If you prefer wading with the starfish to swimming chlorinated laps, you need to find a pool to mesh with your spirit. Luckily, the planet has you covered: from primitive volcanic alcoves to rustic stone pockets carved out of myth, tidal pools abound. The hard part is finding the right mix of accessibility, captivating scenery, and soothing conditions to create a storybook mermaid pool experience. Here are seven such spots that will top off any holiday with a bit of whimsy.
Mermaid Pool, Thassos, Greece
Hugging the stony perimeter of the Thassos coastline, this charming mermaid pool is pretty far from anything else. You’ll have to follow the road to a forest trail, and carefully scramble down to the pool amid the cliffs. In fact, the Giola lagoon’s separation from civilization is one of its charms: wading in clear water that’s warmer than the sea, it’s just you and the rocks and the ocean beyond. Surrounded by a mythical Greek island landscape, Giola’s not a far cry from the singing sirens’ oceanic home in Homer’s Odyssey.
Mermaid Pools, Matapouri Bay, New Zealand
The east coast of New Zealand is a tangle of mangrove forests and rocky shoreline, and if you can make it through the steep path choked with palm trees, you’ll be treated to a sunny dip in a chain of pristine tidal pools. The Mermaid Pools of Matapouri Bay are fairly deep though still very warm, but since they only appear at low tide, timing is crucial.
Queen’s Bath, Kauai, Hawaii
Hawaii’s petrified lava rock has built a fantastic mermaid pool along the coast of Kauai, a seaside bath that invites happy swimmers along with some tropical fish. Backed by green forest and nearby waterfall, the Queen’s Bath feel like a royal experience indeed, though the crashing tide rises a little too high for comfort at certain times of day and at certain months of the year. Check the surf report before venturing to the bath, but if it’s a calm day, you’re sure to enjoy your dip amidst spectacular scenery.
Venture along the temperate River Menderes Valley to find the ancient Pamukkale, or “cotton castle”, and its terraced pools. Fed by hot springs, the water moves over the natural travertine ledges, pooling in the shallow pans of rock. The system of pools rises over 500 feet and sprawls over 600 meters across the riverbank, making lots of room for visitors to soak in the thermal waters. Visit in winter, and enjoy the steaming natural water in the crisp, dry air.
Pocas do Gomes, Portugal
The Madeira archipelago is a small volcanic island chain, a prehistoric cluster of black rock jutting out into the Atlantic dotted with “pocas”, or puddles of tidal water. The natural pools were formed by the original volcanic eruptions, but now bear a modern twist, with a well-kept system of steps and decks to steer visitors to the pool (and even down a man-made stairway to the adjacent sea for a salty swim). The natural attraction is topped off with a small beach below and a renowned restaurant perched on the cliff above.
Calheta dos Biscoitos, Terceira, Azores
As if the deep blues and lush green of the Azores islands weren’t idyllic enough, the deep gullies and coastal coves of the little town of Biscoitos have formed charming tidal pools that graze the Atlantic. Once a bustling harbor, the quay is now pretty sleepy, with a few fishing boats bobbing on the waves and a small man-made dock to help visitors reach the shallow pools. Pushed to the edge of the land, surrounded by black volcanic rock, and flanked with an uninterrupted ocean vista, these humble pools offer a grandiose experience.
Bude Sea Pool, Cornwall, England
It may not have the tropical trimmings of other tidal pools, but Cornwall’s Bude sea pool is a lovely local secret. Shallow waters sprawl out at the base of the towering cliffs, and the ocean is just a stone’s throw away – even closer when the Atlantic rises up at high tide. The pool is part man-made, but still behaves in a natural manner: the tides refresh it with sea water twice a day. A summer in southwest England isn’t complete without a visit to Bude pool.
Tide pools are at the mercy of the waves, so a calm glassy surface can turn into a churning mess in a matter of a few hours. Pay attention to the wave reports, and it’s generally best to stay on the good side of the ocean – undercurrents abound past rocky walls when the ocean floor falls away.