessity. We were able to rent one through our Airbnb. You don’t need anything fancy or a 4 wheel drive, just something to get you around the island. I wouldn’t recommend a scooter as the weather is variable and the roads are not always accessible via scooter. The best desolate and secluded beaches are only accessed by dirt roads and some rocky terrain. There is one main road on the island-leeward highway. Navigating around the island is very easy, but ask for a map if possible. Remember to drive on the opposite side of the road than the US!

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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

 

Where to Stay:
Airbnb or VRBO is the best bet. The hotels and resorts in the Grace Bay area are nice but are overrated. The resorts cater to an “all inclusive” type vacation and this area of the island is not only popular, but also pricey. We stayed at the “Sweet Escape” in Turtle Cove. We were even able to rent their Jeep vehicle as well as their Triton boat for two days! This was a more affordable and convenient way to go for us.

 

What to Anticipate:
The islands use USD as the currency. This makes purchasing most items very easy. Credit cards are accepted in most places. Everything is imported,  and thus has a fairly expensive price tag. Don’t be surprised by the high price of grocery items. Anticipate $50 for a 24 pack of beer. It’s worth it to bring whatever items possible in your luggage as you will be shocked by the cost of the simple necessity items. A cooler and picnic is the more thrifty route compared to eating at the eateries on the island.

What to Bring:
Bug spray- mosquitos and no-see-ums are common on the island depending on the time of year
Sunscreen- non greasy is best due to humidity
Snorkel gear- cheaper than renting, although some Airbnb and VRBO rentals may provide this
Light clothing- evenings are warm so no need to bring heavy clothing
MI OLA bikini!
Getting there:
While getting there may be long and a little pricey, be sure to check flights connecting through other nearby cities. Providenciales is a smaller airport and the island itself is not as commonly traveled as the other nearby islands. Anticipate the airfare to be $600-$700 average roundtrip.
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MI OLA Ambassador Ashley B.

April
28

#GetOutThere Guide: Grand Cayman

We have amazing brand ambassadors. They inspire us to #getoutthere every day and are always on the move, especially Jen P. (@flentil). From the Galapagos, Costa Rica, running marathons, sunrise SUP sessions, to the Grand Caymans, this mermaid certainly keeps us on our toes! Jen just got back from a recent trip to the Grand Caymans and here’s her guide. Check it out!

 

Caribbean Paradise: Grand Cayman

For the last 5 years, my family has made Grand Cayman an annual destination. Every year, we think we’re going to change it up and go somewhere new, but we love it too much!  The crystal clear, turquoise water, the sultry warm air and the amazing sea life keep bringing us back.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

What to Do:

Snorkeling

The main activities on Grand Cayman are water-based, naturally!  Vibrant reefs and the famous Cayman Wall offer incredible opportunities for diving and snorkeling. There are wonderful spots to check out pretty much everywhere.  Even right in downtown George Town, there is an amazing marine park, Devil’s Grotto and Eden Rock.  Enter from South Church Street – you can park right at Paradise Seaside Grill and the entrance to the water is just to one side of the restaurant.  And Paradise is a great place to enjoy a post snorkel or dive meal with pleasant, shaded outdoor seating right on the water.  You can also go one building up the road to the Eden Rock Diving Center for another entry point to the marine park – plus, they have rental snorkel and dive gear if you don’t have your own.

You can swim out from the beach pretty much all up and down Seven Mile Beach to enjoy fun snorkel adventures, but further north on Seven Mile Beach is Cemetery Beach, where there is a really nice snorkeling spot.  You do have to swim out about 100 yards to get there.  The beach is just behind – you guessed it – a local cemetery.  As you pass by the cemetery from the road to the beach, please be respectful!

Another well-known snorkel spot is Rum Point. Located on the East Side of the Island, it’s about a 45 minute drive from Seven Mile Beach.  It’s a great spot for young kids – the water is quite shallow. There is a pretty fun, short stretch of rocks with many little reef fish in about 5 feet or water that is accessible just to the right of the dock out past the swimming areas.  For the adults and bigger kids, there is more snorkeling further out with amazing corals and larger fish. Be mindful of currents and boats. And if the wind is out of the east, it will be choppy with poor visibility.

 

If you plan to visit Rum Point, GO EARLY.  Rum Point is a popular destination for both on-island visitors as well as cruise ship guests so by lunch time it can get really busy!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

Diving

Because Grand Cayman is essentially the very top of a huge underwater mountain, the famous Cayman Wall runs around the island, dropping off in some places to 3000ft!  Because the wall faces all directions, there will almost always be at least one area suitable for diving regardless of conditions.  Dive shops abound on the island, along with reputable tour operators.  Do your homework and find one that is right for you!

 

Sting Ray City

You can’t really talk about Grand Cayman without mentioning Sting Ray City – it’s the largest tourist draw for the entire island. Each year, millions of people trek out to the shallow sandbars in North Sound. Southern Stingrays are literally everywhere!  They have become quite used to people, so even though they are still wild (which means they do still have the barb at the base of their tail) they are comfortable swimming around you.  Generally, someone from your boat’s crew will hold one for you to say hello to if you wish, or, if you’re like me, you can kind of go to the edge of things, away from the everyone else, and just enjoy swimming alone with these beautiful, enormous creatures.  This spot can become a bit of a spectacle, so if you plan to check it out, I definitely recommend going first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day, when the majority of other tours are gone.  Check out the “Breakfast with the Rays” tour offered by Red Sail, or there are lots of private charter options that will get you out there when fewer people are present.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

Fishing

My son’s passion is fishing, so every year we try to include a fishing charter of some kind.  Good fishing is as close as a quarter mile offshore, where the ocean floor drops off sharply, plummeting thousands of feet to create a natural thoroughfare for the big migratory pelagic species prized by anglers.

One of the Cayman Islands’ biggest attractions for anglers is that big fish run close to the coastlines of Grand Cayman. Popular gamefish such as blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado and barracuda are caught year-round. Water temperature varies annually only about 8 -10 degrees and the baitfish are here year-round – which means the bigger fish are too.

If you’re keen to fish, you can charter a boat for deep sea fishing, bottom reef fishing (sometimes more fun for young kids) and light tackle/fly fishing in the flats.  Pretty much every type of fishing option is present on Grand Cayman and there are countless outfits to show you the ropes!

You can fish from shore, and no license is required, as long as you practice catch and release…just be sure you are not in any protected marine park areas – and there are many of these, so check carefully before casting out.

Catch and release is strongly encouraged for all fishing in these waters – unless you know it will be your dinner, please release your catch!  Your guide will know seasons, limits and keeper sizes for the fish, or you can easily find this information online.

Sailing

There’s often a good breeze blowing around this island, so if you enjoy sailing, you can either rent a sailboat for yourself, or catch a ride to enjoy a trip to Stingray City, secret snorkel spots, or just to take in the sunset.

SUP

If you love SUP, this place is for you!  Beautiful clear water, there’s always something to see.  If you own a board, especially an inflatable, pack it up and bring it along.  Rentals are available on-island, but check into rates, because it can get expensive.  I strongly recommend getting out at daybreak or just before sunset, when the wind tends to be lightest and the sun won’t scorch you.  If you head out later, be sure to mind your sunscreen and pay attention to wind.  It can pick up quickly and I’ve seen a number of people, especially beginners, who needed help getting back to shore.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

George Town

George Town is the big city on the island, with many shops and restaurants if you feel like wandering around.  Keep an eye on the cruise ships that are docked because if there are several of them, downtown will be SUPER crowded until the mid-afternoon when their passengers head back to the ships for departure.  Other things located downtown include the Atlantis Submarine and they also have a glass bottom boat option.  These are cool ways to see all the underwater beauty if you are traveling with others who don’t snorkel or dive, or just if you need an adventure out of the sun in the middle of the day!

Queen Elizabeth II Royal Botanic Garden

Looking for an inland activity?  These botanic gardens are a great change of pace, especially on a cloudy day.  Enjoy the manicured paths, ponds and beautiful local flora. These gardens are one of the few places where you can see the now-endangered native blue iguana. The blue iguanas have been overrun by the non-native green iguanas, but they are keeping them safe within the boundaries of these gardens and you’ll see them in a few places as you walk around.

 

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

Getting around on Grand Cayman:

Depending on where you want to go, there are some easy shuttles you can take to get around, especially if you are going to some of the better known tourist destinations.  The island isn’t very big, only 22 miles long and 8 miles wide at its widest point.  Nothing is too far away, but the driving is a bit slow, so allow time.  Renting a car is a convenient way to get around and offers a lot of freedom to explore, but remember, they are a British Territory, so they drive on the left side of the road – be sure you are comfortable giving that a go!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

Where to Stay:

There are lots of choices to suit your budget and interests.  The most popular area is Seven Mile Beach because of its beautiful, white sandy beach and tranquil swimming.  The accommodations on Seven Mile Beach include hotels and condos.  House rentals can be found in other areas of the island, especially on the east side towards Rum Point.  There are numerous boutique hotels around the island as well.  Getting away from Seven Mile Beach will give you less hustle and bustle, but you may find that the beaches are rocky or not suitable for swimming so make sure you do your homework to make sure you find a place that suits your needs and interests.

What to Eat:

No surprise that you should order the fish any chance you get, it’s the freshest option.  And if you see lionfish on the menu, GET IT!  This species is highly invasive and causing all sorts of damage to the reefs.  By creating demand for this fish in restaurants, you are helping to control the local lionfish population.  Other local menu choices includes Caribbean jerk, escovitch and conch chowder.  In and around George Town there are loads of restaurant options.  We’ve enjoyed Paradise Grill (as I mentioned) as well as the Lobster Pot, which has a nice sunset view if you ask to sit outside and the kids always enjoy looking down at the tarpon swimming right around the docks.  You can get fantastic BBQ from Pepper’s Bar & Grill (they also do take-out and delivery).  Eats Cafe is a less expensive but super reliable place to grab a bite, it’s right on Seven Mile Beach across the road from the Westin.

If you head out of town towards the more residential areas such as Bodden Town, you may see some roadside jerk stands.  If you spot one and you’re hungry, definitely stop in!  The food is usually less expensive and REALLY good!

If you stay in a place that has a kitchen, there are several grocery stores in and around George Town…Kirk’s Market has a good selection.  If you see local avocados for sale, pick up a few, they are AWESOME!  A lot of food is imported, so you may have to pay more than you are used to for certain things.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

What to Bring:

It’s ALWAYS tropical – temperatures hover between 80s and 90s Fahrenheit, so you don’t need much!  Unless you are planning on a fancy dinner, you will be just fine with casual beachwear, tons of SPF, and an array of MI OLA bikinis…and DON’T forget your MI OLA rashie, because the rays are super strong!  My family tries to take a break from the sun daily between 11 and 2 or 3pm to ensure we don’t fry! If you have your own snorkel gear or SUP, of course, bring it along!  But it can all be rented if you want to travel light.

 

 

How to Get There:

If you live near a major city in the Central or Eastern parts of the US, there’s a decent chance you can fly direct and be on Grand Cayman in a matter of just a few hours.  Not gonna lie, the first time we went, my son was 5, so a direct flight had HUGE appeal. If you have kids, you get this!  But if finding the best airfare is your goal and you have more flexibility, definitely start looking well ahead of time and you’ll likely find some great deals.  The airport is small, so if you are visiting during peak season (Dec – April) you may run into really long lines getting through customs.  Totally worth it in the end, though!  Meanwhile, they are also upgrading the airport so perhaps this aspect of getting there will improve.

 

What are you waiting for???  Get out there and enjoy Grand Cayman!!

April
7

#GetOutThere Guide: Galapagos

When MI OLA brand ambassador Jen P. (@flentil)  isn’t running marathons, SUPing her local lake, running her son to and from his activities, or working, she is getting out there exploring our beautiful world. Last year, Jen ventured to the Galapagos Islands with her family. How awesome is that? We were fortunate to catch up with this super busy, active mom to get the insider info on traveling to the Galapagos. Check it out!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

Let’s Go, Galapagos!

Last summer, I had the rare opportunity to travel to the Galapagos Islands. If you love nature, exploring and travel, start saving now, because this trip is for you! The Galapagos Islands are home to many unique species that can only be found on these islands – in many cases, a species is only found on a single island even with the Galapagos. The wildlife is truly amazing, and even more incredible is that they don’t fear humans, which means you can view the animals in a much more intimate way than is normally possible. And if you are a photographer, you’ll be in heaven – photo ops abound!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

What to do: 

Explore!

Cruise or land-based? To see as much of the Galapagos as possible, it is highly recommended that you choose the live-aboard cruise option. Mind you, these are not huge Carribbean-Cruise ships with hotel-like amenities, amusements and hordes of people…the largest ship carries 90 passengers and most are smaller. However, due to how vast the area is between the islands, you will only be able to visit certain islands if you do a cruise, as they can take advantage of the overnight hours to travel to a new location for the next day. To do a land-based visit, there are 3 islands (San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz) that offer hotel and overnight accommodations. Visitors can then book day trips to nearby uninhabited islands, but the range of islands you will be able to visit will be limited by distance.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

Experiencing wildlife – up close and personal!

One of the wonderful aspects of the Galapagos is the opportunity to experience the animals up close. Most wildlife has no fear, and often little interest, in humans. This means you can take as long as you want to admire and photograph the island residents. Bring your cameras! In order to preserve this unique level of comfort with humans, interaction is carefully managed to ensure it remains respectful and minimally intrusive. All visits to the islands are accompanied by naturalists, who also serve as park rangers, and the areas that visitors are allowed to explore are restricted to a relatively small portion of the overall park lands. The naturalists who accompany you are a wonderful wealth of information about the wildlife, geology and plant life on the islands, so having them with you is super helpful. Most of the guides have grown up in the Galapagos, giving them a unique insight and appreciation for this special place.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

The underwater world of the Galapagos is not to be missed. If you are an experienced diver, the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) has granted tour permits to a select number of operators. Contrary to many people’s expectations, the water in the Galapagos is NOT tropical in temperature. When I went in late June, the water was consistently in the low-to-mid 60s, and a wetsuit was needed for any snorkeling excursion (even then, after an hour in the water I was blue and shivering – all worth it, though!). However, it is this cold-water upwelling that brings in the many nutrients that the marine wildlife rely upon, so it made for wonderful snorkeling. Turtles, sharks, penguins, sea lions, countless fish were all in abundance, along with the unique marine iguanas and numerous bird species.

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

Surfing

Yes, there are waves in the Galapagos! Bring your own board if surfing is your plan, you won’t be able to rent one. Surfing was not part of my visit, as I was on a cruise with my family, but I do have a friend who is an accomplished surfer who visited this past December and described the waves as world class. More on surfing in the Galapagos can be found here: http://surfgalapagos.com/index.html

Not Your Average Tropical Getaway

The air is warm, the water is blue…but this is not your typical island vacation by any means. Come to the Galapagos to learn, explore and appreciate one of the few remaining areas that haven’t completely been overrun by humans!

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Photo by MI OLA Brand Ambassador Jen P. @flentil

 

How to get there: 

The Galapagos Islands are quite isolated, so travel is lengthy. Generally, you’ll need to allow 2 days each way. One day to travel to Ecuador, and a second day to travel from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos. Flights depart daily from the cities of Guayaquil or Quito to one of the two airports in the Galapagos – located on Baltra and San Cristobal.

I can take little credit for the planning of my excursion: my parents had organized this trip over a year ago to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and they wanted to ensure that all of their kids and grandkids would be in attendance. For smaller groups, that amount of lead time isn’t needed, but you should still plan this trip about 6 months ahead because access to the islands is limited, so advance planning is highly recommended.

(Jen traveled to the Galapagos with Linblad Expeditions. A little pricier than other options, Linblad offers an all-inclusive experience, meaning that you don’t need to worry about many extra expenses once on your trip. Trips start around $6,500 for ten days.

April
1

#GetOutThere Guide Puerto Rico: Shacks Beach (Isabella)

When you’re looking for MI OLA ambassador Adrienne (@yokeens), you’ll find her in the water in the Outer Banks (OBX), or out traveling the world. In February, Adrienne traveled to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico for a tropical escape. Here’s her take on getting out there in Aguadilla.

 

#GetOutThere Guide Puerto Rico: Shacks Beach (Isabella)

Living in the Outer Banks offers months of beautiful weather, but during the winter it can get a little cold so it’s a perfect time to travel! Puerto Rico is the perfect get away as it offers awesome weather, great surf, and plenty of jungle to explore. Plus, it’s a quick and usually cheap flight! In February, I took off to Aguadilla in Puerto Rico for warm weather and to celebrate my 30th birthday!

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

 

What to Do:

SURF!!!

There are multiple spots to surf in this area.  The surf spots here are point breaks, meaning the wave is breaking from a certain point each time, which is most likely over reef or rock.  Each spot, depending on the conditions, will vary in size. They will be listed in small to BIG (but of course this could all change depending on weather/swell).

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Playa Rompe Olas: This is a small break located in downtown Aguadilla.  It breaks from a rock, but is a sandy bottom! Paddle out and sit by the rock for the best ride. There is a line up so be sure to use surfer etiquette and be aware of the locals. Mid to long boards would work here nicely. There is a nice beach with a bar across the street. This beach tends to busy especially on a holiday Monday. Don’t leave anything on the beach unattended as it could get stolen and don’t leave anything important visible in your car.

Wilderness beach: Getting to Wilderness beach is a challenge as the road is dirt and has major pot holes. Use caution! (We did make it to the parking area in a rental Hyundai Elantra.) The first peak right after the old lighthouse building will look really nice and most likely uncrowded. Here the waves can break left or right.  There is sand walk in, but the rest is rock/reef.  Getting out of the water in the right spot is tricky (I got sea urchined).  There was a lot of current when we went, so we were paddling just to stay in the same spot.  The second and most popular peak will be bigger and more crowded.  Again, getting in and out is hard because there will be rock/reef with urchins. The third peak is a walk past the large dirt parking area is the smallest and best choice for fewer people and more manageable waves.

Shacks Beach: At Shacks, there is only a small parking area to access the beach.  There are two main breaks. The one in front of Villa Sessions is better for SUPers as it has less push.  For the other peak, walk down to the sandy point, hop in (watch for urchins), drift to the left of the exposed rock, and there is a point break that rips right.  Careful, the reef here can get shallow and even fully exposed during low tides!

Playa Jobos:  This is a popular spot. It’s located right off a busy road with plenty of bars!  Try to find parking on the road or in one of the lots where you pay $5.  The beach is popping.  There’s a really great rock to the right where the waves hit and spray/explode (awesome picture opportunity!)  To surf, get in near that rock and paddle out to the break – it breaks right.  It’s a bit deeper here, but it does go over a reef.  Beginners should stay on the inside and catch white water.

 

EXPLORE:

There is plenty to do in a short drive like explore downtown Isabella, Aguadilla and Rincon, with great road side food trucks along the way. The driving around here is fast with little rules so be alert!

Gozalandia Hiking Arena:  Pathways to waterfalls and hiking in the jungle.  The water is a little cold but you can jump from the waterfalls and a rope swing! Pay to park/enter.

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Gozalandia. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Cabo Rojo: Located at the end of a dirt, pot hole filled road, this is a great way to spend the day! Bring water, picnic and set up on the beach after walking the trail that follows along the cliffs. Amazing views and the beach is white sand with beautiful flat warm water!

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Cabo Rojo. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

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Cabo Rojo. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Snorkeling/diving, SUPing, yoga, jungle hikes, local eats and horseback rides are just a few other activities to enjoy in this area!  US currency is used. Most people speak English or can understand. There are plenty of familiar stores like Walgreens if you forget anything from home.  Be sure to stop at any gas station to try the Gasolina drink (adult juice box)!

How To Get There:

Fly into Aguadilla Airport (BQN).  Aguadilla is a tiny airport that pretty much only has flights that arrive at 1AM, BUT it will be cheap and literally 5 minutes to Shacks Beach.

How to Get Around:

There are rental cars here, but be sure to call and reserve ahead as there is a tendency to run out of cars!  Be prepared with travel plans because flights are often delayed. Otherwise you can fly into San Juan airport, which will have more options, but be a 2 hour drive. Also, bring surf straps to put boards on roof of car!

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f Sunset in Aguadilla. Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

Where to Stay:

We stayed at Villa Sessions which is a condo right on Shacks Beach, steps away from a beautiful and fairly secluded beach. The condo is fully furnished, air conditioned, and safe! I took beach walks every morning, surfed, laid out and snorkeled here (crystal clear waters with tons of wildlife steps off shore).  This location offers great SUP, surf and snorkel sessions with a much smaller crowd/line up then other spots.

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Photo by MI OLA Ambassador Adrienne- @yokeens

When to Go:

We went at the end of February and the weather was amazing! We actually got some rain at night which is unusual, but during the day it was sunny and warm with a slight breeze so we were never over heated. Average air temperatures are high 70s to low 80s, basically year round. It does get into the high 80s in summer months (May-Sept). So best time to go will be winter months (Nov-April).

 

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_