The Hidden Tidepools of Mar Azul

At Mar Azul you’ll see a huge rock known as Punta Barigona, and is one of Malpais’s most well-known landmarks.

This area holds a secret that few people know about, which is that the rock flats just to the south of Mar Azul, hold a tremendous number of amazing tidepools.

How to find it

To find them, drive out towards Mar Azul, and instead of parking there, cut to the left. This narrow road passes some houses on the left, and then takes you out to a large grassy area that few tourists ever discover. Chances are you’ll be the only one out here.

On the left you’ll see one of the treasures of Malpais, the beautiful bay called Bahia Barigona, which is one of the most scenic spots in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula, and difficult to find access to. It even has a secret surf spot that’s great for beginners and kids, but only works around high tide.

The tidepools

Splash!  A wave breaks into a tidepool, scaring Yasmin.

In front of the grassy area you’ll see a broad flat stretch of rocks, often with large waves slamming into the front, creating a very dramatic aspect. As you walk out to the water’s edge, you’re going to discover an abundance of beautiful tidepools… many of them like perfect round or oval craters… quite deep and full of sea life and gorgeous colors. The photos here show just a few of the creatures that I’ve discovered while poking around.

You’ll easily see a few varieties of fish and crabs, but there are many other things living here that are easy to overlook. Anenomes, sea urchins, even nudibranchs can be seen here. To spot them, I recommend being very, very patient and still. Tiny animals are here, everywhere, almost invisible with their camoflage, or sometimes moving so slowly you won’t even notice that they’re alive at first glance. It’s a great reminder of our need as humans in the modern world to slow down.

A great place for kids

Serafina Love McCabe loves the tidepools at Mar Azul

Kids who are lucky enough to have parents who take them to a place like this will find it to be a wonderful giant playground, and they can swim and snorkel in the various tidepools, each one seeming more beautiful than the last one.

Be sure to keep a close eye on your children here. There are a few hazzards. The most obvious one is the big waves that can crash over the rocks. Occasionally large sets can come in unexpectedly and could sweep a person off the rocks, which are very slippery in some spots, and very sharp in others. Good rock-gripping water shoes are recommended. Some of the tidepools also have sea urchins, which have sharp spines and can puncture your foot. As far as I know, there’s nothing deadly or poisonous that you have to worry about, at least as far as I’ve seen in the half dozen or so times I’ve explored here.

The water here is usually transparent, but once I found that the tidepools had milky water, making it impossible to see anything. This is more likely to happen in rainy season and is probably due to plankton blooming. Low tide is of course the best time to visit any tidepools, so check a Costa Rica tide chart (most hotels have them available or posted on the wall) and time your visit well. A visit here will be a really fun adventure for anyone who appreciates the beauty of nature, and is a great thing to do when the waves are small or you’re surfed out for the day and want to do something free.

Tidepools Photo Gallery

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