Taiba, Brazil
Welcome to Taiba, Brazil!

Greetings from North-East Brazil! After our week in São Paulo, we migrated north for the warmer weather (and water!) which was a welcome treat after the chilly South African autumn. Moo and I split ways on arrival. He was off to join a two week kite-surfing safari and me, I was admitting myself to a surf and yoga retreat. Little did I know I was about to learn what makes an ethical retreat.

A little unfortunate for me, I was the only guest staying at the time. Which made for some pretty solitary evenings, but gave me a good opportunity to understand the way of life, the culture and the community of Taiba, Brazil.

It wasn’t my first go at a surf and yoga retreat, let me take you on a speedy trip down memory lane…. Flicking through my maaaannnnny career changes, one of them involved hosting my own surf and yoga retreats south of Sydney. From organising a yoga teacher, to sourcing surfboards, catering, to actually running the retreats and surf coaching all while hoping everyone left with a massive smile at the end. It was terrific!

During my time in Taiba, it gave me time to reflect on what makes a ‘good’ retreat experience, which lead me to think about all of the not so ethical ‘retreats’ out there.

I’ve observed the rise of retreats over the years, particularly now, there’s not just yoga or surf and yoga retreats, nowadays there’s a retreat for just about everything: writing, meditation, mindfulness, restorative escapes and fitness focused. As I observed the trends, something started to light up. Wow – there are a lot of shitty retreats out there.

So, consider this your guide to choosing an ethical escape. For the most part, below are mostly related to international retreats – where you are outside your home country. Give me your thoughts if you disagree!

Brazilian breakfast
Home grown (and baked) breakfast in Taiba

All inclusive meals

An obvious one – meaning your host feeds you all meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Instead, look for:

A retreat offering half-board. This will look different depending on the location. Maybe they only include breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner. By avoiding a retreat that offers all meals you’re able to support local, family run businesses in the area. It also gives you an opportunity for variety.

International hosts

If your hosts are all international (meaning, the hosts aren’t locals from the area you’re visiting.)

Instead, look for:

Seek a local host or co-host to the area. They’ll be able to speak the language, help you better understand the culture you’re visiting and make you feel more like you’re a guest in the community – rather than just a passing visitor. You’ll likely gain a more authentic experience.

Taiba Surf and Yoga
The wonderful hosts (and mini host) of Taiba Surf and Yoga

An action packed timetable

A timetable that has you doing three to four (or more!) activities per day with very little downtime is the recipe for a stressful experience. You’ll likely go home more exhausted than when you first arrived.

Instead, look for:

A timetable with plenty of downtime scheduled in. This allows your body and mind to completely let go of the hustle from your day to day life. Only with time, space and reflection can you cultivate energy for the task at hand.

Packaged or take-away foods

Does the retreat offer packaged or take-away meals? Perhaps they don’t cater to your dietary needs?

Instead, look for:

Look for a retreat who pride themselves on the food they offer. They might bring in local chef’s from the neighbourhood. Maybe they grow their own vegetables in the garden. Meals that are offered should be wholesome, healthy, home cooked and honest.

Ratio of coaches versus students

Are you the tenth student to one instructor? Check the split – odds are you’re just a number to this retreat, your experience will less likely be about the activity and more about accountancy.

Instead, look for:

Look for an opportunity to build your relationship with your coach. When you have more time with the expert, you’re more likely to progress and learn.

Obscure retreat location

Is the retreat in the middle of nowhere? Are you reliant on your host to drive you everywhere? Your exploration becomes their responsibility.

Instead, look for:

Look how close the retreat venue is to local shops and restaurants. If they are based off the main drag, do they offer guests alternate transport, like bicycles?

So ! Now you know what I look for when I’m booking an ethical retreat. But it’s not just that – I also look to see if the host goes above and beyond. This could be things like; video/photography analysis, practical technical and fitness advice and one on one coaching. For this, the best experience I’ve ever had was at La Buena Vida in Ayampe, Ecuador. Keith was a real life legend!!

La Buena Vida Ayampe Ecuador
This is Keith and I back in 2015

My recent experience at Taiba Surf and Yoga ticked all of the boxes above, however without the video/fitness/technical advice, it’s something I’m sure they will add soon. What I really enjoyed was the yoga with Stefanie, she teaches a beautiful yin practice, perfect after all that paddling! After two weeks, I really left feeling like I was part of the community.

Let me know if you have any epic surf and yoga ethical retreat recommendations, get in touch!

More on the North of Brazil next week!

Until then xo


  1. It’s always so tempting to choose experiences based on the number of activities or meals provided! So your excellent article focussing on quality and authenticity provides a much-needed different perspective that will make the experience more memorable for sure!

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