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There are five bodies of water in the world where you are able to experience the magic that is bioluminescence year-round. Three of them are in Puerto Rico. The glow-in-the-dark effect known as bioluminescence is caused by microscopic organisms known as dinoflagellates that absorb energy from the sun and then will light up at night when the water is disturbed by a paddle or hand. You are not permitted to swim in these “bio-bays” because sunscreen and other products that we put on our skin will kill these organisms. Some of the bays are noticing a dimming because of this and also pollution from boats.
You are able to experience this bioluminescence in Puerto Rico on kayak tours. We regretted not being able to experience this on our first trip to Puerto Rico so it was one of the first things I booked after we had our flights. For the best experience, it is recommended that you take your tour as close to the new moon as possible. Since we had less than a week in Puerto Rico, we picked a day that fit best in our schedule and the tour organizers covered us up with tarps so we could best experience the glowing.
Since we were staying in Fajardo, we chose a tour of Laguna Grande. We met at a beach near the bio bay where we got a brief safety demonstration and basic kayak instructions before loading into our kayaks and getting a paddle-away picture taken (top). At the beginning of the tour, we paddled along the beach until we came to the opening of the lagoon and we waited for the groups ahead of us to paddle through. The sun was setting at this point, and paddling through the mangroves was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It is probably silly to compare a real-life experience to a Disney ride, but it made me think of the Jungle Cruise. I kept waiting to see the backside of water.
When we got through the mangroves, we huddled our kayaks together for an explanation of what we were about to see as our guides searched for the best bioluminescent activity. When we re-grouped where the light could be seen the most, the guides passed out tarps for us to huddle around so we could experience the glow-in-the-dark activity without the light from the moon interfering. It was not super comfortable under the tarp, so I didn’t stay under very long. This phenomenon is not easy to photograph so I didn’t even attempt it. I left my phone in the car and just enjoyed the experience. That is why the only picture I have is the one they took for me.
Laguna Grande is not the most active bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico but it is very convenient if you are staying near San Juan. If you want the best experience, you have to go to the island of Vieques. Honestly, the bioluminescence was not the highlight of this experience for me. I really enjoyed the paddle through the mangroves at dusk. It made me realize that I need to figure out how to go night kayaking at home when the weather warms up.
We chose Yokahu Kayak Tours on Viator and I would recommend them to anyone considering a bio bay tour from Fajardo. One thing to note is that most of these tours only have tandem kayaks. For seasoned tandem kayakers like us, this is not a problem, but my mother-in-law was traveling with us and as an odd number, she got paired off with a teenager she didn’t know and had never kayaked with before. She had more of a challenge with this tour and did not enjoy it as much as we did. In hindsight, one of us probably should’ve stayed with her and one of us stronger kayakers should’ve been paired up with someone else.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Returning to Puerto Rico Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.