12 Must-See Bioluminescent Beaches Around the World

12 Must-See Bioluminescent Beaches Around the World

Is Seeing a Bioluminescence Beach on your Bucket List?

It absolutely should be!

Bioluminescence beaches can be found all around the world, and they are a sight you don’t want to miss. Imagine yourself hanging out on beautiful beaches swimming in sparkling bioluminescent waves, or enjoying an evening picnic just after sunset with the backlight of vibrant glowing blue colors. These are not just scenes in movies; this is real-life magic that takes place in a completely natural way all over the world! It’s the coolest phenomenon, one you have to experience at least once in your life.

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism, and it’s more common than one may think. According to NOAA, it’s estimated that over 90% of the species living in the ocean have the potential for producing bioluminescence! 

Bioluminescence can come from a variety of different organisms living in the ocean:

  • Phytoplankton
  • Micro shrimps
  • Noctiluca scintillans
  • Algae
  • Bettles
  • Jellyfish
  • Worms
  • Squid

We just don’t see it very often, because it is more common to see at deeper depths in the ocean than at shallow beach surfaces.

However, we’re excited to announce that there are actually a number of places around the world where you can spot these natural phenomena in shallow/beachside waters that are easily accessible!

Read on to learn about the Top 12 Bioluminescence Beaches Around the World, as chosen by our experienced TierOne Travel Consultants.


12 Bioluminescence Beaches Around the World

The Maldives — Mudhdhoo Island

If you have seen photos of bioluminescence beaches, they are likely taken from the Maldives, or more specifically, on Mudhdhoo Island. The bioluminescence here is created from micro shrimp. These shrimp glow for more extended periods of time compared to other organisms, making them a great photo opportunity for travelers. The additional benefit to these glowing shrimp is that they are completely harmless and swimming amongst them is safe. Enjoy a midnight dip surrounded by glittering blue magic.

There is only one resort on this island called the Dusit Thani Maldives resort. For a truly immersive experience, stay here and make it a nightly outing to experience this surreal sight. Other islands/beaches throughout The Maldives are said to have bioluminescent action at night, however, Mudhdoo Island is the most reliable.

Other great destinations to see this natural phenomenon in the Maldives are Reethi Beach, Raa Atoll and Vaadhoo Island. 

The best times to see the bioluminescence in the Maldives are between July to December on moonless nights.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent Water in the Maldives:

  • If the sea is calm, throw a stone into the water to see the water light up!
  • Swim with the bioluminescent planktons.
  • Go on a night cruise in dhonis – traditional Maldivian wooden boats.

Florida — Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

In the Merritt Island Wildlife refuge, companies offer bioluminescence night kayaking. Enjoy the amazing spectacle right from your transparent glass kayak.

The bioluminescence activity here is created from dinoflagellate and comb jellies. Because this is a wildlife refuge, it is not advisable to get out of your kayak and swim, but the view from your glass surroundings will be just as jaw-dropping. For best visibility try to plan your visit on a new moon, mid-late summer. The dinoflagellate creates a glowing greenish color, while the comb jellies send off a flashing blue glow that scatters like a rainbow light prism.

Another place to see bioluminescence in Florida is the Indian River Lagoon.

The best time to experience this sparkling water is during the New Moon, between the months of July and September, the peak bioluminescence season.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Florida:

  • Go bioluminescent kayaking.
  • Ride on a standup paddleboard through the glittering water.
  • Comb jellies don’t sting so jump in and swim around with them.

Cambodia — Koh Rong

In Koh Rong, the bioluminescence activity is caused by plankton. The phenomenon is abundant on the island and can be seen on many beaches. Like all bioluminescence, it is recommended to try and escape light pollution for the best visibility. Many companies offer boat trips that sail out at night for some astonishing views of the plankton.

The plankton is harmless and activated with movement, so the boat will set off a glittery light display. Some companies will allow travelers to go swimming amongst the plankton; however, keep in mind that these are tropical waters with other creatures such as jellyfish active at night.

This stunning natural spectacle can also be enjoyed from the shore, with sand between your toes at quiet beaches around the island.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Cambodia:

  • Book a boat tour.
  • Snorkel with bioluminescent plankton for an amazing underwater show.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has three bioluminescent bays – Mosquito Bay (Puerto Mosquito), Laguna Grande and La Parguera. Mosquito Bay is considered the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world! These bays are located on the East, West and South-West sides of Puerto Rico. The bioluminescent waters are created from dinoflagellate plankton in all three of these bays. This plankton glows for a brief moment when disturbed by splashes, movement or reaching the shoreline. In Puerto Rico and specifically in these three bays, this type of plankton is highly concentrated, which is a rare occurrence elsewhere in the world.

People do swim in all three of these bays and their movement causes the dinoflagellate to glow more frequently. However, due to the popularity of these sites, environmental groups are advocating that travelers avoid swimming in these waters to protect the health and longevity of these natural organisms.

Another great place to see this bioluminescent phenomenon in Puerto Rico is Vieques Island.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Puerto Rico:

  • Go on a kayak tour.
  • Jump into the water! 

Japan — Okayama

During the summer months on the shores of Okayama, Vargula hilgendorfii (Sea Firefly) become abundant. These creatures leave streaks of glowing blue in the water and on the rocks from where they have traveled. Photographers around the world have captured this fantastic site, including this great gallery from Tdub Photos.

These tiny creatures spend their days buried in the sand and then come out at night to feed, leaving a beautiful iridescent trail behind. Here you can sit back, relax and enjoy the moving, magical show from the sandy shoreline.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Okayama:

  • Walk along the beach and take in the bright blue views.
  • Take photos to remember when you saw this plankton glow for yourself.

California — San Diego

Finding a bioluminescent beach in San Diego is easiest during the spring and summer when bioluminescent algae are most prevalent. 

The darkest beaches in San Diego are the best locations to see stunning, neon blue bioluminescence. Torrey Pines Beach, State Beach, Sunset Cliffs, and Solana Beach are a few excellent locations.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in California:

  • Check with local aquariums to learn where to find the best spots to see bioluminescence during that time
  • Go on an evening kayak tour
  • Book an overnight kayaking camping trip

Thailand — Koh Phi Phi

Go on a late-night diving tour to experience a different perspective of the bioluminescence. Enter the water equipped with an underwater flashlight. When you feel comfortable, you switch it off and slowly move your hands from left to right. Thousands of blue-green sparkles will start to appear and vanish in the water. Here you’re bound to have one of the most incredible swimming experiences of your life!

The best time to see these bioluminescent planktons is on a new moon night and between November and May.

Another great place to experience these lights in Thailand is Ton Sai beach. 

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Thailand:

  • Go on a snorkeling boat tour
  • Enjoy stand-up paddleboarding with bioluminescent plankton
  • Jump into the water and swim within the plankton

Japan Toyama Bay

Every April, Toyama Bay’s coastline is illuminated for miles in a brilliant blue light. Thousands of firefly squids are responsible for creating this stunning spectacle. The three-inch firefly squid has tiny light-emitting organs on its arms, head, and tentacles. These tiny animals are typically found far below the water’s surface in the majority of these oceanic regions. However, this bay offers the ideal environment for them to surface to create a remarkable glow. 

Get up close and personal with these squids from March through May, when visitors can join a guided tour that leaves from Namerikawa Bay at 3 AM!

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Toyama Bay:

  • Go to Hotaruika Museum, a museum all about Firefly squids
  • Book a sightseeing tour to see these interesting creatures up close

Washington San Juan Island

Take a kayak cruise at night to see the bioluminescence here best. Launch right before dusk to make the most of the remaining light and take in the vibrant colours as the sun sets. The ocean will glitter with green sparkles as the sunset and the sky gets dark. As you paddle through the water see long streaks of vivid green appear on the water’s surface.

Due to plenty of sunlight and warmer surface waters, June, July, and August are the best months to see the light shows. However, there’s still a chance to see them in the late spring and early fall.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in San Juan Island:

  • Get your paddle and go on a nighttime kayak tour to see bioluminescent as well as the sunset and the stars

Costa Rica  — Golfo Dulce

Observing the stunning blue colors of the bioluminescence at Golfo Dulce is arguably the most spectacular experience to be had in Costa Rica. Despite the fact that bioluminescent waters can be found all throughout the world, light pollution makes it difficult to notice them. But interestingly enough the bioluminescence is visible year-round in the waters of Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce.

The Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste and Puerto Jimenez, located inside Golfo Dulce Bay, are the two most well-known locations in Costa Rica where you may enjoy bioluminescence.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Golfo Dulce:

  • Join a boat tour and jump into the water with your snorkel mask
  • Go on a kayak tour
  • Walk along the edge of the beaches

Vietnam — Halong Bay

Find a boat trip that permits you to exit the boat into the sea in the dark to take an evening cruise around this lovely bay. When you get in the water, the plankton is stirred and begins to shine, illuminating the area! The scene is extremely magnificent and should not be missed.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see bioluminescence everywhere in this huge bay so search for quiet and darker areas. A great place to see the sparkling blue water is Lan Ha Bay, which is still a part of Ha Long Bay, just in a peaceful area with less boat traffic, people, and noise.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Ha Long Bay:

  • Go on a multiday bay cruise and kayak tour
  • Swim through the bioluminescent plankton

Mexico — Manialtepec Lagoon

Tiny plankton has evolved to generate ultraviolet light when disturbed, actually glowing in the water, to fend off predators. Jump in the water at night, and as you splash around, see how the tiny organisms light up. Swim in the warm waters while taking a nighttime boat excursion.

Another great place to experience bioluminescent water is Puerto Escondido. A high amount of bioluminescent phytoplankton lives in the lagoon because of the perfect ratio of salt and freshwater. The lagoons around Puerto Escondido are the ideal location to see this extraordinary sight due to the high levels of plankton and minimal light pollution.

Best Ways To See Bioluminescent in Mexico:

  • Go on a Phosphorescence Tour of Manialtepec Lagoon. Where you can swim with amazing glow-in-the-dark plankton on a boat tour
  • Walk along the beaches where you will most likely see the bioluminescent water

Travel Tip: Make sure to protect the organisms that light up the waters, and be sure to wash off any lotions, sunscreen, perfume, insect repellent, shampoo, and other chemicals before you jump into any water with bioluminescence. 

Experience a glow show on your next vacation!

If you are planning a vacation to one of the destinations listed above, be sure to schedule a night adventure to one of the bioluminescence beaches to witness the glowing water for yourself!

There are also other places to spot this magical site around the world. If you are wondering if your next vacation could include a bioluminescence beach, contact one of our experienced travel specialists today and start bringing your dreams into reality.


We’ve got your back! When you’re ready to book your next getaway, contact one of our TierOne Travel agents. They will find the perfect place for your next vacation and will craft something incredible that is suited to your unique needs and will make sure your travel plans will be as stress-free as possible.

One call; endless experiences!

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