Hawaii in all its beauty and diversity is a very desirable travel destination, especially in the winter when you might be dreaming about a tropical getaway while shoveling snow.
Winter in Hawaii lasts from December until March and although it’s most often sunny, there are also storms brewing in the Pacific generating huge swells.
In other words: when you travel to Hawaii, it’s important to know a little bit about the different factors that may influence your perfect vacation in Kona. You want to pick the best time to make the journey to the Big Island!
Safety tips and the prerequisites for snorkeling the manta activity were covered in this article on snorkeling safety tips, but too often visitors underestimate other influencing factors.
Today, I’ll discuss the best time of the year to see manta rays here in Hawaii based on
- Ocean conditions
- Busy/slow travel times
- Manta ray sighting statistics
I’ll also share a couple of insights: not all of Hawaii is created equal, and conditions may vary per island.
When are the Ocean Conditions Favorable to Go on a Manta Ray Dive?
Are you familiar with the North Shore of the Island of Oahu? That’s THE place for surfing and where the world championships take place.
During winter, whopping 30-40 feet high waves regularly hit the shoreline and it is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and scary!
The good news: On the Big Island of Hawaii – where we are located – we do not encounter such high waves but even a swell of 3-6 feet makes snorkeling, diving, and other ocean adventures unsafe or at least very challenging.
We are also extremely fortunate that the resident population of manta rays roams the West Coast of the Big Island all year long and tour operators are able to conduct manta swims throughout.
That being said, the late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times to see manta rays in Hawaii. This is simply because the ocean conditions are the most favorable.
We have the greatest number of canceled manta ray dives from January to mid-March due to rough ocean conditions with swells and strong winds.
Planning for your Trip to Hawaii based on Surf & Swell Forecasts
MagicSeaWeed.com is our go-to resource for surf reports and forecasts.
The MagicSeaWeed website covers surf spots worldwide, but with a few clicks, you can select the Hawaiian Islands. The swell prediction for 7 days is available to everyone and there is also a paid version estimating a 16-day window.
The example below shows the most recent forecast for the bay we operate from.
The rule of thumb to determine if we can safely operate is
0-1 feet surf height = doable
2-3 feet = questionable
3 feet and above = canceling the activity
(Beach Tip: Bookmark MagicSeaWeed.com as an invaluable resource so you can make an informed decision when a good beach day would be or you should stay out of the water.)
When’s the Best Time to Travel to Hawaii – when it’s Not Too Busy?
Most of the United States have vacation time around June, July and August. Some people have up to three months of vacation during the summer months… and of course, Hawaii is a popular destination! We mostly get families traveling to Hawaii in the summertime.
Of course, people also travel to Hawaii during the holidays. Most of these are weekends (Labor Day weekend or Memorial Day weekend), and people don’t usually fly just for a weekend. Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays aren’t as busy as the summer months, but manta ray dives still get fully booked, so make sure you book your adventure ahead of time when you travel to Hawaii during the holidays.
In October, Hawaii hosts the Ironman competition; although most fans don’t come here to swim with mantas at that time, it still gets pretty busy in town with 1500-2000 athletes plus their families who come to support them.
In other words: based on tourism movements, your best time to travel to Hawaii would usually be in September, or between November and May.
What Time of the Year is there a Higher Probability of Seeing Manta Rays?
This is for all the geeks out there… I love statistics as it provides us with really good insights on the movements of manta rays and other marine life. We’ve been at the manta ray viewing sites for over twenty years now, and that has enabled us to track visitors pretty accurately.
When you look at the stats (I’ll guide you through them in the video below), you’ll see manta ray sightings can often differ according to the location and other factors, like the presence of food (plankton) at the viewing sites. There’s no accurate way to predict manta ray sightings according to seasons, but we’re dedicated to helping our guests actually meet the mantas… as it’s a truly life-changing experience.
Watch the Video – Best Time to Swim with Mantas in Hawaii
Check out this fun and informative 15-minute video including spectacular and very convincing footage from our archive.
You will discover:
- Ocean conditions [start 2:54]
- Busy/slow travel times [start 6:45]
- Manta ray sighting statistics [starts 9:15]
STAY SAFE whenever you enter the ocean, especially in the wintertime!
Download your Free Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays in Hawaii
If you have plans to go on a manta ray dive (soon or in the distant future), download our Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays below; it’s got everything you need to know to better prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.