Hawaii is home to many beautiful sea creatures. In Hawaii, you’ll see humpback whales (kohola), green sea turtles (honu), monk seals (sila), and a variety of tropical fish (i’a). On your next visit to Hawaii, you may also be lucky enough to encounter a manta ray up close.

Manta rays in Hawaii belong to the Mobula Alfredi species. This majestic species is the second-largest of all the manta rays on earth. These manta rays often have a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet. Sometimes their wingspan may even reach 18 ft. long, and not to mention how manta rays can live anywhere from 50-75 years old! But don’t let their size scare you — Manta rays mostly feed on plankton. Additionally, manta rays are very friendly creatures and they love to see humans.

That’s why when people visit Hawaii, meeting manta rays is a must! Across the islands, different groups offer special adventures for meeting manta rays. This may lead you to wonder, is there an ideal time to meet manta rays? Is there a season when it’s better to go snorkeling with manta rays?

Keep reading to learn when is the best time to see manta rays in Hawaii.


Hawaii doesn’t have as dramatic weather changes from season to season as other areas around the US. That being said, winter is still a bit colder than summer, even in paradise. While most animals in Hawaii tend to stick around all year long, there will still be ideal times to see them. Additionally, some animals migrate to and from Hawaii during specific seasons.

For example, winter is the best time to see humpback whales in Hawaii. This is because humpback whales begin their migration from Alaska in December to Hawaii. Then the humpback whales continue their yearly migration in April and leave the islands. Therefore, January through March is the ideal time to see humpback whales.

In contrast, you can see manta rays around Hawaii all year long, especially on the west coast of the Big Island. Manta rays love warm weather and calm waters. As a result, you often will see manta rays most abundantly in the summer months. 

In January through March, or Hawaii’s winter, there tend to be fewer manta ray sightings around the islands. During winter, the oceans are a little rough. The swells are a little more treacherous and the winds on the water are dangerous at best. So, the manta rays are less active and are less likely to come out consistently. 


Several tours in Hawaii will allow you to see manta rays up close. Many of these tours have chosen the optimal time to see the manta rays. As you may notice, the vast majority of the tours take place at night or after sundown.

In our opinion, the best time to see manta rays is in the evening. You see, manta rays eat plankton, and plankton are attracted to light. At night, the light is limited so when you create an alternative light source above the water the plankton come out to play and feed. The manta rays are soon to follow.

During the day it’s a bit rarer to see a manta ray. Sunlight is everywhere and therefore the plankton are now everywhere to be found around the islands. At night you can find a specific area and see manta rays. In the daytime, it’s not as easy.

Throughout the daytime, you may search throughout the entire coral reef around Hawaii. Instead, you can find an area with clear waters and low waves at night. And with the help of a tour operator, you can shine light into the water and watch the waters come alive with manta rays. 


At Kona Style Snorkel & Sail, we go sailing into the sunset and finish the evening snorkeling alongside majestic manta rays. We include wetsuits, snorkel equipment, swim noodles, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, and delicious cookies.

We offer one of the best manta guarantees in the industry. If you don’t see a manta ray on our snorkeling adventure, you can rebook with us for free on another night, subject to availability.

Ready to see some manta rays up close?