The Magic of Bioluminescent Bay – Vieques, Puerto Rico

categories: caribbean travel, USA Travel

There are few moments in my life when I thought I might be capable of performing actual magic. While treading water in a bay in Puerto Rico I could lift my arm up from the water and points of light would drip from my finger tips. As I moved my arms through the water they lite up. This was one of those moments that make it seem like anything is possible, even magic.

Puerto Mosquito

In reality it was not me that made that night special but the small bioluminescent plankton that live in a bay with the rather imposing name of Puerto Mosquito. These single cell dinoflagellates can, like fireflies, create light through a chemical reaction. Moving the water around these small creatures causes them to glow in reaction. Normally dinoflagellates appear in small numbers but in a small and shrinking number of locations they appear in sufficient concentration that the effect is stunning. Puerto Mosquito, better known as Bioluminescent Bay, off the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico is one such place.

Vieques does not draw huge cruise ships and you can no longer sail there on the sailing ships of the now defunct Windjammer Barefoot cruises as I did when I visited there a decade ago. To be honest, the nearby town of Esperanza offered little to do during the day other than wait for night to fall. At the time of our visit when Vieques was in the news it was over its controversial use as a target by the U.S. Navy.


The only downside from our experience of actually swimming in the bay was that jelly fish also like that sheltered bay and 3 of the 4 kids on our trip (including both of my kids) were stung by small jellyfish. But wouldn’t you risk the temporary pain of a jellyfish sting for a chance to perform magic?

Getting There

You can no longer swim in the bay as I did, because it was harming the environment. To visit the bay you can take either a kayaking tour or an electric boat tour. You paddle or hum out to the middle of the bay and then jump into water. Even the splash of your entry into the water is met with a splash of light. Adults and children alike then splash around for some time in the water enthralled by the ethereal light that greats every movement.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

One Response to “The Magic of Bioluminescent Bay – Vieques, Puerto Rico”



I live in Vieques and the bay is truly magical as you said. Vieques has grown a bit since the Navy left. Seabourne now cruises here in their small intimate ships, Esperanza has some stellar restaurants and rthe jellyfish are only prevalent in summer. So if you come during the winter – magic without stings!!! and the water is still warm

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