Bio bay vieques: BioBay Nighttime Kayaking Tour from Vieques 2022

How to Visit Mosquito Bay, the Vieques Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico

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Thinking about visiting the Vieques bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico?

You should — it’s well worth the trip. Vieques is a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico that is comparatively untouched and offers a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of San Juan, the first stop for most tourists visiting Puerto Rico.

The Vieques Bio Bay, also known as Mosquito Bay, is a bucket list destination.

There are only five bioluminescent bays around the world, with Vieques’ being the brightest and most magical.

In recent years, preservation efforts have been kicked up a notch since tourism was affecting the sensitive makeup of the water.

Today, it’s beautifully restored and visitors can do their part to make sure it stays that way.

If you’re able to fit it in to your schedule, I highly recommend a visit.

Note that seeing the BioBay in its full splendor requires an overnight trip.

You can visit it during the day, but you won’t see it light up.

This means you’ll need to stay at least one night in Vieques since ferries or planes won’t be running by the time you’re finished.

Here’s everything you need to know to visit Vieques’ bioluminescent bay.


There are actually three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.

Can you believe it? Five in the whole world and three of those are in Puerto Rico!

If that’s not reason enough to book your next trip to the Isla de Encanto, I don’t know what is. The two other locations are Jamaica and Vietnam.

Of the three in Puerto Rico, Mosquito Bay in Vieques is the largest and most impressive.

Those who aren’t able to make their way over to Vieques, however, can also find bio bays in Fajardo (Laguna Grande) and Lajas (La Parguera).

The bioluminescent bay in Lajas is the only one that allows swimming.

If snorkeling in the glowing waters sounds appealing to you, you can head there but be aware that chemicals on your skin, from sunscreen to lotion, all affect the fragile ecosystem and composition of the water.

For those reasons, the bio bay in Lajas is the least bright of the three and may not even glow for much longer.


The glowing phenomenon is caused by single-celled microorganisms called dinoflagellates.

These organisms glow whenever they are touched or disturbed in any way.

There are billions of them in the water, with the number of organisms having a directly correlation to how brightly the bay will shine.

Through photosynthesis, the dinoflagallates capture light with their chlorophyll, which has a blue-green hue.

The chlorophyll them becomes luminescent when agitated.

While you cannot see the individual organisms with the naked eye, the presence of billions of dinoflagallates in one place give the water a bright, blue-green glow.


You can get to Vieques in one of two ways — fly or take the ferry.

I recommend flying for ease of transport. It’s a 25 minute flight on a small propeller plane out of San Juan International Airport (SJU) and if you book far enough in advance the prices are very reasonable, usually less than $50 each way.

You can also fly from San Juan’s Isla Grande Airport (SIG) for a little less.

Airlines that have flights to Vieques include JetBlue, Cape Air and Seaborne Airlines. Flights leave multiple times a day.

In the alternative, you can take a ferry from Fajardo or Ceiba.

Note, the ferry is touch and go. Locals get priority and the schedule can fluctuate, so you’d need to get there first thing in the morning and hope you maybe willl be allowed on, if it’s running at all.

The ferry itself takes about 45 minutes and costs less than $5 roundtrip. However, the port is about an hour’s drive from San Juan if you have your own vehicle and can take up to 4 hours on shared transport.

Taking a taxi to the ferry port is an option but will run you about $100 so you’re better off paying for the flight at that point and saving yourself the trouble.


I went on a glass bottom kayaking tour with Bieque Eco Trips and had a phenomenal experience.

They picked me up from a meeting point in Vieques city center and took us to the beach where we would embark on our late-night kayaking adventure.

Almost all of the tours will pick you up from the same place — the Malecon — across from the El Blok Hotel. It’s convenient to stay in the area. 

You leave when it’s pitch black as that’s when the bioluminescence is best seen.

They had glass bottom boats so we could see the organisms light up as the kayaks passed through the water.

It was like rowing through the stars.

We could also reach down into the water and touch the organisms, which lit up our hands.

Our guide gave us background about the surrounding environment, showing us the mangrove forest immediately adjacent to the water.

The highlight of our tour was when he began stood on the kayak and rocked it from side to side, causing a rippling effect of color amongst the dark waters.


Did you see the wishy-washy dance at the 2:15 mark? Incredible.

You need special equipment to capture the bioluminescence. It will not show up on your iPhone.

I went with my friends Jim and May from Spanish and Go, professional videographers committed to getting footage of the scene.

They came with enough equipment to shoot their own Netflix documentary.

In the event of capsizing, Jim made sure to note that he would be going down while holding the equipment up for someone to rescue. 

Don’t worry, the odds of you going overboard are slim to none if you follow directions.

Their effort was well worth it, check out their video above! As you can see, the glow is alive and well in Mosquito Bay. This footage is from August 2017.

Some other things to note — I did not get wet in the kayak and felt safe with our guides.

It is not recommended that you attempt to visit the Bio Bay on your own. The road there is perilous, windy and thin and doesn’t have any sort of street lights to help you see.

Most importantly, you should plan your visit during a new moon and not a full moon because the light from the moon dims out the organisms.

I’ve read reviews from people who were disappointed it didn’t shine as brightly as they’d hoped — these people didn’t plan accordingly.

Aim for 2-3 days on either side of the new moon for the best viewing. You can access a lunar calendar here if you’re unsure if the new moon will coincide with your visit.

Till next time, safe travels!



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Vieques’ bioluminescent wonder: Paddling in trippy Mosquito Bay

Vieques, Puerto Rico (CNN) — Looking down into the undisturbed black water during a new moon, tiny pinpoints of light sparkle back, almost like a star field below matches the star field above.

Each paddle stroke creates a tear-drop glow, and the water’s rippling crests glimmer in the darkness.

Splashing your paddling mate is hard to resist. When you do, you’ll see that after the initial powerful glow, individual dinoflagellates will continue to fire for about 10 seconds, creating intermittent sparkles.

These tiny sparkles lead to some wondrous, drug-free hand staring.

This dazzling, trippy travel wonder is Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. It’s on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, seven miles off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico’s main island.

Tranquil Vieques suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017, and some destruction has not been repaired. But Mosquito Bay itself has more than recovered.

«Guides and researchers say it is glowing better than ever,» according to Mark Martin of the conservation group Vieques Island Trust.

Dinoflagellates in the water create an eerie bioluminescence.

Discover Puerto Rico

Bay bounces back

Abe Velasquez runs a tour company on Vieques offering snorkeling and bioluminescent bay kayaking tours.

Velasquez lost his own home in the storm and stopped doing bay tours for nearly nine months after Maria because the glowing dinoflagellate population had plummeted. (A dinoflagellate is a one-celled aquatic organism with plant and animal characteristics).

But now he says the bay is «a lot brighter» than it was before Maria.

Pyrodinium bahamense is the dinoflagellate responsible for the bioluminescence of Mosquito Bay. As the name implies, the tiny organisms are present in the Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean, but they usually aren’t concentrated enough to catch the notice of humans.

Samples show that in 2017 there were in the range of 100,000 dinoflagellates per liter in Mosquito Bay, a time when the bay was already known as the brightest in the world.

The population dropped off through the end of 2017 after Maria, but numbers began to bounce back and spiked to nearly 600,000 Pyrodinium bahamense per liter in June 2018. The concentration has come back down, but levels are still higher than before Hurricane Maria.

Agitating the water causes the tiny organisms to glow.

Discover Puerto Rico

The bay’s best show

A range of outfitters, including Velasquez’s company Abe’s Snorkeling and Bio Bay Tours and JAK Water Sports, offer Mosquito Bay kayaking tours for about $50 a person.

Swimming in the water is prohibited to avoid exposing dinoflagellates to harmful human urine, but you can dip your hands in to create glowing swirls and splashes.

The brightness is relative to how much you agitate the water. A harder stroke produces more light. An overcast new moon is optimal for seeing the bioluminescence.

Paddling near the mangroves on a dark, moonless night, large glowing zigzag patterns appear and disappear in the water as fish dart to escape approaching kayaks.

Nurse sharks, rays and even manatees are sometimes in the bay — outlined by eerie, glowing sparkles.

Guides say Mosquito Bay is not named after the bloodsucking insect but after a pirate ship called El Mosquito. Repellent without the harmful chemical DEET seems to keep insects away.

Vieques is also home to a range of peaceful beaches.

Wes Little/CNN

Attractions across the island

While Vieques has two small towns, Isabel Segunda in the north and Esparanza in the south, the island is mostly undeveloped.

For decades, Vieques served as a bombing range for the US Navy for practice and testing. After years of protests in Vieques, as well as significant demonstrations in New York and elsewhere, the bombing ended in 2003.

The former bombing range was converted to a wildlife refuge that covers half the island. The refuge is open to visitors during the day and is home to some spectacular beaches.

One option is La Chiva, an excellent beach for snorkeling with a small cay you can swim to. Playa Caracas is another easily accessible, beautiful white sand beach. If you’d prefer black sand, they have that, too, at Playa Negra.

Horses roam freely throughout the island.

Some are truly wild, but many are domesticated, owned, free-range horses. The waters contain many aquatic animals including sea turtles. On land they have iguanas and mongooses (but no snakes because of the mongooses).

Getting to Vieques can be an additional adventure. Regular puddle-jumper flights are available from San Juan and a few closer locations on Puerto Rico.

The more inexpensive option is to arrive by ferry — with passenger-only and vehicle service available.

Motion sickness sufferers, pick your poison: a slower lilting ferry or a quicker bobbing plane. Either way, what you’ll find on Vieques is well worth the journey.

Why the seas glow

And where you can see this miracle with your own eyes

When night falls, some beaches glow with a magical blue color. The water is full of tiny neon dots that give the impression that the starry sky is taking the place of the water.

The surreal scene is created not by magic, but by plankton, which evolved to glow to scare or disorientate fish or other potential predators. Some scientists call this phenomenon the “burglar alarm effect”: by glowing, the plankton attracts even larger predators, which, in turn, eat the animal that threatened the plankton.

Phosphorescence occurs when microorganisms are agitated. For example, water hits the shore, someone steps on wet sand, or an oar hits the waves.

The glow effect can vary depending on the time of year and the weather, so it is theoretically impossible to predict the appearance of this effect in advance. However, we know at least three places where you are most likely to be able to see the glowing sea with your own eyes.

Visitors to the archipelago in the Indian Ocean say that most often they managed to see the glow from July to February. The sea glows especially beautifully during the new moon, as the dark sky enhances the light. Bioluminescence can be seen on all 26 of the country’s atolls, but the most impressive images were taken on the eastern islands, including Mudhdhoo, Vaadhoo and Rangali.

Puerto Rico

Mosquito Bay near Vieques Island is also called Bioluminescent Bay (abbreviated as Bio Bay), for the bright plankton that illuminates the water.

Not so long ago, the bay suddenly darkened. Some scientists have suggested that the change in wind simply pushed most of the microorganisms out of the bay, but hundreds of different factors that affect bioluminescence prevent scientists from confirming their theory about the influence of wind.

Fortunately, a few months later, the bay shone again, and gradually everything returned to where it started — to the magical glow of the water. And tour operators have resumed kayak tours.
In addition, you can admire the neon water in Puerto Rico on two more bays — Laguna Grande and La Parguera. The best time to visit, according to tour operators, is when the plankton are breeding. At this time, the water acquires an unusual blue hue.

San Diego

This Southern California city also has a mysterious bioluminescence caused by millions of phytoplankton forming such a large group that they light up the water.

Every few years, surfers see the «Red Channel» because the seaweed flowers give the sea a reddish hue. And at night, the water is illuminated in bright blue — phosphorescent light is released when the right combination of water temperature, wind, darkness of the sky and other factors coincides.
The algae that affects the light and color of the water in San Diego is not considered toxic.

These are not the only places in the world where you can admire the glowing water and arrange the most memorable romantic date of your life. Unusual light attracts travelers to Jamaica, Luminescent Lagoon, Zeebrugge (Belgium), Norfolk (Great Britain). Japan, once again, surprised everyone: there, not algae or plankton are responsible for the magical illumination of water, but special squids.




  • glowing plankton
  • sea

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    • Finca Victoria

      From 189 US$

      Rte. 995, Km 2 Barrio Pilon, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      2.2 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

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      P. O. Box 1227 Vieques, P.R. 00765-1227, Vieques, Puerto Rico

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      Car. 201 K4 H5 Int. Bo. Puerto Real, Vieques, Pr, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      2.7 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

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      HC-02 BOX 14501, VEXES, Puerto-RIKO

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    • Casa Amor

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      499, Calle Gladiola, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      San Juan is 76 km away. Restaurants Rancho Choli and Cafe del Mar serve a wide variety of dishes and are located…
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    • Villa Coral Guesthouse

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      485 Calle Gladiolas — Ceiba, Esperanza, Puerto Rico

      4.1 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      Guests can reach Fin Time Adventures in just a 15-minute walk, while JAK Water Sports and Rental…
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    • Acacia Guesthouse

      From 159 US$

      Calle Acacia 236 — Ceiba, Esperanza, Puerto Rico

      4.3 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      Esperanza’s promenade is also close to the hotel. Acacia Guesthouse…
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    • Blue Horizon Boutique Resort

      From 149 US$

      Carretera 996 Km. 4.3, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.4 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      From here, guests can walk to the sandy beach of Vieques. Distance to Malecon is approx.
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    • The Vieques Guesthouse

      From 116 US$

      297 Calle Flamboyan, Esperanza, Puerto Rico

      4.4 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      Gallery Galleon and Siddhia Hutchinson Fine Art Gallery are 4.4 and 6 km from the Condominium respectively.

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    • 5 Minutes Walk To Bioluminescent Bay Bnbcampsite Fully Equipped Tents Rental Transportation 7 Per Person Port Pickup N Drop Off

      From US$ 66

      212 Calle Acacia, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.5 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      Vieques is about 15 minutes drive. Carolina is less than 45 minutes away. 10 minutes drive…

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    • Casa De Tortuga Guesthouse

      From 115 US$

      6 Calle Hucar Bo. Esperanza, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.6 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      The beach is about 600 meters from the hotel. Vieques is within easy reach from the hotel. Located…

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      From 115 US$

    • Esperanza Inn Guesthouse (Adults Only)

      From US$ 175

      103 Calle Hucar, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.7 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      The hotel is conveniently located and Mosquito Pier is nearby. Approximately 10 minutes drive is…

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      From 175 US$

    • Malecon House

      From 280 US$

      105 Calle Flamboyan, Vieques, Pr, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.7 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      The Esperanza Promenade and Malecon are close to the hotel. Less than 2.7 km away is the…
      From 280 US$

    • Lazy Guesthouse

      From 71 US$

      61A Cll Orquideas, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.7 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      This hostel is located 7 km from the center of Vieques. Steakhouse «Orquideas» is just 150 meters away. Lazy…

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      From 71 US$

    • El Blok Hotel

      From US$ 200

      158 Calle Flamboyan, Vieques, Puerto Rico

      4.8 km to Antonio Rivera Rodriguez Airport (To the map)

      Located less than 7 km from the center of Vieques, this hotel is next to Nauti Mermaid Charters. El Blok is located…
      From 200 US$

    • Las Terrazas Los Chivos

      From US$ 561

      800 Calle 16 Street, Vieques, Puerto Rico


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