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The Ultimate Guide to Olympic National Park — Best Things To Do, See & Enjoy!

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Olympic National Park is found in the northwest corner of Washington nestled between the sand and mountains. Mount Olympus dominates this area, which is where the park got its name.

This unique park is composed of 3 diverse ecosystems, including the sea, glacial mountains, and the rainforest, and stretches over nearly a million acres with much to discover and explore.

How To Get to Olympic National Park

Where Is Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park is located in the state of Washington on the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest region of the U.S.

This incredible national park is proud to showcase 3 different ecosystems, which include glacial mountains, temperate rainforest, and 70 miles of rugged Pacific coastline. This massive park encompasses nearly 1 million acres of land that protects the wilderness, human history, and its diverse ecosystems.

Nearest Airports to Olympic National Park

There are a few different options when it comes to choosing airports for flying into Olympic National Park. Let’s take a look at the most popular U.S. and Canadian airports for flying into this incredible park.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Seattle Tacoma International Airport is the closest commercial U.S. airport to Olympic National Park. This airport is served by over 30 airlines, including popular airlines such as American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and more.

For those who choose to use Seattle Tacoma International Airport, it is approximately a 2.5-hour drive from the airport to the park entrance. There are several car rental agencies near the airport and a 24-hour free shuttle that runs from the airport to the car rental building.

Victoria International Airport (YYJ)

Victoria International Airport is the nearest Canadian commercial airport to Olympic National Park. This airport is served by 8 airlines, including Air Canada, Alaska, Pacific Coastal, and WestJet. From this airport, it is approximately a 2.5-hour drive to the park entrance. This time includes a ferry ride from Victoria to Port Angeles.

This airport has several rental car options, which include popular rental companies such as Avis, Budget, and Hertz.

Driving to Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park can be accessed by the Interstate 5 corridor or by any of the state roadways. Once arriving on the Olympic Peninsula, travelers can connect to Highway 101 to reach destinations in and around Olympic National Park.

Taking the Train to Olympic National Park

There is not a direct train service that takes travelers to Port Angeles, Washington, but if you want to utilize a train service to get to Olympic National Park, there is a great option available. Amtrak regularly arrives in Seattle, and bus services can take travelers from Seattle to Port Angeles.

Taking the Bus to Olympic National Park

There are 2 major bus lines that run near and around Olympic National Park. These buses are a great form of transportation to utilize if you are wanting to reduce travel stress and wear and tear on your vehicle.

Dungeness Bus Line

Dungeness Bus Line is operated by Olympic Bus Lines and is a wonderful service for getting around the Olympic National Park area. This bus line provides service from the Seattle airport to many of the surrounding towns near Olympic National Park. Dungeness routes run twice a day, and fares start at $32.

Clallam Transit System

Another bus line is the Clallam Transit System which runs a bus line around Clallam County and serves Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks, along with several other areas in the national park region. This bus system runs routes all day with fares starting at only $1, and full-day passes costing $3.

Getting Around Olympic National Park

Getting Around Olympic National Park
Image Credit: Joe Gardner via Unsplash

With Olympic National Park spanning nearly 1,000,000 acres, the best way to get through the park is by car. There are some bus services that can get you near the park, but the best option is a private vehicle as this park is far too large to cover in any other way.

The National Park Service offers several printable and interactive maps on its website to help you navigate your way through the park.

What To See and Do in Olympic National Park

With 3 diverse ecosystems, Olympic National Park isn’t short of incredible attractions for visitors to see and explore. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular attractions found in this remarkable park.

Hoh Rain Forest

Hoh Rain Forest is located on the west side of Olympic National Park. It can be accessed from Upper Hoh Road, from Highway 101.

Most visitors begin to tour this area of the park after a stop at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. This visitor center has exhibits and a bookstore, as well as rangers who can give advice on what to see and do in the area.

The Hoh Rain Forest is filled with lush, green mosses, ferns, and trees and is one of the best examples of the remaining temperate rainforests found in the U.S. This area is one of the most visited in Olympic National Park and has been described as a fairy tale enchanted forest.

There are easy nature trail loops that wind through the forest and a 17-mile trail that leads to Glacier Meadows, which is on the shoulder of Mount Olympus.

Bottom Line: The Hoh Rain Forest is an incredible feature of Olympic National Park that you won’t want to miss.

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is found 17 miles south of Port Angeles. This area is the most easily accessible mountain area within Olympic National Park. When the weather is clear, visitors can take in spectacular views.

The area has an abundance of hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty. There are also many opportunities for winter sports, such as cross-country skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing.

Most visitors begin their time in Hurricane Ridge at the visitor center, where they can grab brochures, maps, snacks, and advice from rangers on how they should spend their time in the area. The visitor center also has an orientation film and exhibits for visitors to learn about the park.

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open during the summer and only on weekends and holidays throughout the rest of the year. Ranger programs are also offered at this visitor center, and guests are able to pick up souvenirs and other necessities at the gift shop.

Hurricane Ridge also has a winter sports club that operates 2 rope tows and a Poma lift. If you plan to visit this area during the winter season, it is wise to be prepared with tire chains and snow gear.

Kalaloch

Ruby Beach
Image Credit: Brigitte Werner via Pixabay

The Kalaloch area is located on the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula. This is one of the most popular places in Olympic National Park.

3 wildlife refuges protect the marine wildlife as well as the islands offshore. Lots of birds can be spotted flying near Kalaloch, including Western goals, bald eagles, and several other types of coastal birds.

Not only can these birds be found flying near the area, but they can also be found nesting and feeding along the southern coast. Other incredible forms of wildlife spotted in this area include harbor seals and harbor porpoises.

Kalaloch has an incredible nature trail that is an easy hike through the coastal forest, and there are 7 beach trails that lead to the ocean from the main highway.

Ruby Beach is one of the most popular places in the Kalaloch area, as it has viewpoints that are easily accessed. The beaches in this area are amazing places to look for tide pools containing starfish and anemones. Kalaloch also has a ranger station that is open daily in the summer with lots of information, exhibit, maps, and books.

The lodge featured in the Kalaloch area is open year-round and has cabins, lodge rooms, a camp store, a gift shop, and a restaurant.

Bottom Line: The Kalaloch area has a wealth of opportunities to spot amazing wildlife, hike incredible trails, and enjoy all the beauty that is held in Olympic National Park.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent was formed thousands of years ago and is a clear, glacially-carved lake that has depths up to 624 feet in places. When the ice withdrew decades ago, it left behind a steep valley that became filled with glacial waters which now make up Lake Crescent.

This area is an amazing place for all sorts of activities, such as hiking, camping, and boating, as well as lodging and dining. This area is a fisherman’s paradise where they can reel in 2 types of fish that aren’t found anywhere else in the world: the Beardslee and Crescenti trout.

The Lake Crescent area has hikes varying from easy to difficult and impressive places such as a World War II spotting tower and Pyramid Peak.

Olympic National Park Main Visitor Center and Wilderness Information Center

The Olympic National Park Main Visitor Center and Wilderness Information Center should be one of your first stops as you enter Olympic National Park. This visitor center is home to many exhibits about the park and its natural and cultural history.

One feature that’s very popular with children is the Discovery Room which has interactive exhibits and activities specifically designed for kids. The visitor center also has a 25-minute film that explains lots of information about the park, as well as a bookstore.

Rangers are stationed in this visitor center and are very knowledgeable and friendly when it comes to helping visitors plan their trip through Olympic National Park. Access to this visitor center is included in park admission. The visitor center is open daily, but the hours do vary according to the season. It’s typically open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach
Image Credit: Beier C. on Unsplash

Rialto Beach is about 40 miles from Lake Crescent, and this beautiful area is filled with breathtaking coastal scenery. This is a wonderful place where visitors have the opportunity to see seals, whales, sea birds, eagles, otters, and sea lions.

Lots of visitors called this beach a place to see the pure power of nature. Rialto Beach is known as one of the most popular beaches and Olympic and one of the most accessible. Rialto is a superb place to look for wildlife, take in the sea views, and catch a glimpse of interesting marine features like sea stacks and tide pools.

Sol Duc Valley

The Sol Duc Valley is found in the northwest region of Olympic National Park and is one of the most multi-faceted areas of the park. This area has many trails to explore, but the most popular trail is the 1-mile hike that leads to the overlook of Sol Duc Falls. This hike is considered to be easy, and it is filled with stunning views along the way.

There are several other hiking options in the Sol Duc Valley, including hikes that are 5 to 6 miles long. Lots of hikers particularly like to watch the salmon leap over the falls at Salmon Cascades. The Sol Duc Valley has lots of opportunities for lodging, as well as some wonderful dining facilities near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

Best Times To Visit Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is a spectacular park to visit year-round. There are times throughout the year that are better than others, depending on the activities you’d like to participate in. Below you will find the best times to visit Olympic National Park.

Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park in Winter

Olympic National Park in Winter
Image Credit: Greg Garnhart via Unsplash

Winter is a magical time to visit Olympic National Park. With snow-covered mountains and evergreen forests glistening under a blanket of snow, this park is an enchanted winter wonderland for travelers to experience.

The best time to visit Olympic National Park in the winter is during the months from November to February. Winter visitors enjoy a variety of winter sports as well as viewing wildlife throughout the park.

Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park To Avoid the Crowds

The months from October to December are a great time to visit Olympic National Park and avoid crowds. These months are considered the off-season even though there are plenty of activities to do during the park at this time.

Hot Tip: It is important to keep in mind that there may be snow closures during this time of the year, so keeping up to date on the National Park Service website is highly recommended.

Best Time To Visit Olympic National Park for Tide Pooling

Tide pooling is an exciting activity available in Olympic National Park. From March to September, visitors are able to see lots of marine life on the shores of the many beaches in the park. This is also a great time to see whales as they begin to migrate. Some of the animals found in tide pools include starfish, sea snails, clams, and rock crabs.

Cheapest Time To Visit Olympic National Park

The best time to travel to Olympic National Park and save money is from early January to early March and early August to early December. The absolute cheapest time to vacation in Olympic National Park is typically mid to late September. These are the times when flights are at their lowest, and there are usually deals for lodging as well.

Annual Events Near Olympic National Park

The Olympic Peninsula hosts a variety of festivals and events each year, ranging from birdwatching festivals to art events to marathons. Let’s take a look at the top events that happen near Olympic National Park each year:

Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts

Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts happens in May each year. This event is held over the Memorial Day weekend and is a 4-day festival that features over 70 family-friendly performances.

There are also live art performances, days and nights filled with music, a street fair, and an exciting outdoor activity schedule. This event is considered to be one of the best small-town festivals in the country.

Sequim Lavendar Festival

The Sequim Lavender Festival happens every third weekend in July. This is a great time for people who love the calming, sweet fragrance of lavender to gather. This event happens in the town of Sequim, and visitors can browse hundreds of handcrafted gifts and products.

There’s even a lavender farm tour where visitors can see lavender growing. There’s also a food court that features lavender-flavored ice cream. The evenings are when many guests enjoy dancing in the street.

Forever Twilight in Forks

Forever Twilight in Forks is an annual celebration that honors Stephanie Meyer, the author of the “Twilight” book series. This celebration happens in September and typically lasts 3 to 4 days. This is a great place for “Twilight” fans from around the world to come together and reminisce over their favorite books and movies.

Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival

CrabFest happens every October and is a wonderful way for the Olympic Peninsula to celebrate the diverse bounty of seafood, agriculture, maritime traditions, and the spectacular coastal environment.

This festival happens on the waterfront in Port Angeles, right next to Olympic National Park. The festival features cooking demonstrations, a chowder cook-off, the Grab-a-Crab Derby, local wine tasting, crafts, music, and more. Admission to this festival is free, and it is an amazing time for all.

Where To Stay in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has a wide variety of cabins, lodges, and campsites available inside the park for visitors to utilize during their stay. Guests can choose accommodations that date back to the early 1900s, rustic cabins, or a modern motel-type facility.

Inside the Park

There are 4 areas inside the park where visitors can choose to stay. From campsites to resorts, Olympic National Park has everything covered when it comes to lodging.

Kalaloch Lodge

Kalaloch Lodge
Image Credit: Kalaloch Lodge

Kalaloch Lodge is located between the driftwood beaches and evergreen forests of Olympic National Park. This area is a cozy retreat that has plenty of lodging, dining, and shopping options for guests to choose from.

The Main Lodge is ideal for those who want to experience the Olympic Peninsula and all it has to offer. This lodge is built with lumber milled from the driftwood logs that washed up on the beach nearby.

Main Lodge is considered the heart and soul of the property and a place where you can meet other travelers, watch the incredible storms roll in, and eat at the cozy on-site restaurant.

This area also has rustic cabins that are ideal for families or couples’ getaways. These cabins have stunning views of the gorgeous landscape and sea. There are a variety of cabin options to fit everyone’s needs, from small studio-style cabins to large duplex units.

Another property on site is the Seacrest House. This facility has private patios and balconies that face the ocean, and they are nestled in the forest near Kalaloch’s Main Lodge. This is a perfect destination for those who are looking for seclusion and a peaceful place to retreat.

The Kalaloch Lodge area has a lovely restaurant, a convenient gift shop, and a mercantile, and the area hosts events that visitors are sure to love, including holiday events and pairing dinners.

Lake Crescent Lodge

The Lake Crescent Lodge area offers visitors an opportunity to step back in time and unwind with their incredible property that’s nestled right in the giant fir and hemlock trees on the shores of Lake Crescent.

The property has incredible cabins that are available for those who want to stay in a more rustic environment. These cabins are named the Roosevelt Fireplace Cabins, and they have received the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

These cabins provide a beautiful fireplace and stunning views of the lake. You can find these cabins located along the shores of Lake Crescent. Guests can choose from 1- or 2-bedroom cabins and they are available during the summer season and weekends only during the winter.

Bottom Line: The Historic Rooms at Lake Crescent Lodge are perfect for watching the sunset over the Olympic Peninsula and taking in the views of Lake Crescent. This lodge has received the Washington Wine First Award for Fine Dining, so this is a perfect place for lodging and enjoying phenomenal meals.

Log Cabin Resort

Log Cabin Resort has a variety of options for accommodations, including lakeside chalets, lodge rooms, cabins, and campsites.

The cabins available at Log Cabin Resort are set up in a small community with charming log homes. Visitors can choose from non-kitchen cabins, kitchenette cabins, and camper cabins, depending on what their vacation needs are. All of the cabins in this area have incredible views of the surrounding mountains and lake.

The Lakeside Chalet is found right on the waterfront and boasts spectacular views of the mountains. The rooms in the chalet have all the conveniences of home in a quaint, cozy setting. The Lodge Rooms can be found next to the main Log Cabin Lodge. These waterfront rooms have amazing views of the mountains, beautiful, rustic décor, and everything you may need during your stay.

For those wanting to camp, Log Cabin Resort has several tent camping sites as well as full hook-up RV sites. Log Cabin Resort features amenities galore, Including a café, deli, gift shop, boat rentals, convenience store, and laundry area.

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
Image Credit: Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort

Sul Duc Hot Springs Resort is where luxury meets the great outdoors. This area is open from spring to fall and has something for everyone to enjoy. Visitors can choose to stay in a cabin or a suite when staying at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

The cabins are located along the Sol Duc River and are surrounded by towering evergreen trees. Guests can choose a standard cabin, kitchen cabin, or duplex kitchen cabin, depending on their needs.

If visitors prefer to experience resort-style living, the spacious Riverside Suite is the perfect solution. The Riverside Suite is a separate building located right on the Sol Duc River. This suite sleeps 10 guests and has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This is the perfect option for family or group travel.

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort has an incredible list of amenities for guests to take advantage of, including access to the hot springs pool, gift shop, restaurant, and convenience store.

Lodging Near Olympic National Park

There are several options for lodging near the park, should you choose to stay close to the park instead of inside. There are 3 major areas where guests typically stay, including the North Peninsula, West Peninsula, and the East Peninsula.

These areas have a wide range of accommodations, such as hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, and private vacation rentals. Let’s take a look at several communities near Olympic National Park and see what they have to offer.

Forks

Forks is a gateway town to the Hoh Rain Forest and Kalaloch Beach, but it is better known as the setting for the “Twilight” book series. There is something for everyone to enjoy during their stay.

The town is home to nearly 5,000 people and has a charming atmosphere for travelers to enjoy during their stay. Guests can visit the Forks Timber Museum and other attractions like the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.

The area is known for its world-class rivers, so fishermen have opportunities to catch salmon and trout. There is also rafting and kayaking available in the amazing rivers.

There is an abundance of lodging opportunities in Forks, from camping to historic hotels, from cabins to grand lodges. Many of the hotels and resorts have on-site restaurants that have impressive menus featuring fresh seafood, local produce, and fine wines.

Hoodsport

Hoodsport is a small town of just under 400 people and is well-known for its beauty and outdoor adventures. This gateway town leads to the Staircase Entrance of Olympic National Park. This charming town has several resorts, motels, and campsites available for lodging, as well as several local eateries and coffee shops for fueling up for a day of exploration.

Some top attractions in the town of Hoodsport include backpacking and hiking near Flapjack Lakes, touring and tasting wines at one of the local wineries, or spending the evening at a nearby casino.

Port Angeles

Port Angeles is one of the largest communities on the North Peninsula. This town would make a perfect place to set up camp while visiting Olympic National Park.

There are several types of accommodations available, including lodges, cottages, inns, motels, and hotels. Many unique local restaurants serve a variety of food, including Italian, seafood, Mexican, and Thai.

Activities are available for those who are seeking adventure and entertainment, such as art and music festivals, dirt bike racing, water sports, hiking, and more.

Where To Eat in Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park has several options for lodging, and several of the lodging areas are home to spectacular restaurants that feature local dishes and sustainable foods that are regionally sourced.

Lake Crescent Dining Room

The Lodges of Olympic National Park and Forest
Image Credit: Olympic National Park and Forest

The Lake Cresent Dining Room is found in the Lake Crescent Lodge. This restaurant features creative dishes from the Pacific Northwest. It is located right on the lake and has stunning views of the water, mountains, and forest.

This restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open seasonally from April to January. Popular menu items at Lake Crescent Dining Room include the Dungeness Crab Benedict and the Olympic Pub Burger.

Springs Restuarant

The Springs Restaurant is located in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. This restaurant features Northwest cuisine, and its menu features incredible dishes using locally-sourced ingredients.

Whether you are in the mood for a huge pancake breakfast to start your day or an elk burger and fries after a long day of touring, Springs Restaurant has you and your appetite covered.

Sunnyside Café

Sunnyside Café is a casual dining facility that overlooks Lake Crescent. This restaurant is a great place for friends and family to gather for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The restaurant offers lakeside dining, indoors or outdoors, with spectacular views of Lake Crescent.

The menu includes sandwiches, pasta, salads, pizzas, fish and chips, and pulled pork. Whether you need a grab-and-go meal or a place to sit back and relax while enjoying a great meal, Sunnyside Café has something for everyone’s palate.

Olympic National Park Facts

Olympic National Park Wildlife
Image Credit: David Mark via Pixabay

1. Hoh Rain Forest Receives Over 12 Feet of Rain Annually

Each year, the Hoh Rain Forest receives 12 to 14 inches of rain. This rain and the cool summers are perfect for the thriving plant life and wildlife in the rainforest.

2. Whale Watching

Whales can often be seen on the beaches of Kalaloch, Rialto, and Shi Shi. Whales can often be seen migrating from Mexico during the months of April, May, October, and November.

3. Crystal Clear Waters Provide Incredible Views

Lake Cresent is a bright blue, clear lake found in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains. This lake is not like most because it lacks nitrogen, which means the waters are extremely clear. Visitors can see over 60 feet down into this lake due to how clean and clear the water is.

4. Incredible Banana Slugs

Banana slugs live in the Hoh Rain Forest. These incredible decomposers are named because of their bright yellow coloring. They are important to the rainforest ecosystem because they consume organic debris and vegetation and scatter seeds.

5. Largest Dam Removal in the World

In 2014, 2 major dams were removed in Olympic National Park as a part of the Elwha River Restoration. These dams being removed revived the river, and thousands of fish were returned to the area.

6. Stargazing in the Park

Olympic National Park is an incredible place for stargazing. Because the park isn’t polluted by light from the city, guests can take in the spectacular night sky and see the Milky Way, constellations, and even planets with the naked eye.

7. People of the Past

Nearly 3,000 years ago, Olympic Peninsula was inhabited by the Makah people. This people group built canoes for different types of fishing, whaling, and sealing. They had a respectful relationship with the land and sea. Signs from their past can be found on the northern shore at a place called the Wedding Rocks.

8. Olympic Marmot

The Olympic marmot is a cute, social mammal found in the park. These adorable animals that have evolved specifically in Olympic, Washington can be spotted nuzzling, chirping, playing, and feeding in groups around the park.

9. Adopt-a-Fish

Olympic National Park began a project in 2014 to track the movement patterns of fish in the Elwah River. The Adopt-a-Fish Radio Tracking Project involves catching a fish, photographing it, and radio tagging it before it is released. This research provides valuable information on recovering the salmon population in the park.

10. Roosevelt Elk

Olympic National Park is home to the area’s largest herd of Roosevelt elk. These mammals are the largest in the elk family and were named after President Roosevelt, who established many of the rules that are in place to protect the elk habitat and Olympic National Park.

Final Thoughts

Olympic National Park has something to offer all kinds of visitors that can be enjoyed year-round. Whether it is the mountains, rainforest, or sea that brings you to Olympic National Park, this is a trip of a lifetime that will create memories that last forever.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the fees for entering Olympic National Park?

There are different types of passes available for entering Olympic National Park. For those visiting in a private vehicle, a 7-day pass costs $30. Motorcycles have a $25 fee for a 7-day pass. Individuals entering the park pay a fee of $15.

What are popular activities at Olympic National Park?

Some popular activities at Olympic National Park include hiking, biking, and photography. Other activities include fishing, boating, and water sports.

How long should I stay in Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park is a massive park that stretches over nearly a million acres of land. There are 3 different ecosystems that are found in the park, which means there is much to explore. For those wanting a minimalist trip, visiting for 3 to 4 days is ideal. This would give a day for hiking and exploring a day for special activities and tours, and 1 to 2 days for driving through the park and sightseeing. For an adventure-filled trip, planning for 5 to 7 days would be best. This allows for multiple days of driving and sightseeing, hiking and exploring, and special activities and tours.

When is Olympic National Park open?

Like most national parks, Olympic National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day. There are some times during the year that are closed for particular seasons, so it is wise to stay up to date on closures by accessing the park’s website.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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