Kona’s Manta Rays are a big attraction. Many divers come to Kona just for the manta Ray dive not knowing about the other large animals often seen here. The manta rays have a big media presence. They’re like a local celebrity! So being that they are so popular and many divers only get one chance to see them it’s understandable that they want to be sure to see them.

a diver leans back holding a camera as manta rays swoop in close
A diver leans back to avoid the manta rays as they swoop in close to gather the phytoplankton (snowy looking stuff) at Manta Ray Heaven / Garden Eel Cove.

Seasonality doesn’t seem to play a part in the manta’s consistency.

Manta Rays are wild animals. Like most wild critters they behave as they wish. When we show up at Garden Eel cove / Manta Ray Heaven (the manta dive site), there’s no knowing whether they’ll choose to show up that night. So to increase their odds of seeing mantas, divers often ask us. “What is the best time of year to see manta rays in Kona?” So here we do our best to answer your question.

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Manta Ray Behavior

The Best Time to See Manta Rays in Kona

How Often We See Manta Rays in Kona

What Other Animals are seen on The Manta Ray Dive

About Kona’s Manta Rays Behavior

Manta Rays are large and have relatively large brains for an animal in the elasmobranch (sharks & rays) family. When we dive with them night after night we get to know them really well. so much so our divemasters have learned all of their names. They seem to act like they know what they are doing. It’s hard to say for certain but they seem to recognize us. Of the hundreds of manta rays identified we tend to see some of the same rays more regularly with others coming in for a visit on busier nights.

The Database on Manta Pacific Foundation has over 338 rays identified on the Big Island and counting!

When is best time to See Mantas?

Unlike humpback whales, manta rays spend their time around the island and don’t venture too far away. This is why we will often see the same manta throughout the year. Is there a best time of year to see manta rays in Kona? We don’t know! Kona Honu Divers has been collecting the most consistent data on the manta ray dive of any company on the Big Island returning back to the same site consistently over the years and recording how many rays we see each time. While sometimes we can’t go out due to ocean conditions we still get a record of most nights. Looking back at the data it’s difficult to see any consistency in the nights when mantas are not around based on a specific time of year.

For example we’ve had times around the holiday season when mantas don’t show. Thes is when the water is the busiest with the most divers and snorkelers. But then the next year there are plenty of mantas during the same period. Seasonality doesn’t seem to play a part in the manta’s consistency.

How Often do the Manta Rays show up?

Based on our data from the nights when we are able to go out Manta Ray Heaven / Garden Eel Cove, the manta rays show over 80% of the time. They are there most nights but about 1/5 of the time (19% to be precise) they don’t show. This means any night they do show up is a lucky night! Fortunately aside from the mantas there is plenty to see at night when diving the reef.

The average number of mantas seen on a night is 6 and the mean is 5. There does seem to be trends in the data with periods where there are more or fewer mantas. We are one of the only operators to warn our guests when we have a manta dry spell giving you the option to cancel or rebook when these periods happen. Sometimes divers will opt to cancel and the mantas will show up that same night!

How Many Manta Rays Can be Seen at Once?

Some nights there is only a single manta that flys by and leaves immediately, other nights there are so many manta rays it’s difficult to see anything else around you because there are more than you can see at one time. It’s pretty intense. Record nights have over 36 counted on a single dive! The problem with these nights are there are so many rays most divers can’t tell truly how many rays there are!

What other animals are on the Manta Ray Night Dive?

We have seen so many different animals in Garden Eel cove / Manta Ray Heaven. Often some of the best sightings are during the dusk dive before the sun goes down. We have seen mantas, monk seals, dolphins, eagle rays, white tip reef sharks and much more! We’ve even seen a tiger shark on the manta ray night dive itself. This is extremely rare however and only the luckiest divers get to see such a sight. Often we will see frank a large moray eel that loves to hang out around the campfire where all the manta lights are. He uses the light to hunt with. Dolphins and monk seals also often come to visit the divers at the campfire so they get even more than they bargained for! Monk seals are much rarer than manta rays and a really big deal to see them underwater though most divers are oblivious because they just want to see Mantas!

Here’s a video of a young monk seal showing up on the dive ladder in between dives at Garden Eel Cove.

What’s the best way to do the manta ray night dive?

Book a manta ray dive with Hawaii’s Highest rated & most reviewed dive company Kona Honu Divers. They have been taking divers to Manta Ray Heaven / Garden Eel Cove for over 20 years to witness Kona’s #1 best attraction. They also offer Blackwater Night Diving and fantastic daytime diving that is some of the best in all of Hawaii.

What about My non-diving Family & Friends?

Snorkeling with manta rays is easily just as good as diving with them. Sometimes better! While snorkelers don’t get the benefit of seeing the other reef life they will often get a better manta encounter than the divers! Kona Snorkel Trips is Hawaii’s highest rated and most reviewed snorkel company taking guests to see the manta rays twice a night from the same spot as Kona Honu Divers.

What you may see on a manta ray night snorkel