Snorkel with the Manta Rays
Imagine seeing a large, mysterious creature gliding like an acrobat through crystal clear ocean waters. Hauntingly beautiful and graceful, what is it you saw? You have seen a manta ray, the largest of the rays, reaching wing spans up to twenty feet and weighing as much as 3,000 pounds.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, you can snorkel with manta rays at night! Manta rays are filter feeders, meaning they feed on plankton and other tiny marine organisms. When people set up bright lights on the shoreline or the front of a boat, the plankton are attracted to the light and the rays follow for the feast!
Unlike stingrays, mantas don’t have barbs on their tails. And, although they are related to sharks, they pretty much only eat plankton. They are also curious creatures, with the largest brains of any fish species!
Watching these gigantic marine creatures glide through the water around you is an unforgettable experience. Just watch our video below to see why!
Want to snorkel with the manta rays? The most popular way to see them is to take a boat to their common feeding sites. Depending on the company, you can take a large snorkel tour boat, fishing boat, or kayak to see the manta rays. Typically the boats will have a bright light to attract the plankton and mantas. The following companies offer boat and kayak tours to snorkel with the rays near Kona:
- Fairwind Hawaii Ocean Cruises – Large boat (Hula Kai) – Keauhou Bay in Kona
- Sea Paradise Snorkel & Sail Cruises – Catamaran – Keauhou Bay in Kona
- Ocean Encounters – Fishing Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
- Kamanu Charters – Zodiac or Catamaran Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
- Aloha Kayak Co. – Kayak to snorkel with mantas in Keauhou Bay
If you are a licensed diver, you should check out the SCUBA tours offered by Jack’s Diving Locker or Big Island Divers. Both of these companies offer spots for snorkelers as well as SCUBA divers – perfect if you have your SCUBA certificate but you’re traveling with non-divers.
If you don’t want to snorkel or scuba, you can also see manta rays from the viewing areas at some local resorts – where the hotels put out bright lights so you can watch them from the shore. At Kona’s Sheraton Keauhou Bay, you can see manta rays from the Manta Ray Learning Center – right next to the Rays on the Bay restaurant. On the Kohala Coast, you can view the rays at the Mauna Kea Beach Resort where they have set up a light to attract them to Manta Ray Point.
Whether you swim with the mantas or just watch from the shore, make sure to get a glimpse of these amazing creatures on your Hawaii vacation!
One evening earlier this month, we went for a shoreline hike at Anaeho’omalu Bay, beside the Waikoloa Beach Resort area. We had heard that sea turtles often hang out on the quiet and less crowded beaches along this trail, and wanted to photograph them in the glow of the evening light. We headed out from the trailhead near the Lava Lava Beach Club about half an hour before sunset, equipped with flashlights for the twilight walk back.
As we headed south along the trail, we found beautiful little white sand beaches nestled into patches of twisted trees and naupaka shrubs. This shoreline hike was mostly on the sand with some sections of lava rock and shrubby trail. The further we went, the sand became nicer and the beaches more inviting.
I almost didn’t see the first turtle we came across until it was right in front of me! It was hidden in the shadows cast by the setting sun. As we continued for a few more minutes, we saw three more sea turtles resting on the beach close to the water. I would have loved to stay and watch them for a long time (giving them some space, of course), but we just took some photos and looked for a few minutes. Even with our flashlights, we didn’t want to head back after it was completely dark.
We went in the evening, but if you don’t mind walking a ways with beach chairs or mats, these beaches would be a great place to get away from the crowds. This is a beautiful area to explore with friends and family, see the sunset, and take photographs.
We only walked the northernmost mile of the trail on Anaeho’omalu Bay, but the trail stretches 6 miles further south to Keawaiki Bay if you want to explore more of this beautiful coastline. If you have good shoes (closed toes or hiking sandals), you can keep going over the lava rock to (name of beach – look up on hikes page/big island hikes). The sandy part of this hike would be great for all ages – essentially walking on the beach with a couple of rocky and shrubby areas.
If you want to know more about this shoreline hike, check out its page on the Big Island Hikes website. We’ve also compiled a list of family-friendly and more adventurous hikes on this page.