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Overlooking Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico
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  • States:
    Puerto Rico

When you think of after-hours entertainment in Puerto Rico, dancing, dining and drinking are likely to come to mind. But did you know there’s another side to Puerto Rico’s nightlife?

Away from the lively plazas and cocktail bars are the island’s famous bioluminescent bays, rich in microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates that produce a glow when agitated. Of the five such bays on the planet, Puerto Rico is home to three of them – and you simply must save one night to visit these magical waters.

Mosquito Bay, Vieques

Even if you’ve seen bioluminescence firsthand elsewhere in the world, you’ve never seen it quite like this. Located on the small island of Vieques, southeast of Puerto Rico, Mosquito Bay boasts the world’s brightest bioluminescence as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records. Since swimming in this bio bay is strictly prohibited, a kayak tour is the best way to get close to the light show. Check out Melaya’s Tours and Black Beard Sports for tour options.

The night sky as seen from Vieques

The night sky as seen from Vieques
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Laguna Grande, Fajardo

The second-brightest bay, Laguna Grande, is a small inlet on Puerto Rico’s northeastern tip, which is convenient to the city of San Juan. With several ways to experience the bio bay, it’s also accessible for different physical abilities. Book a kayak tour into the open bay’s shimmering water; experienced outfitters include Kayaking Puerto Rico, Pure Adventure and Puerto Rico Bio Bay Tours. Another option is the guided night tour of Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, featuring a trolley ride along the lagoon and a walk on the boardwalk above the water. Reservations are required.

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La Parguera, Lajas

Head to Puerto Rico’s southwest shore for the third bio-bay, La Parguera. Though it’s said that this is the least-bright of the three bays, La Parguera is no less beautiful. In addition to its convenient locale, La Parguera’s unique allure is that you can snorkel in the glowing water. Tour operators such as Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling Center and Parguera Water Sports and Adventures combine kayaking or daytime water adventures with unforgettable nighttime swimming.

A relaxing daytime float in La Parguera

A relaxing daytime float in La Parguera
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Tips for Viewing Bioluminescence

Many visitors want to swim in Puerto Rico’s bio bays. Keep in mind that La Parguera is the only one with tour operators that allow it. The trick to getting the most “glow” from your experience is to monitor the moon cycles. The closer to the new moon, the more glow you’ll see. Some tour operators won’t run excursions during the full moon. Finally, book as late in the evening as you can manage – it’s darker and there are fewer visitors.

Getting There

The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), is easily accessed through many airlines from points around the world. At the airport, you’ll readily find ground transport via bus, taxi or car rental.