Bioluminescence: Seeing (With Your Own Eyes) Is Believing

Take a closer look at one of the largest and brightest bioluminescent bays in the world!

Bioluminescence. The production and emission of light by a living organism, produced by the agitation of tiny bacteria that inhabit sea water (dinoflagellates). The result is almost indescribable…but most closely resembles fairy dust. There are only a few places in the world where this type of bacteria exists, and I was fortunate enough to find myself in the motherland after this past week’s #FPLETSMOVE event. Puerto Rico is home to three bays that offer bioluminescence. Off the coast lies Vieques, a 20-mile long strip of land that’s accessible only via boat or plane. This island has the largest and brightest bay in the world — Mosquito Bay.

Google and Pinterest first led me to believe that the entire body of water would be cast in a bright blue glow, like a glow stick exploded, leaving its gooey contents to rest on the surface. I didn’t really know what to expect, except for what I saw in the (heavily) photoshopped images. It wasn’t quite like that. But damn…now I know where James Cameron got his inspiration. Witnessing the magic of a bioluminescent bay is 1) the closest you’ll ever get to Avatar IRL, and 2) one of the most out-of-this-world natural occurrences one can ever experience.


The darker the night, the brighter the glow. It’s best to visit the bay after a new moon, and our travel dates aligned perfectly. We hopped in a glass-bottom kayak and paddled out into Mosquito Bay — left, right, left, right. It was hard to really grasp what I was seeing upon first stroke, with bubbles slowly rising from the movement of our paddles.

But, hold up — it’s pitch black. No moon. How am I seeing these bubbles?  I laughed when I realized that this is what bioluminescence actually looked like, so much more natural, beautiful and magical than what I had imagined, and something so unordinary that all you can really do is laugh in awe.


The algae glows upon any touch — a paddle lapping the water, a hand caressing the surface, a fish swimming by… It looks as if a blue comet has gently kissed the water. It doesn’t last long, but just long enough. I brought my camera with me, in hopes of capturing what I hoped would be the best photos of the trip but, truly, the photos I took hardly do it justice.

I struggle knowing when to put the camera down and when to just experience something for what it is. It’s in my nature to want to document any discovery. Everything about the bay was amazing — the bioluminescene, the millions of stars above my head, the quiet of the night…what I saw in real life only slightly translated through my camera lens. At one point, I looked at the bay, then turned to my photos and realized there was no way a picture was going to convey what my eyes saw that night. And that might just be why the bio-bay is so unique.




If you ever get the chance, make the trip to Puerto Rico and experience a bioluminescent bay for yourself. It’s well worth it.

Check out the bays in Fajardo and La Parguera, too! 

We recommend going on a tour with JAK Water Sports in Vieques (They have the glass-bottom kayaks and will also give you a guide to the stars and constellations!)

Stay tuned for more Puerto Rico content.

Follow Jana on Instagram and Twitter!

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5 years ago

Wow, this is stunning! I would love to experience such a phenomenon first hand!

5 years ago

i was able to visit the bio bay in la parguera last year and it was amazing!! you totally captured the essence of the night with your writing. there was absolutely no way to capture the beauty on camera. it was just one of those moments that i was present for and will be forever engraved in my memory.

check out some of my recent trip to puerto rico on my blog :)

5 years ago

You can also see this on some remote islands in Panama during certain times of the year! It’s incredible!

Your Own Queen

5 years ago

We get this usually once every few years on the Pacific Coast of California as well. I have seen this phenomenon many times growing up in San Diego. Beautiful!

4 years ago

I saw some lakes in Australia that looked incredible as well, but if Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico is the largest and brightest, I might just need to stop by there too :P Ever since I got my Dino Sphere from, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the science behind Bioluminescence. Thanks for sharing your experiences!