There’s an incredible thrill in floating face down in the ocean at night, with only the sound of your breath flowing through your snorkel. Dim blue lights dot the area, barely illuminating the dark water beneath you. As the first manta ray gracefully emerges from the darkness, your anticipation builds into an unforgettable mix of exhilaration and a bit of fear. Admittedly, it’s a bit nerve-wracking to see the colossal mouth of a giant sea creature swimming directly at you. Until you remember that they are completely harmless and gentle animals.
But that’s the undeniable fun of a Hawaii manta ray snorkel tour. As you relax into the experience and watch in wonder as the manta rays perform a silent, beautiful dance just beneath you, you fully understand why The Travel Channel has hailed this experience as one of the top ten things to do in your life.
The night manta ray snorkel tour has been a consistent tourist attraction for decades. The Kona Surf Hotel (now Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa) opened in the 1970s and installed floodlights to create a beautiful, illuminated view of the ocean for its guests. These lights unexpectedly attracted large concentrations of plankton, which in turn attracted the manta rays that feed on the plankton, leading to the name Manta Village for this stretch of the coast. Eventually, the manta rays associated the floodlights with a consistent source of food year-round, and this, in turn, attracted people from all over the world.
There are quite a few charters to choose from for a Big Island manta ray snorkel tour, but thankfully they are all located along the west coast of the island with a large concentration in Kona, so finding the best option for you is quite convenient.
Tip From a Local:
There are two other snorkel locations called Manta Heaven and Manta Point along the west coast, with charter companies concentrated around them as well. However, no matter what charter you choose, they will likely take you to Manta Village as it is the most popular spot.
Rather than choosing your manta ray charter based on location, it is better to choose based on the duration of a boat ride that you would prefer. Some of the charters are minutes from Manta Village, while others may take a half-hour or more.
Top 5 manta Ray Snorkeling Tours in Hawaii
Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii
This 3-hour charter takes a little extra time to get to the swim site, preferring to chase the sunset and provide a pleasurable evening cruise before the snorkel tour. This emphasis on a coastal cruise experience, along with the options for ride-alongs and SCUBA dives combine for a one-stop shop for families and adventure-seekers, soaking in many of the best activities that Kona has to offer.
Where: They are located just south of the Kona International Airport on the southern side of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park.
Hours of Operation: Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii offers multiple trip options every day, except holidays, with departure times of 5:00 PM, 5:15 PM and 5:30 PM, with seasonal departure times to match sunset.
Tour Details: Shorty wetsuits and all snorkel gear are included. Previous swim and snorkel experience are required, and participants must be at least 6 years of age.
Cost: All snorkel tours, for active participants and ride-along passengers, cost $115 + Tax.
Perks: Unique to this list of charters, Manta Ray Dives also offers the option to SCUBA dive at the same location for certified divers ages 12+ with additional cost to rent gear.
Contact Info: (808) 325-1687; https://www.mantaraydiveshawaii.com/manta-ray-night-dive-snorkel-ecoadventure
Sea Quest Hawaii
For over 30 years, Sea Quest Hawaii has launched countless snorkel tours directly from Keauhou Bay, which is mere minutes away from Manta Village. Their night manta ray snorkel tour has a duration of 1.5 hours, with 45 minutes floating with the mantas. Don’t be fooled by this short time frame, as many other charters might be 2-3 hours in length, but these times include extended boat rides from distant harbors but do not include any additional time in the water. The advantage of this charter is the extremely short boat trip out to the snorkel location, giving you more time to enjoy your vacation while still indulging in this once in a lifetime experience.
Where: They are located a few blocks from Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. Free parking is available on site for the night manta ray tours at:
78-7138 Kaleiopapa St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Hours of Operation: Sea Quest Hawaii offers two tours of their Night Manta Experience every day of the week at 6:45 PM and 8:15 PM.
Tour Details: Wetsuits, snorkel equipment (including prescription masks as needed) and flotation devices are provided. There is a minimum age of 7 for participants, and previous swimming and snorkeling experience are required.
Cost: Both tours cost $118 per person, regardless of age, with private charter options available for larger groups.
Perks: The waters of Hawaii are warm, but after dark you will likely get a bit chilly on the boat ride back, so Sea Quest offers complimentary hot chocolate and cookies.
Contact Info: (808) 329-7238; https://www.seaquesthawaii.com
Sea Paradise is the friendly neighbor of Sea Quest Hawaii, located in the same harbor complex in Keauhou Bay. Sea Paradise takes a more leisurely approach to their tour with a 1.5-to-2-hour duration (but still 45 minutes in the water). In place of a cramped speed boat or raft, a 50-foot catamaran carries you to the swim site in spacious comfort, even allowing ride-along guests to lounge and enjoy the views of the manta rays from the deck.
Where: They are also located near the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. Limited free parking is available on site and along Kaleiopapa St toward the end of the parking lot.
Hours of Operation: Sea Paradise offers two options for their Manta Ray Night Snorkeling tour every day of the week. Their First tour begins at either 6:00 PM or 6:30 PM and their Second tour begins at either 8:30 PM or 9:00 PM, depending on the season.
Tour Details: Shortie wetsuits, all snorkel equipment (including prescription masks) and “state-of-the-art” flotation devices are provided. Previous swimming and snorkeling experience are required.
Cost: Both tours range in cost from $55 + Tax & Fees for Ride-Alongs, $110 + Tax & Fees for Children and $122 + Tax & Fees for Adults.
Perks: Sea Paradise offers complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and light snacks after the tour.
Contact Info: (808) 322-2500; https://www.seaparadise.com/things-to-do-in-kailua-kona/manta-rays
Wahine Charters is nestled partway between Manta Village and Manta Heaven. Because of its location, tours might run in either of those two swim sites, depending on different ocean and weather conditions, and duration can range from 2 to 2.5 hours. Their large, comfortable powerboat makes the longer boat rides pleasurable, but also a bit chilly on the trip back.
Where: This charter is also located just south of the Kona International Airport partway between Manta Village and Manta Heaven just across the harbor from Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii.
Hours of Operation: Wahine Charters offers two options every day for their Manta Ray Night Snorkel tours: Sunset Manta at 6:00 PM and Moonlit Manta at 7:30 PM.
Tour Details: Wetsuits, snorkel gear and flotation devices are provided. Previous swimming and snorkeling experience are not necessarily required, but all guests must be able to climb in and out of the boat.
Cost: Both tours range in cost from $99 + Tax for ages 3-8 and $125 + Tax for ages 9+, while infants ages 0-2 can ride along free of charge.
Perks: Bottled water, juices, hot cocoa, sodas, and fresh fruit are included regularly, with the occasional opportunity to enjoy hot soup as well.
Contact Info: (808) 325-2665; https://www.wahinecharters.com/mantas
Owned and operated by sole proprietor Matthew Ferino, Liquid Hawaii limits their manta ray snorkel tours to groups of 6, to maximize each guest’s time in the water. While this charter is located much closer to Manta Point on the northern edge of the west coast, their 2.5-3-hour duration tends to cruise down to Manta Heaven or even Manta Village for their higher success rates for spotting manta rays. But their location is much more convenient for those preferring to explore outside of Kona.
Where: Liquid Hawaii is located further north along the west coast of Big Island, closer to Waimea, just south of Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area.
Hours of Operation: This charter offers two options for their Manta Ray Night Snorkel tour, one departing at 6:30 PM and one at 9:00 PM, but may change depending on time of sunset.
Tour Details: They provide snorkels, masks, and fins as well as shorty wetsuits and flotation devices. All guests must be at least 6 years of age, able to swim and climb a ladder.
Cost: Both tours cost $179 per person, regardless of age.
Perks: Juice, bottled water, soda, and snacks are included.
Contact Info: (808) 854-5757; https://www.liquidhawaii.com/manta-ray-snorkel-kona-big-island-hawaii-mantaray-swim-tours
Final Thoughts on Manta Ray Snorkel Tours in Hawaii
No matter which charter company you choose, this incredible adventure sells out quickly, so it is best to book in advance. And be sure to bring your underwater camera or rent one from your charter company. Underwater cameras were made for amazing experiences like this.