Puerto Rico was blessed with the most bioluminescent bays in the world and the brightest. Water stars. Glittering, gleaming life illuminating the bay like a mirror of the cosmos. The Bioluminescent Bays of Puerto Rico are as mysterious as a clear night sky. You may have seen the magical wonder of bioluminescence in movies such as Avatar, Nim’s Island, and Life of Pi. You can even head to Disney World to be immersed in a world of bioluminescence, but in Puerto Rico, you can experience the REAL magic.
A tour of a bioluminescent bay is among Top Five Experiences & Best Things to Do in Puerto Rico. You’ll glide across the water as day turns to night and surround yourself with the quiet glow of nature’s phosphorescent organisms living in the water, best experienced on a moonless night. This world-class natural wonder is too magical to miss. There are few bioluminescent bays in the world, and Puerto Rico was blessed with six, you may read in other places that there are only three but that’s not true, we will not list them for various reasons, the main one is that they are not protected and we are concerned people will flock to them and harm the sensitive ecosystem and balance of the bays.
How does bioluminescence occur?
When there are high concentrations of dinoflagellates, a microscopic organism, and they come into contact with anything or movement they light up in bright blue light, when you dip your hands in the water, it literally looks like tiny stars running down your hands.
Please Note: Although Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bay is a pretty magical experience, you may encounter some frustrations. A few details make the experience better or worse, for the best experience and brightest conditions, please take a few minutes to read tips and FAQs below on this page before booking and avoid disappointments.
The following are the most popular and accessible bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico for tourists, these also have constant higher concentrations of dinoflagellates.
Laguna Grande, Fajardo (East Coast)Bioluminescent Bay - Puerto Rico
Visitors vacationing in the San Juan and East Coast of Puerto Rico can book a tour to Laguna Grande, part of Cabeza de San Juan Nature Reserve in the town of Fajardo, about 45 minutes from San Juan and 30 minutes from the resorts in Rio Grande. You’ll kayak or ride through a narrow mangrove canal that leads to the dazzling bioluminescent lagoon.
Top Rated Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay Tours
La Parguera - Bioluminescent Bay (West Coast)Lajas, Puerto Rico
La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay – Lajas, Puerto Rico
There are two bioluminescent bays in La Parguera, for decades it was the main attraction of La Parguera. Locals also call it the “phosphorescent bay”. For the past decade, the bays had lost their brightness due to poor development, planning, lack of protection laws, and enforcement of rules. Perhaps the long break from visitors to the bioluminescent bay helped the bay heal, increasing the dinoflagellates and brightness. New tour operators are using smaller boats and taking visitors that are mostly vacationing on the west coast of Puerto Rico and we are hearing rave reviews. Unlike Laguna Grande in Fajardo, the tour will be less crowded and relaxed since the west coast receives fewer tourists in the high season. Some tour guides offer kayak tours to the best spots where bioluminescence is brighter and boats have no access.
See popular top-rated tours below.
Top Rated Tours to La Parguera, Lajas
Mosquito Bay - The Brightest Bioluminescent Bay in the WorldBioluminescent Bay - Vieques, Puerto Rico
Don’t let the common name, Mosquito Bay, prevent you from experience this wonder of nature. Although this bay was spooky, unfamiliar, and exotic to the first European explorers, the intensity of glowing light is helped by the rocks early settlers threw into the water in their attempt to understand this wonder of Nature, giving the native organisms more places on which to grow and thrive. Mosquito Bay the most brilliant of the bioluminescent bays in the world, and was recognized as such by Guinness World Records in 2006 as The Brightest Bioluminescent bay in the World. Residents of Vieques and those that have experienced the magical brightness of Mosquito Bay were tremendously concerned for the bioluminescent bay after Hurricane Maria, to everyone’s surprise, it recovered quickly and it became brighter than ever. Mosquito Bay has the largest concentration of dinoflagellates and when combined with the low light pollution on the island, it is a spectacle on a Moonless / New Moon night.
Top Rated Bioluminescent Bay Tours - Vieques, Puerto Rico
Best Bioluminescent Bay Combination Tours
You may wish to consider booking a combination tour to make the most of your precious vacation time and budget.
El Yunque Rainforest & Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay – Two of the best attractions in one tour.
A Day on the West Coast & Bioluminescent Bay – We love the west coast and this tour hits the colorful town of Yauco, the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse which is the most scenic spot on the island of Puerto Rico and end the day at the Bioluminescent Bay. With a car rental, you can do it on your own and book this tour for the bioluminescent bay.
Cayo Caracoles & La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay – Even if you’re staying in the San Juan / Metro Area, the bioluminescent bay in Lajas is worth the driving time, with fewer crowds, more intimate setting, bioluminescence is brighter while experiencing a less touristy and authentic fishing village. You may end up coming back to Puerto Rico in order to see more of the west coast, many visitors do.
Tips & Need to Know Facts for the Best ExperienceBioluminescent Bays - Puerto Rico
Help us Protect the Bioluminescent Bays of Puerto Rico
Although swimming is not allowed, sadly some tour operators allow visitors to get in the water, particularly in the bio bay in Lajas. Please do not wear sunblock lotion, or bug repellants, when in contact with the water, it will harm the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Please consider purchasing natural insect repellent without feet, a much safer alternative both for you and the dinos.
Crowds during Bioluminescent Bay Tours
If you read reviews from tours, some people complain about crowds during kayak tours. Following are facts to know about the bioluminescent bays and lagoon in Fajardo to help you make the best choice for the most enjoyable experience:
- Laguna Grande in Fajardo is located on the east coast of Puerto Rico, making it the most accessible, receiving the most visitors, since the majority of tourists stay in the San Juan, Isla Verde & Rio Grande resort communities.
- La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay is located southwest of the island. The drive to Lajas from San Juan is about 2 hours, which in our opinion is well worth the drive, the bay is brighter (under optimal conditions), with boat tours are smaller and more intimate with much fewer visitors when compared to Laguna Grande in Fajardo.
Are you allowed to swim on the bioluminescent tour?
Keep in mind that like much of Nature, this biological system is fragile, so no swimming or physical interaction with the bioluminescent organisms is / should be allowed. The bioluminescent bay in Lajas allows swimming, as previously stated please help protect the bays by wearing natural insect repellent.
Should You Take a Kayak or Boat Tour?
- By Kayak – Kayaking tours are the most popular way of touring the bioluminescent bays and lagoon of Puerto Rico. Kayaks allow a more interactive experience with the water, and the flora along the mangrove channels can be more appreciated. The waters are calm along the bay under normal weather conditions requiring average physical ability.
- By Boat – Various tour guides offer tours by small boat. Families with small children should consider a boat tour for the safest conditions. Boat tours are recommended in Lajas since they allow swimming for the ultimate experience. (see below for more information on location and tours).
The Moon & Bioluminescence
Be sure to check the moon phase calendar. Bioluminescence is best seen on a moonless night, so the brighter the moon the less bright the lagoon/bioluminescent bay will be. Various tour operators will not run tours on a full moon. Mosquito Bay is so bright, we’ve seen it very bright even in a full moon sky.
What to Wear during a Bioluminescent Bay Tour
Please wear comfortable clothing, long sleeve beach shirts are best to protect you from mosquito bites.
Check for Conditions Before your Tour
A few days before your scheduled tour, call your tour guide and ask about conditions, rain, tides, and temperatures that can have an effect on bioluminescence.