You may have seen photos of glowing, bioluminescent beaches before and wondered where you can see these for yourself.
This incredible sight, where the ocean water lights up and sparkles, is truly magical and a once in a lifetime experience.
This post lists the best bioluminescent, glowing beaches in the world and also explains why some beaches glow in this way.
Contents: Best Bioluminescent Beaches
- Why Do Some Beaches Glow?
- Top 13 Bioluminescent Beaches Around The World
- Tips For Seeing Bioluminescent Beaches
Why Do Some Beaches Glow?
Surprisingly, this glow is actually a natural phenomenon and not artificial at all.
There is an algae in the water called ‘Noctiluca scintillans’. This type of plankton is also affectionately known as ‘sea sparkle’.
It is completely harmless and the best bit is that they emit a stunning blue light. This is called bioluminescence which essentially just means they have the ability to produce light and when there is a large concentration of them in the water, you get stunning glowing beaches.
This algae floats just under the surface of the water. They glow brightly when disturbed or when they think a predator is close by. Although very beautiful and calming to us, it is actually a defense mechanism intended to scare away predators.
This essentially means if you disturb the water e.g. by swimming, taking a boat or kayak ride etc, then the water will start to glow more.
They produce the light using a chemical within their bodies called luciferin. They produce this chemical themselves.
The algae itself is very very miniscule so you will only be able to see them with a microscope and not with the naked eye.
You tend to find this algae on tropical/subtropical beaches as the algae needs a warm climate to glow.
Where Can I See A Bioluminescent Beach?
These breathtaking beaches have been featured in certain movies, including Life of Pi, meaning recently they’ve gathered more interest. This incredible natural phenomenon that looks like tiny neon blue lights in the ocean can be seen on certain beaches all over the world.
Read on to find out where you can witness it for yourself. I’ve listed the top 13 bioluminescent beaches located all around the world.
Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico
Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico is one of the most famous bioluminescent beaches in the world. In fact, it even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 for being the brightest bioluminescent beach.
You’ll be sure to have a magical experience here. One of the coolest things to do is take a kayak tour, you can even hire kayaks with glass bottoms so you get the most amazing view of the glowing water.
The water itself glows like glitter and moves around you.
Unfortunately, you can’t just go out swimming in this ocean and you can’t visit by yourself. Only licensed tour operators are able to bring people to this magnificent beach but the visit is definitely worth it.
Going with a tour guide is great as the guides themselves are super knowledgeable and will explain the science behind it and help you to have the best experience possible.
This beach is definitely one of the best bioluminescent beaches in the world.
Watch the video below to see the bioluminescence at Mosquito Bay.
Reethi Beach, The Maldives
Many beaches in the Maldives have bioluminescent, glowing beaches.
One of the most famous and best places to see this in the Maldives is at the Reethi Beach Resort. Located on a tiny island, you can relax in a stunning luxurious villa out on the water itself.
This tiny idyllic island is the perfect escape and the resort itself is unspoilt and built from natural materials. In the day, you can relax on the white sandy beach and take a dip in the tropical blue ocean.
However, it is at night that the ocean really comes alive. The best time of year to spot this bioluminescent plankton is between July and December.
You can stroll along the beach at night time and see the stunning glow. It may be worth stirring the water every once in a while as this will really make the plankton glow!
Other great places to see the glowing beaches in the Maldives are along the coastal shores of Vaadhoo and Kuredu and on the beaches of Athuruga and Mirihi.
The 5* Conrad Maldives Rangali Island offers night dives where you can swim in the glowing blue water yourself.
The Maldives is definitely home to some of the best bioluminescent beaches in the world.
Check out the below video to see more of the glowing Maldives beaches.
Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
A fantastic place to see the incredible glowing beaches is in Golfo Dulce. One of the best spots is at the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge.
On dark nights with little moonlight, many visitors take a stroll down to the lodge’s boat dock where you can often see bioluminescence glowing in the sea.
The waters tend to glow more when disturbed so it’s best to head out in a kayak with one of the tour guides as the water will then really come to life! With every paddle stroke, you’ll see an illumination of the water around it.
Apparently, very occasionally you may even see dolphins glowing in the bioluminescent water!
Another plus for Golfo Dulce is that the glowing water can be witnessed all year round!
This area of Costa Rica is very unspoilt and natural. This may be one of the reasons that the bioluminescente is so strong as there is little light pollution here.
This is definitely one of the best bioluminescent beaches in the world as it is a truly beautiful and breathtaking location. As you board a boat or kayak and slowly sail in the water, you’ll see the starry sky twinkling above you and be surrounded by stunning nature.
Check out the video below of bioluminescent water in Costa Rica. It’s epic.
Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica
At this beautiful lagoon in Jamaica, located just outside the town of Falmouth, you’ll be able to see the ocean lighting up around you.
At Luminous Lagoon, you’ll be able to get into the water yourself and swim with the luminous glow and fish swimming all around you. The fish themselves are also illuminated due to the strong glow that surrounds them, as every drop of water is filled with the small micro-organisms that cause this stunning glow.
Tours depart every evening from the Glistening Waters Marina where a tour boat will take you on a ride around the lagoon and you’ll get the opportunity to jump in for a swim. You can also book onto a tour from your hotel as many hotels in the area offer tours around the lagoon.
The lagoon is a beautiful sight and surrounded by mangroves. The lagoon has formed where the waters of the Martha Brae River meet the Caribbean Sea.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay itself is quite a large area filled with many islands and tour boats. You won’t see the incredible bioluminescent phenomenon everywhere in this bay.
The best place to see it is in Lan Ha Bay. This part of the bay is much more quieter and has less boat traffic, less people and less noise.
You can take an overnight boat tour here that allows you to jump out of the boat into the water in the dark. As you enter the water, it lights up as the plankton are disturbed and they glow! It’s a truly magical sight not to be missed.
Another place to see the glowing water is at Cat Co Beach 2 in Cat Ba Island.
Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the bay at night time on your own. You’ll need to head out on a boat tour if you want to swim in the water.
Toyama Bay, Japan
This bay is different to some of the others on this list as the glowing water is actually caused by firefly squid rather than plankton.
The squid, around 3 inches long, have glowing tentacles that light up the water here. These luminous squid are found in abundance in Toyama Bay in Japan.
These squid generally come together at the bay between March and June. At this time of year, you’ll be able to see thousands of them all at once as the bay is illuminated with a neon blue glow that is unlike any other.
These squid are commercially fished and eaten as a delicacy in Japan. Toyama Bay is the third largest bay in Japan so it is a major spot for distribution. The squid are extensively fished by fishing boats and you can even head out on a fishing boat tour for an interesting experience.
Another interesting place to visit is the Hotaru Ika Museum in the town of Namerikawa which is dedicated to these interesting firefly squid.
Tusan Beach, Malaysia
In the day time, this beach glistens in the sun with sandy white beaches and calm shores. The best time to visit is during the evening in ‘blue tears’ season.
Tusan Beach attracts visitors to the beach for what they call ‘blue tears’. This is the name that they have given to describe the bioluminescent phenomenon that occurs here at certain times of the year. This is due to the resemblance of the neon-blue lights to tears.
Interestingly, the ‘blue tears’ phenomenon here was only discovered for the first time in 2015. Since this discovery, the beach has become a lot more popular with tourists coming from all around to see the ‘blue tears’.
The beach is quite secluded, surrounded by a steep mountain.
An interesting story is that many years ago, local villagers and fishermen had seen the ‘blue tears’ but not understanding what it was, they were afraid of it. According to the villagers, every time the water glowed blue, the fishermen would not go out to sea, thinking it was bad luck.
Padang Bai Port, Bali
Padang Bai is a small coastal town in eastern Bali, Indonesia. It serves as a ferry port allowing visitors to travel to other areas close by. Many tourists also visit Padang Bai to see the illuminated glowing ocean created due to the bioluminescent plankton that live there.
You’ll not always be able to see the bioluminescence, as with many natural phenomena, but if you get lucky and head out on a night dive, you may see it. There are several diving points around the port where you can jump into the water and see it for yourself.
Ton Sai, Thailand
Ton Sai is a stunning beach near Krabi in Thailand. It tends to attract backpackers for its beauty, cheap accommodation and fantastic rock climbing opportunities. It’s filled with tons of fun activities but Ton Sai Beach really comes alive at night too.
It’s the perfect place for a refreshing swim at sunset as the sand is soft and the water cool. What makes this even more magical is the glowing water that will sparkle and glimmer around you.
The best time of year to catch a glimpse of this amazing phenomenon is between the months of November and May.
There are other beaches in Krabi where you can experience the bioluminescent beaches. You can also visit Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, Railay Beach and Maya Bay.
San Juan Island, Washington, USA
The San Juan Islands in Washington, USA have strong currents that have led to an environment that contains a wide range of microorganisms including the organism that produces bioluminescent light.
There are many tours that you can take around the islands where you can head out on a kayak and see the glowing water for yourself. Going with one of these tour companies will give you the best chance to see the glow as they plan the tours on the nights where the chance is highest i.e. the darkest nights. Most tours leave at sunset from the dock.
Manasquan Beach, New Jersey, USA
Head to Manasquan Beach on a warm summer night and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see a bright glow in the ocean. The best time to see it is between July and September.
Gippsland Lake, Australia
Following on from a series of bush fires and torrential rain in 2006 and 2007, something very unusual happened in Gippsland Lake in Victoria, Australia. There was a massive growth of the algae that produce bioluminescence light.
In the summer of 2008 and 2009, the lake glowed bright blue at night when the water was disturbed. Now the lake doesn’t glow as bright as it did in 2008 and 2009 but you can still see a faint blue glow at night at Gippsland Lake. The best time to visit the lake to witness this is in the summer when it gets dark.
Torrey Pines Beach, San Diego, USA
Torrey Pines Beach, just north of La Jolla, in San Diego, California is a popular beach where you can sunbathe on the sandy beach all day or head out on an adventure by hang gliding over the beach from cliff tops.
At certain times of the year, this beach glows blue and red due to the presence of the bioluminescent plankton. Generally, this occurs around September/October each year.
Check out the video below to see surfers on a glowing San Diego beach!
Tips For Seeing Bioluminescent Beaches
Here are some top tips to ensure you have the best possible chance of seeing this incredible, once in a lifetime phenomenon.
As with many natural phenomenons, it’s not always super easy to catch a glimpse. The glowing beaches don’t glow every night, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
These bioluminescent plankton tend to live further out in the sea but sometimes the tide pushes them up towards the shore which is when we get to witness their beauty.
Ensure you visit at nighttime when it’s dark as you won’t be able to see them in the day.
It’s best to do your research if you can, when the glowing beaches appear they tend to be visible for a few days. This means if you hear a beach was glowing the previous night, chances are you can see it again that night.
The phenomenon also tends to occur more in warmer months so if this is your main reason for visiting a location, try to book your vacation in one of the warmest months.
It’s best to head out on a night when the moon is not so bright as you’ll get a better view. The less moonlight the better. Spots with less light are the best to see the bioluminescent glow.
Thanks for reading this post on the best bioluminescent beaches in the world! I hope you get to experience this incredible phenomenon one day as it truly is magical.