Bioluminescence Kayaking

Bioluminescence Kayaking: 7 Best Places in the World!

Thrill-seekers looking to add a unique adventure to their bucket list need look no further than bioluminescence kayaking.

Bioluminescence is the light that is created by living creatures such as fireflies, comb jellies, and tiny plankton called “dinoflagellates”’.

When disturbed by motion, dinoflagellates start to glow a mysterious blue-green.

As these dinoflagellates detect the gentle motion of your kayak through the water, the sea will start to light up around you.

Being out on the water in your kayak surrounded by stunning bioluminescence is an experience you will never forget.

You might be asking, is there bioluminescent kayaking near me?

Well, I’ve compiled a list of the 7 best places in the world for bioluminescence kayaking for you to explore.

Most of these locations have the option for you to join a bioluminescence tour, which makes it easier than ever for you to take part in the wonder that is bioluminescence kayaking.

Let’s take a look.

Quick Guide: Best Places in the World for Bioluminescence Kayaking

1.Space Coast, Florida 

Summary: The world’s best bioluminescence kayaking destination on the mainland US. Witness stunning bioluminescence in wetlands abundant with wildlife on a world-class kayak tour.

2.Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico 

Summary: Escape to a tropical paradise and take in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay (“bio bay”) with expert guides on an out-of-this-world kayak tour.

3.Tomales Bay, Northern California 

Summary: Just north of San Francisco, Tomales Bay offers a quick way to tick bioluminescence kayaking off your bucket list. The secluded natural environment of the bay offers the perfect weekend getaway from the city.

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7 Best Places in the World for Bioluminescence Kayaking

1. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Florida

Location: Florida, United States

Best For: Being the all-around top location in the world for bioluminescence kayaking.

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates, comb jellyfish

Bioluminescence Kayaking in Florida is an experience every keen adventurer needs to tick off their bucket list.

With a bounty of stunning locations and bioluminescence tours on offer, Florida’s “Space Coast” is the number one destination of choice for anyone seeking a bioluminescence kayaking experience.

Along the rivers and canals of the Space Coast, you’ll find diverse wetland ecosystems and a range of world-class bioluminescence tours in addition to daytime tour options.

Plankton (dinoflagellates) light up the water at night in summer, and in winter you can see the glow of comb jellyfish.

Keep an eye out for dolphins and manatees, who can be seen gliding through the bioluminescence at night.

Bioluminescence Locations in Florida

  • The best place in Florida to see bioluminescence is the stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway between Port St. Lucie and Titusville.
  • This waterway is known by different names as you travel north, from the “Indian River Lagoon” to the “Indian River”. In Cocoa Beach, the waterway branches off into the Banana River.
  • The two most well-known launch spots to explore this area are the coastal towns of Cocoa Beach and Titusville.
  • Between Cocoa Beach and Titusville, you can find the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is a large barrier island home to thousands of unique birds, fish, and mammals. Within the Refuge is Mosquito Lagoon, which is well known for its bioluminescence.

Pros: With calm waters and diverse ecosystems, the area also offers unmissable daytime kayaking opportunities – making Florida the number one destination for keen kayakers. The sheltered waters make for peaceful conditions which are great for beginners.

Cons: The area is teeming with all kinds of life – including mosquitos. This makes insect repellant a must.

How to Get There: You can reach Florida’s bioluminescent hot spot within about an hour’s drive from Orlando.

Best Time To Go: 

In Florida, you can see the glow of bioluminescence all year round:

  • To see plankton bioluminescence at its peak, visit in summer (May to October)
  • To see glowing shrimp and jellyfish, visit in the winter (November to March)

Bioluminescence Tours in Florida

With an array of stunning locations on offer in Florida, your hardest task will be choosing which world-class bioluminescence kayak tour to join. 

The best approach is to first choose a tour operator, explore their website and book the tours that most suit your interests. 

To make your life easier, I’ve selected the top three tour companies that offer bioluminescent tours:

  • Get Up and Go Kayaking is known as the original clear kayak company. As well as providing bioluminescence tours, you will also want to check out their range of daytime tours that explore the full beauty of the area’s waterways.
  • With more than 20 years in business, A Day Away Kayak Tours are local experts with a range of bioluminescent tours that take in all that the area has to offer.
  • Cocoa Kayaking is another very well-regarded and reviewed kayak tour operator. You can’t go wrong with Cocoa Kayaking!

2. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Mosquito Bay

Location: Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico 

Best For: Being the “brightest bioluminescent bay” in the world. 

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates (Pyrodinium bahamense)

Puerto Rico is a famous bioluminescence hot spot, with three bioluminescent bays (“bio bays”) to explore. 

According to the Guinness Book of World Records (2006), Puerto Rico’s famous  Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island is the “brightest bioluminescent bay” in the world with over 700,000 microscopic organisms in each gallon of water.

With a range of high-quality kayak tours on offer, Mosquito Bay is worth the trip for an unforgettable experience.

When visiting Puerto Rico to go bioluminescence kayaking you’ll definitely want to make enough time to take in the rich culture and abundant natural beauty around you. 

From colorful villages and festivals to sandy beaches, maze-like caves, rocky mountains, and rainforests, Puerto Rico has it all. 

Pros: Being harder to access, Mosquito Bay is not as impacted by light pollution and tourists as Laguna Grande.

Cons: Mosquito Bay is a little harder to reach than some other bioluminescence locations. You’ll either need to take a flight or a ferry ride from the main island of Puerto Rico to get there.

How to get there: Mosquito Bay is located on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. The cheapest way to travel from San Juan to Mosquito Bay is via shuttle and ferry, which will take you around 4 hours and 40 minutes. If you fly instead, it’ll take around 2 hours.

Best Time To Go: The best time of year to visit the biobays of Puerto Rico is during the dry season, from December to mid-April. 

Bioluminescence tours in Mosquito Bay

  • Bieque Eco Trips offers a range of activities, from bioluminescence kayak tours to fishing, snorkeling, and beach hopping.
  • Blackbeard Sports: a reputable tour operator, offers clear-bottom kayak tours of Mosquito Bay, as well as scuba diving experiences.
  • Aqua Sunset Tours: an eco-tour company with clear-kayaking experiences and expert guides.

3. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Tomales Bay

Location: Tomales Bay, Northern California, United States

Best For: Ticking bioluminescence kayaking off your bucket list while on a relaxing getaway from the rat race of San Francisco 

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates

Tomales Bay is a secluded natural spot in Marin County, Northern California, which offers a refreshing escape from the city.

The dinoflagellates are not as abundant here as they are in Florida and Mosquito Bay. Despite this, a trip to Tomales Bay will satisfy those wishing to experience bioluminescent kayaking close to home.

Tomales Bay particularly suits nature-lovers who are looking for a fun weekend in the great outdoors. 

To make the most of the area, you’ll want to camp for the weekend, hike the trails during the day and go bioluminescent kayaking at night. 

A range of charming lodges is available for those who prefer not to camp.

Pros: Tomales Bay will suit those who do not like crowds as it is quieter than other locations.

Cons: Being a smaller area, there are only a few official tour operators who offer bioluminescent kayaking tours.

How to get there:

  • Tomales Bay is about a 1 hour and 20-minute drive north of San Francisco.

Best Time To Go: Between April and mid-November.

Bioluminescence Tours in Tomales Bay

  • In addition to bioluminescence tours, Blue Waters Kayaking offers daytime kayak tours, stand-up paddle boarding, and guided camping tours.
  • View bioluminescence, owls, and stars with local experts on a nighttime kayaking tour with  Tomales Bay Expeditions.

4. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Costa Rica

Location: Punta Cuchillos and Puerto Jiménez, Costa Rica

Best For: Come for bioluminescence kayaking, stay for an action-packed adventure holiday complete with jungles, mountains, volcanoes, and beaches.

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates

Located in Central America (between North America and South America) Costa Rica boasts rugged rainforests and stunning tropical coastlines facing the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. 

In Costa Rica, you can stay in a lodge on the edge of the forest and the ocean, and venture out to explore jungles and exotic beaches.

Experience incredible bioluminescence on a night-time kayaking tour, and then during the day witness migrating pacific humpback whales, dolphins, and sea turtles.

The bioluminescence in Costa Rica is incredible. As your kayak moves through the water you’ll feel as if you’re floating in a sea of stars.

Bioluminescence Locations in Costa Rica

There are two locations in Costa Rica where you experience bioluminescence: 

Pros: Bioluminescence can be seen in Costa Rica all year round! 

Cons: Located in Central America, Costa Rica is a little harder to reach than Tomales Bay or Florida.

How to get there: Most travelers fly into Costa Rica via the International Aeropuerto Juan Santamaria, about 10 miles from San Jose. You can also enter Costa Rica by bus from neighboring countries El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

Best Time To Go: You can see bioluminescence in Costa Rica all year. Just make sure to visit and book your tour around the new moon when the night is at its darkest.

Bioluminescence tours in Costa Rica

  • Bahia Rica Fishing & Kayak Lodge is set in the jungle and surrounded by ocean views of the Gulf of Nicoya. Bahia Rica offers unique accommodation and a range of tours, including a bioluminescence kayaking experience.
  • Located in Puerto Jimenez, Osa Dreams Tours offers a range of different natural experiences along the Osa Peninsula, including bioluminescence kayaking.
  • Check out the stunning Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the Golfo Dulce coastline. If the conditions are right, guides can take you out on a night-time kayaking tour to see the bioluminescence.

5. Bioluminescence Kayaking in Fajardo

Location: Laguna Grande, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Best For: Its long-standing reputation as a bioluminescence hotspot.

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates (Pyrodinium Bahamense)

Puerto Rico is a famous bioluminescence hot spot, with three bioluminescent bays (“bio bays”) to explore. 

Out of these three bio bays, Laguna Grande in Fajardo is the most well-known.

Pros: Located to the east of San Juan, Laguna Grande is easily accessible.

Cons: According to reviews on Tripadvisor, the presence and visibility of bioluminescent plankton in Laguna Grande may have become degraded. Light pollution and swelling tourist numbers have also had an impact on the overall experience.

How to Get There: You can access Laguna Grande by road from San Juan. The quickest option is to take a taxi. The cheapest option is to take a bus and then a taxi. Alternatively, you could drive yourself (if you have a car), or take a shuttle.

Best Time to Go: The driest months of the year: December – April

Bioluminescence tours in Fajardo

In Fajardo, the best way to experience bioluminescence is through a Laguna Grande bioluminescent bay tour. 

  • Puerto Rico Bio Bay Tours is the original outfitter operating for over 20 years. Their bioluminescent bay tours are their most popular offering.

6. Bioluminescence Kayaking off San Juan Islands 

Location: San Juan Islands, Washington, United States

Best For: Experiencing bioluminescence kayaking in the unique setting of a mysterious mountainous archipelago.

Bioluminescent Creatures: A marine dinoflagellate called “Noctiluca”

The San Juan Islands is an incredible place to experience bioluminescence kayaking.

The islands are a partially submerged chain of mountains located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States between Washington and Vancouver Island, Canada. 

Picture deep blue oceans dotted with mysterious forested islands fringed with rocky outcrops. 

Given that the San Juan Islands are a biodiversity hotspot, it’s no surprise that in addition to bioluminescent plankton you can also see seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, and numerous seabirds. 

Bioluminescence Locations off the San Juan Islands

  • Most of the tours offer bioluminescence kayaking launches from San Juan Island (the main island in the San Juan archipelago).
  • Bioluminescence can also be seen in Bellingham Bay.

Pros: This stunning and unique biodiversity hotspot offers unbeatable encounters for nature lovers.

Cons: In the far north, summer sunsets are late. This means that bioluminescence tours will often depart at 9 pm or later and you might be out past midnight.

How To Get There: To access the San Juan Islands, you’ll need to take a short seaplane ride from the King County Airport (just south of Seattle). Alternatively, you can drive north of Seattle and take a ferry from Anacortes across Puget Sound.

Best Time To Go: May-early October. Mid-June will provide the warmest weather.

Bioluminescence tours off the San Juan Islands

  • Outdoor Odysseys has been offering bioluminescent paddling since 1987. You can join them for a kayaking tour in Griffin Bay.

7. Bioluminescence Kayaking in St Croix

Destination: St. Croix, Puerto Rico

Best For: Enjoying TWO bio bays set amongst a tropical paradise

Bioluminescent Creatures: Dinoflagellates, comb jellyfish

The largest in the Virgin Islands, St Croix is a peaceful tropical getaway perfect for honeymooners and travelers who love the ocean. 

Set within the Caribbean sea and host to two “bio bays,” St Croix is the ideal destination for those seeking a bioluminescence kayaking experience and a warm beach-side holiday.

Bioluminescence Locations in St Croix

The jewels of St Croix are its two biobays, in which bioluminescence can be seen:

  • Altona Lagoon: a location just outside the famous Buccaneer Hotel which is not as secluded and has more light pollution.

Pros: Being less popular than the bio bays of Puerto Rico, St. Croix offers a more relaxed bioluminescence kayaking tour experience in the tropics.

Cons: Not all travelers will appreciate the laid-back pace of life in St Croix.

How to get there: You can take a direct flight to St. Croix from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, or Charlotte.

Best Time to Go: The driest months of the year: December – April

Bioluminescence tours in St Croix

  • Witness the gorgeous glow of sparkling bioluminescence in Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Reserve with Bushtribe Eco Adventures.
  • Virgin Kayak Tours offers bioluminescent kayaking tours on Hobie pedal kayaks. This means you can keep your hands free while kayaking!

Frequently Asked Questions about Bioluminescence Kayaking

What is Bioluminescence Kayaking?

Bioluminescence kayaking is when you kayak through a body of water that contains bioluminescent plankton. The plankton (dinoflagellates) light up when triggered by the movement of your kayak through the water. It provides a spectacular way to experience Florida’s bioluminescent waters.

What Is Bioluminescence In Florida And Why Is It Blue?

The bioluminescence that can be seen in the waters of Florida’s “Space Coast,” comes from single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates, which light up waters in bright blue hues. The dinoflagellates emit light when triggered by movement – such as rolling waves or your kayak as it glides through the water.

What Time is Best for Bioluminescence

Are you wondering what is the best time to see bioluminescence? Generally, the best time for bioluminescence is the dry season between mid-May and early October. Bioluminescence is best viewed at least two hours after sunset, during a “new moon” when there is no moonlight reflecting on the water.

What Time of Night is Best for Bioluminescence?

If you’re wondering what time of night is the best for bioluminescence, it is good to know that the light from the setting sun and the moon will make it harder to see the bioluminescence. The time of night that is best for bioluminescence, is at least two hours after sunset, around a new moon. This is when conditions are at their darkest.

What to Wear Bioluminescent Kayaking?

What to wear for bioluminescent kayaking?

Where is the Best Place in Florida for Bioluminescence?

There are many stunning locations to see bioluminescence in Florida. From June to October, the following locations light up with a stunning glow:

  • Mosquito Lagoon
  • Banana River
  • Indian River
  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge 

What To Pack When You Go Bioluminescent Kayaking In Florida

You’ll need to prepare to get wet and face mosquitos. Make sure you pack:

Where in the US Can You See Bioluminescence?

If you are wondering where in the US you can see bioluminescence, the answer is San Juan Island, Washington US among the other places mentioned above. 

Where Can I Launch a Kayak for Bioluminescence in Florida?

Haulover Canal North is the most popular launch site for bioluminescence in Florida. From this launch site, you can explore Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, very close to Cocoa Beach. 

Are Bioluminescence Tours Worth it?

So are bioluminescence tours worth it? If you want to experience bioluminescence kayaking, you will absolutely want to join a tour. When you choose a reputable tour company, bioluminescence tours are worth every penny. Expert guides will take you to the best spots for viewing, and will keep you safe on the water.

Conclusion

Bioluminescence kayaking provides an opportunity to experience the ocean in a brand new way.

From the stunning waters of Florida’s Space Coast to the glorious oceanic locations of Costa Rica, the possibilities will take your breath away.

Travelers and adventurers looking for a unique experience will not be disappointed by the mysterious beauty of a sea glowing with life.

Once you have researched locations and tours, don’t hesitate to take the plunge and book in for a bioluminescence kayaking tour you will never forget.

Which location are you most keen to visit? Let me know in the comments below.

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