Science, Now + Beyond

Learn what makes these 5 beaches glow magically in the dark

It seems like magic, but you're about to learn all about how the ocean glows, and 5 places to see it!

Bioluminescent plankton. It’s not exactly a sexy word. Bioluminescent algae isn’t much of an improvement either. But, my god, they’re beautiful.

What is bioluminescence?

Bio (living) luminescence (reflecting/emitting light) – living organisms that can, in some way, produce and give out light.

The bioluminescent algae called Noctiluca is a tiny, photosynthetic organism… so tiny that one drop of water can contain thousands of them! Scientists believe that Noctiluca flash their light to scare away predators, or to attract larger predators which might eat their own smaller enemies. Then there are bioluminescent zooplankton, which are not photosynthetic and cannot produce their own food or energy from sunlight. These organisms, when trying to defend themselves against a predator or attract a mate, release globs of glowing chemicals. So, where can you go to see these majestic organisms? Look below to find out!

1. Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico

In 2008, The Guiness Book of World Records declared Mosquito Bay the brightest bioluminescent beach of them all! There are three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, with Mosquito Bay being the most intensely lit.

2. Bali, Indonesia

Bali is another great place to see this amazing natural wonder. Plenty of places in this beautiful country may be home to these glowing beaches.

3. Cairns, Australia

Sure, it looks supernatural, but algal blooms cause that intense, eerie glow! Disturbing the Noctiluca may cause it to really light up.

4. San Juan Island, Washington, USA

Not to be confused with San Juan, Puerto Rico, San Juan Island offers the most spectacular kayak rides through shimmering waters. It may also be worth noting that there are several other locations in the USA that may boast bioluminescence.

5. The Maldives

Some Maldivian islands, like the above Mudhoo island, will light up extraordinarily for some lucky guests!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit one of these magnificent places, JUMP ON IT! Make sure to do your research before traveling to see these electric blue algae. This list only includes five locations, but there are bioluminescent beaches around the world. It is important to realize that the organisms won’t always be in the mood to brighten your day. In some places, it will depend on the lunar schedule for optimal viewing. Other places, these bioluminescent organisms will glow seasonally or periodically. If you go to any of these locations, though, it’s sure to be a beautiful vacation with or without the shimmery waters!