5 Idyllic Tide Pools on the Big Island of Hawaii

Drone shot of tide pools on Bis Island, Hawaii with lime green foliage and crystal clear water in tide pools surrounded by lava rock

There’s something enchanting and mesmerizing about tide pools on Hawaii. Maybe it’s the way they seem to be their own little world, separate from the rest of the beach. Or maybe it’s the way they always look like they’re teeming with life, even when all you can see are a few colorful fish and some crabs scuttling around. On the Big Island, there are some 5 incredible tide pools that are surely worth the hike!

Be careful when exploring tide pools on the Big Island

Before we show you the most stunning tide pools on Big Island, please beware of the risks that hiking to a tidal pool or swimming in one brings. You can slip, or the ocean decides to act up. Not all tide pools on Hawaii are family-friendly. The tide pools at Holoholokai Beach Park are notorious for their unpredictable surf.

Irrespective of the island you’re on, always take the following precautions when exploring tide pools:

  • Never hike to a tide pool without a mobile phone
  • Never swim in a tide pool alone without anyone watching over you
  • Don’t blindly stumble around barefoot in a tide pool (You could hurt yourself or other creatures)
  • Watch the waves, currents, and tides
  • Don’t take selfies too close to the water
  • If you get in trouble or spot a swimmer in distress, call the Fire Department at 911

The tide around Big Island

The tide around the shores of Big Island, near Kona and Hilo, can be dangerous. Luckily, the tides are predictable and with proper preparation and timing, you can ensure you visit the tide pools during a safe time window. 

Please always check the updated daily and monthly tide data

1. Onekahakaha Beach Park

Onekahakaha Beach is a beautiful sandy beach located south of downtown Hilo on the Big Island’s east shore. It is well known for its clear blue waters and stunning views of the neighboring islands. There are many activities to enjoy, such as swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, fishing, and relaxing.

The right side of the beach is an excellent place for kids to explore tide pools. There are walls of rocks that keep the waves at bay. The rock formations create several small shallow pools perfect for little ones to splash around. These tide pools have a soft white sandy bottom, so swimming shoes aren’t necessary. Be careful on the left side of the beach. It has tons of sea urchins.

If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, there is also the Onekahakaha Ridge Trail. This trail takes you up to the top of the ridge, where you’ll get stunning views of the ocean and the coastline.

2. Carlsmith Beach

Carlsmith Beach may not be your typical picture-perfect beach as it has no sandy shore, but it has a well-kept lawn that is perfect for lying down or picnicking. The beach is made up of large rocks that have been weathered over time and have formed into tide pools. These tide pools are home to many types of marine life that are great for swimming and snorkeling.

The water can be a little cold in some areas as freshwater seeps through the creek bank. So, make sure to visit on hot days for maximum enjoyment. This pool is also a great spot for kids to swim and play, as the water is shallow.

The way to get to Carlsmith Beach is relatively easy. There is a rocky outcrop with built-in stairs and railing that lead to the pools. However, swimming shoes are advisable, as lava rocks everywhere can be sharp and slippery.

3. Holoholokai Beach Park

Holoholokai Beach is located on Kohala Coast. This secluded beach offers a coastline of black lava rocks and white coral rubbles. It connects to the Malama Petroglyph Trail, which boasts Hawaii’s most extensive collection of petroglyphs (rock carvings). 

This beach is not suitable for kids. Swimming here can be difficult as the nearshore ocean bottom is very rocky, which makes it hard to enter the ocean. The occasionally high surf can also make it dangerous even for experienced swimmers or surfers. Bring a chair as the rocks make it hard to lay down. However, Holoholokai is an excellent spot for one thing: tide pooling.

The best time to visit is in summer when the tide is low, and the water is clear. Make sure to bring swimming shoes to avoid scratches from the sharp rocks. Visit in the late afternoon to see turtles and watch the sunset with a breaching whale out in the distance.

4. Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach

Punalu‘u Beach is another popular tide pool on Big Island. This beach is known for its black sand beaches, which are created from lava that has flowed into the ocean. It is a perfect place for a family getaway, offering many picnic benches with lots of palm trees for shade! In addition, visitors can explore the marine life inside the tide pools among the lava rocks. 

You can swim and snorkel, depending on how calm the water is. Avoid swimming when the surf is high. The water can be a little cold sometimes, as there are underwater freshwater springs at one end of the beach. Make sure you visit during hot days to enjoy the warmer water. 

Punalu’u Beach has pretty easy access. The best way to enter the water is from the small boat ramp on the left side of the beach. Wearing swimming shoes is highly recommended, as the rocks can be sharp and hot to walk through.

The beach also has a small, comfortable beach swing for kids and Instagrammers!

5. Laupāhoehoe Beach Park

Laupāhoehoe Beach Park is situated along the east coast of Hamakua. The name Laupāhoehoe (leaf of lava) refers to the angular lava tip or peninsula formed by lava flows to create the cover on which the village Laupāhoehoe was built. The secluded beach has breathtaking views, crashing surf, and ragged lava rocks with some tide pools, surrounded by lush vegetation.

Laupāhoehoe Beach is an excellent spot for a picnic, camping, picture taking, wave watching, and fishing. Unfortunately, the water activities options on this beach are limited. The ocean is rough, with robust currents that are unsafe for swimming, especially during winter when the big waves swell. It is strongly recommended for parents with kids to keep a watchful eye. However, it is completely fine to explore the tide pools.

The best way to get to the beach is to descend the gorge via a windy one-lane road offering fantastic views. However, watch out for the terrain, as it can be pretty jagged and sketchy. Visit during the summer months to avoid the rough currents.

Visiting other Hawaiian islands?

We also have guides to the tidal pools of Kauai, Lanai, and Oahu!

Did you discover other tidal pools on Big Island? Please let us know in the comments, and we’ll add them to our list

Tried-and-tested Gadgets for Shoreline Shenanigans!

The following gear has shaped all our tide pool adventures.
We consider many of these gadgets “buy it for life” and all of them are a worthwhile investment to have a fun and safe tidepooling experience.

Stay Dry!

Vibrams provide the durability and grip required to conquer craggy, slippery rocks. Warning: Once you go Five Fingers, you’ll likely never go back!

Ever since a rogue wave caught me off guard and corroded my phone, we have used these cases whenever we go tidepooling. They work for most phones.

This dry bag is from the same brand. It’s a lot more durable than other dry bags and even has a 1-year warranty. You likely won’t need the 5-liter size.

Safe fun for kids!

It is easy to catch a bruise when tidepooling. This rash guard protects your kids if they want to sit down to take a rest. You will also need less sunscreen 😀

Vibrams are too expensive as they will grow out of them fairly quickly. Saguaros are much cheaper and come in tons of colors.

This life vest is much more stylish than those ugly orange ones your hotel lends out. The size recommendation is based on the child’s weight, which we found very precise.

To complete your Pokédex!

Cheap snorkeling masks are dangerous as they trap CO². So invested in these . Still look as good as new after ~80 snorkel trips, as they are easy to clean.

We like making memories, but aren’t avid videographers. So we didn’t splurge on a GoPro, but bought this one instead. The best: it works using voice commands!

This book offers detailed sketches and actionable advice that will elevate your tide pooling experience! It will make kids feel like biologists and biologists feel like kids again!

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