Of all the ocean activities available in the state of Hawaii, few of them offer more excitement and enchantment than snorkeling with manta rays off of the Big Island of Hawaii. The world’s largest species of ray, the manta rays found off of the Big Island of Hawaii can have wingspans measuring upwards of 16 feet, and swimming alongside a fully grown manta is akin to flying along with massive, underwater bird.
Unlike other global species of stingrays, manta rays do not have any barbs or teeth and their main defense mechanism is simply the speed with which they can fly underwater. Despite their speed, oftentimes the manta rays encountered off of Hawaii’s Big Island are casually hanging in the coastal reef areas being “cleaned” by reef fish that nibble on algae which has accumulated on the manta’s massive wings.
The Kona coastline is home to around 125 resident manta rays, many of which have been individually named by the local dive operators. For those who want to go snorkeling with manta rays on Hawaii’s Big Island, nearly all tour operators depart in the late afternoon from Honokohau Marina in preparation for a sunset boat ride and night time dive. Although many certified scuba divers often take part in the manta excursions, simply snorkeling with the manta rays is also available for those who aren’t certified scuba divers or those who prefer to be surface based for the adventure.
All divers and snorkelers are given underwater lights which, when reflected off of the white undersides of the manta, create an other-worldly encounter unlike any other found in the state of Hawaii. Even amongst seasoned travelers and divers alike, snorkeling with the manta rays off of Hawaii’s Big Island frequently ranks as one of the most awe-inspiring and genuinely exciting activities or dives they have ever been lucky enough to be a part of.