Aruba Travel Guide

Aruba is known as “One Happy Island” and the minute you step foot into this beautiful country it’s easy to see why. The locals are kind, the food is delicious, and the beaches are breathtaking. There is truly something for everyone to do.  Aruba is like a tropical island meets desert climate. It’s the perfect destination year round as it sits below the hurricane belt. Renting a car is a must so you can explore the entire island. I highly recommend Drive4 Cheap. They were extremely affordable and easy to work with. Aruba should also be known for their roundabouts, because there was one around every corner. . I don’t know about you guys, but I have an irrational fear of roundabouts. As far as accommodations go, I highly recommend Turibana Plaza. It is away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, and the manager at the property (Alex) was amazing and went out of his way to make sure we had a wonderful stay.

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This beautiful rock formation is composed of towering stone boulders. Walking trails and steps were added in order to allow for hiking to the top. Once you reach the top, you will be greeted with breathtaking 360 degree views of Aruba. This is the best place on the island to snap a photo with the beautiful Mt. Hooiberg. This is a very easy hike and family friendly activity.        

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Mangel Halto Beach                                

 This is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Calm shallow waters make it perfect for snorkeling and kayaking. I fell in love with the wooden sundeck and stairs. This beach makes for some stunning photos. You will see the famous mangroves here as well. The only down side is that the beach here is pretty rocky so I would not recommend it for swimming.

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Eagle Beach                                          

Rated as one of the top beaches in the world, and it was easy to see why. White powdery sand and beautiful blue waters. This is the perfect beach for swimming. Eagle beach is home to the iconic Divi-Divi tree. These beautiful trees are local to Aruba and you will find two of them at the very end of the beach. This beach is very famous for weddings.  

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Arashi Beach 

If I had to pick a favorite beach this would be it! The view of the lighthouse is breathtaking and this is another beach that is perfect for swimming and sun-bathing. The crowds were low and parking was readily available. There was even a little cafe where you can get drinks and food.

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ABC Jeep Safari Tour 

This was one of the highlights of my trip. I recommend booking the full day tour. Buy the bandana they sell to cover your face with, because this is one crazy, bumpy, dirt filled ride. You will literally be covered in dirt from head to toe by the end of the day. I have to say this is not for the faint of heart, as this is off road as it gets! It was like a crazy roller coaster ride. We saw so many amazing things on this safari such as an old gold mine, a natural bridge, the first chapel in Aruba, a lighthouse, a secret beach, a natural pool, a cave, and we ended the day swimming at a stunning beach called Baby Beach. Our tour guide was so much fun and kept the group laughing the entire day. Lunch was included as well. This tour is an absolute must!

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Donkey Sanctuary 

This sanctuary was founded in 1997 in order to save the donkeys. Donkeys have lived in Aruba for over 500 years and served as the primary mode of transportation until cars were introduced to the island. Donkeys were being found injured or killed by vehicles. The donkeys at the sanctuary are well cared for, and the people that work there absolutely adore them as did I. Make sure to bring some money to buy food to feed them or you can bring some fresh apples or carrots.

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Ostrich Farm 

This was definitely a very unique and different experience. It’s a quick tour that you can squeeze in the morning, and still have the rest of the day for other activities. I recommend buying the bowl of food as the tour guide will set you up to feed the ostriches. I even fed one out of my bare hands, and it was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I loved learning all types of cool facts about these beautiful creatures. They actually do not bury their heads in the ground, this is one of the myths about ostriches.

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Aruba Watersports Center

This was another highlight of my trip. What I loved about the tour is that it was only a few hours long, and since we booked the morning tour we had the rest of the day to enjoy. The boat we went out on was amazing, as it had this netting at the front that you could lay out on. Make sure you actually listen to the safety debrifing as I didn’t and ended up jumping on the netting which was a big no-no. Thankfully the captain was very sweet about it. Speaking of captain, ours was amazing and so was his first mate. Their energy and hospitality made the excursion so much more enjoyable. The first stop was a stop to snorkel a sunken WWII ship, and it was one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen. Aruba is actually famous for having some of the best snorkeling sites around the world. Our second stop included a nearby beach where we snorkeled some beautiful coral and fish.

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Mt. Hooiberg 

Hooiberg translates to Haystack in the Dutch language. It is a volcanic formation that can be seen virtually anywhere on the island. In 1951 a staircase was built (thank God the hike was difficult enough) and it was renovated in 1990. There are approximately 600 stairs to the top, and if you missed leg day like I did,  you will not be able to feel your legs for the next several days after the hike. I was completely out of breath when I reached the top, but the nice thing is that there is a rest stop about halfway up. The view at the top is breath taking! You can see the entire island, ocean, and even Venezuela in the distance.

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Renaissance Private Island 

This was the perfect way to end my trip, but I have to say booking the tickets was a bit of a hassle. If you are not staying at the Renaissance Hotel, the way to reserve your ticket is to book online one day in advance. Tickets go on sale at seven in the morning and they go quick ! They only sell a handful of tickets each day so don’t wait until the last day of your trip to book. I would pull the website up on at least two separate devices so you have a higher chance of purchasing a ticket ( http://www.renarubaislandpasses.com).  There is free parking during the day across from the Renaissance Hotel if you choose to drive there. Inside the hotel lobby is a small open area that connects to the ocean. A boat pulls up inside the lobby and a takes you to the island. It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. The island is open from 7am-6:45pm and the boat leaves to and from the island every 15 minutes. Once you arrive on the island you can go right or left. Left will take you to the cafe where you can use your ticket for one meal either breakfast or lunch. If you turn right it will take you to the flamingos.  Bring some quarters to buy food to feed the flamingos with. Make sure to wet the food before letting the flamingos eat it. It was incredible being this close to these amazing creatures and the island is like something out of a fairytale.

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I am currently looking up one way flights to Florida as it’s 30 degrees outside, and snowing! Winter decided to come two months early! Anyone else ever feel like they live in the wrong place? These poor kiddos can’t even go trick or treating in normal weather.   Anyhow enough of my rant, I hope you guys enjoyed reading this blog post and if you book a trip to Aruba I would love to hear all about it. Have a wonderful day 🙂

xoxo

~Tanja~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exuma Travel Guide

I recently returned from a trip from Exuma and I must say, I was shocked at how many people have never heard of the island. Exuma is known for its famous swimming pigs. Ever since I saw a video of the swimming pigs, I fell in love and knew it was something I had to add to my bucket list. I suggested a trip to my bestie and after showing her the swimming pigs we booked our flight and the rest was history. We went for the swimming pigs, but we got to see and do much more and I absolutely fell in love with the island. The island is incredibly safe, the people are so kind and genuine, and the water is unlike anything I have ever seen. It was 50 shades of beautiful blue. I highly recommend a visit to this gem of an island and I hope my guide will inspire you to book a trip.

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Sure to Shore Rent a Car 

We rented a car from Sure to Shore. Janice the owner was extremely professional. The easiest way to arrange a car ahead of time is to contact her via WhatsApp. The only inconvenience is that her business is not located at the airport so you will have to drive to the car rental to do paperwork. The car will be at the airport upon arrival and that is where we dropped it off the day of our departure so that helped out a lot. If you need to vacuum the car before retuning it there is an AID in town that takes US quarters ($2.00). If you get sand in the car there is a $100 cleaning fee so save yourself some money and vacuum yourself. I highly recommend getting the insurance on the car as there are tons of potholes everywhere and the roads are very narrow. There are no stoplights and very few street signs. You drive on the left side of the road which I have to say was so hard to adjust to. I can’t tell you how many times we got lost and stopped for directions. The locals would give us directions and tell us you can’t miss it! You know what happened, we missed it over and over again, but it led us to have a true island adventure and we really got to know the island this way.  Renting a car is a must in my opinion in order to really explore the island.

Rebecca’s Place (AirBnb)

I love staying at airbnbs when I travel because it saves me a lot of money, and what better way to get good recommendations then from someone who lives on the island. Our host was amazing she replied to any question we had so promptly. The recommendations she gave us were incredible. She even gave us step by step driving instructions on how to get places. Our airbnb had everything we needed and even came with a cat! 
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Aquaquest Escape 

This was the highlight of our trip and I can’t recommend this tour company enough. They will pick you up from wherever you are staying on the island or you can meet them at the Barraterre Dock. Captain Anton and his first mate Mahi made sure that everyone was having a great time and that we were safe. I loved that the tour group was small, there was only 15 of us on board. They played great music and even let us make song requests. They made sure we had plenty to drink and provided snacks. We stopped and saw celebrity homes such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s. The animal encounters were my favorite part of the excursion.
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The first stop was at Allen Cay to see the Iguanas that had inhabited this island. I was shocked at the number of them there! We were able to feed them, some people even picked them up and held them, but I wasn’t quite brave enough for all that. After this we made a quick stop to see the Turtle Man. He has a small hammer that he would hit over a conch shell and this sent the turtles swimming towards him. From there we made it to a sandbar and I had never seen one but it takes your breath away. I could have spent all day there lounging in the calm waters. After that we went to Compass Cay to swim with the sharks. This is a privately owned dock and there is a $10 fee to enter that is not included in the tour, but it is so worth it! Jumping into shark infested water was absolutely terrifying, and exhilaration at the same time. My friend Carla was terrified and told me that she would not do it, but i talked her into it and she ended up loving it. If you take this tour trust me swim with the sharks it’s truly a once in a life time opportunity.
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From there we stopped for lunch and had the most delicious buffet everything was cooked to perfection and you could have as much as you wanted. Lunch was also not included in the tour and it was just under $30 which is a great price for Exuma as food is expensive there and the portion was large. After this we went to see the famous swimming pigs. I have to say I was shocked at the size of the pigs they were huge! I was like a little kid squealing with delight when I saw them. Seeing pigs swimming is so crazy. Make sure to go on shore and see the baby piglets they were so cute, but just be careful of the mama pig she can be aggressive. We also stopped and snorkeled the Pablo Escobar sunken plane wreck and a giant underground piano with a mermaid on it. This was a full day tour,  jam packed with so much adventure! Keep in mind this is a speedboat so if you tend to get seasick that some medication as you will literally be flying through the air! The cost of the tour is $220 per person which yes is very expensive, but to me it was worth every penny because it truly was the ultimate bucket list excursion.
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CoCo Plum Beach 

Cocoplum beach is at the northern end of the island and definitely a drive from the center of town. There will be a concrete slab on the right hand side of the road that is painted blue, this is where you turn and you will drive through a crazy gravel road filled with potholes, but once you reach the end and see that beautiful beach it will all be worth it. Make sure you go early in the morning during low tide as you will be able to walk out as far as the eye can see and the water will only be about knee deep. The scenery there was so beautiful and I loved the two swing sets! It was so much fun playing on the swings, whoever thought to do that was a genius. As the day went on, the few people that were there left and we had the entire beach to ourselves! That’s what I loved about Exuma so much is that at times I felt as if we were on our own private island. This was hands down one of my favorite beaches and a must see! 
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Chat-N-Chill

We spend our Sunday at Stocking Island visiting the famous Chat-N-Chill. They do a pig roast there every Sunday and the food is fantastic! Take the Elvis Water Taxi to the island as the only way to get there is by boat. It is $15 round trip for the taxi. We were greeted at the dock by the island pimp (yes that is what he called himself, and he was dressed exactly like one too!). He asked us if we wanted anything to drink and I asked for some coconut water and instead got some coconut infused rum. I don’t drink alcohol so I though it was awful, but Carla got a kick out of it. Make sure to check out the souvenir shop and grab a fresh conch salad it was to die for! The cool thing about this island is that there are stingrays in the water that you can swim with and you can even feed them. Just ask the guy at the conch stand for some scraps. There are swings and hammocks and the vibe on the island was all about relaxation. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday. Make sure to snap a photo with the famous directional sign there and play with the cats! 
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The Salt Marker

We stumbled upon the salt marker when we were headed to the southern tip of the island to grab some food at Santana’s. The marker is past the Tropic of Cancer, but before Santana’s restaurant and it will be on your left hand side. There is a quick hike up to the top and the views are out of this world beautiful! We learned that the salt marker served as a marker to guide vessels to the salt ponds. Exuma is a relatively flat island so this made it the perfect spot for the salt industry. You honestly can’t miss it from the road it’s 30 feet tall. This is definitely worth the stop for the incredible 360 views and it makes for some stunning photos. 
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Tropic of Cancer Beach 

This was another one of my favorite beaches on the island. The water in Exuma is so pure and clean it really is unlike anything I have ever seen. The Tropic of Cancer latitude runs along this beach (hence the name). If I had to pick a beach that was the prettiest this one would win the vote. Powdery soft white sand, turquoise water, and two beautiful islands off in the distance. We met a man from Stuttgart, Germany (I used to live there growing up) that owned a property near by. He offered to let us use his kayak and the next thing we knew we were out in the middle of the ocean kayaking! That is one thing I love about traveling is meeting people from all over the world.
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Hoopers Bay 

This beach was recommended to us by our airbnb host and I am so happy we took the time to see it. Getting to this beach is a bit tricky. If you are staying in Georgetown, head back towards the airport. You will see a green medical clinic/ dentist on the left and then a larger sign that says Exuma Building Supplies. Right across the street from there you will see the beach access sign and a narrow path down to the beach. Look for the longest dock on the beach this is where the turtles like to hang out at. The long dock provides a nice shade and is a perfect calm area for swimming, It was incredible seeing turtles small and big swim up to us. We could have easily spent the entire day here.
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Restaurants & Food 

Food was kind of a hit and miss on the island so I will only mention the places I think are a must to stop and grab a bite. Big D’s Conch Spot was one of my favorite spots, the grilled conch was so delicious I could have ate there every night. Their raw conch salad was amazing too, but had a little bit of a kick to it. Exuma is know for their conch salad so it is a must when visiting, What I noticed about the service at most restaurants is that it was very slow (island time) so go to dinner well before you are hungry as you will be waiting for your food.

Santana’s was another place that stood out in my mind I had the BBQ ribs and they were so delicious. The view of the ocean from our table was incredible.

My favorite meal that I had on the trip would be from the Rusty Anchor. This restaurant is located inside February Point Resort and is open to the public. We took a gamble and did not make a reservation. We were seated within minutes. This is the nicest restaurant on the island, but you don’t have to dress up guests were there in their flip-flops and casual wear. I opted for the grilled lobster and veggie plate and it was WOW! I am still thinking about that meal, it was that delicious and service was exceptional.
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I hope you guys enjoyed this travel guide to Exuma and if you end up visiting I would love to hear all about it!

xoxo

~Tanja~

San Diego Bucket List

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park 

Get ready to watch one of the most beautiful ocean side sunsets you will ever seen. The view was like something out of a movie. There was even a group of people doing yoga. Bring a blanket and sweater as it can get windy and chilly out. Parking is free, but is limited as it is in a residential neighborhood, so plan to arrive early. There is a steep drop off onto a rock formation that is perfect for viewing the sunset, but not very kid friendly.

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 San Diego Zoo 

This zoo definitely lives up to its title of being world famous. It is incredibly clean and well organized. The place is huge! I don’t think you could cover everything in one day. Tickets are pretty pricy at $56 per person for a one day pass. My favorite part of the zoo was the Skyfari Aerial Tram, it offered amazing views of the zoo and it was a shortcut from one end of the zoo to the other. I you are looking for a more interactive experience I would check out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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North Park 

If you are looking for some cute shops to buy souvenirs or gifts head over to North Park. There are also some great art murals in this neighborhood and tons of cute little cafes and restaurants. The two shops that I loved were Pigment and Artelexia. Pigment has a floral selfie wall and swinging chair inside, in addition to design-savy gifts. I literally wanted to buy everything inside the store because it was all so cute. Atelexia specializes in Mexican gifts, art, and home decor, and has a beautiful mural of Frida Kahlo inside.

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Balboa Park 

This park is an absolute must if you are visiting San Diego. This was one of my favorite things that we did. The park is huge so plan on spending the day here in order to see everything. Entrance to the park is free. Yes you heard that right FREE! There is a designated parking lot where you can leave your car, and a free shuttle comes around and takes you to the center of the park. There are several restaurants at the park which was very convenient. The best way I can describe the park is that it is a museum and garden all in one. Make sure to stop in the gift shop and pick up a map. My favorite part of the park that are a must see were the Spanish Village Art Center, Botanical Building & Lily Pond, and the Old Cactus Garden. There are several museums scattered throughout the park, some of which have an additional entrance fee. I would highly recommend doing the California Tower Tour located inside the Museum of Man. There is a lot of stair climbing involved, but the view at the top is well worth it.

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Coronado Beach & Hotel del Coronado 

There is a beautiful bridge which connects San Diego to Coronado. Driving over this bridge was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. It may be scary at first, but once you see the view honestly you will forget about the height of this bridge. Although we didn’t stay at this hotel, it was great to visit this historic hotel which opened back in 1888. The beach was beautiful, and the sand was unlike any I have ever seen before, it literally sparkled like gold. We found out that the gold color comes from a mineral called mica. The beach was stunning, but definitely too cold for a swim in my opinion.

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Cabrillo National Monument 

This monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. This was the first time a European expedition set foot on the West Coast of the United States. This was my favorite place for jaw-droppingly beautiful birds-eye view of San Diego. I just felt so at peace here, and honesty could have stayed there all day just taking in the beauty of it all. I loved seeing all the sail boats off in the distance and the crystal blue waters.

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La Colla Cove & Sea Lions 

My favorite thing that we did was hands down getting to see the famous sea lions in La Jolla. This is one of those once in a life time experiences that everyone should have. Being that close to these beautiful and amazing creatures just took my breath away. Start by parking at the garage across from the cave store. Walk down from the cave store and you will be in La Jolla Cove which is a small cove composed of two rocky points. This spot is accessible by a gate, where you can step out onto the rocks and get some amazing photos. Continue along the coastal path which will lead you to Shell Beach which is accessible by stairs. We saw tons of sea lions in the water playing and sun bathing on the rocks. We were literally a few feet away from the sea lions! Continue down to Children’s Pool which is the final stop. There is a sea wall that serves as a walkway.

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Old Town San Diego State Historic Park 

Trying saying the name of that park five times fast! There is a lot of influence from Mexico seen throughout San Diego as it is only a 30 minute drive to Tijuana. The park is filled with tons of different shops and restaurants. The park is free to enter and there are shows that take place at certain parts of the day. The park features San Diego’s first school house and newspaper office. The park commemorates the early days of San Diego from 1820’s to 1870’s.

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Torrey Pines National Park 

It’s no secret that I love a good hike, especially a scenic one. When you arrive at this park you pay an entrance fee, and there will immediately be a parking lot to your left hand side. Do not park here otherwise you will have a long hike up to the top and will be tired before you even begin your actual hike. Instead drive all the way up the road to the office at the top and pick up a map. There are numerous different hiking trails to choose from. We decided upon the beach trail as the hike leads you to a secluded beach! This was another one of my favorite things we did the views were out of this world beautiful!

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San Diego is one of my favorite places in the States, and definitely a place I could see myself living at in the future. The weather is literally perfect year round. You are near the ocean, and there is an endless amount of outdoor activities to satisfy any adventurous heart. I hope you guys have enjoyed this list of must do activities while in San Diego!

xoxo

~Tanja~

WNDR Museum

Wndr museum is an interactive, pop-up museum that combines art and science into one.  The cost is $32 per person which is a bit pricey, but i felt that it was well worth it as we all really enjoyed the experience. Parking is not available on site, so I highly recommend downloading the SpotHero app. One of my girlfriend told me about this app, and it saved us money on parking, and it was incredibly easy to use. There were lockers and restrooms available on site which were both a big plus. When you are purchasing tickets for the museum, you have to purchase them for a specific time slot. They take a new group in every thirty minutes. This ensures that not too many people are in one area at once. We ended up being late to our time slot due to traffic, and I was so worried that we wouldn’t be allowed to enter the museum. The staff members were very nice, and told us not to worry about it. As you work your way through the museum, you cannot go back to a room you have already been to, so ensure that you take your time and do not rush. The total experience took us about two hours to complete, and there are many opportunities for great photos so make sure you have your camera ready. The only thing we really had to wait in line for was the infinity mirror room exhibit by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. You have to place covers over your shoes in order to enter the room, there is a security guard present, and you only get 60 seconds in the room so make sure your camera is ready. Overall, I really enjoyed this experience and would highly recommend it to you all. I hope you are all having an amazing week so far. I am loving this warmer weather and am hoping it’s here to stay!

~Tanja~

” Every thing has its beauty but not everyone sees it” -Andy Warhol

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My Top Four Cafes in San Diego

It’s no surprise that I love hunting for cute cafes while on vacation.  The first one on my list is Holy Matcha, and it was by far my favorite of the four. Most of the items on the menu are made with matcha, and all of the items are gluten free and vegan! I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. I ended up ordering the pumpkin spice matcha latte, the pink lemonade donut, and the almond butter and strawberry toast. It was all so delicious and healthy too. The decor inside was another bonus! They had a beautiful palm leaf printed wall, and blush pink booth style seating. I really wish we had a cafe like this one in my home town.

The second cafe on the list is Parakeet Cafe. What I love about this cafe was that their menu consisted of many organic options. They also had gluten free and vegan options that were clearly marked. I chose an iced herbal tea and the cacao waffle and both items were delicious. The interior of the cafe is so modern, and I love the parakeet wallpaper, and neon sign that says birds of a feather. I was very impressed by the quality of the food here, and how friendly the staff member were.

The third cafe is called Communal Coffee and it was definitely the most unique as it shares a space with a floral shop named Native Poppy. You can stop in and grab a cup of coffee, and a bouquet of flowers too. They also have an assortment of small gifts too. I opted for the lavender lemonade, and a good old slice of avocado toast. If you come to visit this place you must sit outside and take a picture with the famous Coffee and Flowers wall!

The fourth cafe on the list is S3 Coffee Bar. This little cafe is every instagrammer’s dream. You know a place is good when it’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s packed. They have a cactus printed wall with an old school pink telephone that was perfect for a photo-op. What stood out to me was their unique and tasty drink choices. They had some of their seasonal fall drinks out on the menu, so I opted for the Bee Hive Latte which was essentially a Honey Cinnamon Latte. I had mine with almond milk and it was so delicious. I highly recommend this place if you want a unique, but delicious cup of coffee.

I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday and thank you for reading! Let me know if you check out any of the cafes and your thoughts on them!

~Tanja~

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South Pointe Park Pier

South Pointe Park is a beautiful 17-acre park and pier located on the southern-most tip of Miami Beach. There is a designated parking lot for the park, however it is very small and fills up quickly. We ended up finding a paid parking lot several blocks away and walking to the pier. What I was surprised about was that the beach by the pier boasted beautiful clear waters, whereas at Lummus Park the water was filled with seaweed. If you plan a trip to Miami I would definitely stick to this end of the beach. I am not sure how old the pier is, but it must be newer or just very well maintained. I loved the giant thought bubble in neon colors. It just screams take a picture with me. You will also notice a barrier of large rocks that stretch beyond the pier. This is a great place to go for a stroll or even a bike ride. The views are beautiful. This place is definitely a hidden gem that everyone should visit while in Miami. Looking at photos from Miami makes me miss it so much, because we just had our first snowfall of the season in my hometown. It’s pretty funny to see the different way that people react to the first snowfall of the year. You either love it or you hate it, and for me I personally hate it. I like sunshine, warm weather, and the beach. One day I will get there just have to keep working towards it. Thank for reading and I hope you all had a great week.

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Rusty Pelican

When I go on vacation I like to set aside a day to eat at a really nice restaurant. To me it’s not necessarily the food that I am going there for, but the experience and the unforgettable view. The restaurant we chose in Miami was the Rusty Pelican, because it was rumored to have one of the best views of Miami’s skyline. I have to say, the restaurant lived up to its expectations. Not only did we have an incredible view, but the food was absolutely delicious as well. My mom and I both went for the salmon, and it was cooked to perfection. It came with a side of creamy mashed potatoes and asparagus. If you are looking for a delicious meal and incredible view, then I highly recommend the Rusty Pelican!

One of my favorite things to wear in the summer time are rompers. They are so comfortable, but they still look so put together. The one I am wearing is from Nordstrom. What I love about this romper is that it has a front tie and peekaboo cutout. It features a beautiful vintage inspired mint color and floral pattern. Thank you all for reading !

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