The Amazing Tide Pools of Wai’opae, Hawaii


The incredible beauty of the Wai’opae Tide Pools in Hawaii must be seen to be believed. Here is some information about these unique tide pools.

Check Out the Beautiful Wai’opae Tide Pools

Have you heard of them before? Even if you have, here’s a tip! If you want to sound like a local, call them the Kapoho Tide Pools in Hawaii. They were originally named after the surrounding community! If you’re looking for an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in diverse ocean life, you’ve found it! You can find these tidal pools on the southeastern coast of Hawaii — what locals call the Big Island.

If you’re flying into the Hilo airport, they’re only about an hour’s drive away. In 2003, the area was named a Marine Life Conservation District, but the locals have been enjoying it since long before that. At one time, this area was covered with vegetation, but after an earthquake shook the area in 1975, deep pools and trenches were formed that ultimately flooded and became these beautiful coral gardens. This MCLD extends to include a good bit of land: about 700 meters.

These Tide Pools Are Often Compared to a Barrier Reef

Strong waves are broken before they make it to the coral by a shallow basalt ridge. But, this doesn’t mean that plenty of water doesn’t still make it to the pools! The pools receive their water from the waves generated by northeast trade winds.

These tidal pools in Hawaii are unique because they are made up of both saltwater from the ocean and fresh waters that enter the pools from the underground water tables near shore.

In the shallower waters, you’ll be able to see the pahoehoe lava below you. Well, in theory, you can, if you’re able to see past all of the beautiful coral! The further out you go, the more coral there is to be found. At about four meters deep, if you’re into snorkeling, this is the place to be. It isn’t quite deep enough for scuba diving, but snorkeling provides a great view of the inner and middle tide pools. Of course, the farther you go out to sea, the surf makes it harder to see clearly.

Luckily, these tide pools are pretty easy to get to, but its important to be careful not to damage the delicate ecosystem as you’re entering, exiting, or exploring them.

There’s So Much to See

Plenty of sources argue that this is one of the best places in the world to snorkel on a sunny day! The intertwined lava rocks and coral are enough to make you want to visit, but that isn’t all that these pools have to offer. Ocean life here is incredible! The diversity is incomparable.

Because of the calm waters, the tide pools are home to an incredibly large population of juvenile fish, which makes this location a bona fide fish nursery. To the right of the parking lot, you can find the first two big pools to explore. On most days, there is enough water that you can swim between the two of them and never have to leave the water while you explore. Pools of varying degrees of size and depth are scattered all across the area. You can expect to see some major diversity as you explore.

The fish are plentiful here; it’s common to see Butterflyfish, Parrotfish, Surgeonfish, Tang, Unicornfish and many more. Besides the fish, there are, of course, the corals! Antler, Blue Rice, Cauliflower, Thick Finger, and Lobe are just a few, to begin with. By the end of your excursion, you’ll have seen corals you didn’t even know existed.

And last but not least, there are turtles, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. The unique ecosystem of the corals makes living exceptional for all. For this reason, always remember to tread respectfully and carefully. Not just for your own safety, but also for the safety of this ocean paradise teeming with life!

Remember to Be Safe

We all know the ocean is beautiful, but it can be easy to forget how powerful it is also! What looks serene one moment can turn perilous the next. It’s always important to exercise caution when you’re dealing with nature! Invest in a good pair of water shoes to protect your feet from black lava that can be hot and slippery.

Before you head out to the pools, be sure that you’re well informed about the weather forecast for the day as well as the schedule of high and low tides. You’ll find that it’s easier to move between pools when the tide is high. Not only this, but it is also easier to navigate out to sea a bit more or back to shore at the end of the day if you don’t have a strong current pulling you one way of the other.

If a storm seems to be brewing – even if one wasn’t forecast in the weather – it’s best to exit the water and pack up while you safely can. You can rest assured there will be plenty of beautiful, sunny days perfect for exploring these tide pools in Hawaii!