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Ultimate Guide to the Kona Manta Ray Night Snorkel

boats sit in the ocean at night with lights in the water nearby

The Ultimate Guide to Kona’s Manta Ray Night Snorkel

Imagine laying flat on the surface of the ocean with 7 other snorkelers. Intense lights shine down into the dark ocean. A dark diamond shape appears deep below. As it moves along the ocean floor it turns up revealing a white mouth. As it nears closer you realize it’s much larger than you and it’s coming straight for you! Scraping the surface with it’s large spotted belly it moves inches below your elbows which to now have to hold up to avoid colliding with this enormous alien-like experience. Welcome to Kona’s famous manta ray night snorkel.

What are Manta Rays?

Manta Rays are a type of fish in the family of fish that are sharks and rays. So they are similar in that they have skeletons made of cartilage instead of bones. Unlike sting-rays they do not have stingers and they feed on tiny zooplankton that comes out of the reef at night. The plankton is drawn out by light and it acts like a dinner bell to any nearby mantas.

The reef manta rays of Kona can get up to 1200lbs (550 kg) with a 16 ft wingspan. They can swim incredibly fast even jumping completely out of the water only to land with a loud clap as they land on the surface.

Why Snorkel with Mantas?

It’s a unique experience to say the least. It’s hard not to smile, cry, scream, and yell at the sheer ridiculousness of what you’re experiencing. It truly is a life-changing encounter you will never forget and there’s really nothing else like it in the world. It’s also accessible for ages 5 and up and it’s a great activity for the family.

Where to Snorkel with Mantas

The Big Island of Hawaii is not only the largest of all of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s also the largest mountain, and the largest volcano in the world with active lava viewing.

There are 3 Manta Ray Viewing Sites

  • Manta Heaven
  • Manta Point
  • Manta Village

On the western side of the Big Island the waters are warm, calm, and clear. This makes it the best place in Hawaii to snorkel. Kona is where the manta ray sorkel and dive started, and it’s still one of the most popular attractions on the island. Hundreds of visitors and even locals take part in this experience every night. There are 2 manta ray night snorkel sites in Kona and one in the north in Mauna Kea.

The best way to choose where to snorkel with the manta rays is to find a reputable operator. Typically a google search will be your best bet. From there you can find ratings and locations to find a company that is both reputable and close to where you are. Or you could check out the manta ray night snorkel tour options below.

Top Manta Ray Snorkel Tour Options

There’s more than one way to see the manta rays of Kona.

Best Small Group Manta Ray Tour

Kona Snorkel Trips offers the best manta ray snorkel tours for smaller group sizes. How do we know this? Because they have a perfect 5 star rating and well over 4,000 reviews on Google. At this point they are the highest rated and most reviewed snorkel company in the pacific.


Kona Snorkel Trips is great because they have nice smaller sized RHIB boat which is both quick and comfy. Their staff is amazing both in and out of the water and because they take a smaller group they can easily maneuver you to where the mantas are instead of relying on them to come to you. This is a huge advantage and can really make or break the tour as the longer you are in the water the less chance you have of seeing these magnificent beasts. They can accomodate up to 18 guests and also do private manta ray tour and snorkeling tours.

Best Large Group Manta RayTour

Sea Paradise has been offering the manta ray tour for over 3 decades and their large catamaran is comfortable and spacious. Taking a maximum of 40 passengers this tour is great for larger groups. But be sure to book in advance as it does fill up!

Best Unique Manta Ray Tour

Paddle a Hawaiian style double hulled canoe out on the ocean to experience the manta rays. Possibly one of the most unique ways to experience the manta ray snorkel is with Anelakai Adventures. This operator has a double hulled wood canoe which means it’s up to you to get there and back! View the rays from between the 2 hulls as they graze the ocean’s surface. This tour is limited to a maximum of 6 passengers.

Best Manta Ray Scuba Dive Tour

Are you a scuba diver? You’re in luck! Scuba diving with the manta rays is as good if not better than snorkeling with them. When diving with Mantas you get a different perpective with the mantas coming down to the bottom and sometimes grazing your head. Sitting at a ‘campfire’ with other divers the mantas will swim through and around the group. Sometimes performing loop-d-loops in a effort to scoop some delicious zooplankton into their massive mouths. As a manta approaches you can see rightdown their throats!

Kona Honu Divers offers the best manta ray night dive experience in Kona. They are top rated in the Pacific winning numerous awards annually from Scuba Diving Magazine readers for safety, nicest boats, best gear, best staff, and best facilities. They offer free nitrox and discount packages when you book multiple charters.

Best Manta Ray Scuba and Snorkel Tour

If you’re visiting with an intrepid group of adventurous snorkelers and divers your options are a bit more limited. You could split the group between the aforementioned top-rated Kona Honu Divers & Kona Snorkel Trips which depart from the same area. This is best because the divers get a spacious boat catering specifically to diving while the snorkelers get a better chance of seeing mantas and a faster trip dialed in to deliver the best snorkeling experience. But if your group is convinced on experiencing the manta rays in Kona together, there’s no better option than Aquatic Life Divers.


Manta Ray FAQs

1. Are Manta Rays Dangerous?

Unlike sharks and stingrays which they are related to, manta rays don’t have any stingers or teeth and their only defense is to swim away when threatened. It’s a good thing they are fast swimmers when they want to be!

2. Who is eligible to swim with mantas in Kona?

It depends on the tour company but it’s important to be a good swimmer that has snorkeled before and is comfortable in the water. The minimum age for a manta ray night snorkel can be as young as 5 years old.

3. When is the best time of day to see mantas?

If you want to get close, nighttime is best because it’s when they feed. This means they will likely come very close to the light that is attracting plankton (their favorite food).

4. When is the best time of year to see mantas?

It’s possible to see manta rays year-around in Kona but if you could be picky summer is typically better to see the rays because of the calmer ocean conditions and warmer water.

5. Do the other hawaiian Islands Have Manta Rays?

Yes. However, they are not seen as often and they don’t have a consistent manta ray night snorkel encounter like the Big Island of Hawaii has. If you do happen to see mantas on the other islands it would likely be during the day from afar.