The Kona Coast has long been a hotspot for manta rays to feed in the warm waters off the shore. These gentle giants began congregating upon Keauhou Bay since the 1970s, when the Kona Surf Hotel first opened. The hotel started to illuminate the waters with bright floodlights for guests to view manta rays swimming in the evening. Unbeknownst to them, the floodlights served as a beacon for plankton to gather on the ocean’s surface, thereby attracting the filter-feeding manta rays to feed on the huge schools of plankton. Keauhou Bay, and particularly Manta Village (the name given to the area in front of the hotel), became a popular place for people to come to view manta rays right on the shoreline easily. Today, the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay maintains the legacy of shining the floodlights into the water, and many tour operators bring snorkelers here to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Manta Village is considered one of the best locations on the planet to view manta rays perform their nightly feeding rituals and at close-hand!

Manta ray at the surface of the sea in Keauhou Bay

How to get there?

Keauhou Bay is located about 7 miles south of Kailua-Kona. Many tour operators offer nightly snorkel tours departing around sunset to reach Keauhou Bay (from $130pp.). The high volume of evening boat traffic and poorly lit rocky shoreline make swimming from shore dangerous and thereby prohibited. Check the Hawaii Ecotourism Association’s list of sustainable snorkeling tour operators on the Big Island for the best way to experience Manta Village yourself.

Keauhou Bay snorkeling map

Water entrance

This adventure is particularly unique, as several boat operators coordinate their arrival and positioning to ensure the safety of guests and manta rays. The boats form a circle, place floating rafts with downward-facing floodlights into the water, then allow snorkelers to enter. Snorkelers grab onto hand straps attached to the perimeter of the floating rafts and are instructed to peer downward. It is important to stay either on the surface or on the seafloor to not harm or disrupt the manta rays as they come for their nightly feast.

Exploration

Once the floodlights are turned on, the manta rays arrive quickly and use the water column between the snorkelers and sea bottom to perform their feeding rituals.

Night snorkeling with manta rays at Keaulou Bay

These gentle giants perform an acrobatic display by flapping their massive wings to spin in circles and filter the schools of plankton into their giant mouths. Lit by the floating rafts, you can marvel at the rays from just feet away and peer into their mouths lined with brachial filters used to sieve the plankton from the sea.

Keauhou Bay view

Note that manta rays are wild animals, and that sightings cannot be 100% guaranteed. Some tour operators offer a free re-booking if you don’t see any ray during your tour. Check when booking.

Restaurants and accommodation

The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa is right in front of the spot. Manta Village sits just 7 miles south of Kailua-Kona, a central hub for tourism with many great choices for accommodation within the city or even closer to Keauhou Bay.



 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Maximum depth6m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsNight snorkeling tour price (from $130pp.)

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.