Hawaii is a lesser-known dive destination with a unique experience not to be missed: night diving with manta rays.
Manta ray encounters are high on divers’ wish lists and understandably so, putting on a show with their barrel rolls, feeding behaviour, and activities at manta cleaning stations. These rays are found around the world at top dive destinations such as the Maldives, but the best place to night dive with mantas is at Kona, a region of the Big Island of Hawaii.
Which Type Of Manta Rays Are Found At Hawaii?
There are two species of manta ray and reef manta rays are the ‘smaller’ of the two, growing to a huge 5.5 meters across. Reef manta rays are found in warm waters around the world, including Hawaii. This destination continues to be one of the best places in the world to spot reef mantas. The mantas are drawn to the area at night thanks to coastal resort lights attracting plankton, which the mantas feed on.
Which Are The Best Dive Sites Of Hawaii?
Hawaii scuba diving is diverse and isn’t just about the manta rays. The Hawaiian island chain is made up of 132 islands with plentiful dive sites and constantly changing underwater scenery, thanks to the active volcanoes found there. There is a broad range of dives to suit all abilities and interests.
Big Island has more than 50 dive sites, with lava tubes, coral gardens and numerous types of fish found only at Hawaii. The dive sites are peaceful and it is a prime destination for liveaboards. Highlights include a tall pinnacle rising from the ocean floor at Paradise Pinnacle, the Tubastrea Tunnel swim-through and turtles found at Turtle Pinnacle.
Kona is rugged and dramatic, with volcanic basalt and hard coral formations. The mountains drop steeply into the depths and these deep waters attract large pelagics to the area. Whilst Kona is famous for its night dives with manta rays, you can also see sharks, whales and dolphins.
This island is home to countless eagle rays, frog fish, turtles and the YO-257 and San Pedro wrecks. Diving from O’Ahu in the summer allows accessibility to the famous Hawaiian North Shore dive sites such as Shark’s Cove and Three Tables.
Black Rock is a popular site at Maui but there are plenty of others with pristine coral reefs. The Molokini Crater of Maui is a dive highlight, with mantas, sharks and whales, whilst the St. Anthony and Carthaginian artificial reefs teem with biodiversity.
Molokai has 40 dive sites and a 30-mile-long segment of pristine reef with outstanding diving. There are shallow and deep dives with plenty of marine life, including hammerhead sharks and rare Hawaiian monk seals – found at Fish Bowl, Fish Rain and Deep Corner.
The caverns of Lana’i are a dive highlight with fantastic water visibility, and Cathedrals I and II are popular for finding new fish species and rare invertebrates. Divers visiting in winter may also see humpback whales.
Kaua’i is the place to visit for encounters with numerous green sea turtles and also whitetip reef sharks. Turtles Bluff has sand caves, sharks and turtle cleaning stations.
What Kind of Diver Is Hawaii Diving Suitable For?
Hawaii diving is suitable for all experience levels, and night diving with mantas is available for both divers and snorkelers. Exploring Hawaii by liveaboard allows divers to explore the best of each island more easily and to reach the remote islands all during one safari. The Kona Aggressor II offers night diving with mantas as part of their safaris.
When Is The Best Time To Dive Hawaii?
Diving is possible all year but the best time to visit is during winter, when divers may hear humpback whales as they migrate through the area. The water temperature varies from 24°C (75.2°F) to 26°C (78.8°F).