11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Taking A Bioluminescent Bay Tour In Puerto Rico


I sat silently in my kayak, just one hand swirling the drinking water outside the boat. With each individual light swish, a miniature constellation of underwater “stars” twinkled close to my fingers. In the kayak beside me, a woman spun her paddle in the water and gasped at the little explosion of light-weight. Ahead of me, the comet-like streak of inexperienced in the water indicated a fish swimming in the vicinity of the surface.

I’d appear to Isla de Vieques, off Puerto Rico’s principal island, to kayak its entire world-famed bioluminescent bay. The expertise was almost everything I’d hoped for — a stroke of luck, offered how inadequately I’d arranged my journey. Receiving the most out of a bio bay tour involves a lot of progress arranging, and, in the circumstance of Vieques, a lot more money than you could assume.

Here’s what I want I understood just before making the trip.

1. Bioluminescence Is Remarkably Popular

Considerably like fireflies do on land, one-celled, drinking water surface–dwelling organisms called dinoflagellates, a type of plankton, can emit light underwater. They are not the only marine organisms that glow. Some 1,500 species of fish are recognized to luminesce, as perfectly as certain styles of squid, jellyfish, worms, and crustaceans. Lots of use bioluminescence as lures for foodstuff or mates, or to confuse predators.

Whilst dinoflagellates are microscopic, they generally type huge colonies. The human eye doesn’t detect the bioluminescence when a h2o physique is still. But when disturbed, these as by wind that ripples the surface area or the slicing of a boat hull by the h2o, our eyes translate the gentle wavelengths into glow-in-the-darkish sparkles and zigzags of eco-friendly or blue-eco-friendly.

Choose a dependable tour operator to make the most of your bioluminescent bay kayaking experience.

Photograph credit: Find out Puerto Rico

2. Puerto Rico Has 3 Bioluminescent Bays

The world at the moment has five ecosystems where dinoflagellate concentrations are substantial sufficient to regularly bring about this bioluminescent phenomenon. Puerto Rico promises a few of them.

In Fajardo, alongside the east coastline of the major island, Laguna Grande is the most trafficked of the trio. It is not as brilliant as the other folks, but at only an hour by auto from San Juan, it’s the most straightforward to get to. This also tends to make it the most touristy of the bunch.

A handful of of the far better-known Laguna Grande tour operators involve:

In Lajas, on the reverse corner of the main island, La Parguera is the least visited of the a few bays. At about 2.5 hrs from San Juan, it’s a considerably lengthier drive than Laguna Grande, but a worthwhile end if you’re checking out the western side of Puerto Rico.

Some tours enable swimming in La Parguera. Mainly because substances in bug repellents, sunscreens, and system lotions can kill the phytoplankton, you will need to shower right before joining a tour that features swimming or diving by way of the bio bay.

Consider a person of these La Parguera tour operators:

The granddaddy of all bioluminescent bays, and the brightest in the planet, is Mosquito Bay in Vieques. Despite the fact that Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, Mosquito Bay’s dinoflagellate inhabitants has, miraculously, doubled considering that then. On a dark evening, you’re pretty much confirmed to see one thing stunning.   

Tour operators on Vieques contain:

3. Booking A Tour Can Lead To Unforeseen Charges

You can hire a car and generate to Laguna Grande or La Parguera. Mosquito Bay is not related to the major island, so you’ll will need to choose a ferry (about $40 for each human being) or tiny aircraft (about $120 for each man or woman) from Ceiba, or fly directly from San Juan (about $130 for every person), to get there. Based on the time of year, ferry and flight services may well or may possibly not be offered immediately after 7 p.m. Residents are provided preference on the ferry, which means you could get bumped from an specially whole voyage.

In addition, several bio bay kayaking tour operators call for an tackle where by you are going to be keeping on the island in order to complete scheduling. Given that automobiles are not authorized on the ferry to Vieques, you should rent a motor vehicle or line up a taxi trip after on the island.

The limited tale: It is ideal to system an overnight continue to be on the island.

In between our flights, taxi, lodging in the the very least pricey Airbnb we could uncover, and the tour itself, my partner and I put in about $450 on this part of our trip.  

We chose Abe’s Snorkeling for our excursion. The encounter was quite very good in general, even though the tour operator, like an airline, oversold their 7 p.m. tour. About a dozen of us were being bumped, with no discover, to the 9 p.m. slot. For our problems, our guideline available each pairing of people today a refund on a person ticket.

people kayaking in a bioluminescent bay

Although you won’t be by itself on the h2o, you may well sense like you have the bay all to you.

Photograph credit: Discover Puerto Rico

4. Virtually Everyone Can Do It

Bio bay kayaking is proper for most amounts of potential. The water is ordinarily serene, and paddling is accomplished at a laid-back pace, mainly in two-person boats. Because you are kayaking in the darkish, it’s significant to observe your guide’s instructions and stick shut to your tour team. This could be difficult for tourists with vision or hearing impairments. If you’ve acquired grandkids in tow, inquire about age limits.

5. Know Your Moon Cycles, And Ebook In Advance

You may be ready to book a tour on the fly, but I would not hazard it. Most fill up quite a few months in advance, in particular through the higher season.

Although Puerto Rico’s bays luminesce year spherical, you will have the very best experience on a dark night. Kayaking through a new moon is preferable for the reason that the glow proportion is normally larger. Using a moon phases calendar will assist you chart out the finest time to go.

Most operators do not even run excursions 3 times in advance of or just after a total moon. We did not understand this when we booked our Puerto Rican family vacation. Thankfully, the ultimate evening was just further than the total-moon window.  

The working day before or the early morning of your excursion, phone your tour operator to verify on the bay’s brightness it should be a bare minimum of 30 per cent. In addition to the moon, tides and h2o temperature impact how substantially color you see.

6. Question About Very clear-Bottomed Boats

Some tour corporations offer you apparent-bottomed boats, which permit for a exclusive appear at the bioluminescence specifically beneath you. This is not the default choice, so be absolutely sure to talk to if it is vital to you.

7. Gown To Get Wet

Have on at ease clothing, such as shorts and a T-shirt, ideally made of tech or fast-drying materials some splashing is standard all through any kayaking outing. Trousers and shorts with zipper pockets are valuable for storing a credit card, in scenario you want to quit at a restaurant or bar on the way again to your resort or Airbnb (no require to choose a entire wallet or dollars). Strong walking sandals, knit sneakers, or aqua footwear are all good options for footwear.

Do not count on remaining equipped to stash extra clothing or footwear with the tour operator just take only what you need.

8. Skip The Sunscreens And Skin Lotions

Clean your arms and feet in advance of the trip, and never use any moisturizer, serums, or lotions. You’ll be authorized to dip toes and fingers in the water, but chemical compounds from popular pores and skin merchandise can kill the dinoflagellates.

9. It is All right To Acquire Your Cellphone

Most bio bay operators will notify you to depart your cell telephone powering, ostensibly because its digicam won’t be equipped to capture the glow. This could be correct, or it could be an work to decrease the sharing of photos, which could possibly, in flip, guide to a reduction in tour buys. I regretted listening to this advice. I believe I could have used my mobile cellular phone digicam in guide manner and gotten sufficiently prolonged exposures to photograph some of the luminescence.

Base line: There’s no harm in using your mobile phone, as very long as you seal it in a floating dry bag, and dress in it on a lanyard all over your neck. Just be knowledgeable that if you unintentionally overturn your kayak, you may have issues retrieving the cellular phone in the darkish. And do not expend all your time taking shots. The best section of the encounter is staying in the instant and savoring the display.

10. Be Geared up For A Wild Ride

The travel out to the bio bay is a little bit like using a roller coaster without a seat belt. Our bus driver obviously had been generating this generate for a long time, and he understood each pothole and curve in the road — and took most of them at a robust clip. In the darkish. I experienced to pry my fingers out of the seat upholstery just after he swerved through little herds of the island’s cost-free-roaming horses. The good thing is, he did not strike any.

Professional Idea: About these Viequense horses: They’re not wild, even if tourism brochures and resorts marketplace them as such. All are owned by residents and are set no cost to browse the island’s grasses when not staying employed as transportation. Sadly, these attractive animals are frequently killed in highway accidents. If you hire a auto, travel gradually and cautiously.

two young women kayaking a bioluminescent in Puerto Rico

The glow of the phytoplankton is normally improved in photos, as you see here. Still, the experience of kayaking a biobay on a dark, distinct evening is absolutely nothing small of magical.

Image credit: Find out Puerto Rico

11. Maintain Your Anticipations In Look at

Nature is fickle, and an night of 100 % glow might be adopted by one of a lot less than 30 per cent. To make issues even worse, all promotional pictures of bio bay tours are Photoshopped. Whilst it is a amazing sight, you will not be engulfed in a satisfied blue halo, nor will the h2o light-weight up on its very own. What you are going to see is additional akin to an underwater shower of glitter every single time you or your tour mates dip an oar or hand into the bay.  

Is Bioluminescent Bay Kayaking Worthy of The Extra Difficulty And Cost?

That’s a massive yes. Even though I can’t speak for Laguna Grande or La Parguera, kayaking Mosquito Bay was as shut to magical as an out of doors experience can get. The bay is wide open up and hushed, and even with other groups of kayakers out on the drinking water, it felt like we had been the only types. Paddling was calm above the hour and a 50 percent we expended out on the drinking water.

Mainly because I’d browse up in advance and scaled my expectations, I was not disappointed. The bioluminescent glow was actually additional pronounced than I figured it would be, with miniature fireworks likely off just about every time a boat pushed by means of the h2o. It wasn’t the neon blue radiance proven on tour web-sites, but it even now felt otherworldly, like holding a galaxy of tiny stars in my palms.


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