This paper shows a new design and prototyping method for a bending pneumatic rubber actuator and its application to a soft-bodied manta swimming robot. The design is based on optimal design using non-linear finite element method, in which geometrical and material non-linearity are considered and fabrication process is based on a rapid and efficient prototyping system using a CAD/CAM based rubber molding process. In this paper, the characteristics of several possible actuators are analyzed and evaluated to lead to an optimal actuator design. The actuator works very well with smooth and soft motion. The manta swimming robot in which the developed actuators are embedded is also designed based on non-linear finite element method. The developed manta swimming robot is made only of rubber and it swims in water smoothly as if it was a living fish. The experimental results of the manta robot motion show that good agreement with those of analytical results.