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One of the activities that is truly unique to the Big Island is a night snorkeling or diving with manta rays. And it is an experience that you won’t soon forget. We have been out multiple times on a number of different trips, but each time we are awestruck by these animals and the crazy, close encounters that we have.
There are three specific places to view manta rays on the island: Manta Point, Manta Heaven, and Manta Village. Manta Point is located in Kohala, while the other two locations are located in Kona (Manta Heaven is north Kona and Manta Village is south Kona). These areas have reliable Manta sightings thanks to lights shining into the water which attract plankton, the primary food source for manta rays. Manta Village in south Kona even boasts a 96% success rate for sightings.
Now that you’re shopping around for the best manta ray night snorkel in Kona, let’s jump into our shortlist of recommendations. We don’t recommend every tour — we stick to tours that offer great experiences for guests and work to keep the environment and the manta rays safe.
If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island, don’t forget to check out our done for you itinerary, which takes you on excursion days around the island seeing the best sights and eating at the best restaurants. Let us help you have the most memorable trip.
The Best Manta Ray Night Snorkel & Dive in Kona
To pick the best tours in Kona, we prioritize a few things:
- Adherence to the highest standards: on each tour it’s important that tour operators keep both you and the environment safe. With delicate manta rays, we keep this top of mind and try to only promote activity providers that are on the green list from Hawaii Ocean Watch, an organization that works to promote safe and sustainable programs of passive interaction between people and marine life.
- An excellent experience: we want to have an amazing experience on every tour we do and we know you want to as well. So we try to only recommend tours where the crew does a great job educating you and making sure you have a wonderful experience out on the water.
- A unique draw: some of the tours we love offer something unique (snorkeling from shore or an outrigger canoe!). We highlight these unique offerings so you can decide if something a little less usual appeals to you.
After plenty of research and enjoying a number of different tours, these are our top picks for the best manta ray night snorkeling in Kona. While this article walks you through the best manta ray night snorkeling tours in Kona, don’t forget to check out our full Big Island Guide, which will help you navigate everything you need to know for your trip.
Best All-Around Manta Ray Night Snorkel: Sea Paradise
If you are going for a high probability of manta ray sightings, Sea Paradise is our pick. They operate conveniently in Manta Village, departing from a spot in Keauhou Bay, which is near the Outrigger Kona resort. You’ll board their 45 foot catamaran and set off for your snorkeling spot. Then you’ll get to spend 45 minutes in the water with the majestic manta rays.
Sea Paradise is a green list activity provider from Hawaii Ocean Watch. They offer two tours per night and a sighting guarantee: if you don’t see any mantas, you’ll be able to rebook on another tour.
Why we love Sea Paradise: They offer a consistently great experience and they visit the best (in our opinion) Manta Ray snorkeling spot on the island.
Best Manta Ray Night Snorkel or Dive: Kona Ocean Adventures
If your group has people who want to dive and people who want to snorkel, this is the tour for you. Snorkelers will hang out at the surface of the water watching the mantas while divers head down to the bottom and watch them from below. Only certified divers are allowed to partake in the diving, so if you’re not certified, snorkeling will be your activity option. They tour leaves from Honokohau small boat harbor. From there it will either head to Manta Heaven in Makako Bay or down to Manta Village in Keahou Bay (depending on manta ray sightings). It’s a 20-30 minute boat ride to the snorkeling sites.
Kona Ocean Adventures is another green list activity provider from Hawaii Ocean Watch, so you know they are upholding the standards that will keep both you and the manta safe.
Why we love Kona Ocean Adventures: it’s rare that you get to have the option to snorkel or dive on a tour, so we appreciate that groups with split interests are given that option.
Best Manta Ray Night Dive: Kona Honu Divers
For anyone looking for an excellent dive-only adventure, you’ll want to head out with Kona Honu Divers. Their two tank dive is available for certified divers age 12 and older who have been diving in the past two years. The first dive will take place while the sun is still up and the second dive will take place in the same location after the sun goes down.
The dive takes place at Garden Eel Cove, aka Manta Heaven. They have a 60% success rate for manta sightings, but even if you don’t see a manta, the dive is still excellent.
Why we love Kona Honu Divers: They are a Hawaii Ocean Watch Green List member, providing eco-friendly adventures and dives, while maintaining the highest diving standards in Hawaii.
Best Small Group Manta Ray Snorkel: Anelakai Adventures
Head out on a double-hull outrigger canoe for a unique manta ray night snorkel tour. This is the ideal small group tour. You depart from Keauhou Bay and paddle just 10 minutes to your snorkeling spot. Then you have approximately 30-40 minutes in the water experiencing the manta rays up close.
Kids as young as two are welcome aboard for the adventure. They can easily watch the rays from the canoe and participate in the family experience.
Why we love Anelakai Adventures: getting to experience an outrigger canoe is an experience in itself. Outrigger canoes first arrived in Hawaii in 200 AD with the Polynesian explorers who set out to establish life on a new territory. Outrigger canoes are culturally significant, environmentally friendly, and allow you to have a truly unique experience with the manta rays.
Best From the Beach Manta Ray Snorkel: Manta Ray Advocates
Technically this isn’t in Kona, it’s in Kohala at Manta Point. But it’s such a unique tour and we enjoyed the experience so much, we had to include it. Ditch the boats and snorkel from the shore (with your guide!) out to the manta ray viewing location. Manta Ray Advocates is a Hawaii Ocean Watch Green List member and the owners and guides truly love manta rays. They spent the first part of the tour educating you on the rays and how to safely view them. Then after you don your wetsuit, you head into the water following your guide and snorkel into complete darkness.
Why we love Manta Ray Advocates: Walking into the water and snorkeling out from the beach in nearly complete darkness what such a thrilling experience. I really enjoyed not having to board a boat, instead leaving from the beautiful beach at the Mauna Kea resort.
Manta Ray Night Snorkel & Dive FAQs
For even more, check out our full manta ray snorkeling guide with all the need-to-know details.
Can you snorkel with Manta Rays without a tour?
Technically you can snorkel with manta rays without a tour, but you really shouldn’t. First, your personal safety is at risk if you head out solo. When you swim in the ocean or snorkel at night it can be very easy to become disoriented. It’s easy to underestimate how dark it is and how little you can see. Second, you put the safety of the manta rays at risk by snorkeling without a tour. Manta rays are large but they are very sensitive — touching them or otherwise disturbing their environment is a big no-no and it could result in injury to the manta rays. Heading out with a tour that practices safe standards is important.
If you’re looking to snorkel on your own (and not with manta rays at night), we have a list of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island.
What is the best time to see manta rays?
Unlike humpback whales which are only in Hawaii from December through April, there is no manta ray season. You can see manta rays year round. However, winter swells and rough currents can mean it is more likely that your trip will be canceled during that season.
The best time of day to see manta rays is at night. At night, manta rays feed on plankton, which makes up a majority of their diet. When it’s dark out, plankton are attracted to light, which is what the tour operators use to draw manta rays close to the group: they shine a light, which attracts plankton, which then the manta rays come over to eat.
If your tour offers a manta ray sighting guarantee, we recommend booking your snorkel at the beginning of your trip, so you have a chance to rebook the tour if you don’t see a manta.
What should I bring to a manta ray snorkel?
Wear your swimsuit and bring with you a towel and a change of warm clothes. Most tour operators will provide wetsuits and snorkeling gear.
Manta Ray Night Snorkel Video
We have done so many manta ray snorkeling tours (it’s truly one of our favorite activities!) and we compiled everything into a helpful video guide, so you can know what to expect before you go:
Experience More on Your Trip
Snorkeling with manta rays is such an incredible experience, but there’s more to the Big Island. Let our itinerary guide you on excursion days around the island, visiting the best sights on a carefully planned out routes. From beautiful stops to great food, our itineraries will help you make memories that will last a lifetime:
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