Manta Ray Dive

The Big Island
Hawaiian Islands


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06/08/2016 Sarina (Avg: 2.78 Review) - I had heard from other divers that it was worth the money to just do this from a boat, but I am cheap, er....frugal. We scoped it out on a night before we went to be sure we weren't doing something insane. I ran into some free divers and snorkelers out to save some dough too. So, I know people do it. We found the entry site noted here to be a bit scary so we entered and exited at the exit point which offered us a place to get out of crashing waves for both purposes. It is easy to get turned around on the dive with all of the excitement, so take a good compass heading. Someone kicked mine, so my return was all goofed up. However, when we surfaced, we were able to swim toward the three lights grouped together and that helped us get to near the right spot where we could get out. I recommend scrapping this dive if conditions are rough. It is easy to get knocked around during entry/exit, there are many urchins here to impale yourself on. Also, when you are out under the mantas be cautious of the rocks in front of the Sheraton. There is some decent surge out there trying to push you toward the rocks. I would not suggest this for the faint of heart or those who are newly certified and nervous. The swim is nothing to sneeze at and the entry is pretty rough compared to sand walk in entries other places. Bring 2 lights each, one always seems to malfunction. Also, watch your dive buoy. Ours seemed to get stuck on a boat as we swam out and it took some retracing steps to disentangle it. There are a lot of boats and snorkelers out there. Just use prudence and caution. Get some cheap glow sticks at Target or Walmart. Put them on all divers, snorkelers, and even your dive buoy for safety.

04/08/2014 Jen at Honolulu (Avg: 3.40 Review) - I'm just writing this to clarify with the entries previously noted. Definitely do this! It's perfect in the summer time, flat as glass. If you are able to climb down 20ft of reef off the Sheraton Keauhou hotel, it brings you to 1 ft above the water where the mantas swim in the spot light 30 ft from shore! I can't jump off cliffs, 3-5ft scare me so...this was doable. Save money and go every night just in case you don't spot them the first night you are hanging out by the bar at the hotel. The people at the bar will be cheering you on and maybe think it's strange but they take pics and say how that was cool!

12/24/2013 Justin (Avg: 3.42 Review) - My girlfriend and I did this dive 4 times in a row during our trip to Kona last week, once as a snorkel and three times as a dive. The entry and exit isn't too bad (if you are used to climbing up and down rocks) if the surf is small. We parked at the Sheraton and followed the sign for shoreline access to a path and walked down to where the trail entered and basically entered there. It was nice that the Sheraton has those tiki torches, they make the exit easy to spot and navigate on a clear day. You will want to make sure you time your visit correctly. I believe most of the tour groups start getting people in the water around 6:30, at least in December. It's great to go dive under one of the snorkel groups as there lights attract the mantas. The first night we did the dive as a snorkel just to make sure the entry and exit was easy. This was easily one of our best nights so I feel snorkeling it gives you pretty much the same quality of experience. Some of the boat operators may be rude to you and say stuff such as 'get away from our people'. Just ignore them and pretend you don't hear them. It's a free ocean after all. That first night the Manta's stayed with us and our lights after the tours left, but every other night they left when the tours and their giant lights left. Perhaps having the lights at the surface (snorkeling) is better at attracting them, or perhaps it was just chance. On other nights the Manta's left when the tours left. Also, one night we went when there were no tour boats out (we got out there late) and we only saw one Manta and it did not stick around with us. So time your visit right. Anyhow we loved this experience and loved the fact that we got to do something 4 times for free (or for the price of a tank rental) that everyone else was paying over $100 for. If the surf is small I highly recommend it. Just enter at the end of the trail and swim out towards the platform and then to the dive boats when you see them. Be careful not to get too close to the boats, especially the glass bottom boat which keeps it's engines live. That boat is only there on Tuesdays and Thursdays though. It comes later in the evening, around 7:30-8pm.

11/08/2012 Anonymous (Avg: 3.00 Review) - Sure, you could get away with a free dive at this site, if you are experienced. If you can afford the $100 or so, it is well worth it to scuba with a group. Then, everything is taken care of and you are able to be immersed in the center of the action. I don't agree that a snorkeler will see just as much.

07/19/2012 Kendall Roberg (Avg: 3.87 Review) - We did this dive last night and the manta rays are fantastic! They swim right up to you, mouths open, and turn upwards at the last second. Please don't touch them and one accidently bumped into my camera so be careful if you have lighting arms and leave your snorkel on the shore. The entry and exit are challenging and the long surface swims in the dark is a little intimidating. Do your research with this site, check it out during the day and the night before to see entry and exit details. I would not recommend this for anyone who has not done a significant amount of rocky shore entries. Last night we headed back in right before low tide and a slight current (pulling us out to sea) was present. It was a not big deal, but I would not want to be attempting the swim in rougher conditions. If you are a beginner or if you just want an easier dive go with one of the boat tours, they do a great job. Whether you do this by shore of by boat, this is a must do dive. I have done hundreds of dives in Hawaii and frequently see manta rays. This instantly became one of my favorite dives. On a final note, the local yellowfin goatfish have learned to feed like the mantas. They swam right up to our lights and even pushed against our lights as they fed on the shrimp.

07/10/2011 Mark L. (Avg: 2.56 Review) - To update everyone, as of this writing there are two Manta Ray dive sites. The original one was off the Kona Surf Hotel, which is now a Sheraton Hotel. Manta rays congregated in this area at night to feed on the increased concentration of zooplankton attracted by bright lights that the hotel directed at the water. A second site was developed at the old airport when the lights at the Kona Surf Hotel went dark as it was being remodeled. Since the remodel, the Sheraton has turned the lights back on, and the manta rays have returned. Both sites are now used by dive tours. The old airport site is much less accessible as a shore dive, so we explored the one off the Sheraton Keauhou Bay, at 78-128 Ehukai St, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96740. GPS coordinates: N19.33.345 and W155.57.589
We visited the Sheraton during the day to gather information and survey the site and conditions. I strongly recommend that you do this if you are considering a night dive here. On the day we arrived the conditions were very good with minimal swell. Our plan was to try this as a snorkel adventure and then return another night if we felt that it warranted scuba gear. After sunset manta rays congregate in shallow water, 7 to 20 feet deep, off the Sheraton's 'Manta Ray Bar & Grill.' You'll see the big lights on the outside of the building. See attached aerial photo of the site. Dive tours will tie up to underwater markers about 200 ft offshore. We waited until just after sunset to see the dive tour boats pull up, loaded with $100-$150 paying passengers. Then we slipped into the water ourselves. The boat ride costs money, but it is otherwise a free ocean.
There are several choices for entry off the lava shoreline of Keauhou Bay; none are for beginners with full scuba diving gear. Snorkeling gear is much easier to manage and you will see everything just as well and as close. Really. The lava is not all that slippery, but it is hard and sharp. Wear your booties or flip-flops to your chosen entry point. The real consideration will be your exit, and this depends on your level of skill and the swell. Pre-plan it! Attached photos will give you an idea of what to expect. We chose to jump off a lava point in the area marked on the map and photo 1. This minimized the swim out and was fun as well. The drop was only about 6 ft and the water was very clear and deep at that spot. Obviously, don't jump if the water doesn't look deep enough, and regardless, don't jump head first. The jump was easier and probably less dangerous than trying to negotiate our way out from some of the shallow entries, like photo 2.
The lava shoreline area is dark so you will need to bring your dive lights to see your footing. You will also want your underwater lights to attract the manta rays closer during your dive. The brighter your light, the better, although you can mooch off the light that the tours use. Remember, the visibility is usually awesome so you can stay back a respectable distance from the tour group and still see everything! You will definitely want your light as you exit the water to check that spiny urchins aren't in your path. We brought a $3 inflatable mattress to cling on and keep the two of us together. We also wore thin wetsuits. A sign on the shoreline warned of the possibility of marine stingers, urchins, and eels. There were a few urchins, but we did not see or feel any stingers or eels. I think they threw in the part about the eels to scare you onto the dive boats! Stingers may be seasonal, so a wetsuit is not a bad idea. The fee-paying snorkelers from the boats all had wetsuits even though the water was about 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
There were only a few scuba divers on this night. They each had super bright lights, so they may have been tour employees. The old airport site is deeper and probably better suited for scuba diving.
We chose to exit at the spot shown on the map and photo 3, just past a little shack that sits on the lava shoreline. We found a few old metal fasteners that are embedded into the lava and they made good handholds for climbing out. Be aware that the surge is lighter as you get farther into the bay, making for an easier exit. You could go all the way to the boat launch ramp and walk out if you felt that the swim was safer and easier than the climb out onto the lava.
The manta ray snorkel dive was very cool. Do not miss it. Go on the tour and pay the money if you are a beginner. They do a safe job with lifeguards, floaties and all. We did not think we missed anything by not using our scuba gear at this site. It is very shallow and very clear. Snorkelers just float at the surface and do NOT dive down during the show that the manta rays put on. They will come plenty close enough to you! One 10 footer bumped us as it was swooping in on the zooplankton in front of our lights. They are harmless unless you are krill, but trying to touch them is in poor form.

02/03/2011 Kim Hutchinson (Avg: 3.49 Review) - This is a great spot for Manta's however I much prefer a boat dive for the night dive. Road is rugged and it's tough getting out at night from shore. I will be there again in 2011 and will do a boat for this dive.

02/04/2008 Steve Porter (Avg: 3.30 Review) - The "NEW" location of the Manta dive is 7 miles north of the Kona Airport at Kekaka Kai state park. You're going to need a rugged vehicle to get out there (JEEP). The road isn't clearly marked, so look for the road on the left that has about 20ft of pavement turning to a dirt road over lava rock. There are no facilities whatsoever, and going down the lava rock to the water is a bit tricky. Bottom conditions are fairly good, and if you want to be the only shore diver, this is it. If you go at night for the mantas, expect crowds but not in the parking area. You can dive here year round, too. Since it's snorkeled, I gave it a good score as well. I've seen it free dove during the day, and people spearing say it's good, because of its tough location.

06/27/2003 Bill Stohler (Avg: 2.19 Review) - The former site of the Manta Ray Night dive is no longer being used due to the migration of mantas from the site (presumably due to too many divers). The new locations vary, dependent on the operators. Sightings are not guaranteed, although if you are lucky, you'll have a great experience. Last month I went to Kona and dove with two mantas in the daytime, just off Old Airport. Awesome creatures, and magical at night, when they feed on the plankton and krill attracted by the divers' lights! Ask the boat operator if the mantas have been sighted regularly in recent days, and good luck!

06/24/2003 Chuck Knauf (Avg: 3.00 Review) - I noticed that you have the Manta Ray Night Dive on the BI of Hawaii listed as a future dive site. I think it is a GREAT idea! I have made the dive numerous times. However, shore diving is not the norm for this dive any more. Most of the night dives for viewing and interacting with the mantas are boat dives at Garden Eel Cove (off the Kailua-Kona Airport) about 7 miles N. of Kailua-Kona. Shore access isn't available that I know of - it would be a LONG swim. The dive operators set up lights on the bottom to attract the sea cooties that the mantas feed on and divers add more light with dive lights. This is a 2 tank dive. First is a twilight dive on the reef and down to the Garden Eels at about 70 feet. Second is the manta dive after dark where we set-up at about 40-45 ft down. The last time I did this dive, I must have REALLY upset a yellow margin moray eel as we sat on the bottom. I must have been in his space and he kept attacking me. Had to fend him off numerous times with my dive light!! After about a half hour with the mantas, we pick up and tour the reef viewing the eels and other sea life out hunting. It has been discovered through research that the mantas come from MILES away just to feed here with the diver's help in attracting their food. DO list this dive! I have seen from 2 to 4 boats out on this dive. It is not crowded. Next trip will unfortunately not be until Nov '03. I suggest Jack' Dive Locker as a dive operator for this outing. Keller Laros, who is usually a dive leader on this dive with Jack's is also an expert in manta ray identification and is also heavily involved in manta ray research.

Dive Site Pictures:
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Special thanks to Mark L!
Manta Map.
Submitted by Mark L

Special thanks to Mark L!
Submitted by Mark L

Special thanks to Mark L!
Submitted by Mark L

Special thanks to Mark L!
Submitted by Mark L


Diver Averages for  Manta Ray Dive  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  2.80
Bottom Conditions:  3.60
Reef Conditions:  2.90
Animal Life:  3.90
Plant Life:  2.40
Facilities:  2.10
Solitude 2.80
Roads:  3.70
*Site Average:  3.10

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.70
Beginner Scuba:  2.50
Intermediate Scuba:  3.60
Advanced Scuba:  3.90
Night diving Scuba:  4.20

Number of reviews for this site: 10


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