You may have seen photos of a bioluminescence beach 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, glow in the dark beaches in the world and also explains why some beaches glow in this way.
Why Do Some Beaches Glow In The Dark?
Surprisingly, these glow in the dark beaches are 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 to humans and the best bit is that they emit a stunning blue light.
This blue light is called bioluminescence which essentially just means they have the ability to produce light.
When there is a large concentration of these plankton in the water, you get stunning glowing beaches.
The algae floats just under the surface of the water and glow brightly when disturbed or when they think a predator is close by.
Although it’s very beautiful and calming for us humans, it is actually a defense mechanism intended to scare away predators.
This essentially means that if you disturb the water in some way, like swimming in it or passing by in a kayak or boat, then the water will start to glow more.
The algae itself is very tiny so you won’t be able to see it at all in the water. It’s only possible to see the algae under a microscope.
You tend to only find this algae on tropical/subtropical beaches as the algae needs a warm climate to glow.
For this reason, you’ll have trouble finding bioluminescent beaches in colder places like the UK.
Now let’s find out exactly where you can find these beaches with bioluminescent plankton!
There are numerous bioluminescence beaches across the globe but some are much better than others.
These breathtaking glowing plankton beaches have even been featured in certain movies, including Life of Pi, meaning recently they’ve gathered more interest.
I’ve listed the top 13 bioluminescent water locations below…
1. Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico
Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico, also known simply as ‘Bioluminescent Bay’, is one of the most famous bioluminescent beaches in the whole world.
In fact, it even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 for being the brightest bioluminescent beach.
Watch the video below to see the bioluminescence at Mosquito Bay:
One of the coolest things to do is take a kayak tour across the bay. The movements of the kayak stirs up the water causing it to glow super bright. The water itself glows like glitter and moves around you.
Unfortunately, you can’t just go out swimming in this bay and you also can’t visit by yourself.
Only licensed tour operators are able to bring people to this magnificent beach but the effort is definitely worth it. This tour is one of the best rated ones.
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. Another plus is that you can often see manatees, turtles and even dolphins in this bay!
2. Reethi Beach, The Maldives
There are actually several beaches in the Maldives that have bioluminescent glowing waters.
One of the most famous and best places to see this bioluminescence for yourself in the Maldives is at the Reethi Beach Resort.
Located on a tiny private island, if you stay at this resort 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 completely from natural materials.
During 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 as the water begins to glow!
The best time of year to spot this bioluminescent plankton in the Maldives is between July and December.
You can stroll along the beach at night time and see the water glow. It may be worth stirring the water every once in a while as this will make the plankton glow stronger.
Check out the video below to see the bioluminescent beach in the Maldives:
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-star Conrad Maldives Rangali Island even offers night dives where you can swim in the glowing blue water yourself.
You should also look out for turtles in the Maldives as they’re super common in these waters too.
3. Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Another fantastic place to see the incredible glowing beaches is in Golfo Dulce which is a gulf in Costa Rica. One of the best spots is at the Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge.
On dark nights with little moonlight, lots of people will 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 a tour guide 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 too.
Another plus for Golfo Dulce is that the glowing water can be witnessed all year round!
Check out the video below of bioluminescent water in Costa Rica. It’s epic.
I’d recommend booking a tour like this one for the best possible chance of seeing the glowing waters for yourself.
This area of Costa Rica is very unspoilt and natural which is one of the reasons why the bioluminescence is so strong as there is little light pollution here at all.
This area is truly breathtaking. As you slowly sail in the water, you’ll see the starry sky twinkling above you and be surrounded by stunning nature.
4. Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica
Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica is located just outside the town of Falmouth. As the name suggests, this lagoon features glowing bioluminescent waters.
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.
Most tours depart every evening from the Glistening Waters Marina however some will pick you up from your hotel like this one.
The tour boat will then take you on a ride around the lagoon and you’ll get the opportunity to jump in for a swim.
This top-rated tour is one of the best. It includes round-trip transport from your hotel, an expert guide and the chance to swim in the lagoon and watch it glow all around you.
The lagoon is a really beautiful sight and it’s surrounded by mangroves.
5. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay is one of Vietnam’s most famous attractions and should really make it onto your Vietnam bucket list as it’s absolutely breathtaking.
This bay is quite a large area filled with thousands of islands and tour boats. You won’t be able to see the incredible bioluminescent phenomenon everywhere in this bay.
The best place to see the bioluminescence in Ha Long Bay is in Lan Ha Bay which is a smaller, quieter part of the bay that gets less boat traffic, less people and less noise.
There are many boat tours available in the area that take you out into the bay at night and let you 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 really is a very magical sight, that’s for sure!
Another place to see the glowing water is at Cat Co Beach 2 in Cat Ba Island which is also part of Ha Long Bay.
Unfortunately, you can’t swim in the bay at night time on your own as it’s just not safe. You’ll need to head out on a boat tour with a guide if you want to swim in the water.
6. Toyama Bay, Japan
Toyama 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, which are 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 congregate within the bay between March and June.
At this time of year, you’ll be able to see literally thousands of them all at once and the bay becomes illuminated with a neon blue glow that is unlike any other.
These squid are actually 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 of the squid.
For this reason, the squid are extensively fished by fishing boats and you can even head out on a fishing boat tour whilst you’re there.
Afterwards you can head over to the nearby Hotaru Ika Museum in the town of Namerikawa which is dedicated to these interesting firefly squid.
7. Tusan Beach, Malaysia
In the daytime, this bioluminescent beach in Malaysia glistens in the sun with sandy white beaches and calm shores.
The best time to visit is during the evening in what is called the ‘blue tears’ season.
‘Blue tears’ is the name that has been given by the locals to the bioluminescent phenomenon that occurs at Tusan Beach at certain times of the year.
This is due to the resemblance of the neon-blue lights to tears.
Interestingly, the ‘blue tears’ phenomenon was only discovered at Tusan Beach 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 bioluminescence.
The beach itself is absolutely stunning and is quite secluded as it’s surrounded by a steep mountain.
There’s a local legend in the area that many years ago, local villagers and fishermen saw the glowing ocean but had no idea what it was so they were afraid of it.
According to the villagers, every time the water glowed blue, the fishermen refused to go out to sea as they thought it was bad luck.
8. Padang Bai Port, Bali
Padang Bai is a small coastal town in eastern Bali that serves as a ferry port allowing visitors and locals to travel to and from other nearby areas.
Many tourists also visit Padang Bai to see the glowing water beach 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 located around the port where you can jump right into the water and see it for yourself.
9. Ton Sai, Thailand
Ton Sai is a stunning beach near Krabi in Thailand that 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 due to the bioluminescent plankton that call this place home.
It’s the perfect place for a refreshing swim at sunset as the sand is soft and the water is cool.
What makes this place 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 too including Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, Railay Beach and Maya Bay.
10. San Juan Island, Washington, USA
The San Juan Islands in Washington state have really strong currents that provide an ideal home to various microorganisms including the bioluminescent plankton.
You’ll find many tours that will take you 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 certain nights where the chance is highest.
The darker the night, the higher the chance of seeing the glowing water.
This is one of the best bioluminescent beaches in the USA and I highly recommend a visit if you get the chance.
11. Manasquan Beach, New Jersey, USA
Manasquan Beach in New Jersey is another glow in the dark beach in the US that’s definitely worth a visit.
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.
The Manasquan Beach bioluminescence is truly breathtaking and something you need to see for yourself.
12. 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 suddenly a massive growth of the algae that produces bioluminescence light.
In the summer of 2008 and 2009, the lake consistently glowed bright blue at night whenever the water was disturbed.
These days the lake doesn’t glow quite 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 after dark.
13. Torrey Pines Beach, San Diego, USA
If you’re looking for a bioluminescent beach in San Diego then head over to Torrey Pines Beach.
Torrey Pines Beach, which lies just north of La Jolla in San Diego, is a popular beach where you can sunbathe on the sand all day.
You could also head out on an adventure by hand gliding over the beach from the cliff tops.
At certain times of the year, this beach is known to glow blue and red due to the presence of the bioluminescent plankton.
Generally, this tends to only occur around September/October each year.
And once you’re done, you can head over to La Jolla to see some seals and sea lions as they are known to live in the area.
Check out the video below to see surfers on a glowing San Diego beach!
Best Time To See Bioluminescence
There’s no particular time of year when bioluminescent beaches glow as it’s unique to each individual environment.
In the descriptions of each beach above, I’ve tried to include the best time to see bioluminescence so you don’t miss out.
With every beach, it’s important that you head there after dark as you won’t be able to see any glowing water in the daytime due to the bright sun.
Tips On Seeing Glow In The Dark Beaches
It’s worth remembering that glowing bioluminescent beaches are rare and none of the beaches on this list glow every single night.
The 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.
It’s kinda similar to seeing the Northern Lights. If you go at the right time of year and head to the right place, you have a good chance of seeing them but it’s not guaranteed.
You just have to be in the right place at the right time.
There are a few things you can do though that will drastically increase your chances of seeing bioluminescence for yourself.
First of all, make sure you visit at nighttime when it’s dark as you won’t be able to see them at all during the day.
You should also research the specific beach you’re going to in the days leading up to your trip.
If the beach has been spotted glowing recently then you have a good chance of seeing it as it tends 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.
Bioluminescence 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 also 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 so avoid full moon.
Beaches with less light are the best places to see the bioluminescent glow. You want as little light as possible.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post on the best bioluminescent beaches in the world.
I really hope you manage to catch a glimpse of a glowing beach for yourself one day as it’s really spectacular!
It’s also super Instagram-worthy. If you’re looking for other Instagram-worthy locations then check out my guide on the most Instagrammable cities in the world.