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How to See Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico

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If you want to experience a bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, there are three destinations you may want to consider. 

There's one on the west side of the island, another one on the east side (Fajardo), and a third one on the neighbor island of Vieques. Today we will tell you everything you need to know about La Parguera (Lajas), the western one.

If you are going to be on the east side of the island, don't worry! Here you'll also find info in general about how the tours work, and if you scroll to the end we have recommended tours for the other side of the island.

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Before we go into the details, let us tell you that we did a lot of research in the area, and we ended up with what we believe is the best possible company for you to have the full experience.

We will recommend it at the end, so feel free to ask any questions you may have about it. This has been recommended after testing it, so be sure that our word comes from experience and not just from research.

Now, without further due, let's dive into the bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico: La Parguera.

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What is Bioluminescence?

Ok, we're going to get a bit technical here. Bioluminescence is caused by microorganisms that live in the bay. This happens when they're agitated (and when there are huge amounts of them).

Most of these organisms are algae, which means they are able to produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis. The first step of photosynthesis in these organisms involves light being captured by their chlorophyll, which has a blue-green pigment.

In contrast, most plants have green chlorophyll, which is what makes their leaves green. Additionally, the chlorophyll in algae can become luminescent when agitated.

Individually, these organisms cannot be seen by the naked human eye; however, sometimes circumstances arise in which billions of them come together and give the water a bright, blue-green glow.

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When Can You See Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico?

You can't always see bioluminescence in Puerto Rico. However, the bay does have two key attributes for attracting microorganisms that glow. First of all, it is small in size and also has a high concentration of mangroves.

Mangroves are important to microorganisms because they are a good source of vitamin B12, which is essential for them to survive. Because the bay is small in size, water does not rush out of it quickly. Thus, after heavy rainfall, the mangroves release a large amount of vitamin B12.

This will cause algae to conglomerate in the bay, and this concentration causes them to agitate and give off their glow.

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Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico: Where Does the Tour Go From?

The tour starts from La Parguera, an area that seems to be alive almost 24/7. The place is full of restaurants, lights & music. You can find all kinds of food (including shark!that you can taste before and/or after your tour.


You will be required to get there 15 minutes before departure. They will give you a quick safety & general rules speech, and then the captain will start sailing towards the bay.

The views along the bay have a lot of history; you will notice a lot of houses leading to the water. These are very old, some of them remained as houses and many others have become restaurants. They all have cute decorations, paint, and lights.

Are you looking to book a tour? Here are some of the different options you can find in La Parguera.

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Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico: Length of the Tour

The full experience lasts around two hours. This has nothing to do with the distance from the pier to the bay. The trip itself takes not more than 15 minutes. The reason behind the duration is that the boat takes you to the bay before the sunset so that you have some time on the kayaks with some sunlight.


After a good 45 to 60 minutes after the suns sets, you will be asked to come back to the boat (if you're on a kayak). The captain will announce the end of the tour, and you will head back to the pier.

This will be the best time for you to use your waterproof jacket (or sweater). Even though it may be hot out, without the sun heat, and with the boat going fast, the wind & water splashes will create a non-pleasant experience for those of you who aren't wearing layers of clothes.

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Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico: What to Expect

Depending on the time of the month, you can expect the highest form of magic or complete darkness. As mentioned before, the microorganisms responsible for the bioluminescence in Puerto Rico live in the bay to get vitamin B12 from the mangroves. 

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Depending on the concentration of microorganisms AND the amount of moonlight, you may see a lot or you may see nothing but darkness.


The captain will tell you in advance what to expect that specific day, but nothing can be taken for granted. Maybe there will be a short window of darkness between the sunset and moonrise. Maybe the bay will glow like a lightbulb, but this changes all the time.

Bioluminescence in Puerto Rico: Things to Consider

Here are a few tips and things to consider while going to the bioluminescent bay.

Take a Waterproof Jacket With You

Like we said before when you're coming back, you will face the wind & water splashes pretty much the whole way back. Without sunlight, it will be very easy to feel a little cold, so avoid an unpleasant ending of your excursion.

It's Not an Avatar Experience

When we were getting ready to experience bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, we were expecting a sea of blue shining. The reality is that those photos you may have seen are all a product of photoshop.

As magical as this experience is, you won't see a whole bay glowing constantly for you. Microorganisms react to movement, so the light will only be spotted where something (or someone) agitates the water.


I know this may sound like a bummer, but it's better to know exactly what to expect and then get fascinated than expect a James Cameron movie and find out there's no editing in reality.

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Bring Your Own Booze

The tour is totally fine with their customers to drink in the excursion. Since the water is very calm where you're going, it is actually a good spot to chill and have a beer or two. People usually take their own alcohol, and even a cooler, to enjoy while on the way to the bay.


So if you want to make a Sunday Funday out of your excursion to the bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico, don't forget to buy your stuff in advance. Also, try to buy it before getting into the pier, as vendors will take advantage of your needs and inflate the prices in the nearby area.

A Waterproof Backpack (or dry bag) Will Save You

Even though the bay is a very calm body of water, the boat goes fast, and this causes splashes. Also, people come on & off the boat when they go into the kayaks. This will accumulate water on the boat's floor, so you want to get your things protected from it.


If you have a waterproof backpack or bag, we strongly encourage you to bring it. If you don't, you can simply put the backpack inside a plastic bag, when left on the floor. This way, you can make sure all your stuff will remain safe throughout the excursion.

It's Not Easily Photographable 

When we first did the tour we saw how incredible the bioluminescence looked right in front of our own eyes! We were dying to capture this pic view on our cameras so that we could show our family and friends just how spectacular was.

The reality is that even with a professional camera, video or photo, it's almost impossible to see it when recorded. Unless you have a lens that lets an incredible amount of light in, and can keep the camera steady for minutes (which is practically impossible on a kayak) then chances are you won't be able to get a photo or video of this phenomenon.

We suggest merely enjoying the experience for what it is. Skip trying to capture the beauty, and live right in the moment.

Are you interested in checking out one of the other bioluminescent bays? You can also check out these tours too:

Experiencing bioluminescence in Puerto Rico can be one of the best things ever. The island is lucky to be a host for several locations where this can be seen. If you want to know more about the tour or the company we did it with you can check their official website.

When you contact them, remember to mention that you come recommended by Scratch Your Mapa to get the best possible price! Also, don't stop yourself from enjoying everything that "La Isla del Encanto" has to offer. Make sure to check out all of the other great Puerto Rico guides that we have.


Looking to plan the most epic trip? Well, now Scratch Your Mapa offers travel planning services, so you can sit back and relax, while we do the hard work. Email us today for your free quote!

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