Southeast of Hilo on the east side of the Big Island, the snorkeling at the Kapoho Tidepools is a popular dive site. There are numerous tide pools and spring fed pools to explore that extend 600 feet into the ocean. The Kapoho Tidepools, also known as Wai Opae, is habitat for 10 species of coral, including blue rice coral. During Kapoho Tidepools snorkeling, you may encounter butterflyfish, filefish, moorish idols, sergeant majors, surgeonfish and wrasse.
The Kapoho Tidepools are maintained by the Wai’opae Tidepools Marine Life Conservation District. The best time to visit the tide pools is during slack tide. Avoid snorkeling during incoming and outgoing tides to avoid the strong currents.
Note, in the Fall of 2014, the entire coral colony at the Kapoho Tidepools (aka waiopae) underwent a coral bleaching event. Roughly 80% of the coral has been bleached white. Local scientist attribute the bleaching to warmer than normal water in September and a wetter than normal summer.
To reach the Kapoho Tidepools snorkeling from Hilo, head south on SR11 to Keaau. In Keaau, veer left heading southeast on SR130 to Pahoa. In Pahoa, turn left heading east on SR132. At the intersection with SR137, turn right on SR137 briefly and then turn left on Kapaho Beach Road down to the tidepools. Alternately, from SR137, you can turn left on Pua O Kapoho Road and then left on Kapoho Kai Drive where there is roadside parking about a half mile walk from the tidepools. Keep in mind that many people feel that this dive site is difficult to locate. Note, the Kapoho Vacationland private community graciously provides access to the tide pools through their private land. To reach the snorkeling on the Big Island by air, you will need to fly into either Kona International Airport (KOA) on the south side of the Big Island and Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the northeast side of the Big Island. From either airport, the best bet is to rent a car since the dive sites are pretty far off the main roads. The best Big Islands snorkeling dive sites are spread around the island. The conditions at each dive site vary throughout the year depending upon winds and currents. Since many of the Big Island snorkeling destinations are open water and unprotected, make sure to check the current surf reports before heading to any of these dive sites. Luckily, there are excellent up-to-date surf reports that can provide guidance on these adverse conditions. With the usually rolling surf, it is strongly discouraged to use open-tube snorkels which are common at snorkel rental locations -- only use snorkels with a dry-top splash-guard and a sump purge-valve in the mouth piece.
Overall, Kapoho Tidepools is the 7th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 7 snorkeling dives in Big Island.