Richardson Ocean Park is a small black sand beach located just to the west of Hilo on the Big Island. It is, in fact, the last, westernmost beach in a string of beaches stretching along Kalanianaole. But while it might be the furthest out, this is the beach most locals and non-locals pack their towels and beach bags for thanks to its amenities and varied attractions.
The name of Richardson Ocean Park comes from it once being the property of Elsa and George Richardson, the latter who served as a chief detective for the island. This property was given to the Richardsons by another esteemed Hawaiian family, the Malos, for saving the family from typhoid fever. The Richardsons later gifted the beautiful oceanfront property to the county they served and today everyone can enjoy the unique green and black sands and excellent ocean conditions here.
That’s right, the sand at Richardson Ocean Park really is green and black. Scoop up the sand at Richardson’s and you will see a lot of tiny black grains of sand with even smaller bits of green mixed in. The black sands are from lava that has been grinded away by the ocean while the green sand is made out of olivine crystals. Olivine crystals come from old magma that is rich in magnesium while simultaneously being low in silica. On Hawaii, the olivine crystals come most readily from the eroded interior of Puu Mahana, an old volcanic core with the right chemical compositions, and you will find them on several Hawaiian beaches, including Ricardson’s.
The black and green sands at Richardson Ocean Park are certainly pretty and certainly draw people in, but that isn’t the only thing this park and beach has to offer. Richardson Ocean Park is really beloved for its having some outstanding snorkeling opportunities. You will find a lot of different rocky areas forming small lagoons serving home to a rich variety of tropical fish and marine life here. Snorkeling about these rocky outcrops and in both the shallow and deeper waters of the beach will offer almost always a rich variety of life. Sea turtles are even a frequent sighting thanks to their often taking advantage of these sheltered lagoons for feeding and resting.
In addition to snorkeling, wading, general swimming, and even surfing with the right conditions are popular pastimes at Richardson Ocean Park. This park likewise boasts all the amenities to ensure families can enjoy whatever beachfront activities they desire. You will find full restrooms and showers here as well as a posted lifeguard during peak daytime hours. A few picnic tables and barbecues grills are located near the parking lot, offering a good place for families to rest, snack, and enjoy the view. With so many amenities, including lifeguards, safe to say that this is a very family-friendly beach.
The only drawback to Richardson Ocean Park is that it might be a bit too family-friendly, in that it is often very crowded. If you are looking for a quieter place to stretch out and enjoy the shores of the Big Island, then this might not be the right beach for you. If, however, you don’t mind crowds and want to snorkel in the best of areas, then simply make sure to go early or visit on the weekdays to ensure you get a parking spot (parking is pretty limited here, although you can park along the main road if you do so with care).
While there are some great picnic areas at Richardson Ocean Park, you aren’t going to find any food or several options at the park or nearby. So those planning for a longer stay should grab some snacks and drinks before they arrive. The nearby town of Hilo has several great takeout restaurants and general stores for this.