Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Many animals can perform this action, but this light can clearly be seen in the ocean, by marine animals and smaller organisms. Some of these organisms light up whenever the water around them moves, causing the shorelines of the ocean to light up in a really cool way. There are many places around the world to see this amazing light show, and here are just a few.

12 Glowing Beaches

1. Mudhdhoo Island

This island in The Maldives offers a different kind of glow. The organisms at this beach seem to glow individually, causing the ocean to look like a cluster of bright spot, rather than a glowing ocean. These organisms also emit light for longer, so you’ll be able to see the glow without moving around too much. You can go for a swim in these waters, or even just walk along the edge of the sand to see the glow. Sometimes the lights even wash to shore, causing the sand to glow!


2. Pandangbai Port

Located on the Indonesian island of Bali, this is the perfect place to see bioluminescence take place under water. You can go snorkeling to view these organisms lighting up, or you can take a boat out of the water. The more the organisms are disturbed, the brighter they glow, so make sure you are in the water and moving around to see the light show. Make an appointment with the area staff if you decide to go boating or snorkeling! There are also beaches nearby that light up at night.


3. Mosquito Bay

This small, bioluminescent bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico is a small, hidden river that does indeed glow at night. You can schedule a kayak tour down the bay, and maybe jump in afterwards (but make sure you ask for permission). Try and schedule your trip to the bay when there is a new moon, because this is when the glow is best.


4. Luminous Lagoon

This lagoon in Trelawny, Jamaica is a popular tourist attraction due to its natural occurring bioluminescence. Take a boat out, and watch the fish swim through the water with a glowing trail. When you get out far enough, you can even go for a swim yourself! This lagoon is one of the brightest in the world due to its warm climate, and if you decide to go out on a tour boat, the tour guide can even fill a bucket up with water for you to stick your hand or foot in.


5. Toyama Bay

‘Firefly squid’ are the main reason this bay near the Japan Sea glows. These squid usually live deep under water, but due to a canyon in the bay, these squid get pushed to the surface, almost as if it were made for our viewing pleasure. This bay is designed for fishing, however you can go out on a fishing boat without any intent of working. The Namerikawa port has sightseeing boats, but you’ll have to be nocturnal for a day: these boats start going around 3 am. There’s also a cool museum dedicated to these squid!


6. Mission Bay

In this part of San Diego, the waves of the ocean are red during the day, and neon blue at night due to the mass amounts of bioluminescent algae. Sometimes these algae can emit toxins that are dangerous to our health, so make sure you check out the satellite imagery for the day to see if you can go for a swim or not. If you can’t swim, you can always kayak to take pictures of the wonderful glow.


7. Halong Bay

This heritage site in Vietnam is another bay that features bioluminescence from movement. If you move through the water, a glowing trail will follow you. These waters are made for swimming, and you’ll see some pretty cool effects if you decide to dive in. Be sure to have your camera set to action mode, and venture out when the waters are calm and the moon isn’t too high in the sky (another place that is great when in a New Moon phase).


8. Jersey

We’re not talking about the state here. This island is located in the United Kingdom, and features bioluminescent walks where you can witness the “stars below your feet”. These walks take place year round when the tide is low enough, and are the best way for you to experience bioluminescence on this island. This water isn’t ideal for swimming; so don’t forget to bring your rain-boots and your camera!


9. Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon

East coast Florida offers some amazing boat tours of these areas in the summer to view some of the bioluminescence in the area. These tours are set up at night when the lights are the brightest, and are usually scheduled for days when the moons light wont be as bright; so be sure to check the website before you fly to Florida. You can go out on a kayak and a nice trail of glowing lights following behind you!


10. Torrey Pines Beach

Similar to Mission Bay, this San Diego beach features red waves during the day and blue waves at night. This beach, however, is a little spottier with its occurrences of bioluminescence. Be sure to do your research before you book your trip. This beach is still a great place to have a fun day on the beach, and when the water is glowing, provides a picture perfect end to the evening.


11. Manasquan Beach

This New Jersey beach is very similar to Torrey Pines Beach when it comes to consistency, but when the tide is low, you can witness the brilliant red and blue colors that come from the algae. It’s best to witness this bioluminescence in the summer months between July and September, and the lights are much more vibrant at night than they are during the day.


12. Gippsland Lakes

Since 2008, the bioluminescence in this lake in Australia has been dimming slowly but surely. Of course the light is still visible, but it must be the right time of night, and will be very faint. If you do get the opportunity to see the glow, these waters are definitely safe for swimming, so dive in and surround yourself with the light that will surround you in the water. If you decide to take your camera, make sure to adjust your shutter speed so you can capture the beauty of this naturally magical experience.


This article was written by Kellyn Nettles.

Image credit: Jo Malcomson/Blackpaw Photography