Manta Rays and Volcano Hikes off the Beaten Path in Hawaii

in Pinmapplelast year

A huge manta ray gliding gracefully under the snorkelers

Yesterday we had two wonderful adventures here on the Big Island of Hawaii. Both adventures were very private and intimate experiences, away from the crowds. Read on to find out how you two can do these amazing activities away from the crowds.

Two, very popular activities on the Big Island of Hawaii are trekking through volcanic landscapes and going snorkeling at night with huge manta rays. Usually people go to Volcanos National Park to see the volcanic landscape, and while this is an amazing experience you may experience large crowds, especially when there is an active eruption to see. The manta ray snorkeling experience is no different, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but there can be dozens of boats, putting 20 snorkelers in all at the same place, and can feel quite crowded.

However, there is a way to get off the beaten path and do both of these activities without the crowds. It can feel like being in Hawaii 50 years ago. Here is how I did it yesterday, and how you can plan it yourself!

For the manta ray snorkel, the most popular, well-known spots are just north of Kona near the airport, and a little south of Kona near the old Sheraton. These two spots are where all of the boats go and 99% of the tourists. However, there is a little known secret manta spot, where only two small boats go, just North of Puako Harbor. It is near the big resorts of Waikaloa, so if you are staying there it could be even closer to your homebase. Imagine being in the water with these amazing creatures and being the only people around for miles. It feels like the mantas are there just for you.

They are there to feed on plankton that congregates in the underwater lights that are shining down for the surfboard your group is holding onto. This means that if you are lucky, these giant animals will gracefully flip and roll right under you, trying to get very close to the lights and maximize their plankton intake. We had great conditions last night and several close encounters.

You can plan this yourself by booking your manta snorkel with Blue Wilderness Adventures. They have pioneered this spot and have very knowledgeable guides. They provide wetsuits, snacks, and your best opportunity to have this experience away from the crowds.

Two other guests getting geared up for the manta night snorkel

Our snorkel team, excited for adventure

The manta rays show up after sunset, so we were able to enjoy this view as we drove to the snorkel spot.

Our guide Sam bringing over the lit up surfboards that we all hang onto

The first few snorkelers waiting for our first manta encounter

Our first manta! Gliding just below our feet

Manta Ray ballet

It is pretty amazing to be in the water with these magnificent creatures

Manta Ray lit up in the dark

For the second private adventure you have to check out Hawaii Forest and Trails. This company offers hikes and guided tours around the island, but the biggest secret that often gets overlooked is their 'Hidden Craters' hike. It takes you 6,000ft up Hualalai Volcano, which is the closest volcano to Kona town. It last erupted 200 years ago and flowed down to the water near the airport. In fact, the Kona airport is built right on top of this lava flow. Pretty wild.

The reason I like this hike so much is that this company is the only commercial company that has access to this land. You go through two locked gates, onto land that has been passed down and conserved from the ancient Kings and Queens of Hawaii. The volcanic features that you explore include deep fissures, pit craters, and even underground lava tubes. The entire time you are walking through a native Hawaiian forest, filled with the sounds of endemic Hawaiian honeycreeper birds. It is the one place in the islands where not much has changed in the past 1000 years.

Check out the pictures below and I hope you enjoy coming on the adventures with me. Next time you find yourself in Hawaii and want to get off the beaten track, this is the way.

Our hiking group inside the lava tube!

Climbing high above the ocean on the ridgeline of a volcanic fissure.

Descending down into an underground lava tube.

Peeking over the edge into a pit crater.

Not a bad place for a picnic lunch spot, deep in a Koa tree forest.

Changing landscapes from black lava rocks to ancient Hawaiian forest.

Hikers lit up by a skylight inside the lava tube.

All my best,
Dai Mar Tamarack


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