Free shore access
This spot have a free shore access: you can go snorkeling there freely and without having to book a tour or pay an entrance fee.
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Last updated on September 8, 2023
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.
Richardson Beach Park is probably the most popular snorkeling location on the northeastern side of the Big Island.
The calm, shallow waters near the shoreline make it suitable for swimmers of all levels. Snorkelers can explore the underwater world, including colorful coral reefs and a variety of marine life.
One of the unique features of this beach is the presence of natural lava rock formations that create tide pools. These tide pools are home to various marine creatures and are a fascinating area to explore.
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.
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 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.
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 features a rock-protected area that provides perfect, easily-accessible snorkeling.
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.
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.
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.
There is no restaurant inside the park, but many options are available in Hilo, a few miles drive from the 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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Fringing coral reef with a great variety of fish
Free shore access
Vibrant fringing reef with sea turtles and spinner dolphins
Sheltered bay with coral and reef fish
Free shore access
Night snorkeling with manta rays
Marine reserve with a fringing reef and many fish
Reef drop off and sandy beds with sea turtles