What’s the Best Time to Swim with Manta Rays in Hawaii?

Feb 9, 2020 | Hawaii Travel, Swimming with Manta Rays

Hawaii, with 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, storms brewing in the Pacific generate huge swells.

In other words, when traveling to Hawaii, it’s important to know a little about the different factors that may influence your perfect vacation in Kona. You want to pick the best time to journey to the Big Island, so you can best enjoy all the amazing activities Hawaii has to offer!

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 some insights: not all Hawaii is created equal, and conditions may vary per island.

When are the Ocean Conditions Favorable for Going 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 can conduct manta swims throughout the year.

That said, the best times to see manta rays in Hawaii are late spring, summer, and early fall. This is simply because the ocean conditions are the most favorable.

The most manta ray dives were canceled from January to mid-March due to rough ocean conditions, including 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 (now Surfline.com) covers surf spots worldwide, but you can select the Hawaiian Islands with a few clicks. The swell prediction for 7 days is available to everyone, and there is also a paid version that estimates a 16-day window.

The example below shows the most recent forecast for the bay from which we operate.

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 has 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 are still fully booked, so make sure you reserve your adventure when traveling to Hawaii during the holidays.

In October, Hawaii hosts the Ironman competition; although most fans don’t come here to swim with mantas then, 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, the best time to travel to Hawaii is usually 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 they provide us with good insights into the movements of manta rays and other marine life. We’ve been at the manta ray viewing sites for over twenty years now, enabling us to track manta visitors rather 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 with spectacular and 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!






  1. Fei Wang

    Hi! Thank you for such great information! Just wondering whether the condition is getting any better (or even worse) over the past few years? We will come all the way from East Coast after Thanksgiving and are super excited about our trip. However, I learned that Nov 29 may be too close to the big waves you talked about in December. I also learned from other posts saying full moon will be a bad factor too… 🙁 Will it still be worth it to do the Manta tour? Thank you very much!

    • Martina Wing

      We highly recommend to plan on joining the manta swim. When all things fall in place, it is a transformational experience. This being said: the swell forecast for Thanksgiving 2023 is promising with calm waters. The full moon myth has been debunked, so no worries there. Aloha and happy planning for your trip to Hawaii

  2. Feroza Aladin

    Thinking of going snorkeling today. Is it good today

  3. Beverley Costello

    Hoping to have a wonderful Manta ray swim either 21 or 22 Mach 2024. Wondering if you have any insights and which session is the the best time to enjoy the experience.
    Kind regards

    • Manta Ray Advocates Admin

      The chances of seeing mantas are about the same for all three sessions! All of our groups start with a 30-minute briefing/manta education. Our first group only enters the water once the sun has fully set to ensure optimal conditions to see the mantas (since the mantas are coming to feed on plankton and the plankton is attracted to light). It is primarily a personal preference on which session to book.
      Please call our office at 808-987-5580 if you need help making a reservation or have any additional questions.

      With Aloha,


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