Explore the Surroundings from San Juan Marriott – Fajardo’s Bio Bay

Bio Bay, Puerto Rico

Topping my list of adventures in Puerto Rico was Fajardo’s Bioluminescent Bay. From San Juan Marriott, it was quite a drive, giving me the opportunity to see more of the area and imagine what the experience was going to be like. A bio bay is a body of water that contains millions of micro-organisms called dinoflagellates that glow in the dark for a second when agitated. I wondered if it would feel different when I put my hand in the water? Would it be thicker? Would the “glow” stick to my fingers? Would bigger fish glow too because they are in the bio bay? My imagination was running wild the entire drive. I went almost a half hour just looking out the window imagining. 

I knew we’d be paddling through mangroves and that it would be at night, but I had no idea what was in store for us. We started with a short description of the experience and received our lifejackets and paddles. The sun was setting over the mountains and it was beautiful but it didn’t look any different from a normal kayaking adventure.

We made our way through sail boats and toward the mangrove trees. They made a complete archway that led to the unknown… at least for me. Kayaking through mangroves sounded mysterious, adventurous, fun. I have lots of kayaking experience but never in the night, never in a bio bay, and never through a quickly flowing current surrounded by trees. I might have been a little intimidated.

As we entered the path through the mangroves, the darkness set in. It was 30 disoriented minutes of maneuvering through the unknown yet I was at ease. Each kayak had purple glow in the dark lights attached and we followed the one in front of us. It’s amazing how well your eyes adjust in the darkness. It was beautiful darkness.

Bio Bay, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

We arrived, safely, at Laguna Grande and created a side-by-side flotilla with our group so the guide could explain about the bioluminescent bay. The waters are filled with prehistoric one-celled organisms. When disturbed, they glow like fireflies. Although I saw them in the mangroves, it wasn’t until this point that I was comfortable enough to put my hands in the water.

It outlined my hand like an X-ray and when I cupped the water, I felt like Tinkerbell dropping pixie dust. It wasn’t as extreme as I expected but it was magical none-the-less. I put my hand in deeper and moved it more quickly. The faster I moved, the brighter they glowed. The stars were in both the sky and the water like being in outer-space. It was all-consuming.

On the way back, a fish swam by and it looked like an anaconda. A stream of water lit up and made me stiffen up at first. Once I realized what was happening, I watched for more fish moving through the water. Each one lit up the water like a rainbow. I wanted to stay in the mangroves and glow for hours.

It’s such an amazing adventure to experience something so unique and new. This was living and thousands and thousands of living species all around me made me feel more alive.

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46 thoughts on “Explore the Surroundings from San Juan Marriott – Fajardo’s Bio Bay

  1. We went to the one on Vieques and the ride out there was part of the adventure- deep potholes! It was beautiful- I can imagine how much more magical it was when people were still allowed to swim in the bio bays.

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  2. Pingback: Explore the Surroundings from San Juan Marriott – Fajardo’s Bio Bay | Mark Geoffrey Kirshner

  3. I’ve actually never been to this bay. I’ve been to the Parguera one when I was a kid. The adults actually went in the water. Their entire bodies glowed green! Pretty cool! There was a bay in Boquerón that used to glow as well, though very lightly. Do you have the name of your tour guide?

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      • The one in the Parguera is the one I was referring to. I went to that one in 1996 and because the use motor boats (unlike the one in Fajardo) the micororganisms are dying at an alarming rate. It is not nearly as bright or as pleasant. The one in Fajardo is awesome, I had the tour guide as my kayak driver, as we were had an odd number of people, and he was a biology major at the university…it was fantastic to have him as I got to pick his brain and being an university employee where i am from I got to ask him many other questions. He definitively knew his stuff. He shared with me, as did one of your readers, that the one in Viequez is also VERY nice! 🙂

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  4. Just today, my husband was telling me that though we will have a good time, no matter what, nobody seems to be excited about our trip to San Juan when he is trying to ask around. He is doing his MBA here in Barcelona and some of his classmates are actually from Puerto Rico. It is nice to read that there will be a lot of magical moments waiting for us… and our baby… Thank you!
    xoxo, ,Eszter

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  5. My daughter and husband scuba dived off Koh Tao on our last trip there – whilst they experienced what seemed like seeing stars, after being popped on the nose, as the bioluminescence happened around them, I watched its fluttering movements from above. A fascinating natural phenomena.

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  6. My boyfriend at the time and I loved our kayak tour!!! The guides were great! Our night was really well-lit – actually bad for bio-bay excursions. They huddled about six kayaks together at a time and put a tarp over us so we could see the goobers light up in the water. Too much fun!

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  7. I’m so glad you got a chance to do this adventure. I’ve had it on my list since I went there and my stepdad went instead.

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  8. Amazing! Brings back memories of my 2008 trip to PR. I took the ferry to the island of Villeques. They have an even more pristine Bio Bay there, since they island is mostly a nature preserve. It was amazing. It’s high on my list to revisit PR again, this time through the lens. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Pure magic! I always think that experiences like that change who we are, even if for just a couple of minutes.
    Thank you for following my blog – Dead Sea Diaries. I do appreciate it! I am not quite the adventure girl, but I get by…

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  10. Mm…what a rich experience. I’ve seen bioluminescence just once, in mainland Mexico. There happened to be mangroves there too. It’s a magical mix. Happiest of travels and adventures to you, and also thanks for stopping by and liking a post over at purelysubjective! 🙂 Happy Monday.

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  12. I am feeling so nostalgic right now. That is where I am from and one of the last places I visited in the island on my last trip. It was beyond wonderful. I went once to the southern part of the island and it was not near as spectacular as this. I guess once misses all the fabulous things a place it has to offer when one grows up amongst such beauty. As a teen in the island the last place I wanted to be was there. Now as an adult all I long to do is travel back, see the sights and be with my family. Thank you for posting this. I really cannot say it enough. Gosh, this really elicited an emotional response from me…..

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  13. Beautiful pics, I have been to Puerto Rico twice, I plan to move there in 15 years, I know sounds far way, but I haven’t decided between there and Canada to be my permanent home. I will make sure to view in my upcoming travels.

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  14. Pingback: 2014 Bucket List Update | Bucket List Publications

  15. Love the way you described this experience! My boyfriend and I kayaked the bio bay off of the island of Vieques, PR and it was amazing–though I found it hard to fully describe.

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  16. Hi Leslie (again, it’s been awhile!). I read this when you originally posted it in February, then saw it again on your post of all the bucket list items you accomplished this year. When I originally read it, I didn’t even have plans to go to PR, but ended up being asked by two girlfriends to go in May of this year. Long story, but only two of us were able to go and we did the bio bay tour in Fajardo as well. I have to say, even with some kayaking experience, I was terrified in the mangroves. We were on the late trip, so it was pitch dark when we got in the water on the beach, and when we got into the mangrove tunnel, the earlier trips were coming out, kayaks were banging against each other, and when someone wasn’t right on top of you, it was so dark that you couldn’t even see the glow sticks on the boat in front of you. Once we got to the lagoon, it was lovely, and I really enjoyed the luminescence and paddling around out there. The best part was on the way back to the mangrove tunnel, we paddled along the lagoon shore and each stroke of the paddle caused fish to shoot through the water, glowing like shooting stars! Anyway, it is an experience not to miss while in PR. Your post brought back fond (and scary) memories! I must not be quite as adventurous as you, or at least, not in the same way. Give me a motorcycle any day! 😉

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