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Richardson Beach Park, located in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a popular and picturesque beach destination. It is known for its dark, fine volcanic sand, clear waters, and a unique landscape created by ancient lava flows. This distinctive black sand provides a striking contrast to the lush greenery and blue waters of the ocean. Its rock-protected bay provides shelter to many sea creatures such as green turtles, colorful reef fish, and invertebrates which are easy to spot in the shallows.

Yellowtail coris at Richardson Beach Park, Hilo
The African Coris, or Yellowtail Coris, is a common sight at Richardson’s.

How to get to the Richardson Beach Park snorkeling spot

Richardson Beach Park, or Richardson Ocean Park, known to the locals as “Richardson’s”, is located in Hilo, on the northeastern coast of the island of Hawaii. It is probably the most popular snorkeling location on the northeastern side of the Big Island.

It is just a 5 mile drive from Hilo city center, and a 3 mile drive from the Port of Hilo. The beach is public and has free access on paved roads. Parking can be busy on weekends but no problem during the week.

Richardson Beach Park snorkeling map, Hilo
Richardson Beach Park snorkeling map, Hilo.

Water entrance for snorkeling Richardson Beach Park

The calm, shallow waters near the shoreline make it suitable for swimmers of all levels.

The water entrance is from a black sand beach at two main spots. One may involve stepping over a rock outcropping which is sometimes surf-exposed (snorkel entry 1 on the map above). The second entrance is off the black sand into a sandy path created by beach users which winds through the boulders (snorkel entry 2 on the map above).

Richardson Beach Park snorkeling exploration tips

Richardson Beach Park features a rock-protected area that provides perfect, easily-accessible snorkeling.

Fourspot butterflyfish at Richardson Beach Park, Hilo
The Fourspot butterflyfish is one of the most abundant reef fish at this location.

The best snorkeling at Richardson Beach Park is found in the middle of the bay, above a shallow (↕3-6 feet) ridge of coral with copious healthy coral and many fish. The shore side of the bay has deeper (↕ up to 15 ft) patches of coral and still lots of fish, although the water is not as clear.

Zebra moray among coral
A zebra moray.

Many of Hawaii’s iconic reef fish live in the rocky bay,  like the butterflyfish (several species), yellow tang, yellowtail coris, and many sergeants. The rocky seabed is also a good location to spot moray eels, often seen poking their heads out of crevices. There is also the occasional squids and octopuses.

Numerous green sea turtles visit the sheltered waters of the bay, where they can rest and feed on rocks covered with seaweed.

Green sea turtle in Richardson Beach Park, Hilo
Richardson’s is a good location to encounter Hawaiian sea turtles, locally known as “honu”.

In winter, the surf can be high but in summer the bay is calm. Waves are usually less than 3 feet with minimal current because the bay is protected by a rocky sea break. Outside the rock-protected area, spinner dolphins are often seen, as well as humpback whales in winter.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

There is no restaurant inside the park, but many options are available in Hilo, a few miles drive from the spot.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth15 ft/5 meters
  • Water entranceFrom a small black sand beach
  • LifeguardYes
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.