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Garden Eel Cove / Manta Ray Heaven in Kona, Hawaii



Garden Eel Cove Becomes Manta Ray Heaven at Night

Garden Eel Cove is a manta ray night dive and snorkel site located on the Big Island of Hawaii just off shore from the Kona Airport. While it’s not easily accessible from shore there are a number of dive and snorkel tour operations that visit this site regularly to see the world famous manta ray night dive and snorkel.


Garden Eel Cove has Many Names

Other than its popular name of Garden Eel Cove it is also known as Manta Ray Heaven. Its Hawaiian name is Makako Bay. During the day the site is visited by dive boats, whales, and dolphins while at night it turns into a busy site known as Manta Ray Heaven. Boats come from the nearby Honokohau Marina and hook up to some of the many mooring balls underwater. This keeps anchors off the reef. Some dive boats will come early and do a scuba dive on the reef then feed divers and brief them on the manta ray night dive. After the sun goes down everyone gets the water and swims to a spot known as ‘the campfire’. This is where the mantas aggregate as there is a spot where the dive tour operators put extremely bright lights. These lights attract small zooplankton which is the manta ray’s favorite food.

a person in a dark room

See the zooplankton in the lights?

Snorkel tour boats will typically show up later in the evening near sunset and attach to the many dive boats there. The snorkelers will get in the water usually just after sunset and a guide will tow a large surfboard with handles on it to the campfire. The guests will keep hold of the board which has lights mounted in it. When combined with the campfire lights the snorkel board lights will also draw manta rays to them. On some nights there may be no manta rays or just a single manta. On other nights there can be so many mantas they are hard to see them all at once! These are what everybody hopes for. But remember, manta rays are wild animals and they do as they wish. While there are over 250 different rays seen along the Kona coastline only some of them will choose to visit Garden Eel Cove / Manta Ray Heaven.


a group of people riding skis on a body of water



Manta Ray Snorkel & Dive Tours visiting Manta Ray Heaven

Snorkel Tours

Kona Snorkel Trips offers the manta ray night snorkel tour two times a night. They are the top-rated and most reviewed snorkel company in the state of Hawaii with over 5,000 5-star google reviews. Because it’s a snorkel company they may choose to visit Garden Eel Cove or Manta Village depending on conditions, seasonality, and whether the mantas have been showing up at either site recently. They offer a manta guarantee and early bird pricing.




Dive Tours

Kona Honu Divers has offered the manta ray scuba dive in Kona for over 22 years. They have been visiting Manta Ray heaven exclusively since 2017 and are the only dive company to do so. They are Hawaii’s top-rated and most reviewed dive company with over 3,500 5-star google reviews.





Frequently Asked Questions

How can I see manta rays in Kona without tour?

The best way to see mantas without a tour is to go north to Manta Point located in the Mauna Kea resort. There you can easily swim from the beach out to see the manta rays in shallow water. There are even tours that swim from shore there. The 2 established manta sites in Kona are difficult to access safely without a tour due to distance, rough shore entry, and lots of boat traffic.

Where is the Manta Heaven?

Manta Heaven is located here in a bay just offshore from the Kona International Airport. It is only accessible by boat due to it’s location offshore from private land and rock cliff shore entry.

Can you see manta rays from the Sheraton in Kona?

Yes! Although it’s now called the Outrigger hotel. You can see them from the balcony located at the Manta bar and restaurant.

Where is the best place to swim with manta rays?

The Manta Ray Night Snorkel is located in Keahou near Kailua-Kona, HI.

What is the best month to see manta rays in Kona?

The mantas don’t have a month they prefer over the others. All ocean activities in Kona are best in June – October when the water is warmest and the swell is minimal but the rest of the year is still good to get in the water. To learn more check out this article covering The Best Time of Year to See Manta Rays in Kona.

What time of day is best to see manta ray?

Just after sunset is typically when the mantas begin to show up but they can stick around for hours if there’s enough light around. Later in the evening the manta site is much less crowded so many people prefer the later moonlight manta snorkel tour.