Kailua-Kona is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hawaii. Known simply as Kona, it is famous for its sheer beauty and vast array of natural and human made attractions. It is also the ideal place to catch sight of manta rays, which by itself is more than enough reason to pay the place a visit.

If you’re lucky, you can see these magnificent creatures at different times of the day. But the best time to see manta rays up close is at night. It is then that they come together in droves to feed on plankton, which makes up the majority of their diets.

As you might expect, many of the most popular activities in Kona revolve around the habits of these wonderful marine creatures. The manta ray night sightings are especially noteworthy, giving you a rare and memorable opportunity to get up close to them.


The manta rays that you will see in and around Kona are part of the Mobula alfredi species and are among the largest of their kind in the world. When fully grown, their ‘wings’ can measure an incredible 18 feet from tip to tip. Most of the ones you will see on your manta ray sighting trip will have wingspans of about 12 feet.

Manta rays feed mainly on plankton, which they catch by leaving their mouths open as they swim through the ocean. The rays then filter the plankton and expel the water.

These reef manta rays aren’t migratory, spending most of their lives around the Kona coast. While scientists still do not know with certainty how long manta rays live, they estimate that the average life span is approximately 50 years.


What is it about manta ray sightings that make them so popular among visitors from around the world? For one thing, these nighttime excursions bring you close enough to the rays to touch them (but please do not touch the manta rays as the oils from your hands/body can cause harm to them).

Remember that manta rays feed mainly on plankton. During the trip, the guides will shine a bright light into the water, which will attract plankton. The frenzied activity in turn attracts manta rays, which gobble up the tiny creatures by the mouthful.

To get a bite of plankton, the mantas glide quickly and gracefully toward towards the columns of plankton with their mouths wide open. They then filter the tiny creatures from the water, take a swallow, and repeat the process until they are satisfied. All throughout, they glide through the water, doing what are known as “barrel rolls” while feeding. The spectacle is truly amazing to behold, and you likely won’t soon forget it.


Several guide services and dive outfitters offer manta ray swims, dives, and sighting trips in Kona, including Kona Style. Most have a fleet of boats that set off at different times of the day.

Keep in mind that not all operators offer nighttime manta ray trips. Some will cruise around the islands during the day and head toward the reefs where you may be able to catch sight of some rays.

When you book your trip‒which you can usually do online or by phone‒ask about the excursions they offer, if any. When you find out what time they take place, you can schedule your visit accordingly.

You should also be aware that the schedules of manta ray trips may vary depending on ocean conditions and reported manta ray sightings. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that manta rays are wild animals and there are those rare nights when they do not show up.  Fortunately, Kona Style does offer a manta ray guarantee and in the unlikely event you do out with them and do not see a manta ray, you can rebook on another night for free (subject to availability).  Because of this guarantee, it is generally best to sign up for your manta ray experience as early in your stay as possible.  Additionally, understanding that the manta ray experience is Kona’s #1 marine encounter, the tours do tend to sell out year around so advance reservations are always recommended.


Your preparations will depend on whether you will go diving, snorkeling, or simply sighting. Kona Style does offer snorkel tours and also offers a limited number of seats for “ride alongs” that would prefer to stay on the boat and not get into the water.

Manta ray trips usually start about 30 – 45 minutes prior to sunset to give guests time to enjoy a legendary Hawaiian sunset at sea while commuting to the manta ray site(s).

There are many reasons to visit Kona at any time of the year, but a manta ray sighting is at the top of many people’s lists. Make sure to book a trip if you plan to visit the area for an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life!