Manta Ray night snorkeling

Snorkeling with manta rays at night is out of this world!

Manta Ray night snorkeling on Sunlight on Water

A small speedboat means less people and more manta rays

Manta Ray night snorkeling

This large ray even showed up before dark

Manta Ray night snorkeling sunset

Sunsets are even more spectacular when you are out on the water!

Manta Ray night snorkeling manta smiling at the camera

A gigantic manta ray "smiling" for the camera

Manta Ray night snorkeling

Watch the graceful underwater ballet of the manta rays

Manta Ray night snorkeling floating platform with bright lights

Floating platform with bright lights centers you over the mantas

Visitors to the Kona Coast of the Big Island have an opportunity to participate in one of the most unique ocean adventures in the world! Manta rays frequent the warm waters of the rocky volcanic coastline in search of plankton, their primary food source. With their giant mouths constantly open, they glide through the water and filter these tiny creatures.Manta rays are often called “the butterflies of the sea” … they are shy, harmless, and graceful. They don’t have any stinging spines on their tail. They don’t bite or chew. Their mouths are designed like a giant funnel to filter plankton. Swimming with them is completely safe for both humans and for the manta rays. They truly are gentle giants – most of the mantas found along the Kona coast have a “wingspan” of 8-13 feet! There are two spots along the Kona Coast where mantas congregate in the early evening. Lights are placed on the ocean bottom in about 30 feet of water, and snorkelers float at the surface holding onto a raft that has more lights shining down. This concentrates the plankton near the snorkelers, and the leads the mantas to perform a water0based acrobatic dance as the swoop in circles just below the amazed observers. This is a MIUST DO activity and one of the best / most reliable places in the world to participate in this fantastic activity!

Manta Snorkel – 40 Foot Speedboat – from Honokohau Harbor

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This Manta Ray Night Snorkel tour is done on a 40′ Coast Guard certified vessel that is fast and comfortable and is well-laid out. This vessel goes to the manta location near the Kona Airport, which consistently attracts the MOST mantas. You’ll be fitted with a wetsuit and snorkel gear, and just after sunset slip into the water and hold onto the floating platform which has lights that attract the plankton. These giant rays gracefully glide, twirl and do somersaults to swoop up the tiny little food particles, sometimes within a foot or so of the snorkelers! You, too, can witness these spectacular ocean creatures in their magical underwater ballet in an event you’ll never forget!

 

Schedule: Daily at 5pm (time changes seasonally)

Duration: 3.5 hours

Check In: Honokohau Harbor slip #G18

Tour includes: Cold and hot beverages and a variety of dry snacks

Gear Provided: Wetsuits, all snorkel gear, flotation devices as needed, lights, 12-20 photos of your trip

Vessel: 40 foot USCG certified vessel - Custom built for snorkeling with warm water shower and restroom

Capacity: 25

Check In: Honokohau Harbor slip G18, 5 miles south of the Kona Airport on the ocean side of Highway 11/19 (Queen Kaahumanu Highway)

GPS: Slip G18 96745, 74-381 Kealakehe Pkwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Click to view map

Restrictions: There is no minimum age for this tour per se, but parents should use their own discretion for any children under 12. Children who are too young to get in the ocean must have an adult stay with them on the boat at all times. “Ride Alongs” who watch from the boat and don’t snorkel pay the same rate. Ride alongs aren’t recommend though for this tour because there is little to see at night unless you are actually getting in the water.

What to Bring & Wear: Towels, bathing suit, warm and dry clothes, and a jacket or sweatshirt, and camera

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be made at least 48 hours (72hrs for party of 5 or more) before the start of the event.

Manta Snorkel – 55 Foot Pwer Catamaran – from Keauhou Bay

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Another choice for Manta Night Snorkel is the Hula Kai, a 55 foot powered catamaran that leaves from Keauhou Bay. While this location doesn’t usually have as many mantas as the airport site, it does consistently attract several mantas and has the advantage of being a much shorter boat ride to get to the snorkel location. This is a great choice for guests staying south of downtown Kona, or for anyone who is concerned about motion sickness. Wet suits and snorkel gear are included.

 

Schedule: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at  5pm (time changes seasonally)

Duration: 2 hours

Gear Provided: Wetsuits, all snorkel gear, flotation devices as needed, lights

Vessel: 55′ foot USCG certified vessel – powered catamaran

Capacity: 26

Check In: Fair Wind Cruises office at Keauhou Harbor located at the end of Kamehameha III Road about 10 minutes south of downtown Kailua-Kona.

GPS: Parking lot is located across the street from 78-7106 Kamehameha III Road, Kailua-Kona, HI Click to view map

Restrictions: Minimum age to participate in this tour is 7, and all guests must have had at least one other previous snorkel experience.

What to Bring & Wear: Towels, bathing suit, warm and dry clothes, and a jacket or sweatshirt, and camera

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be made at least 48 hours (72hrs for party of 5 or more) before the start of the event.

manta ray swim
Swim with these mesmerizing creatures
manta ray swim
Floating platform with bright lights

CManta Ray Night Snorkelruise Ship Passengers

The Manta Ray Night Snorkel tour is not available for cruise ship passengers unless your cruise ship is on a rare itinerary that spends the night in Kona.

Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

When my wife and I did this adventure for the first time we instantly added manta rays to the top of our “don’t miss it” list. We are excited to offer this opportunity to our clients … this is one of the most unique adventures in Hawaii.

The manta ray encounters along the Kona coast began back in the early 70’s; a hotel called the “Kona Surf” had bright lights that shined into the ocean and mantas were attracted almost nightly. Scuba operators began doing night dives. While the location gave a reliable chance to see manta rays, the spot was not very protected from ocean swells and sometimes the area would be too rough to dive or snorkel.

In 1999 the Kona Surf Hotel closed and the lights were turned off. The manta rays found a new spot to congregate in a bay near the Kona airport where plankton concentrated in the late afternoon sun. This is the spot where most mantas are now going on a nightly basis and the bay offers a much more protected location from ocean swells. This bay is inaccessible from shore and access requires a boat ride of about 25-30 minutes from the harbor just north of downtown Kailua-Kona.

At first the manta ray encounter began as an event for scuba divers. Over time it became clear that this isn’t just for certified divers! Snorkelers can float at the top and watch the action below. The bright lights that you hold in your hand and shine downward will attract plankton, and the manta rays will swoop up from the deeper water. They often come within inches of you and do a flip as they scoop the plankton out of the water for a tasty snack.

Floating platforms are placed behind the boat and these tiny little “islands” have very bright lights pointing straight down underwater. These bright lights attract the plankton at night, which in turn attracts the manta rays to glide in to scoop up a mouthful of these tiny organisms. When you first enter the water the scene looks like something out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” with rays of light beaming down into the water and attracting a host of tiny fish as well as the giant mantas.

The wetsuit that is provided for snorkelers will do two things for you. First, it will help keep you warm since you are snorkeling after dark. Second, it will help you float. Even if you aren’t a good swimmer, you won’t have any problems floating around at the top while wearing a wetsuit. The floating platforms also add a measure of safety as they give participants a place to hold on so they can stay directly above the manta action.

Witnessing manta rays in the wild is a rare treat that can only be done in a few places in the world. The success rate for sighting mantas is incredibly high; somewhere in the 90-95% range. The night that my wife and I first did this tour there were 14 mantas, but it seemed like there were far more than that. They kept dancing and gliding from every direction for the entire hour that we were in the water. We’ve since done watched the “Manta Ballet” on many occasions, and we’ve never gone out on a night when the mantas were a “no show.”

While the success rates on the snorkel tour are very high, there is no way to guarantee sightings every single night. The tour operators can’t offer refunds when the mantas don’t show up; their costs for operating the tour are fixed. My advice though is to not let this discourage you; the opportunity to swim with mantas and the high success rate makes it completely worthwhile. If you sign up for this tour you have an extremely high probability of swimming with mantas. If you don’t sign up for this tour you have no chance of swimming with mantas. Sign up for the tour, then be nice to everyone and build up some positive karma in the weeks leading up to the event!

Please note that touching the mantas is not allowed. They have a protective slime coat that keeps them safe from infection and disease, and for the health of the mantas they should not be touched at all. Resist the temptation, even though they are only inches away. Divers stay on the bottom; snorkelers float at the top. All the space in between is allotted for the mantas to conduct their graceful maneuvers.

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