Santa Teresa is a small beach town on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s West Coast. It’s a great place with lots of surfers, travellers, good food and a relaxed atmosphere….although you probably already know that if you’re reading this!
Anyhow, there’s lots of people tend to stay on Santa Teresa beach, but it’s worth venturing out to Malpaís to visit the tide pools, otherwise known as the natural hot tubs. There are some tide pools midway down the main Santa Teresa beach but these aren’t as nice or secluded as the ones in Malpaís.
It’s only really a half day (or a couple of hours if you have an ATV or a car) so there’s really no excuse to check them out!
Where are the tide pools in Malpaís?
As always, logistics first.
Malpaís is Santa Teresa’s quieter, more secluded and lesser known cousin. It’s only a few kilometres to the South of Santa Teresa. They’re called a few different names including natural hot tubs, Malpaís tide pools and Mar Azul tide pools.
Whatever name you want to use, you’ll want to head South on the single road from Playa Carmen (runnig perpendicular to the beach) for about 2.5km until you see the Indigo Yoga Resort on your left. Around 50m after the Indigo Yoga Resort there is a right hand turn down a dirt road which has a sign for ‘Mar Azul’.
Follow the dirt road down to the water. There are tide pools there but you’ll want to follow the coast line to the left for 200m where there is a more exposed area of rock – and much better natural hot tubs! There’s also a secret beach a bit further South so if you hit that then you know you’ve gone too far.
We walked the whole way, but I wouldn’t advise this. It took us about 1.5 hours from Santa Teresa and produced some sense of humour failures! It’s only a few minutes in a taxi/ATV or car so just do that….
Bear in mind though that Malpaís is much quieter so you won’t be able to flag a taxi down on your way back to Santa Teresa. You could pop in to one of the hotels/guest houses/restaurants and ask them to order you a taxi, either way it shouldn’t be that hard.
When should you visit the Malpaís tide pools?
This is important so I’m going to put it in bold:
The best time to visit the tide pools is low tide. You cannot visit them at high tide.
The whole point of tide pools is that depressions in the rock trap outgoing sea water as the tide goes out, so make sure you time it right.
Generally speaking tides change roughly every 6 hours, but they’re not the same every day! Check on surfline, magicseaweed or just Google it to find out when low tide is when you are there.
The natural hot tubs
In the video I commented that it almost looks like a volcanic landscape – I haven’t been able to confirm this but there are a couple of article saying that it is volcanic rock. I’m no geologist so can’t comment but it doesn’t really matter….it still looks like a volcanic landscape!
There are multiple tide pools ranging from small ones that can fit a single person to others that can fit multiple people. Be warned though that they often have a lot of sea urchins hiding in the crevasses one the walls so be careful when you’re getting in and out of them. There wasn’t much other wildlife in the tide pools but I can imagine that small fish, crabs and octopus can be found if you go looking.
As with most attractions, they’re a great photo spot and we were the only ones there. Relax in your own natural hot tub as the waves crash against the rocks only a few meters away.
Bring and wear suncream! There is absolutely on shade so you’re exposed to the elements. Take a hat and some shade/t-shirt. A couple of people in our group didn’t wear enough suncream and got very burnt. If you’re in Santa Teresa/Malpaís for a while I would try to time your visit when it’s low tide in the morning. We were there during midday and it was scorching hot. In fact, it was so hot that we probably only spent an hour there before heading back. I would imagine that it would be great sunset spot as well.
So there you have it, the Mar Azul tide pools. As I said, it’s only a few hour trip and they’re super close to Santa Teresa so check the tides, pack some water and suncream and head out!