Having been to Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, Drew and I decided it was time to visit the Big Island. We didn’t know too much about it before we booked the trip, except that it had an active volcano and that Hilo, one of its cities, gets a ton of rain. So thank God for this guide book: The Big Island Revealed. It seems like the author went through every nook & cranny of the island and detailed it all here in this book. Many thanks to him! Even those who live on the island say it’s the best guidebook out there, so get it if you’re heading to the Big Island.
Since we wanted to do a ton of water activities, we decided to stay in Kona for five nights. I love VRBO. We were able to rent a nice oceanfront condo and had all our meals looking out into the ocean. The condo had a community BBQ and tidepools right in front, where a couple of turtles loved swimming in everyday.
You don’t have to book a snorkeling tour to swim with tons of tropical fish on this island. Thanks to the guidebook, our favorite spot to go to (I think 3 days in a row), was Kahalu’u Beach. In the mornings, the water is so clear. One of the first things we saw was this school of butterfly fish.
My favorite, the parrotfish, which we discovered in Costa Rica, makes some very good ceviche. (Sorry beautiful parrotfish of the world – blame the Ticos for teaching me how good you taste in ceviche!)
We couldn’t get over how clear the water was. It made for some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done. Man, that’s a gigantic fish. I always gotta make sure not to swim too close or I get a hand in the face.
Our first booked activity was what the Travel Channel labeled as “One of the top 10 things to do in your lifetime.” Manta Ray Dive or Snorkel. Did you know that there are tons of manta rays swimming around the big island? And at night, some of them flock to this one area to feed on plankton. So yes, quite a few boats take people out there at night. But it’s all worth it! Plus, since it’s a night dive, the more lights, the better so you can actually SEE them. And the equation goes, light attracts plankton, and plankton attracts mantas. You can choose to dive (and sit on the ocean floor) or snorkel (and float on top of the water while sticking your face in the water). We chose to snorkel with Kona Ocean Adventures. The experience was definitely one of the top 10 things we have ever done in our lifetime. It almost seems like you’re in space with these other worldly creatures since everything’s so dark underwater. I can’t believe how close the mantas get to people while they’re feeding on the plankton. I had a couple swim within an inch of me where I had to move my body or else we would’ve touched. (Thinking back, why did I move my body away?) It would’ve been neat to have felt a manta – but they do say not to touch them – in case you get your human cooties on these majestic creatures.
Below is my video of our night snorkel with the manta rays. I couldn’t count how many there were, but definitely somewhere between 10-20 that night. And they’re HUGE!!! The average wingspan of these Pacific manta rays is between 5-8ft, but they could get to be over 14ft wide. They are so graceful underwater and very harmless, gentle creatures. (No barbs like stingrays, so it’s completely safe.)
For a better video that puts mine to shame, click HERE. It’s shot by a pro underwater videographer.
The next morning, I woke up early to go diving with Kona Diving Company. That’s where the day time manta ray footage came from, and part of the dolphin video that’s coming up later. If you’re a diver, there’s quite a few dive operations to choose from in Kona, but I loved KDC. I’m not an avid diver so I love going with small groups & hanging by the divemaster. On this dive, my little group consisted of me, the divemaster, and another diver. I felt completely safe. We saw so much underwater & above the water (spinner dolphins, manta ray, false pilot whales). What I loved was that they spotted dolphins on our way out to the 1st dive site & gave all the divers on board the option of getting into the water & diving from there. Of course we were going to hop in & swim with some dolphins!
After we lost sight of them, there were plenty of other interesting sea creatures to see. Octopi (I saw two of them & they shot out ink as us!), tons of fish, turtles (we went to Turtle Heaven), colorful nudibranchs galore, and a ginormous snail the size of a volleyball munching on a sea urchin. Wish I had a camera that goes down past 16ft, but alas, no. (Sigh.)
But at least my little Sony point & shoot was good enough to get footage of our dolphin swim with Kona Ocean Adventures the next day (We also did the Manta snorkel with them). Highly recommended! Captain Danny will not stop until you’ve had your fill of swimming with dolphins. And honestly, I don’t know if I could ever have my fill unless I lived there, but the time I spent swimming in that clear, blue water with the dolphins was unforgettable. After swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, Drew & I didn’t think the experience could be topped. But this was INCREDIBLE. The ocean water off the Big Island is so damn clear that we could see up to 40ft. Plus, it’s a lot warmer so no need for wetsuits. If only I could become a dolphin…or a mermaid. Next life.