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Supermodel Olivia Ponton Shares Her Hometown Guide To Naples, Florida

We love Florida here at Uproxx — as a travel destination, if not as a state of mind. From the pristine beaches of Fort Myers to the party scene in Miami, the Sunshine State offers a year-round tropical oasis. That’s why super model and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Rookie Olivia Ponton, a proud resident of Naples, Florida, keeps returning to her home city.

“I feel the most myself at any beach. Eating an acaí bowl on the beach and playing sand volleyball seems like my perfect day,” says Ponton.

To get the inside scoop on all things Naples, we asked Ponton to share her ultimate guide to the quintessential seaside city. Read on for where to stay, play, eat, and explore in Naples, Florida.

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WHY NAPLES, FLORIDA?

I love how calm it is, it’s truly a vacation retreat. Growing up I didn’t even know what ocean conservation was because our beaches were so beautiful and clean. When the red tide happened, it caused me to learn more about keeping our beaches clean! I think Naples is a must-visit destination. I love to wake up on the beach, put on my bikini, go to the beach all day, order smoothies, go home to shower and go get sushi for dinner. That is my perfect day.

What’s one thing that every first-time visitor should see or do in Naples?

Jet skiing, because the water normally isn’t too choppy. It’s so much fun to do with your friends. Boat days are unbeatable. You can rent boats and jet skis, take a charter out, or go for a sunset cruise. Most hotels will have access to these services! Any activity on the water in Naples will not disappoint, with warm water and very frequent dolphin sightings.

Where to find the best shopping

Either near 5th Ave, 3rd Street South, or Waterside Shops. All three are distinct shopping experiences. 5th Ave has many local shops with cute local restaurants, offering the perfect setting for an evening dinner with shopping. 3rd Street South (near 5th Ave) is similar in that it’s home to many local shops as well! 3rd STreet South is the perfect spot for brunch and shopping (make sure to get lunch at Jane’s Cafe). Waterside Shops is an outdoor mall that houses upscale shopping, with designer brands and luxury products, perfect for weekend shopping.

Where can nature lovers explore in Naples?

Naples, Florida Guide
Gordon River Greenway Park

Go to Greenway Park. It’s a beautiful boardwalk near Naples High School that stretches for miles (about four or five to be more specific) and is shaded in some areas. This trail leads all the way to Baker Park, which is a large park along the water and a great place for all interests. There’s a dog park, event space, kids water playground and regular playground, and a grass area for relaxing and activities. It’s fun to walk with friends or just do a nice workout by yourself.

The most underrated restaurant that everyone needs to try

For a quick smoothie to take to the beach, Tropical Smoothie hands down. They don’t have any locations in NYC or LA. So every time I go home I NEED to have it!

For a more upscale dining experience, I would recommend Bar Tulia. It’s a locally-owned, upscale Italian restaurant with locations in both Mercato and 5th Avenue, two of the most popular places for nightlife in Naples. The vibe is rustic with its open layout and buzzing crowd, a fun exciting place to be on a Friday or Saturday night!

Another favorite is The Bevy, a local spot right off of 3rd Ave South. With an array of different dishes, an outdoor setting, and beautiful decor, this restaurant is sure to give you a great taste of Naples.

For a sunset dinner, the Turtle Club is a locally owned restaurant where you are able to dine right on the beach creating the perfect atmosphere.

Best beach spot to spend a Saturday in the sun?

Clam Pass Park
Clam Pass Park

Downtown, there are small beaches near the Pier, but a few streets down from that the beaches are ALWAYS quiet and those are normally the best ones to go to. They offer a bit more privacy, with space for public parking and easy beach access.

Additionally, there is also Clam Pass Beach, which offers public parking and a tram service to take guests on a tree-lined boardwalk to the beach (you can also walk the boardwalk if you would like)! At this beach, there is a restaurant that serves drinks and Greek food and has ample places to relax.

Coolest hotel or place to stay in Naples?

The Naples Grande
The Naples Grande

The Naples Grande is my favorite place to stay, 10/10 best resort to stay at. With activities for all age groups, The Naples Grande is a great place for families. With two pools — one adult pool and one children’s pool — a water slide, and multiple restaurants, it’s a great place to relax and unwind. There is also a golf cart service that takes you to the beach only five minutes away. Guests are also able to enjoy a full-service spa, which has an array of treatment options.

Best time of year to visit?

Any time is amazing, I would go in April or May because that’s when the weather starts getting really, really nice. Also, the normal summer tourists haven’t started to visit yet around that time of year. But any time of year is amazing in Naples. Even during the holidays, the decorations on 5th Ave make it magical. You can’t go wrong visiting Naples.

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