Living the Dream: How I’m making it – Tamarindo, Costa Rica

8 years ago, I moved to Costa Rica after falling in love with surfing.  And I found that everyone I knew back in NYC either thought I had lost my mind, or found the meaning of life.  And most tourists I met who were visiting Costa Rica were dreaming about living there, and were full of questions on how people make it work.  The answer?  Everyone hustles to figure it out.  And then keeps hustling.

Many of the jobs or skills that people have in the US corporate world are not available or useful when you’re living in Costa Rica in a tourist town.  So you’ve got to be opportunistic, and still find a way to enjoy your new life in paradise.  Here is an account of how one of our favorite surfer girls is making it happen in Costa Rica, from Kristen @sambatothesea.   — Chief Bikini Officer, Helena Fogarty

Kristen M. Brown of Samba to the Sea headed for a surf in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

Kristen @sambaotothesea headed for a surf in Tamarindo.


As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun – – and I really can’t believe over four years have passed since leaving NYC:  quitting my corporate job, putting all my belongings in storage (called Mom & Pop storage), and moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica to surf. When I first moved, I worked for Robert August (AKA Mr. Endless Summer), blogging and running his social media. Working for such an iconic person in surf history was definitely an experience. I loved how most of the time I could make my own work schedule and I was stoked to not be working “in the office” every day.  And I got to surf.  All the time.

Kristen M. Brown of Samba to the Sea photographing a beautiful sunset in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

Kristen @sambaotothesea chasing sunsets in Costa Rica with her Chihuahua Gidget.

In my free time, I started to follow my other passion, photography. First, photographing and posting images of Tamarindo on my blog + Instagram was a good way to keep my family and friends updated on my Costa Rican adventure. Then, it became a side job.  Why?  Because I saw way too many ugly postcards for sale in Tamarindo.  I decided to take the #uglypostcarddilemma into my own hands. I made my own, featuring my Costa Rican sunset photographs. They were an immediate hit in Tamarindo and I was stoked to have found a niche in market.

What started with nine postcards has evolved into over forty postcard designs with ~15,000 postcards sold in three and a half years. And selling my photographs via the postcards gave me confidence to pursue photography as a career – which happens to also be a good way to make a living here in the tropics.  Today I’m so stoked to launch something I only dreamed of a year ago – – an online store designed to help you have a little bit of paradise in your home, with sunset prints, pillows, baby blankets (and more to come), aptly named The Sunset Shop.

(P.S. you totally want to keep reading for a special offer just for MI OLA mermaids!!)

The Sunset Shop by Samba to the Sea.

Ahhhh, the magic of sunsets in Costa Rica! Prints of breathtaking Costa Rican sunsets available at The Sunset Shop.

I now spend most of my year in Costa Rica, with the remainder spent in magical Savannah, GA – which is gorgeous, amazing and also happens to be where my family lives. I know, you’re probably thinking why would I ever want to leave Costa Rica or split time? The honest truth? Costa Rica may be a little slice of Pura Vida for vacation, but living here (like I believe living anywhere else in the world) has its pluses and minuses. So what should you expect if you’re thinking of moving to Tamarindo, Costa Rica?

Pros & Cons of  Living the Dream in Tamarindo, Costa Rica


No need for a beach getaway:  I don’t have the crazy urge to go on vacation like I did when I lived in NYC. Sure, I miss the ease of hopping on a plane at JFK to Europe, but I’m at the beach every day!

Sunsets:  The sunsets in Tamarindo are AMAZING!!! Soon after landing in Costa Rica, I started chasing and photographing the sunsets.

Pura Vidadise print by Samba to the Sea at The Sunset Shop. Image of a gorgeous sunset in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Free mobile background download!

A breathtaking sunset in Costa Rica. Photo by Kristen M. Brown, @sambaotothesea

Surfing:  The waves in Costa Rica are simply magical – – peeling waves, offshore winds, and warm water. Within a 5-10 minute bike ride, I have access to several surf breaks and several others within 30 minutes. Without a doubt, I’ve gotten spoiled here real fast!
(Check out MI OLA’s surf guides to Tamarindo, Avellanas, and Playa Grande)

Surfing Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica.

Wave breaking at Playa Avellanas, Costa Rica. Photo by Kristen M. Brown, @sambaotothesea


Nature:  Ahhhh, nature. It’s right outside – –  the Howler monkeys at dawn, iguanas, singing birds. I love my daily walks on beach and through the hills in Tamarindo with my little Chihuahua Gidget.


The people: My friends are from all over the world.  Tamarindo is a great example of a diverse, mixed community.



When your dream becomes everyday life, there are definitely things that can wear on you… until you get back in the waves. Here’s the reality that many don’t consider when they dream of moving to paradise.

Pura Vida:  Ahhhh, the small thing called Tico Time. Meaning “latin time” or tomorrow is another day. Pretty much everything here just operates slower than the US. Long lines at the bank, slow internet, and driving 40 miles down the coast takes over two hours!  Convenience and ease is not a focus, like it often is up north.

Sometimes I don’t surf everyday:  Contrary to what my parents think,I don’t surf everyday. I’d love to surf everyday, but my work takes priority and other times the conditions are just not that great. Sometimes a week or more goes by without surfing – – (gasp!) I know!

Cost of Living is high:  It’s expensive to live here.  Costa Rica is not a cheap country. Most tourists are surprised at the cost of accommodations, tours, and food.  And people who live here make a lot less.  Think US prices, but much lower wages than the US.

It’s tropically hot:  The sun is HOT, HOT, HOT! Tamarindo is located 10 degrees north of the equator, meaning that the sun is very strong here! And in April, the temperatures soar over 100 degrees with high humidity.

People come and go:  Tamarindo is a tourist and very transient town. Just as fast as you make a new friend, another one is moving out of town! Some people only come for high season to escape the northern hemisphere winters and others are like me – – how has it been over four years?!


Four years ago, never did I think I would still be living in Costa Rica AND working for myself – – a passion that my pre-Costa Rica self would have said was impossible. In celebration of the launch of my shop, I’m stoked to offer you FREE sunset downloads, oh-so-perfect for your phone or computer background! Click here for your freebie, add the downloads to the shopping cart, and use code “MIOLA” at checkout! AND this weekend only, for MI OLA mermaids only, enjoy 25% off her whole shop – – use code “MIOLA25” at checkout.






Escape to Pura Vida-dise

You have been patiently waiting, AND waiting, for us to announce the lucky winner of the MI OLA GrindTV Sweepstakes.  A big congrats to Andrea Lloyd from Boise, ID!

So what is lucky Andrea winning?!?! How about:

  • – A free trip to Costa Rica (Roundtrip airfare for two from the U.S.).
  • – Luxury accommodations for four nights at Cala Luna Boutique Hotel.
  • – Two surf lessons for two from Tamarindo Surf Academy.
  • – An afternoon on your own private sailing yacht. You are the V.I.P and the Moonstone is at your command. You can snorkel, jet ski, SUP, or just relax.
  • – A $500 shopping spree to MI OLA, so you’ve got the best bikinis for surfing on your trip.


Yea, we know. Andrea just SCORED!!!! Given that we have got Andrea covered (literally) with some new MI OLA bikinis, we thought we would help round out her packing list to her escape to Pura Vida-dise.

If you’re visiting a tropical paradise like Costa Rica, here’s what you should bring:

  • – SUNSCREEN (**Important.  It’s available here, but it’s very expensive and if your picky about brand, you may not find it.)
  • – Bug spray (also important!)
  • – Swimwear (like your MI OLA bikinis…)
  • – Rashguard
  • – Hat
  • – Polarized Sunglasses
  • – Shorts
  • – Tshirts
  • – Tank Tops
  • – Sandals
  • – Sneakers/athletic shoes/water shoes – depending on what activities you want to do. You should have closed toe shoes for zip lining or horseback riding. If you’re going on the all day adventure tour, which includes tubing, you will want to bring water socks/shoes.
  • – Bring anything you want to read/watch/play (Books and Magazines are hard to come by here and internet can be slow)
  • – Mini first aid kit (always good to travel with!)
  • – Travel yoga mat (if you’re doing yoga)
  • – Yoga/workout clothes
  • – Camera (If you bring an expensive camera make sure you have it insured against water damage and theft.)
  • Basically, bring anything you can’t live without.   We all know people who have shown up in our town with the mindset “oh, I forgot to pack – underwear, swimsuit, sunscreen, athletic shoes, etc.”… and they have had to do without, or buy overpriced options that were not exactly what they wanted.

Here’s what you should leave at home:

  • – Fancy clothes
  • – Long sleeves and Long pants (If you’re only visiting the beach – if you are going to volcanos or cloud forests, that’s a very different climate.)
  • – Synthetic fabrics – other than to work out in. It’s just too hot!
  • – High heels or wedges (In our particular area, there are no sidewalks, and the roads are not paved.  Walking in heels or wedges can be challenging and dangerous to your ankles.)
  • – Fancy jewelry or accessories or purses.

Here’s some beachy escape inspiration to keep you warm while the nights get cooler! 

(Warning!  You may be unable to resist a trip to the tropics if you click this link.)


#miolAMAZING – 2 ways you can win with us!

Summer brings out our even more adventurous side.

If you’re an adventurous mermaid, like us… we’ve got 2 ways you can win with MI OLA this summer!

If you aren’t following us on instagram (@miolasurf.)… you should be!  The MI OLA mermaids are #gettingoutthere every day, and this July the team has done amazing things, seen amazing places, and met amazing people!  This is what we like to call #miolAMAZING !!

Here’s MI OLA Brand Ambassador Adrienne @yokeens windsurfing in the Outer Banks, North Carolina.



We are all about supporting active women who #getoutthere.   So – on instagram – we are participating in two Women’s Health Magazine hashtag contests this Summer,  #swelfie and #WHstrong. The #swelfie campaign is all about taking selfies in your swimsuit (your MI OLA one, obviously!), and #WHStrong is about showing how you are a strong and healthy woman. Clearly both of these are perfect for MI OLA women!

If you are #gettingoutthere too this Summer, we would love to see it! Post a photo using hashtags #miolAMAZING and tag @miolasurf.   When we use your photo on Instagram and Facebook, you get a 10%  discount at   Bonus karma points for using #swelfie in your MI OLA suit and #WHstrong!  (Psst… we’ll also be holding some rad giveaways on instagram this summer… so follow @miolasurf now!)

AND if you have read this far, then you are in for a treat! MI OLA is partnering with GRIND TV and you could WIN a trip to COSTA RICA!!! Click here to find out more and to enter.

Happy Summer!























How Do You Summer?!

When I met you in the summer
To my heartbeat sound
We fell in love
When I met you in the summer

For the MI OLA mermaids in the USA, Summer kicked off with Memorial Day weekend. But, since we LOVE Summer, we are celebrating one more time with the official start of Summer this Sunday, June 21.  Can we get a heck yes!!!

The MI OLA brand ambassadors are up to some pretty #MIOLAwesome things this month. (When are our ambassadors not out rocking it?) Longer days means more time to get outside and #getoutthere. Like Briana @bvalorosi in French Polynesia.



The MI OLA mermaids are participating in Time Magazine’s “#howisummer”. Check out Amanda’s @mermanda_.  She just got back to Florida from India after completing a 200 hour Yoga teacher training and is jumping for joy.


How do you Summer?  Show us!  Post a photo using hashtags #MIOLAwesome and #howisummer  and tag @miolasurf.   When we use your photo on Instagram and Facebook, you get a 10%  discount at


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 8.53.09 PM


Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 9.17.15 AM
















Are you ready? You sure???


_GIA5022 _GIA5948 (1) _GIA5585 _GIA7181

Spring is slowly starting to dethaw the Northern Hemisphere and that means time to start thinking about SUMMER. Yes, S-U-M-M-E-R!! Long days, the warm sun, BBQs, and #GettingOutThere in your MI OLA bikinis!

So, what better way to kickstart the warm weather with our new 2015 MI OLA collection? New & beautiful prints, a fuller coverage ‘kini that you asked for, AND a super sexy one piece. Oh-no-we-didn’t!!!!

Are you really, really ready? Because we are taking pre-orders and will be ready to ship oh-so-soon! Click here to checkout our 2015 Lookbook.


#GetOutThere Guide: Marathon, Florida

They say that in Florida they salt their margaritas, not the sidewalks. Sounds enticing, huh?

Don’t worry, the 5PM Friday work bell is almost here…BUT in the meantime, how about we help kick-start your weekend with some local knowledge on Marathon, Florida by Brand Ambassador Amanda Minton (@mermanda_).

We give you full permission to grab your sunglasses, kick up your feet on your desk, and put an umbrella in your coffee mug. Check it out!

#GetOutThere Guide: Marathon, Florida by Amanda Minton

My name is Amanda Minton and I am from Charleston, South Carolina. The past 5 years I have been traveling the globe and living in various cities across America. When I’m not waiting for a stand-by flight I like to dive for underwater treasure, SUP around the islands, or practice Sun Salutations in the sand.

Right now I have found myself in the middle of the ocean on a rock they call Marathon, Florida. Marathon is the heart of a string of small islands known as “The Keys.”  Mile Marker 55 on US 1.


How to get here?
If you can’t drive here look into flights at both Miami (MIA) and Key West (EYW) airports.

What to do?
Kite Boarding: Winter is a great time for Kite Boarding. The wind is steady and there are plenty of spots for both beginners and experienced surfers. Aaron at says, “If it’s blowing we’re going!” They also give lessons and rent gear!

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.34.19 PM

Yoga: We have the amazing Island Yoga Studio here that offers a variety of classes as well as Yoga Workshops to deepen your practice. Jolie Wilson is one of the beautiful teachers and the owner of two health and wellness studios here in the Keys.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.34.43 PM

Aquarium: Sometimes our Sunshine is in Liquid form, but not to worry! Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is open rain or shine. It is hands down the most beautiful aquarium I have ever been to. They offer amazing encounters that get you up close and personal with the residents. You can hand feed Sharks, eels, and Stingrays here; where it would be too dangerous experience in the open ocean.

Stand Up Paddle: You can take a Stand Up Paddleboard Eco tour with me and we can cruise out around the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida bay. You’re sure to see sea stars, rays, & sharks!

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.37.40 PM

Dog Friendly: We have two dog friendly beaches in town Coco Plum if you have any four legged friends!

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.34.58 PM

Walking: A walk along the old 7 mile bridge is a great opportunity for photos and learning a little about the History of the Keys.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.36.03 PM

Where to Stay?
Bring your tent! Bahia Honda State Park is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and you can camp right there. They also have cabins if you don’t want to rough it.

Where to eat?
Curly’s Coffee is the place to start your day! They also rent kayaks, paddleboards, and bicycles.
Island Fish company and Tiki Bar is one of the best meals *Grouper Sandwich* and it has an amazing view of the Gulf.
Sunset Bar and Grille, as the name would suggest is a “Go-To” for Sushi, Dinner, and watching the sunset.

There is a ton of stuff to do here, so I hope you all bring your suits and come check it out!




Bienvenidos! Willkommen! Benvenuto! Bem-vindos! WELCOME to the MI OLA team!

We are so stoked.  As MI OLA grows, you are growing with us. What started with a handful of adventurous women, our Brand Ambassador program has grown to over twenty AMAZING ambassadors from all around the world. From the United States, Canada, Moorea, Australia, Spain, to Norway, our Ambassadors #GetOutThere. Check out the newest members to the MI OLA Brand Ambassadors!


Kayla @barefoot_farmer

Raised in South Florida and now residing on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kayla is a garden teacher at an elementary school.Shea works outdoors in a garden with her students teaching them about healthy food, nutrition, and how to care for the land and themselves. When she is not working you can find her outdoors either swimming at the beach, hiking a mountain, doing yoga on a paddle board, playing with her dog, or dancing.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 1.10.42 PM

Shantal @shantalcachela

A super awesome surfer girl from the Canary Islands in Spain, Shantal also loves to climb, swim, run, and SUP. Shantal plans to move to Bali for a year and travel around Indonesia working with NGOs.


Ashley @ayeboulet

Growing up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Ashley is no stranger to the outdoors. Currently residing in North Lake Tahoe, Ashley enjoys yoga, art, music, concerts and festivals, fire spinning, painting, ceramics, backpacking, hiking, paddle boarding, skiing and kayaking.


Melissa @missmelissaaa, @peconicwatersports

Melissa spends her summers working in the Hamptons teaching wake boarding, water skiing, surfing and more. During the off season, she loves to travel to destinations such as Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic.


Katherine @katizmc

Katherine not only is a super awesome surfer girl, but also she is from our very own Chief Bikini Officer Helena’s hometown, Breezy Point, NY!!! Katherine surfs New York City year round (yes, there is surf in NYC!) She recently graduated summa cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Technology where she majored in Fine Arts, with minors in Spanish and Art History.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 1.08.26 PM



Te Amo

Anyone wanna take a break from the blistery, snow dumping winter?!?   Yep, that’s what we thought.

(We are talking to you Boston…you know it’s bad when you switch from measuring snow per dog breed height to professional athletes.  Seriously.  Take a look!)




Boston Snow

How about you come sneak away with us to someplace warm?


OK, so the airports and public transportation might be shut down…but the internet is still up. Good thing, because we have a visual treat for you!  Grab your hot cocoa, put on your wool socks and check out our Pinterest, where we just put up our tropical inspired-Valentine’s Day themed board.  If you need a little more dethawing, a new bikini from your significant other for Valentine’s Day might just raise the thermometer a couple of degrees!

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 1.14.18 PM


Pack Your Bags

What to do when the first thing you see on is “Caution: Snow, Wintry Mix Ahead”? We say fire up the search engines, book a plane ticket to a tropical paradise, and START. PACKING. YOUR. BAGS.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 6.53.05 PM

Helena, our Chief Bikini Officer, recently spent the past three months in New York City, but fortunately enough she and her family hopped on a plane last week and returned to Pura Vida-dise here in Costa Rica. So what was on the MI OLA getaway packing list?

 MI OLA Getaway Packing List:

Sunscreen: The sun in Costa Rica is HOT HOT HOT. Both Sanitas Solar Block and Shade Sunscreen are great face sunscreens that won’t make your face break out. If Steph Gilmore is wearing Shade, then it has to work!



Circle Towel by The Beach People: How cool is this towel? Stylish and functional!



Polaroid Instagram Camera: Yes, we very good last year and Santa did happen to pre-order this camera for us. Sweet! Plus, we are packing everything else that we had on our Dear Santa list…score!


MI OLA bikinis, MI OLA bikinis, and more MI OLA bikinis:


Shaka Earrings: Shaka brah!



Swan Pool Toy: Great for those afternoon cocktails in the pool.



Recycled Surfboard Bag: Reduse, reuse, and recycle. Sagebrush Boardbags are all made out of recycled and vintage fabrics. Plus, they are pretty awesome looking too!



Mara Hoffman Rainbow Bird Bag: Your carry on bag never looked so good.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.23.06 PM


Sofia by Vix Swimwear Cecily Dress: Perfect for those hot nights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.22.39 PM


Now that you’re packed, get to the airport and GET OUT THERE!

Warm water is waiting!


Brand Ambassadors x3!

We are in awe.  When started our brand ambassador program last year, we never imagined the response we’d get!  We knew there were amazing, active women out there, but we had no idea how many of you would be interested!  Over the past few months we have added even more amazing ambassadors;  these ladies are rad and inspire us everyday.   We are stoked to introduce our newest ambassadors!

(BTW Our current brand ambassadors are rocking it; they inspire us by getting out there and being active.  We love seeing their amazing photos. Be sure to check them out on Instagram. AND if you are interested in helping to represent MI OLA and #getoutthere, shoot us an email at


Elise @babeinthewaves

Meet Elise. She is  a mountain girl as grew up in the French Alps and learned  to ski and snowboard at a very young age. A couple of years ago she followed her heart and now lives in Moorea, French Polynesia. Her daily activities include surfing beautiful reef breaks with crystal clear water and under water training with sharks. How about that for #gettingoutthere?!

photo 2


Jessie @jbdittmer

Jessie takes full advantage of living in warm and sunny Tampa, Florida. She can be found SUPing with her husband, playing on the beach with her two dogs, jet skiing, or just tossing a frisbee around. On top of that, this lady wanders! In the past two years she has been all over Italy, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Scotland, and Turkey!

photo 3-1


Gracie @gracie_murdoch

In grade 12, Gracie lives a five minute walk to the beach on the Coffs Coast of Australia, so she pretty much is always at the beach. Her family lives a very active lifestyle; they all surf or play sports such as tennis, running, soccer, etc. Gracie also competes in surf events regularly!

photo 1-1


Jasmine @jazzywazzy898

Jasmine lives 10 minutes away from Deerfield Beach, one of the best beaches in Florida. She says, ” How could I not spend every weekend I have doing what I love there!” She has been surfing ever since she moved to Florida six years ago.  One of her favorite things to do is just free dive and enjoy everything the ocean has to offer.  Jasmine attends a dual enrollment program which allows her to enroll full time in a state university!

photo 4


Gracias chicas! We love seeing all of your adventures from pictures!


#getoutthere in 2015

We live by the motto #getoutthere and you challenge,  and inspire, us every day!  So what is the MI OLA team up to in 2015? Our Team Riders and Brand Ambassadors seriously rock…check out what their goals are this year!


Helena (our chief-bikini-officer) @miolasurf

To get in the water every day I’m in Costa Rica.  5 times a week to swim or surf, and extra times to play with my 3 year old who’s getting more confident with her swimming skills.

When I’m in NYC for work, to be active every day… and maybe (if it makes $ sense) to join my pool again.   Being in the water makes me happy, healthy and strong.


Izzy @izzyisup

I will be studying abroad for 3 months in Panama! I know it will be a crazy experience and I can’t wait!



Briana @bvalorosi

In the new year, I am setting the intention for many travels. In February, I am coming to Costa Rica for a week long yoga retreat, then in May, a month in Baja for my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. I am manifesting balance in 2015- on and off the mat, spiritually, mentally, physically, and in ALL of my pursuits.



Ashley A. @theviewfrom6ft

To get back into a morning routine with a yoga practice, time for homemade oatmeal or smoothie bowls, and the dedication to walk to work not drive. Waking up early is hard but so worth the me time.



Ellen @artemis_elleven

My aim for 2015 is to keep improving my underwater photography.



Jordyn @jordynbaratt

Surf trips to Baja, Mexico and entering (and winning) as many surf contests as possible!


 Susi @insta_susi

My New Year’s Resolution is to get in great shape & snowboard & surf lots in the next year. And in general just to get outside lots. Hopefully we get nice summer waves so my daughter can learn to surf ; )


Rachel @rach.palmer

Read more books and drink more water!

photo 2-1


Kristen @sambatothesea

To get my little toes on the nose!



Jessie @jbdittmer

Trip to Italy, France and Monaco!

photo 3-1


Jasmine @jazzywazzy898

My goal for the new year is to visit as many beaches and surf as many waves as possible!

photo 4


Elise @babeinthewaves

This year I wanna know how to get barreled perfectly :)

photo 3


Nicole @nicolemichelley

To do a full triathlon!

photo 1


Gracie @gracie_murdoch

My New Years Resolution is to become a better surfer. I want to surf at least 2 times a week with my family and friends and once I get my license we have multiple small surfing adventures planned for the new year :)

photo 1-1

Amanda @mermanda_

I have a yoga retreat in Nicaragua planned for the end February. All are welcome!!

photo 3

Christina @babbagram

2015 means a surf trip down south to Pavones, Costa Rica mid-year! I’ve been trying to get down there for over a year now – so this time it’s definitely happening!


Caitlin @sunburntandsalty

If I had to sum it all up I would have to say that my top goals for 2015 are to travel some place new, to keep growing Sunburnt & Salty Yoga Company, and to paddle out (and hopefully catch a wave!) at Tres Palmas. But most importantly, in 2015 I want to continue to stay healthy, to stay present, and to stay positive!



What are your goals this year?!


Surf Guide Moorea

Meet Elise. She is one of our awesome MI OLA brand ambassadors. A couple of years ago she followed her heart and now lives in Moorea, French Polynesia. Her daily activities include surfing beautiful reef breaks with crystal clear water and under water training with sharks. How about that for #gettingoutthere?!

Given that Elise lives and surfs waves that we only dream of, we asked her to provide us with some local knowledge of surf in Moorea just in case Santa decides to gift us with a surf trip…

photo 2


Moore Surf Guide by Elise (@babeinthewaves)

My surf story is quite unusual. I am a mountain girl; I grew up in the French Alps where I learned  to ski and snowboard at a very young age. So how did this mountain girl end up in Polynesia surfing every day?

It’s the love story of my life. I met my true love, a crazy adventurer and wave lover, and it changed my life. By following him in his crazy adventures around the world, I learned to surf in the Canary Islands and then our trip to Indonesia sealed the deal. We spent two months surfing every day and I became addicted to surfing. As a result of that trip we decided to stay here in Tahiti, to never miss waves, coconuts or the sun!


Surf in Polynesia is very important, it is part of the culture and lifestyle. Polynesians have been surfing for a very long time. The earliest references about surfing are from the 15th century and were found in the notebooks of James Cook during his explorations of Tahiti and the Islands. At this time, men and women were surfing together, naked in the waves, but with the arrival of Missionaries and religion, it was considered obscene by the missionaries and was forbidden. In the 20th century surfing reappeared by the influence of the Hawaiians, practiced mostly by men. For women, because of religion, it was more difficult to return to the water.

Polynesians prefer powerful and big barreled waves. One of the most famous and best breaks in the world is Teahupoo. But I prefer to talk about other waves, so that you can discover less crowded and more accessible surf spots on my little island of Moorea.

Moorea, Tahiti’s sister island, is a beautiful island with white sandy beaches and stunning bays and is known for its sublime and breathtaking landscapes. For example, Cook’s Bay is frequently used in many movies, such as the Bounty. Moorea has a lot of high quality reef breaks. They are famous for their power, perfect waves and very aggressive and very shallow reefs. To surf them, the best way is guided by a local who will explain the spot. Also, if you have never surfed a reef break, Moorea spots are not the best ones to begin. There are often strong currents and it’s very shallow. For a first experience on a reef, I don’t recommend it. I never wear water shoes, but if you are sensitive to cuts and scrapes to the feet, you should wear a pair.

If you come for a surf trip to Moorea, make sure to bring EVERYTHING you need! There are no surf shops, no board rentals, no surf schools. You will be able to find a leash, deck pad, or wax at the gas station, but everything is expensive on this small island and Tahiti is 40 minutes by ferry boat.


Where to surf:

Surfing in Moorea is a privilege and an amazing experience. The view from the peak to the mountains is magical and the lighting is breathtaking. When you look down under your feet there are beautiful, colorful fish….and don’t be afraid to share your wave with a back tip or lemon shark! :)

Club Med Left, North shore: This is my home-spot and most accessible. It is a nice long left wave, with a first tubular bowl and two others bowls perfect for rollers and tricks. It works perfectly with north, northwest and east wind swell. If the swell is too big, beyond 2m, the pass is saturated. At the end of the wave, there is no longer water and you’re on the reef.

Best period: November to March.

How to go to the peak: taxiboat (Hotel Intercontinental Moorea Exp’Air Kite and SUP school), about $15 roundtrip.

Club Med Right, North shore: Only a few locals challenge this beautiful fast and powerful right. You must get it right as it breaks on a sharp reef with rocks popping out of the water. It is fast, hollow and tubular; this right is shorter and more intense than its left twin. Barrel lovers only! Works perfectly with north, northwest and east wind swell.

Best period: November to March.

How to go to the peak: taxiboat (Hotel Intercontinental Moorea Exp’Air Kite and SUP school), about $15 roundtrip.


Haapiti, West coast: Haapiti is a world class and famous wave, a perfect left. Bethany Hamilton came here to shoot for her new movie, #surfslikeagirl. This wave is changing all the time. It is never the same, depending on the swell and its orientation, which changes it radically. You can see it very fast with big barrels with a South West swell, and with South or South East swell you can see a perfect, long wave ideal for rollers and tricks. Haapiti is less shallow than the others but be careful because the reef is very aggressive and waves are very punchy.

Best period: April to October

How to go to the peak: taxiboat (Hotel Intercontinental Moorea Exp’Air Kite and SUP school), about $30 roundtrip or taxiboat (Surf B & B Haapiti)


Temae, South East coast: Temae is a beautiful powerful and technical right, one of the rare on the island. It works very rarely (by SE swell) and requires a very good technical level of surf and much experience. It breaks on a very shallow reef. Many surfers are scared by this one because of several accidents, but it is also very prized for its rarity and radicalism. The positive thing of this break is that it breaks on the shore. Negative thing? It is very hard launching between rocks and sea urchins!

How to go to the peak: Go to the Temae golf course, search the beach and look for it breaking!

photo 3

I have spoken only of radical Reef breaks, best for only for advanced or experts surfers.  However there are also the Beach breaks of the North shore of Tahiti, where I trained a lot when I arrived in French Polynesia.

Ahonu: A fast, barreling Beach Break, mostly surfed by teens and bodyboarders for its fast and hollow waves. Works very well with north swell from November to March. Small waves to play all the rest of the year, but exposed to the wind. Very crowded on the weekend. Black sand beach!

Orofara: A Beach break with slower and softer waves that is mostly surfed by SUPers or longboarders. It works very well with north swell from November to March. There are small waves to play in all the rest of the year, but exposed to the wind. Very crowded on the weekend. Black sand and rocks!

Papenoo:  A high quality Beach break, perfect with north swell from November to March. It is very crowded on the weekend and is the place for local contests. Rocks!

There are other surf spots on the island but most of them are secret and are finicky, so to find them you have to be patient, curious and you have to talk with local guys.


Crowd Factor:

Tahitians are generally very friendly and if you respect them there will be no issue. Be careful and don’t go inside to the peak first. If you respect the locals, you will catch more waves! Don’t paddle on another surfer’s waves and always look inside before catching a wave! We salute the locals by saying “Ia Orana”, when we get to a break. It is definitely nice to speak the language, and make a small Shaka Love as a peace sign. There also are  no-to-very few female surfers. If you’re a girl and a good surfer, locals might let you some waves and encourage you; the Polynesians are little charmers.

Other activities: 

You can still enjoy Tahitian shows of traditional dances and songs, mostly organized by the hotels. The best shows are on the place of Tiki Village (traditional Polynesian reconstructed village), with the best company of Moorea, where you will have a unique and amazing evening in the tradition of Polynesian songs and dances. Don’t miss it!

Moorea offers a multitude of exceptional activities. Stand Up Paddle  in the lagoon with rays and sharks, dives with whales and dolphins, treks inside the island to see waterfalls. Any nature lover will love the wide variety of fauna and flora.

In Moorea you can also kite board on the North shore lagoon (Wind season from May to October). Check out Hotel Intercontinental Moorea Exp’Air Kite and SUP school.

Nights in Moorea are very quiet and if you like clubbing or drinking, dont expect to find it here . Moorea is not Ibiza; we live with the sun: we get up early and go to bed early.


How to get there/where to stay:

The easiest way to come is to fly to Papeete or Moorea (there is a small airport). A ferry shuttles between Papeete and Moorea every day, several times per day.  The best is to land in Papeete to enjoy its famous market and discover the beautiful gardens of Paofai, and then take the ferry to Moorea. You will need to rent a car or a scooter to enjoy the Island.

The flight ticket to Tahiti is expensive, but once there, the inner-island tickets are affordable and it’s an opportunity to visit small atolls and motus. Who hasn’t ever dreamed about the Tuamotu Islands, to surf secrets spots and the make the most of beautiful diving?!

For accommodation, I prefer guesthouses and homestays, which are much more affordable and local than hotels or resorts. It’s a good way to meet the local people and enjoy the legendary Polynesian kindness and hospitality. You can find good places on this website:

Apres Surf:

We say “Le Ma’a”, or eat local! Local specialties include raw fish with coconut milk – an unmistakable traditional dish, grilled mahi-mahi and Ma’a Tahiti (Pua roti, Taro, Sweet Potatoes, Fafalu)…you have to try and taste it!

Some food trucks and snacks worth savoring: Chez Fred or Snack Mahana.

Pizzas, burgers and other junk food are also very easy to find, but it is not where you eat the best.

You can buy some of the best fruits and vegetables on the roadside. Many merchants offer delicious fruits of quality, for example pineapple, emblematic and sacred fruit of Moorea (there is even a Pineapple Road). You can also find good fish, white tuna, red tuna, mahi-mahi, swordfish …. on the edge of the road that’s where it is the freshest and cheapest!

photo 1