There are some pretty amazing things to do in Kona. But when you look on the lists many of those activities are either not located in the Kona area or are similar to things you can do elsewhere in Hawaii. But there’s one experience that almost anyone can take part in and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Boats float in the dark seas with bright lights around and beneath them and a brightly lit hotel in the background
The manta ray snorkel: Big Island’s best-kept secret.

In This Guide

The Manta Ray Night Snorkel is Kona’s Most Unique Activity

While some people are planning to go to the beach, or visit the coffee or cacao farms, this is something anyone can do many places in Hawaii or throughout the world. The one thing that no other place has is the manta ray night snorkel in Kona.

Ages 5+ can easily see one of the most amazing encounters avaialable in the world. And it’s located right here in Kona.

Who is this for?

Are you a fan of movies like finding nemo or do you like to snorkel or swim? This activity is for you! The manta ray snorkel is by far one of the most accessible activities available in Hawaii while also being one of the most amazing available. It’s truly unique while also being truly epic.

looking up at snorkelers in wetsuits hanging on to a surfboard with lights shining down and a manta ray swimming upsidedown underneath

Imagine a school of fish circling around in front of you. Suddenly they part and a large animal with a 12 foot wingspan resembling a carpet appears slowly swooping a few feet from your face as it gulps gallons of seawater feeding on tiny zooplankton right before your eyes! You’ve just had the closest encounter to an alien you will ever get!

“But it’s at night?” You say. Yes! This is when the manta rays come to our bright lights to feed on the plankton attracted to the light.

When & where does this take place?

The manta ray night snorkel happens every night after the sun sets. This is the best time to see the mantas up close when they are the most hungry.

view from the boat above the water of Kona’s giant manta rays

The best place to start from to see the manta rays is from Kona’s Honokohau small Boat Harbor. This is a superior place to see the mantas because it has easy access to the two best manta ray viewing sites on the entire island. Depending on the manta ray’s behavior, and ocean conditions, boats can easily take you to the best site of the night.

Top 10 Manta Ray Night Snorkel Tours

  1. Kona Snorkel Trips – Top Rated
  2. Sea Paradise – Best Bang for the Buck & Best for Seasick Prone
  3. Manta Ray Night Snorkel Tours – Combo Package Deal
  4. Eka Canoe – Unique ‘Hawaiian Style’ Manta Encounter
  5. Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures – Navy Seal Fast Boat
  6. Kona Ocean Adventures – Top Rated on Trip Advisor
  7. Kona Snorkel Tours – Inexpensive for Adults
  8. Kona Snorkel Trips – Avoid the Crowds
  9. Hang Loose Boat Tours – Best Budget for Families with Small Children & Non-swimmers
  10. Nainoa – Intimate Small Group Experience
  11. Private Manta Ray Snorkel Tour – Kona Snorkel Trips

1. Kona Snorkel Trips – Top Rated 5 Star Company

Looking for the snorkeling tour that offers the most attention, has an emphasis on safety, and the highest rating on google of any snorkel company in the state of Hawaii? Kona Snorkel Trips is by far the best rated and most reviewed Kona snorkeling tour operator with thousands upon thousands of 5 star google reviews and a perfect 5.0 star rating. Read some of the latest reviews below to see why people love this tour so much.

2. Sea Paradise – Best Bang for the Buck/Best for Seasick Prone People

Sea Paradise’s large catamaran departs from Keahou which is home to the southern most manta site on the Big Island. The great thing about this tour is it’s on a huge sailing catamaran so it’s both stable and roomy. It’s also very close to the southern manta site being less than a 5 minute boat ride and you’re there! Sea Paradise has been running the manta ray snorkel for decades so they really know what they are doing when it comes to manta ray snorkeling in Kona.

a large sailing catamaran named Hoku Nui sits in calm seas with snorkelers hanging off the back in a train and bright blue light underneath
Sea Paradise’s manta swim is short and great for larger groups

While they don’t offer the same personalized service as Kona Snorkel Trips, they are a great deal, and the best option for people prone to seasickness.

3. Manta Ray Night Snorkel Tours – Combo Package Deal

This is the best deal in manta ray snorkel Big Island tours. Book the world famous manta ray night snorkel & the Captain Cook Snorkeling tour together and save 15% on both tours!

Picture of a booking item called manta ray & Captain cook snorkel combo package with a booking button and description stating "Do both the Manta Ray snorkel & the Captian Cook snorkeling tour and receive 15% off both tours! Now you can do Kona's most popular tours and save when you book both together!"

4. Eka Canoe – Unique ‘Hawaiian Style’ Manta Encounter

One of the most unique and traditional ways to experience the manta rays is by far the Eka Canoe manta ray night snorkel. Paddle out with a group of adventurous snorkelers to see the mantas from a double-hulled canoe. Hawaiina style cuz!

5. Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures – Navy Seal Fast Boat

Another incredibly unique boat in Hawaii is Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures. One of the most badass boats in Hawaii used to come with a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the bow. Sporting 2 high performance diesel motors and jet drives this boat can do some pretty amazing maneuvers you didn’t know were possible in a boat!

6. Kona Ocean Adventures – Top Rated on Trip Advisor

boat moving fast through the sea during sunset with people on board
trip advisor rating of 5 with 2105 reviews and #4 of 189 boat tours & waterspouts in Kailua-Kona

Kona Ocean Adventure’s manta ray night snorkel is the #4 top rated ocean activity on Trip Advisor. It’s also the top rated manta ray snorkel tour on the list. Kona Ocean Adventure’s smaller, well appointed, boats are comfy and provide exceptional service with smaller group sizes. A truly a stand-apart tour from what you will get elsewhere.

7. Kona Snorkel Tours – Inexpensive for Adults

snorkelers lay on the ocean surface holding a surfboard with bright light underneath with a boat behind. It's dark all around.

Looking for the absolute cheapest option out there? This is the one. For $99 this company will take you out to snorkel with the manta rays. How are they able to do this?! You may wonder. They have a unique business model where they will take out a group of snorkelers and drop them off with a guide. Once in the water they leave and pick up the second group on the dock. This means you will be in the water with just the guide. When the boat returns with the next group, they will hop in the water and your group will board the boat and heads back to shore.

This style of tour is perfect for the young adventurer who doesn’t mind being left adrift in the middle of the night.

8. Kona Snorkel Trips – Beat the Crowds on the Late tour

During the busier times of year when tourism is at it’s peak the manta sites can get extremely busy. By taking a later manta trip you’ll avoid some of that craziness. During the slower times of year you’ll be treated to mantas all to yourself!

9. Hang Loose Boat Tours – Best Budget for Families with Small Children & Non-Swimmers

long chain of people holding on to rafts with bars on the sides as a manta ray swims underneath
It’s family-style dining for the manta rays tonight!

Got a big family? You can bring them all on this large aluminum catamaran behemoth. Non-swimmers can observe the manta rays in the water from the upper deck while holding their infants. By far the best budget family friendly tour available to see the mantas. Departs from Honokohau Marina near Kona town.

10. Nainoa – More Intimate Group Size

In search of a more intimate experience like a private charter without the private charter prices? Nainoa offers 6 person manta ray excursions on their sport fishing boat. Departing from Keahou Harbor a 5 minute cruise from the southernmost manta ray site.

11. BONUS: Private Charter your own boat

people lounging in the sun on a small boat moving fast along the sea coast

Got a large group or simply don’t wish to mingle with the commoners? Booking a private boat is perfect for saving money if you’re a larger group or just having a more intimate and personalized experience. Kona Snorkel Trips is Hawaii’s #1 top rated snorkel tour company with a perfect 5.0 star rating on google.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best manta ray night snorkel in the world?

Undoubtedly the Kona Manta Ray night snorkel is the world’s best. This is because of the number and proximity of the mantas. Dozens of Manta Rays can show up just a few hundred feet from shore on any given night.

If you’re going to book a manta ray snorkel in Kona choose the highest rated and most reviewed snorkel company in Hawaii – Kona Snorkel Trips.

How much does it cost to snorkel a manta ray?

Prices Range from $80 for a child or observer up to $199 for a single snorkeler. Private charters can cost $1199 or greater depending on the size of the boat.

Is snorkeling with manta rays worth it?

Easily one of the most impactful tours anyone can book, the manta ray snorkel has people raving about the experience. The exstatic screams, yelling, and cursing from participants in awe of seeing these gentle giants up close is something you cannot get from video.

What is the best time of night to snorkel with manta rays?

After sunset. If you go earlier expect crowds, if you go later there will be fewer boats and it will be quiter. You will get more mantas to yourself.

Where is the best place to see manta rays?

Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii is by far the best manta ray viewing available. If you’re lucky you will see them a few feet away from your face! This is close for a 1200 pound animal with a 12 foot wingspan.

Is night snorkeling with manta rays safe?

Absolutely. When you choose a top-rated operation like Kona Snorkel Trips, their lifeguard-certified guides and attention to safety, means you’ll get the best attention while also having a safe and amazing viewing experience.

Is it better to snorkel or dive with manta rays?

The view is different but similar in that often the manta rays will come very close to both divers and snorkelers. If you have a certification diving with mantas is more expensive but you will get to see more than just the manta rays when you dive on the reef. The snorkel experience is typically much shorter than a dive charter which will be twice as long or more.

What do you wear to manta ray snorkeling?

Wear a swimsuit to go under the wetsuit provided by the snorkel company. If they are a good company they will provide all of the gear necessary to view the mantas comfortably. Bring a towel and sweater to wear after you get out of the water.

Where is the largest manta ray sanctuary?

Manta Rays are protected in Hawaii. There are over 200 known identified manta rays off the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Is snorkeling with manta rays ethical?

While the activity does feed the rays, they naturally feed on the zooplankton attracted by the tour company’s bright lights. So if anything, they are getting fed faster than they would naturally.

Can you swim with manta rays in Kona without a tour?

It is not recommended to attempt to swim with mantas on your own. There are certain industry standards to follow including the gear you use and how to avoid colliding with and injuring the mantas. Individuals will also lack the extremely bright lights that draw the zooplankton and thus the manta rays in close.

What is the weight limit for the manta ray night snorkel?

There is only an age limit, no weight limit. Kona Snorkel Trips allows children 5 and older if they are competent snorkelers. Otherwise people can come as observers without getting in the water.

What time of day are manta rays most active?

At night mantas will feed near shore. This is when they are working hardest to scoop water into their mouth to capture the zooplankton that emerges from the reef.

Do manta rays swim close to shore?

Yes. They will come in to shallow reefs to feed and get cleaned of parasites.

What is the difference between a reef manta ray and a giant manta ray?

The reef manta is smaller and tends to reside in the same area for decades. A pelagic manta ray will spend much of it’s time further offshore in deeper water and are usually only spotted in shallow water when visiting a cleaning station.

Why are manta rays going extinct?

While manta rays are considered threatened, in places like Kona, Hawaii they are protected. The gills are considered a medicinal health tonic by Chinese and so they are sought after by fishing companies looking to supply the demand.

Are manta rays bottom dwellers?

No. They are often seen near the surface and spend some time offshore. They feed on planton suspended in the water but not on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Is it common to see sharks while snorkeling?

Not usually, though some tours can find sharks. For example it’s possible to see white-tip reef sharks in some of the lava caves during the day in Kona, Hawaii.