Manta Rays in Hawaii: History, Viewing and Recent Kauai Sighting

We’ve enjoyed seeing manta rays in Hawaii, both in the water and from the land. In fact, this photo is one of ours taken on the Big Island. This week, we were provided an opportunity to see manta rays on Kauai via drone footage below.

A few years ago, we night snorkeled with Manta rays nearby Kona airport on the Big Island. It was a totally unforgettable experience. Let us know if you’ve seen manta rays in Hawaii (or elsewhere) and what that was like for you. Hawaii manta ray tours are top-rated, and now we understand why. Before COVID, up to 100k people, a year came to have this nightly experience where spotlights attract manta’s favorite food, plankton.

The manta rays in Hawaii are of the Mobula Alfredi species and are the second-largest manta rays found anywhere. They have a wingspan of up to 18 feet. We’ve also seen the manta rays at the Hapuna Beach hotel.

Manta rays off the coast at Poipu Kauai.

It was reported that the Twitter video below was taken a few days ago off of Poipu, near the point called Spouting Horn. There is nothing in the video that can confirm that, however.

Manta rays in Hawaiian culture.

It is said that the Hawaii name for manta “hahalua” means two breaths. It speaks to their ability to breach in the way that humpback whales and dolphins do.

Globally too, it is not unusual for manta rays to possess great cultural significance and symbolism. That is true in Hawaii as well as in Peru, Australia, China, and elsewhere.

Manta rays were once seen as large, dangerous creatures that could attack. It was believed that they have an attack stinger, which they do not. They pose no danger to humans, although they are pretty scary to see the first time. They appear curious about humans. Manta rays have enormous fins, which may be why they had a bad reputation and were even referred to as devilfish.

Manta rays in modern culture.

Manta rays have been and remain popular in media, including tv, film, and literature.

36 thoughts on “Manta Rays in Hawaii: History, Viewing and Recent Kauai Sighting”

  1. In 2019, we swam with the mantas off the Kona Coast by the Sheraton Hotel for a night dive. Excellent tour group and a great experience. I have a few great photos from this trip with a manta rays mouth coming at me.
    I would recommend this activity to anyone and my wife and I will definitely do this again….of course, when Hawaii opens up.
    BTW….love reading your Beat of Hawaii newsletter….

    1. Hi Dave.

      Thank you. Everyone who has reported on the manta rays has had an incredible experience. Glad you did as well.


  2. I was on the Big Island in 2003 and 2016 and was blessed to night dive with the Mantas on both trips, off two different locations. Truly a magical and memorable experience. In 2003 it wasn’t quite the organized tourist production. That first glimpse of their angelic approach overhead, such graceful beauty that to this day brings a smile to my heart.

    Thank you for the reminder of the beauty around us. I look forward to a return trip to Kauai that might include diving with the Mantas.


  3. I encountered a Manta Ray in Honolua Bay, Maui. I was snorkeling and it just appeared in front of me. Freaked me out, but was so impressive! Planning a night dive in Kona this June!!!

  4. Aloha
    Early one morning while looking down from our lanai on the 6th floor, we saw 6 small rays “fly” by in the clear shallows. The height gave us the opportunity to view them straight overhead: something we had never been able to do before or since. Breathtaking!
    Mahalo aloha

  5. It is too bad we could not be part of the sighting in Poipu, since Kauai does not want our tourist business. I hope when they decide to open up, there are businesses for us to support. Sad that politics have to get in the way of common sense.

  6. We too have gone snorkeling with several of them at a time, maybe a half dozen times in total. All our encounters were off the Kona coast. They are surreal, magical and not something you get tired of seeing.
    Aloha Guys

  7. Please explain the statement that Manta don’t have attack stingers. Wasn’t Steve Irwin killed by the stinger of a Manta?
    We swam with Manta rays off Grand Cayman … beautiful experience. Their skin feels like velvet!

    1. Hi Margot.

      Manta rays don’t have the stingers that stingrays do. He was killed by a stingray.


    2. Aloha Margot! I am happy you had the opportunity to swim with the Manta rays. With all due respect, please do not touch sea creatures but enjoy them with your eyes. Manta rays have a protective layer of mucus, and when touched, become very vulnerable to disease and problems with parasites. Please help educate others so that we may continue to marvel at these amazing creatures. Mahalo!

  8. We have been fortunate to see Manta Rays swimming below the cliffs along the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail near the Grand Hyatt in Kauai. Amazing! We have also gone on several nighttime snorkel excursions to see Mantas in Kona on the Big Island. If you have the opportunity, this is an experience not to be missed. I have videos you can see on You Tube. One of them is Enjoy!

  9. My husband, his brother and I saw a manta ray while on a boat tour going from the Napili coast to Niihau. I thought it was unusual since we had only seen them near Kona. It was really cool and so quick that there wasn’t time for a picture. It was hugh.

  10. I did the Manta Ray tour near the Kona airport about 7 years ago. It was the most amazing and surreal experience I have had. My husband dove and I snorkeled while hanging onto a lit surfboard. A ray came up to us and did three barrel rolls right beneath us. It was big, yet so graceful. I would definitely do it again!

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