The 5 Best Arizona Hiking Trails

If you love the outdoors as much as I do, Arizona is a destination you NEED to add to your bucket list! For my 30th birthday, I planned a road trip from Scottsdale, through Sedona and Grand Canyon National Park to Page, Arizona. Not only was there so much to see and do, but the drive through the desert and red rocks was insanely beautiful!
I would highly recommend visiting between the months of April and May or September and October to avoid extreme heat, cold, snow and large crowds as these are off peak months to visit and therefore, typically less expense. Here are the top 5 best Arizona hiking trails that I would highly recommend for your trip to Arizona as well as some helpful tips if it’s your first time.

1. Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona
Located in the heart of the city and iconic to the city of Scottsdale, this stunning mountain is called Camelback because it actually does look like a camel – head, hump and all! I had read that this hike was hard, but with all the hiking I had done when I was living in California, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was wrong!
There are two trails you can take up: Echo Canyon Trail, which is apparently the harder if the two, and Cholla Trail, the easier trail that I took. I wouldn’t recommend finishing the last third of this hike if you’re terrified of heights, only because it’s pretty easy up until that point. The last third of the hike is literally rock climbing up the mountain. None the less, it was an absolutely breathtaking hike with incredible views of Scottsdale and the view from the top alone is totally worth it! Although I found parts of the trail quite challenging, there were young kids on the trail which means if they can do it, you can too.
Tips: Make sure you bring PLENTY of water. You’re going to need it! I also recommend real hiking shoes on this one but you can wear regular gym shoes as long as they have pretty strong tread. I was totally fine in my Nikes.
I would recommend starting your Cholla Trail hike first thing in the morning at sunrise to avoid the extreme heat and crowds. It’s a 3.1 mile roundtrip hike which will most likely take around 2.5 to 3 hours total.
In addition, the best place to park where you won’t get towed is on Cholla Lane. Pass the Phoenician Golf course on your left while driving down N Invergordon Road and take a left on Cholla Lane. You can park pretty much anywhere before the residential neighborhood and follow the signs to Cholla Trail.

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2. Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona
This was by far the highlight of the time I spent in Sedona! The hike up to the bridge was pretty easy and the views on the hike itself were absolutely stunning even before reaching the bridge. I already can’t wait to go back here and do this hike again someday!
Tips: There are 3 ways to get to Devil’s Bridge via 3 trails. Picking which route you’d like to take really depends on how far and how intense of a hike you’re looking for. I was unfortunately short on time so took the easiest and shortest route from the Dry Creek Road parking lot.
For the shortest and easiest hike, plan to park right off of Dry Creek Road. The official Devil’s Bridge trailhead is at the end of the paved road and only a mile hike to the bridge. The hike is pretty flat for the first 3/4 mile and you will come to a fork in the road. Make sure you follow the signs to lead you towards the bridge!
When you arrive at the bridge, it looks extremely skinny, but it’s actually quite wide! Everyone was really nice about taking turns to take individual photos on the bridge. PLEASE be careful when walking out onto the bridge as it extends 80 feet above the ground!
Make sure you also bring plenty of water with you. This hike can be done by children of all ages – Just make sure you keep an eye on them and don’t let them get too close to the edge. The other more challenging and longer trailheads that lead to Devil’s Bridge include Chuck Wagon Trail which is 8.4 miles roundtrip or Mescal to Chuck Wagon Trail which is 5 miles round trip.
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3. Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon has been a destination on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl. I had seen it in movies but in person, there is NOTHING that compares! The size of this natural beauty is absolutely mind blowing and photos do not do it justice whatsoever.
Note that in order to get into the Grand Canyon National Park, there is a $30 fee per car. I would 100% recommend doing the entire drive through the Canyon via the South Rim which will take you about 4 hours from start to finish because there are about 8 different look outs to stop and take photos.
Tips: Start your journey by entering the park through Tusayan, Arizona. I would also recommend staying in this little town so you can start you’re hiking and exploring early in the morning. There are several hotels to choose from but I stayed at the Best Western Premier which has a heated pool, hot tub, bowling alley and bar inside!
Once in the park, park in parking lot D and walk to the canyon from there. There is a large paved road you can walk along next to the canyon with restaurants, shopping and bathrooms. You can hike Bright Angel Trail early in the morning and go as far down into the canyon as you’d like. Please note that the trail is pretty skinny (6-8 feet wide in some parts) and it’s extremely easy to fall in if you’re not cautious and winds are high. It DOES happen!
There are also mule ride tours that take this trail down and back up so hikers are expected to move out of the way to allow them to pass.
I only hiked down about an hour and hiked back up about an hour and a half because I wanted to take time to explore El Tovar Hotel, have drinks of their patio and eat at Harvey House before our drive through the park and up to Page.
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4. Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
Although it’s really considered “a hike,” there are NO WORDS to describe how absolutely stunning Antelope Canyon is in real life. There is an Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon, both of which offer daily tours through different tour companies. I chose to explore Lower Antelope Canyon with Ken’s Tours because it’s apparently less crowded than Upper Antelope Canyon, although quite honestly it was extremely crowded in my opinion.
Tips: Make sure you book your reservation to tour Antelope Canyon far enough in advance, especially if you’re traveling during Summer months when it’s most crowded. The canyon only allows 2,500 visitors per day and turns away on average 4,000 who failed to make one!
If you choose to tour the lower canyon, note that you do go up and down a 2-3 steep latters. In addition, the best time of day to visit either canyon is between 10am and noon as the light is shining directly above, making the lighting ideal for photographs. As noted in my Antelope Canyon blog post, I would recommend hanging back at the end of the tour group to snag some solo photographs. The tour last about an hour or more so you will have plenty of time to take a lot of photos.
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5. Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
Horseshoe Bend is technically considered more of a walk because it’s just a short ten walk from the parking lot! Despite the lack thereof, it is definitely a sight to see and should be on your bucket list! This natural beauty has taken over a BILLION years to form and was created by the continual flow of water through the canyon walls. Dont get too close to the edge! It’s a 1,000 foot drop to the bottom which is equivalent to a 99 story building.
Tips: The best time to photograph Horseshoe Bend is mid day when the sun is directly overhead. At sunrise, part of the canyon will be darkened by shadows and at sunset (although extremely beautiful) the sun will be directly in your way of photographs. I would also suggest checking the weather to see how windy it is. When we first arrived the winds were 20 miles an hour which was pretty painful in shorts given that the sand was flying everywhere!
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Antelope Canyon Tours

My love affair with Antelope Canyon began when I was 12 years old. My family would travel to Las Vegas every Summer for a long weekend so naturally, since I was well below the age of 21, I had to find age appropriate activities to preoccupy my time. Second to pool time, shopping was clearly the answer! My younger cousins and I would spend hours walking the strip, popping into store after store with the end all be all typically being Caesar’s Palace where our favorite shops were. I remember being bored out of my mind as we stumbled across a photography gallery that stuck out to me among many of the retail stores: Peter Lik Gallery. I’ve always had a huge interest in art and photography so decided to pop inside.

I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on a photograph of Antelope Canyon. The way the light and vibrant colors danced throughout the smooth walls of the canyon completely mesmerized me. It looked absolutely breathtaking and like nothing I had ever seen before! I marveled at that fact that this was a real place and one that not many people had actually explored. After speaking with the gallery manager about what Antelope Canyon was and where it was located, I promised myself that one day I would visit this natural beauty in person.
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Antelope Canyon is the most photographed slot canyon in the world and was discovered only 24 years ago, in 1994. The land owners didn’t even know it existed until their herd of sheep disappeared one day and they were found seeking shelter inside the canyon. Located 118 feet below ground, Antelope Canyon earned it’s name from the antelope that  once called it home. Antelope Canyon was naturally formed by the erosion of sandstone from flash floods and rainwater that would run down from the top, picking up sand and rushing through it’s narrow passageways. How cool is that?!
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There is an Upper Canyon and a Lower Canyon. I chose to tour the Lower Canyon as it is typically less crowded. Each day, the canyon only allows 4,000 people max to tour and they turn away an estimated 2,500 people who have not booked reservations in advance. There are two main tour companies that run tours at Lower Antelope Canyon each day: Ken’s Tours and Dixie Ellis, both of which have fantastic reviews. I toured with Ken’s Tours which was a really great experience. The tour was $50 a person and lasted about an hour and a half. We had a total of about 40 or 50 people on the tour which was a bit overwhelming. If you’re looking to get photos of the canyon without people, it’s pretty difficult so I would suggest being at the very back of the line! If you want great photos, make sure to tour between 10am and noon where the light hits just above the canyon. I hope I can convince you to add this to your bucket list of incredible places. I promise it won’t disappoint!
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The Best Beaches in Barbados

The beautiful island of Barbados has over 70 miles of beaches, each of which are unique and different. Beaches located on the Caribbean (West side) of the island are suitable for water activities like snorkeling, paddle boarding, jet skiing and sunbathing due to their calm nature while beaches on the Atlantic (East side) are more rocky and good for surfing or sunbathing. It was incredible to see so many different types of beaches on such a small island which added to the charm and beauty of Barbados! Here are my top 5 favorite beaches you must visit during your travels to this magical island.

1. Bottom Bay
Bottom Bay was the most scenic of all the beaches I visited in Barbados. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by a magnificent cliff over looking the prettiest turquoise water I’ve ever seen! The tall palm trees on the beach down below made for the perfect backdrop. There’s plenty of beach here to sunbath and have a picnic or you can do the same from above and enjoy the view on the rocky cliff.
If coconut water if your thing, you can buy a fresh coconut at the top of stairs that descend down to the beach from some of the local Bajans who actually climb the tall palm trees on the beach and shake down the coconuts! I would highly recommend this beach for sunbathing, swimming and picture taking.
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2. Bathsheba Beach
Bathsheba Beach was one of the most unique beach I’ve ever visited! Located on the East side, Bathsheba was extremely windy and the waves looks like a surfers dream come true. Dangerous rip curls and undertows do not make Bathsheba an ideal spot to swim, however, you can enjoy the water in many of the shallow natural reef pools located just a few feet from the shore. During the winter, layers of seaweed wash up on shore so I appreciated the view from far away because it made for some cool photos. The giant rock formations are what make this beach a stunning sight to see! I would highly recommend Bathsheba for sunbathing during the Summer and picture taking and surfing during the Winter. Experienced surfers only!
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3. Alleynes Bay
Alleynes Bay has crystal clear water which makes it the best beach in Barbados to snorkel and swim with sea turtles. I entered the beach from The Lonestar, a really popular restaurant and hotel in the bay which I would highly recommend for breakfast or lunch before your swim. Bring plenty of snorkel gear and an underwater camera if you have one!
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4. Paynes Bay & Sandy Lane Beach
These two beaches are home to some of the island’s most luxurious resorts. Located on the West side of the island, the soft white sand and calm waves make these two beaches the best for water sports, sun bathing and swimming. I stayed at a private villa in Paynes Bay during my stay and enjoyed watching the boats dock out in the water, the jet skis go by and taking strolls to nearby Sandy Lane Beach.
Sandy Lane, an exclusive high end luxury resort, is located here. You can admire the signature pink umbrellas and walk the beach, but don’t be expected to be allowed into the resort for a cocktail unless you’re a guest at the hotel or have a meal reservation!
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5. Brandon’s Beach

Brandon’s Beach was a little off the beaten path and more secluded than the other beaches, but I loved how private it was and the fact that you could relax and watch the locals surf here. I would recommend making a pit stop here after you take a tour at the famous Mount Gay Rum Distillery!
Barbados 2018-1128Barbados 2018-1081If you’re looking for additional thing to do during your stay, check out my blog post on the the top activities to do during your trip to Barbados!

Top 5 Activities to do in Barbados

I’m an explorer at heart and am always up for an adventure! My favorite thing about traveling is when I find opportunities to experience the natural beauty of our world and time to marvel at the beauty of animals in their natural habitat. During my 10 day trip to Barbados, I got to see so much of the island and planned some fun activities that completely beat my expectations and blew me away.

If you’re planning a trip to Barbados, here is my list of the top 5 activities I would highly recommend you do to satisfy your craving for adventure!

1. Feed the monkeys at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve
This was the highlight of my trip! I didn’t expect the monkeys to be so friendly and agile, but when it comes to food they love humans and don’t mind getting up close and personal. I totally didn’t expect them to eat right out of my hand but they did and it was incredible! You can read more in depth about my wildlife reserve experience here and see all the photos I took of the animals in the reserve. Admission costs $30 BDS ($15 USD) for adults and $15 BDS ($7.50 USD) for children. Hours are from 10am to 5pm and it is recommended that you are there around 2pm as this is the animal feeding time so you are more likely to see many of the animals at this time.
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2. Swim with sea turtles
If you love being in the water as much as I do and you enjoy water activities like snorkeling or scuba diving, Barbados is a great place to experience swimming with sea turtles! The best part about this activity is that you don’t even need to pay to go out on a catamaran because the turtles can be found many places right off the beach. You can even feed and pet the turtles when you swim with them!
Head out early in the morning when the turtles are likely to be scouting for food. We snorkeled and swam with the turtles in Alleyne’s Bay (located behind the Lonestar hotel and restaurant) where many of the glass bottom boats and catamarans stick around. Other good areas to swim with turtles include Freights Bay, Carlise Bay & Paynes Bay.
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3. Visit Hunte’s Gardens
This beautiful outdoor garden was stunning from the moment we pulling up to the entrance to the moment we left. I’ve never seen such lush, colorful plants or palm trees so tall in my life! This walkable garden holds different surprises around each corner and I could have literally spent an entire day taking pictures of all the exotic scenery, birds and animals among the soft classical music playing throughout the garden. Admission costs $30 BDS ($15 USD) per person and hours are from 9am to 4pm daily. It truly is a magical place unlike any other!
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4. Explore the natural beauty of Animal Flower Cave
Discovered in 1750, this naturally formed cave is the only accessible cave on the island and was formed by natural limestone similar to cenotes found in Mexico. Build in 1912, coral steps lead down to the cave floor which is estimated to be 400,000 to 500,000 years old! Be sure to wear sneakers or take your shoes off while in the cave because it’s pretty slippery and easy to fall if you don’t have good balance. There is also a separate swimming chamber in the cave if you’re up for it! Make sure to visit when the waves aren’t too big because it will close due to the strength and size of the waves on occasion. Admission costs $20 BDS ($10 USD) per person and hours are from 9am to 4:30pm daily. In addition to a guided cave visit, there is also a restaurant where you can grab a quick bite to eat and drinks on top of the cave with an incredible ocean view, open from 11am to 3:30pm daily.
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5. Enjoy a Rum Punch at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery
Honestly, I was mostly excited for rum cocktails upon showing up to the distillery, but the best part ended up being the incredible history lesson behind Mount Gay Rum! I highly suggest taking the Signtaure Rum Tour through the distillery where you will learn the history of the brand and enjoy a tasting of 3 different rums. You receive a delicious rum punch at the beginning of the tour and it ends at the bar where you can also enjoy specialty rum cocktails. The tour costs $40 BDS ($20 USD) per person and hours are from 9am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday and 10:30am-2:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Cheers!
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Other activities I would highly recommend depending on how much time you have on the island include:
Oistnis Friday night fish fry
Sunset sail with Cool Runnings
Paddle boarding
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Barbados Animal Wildlife Reserve

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have a very special place in my heart for animals! When I researched top activities in Barbados, I found that there is an Animal Wildlife Reserve on the island where animals roam free and you can see wild green monkeys. I had to check it out for myself! Upon pulling up to the parking lot, we were greeted by incredible banana leaf fields, countless rows of stunning palm trees and beautiful lush, tropical plants.
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There were three green monkeys near the ticket counter when we arrived and after paying the entrance fee, we were given chopped up sweet potatoes to feed them. Six more monkeys joined us shortly after they realized food was present, including a couple baby ones.
I was absolutely amazed at how gentle and sweet the monkeys were that I wanted to take one home with me! They each had their own personality and many times they would hold my hand (or a finger) while eating directly out of my hand.
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We entered the grounds and started our journey walking small brick pathways throughout the reserve. There were tons of large tortoise which were easy to spot and although they’re known for being slow, they actually move pretty fast. While I was taking photos, one almost walked directly over my foot! Walking a little deeper, we discovered a mother deer feeding her baby!
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If you love animals as much as I do or want to see green monkeys up close and personal, I would highly suggest coming to visit the reserve during your stay in Barbados! Admission costs $30 BDS ($15 USD) for adults and $15 BDS ($7.50 USD) for children. Hours are from 10am to 5pm and it is recommended that you are there around 2pm as this is the animal feeding time so you are more likely to see many of the animals at this time. It was truly a magical experience and feeding the monkeys was definitely an experience to remember. It was so much better than viewing animals behind bars at the zoo!
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Moonlight Gypsy Shop Earrings $14
Moonlight Gypsy Shop Embroidered Straw Cherry Bag $30
Forever 21 Selfie Leslie Smocked Top $35
One Teaspoon Denim Cut Off Shorts $98

Isla Mujeres, Mexico: An Authentic Island Experience

Isla Mujeres, Mexico | Travel Guide | Moonlight Gypsy Blog | Bohemian Fashion Style & Travel Blog

Mexico is one of my absolute favorite international destinations. It’s extremely affordable, the food is incredible and the margaritas are tasty!  I’ve visited some of the most popular destinations in Mexico including Cabo, Cozumel, Acapulco, Tulum, and most recently Cancun. When I began researching day trips from Cancun, I had never heard of Isla Mujeres but was inspired to visit because of the colorful marketplaces, cliff side ocean views and gorgeous beaches. One of my favorite things about traveling in general is discovering lesser known places to explore because they tend to feel more authentic, untouched and less touristy.

Isla Mujeres is a tiny island that serves as the southern most top of Mexico. It’s 5 miles long and only 400 yards wide. This tiny gem is only a short 45 minute ferry ride from Cancun. Although small, the island depicts Mexico’s historic and rich culture of things to see, fun activities, friendly people, delicious food & some of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen!

During my 4 day stay in Cancun, I took a day trip to explore Isla Mujeres. There are plenty of hotels on the island if you wish to spend more time there, but you can easily see the entire island in a day or two depending on your activities. I started my day adventure early in the morning from the JW Marriott Cancun by taxi to Playa Tortugus, one of the 3 marinas that take you over to Isla Mujeres. Accompanied by live musical entertainment, I enjoyed the sunshine at the top of the boat and the wind blowing in my hair.

The easiest way to get around the island is by a golf cart or scooter and you can easily save time by renting one on the ferry for pick up upon island arrival. If you decide visit during peak Summer months (May to August) be sure to either book a golf cart in advance or head to the island on the earliest ferry over in order to guarantee you’ll get one. There are only a select number of golf carts on the island given that it’s so small.

Upon arrival to the island, I was greeted by a bustling strip of restaurants, colorful markets and friendly island people. The energy surrounding the island was unlike anything I have experienced elsewhere and I was so excited to explore! Conveniently, I secured a golf cart on the ferry ride over and was able to take in all the culture and scenery without feeling rushed.
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By the time I picked up my golf cart, I had worked up quite an appetite! I jumped in the golf cart and drove about 10 minutes from the main ferry port until I arrived at a cute little brunch spot called Barlito’s. Located at Marina Paraiso Hotel, Barlito’s is well known for their famous raison cinnamon rolls and fresh squeezed fruit juices. Since I couldn’t choose between watermelon and orange juice, I ordered both! The restaurant had a bunch of fresh fruit and you could actually watch the wait staff pick out your fruit and make your juice right there. It tasted so refreshing! The food was delicious and I would highly recommend coming here if you make the trek to the island. One thing to be aware of however, is that the iguana’s here love to join you on the patio while you eat. Although entertaining, a couple times they got a little too close for my personal comfort! The quaint and quiet hotel grounds were really fun to explore and it was nice to enjoy a meal among the palm trees and pool.
Photo Nov 17, 11 12 35 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 13 19 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 26 19 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 43 35 AMPhoto Nov 17, 11 53 57 AMPhoto Nov 17, 12 17 58 PMPhoto Nov 17, 12 26 14 PMPhoto Nov 17, 12 21 50 PMAfter enjoying a beautiful breakfast, I jumped back into my golf cart to began my ride around the island. One thing I didn’t expect to see in Isla Mujeres were the number of charming, colorful walls and buildings along the drive which I couldn’t resist pulling over to take photos! Hot pink, bright yellow, sunset orange…these colorful walls and homes were so unique to the island and one of my favorite things about the visit. It was also really cool that the main road has some of the most stunning views of the Caribbean which made the trip that much more enjoyable. I would highly suggest spending time roaming around different streets and taking in all of the diverse architecture on the island.
Photo Nov 17, 12 55 07 PMPhoto Dec 16, 12 02 51 AMBecause Isla Mujeres is so small, every restaurant and bar on the island has a stunning view of the ocean. I ran into a unique spot place called Madera Food & Art which is an art gallery and restaurant. I enjoyed a tasty margarita while appreciating some of their on site art sculptures and prestine ocean views.
Photo Feb 23, 8 21 59 AMPhoto Feb 23, 8 25 32 AMPhoto Nov 17, 2 11 10 PMPhoto Feb 23, 8 10 37 AMPhoto Feb 23, 8 33 32 AMVWNot far from Madera, I ran across a local family who had set up a coconut stand on the side of the road. I ordered a fresh “coco frio” (cold coconut) to enjoy with a beautiful view much closer to the water. One of my absolute favorite things about visiting any tropical destination is picking up a fresh coconut to enjoy on the beach!
There’s truly nothing better than a stunning ocean view and cold coconut water straight out of a coconut. I took some time to really appreciate Mother Nature in this moment and felt so connected to the culture and energy of the island.
Photo Nov 17, 1 45 24 PMPhoto Feb 23, 8 01 37 AMPhoto Feb 23, 7 46 18 AMYou will know you’re half way around the island when you reach the ruins of Ixchel. Located at the southern most tip of the island, the Ixchel temple is one of the main Isla Mujeres destinations for tourists that comes with incredible Caribbean Ocean views. Although small, this portion of the island is very sacred to the Mayan culture and history of Isla Mujeres. You do have to pay to enter the ruins and to use the bathroom so make sure you bring enough cash to the island with you if you wish to see them up close!

If you crave adventure, your best bet is to book snorkeling or zip lining on Isla Mujeres at Garrafon Park. Because the island is far off the coast, Garrafon Park has some of the best snorkeling. If I would’ve had an extra day in Cancun I would’ve definitely come back to spend an entire day here! I would plan to spend at least 2 hours for snorkeling and 1 additional hour for zip lining. Other activities they offer include kayaking, bicycle tours, swimming with dolphins, relaxing in their outdoor swimming pool, lounging in hammocks and more.
Photo Feb 23, 7 15 29 AMAfter continuing along the road, I stopped at a colorful adults-only hotel called La Bella Villa. They had the cutest bar and patio area with a pool and a gorgeous view of the sea. I enjoyed another margarita and relaxed in one of the beach chairs out by the water enjoying the warm sun on my shoulders and listening to the waves crash on the beach below. How cute is this place?! It has awesome reviews on trip advisor so if you’re looking to book a night or two on the island, this is a great option.
Photo Feb 23, 9 04 14 AMPhoto Feb 23, 9 09 47 AMPhoto Nov 17, 3 26 12 PMPhoto Feb 23, 9 21 44 AMAfter several hours of exploring, I had worked up quite an appetite and all I could think about were tacos! (Can you blame me?!) I drove the golf cart back to the main area of the island and dropped it off to spend time exploring the marketplace and beach. I grabbed a table at La Cueva de la Cherna and ordered some of the most delicious nachos and tacos. This place is off the beach but is noted as one of the best taco places on the island. I would highly suggest eating here! Afterwards, I walked to the beach to watch one of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve ever witnessed from the beach! The perfect end to a perfect day.
Photo Nov 17, 5 40 25 PM (1)Photo Nov 17, 5 45 57 PMPhoto Nov 17, 6 18 40 PMIf you do plan to spend a day exploring Isla Mujeres, be sure to check the ferry schedule and plan accordingly. I showed up to the marina 5 minutes AFTER the ferry left because I didn’t check beforehand and had to wait another hour before being able to head back to Cancun! Luckily I’m patience and easy going so I didn’t mind, but it’s always better to plan ahead!

Pangea Dreams Retreat Diary: Tulum 2017

Photo Dec 06, 12 16 05 AM_previewIt’s been almost three weeks since my Pangea Dreams adventure! Since then I’ve gotten a several DMs on Instagram from other bloggers who are curious what my experience was like and if I would recommend attending a future Pangea Dream retreat.

I remember the first time I stumbled upon the Pangea Dreams Instagram page, wondering what it was was about. Colorful photos in tropical destinations with girls in bikinis and cute yoga outfits grace the tiny squares of the Pangea Dreams Instagram page. With my curiosity and strong desire to expand my knowledge of the blogging world, I reached out to several girls who were tagged in past retreat photos to ask them about their experience. All of them had the same response: “YOU HAVE TO GO!!”
If you’re a part or full time blogger, or if you’re just starting out on your blogging journey, Pangea Dreams is for you! Attending work shops each day allows you to expand your knowledge on how to build a media kit to work with brands and hotels, how to create strong content, how to pose in and arrange objects in your photos, how to edit them and most importantly, how to utilize your social media platform to build your personal brand and following.

Lucky for you, I actively journaled each night after the retreat so that you can follow along on my actual journey from start to end in order to get an in depth understanding of what my daily experience was like! Read on for more and should you decide to attend a future Pangea Dreams retreat, mention my personalized code MELANIEM10 to save 10% on your booking!

A glimpse of what you’ll learn on the retreat:

1) How to build your brand
2) How to build a media kit
3) How to collaborate with brands and hotels
4) Photography tips, tricks and the best phone apps to use
5) How to use Lightroom and edit your photos
6) How to build your instagram community and build your following on social media
 And so much more!!
Ready?! Buckle your seatbelt…
Day 1
I finally made it to Tulum! I was so relieved to have another girl attending the retreat on my flight from NYC to Cancun who had come all the way from Italy. It was nice to connect with someone immediately after landing and getting to know each other while making it through the customs line. Once through, we headed outside where we were greeted by our driver and waiting for the other 6 girls to arrive. In the meantime, we grabbed a delicious frozen margarita right outside at the airport Margaritaville bar. Hola Mexico! It was just what I needed after 6 long hours of traveling. As the other girls started to arrive one by one, we began getting to know each other and eventually all jumped into the van with our driver to head to Tulum.
I wasn’t sure at first if I was more excited or nervous at first! Was everyone going to be friendly? Would people judge me based on my blog, Instagram or website? What if their skill set was more advanced than me? Naturally, I’m not a big social person but it was refreshing to know that we were all strangers and on the same journey together, taking a leap of faith to come somewhere none of us had ever been before.
After a 2 hour drive from Cancun airport to Tulum, we arrived at the beautiful Kasa Hotel Tulum. Lush green palm trees and plants adorned the lobby along with crochet hammocks and friendly staff. I was so excited to be in a new place and was overwhelmed with the adventurous and spontaneous mindset that typically hits me whenever I’m in a new place!
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Upon arriving at the resort, our main hosts Tracy Komlos (founder of Pangea Dreams) and Lisa Homsy (Travel/Lifestyle Creative & Influencer) greeted us. We were paired up with one other girl and headed to our rooms to check out our new “home” for the week. At first I did realize that I would be sharing a room with someone else (let alone a king size bed!!) I didn’t read on the Pangea Dreams website that the retreats are shared accommodation so that completely my miss, but I was quickly distracted from being greeted by so many cute branded goodies in our room that I quickly forgot! I honestly didn’t mind too much anyway. It’s just something to be aware of so you’re not caught off guard when you arrive.
We changed into yoga pants and joined our hosts in their hotel suite for our first mediation practice. I haven’t ever attended any kind of wellness retreat before so I was excited that Nicole, a reiki master who specialized in reiki healing and meditation practices was our wellness host on the retreat. If you’re not familiar with what reiki is, it’s a Japanese stress reduction and relaxation technique that promotes healing. I have participated in guide meditation before which was definitely what I needed after a long day of traveling to help me focus on settling into a new place and put me in a relaxed mindset for the next week. During the course of the week we would be focusing each day on each one of our chakras which are each connected to our overall health and to the evolution of our consciousness.
In our first meditation practice, we focused on our root chakra which is our foundation chakra. We went around in a circle to share what we were most grateful for. At first I was a little hesitant to share in front of a bunch of new strangers, but it got a little bit easier as we each went around in a circle and took turns. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that felt slightly uncomfortable at first! After our first meditation, we headed up to the beautiful dining patio overlooking the pool to enjoy a delicious dinner. We sat down to a beautiful candle lit dinner of delicious vegan salads, fresh veggies and steak plus the most delicious corn tortillas you’ve ever tasted!
One thing that I found incredibly amazing about Tulum that I didn’t realize before visiting is how passionate the community is about sustainability. Majority of the food served at Kasa Hotel Tulum is either from the local farmer market or provided by Woolis Green Solutions, a farm dedicated to organic waste collection from restaurants and resorts around Tulum. They turn this waste into compost, feed for their animals, top soil and fertilizer for their vegetable and herb gardens. What an incredible way to appreciate mother nature and to give back!
In addition, one thing I really enjoy about the resort is that they provide all natural travel essentials for every day use including organic, non-toxic soap, oil, body wash and hair products which included ingredients like coconut, honey and lavender. They smell AMAZiNG!
DAY 2
After a really great night of sleep, I woke up on day 2 feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. I still felt a little nervous given that I still didn’t know the girls all that well. We headed to the suite for our morning ritual which was definitely more intimate than I expected. We worked on our sacral chakra today and set our intentions for the day. A lot of this workshop was focused on self love which really helped me become more comfortable in my own skin, bringing me into the right mindset for the day.
Breakfast was absolutely DELICIOUS. Fresh fruit, yummy eggs and fresh tangy, watermelon juice! I can still taste it!! (And I already can’t wait to have more tomorrow morning!) 😉
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Workshop 1 was all about building our brand. What is the overall feeling of your brand? Who is your target audience? What brands or bloggers inspire you? What are your brand goals? All of these questions were things I had thought about but never really put on paper. It was so nice to carve out time to reflect on all the work I’ve done in the last 9 months for my blog and online store, Moonlight Gypsy Shop. What message do I want to convey to my audience? What stories did I want to tell them from each photograph I post on my social media? The open discussions were AMAZING. Each of us shared our opinions, passions, curiosities and who we are striving to be. We quickly began to learn more about each other and what type of authority we wanted to become in our instagram, blogging and/or brand space.
Our hosts gave us a run down of photo tips and tricks – what apps to use, what gear was necessary and additional online resources that would help us edit our photos effectively. It was a great open forum to ask questions and learn from successful women who are doing an amazing job at building their brand and social media presence!
After the workshop, we met with our hosts for some awesome one on one time. What do I want to accomplish during my time here? What do I struggle with? What do I want to learn more about? It was really nice to feel so supported and I loved that the girls took time to understand and ask questions about what kind of direction I was looking for.
After each of our one on one sessions and a beautiful vegan lunch, we started on workshop #2 which was a wellness workshop focused on exploring our life purpose and understanding our values and fears. This excersise was INCREDIBLE for me. Each of us reflected and shared what we are most afraid of and how to let go. I didn’t expect to feel so free and liberated afterwards. I almost felt like a completely new person, like anything is possible. Nicole really helped us shift our mindset and allow our minds to see that we could do and be anything we want. All we have to do is ASK. The law of attraction is real and all we have to do is ask tell the universe what we want.
After working on ourselves, it was time to start working on our photography skills. It was pouring down rain so we decided to practice shooting around the hotel. We started in the lobby where Tracy and Lisa began teaching us how to visually lay out a photo, what details to shoot with and how to elongate our legs so we actually look taller. How did I never notice how they pose in their photos until now?! We each practiced in different areas and look some really cute photos louning in hammocks as well as group shots around the hotel. It was a really great first practice with each of us feeling a bit awkward at first and our hosts telling us how to tweak our poses, facial expressions and getting us to feel confident and comfortable in front of the camera.
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After getting shots of each of us, we enjoyed a beautiful vegan dinner and had some fun hang out time with the hosts and special guests. It was really cool to bond with everyone and feel like we were all there just hanging out, sharing funny and interesting stories. It truly felt like the perfect end to a perfect day (despite a little bit of rain!)
DAY 3

Today was the best day yet! We started with a beautiful morning meditation focused on our solar pixel chakra, sending away negative energy and bringing in positive energy both mentally and physically. Some of the exercises we did seemed silly at fist, like shaking our entire bodies in place, but I was amazed at how alive and energize I felt afterwards. If it works for Tony Robbins, it works for me!

After meditation, we had breakfast and started with our first workshop of the day: How to build your media kit. Lisa walked us through her very first media kit and helped us understand how to create our own using the same tools in order to collaborate with brands and hotels. It was really cool to see her first media kit when she had 6,000 followers vs. her current media kit with a 110k following! I appreciated that she took the time to show us her progression of media kits because it was a nice reminder that we all have to start somewhere. It helped me realize that we are each on our path to success and that every successful blogger or influencer has been excalty where I am at one point!

After our workshop, we enjoyed an amazing lunch and headed to the beach to shoot some photos. We worked on a brand collaboration with Maaji Swimwear which offers gorgeous reversible swimwear and mix and match bikinis. I was OBSESSED with the adorable printed bow headbands they gifted us! Their swimmer was so comfortable and soft. I can’t wait to check out what other patterns they offer!! Our time at the beach was a great opportunity to shoot photos of our own and practice taking photos of each other. Practice makes perfect!
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After shooting for 30 minutes or so, it started to downpour. We all rushed inside the hotel but shortly decided after 10 minutes that the storm wasn’t stopping so we should get in the ocean for a swim! After all, we were in Mexico!! I HATE getting my hair wet, but as an opportunity to bond with the other girls and push myself out of my comfort zone, I decided to worry less about running mascara and wet hair so I ran full blast into the ocean with my new best friends.
The water temperature was PERFECT. It felt so nice and was fun splashing around in the rain. Nicole had us all join hands and form a circle in the water. With the waves coming and going, each girl moved into the middle of the circle one by one and said out loud what they wanted the universe to bring them. Love, wealth, opportunity, friendship. It was definitely my favorite experience of the retreat so far! How cool is it to already feel so safe sharing my deepest desires with these awesome women and already feeling so close to them?!
After the storm died down a bit we took a few more photos and headed back to the hotel to enjoy dinner and ended the night with soft yoga poses and a nighttime meditation. It felt so good to listen to my body while stretching and clear my mind before bed. It was so relaxing that I almost fell asleep on my yoga mat!
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DAY 4
Today was SO MUCH FUN! We had a free morning to sleep in and enjoy breakfast while working on our media kits and hanging out before starting our day. It was nice to relax before such an adventurous day ahead.
We were exclusively invited by Woolis to check out their sustainable farm that provides most of the food for Kasa Hotel Tulum. The farm was located 45 minutes from the hotel, deep in the what felt like the Tulum jungle. When we pulled up, it was really cool to see all of the untouched plants and magestic trees and to observe what a sustainable lifestyle looks like. Talk about getting the inside scoop on what farm to table really means!
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The first thing we did after exploring the grounds was head to the private centote on the property which was so incredible! A cenote is a natural hole in the earth formed over time which creates a natural swimming cave underground.
It was so beautiful and the water felt absolutely amazing. I could literally have stayed there swimming for hours. After shooting some photos for the girls in the Pangea group, a couple of us stayed back to watch Tracy and Lisa shoot photos of each other in the cenote. It was really cool and super inspiring to watch them in action!Photo Dec 06, 12 13 20 AM_preview
After our cenote adventure, we got to check out the greenhouse where all of the beans, basil and tomatoes are grown. We explored different areas of the farm and sat down to a delicious lunch filled with cucumber salad, roasted sweet potatoes, mixed veggies, fresh tortilla chips and guac. What more do you need in life?!
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Being in nature is extremely refreshing for me, so the fact that we were in the middle of the jungle surrounded by gorgeous trees felt so cleansing. All I kept thinking about was how grateful in that moment I was for life to feel so simple, so unrushed and feeling at peace with my surroundings. Not long after our meal, Aliza, one of the girls on the trip who used to teach yoga hosted a yoga session just for us! The sun started going down during our yoga session and my favorite part about the entire thing was the singing of crickets that started and got louder and louder during the session as the sun was going down. It was almost as if they were singing just for us!
We hung out for a couple more hours and also  enjoyed a yummy vegan dinner and grilled pineapple with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Such a unique and authentic way to spend a day in Mexico with my Pangea babes!
DAY 5
We began our day with meditation focused on our heart and throat chakra. We focused on sharing our favorite words and setting our intentions for the day. My words for the day included create, love, adventure and fearless. I’ve struggled with being open and trusting others a lot as I’m a very guarded person so I was excited to have my one on one session with Nicole, our reiki master, after meditation and enjoying another amazing breakfast.
I shared a very personal and painful experience with her that had left a burden on my heart which I had been carrying around with me for the last 10 years. I cannot stress how amazing my time with her was! She was able to help heal me and allowed me to close a chapter that was long overdue while creating a new beginning. Happy birthday to me! I feel so lucky and grateful to have met such a beautiful soul and someone so passionate about helping others. I highly recommend using her services if you just need someone to talk to! Check out her Facebook page and contact her here.
After my time with Nicole, we moved right into our next group workshop which was about how to approach hotels and brands for collaborations. It was so interesting to hear about everyone’s experience and ask a lot of detailed questions about this subject. We also covered how to build your Instagram community through engagement and Instagram pods.

After our workshop, we headed to the Tulum Mayan Ruins which was absolutely breathtaking. Tracy and Lisa took turns taking photos of us in a couple different locations and a few different group shots throughout the ruins. Everything looked like it could been fake, right out of a movie! I genuinely felt like a couple of my photos look like I photoshopped myself right in!
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After leaving, we ran across a super cute coconut and fruit stand right outside the ruins and enjoyed delicious coconut water and fresh coconut meat. I wish I could enjoy something so simple every day!
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We headed back to the hotel for another meditiation session with Nicole who taught us how to take time to listen to our bodies given the office environment most of us work in every day. She went over essential oils and how they can naturally heal the body as opposed to using conventional drugs.
Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of lentil curry and rice noodles with veggies. Cant argue with a delicious meal and some #BossBabe time!
DAY 6
Today was the last day of the retreat and it was such an amazing day! We started our morning with a really cool meditation focused on on third eye/crown chakra which really allowed me to focus on connecting with my “creator”. I’ve practiced meditation occasionally, but today was the deepest meditation I’ve ever had and was truly magical. Whenever I meditate, I always find myself on a beach with lush green palm trees, bright pink Hawaiian flowers, birds chirping and the calm waves of the ocean crashing on a pristine white sandy beach. Today I was able to expand my consciousness to an even deeper place where I could feel the warm sun on my skin and smell salt water in the air. I was also able to visualize my creator which was pretty incredible. It’s amazing where mediation can take you and if you’ve never tried it before you totally should! It was the perfect start to a perfect day.

After meditation we enjoyed a quick breakfast and Tracy and Lisa both shot some fun breakfast photos of each of us individually around the pool. Check out the cute photos below! Coconut water anyone??

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After breakfast we headed to some of the cutest markets off the beaten path with gorgeous hand pained dishes, ceramic animals and Mexico inspired souvenirs. I picked out some really colorful Bohemian style Christmas ornaments with hand painted flowers, flamingos and tropical fish as well as some really fun pom pom garland. I just decorated my Christmas tree with them last week and they look so cute! Next we checked out a couple handmade dream catcher shops on the side of the road and I purchased a gorgeous cream crochet dream catcher to put on the wall above my bed. It was so beautiful and so unique to Mexico that I couldn’t pass it up!
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After a few hours of shopping, we had lunch at a resturant on the beach called The Real Coconut. They have a grain free, gluten free and dairy free menu, utilizing coconut flour for most of their dishes. They also have a ton of vegan options. We had delicious avocado toast, shrimp tostadas and for my entree, I ordered vegan tacos with veggies and plantain falafel wrapped in a coconut flour tortilla. I also needed a caffeine kick so I ordered a delicious frappachino with espresso, coconut milk, almond butter and dates. Totally copying this recipe at home by the way…It was insanely delicious!
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We spent the rest of the afternoon shooting photos for each other on the beach and walking through Tulum’s main hotel strip filled with restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. There were so many cute places we stopped at with unique gifts, clothing and accessories…I was in Boho HEAVEN! We dropped by an incredible gelato place where we grabbed coconut popsicles and as I’m sitting in bed writing this journal I would give my left leg just to have another! I can’t even describe how yummy it was dipped in chocolate with shredded coconut sprinkled on the outside. YUM!
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We ended our day at Coco Tulum, a gorgeous hotel with fabulous beach views and a relaxing lounge space. The sun unfortunately had already gone down so we didn’t get to take any photos but it was a beautiful beach area. We are actually planning to wake up early tomorrow to go shoot there! After heading back to the hotel, we enjoyed our last dinner together and met to go over our assessments and give the Pangea team feedback on what we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the trip an she what we learned and how we progressed. I really appreciated this and it was incredible to hear from everyone about their progression and what they felt they had learned.
DAY 7
This morning was so weird waking up without my roomie! She had an early flight out so had to leave Tulum at 5am. I didn’t like it. =( It’s crazy that meeting a complete stranger and sharing a room and bed with them for a week can bring you to become so close in such a short period of time! Everyone met for our last breakfast together and said our goodbyes. It was a really amazing moment to reflect on the friendships we made, the confidence we built in ourselves and the motivation we gained to go out into the world and be our own #BossBabe! 

It was so fun to shoot more photos together and relax before heading to the airport. What a perfect day to end an incredible week!
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SHOULD YOU JOIN THE PANGEA TRIBE?
If you’re thinking about joining a future Pangea Dreams retreat I HIGHLY recommend it!! If you have a blog or are looking to start one, are a Digital Influencer looking to scale your following and opportunities, wondering how to collaborate with brands or hotels and are looking to bond with some really amazing women, this retreat is for you! I promise it’s worth every penny!!

The wellness aspect of the retreat was an incredible added bonus and allowed me to dig deep into who I am and where I want to go. Reflecting each day on what I’m grateful for and setting intentions for the day is something I plan to implement into my everyday life go forward.
I am so grateful and excited to share my experience with you and grow with so many amazing women. Together we can conquer this world!
Feel free to shoot me an email or DM on Instagram if you have specific or additional questions. And don’t forget to use my special 10% off code on your future Pangea retreat! MELANIEM10
View and book upcoming Pangea Dreams retreats here. Happy traveling babes!
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