Imagine a glowing bay or body of water that looks like it’s from a fairy tale. These enchanting places are known as bioluminescent bays. And as you can imagine, they are truly breathtaking.
Similar to fireflies, these remarkable waters are brought to life by a chemical reaction inside the cells of tiny, glowing plankton. The plankton uses the light to scare away predators, find food, and communicate with other organisms.
Bioluminescence boat tours are incredibly popular. And we recommend that all boaters cross this natural phenomenon off their bucket list, as it’s something you can’t replicate anywhere else.
The Best Bioluminescent Boating Spots
Bioluminescent bays are incredibly rare, and there are only a few places in the world where you can find them. Unfortunately, you can’t swim in most of them, as it harms sea life, wildlife, and humans. However, you can visit them by boat.
Let’s break down some of our favorite bioluminescent boating locations:
1. Laguna Grande, Puerto Rico
Did you know that Puerto Rico has three bioluminescent bays? One is called Laguna Grande, also known as Puerto Rico’s glowing lake. From San Juan to these eastern shores, it’s only a 45-minute drive away.
Therefore, they’re a top-rated tourist attraction. We recommend exploring this beautiful wonder by paddling through a canal with mangroves.
Laguna Grande’s waters glow year-round, so you can visit whenever is convenient for you.
2. Mission Bay, San Diego
The bioluminescence displays at San Diego’s Mission Bay and Torrey Pines Beach are breathtaking. They glow because of red tides, which are caused by algae blooms. During the day, the waves look red, and the tides appear neon blue at night.
Note that this natural phenomenon only happens occasionally, as it depends on the movements in the water and other environmental factors. Therefore, you must check local surf reports before planning your trip. Generally, summertime is the best time to catch a glimpse.
3. Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico
Mosquito Bay is another one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent wonders, located on the island of Vieques. Visitors travel there by ferry or small plane, as it’s farther from San Juan, a popular tourist destination.
This glowing bay is truly remarkable and has won awards for its natural beauty.
In fact, it was voted the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay in 2006 by the Guinness Book of World Records. To explore this wonder, you need to kayak under the supervision of a licensed tour guide. If you can, find a guide that uses clear-bottom kayaks to get the full effect.
4. Indian River Lagoon, Florida
An amazing bioluminescent boating adventure lies near Titusville at the Indian River Lagoon in Florida (but it’s only there from June to September).
The glow comes from dinoflagellate organisms (glowing plankton) and comb jellies in the water. You can also sometimes see dolphins and manatees, making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
This Indian River Lagoon is also toured via kayak, which gets you close to all the action. The best time to book your bioluminescent boat tour is during — or right before/after — a new moon, which enhances the shimmering effects.
Also, remember that rain and storms can make the bioluminescence less visible. If you’re concerned, ask the tour company for their recommendations.
5. Manialtepec Lagoon, Mexico
The Puerto Escondido area in southern Mexico is home to the mangrove-lined Manialtepec Lagoon. It’s one of Mexico’s finest bioluminescent bays, and it’s easy to see why! September is the best time to visit, and we recommend visiting during a new moon to enhance the glow.
Once you arrive, you can take a small boat tour to the Oaxaca Coast (where the lagoon is located). Not only is it a popular surfing spot, but you can see many varieties of bird species as well.
There are also ample tourist activities — like horseback riding — so you can spend your days exploring and then catch the bioluminescent views at night.
Your Bioluminescent Adventure Awaits
It’s time to check this boating adventure off your bucket list! And we hope today’s article inspired you to plan your next boating trip. Which of these bioluminescent boat tours will you try first?