Hawaii Snorkeling Guide - Hilo

Snorkeling with Sea Turtle, Kahaluu Beach


Some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world happens off the coasts of the Hawaiian archipelago. The waters are crystal-clear, with visibility as much as 80-feet!  The Big Island of Hawaii, being the southern-most Hawaiian Island, has the most vibrant coral reefs and because of its large size, you will rarely find a crowd while snorkeling or diving.  Want to take your digital camera underwater? Check out our water-proof underwater cases.

Take a Virtual Tour of a Hawaiian Coral Reef

More info and photos of the Hawaii Green Sea Turtle

Below is our list of favorite snorkeling locations on the Hilo (eastern) side of the Island. This is not a comprehensive list of all snorkeling locations on the Big Island, but merely a personal guide of our most frequented snorkeling sites.

Check out our Kona Snorkeling Guide for snorkel destinations on the western side of the island.

Coral at the Kapoho Tide Pools

Green Sea Turtle at Leleiwi Beach

Eel at Kapoho Tide Pools

Coral Reef at Leleiwi Beach Park, Hilo

Snorkeling at Leleiwi Beach Park, Hilo

Leleiwi Beach Park

Leleiwi Beach Park SnorkelingLocation - Approx. 4 miles East of Hilo on Keaukaha Coast.

Water Entry / Exit - Climb over the low rock wall onto the lava point.

Enter the water to the right on the low shelf. Watch your step on the slippery lava rock, and be careful of the waves when entering the water. You may have to time your entry to right after the wave hits the lava shelf. Do not attempt to enter in high surf.


Snorkel Route- Start off to the left of the rock wall and follow the reef. Hawaiian Sea turtles are very common in this area. A visit to Leleiwi Beach Park without seeing turtles is very rare.

Extras - Picnic area; coral sea arch.

Directions - Take Rte 11 South / Kanoelehua until it ends (near airport) at Banyan Drive; turn right onto Kamehameha; drive along the coast approx. 5 miles. The parking lot and sign to the park will be on the left side.

Richardson’s Beach Park

Location - Approx. 4.5 miles East of Hilo on Keaukaha Coast.

Water Entry / Exit - Easy via the black sand beach.

Snorkel Route - for beginners, stay in the enclosed cove. Watch out for surfers. For the adventurous, swim out and around (South)

Kids swimming at Richardson Beach

the lava rock outcrops this will lead you to a nice reef and lots of fish and usually sea turtles too - be careful during high surf conditions. The protected cove attracts a multitude of colorful fish that swim around the coral reef. Out beyond the cove the water deepens.Extras - Lifeguard on duty; showers and bathrooms, black sand beach; take the time to venture South along the beach to the lava rock tidal pools.
Directions - Take Rte 11 South / Kanoelehua until it ends (near airport) at Banyan Drive; turn right onto Kamehameha; drive along the coast approx. 6 miles (pass Leleiwi Beach) until just before the road ends. The parking lot and sign to the park will be on the left side.

Coral heads on reef at Richardson's Beach

Leleiwi Beach Park and Richardson Beach Park are located adjacent to each other. We suggest you try to snorkel both locations in the same day. Start the morning at Leleiwi, bring a picnic lunch and drinks. After snorkeling at Leleiwi, enjoy a relaxing lunch in the pavilion and then head down to Richardson’s for the afternoon.

Kapoho Tide Pools

Location - Approx. 25 miles Southeast of Hilo on Puna Coast.

Water Entry / Exit - Tidal pools protected from surf. Easy entry into calm waters. Bring sandals / water shoes for short walk over lava

Kapoho Tidal Pools

rocks. Regardless of the ocean conditions, these tidal pools are protected from the surf.
Snorkel Route - Enter any tidal pool, many are interconnected. Tidal pools closer to the ocean contain more sea life. Watch out for stronger current near the ocean. Coral heads in the lava tidal pools
Extras - Crystal clear water; calm surf conditions excellent for children and weaker swimmers; lava shelves for sunbathing; abundant fish and coral population; see if you can spot any sea cucumbers!
Directions - From Hilo, head South on Rte 11. At Keau, turn left onto Rte 130 (Pahoa Rd). Follow the signs for Kalapana. Once you pass the town of Pahoa, look for signs for Kapoho. You will take a left towards Kapoho on Rte 132 after passing Lava Tree State Park.

Colorful fish in the shallow tidal pools

Follow Rte 132 until it ends at a four-way intersection. Do not go down the dirt road straight ahead. Turn right onto Rte 137 (paved road) and follow it until you reach Kapoho Kai Rd. Turn left on Kapoho Kai Rd into the Vacationland subdivision. Continue down Looking up to the surface of the tidal pool
the road and turn right on Ho’ola’i Rd. This road curves left and takes you to the Kapoho Coast. Park on the side of the road when you reach the large open area to the right. You should see the ocean and tide pools here. Parking is limited.
We recommend you picnic on the lava rocks underneath the small collection of palm trees next to the road. This is an excellent place for a barbeque, but you will need to bring your own grill. The lava shelves offer excellent opportunities for sunbathing. This is a nice trip even if you do not have snorkeling gear. The clear tidal pools and warm sun offer a true taste of paradise.
More information and photos on Kapoho Tidal Pools


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