The Best Places to See Bioluminescence


Adventure Travel, Asia, Caribbean, Central America, Europe, New Zealand, North America, Oceania, Thailand, Vietnam

written by: Steph Kloeckener

Seeing bioluminescence is an incredible & unique experience, but many are left wondering where to see bioluminescence. These are the 21 best places to see it andall of them will give you a unique experience.

There are many natural wonders around the world, that will leave you speechless. And bioluminescence is amongst the best of them. It is possible to see it at many different locations as there is bioluminescence all around the world. And while there are different forms of bioluminescence, all of them will easily fill you with wonder and astonishment.

I have only been fortunate enough to see bioluminescence once and it is one of my favorite travel memories. And as I knew that there are many places in the world to see bioluminescence, I decided to ask fellow travel bloggers for recommendations. After all, I spend years trying to figure out where to see bioluminescence only to accidentally stumble upon it at a location not included on any of the lists out there. After all, it is not a commonly known bioluminescent beach.

Ultimately, this experience made me realize that the common best places to see bioluminescence are not the only amazing ones. And also that it can be seen at more places than I ever imagined. Therefore, everyone that contributed shared their favorite location to see bioluminescence around the world. And as nearly every continent is covered by this list, you might just discover that there is a spot close to you. And if not, you can always plan a trip to one of these fantastic bioluminescent beach locations around the world.

Where to see Bioluminescence Map

Map of the best locations to see bioluminescence and bioluminescent waves
Where to see bioluminescence: The best bioluminescent beaches & bays

This list includes both the best places to see bioluminescent waves and bioluminescent animals that can be observed in caves or underwater. And while you likely want to see the waves that are caused by bioluminescent plankton, or scientifically known as dinoflagellate, you should also visit places that allow you to observe other types of this fantastic spectacle.

On the map above you will find the answer to the question ‘where to see bioluminescent waves’ marked with a rose star, while other types are marked with a green circle. Keep in mind that you will only see the glowing waves if there is enough surf and that you might have the enter to water yourself to disturb the bioluminescent plankton.

Bioluminescence around the World

This list is by no means comprehensive as there are more spots in the world where you can see bioluminescence. However, I hope that it does include the locations around the world, that make it a unique experience.

All of these 21 locations that allow you to see bioluminescence around the world are someone’s favorite spot. Be it because the bioluminescent plankton there is especially vibrant or because you might have an entire beach for yourself. Or it might just be another type of bioluminescence altogether.

Ultimately, this list of bioluminescent locations is on the personal side and focuses on the individual experience these places can give you. After all, that is way more important than the popularity of the location.

Bioluminescence on Cat Ba Vietnam where to see bioluminescent plankton

Locations all around the world are included and there might even be one near your current location or wherever you plan to go next. At the end of the day, I can only encourage you to wander the world with your eyes open. An incredible natural wonder might be just around the corner or at the next beach.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through a link. Please see the full disclosure for further information.

Where to See Bioluminescence in North America

San Diego, California, USA

Seeing bioluminescence in San Diego is an incredible experience, so if you’re looking to see the bioluminescent phenomenon for yourself then you should definitely add the beaches of San Diego to your list of possible locations!

The best time to see bioluminescence in San Diego

Unfortunately, the bioluminescence in San Diego is not predictable enough to say when exactly it will happen. But when it does show up it shows up beautifully. The bioluminescent waves often occur in the warmer months, about once a year or two. They can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and sometimes even longer. So be sure to head there as soon as you hear of a bioluminescent beach in San Diego.

San Diego Bioluminescence

One of the cool things about the San Diego bioluminescence is that it is caused by algae blooms of Lingulodinium polyedra. But unlike in other places, these dinoflagellates do not usually produce yessotoxin in San Diego. But what does that mean? It simply means it is usually safe to swim, surf, etc. in the water while it is glowing!

But even if you do not feel like getting in the water to experience the bioluminescence, San Diego is still an excellent place to watch this phenomenon, because the beaches here are incredibly beautiful. You can observe the glowing waves from Sunset Cliffs and watch as the rocks on the shore glow when the waves dash down on them. Alternatively, you can choose a beach like La Jolla Shores, where you will find the waves glowing in the open expanse of the ocean.

With so many options of where to see the bioluminescence when it happens, it really is a treat to experience this phenomenon in San Diego. So next time you hear a whisper about someone seeing bioluminescent waves there, get yourself to San Diego to explore one of these beautiful beaches at night. And you just may get to see the bioluminescent waves for yourself!

Contributed by Abi from Happy Go Abi

Blue Bioluminescent Waves in San Diego, California
Bioluminescent Waves in San Diego

Manialtepec Lagoon, Mexico

While there’s no shortage of amazing things to do when you’re traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico, seeing the bioluminescence is on many bucket lists. There are only about five places to see this natural phenomenon in Mexico, with two of them in Oaxaca state.  

One place to see the bioluminescence in Mexico is Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, though this off-the-beaten-path destination isn’t the easiest place to access. For this reason, may opt for Laguna Manialtepec (Manialtepec Lagoon), located less than 30 minutes from Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Escondido is one of the best beach towns in Mexico, popular for whale watching in the winter and big wave surfing in summer. As Puerto Escondido is quite popular with tourists and visitors, there are tours that go most nights to see the bioluminescence in Manialtepec Lagoon.

As with bioluminescence all over the world, the best time to see bioluminescence is during the New Moon, when the moon isn’t visible in the sky. The five or so days before and after the New Moon are also good for bioluminescence visibility. 

In Manialtepec Lagoon, the type of bioluminescence you’ll see is from light-emitting plankton. As there are billions of tiny plankton in the lagoon, when you jump in the water to swim, you actually start twinkling and glowing since you’ll be covered in plankton.

If you’re visiting the coast of Oaxaca, seeing the bioluminescence in Manialtepec Lagoon is totally worth it. The tours from Puerto Escondido are only about $20USD, so rather inexpensive for such a unique experience.

Contributed by Shelley from Travel Mexico Solo

Isla Holbox, Mexico

Located just a few hours away from the city of Cancun, Holbox Island in Caribbean Mexico is paradise on Earth. This tiny island tucked away in the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula boasts some of the coolest sea activities in the world, but one of the most magical (and lesser-known) things to do in Holbox is going on an adventure in search of bioluminescent plankton at night.

You can technically grab a bike and go on the lookout for bioluminescence right on the beach all over Holbox Island, but one of the best places to find it is on Punta Cocos located on the southernmost tip of the island. For a truly magical experience and guaranteed sightings, however, the best way to go is to book a guided paddleboarding or kayaking tour that will take you deeper into the Caribbean sea – the further in you go, the more distinctive the plankton looks as you’ll encounter less light pollution, which makes for a striking light show of bioluminescence and stars.

Isla Holbox’s endless beaches are lined with bioluminescent plankton pretty much all year, but the best time to see bioluminescence is when the water temperature is warmer, which happens between the months of March and November.

Explored by Dani from No Hurry to Go Home

Nichupte’ Lagoon, Mexico

Only a few people know that you can see the bioluminescence phenomenon in the Nichupte’ Lagoon in Cancun, Mexico. I didn’t know either until I joined a sunset kayaking tour in the lagoon. The bioluminescence wasn’t even advertised as part of the attraction. However, it was an unexpected pleasant surprise.

The tour starts around 5 pm and will take you all around a canal system naturally created by the thick mangroves, where you can admire many different kinds of birds and fishes. The guide will explain how many fish species chose the lagoon to breed, as they find protection from predators within the roots of the mangroves.

You will then paddle to the middle of the lagoon from where, depending on the weather conditions, you may see amazing reflections of the sky in the water. After admiring a spectacular sunset over the Cancun skyline you will keep kayaking until you reach a small hidden beach where you can relax and chill and wait for the night to come down.

That’s where the magic happens. As soon as it’s dark if you move your arms in the water you will see spectacular streams of glow in the water provoked by your body movement. It seems unreal. The water is also very warm and you just want to stay there all night and play with this bioluminescence. Especially in the moonlight, it’s an amazing off-the-beaten-path experience that you must include in your list of the things to do in Cancun.

Bioluminescence seen by Isabella Biava from Let’s Travel to Mexico

The Best Places to See Bioluminescence in Central America and the Caribbean

Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica

Bioluminescence is a phenomenon that can only be seen or experienced in a handful of places around the world. One of these places is the Luminous Lagoon in Falmouth, Jamaica, where the bioluminescence is said to be the largest and brightest of all, thanks to the consistent climate in the region. This incredible spectacle can be enjoyed on a short boat tour that will take you to the heart of the lagoon. 

After arriving at the optimal location, your guide will advise when it is safe to jump in. Waters are shallow at a mere 4 to 8 ft (1,2 – 2,5 m). You will definitely want to bring along a camera that can take good pictures in the dark.

Whilst not apparent at first, after diving into the water you will soon begin to see an eerie electric blue glow. This is emitted from the millions of dinoflagellates that live in the lagoon, that glow when disturbed. 

The whole tour only lasts around 45 minutes, so be sure to make the most of it! Admittedly, the drive to Falmouth may take longer than the actual tour if you are traveling from Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, but the experience is otherworldly and comes highly recommended!

Contributed by Sarah from Dukes Avenue

Bioluminescence at Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica - one of the best places to see Bioluminescence around the World
Bioluminescence at Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

As a dive instructor that has been traveling around the world for 7 years, I have been privileged to see bioluminescence at several locations, but a spectacular night dive from Little Corn Island in Nicaragua was unique.

We saw three different kinds of fluorescence during that dive. We were very excited on the boat ride seeing bioluminescence on the surface as the boat disturbed the water. This blue fluorescent light on the water is the result of light produced and emitted by fluorescent plankton on the surface.

It was a dark night and at a certain point during the dive our dive leader showed that we must all turn our lights off, we saw small strings of light flashing everywhere in the dark! The Roatan String of Pearlss phenomenon happens after sunset on very dark nights. It is the mating display of ostracods, these tiny organisms attract a mate by emitting fluorescent light when they attach to each other during mating to form the ‘strings of pearls’ in the water. If you wave your hands in the water it looks like sparks flying! All over the reef coral and some of the organisms were fluorescing neon colors.

Our dive leader was diving with fluorescent light and the neon colors were the result of biofluorescence, fluorescent proteins in an organism absorb light of a specific wavelength from the light and re-emit that light at a different wavelength resulting in crazy neon color all over the reef.

Contributed by Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bioluminescence tours in Bocas del Toro aren’t an activity that is widely promoted.  I only saw them offered one place and thought it sounded pretty sketchy at first, but tried it anyway and it turned out to be totally worth it.  The tour was offered on Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro region. 

While I only saw them offered at one place, there may be more now.  Some will go anytime at night and others only during the new moon.  If you can time it right, the new moon will be the best time to go since it will be way darker and easier to see. 

The type of algae that you’ll see here is phytoplankton, some of the best bioluminescent stuff to see since it glows when it’s aroused by movement.  So anytime you swish your hand through the water, a trail of glowing phytoplankton will follow.  It feels like you’re doing magic with the blue glow.  These tours will even let you get out and go for a swim in the best secret and most active places.

I absolutely loved seeing this here because it was the first time I ever got to see it, but we were also the only two people on the tour.  It was so cool getting to just be in the water swirling my arms around seeing the phytoplankton glowing all around us.  When I first noticed it as the boat was still moving I did not even realize it, but the water just looked a little brighter and I was so excited when I realized that’s what I was here to see. 

Contributed by Megan from Red around the World

Vieques, Puerto Rico

The most magical experience we have had while in Puerto Rico was kayaking the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world located on Vieques Island, a tiny island situated on the west side of the main island of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Mosquito (Mosquito Bay) on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, was officially named the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records (2008). Sadly, after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, Mosquito Bay went dark. But it has since recovered and is now brighter than it ever was. 

Mosquito Bay is full of tiny unicellular organisms called Pyrodinium bahamense, dinoflagellates “dinos.” When the dinos come in contact with another organism, a human, a fish, or your oar, the interaction creates a burst of starry blue light.  

Book a tour with a licensed tour company during the new moon phase for the most mesmerizing experience as the bay shines the brightest on the darkest of night.  

And be prepared to be in awe when your oar agitates the dinos, and you see this brilliant blue explosion. When a fish swims by, lit up in blue, it is a little scary because there are big fish out there.  

Advice for your Mosquito Bay experience

  • Plan your tour for the New Moon. You need a pitch dark night for the brightest experience.
  • You will get wet, so dress accordingly (and pack a towel and change of clothes).
  • Wear DEET free insect repellent.
  • Do not swim in the bay; it is against the law.
  • Bring your waterproof or underwater camera and hope for the best. It is challenging to capture the beauty and glow of the bio bay; if you do, please share.

Contributed by Jenny from Traveling Party of 4

The Best Places to see Bioluminescence in Asia

Ko Lipe, Thailand

One of the most beautiful bioluminescent displays I’ve ever seen was on the island of Ko Lipe in Thailand.

After watching a spectacular sunset on Bulow Beach, I decided to take a long walk along the beach back to my resort. I started walking south, carving a path at the edge of the waves. The moon was barely a sliver in the sky and the ocean was a dark, undulating body. Barely half a mile into my walk, I saw a faint blue glow at the end of a tiny wave. It took my brain a few moments to process what my eyes were seeing.

As I came closer the waves lapped my toes, and the blue glow seemed to pulse. The more ripples that I created in the water, the more light appeared.

I did so much research about this island yet never came across the fact that it is home to millions of bioluminescent plankton. Maybe that is what made the moment so special. It took me by surprise.

I was so unprepared that I did not have the proper camera equipment to capture this beautiful phenomenon. But the feeling of being THAT present in THAT moment is a memory that I will always treasure.

Tips for those that wish to see bioluminescent plankton on Ko Lipe

Here are a few tips for my fellow travelers who want to see the bioluminescent plankton on Ko Lipe:

  1. The darker the environment the better so you will want to get away from sources of light pollution.
  2. If you want to capture the moment, you’ll need a camera that can do long exposures at a low f-stop.
  3. You will also need some form of camera stabilization (like a tripod) so you can do a long exposure without blurring the image.

Contributed by Alana from Course Charted

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi is a small island located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of southern Thailand. The island is known for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters and is a popular vacation spot for tourists from all around the world. Koh Phi Phi is known as one of the best islands in all of Thailand for swimming, snorkeling, adventure, and nightlife.

Koh Phi Phi is one of the few places in Thailand where you can see the bioluminescent plankton. There are a variety of snorkeling or boat tours available that will take you to nearby smaller islands to see the bioluminescence. The conditions need to be just right to get the perfect experience so make sure you talk to local tour guides before booking. They will know which days are best to see the plankton and what time to go.

The best visibility conditions tend to be around two hours after sunset so that’s is approximately when the tours leave. Many take you to the nearby Koh Phi Phi Leh which is a stunning nature reserve. If you have experience scuba diving you could also opt to take a scuba tour at night.

The experience of seeing bioluminescence for the first time will be incredible and shouldn’t be missed.

Explored by Victoria from Guide Your Travel

Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay Area, Vietnam

Cat Ba in the Ha Long Bay area is one of the best places to see bioluminescence. It is a rather unknown location when it comes to this amazing natural phenomenon. Therefore you might just be lucky enough to have an entire beach for yourself. There are four beaches on Cat Ba that are the best spots to observe it, but Hair of the Dog Beach is the best. Its’ Vietnamese name is ‘Tung Thu beach’. And unlike at the three Cat Co beaches, the beach access at night is not restricted.

Like in many other locations, the bioluminescence in Ha Long Bay is caused by noctiluca scintillans. Therefore it is more likely to observe bioluminescence here when the weather is calm and the water is warmer. Based on what locals told me, the best months are those around September, but there is a chance to see it every month around the new moon.

Head to one of the beaches around 11 PM and you will see it. Chances are, that you will only see it once you enter the water. However, this is what makes me love this specific location. As there are very few waves, the person in the water is the cause of this natural spectacle. Therefore being in the water will make you feel like Tinkerbell.

Swimming within a sea of stars was one of the highlights of my Vietnam trip. And I can only recommend it to you. There are few things that are better than ending a day of cruising Ha Long Bay with this experience.

Read More: Bioluminescence in Ha Long Bay – Swimming in a Sea of Stars on Cat Ba

Bioluminescence around the World - Bioluminescent Plankton at Cat Ba
Bioluminescence at Hair of the Dog Beach, Cat Ba, Vietnam

Koh Rong, Cambodia

If you are looking for bioluminescence, the island of Koh Rong in Cambodia is the place to visit. The secluded island is situated in the south of Cambodia in the province of Sihanoukville. Getting to the island can be painful as things in Cambodia often run late, but once you get to the islands, it is completely worth it.

The only way to get here is by getting on a ferry from the port of Sihanoukville.  Once you get on the island, you will find various local tour agencies offering a late evening plankton tour. On this tour, the boat takes a group of people to certain spots in the sea to swim with the plankton.

Once you get to the spot, everyone on board slips into a life jacket and gets into the sea with their snorkeling gear in place. It is an amazing and exhilarating experience to swim with plankton in the dark.

These tours normally cost between 5$ and 15$ from the island of Koh Rong and include snorkeling gear and a lifejacket.

Contributed by Merryl from MerrylsTravelandTricks

Koh Tonsay ‘Rabbit Island’, Cambodia

Every time you do or see one thing for the first time, you will remember it forever. That is exactly what happened when I first saw the bioluminescence phenomenon.

Some years ago, I lived in Cambodia. And one of my favorite destinations during the weekend was Koh Tonsay (or Rabbit Island, as it is more renowned). A few hours away from Phnom Penh, it is the perfect spot for two days of relaxation.

The island has only a dozen little bungalows without electricity, two places serving food during the day, and no more tourist structure. On the other side of the island, reachable with a comfortable walk of one hour, there is a tiny village of local fishermen. In the middle, there is nothing but jungle.

At night, we decided to have an extra swim. We entered the sea and started moving towards the open water. But just twenty meters from the sandy beach, some lights in the water captured our attention: the bioluminescence phenomenon was right in front of us! I was hesitant at first, I had never witnessed such a surreal show. We were swimming in the dark waters of the Indian Ocean at night, with a plethora of little lights just around us.

I was then told that it was the plankton that used the light as a defensive measure: when they feel threatened by a fish, they released light to attract predators of the original predator. I was so astonished by finally seeing bioluminescence that, despite having seen it other times in my life, I have a very clear memory of that first time!

Recommended by Mario from Rest and Recuperation

Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia

The island of Bali is known for several experiences, a dreamy paradise for island hoppers, sun-seekers, yoga lovers, and all those looking for their ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ moment. What most people do not realize is that this magnificent island is also home to the phenomenon of bioluminescence.

Padang Bai on the Eastern coast of Bali is a bustling hive of activity throughout the day. As the point of ferrying for those looking to island-hop to Lombok or the Gili islands, this thriving area tends to cease in motion once the boats have docked and the beach is cleared and this is when the magic begins.

The Padang Bai shore bioluminescence phenomenon is viewed by the few lucky night divers who take a chance on staying more than a night in this sleepy area of Bali that most use purely for transit. The mystical luminescent plankton unfortunately is not consistent so for those hoping to catch a view, a couple of nights of diving will be required to ensure to catch this incredible experience.

Although Padang Bai might not be what most people expect from their Bali experience if you’re looking to escape the dizzying array of cliched Bali moments and in search of generously cheap and basic island culture, Padang Bai has extremely affordable accommodation, authentic local restaurants ‘warungs’ and great diving scene to provide the opportunity to witness the beautiful bioluminescence.

Suggested by Kaylini from The Curated Travelist 

Matsu Islands, Taiwan

One of the best places in the world to see bioluminescence is Matsu Island near Taiwan. If you come around the summer months of April through August, you can usually find the bioluminescence located all around the island. The locals actually call this phenomenon “Blue Tears” because it looks like the water is actually crying with tears flowing down.

While the phenomenon might look like some kind of alien creation, it is actually caused by something a lot less harmless. An algae known as “noctiluca scintillians” is the reason why you see these bright blue colors in the waters. The algae is actually quite aggressive as they eat other types of bacteria and plankton. However, their presence is totally normal as they are harmless to humans and the surrounding environment.

The reason I pick Matsu Islands as the best place to view this phenomenon is because of its relatively low-key presence. Not many people actually travel to this island, which means that nobody will be able to bother you or get in your way when you are trying to explore the island. It is the perfect place for you to be alone with this phenomenon and to be able to take as many photos as you want.

Explored by Wayne from The Traveling Asian

Vaadhoo Island ‘Mudhdhoo Island’, Maldives

The Maldives are made up of a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean between India and the African continent.  They are the only landmasses for hundreds of miles and this attracts plankton as well as large pelagic animals that feed on the plankton. In the Maldives, bioluminescence is produced by dinoflagellates, tiny plankton that produces luciferin when it becomes agitated. 

Vaadhoo Island in Raa Atoll, also known as Mudhdhoo Island is the best place in the Maldives to see this phenomenon. This island is easy to reach as it is only 8km from the capital, Male. It is one of the smaller islands, home to just 500 people, and can be reached by speedboat from Male in about 15 minutes. The best time to see this activity is between June and October although it can be seen at other times.

This is one of the best places around the world to see bioluminescence as the warm beaches and ocean provide lots of options both at night for beach walking and swimming in the glow and during the day. 

In the daylight hours, the Maldives are the perfect place to scuba dive and enjoy the clear waters that surround the atolls and islands and relax on the sandy coral beaches.

Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild

Kumbalangi, Kerala, India

Kumbalangi is located in the Ernakulam district close to Cochin, Kerala. It is considered India’s first eco-friendly tourist island village. The people of the village make a living through fishing and tourism. The Chinese nets used for fishing are a popular tourist attraction here. Kumbalangi is also famous for its backwaters. This is one of the best places in India to indulge in typical village life.

The beautiful blue bioluminescence phenomenon can be witnessed in and around these backwaters of Kumbalangi. This happens usually during the months of March and April which is summer in Kerala. The phenomenon can be commonly seen closer to the sea and is produced by bioluminescent microplankton called Noctiluca scintillans.

These organisms produce blue bioluminescence upon touch or stimulation. Most visitors step into the waters to witness this beautiful natural wonder. It is said that the increase in salinity and viscosity of the waters during summers contribute to the increased intensity of the bioluminescence.

This phenomenon is called ‘Kavaru’ in the local language. This became quite famous after it was featured in a Malayalam movie called ‘Kumbalangi Nights’. 

Contributed by Athul Menon from Our Backpack Tales

Goa, India

One of the lesser-known tourist attractions on Goa, Betalbatim beach in the south of the state holds an amazing secret. 4 km away from the much-acclaimed Colva beach of South Goa, Betalbatim flaunts beautiful golden sand and only a handful of shacks serving sumptuous Konkoni meal. The beach is dotted with flanking palm trees and is located in between Colva and Majorda beach. 

However, locals say the sea here reflects moonlight on certain days. Unaware of the underwater phytoplankton, living creatures illuminate the coastal area at night at the stroke of a magic wand! 

Bioluminescent phytoplankton is visible during the high tide. They live on the cusp of surging waves of tidal seawater, illuminating the surrounding area with a vague blue-green glow. Firstly, they are visible on the wave at a distance. However, as the tides approach the beach, the entire nature’s canvas is lit in an ethereal glow. At the horizon, the sky and the sea blend with each other. Plan your trip around a full moon night and stay up till 1 am. 

Besides this beach, you may witness this magic at the Querim beach at North Goa or the islands of Andaman and Nicobar. However, I love Betalbatim, especially for its quaint vibes. 

Recommended by Madhurima from Orange Wayfarer

Bioluminescence around the World: The Best Locations in Oceania

Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand

About 200 km south of Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand is a small town called Waitomo. This town is home to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic attractions. This unique cave exploration experience involves a 45-minute guided tour into the depths of the earth. The attraction is not really the caves though. It is the glowworms. When the lights are switched off while you are deep in the caves, the glow worms light up, covering the ceiling and walls.

What makes the Waitomo Glowworm Caves truly unique though is the last section of the tour, a 5-10 minute boat ride. Depart from an underground jetty, in the dark, and bear witness to one of the most spectacular underground sights in the world, the glowworm grotto.

As your boat slowly meanders out of the cave, you could be forgiven for thinking you are witnessing a star-studded sky. The cave ceiling and walls are completely covered in glowworms. Glowworms that also reflect off the still water to completely immerse you in a near-silent, out-of-this-world universe like you are floating through outer space.

I’ve seen plenty of caves with glow worms, but never anything like the boat portion of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. I absolutely love this remarkable, galactic experience!

Waitomo Glowworm Caves is open all year round from 9 am to 5 pm.

Explored by Matt from Still As Life

Read More: Amazing Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand and Australia

Boat at Waitomo Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand

Where to Find Fluorescence in Europe

Kerry, Ireland

Without any doubt, bioluminescence is one of the world’s most magnificent wonders. The almost ethereal light emitted from phytoplankton is a phenomenon mostly associated with the tropics. But if conditions are right, then you might also be lucky enough to experience this magical sight in Ireland too. 

For a truly incredible experience, a visit to the Lough Hyne Nature Reserve in County Cork in the south of Ireland is a must. Designated as Europe’s first Marine Reserve, this unique saltwater lake located on the world-famous Wild Atlantic Way is renowned for its biodiversity and unique underwater habitats.

It is also an amazing location to view bioluminescence. The type of this shimmering blue plankton at Lough Hyne is Noctiluca scintillans. Take to the water by kayak to explore the nocturnal wonders of this special habitat. The Atlantic Sea Kayaking company offers a special Starlight Kayaking Experience. When conditions are calm and the sky is dark, there is a chance that the water comes alive with the sparkling light. Generally July and August are the best times to see this amazing spectacle. However, it is also possible at other times of the year.

The limited light pollution also makes this area superb for stargazing. Sometimes you will have an incredible sight of the Milky Way. All this makes the Lough Hyne Nature Reserve a truly special place that is absolutely worth a visit.

Recommended by Emer and Nils from Let’s Go Ireland

Zeebrugge, Belgium

Zeebrugge is one of the places in Europe where you can witness the fantastic phenomenon of bioluminescence. It is a village in Belgium that lies along the North Sea. Furthermore, it is also the main port and seafront resort in the Bruges subdivision. This explains why the name Zeebrugge literally means “Bruges at Sea”. It is approximately 20 km away from Bruges.

The bioluminescence or “Milky Seas effect” can be seen on the yacht port of Zeebrugge. This type of bioluminescence is caused by Noctiluca scintillans or “sea sparkle”. Noctiluca scintillans is a marine-dwelling dinoflagellate species that sparkles in the sea when you create any kind of disturbance around it by swimming or splashing. The dinoflagellates are mostly different types of plankton. Their lights can be of various colors – blue, red, and even green!

The bioluminescence is clearly visible during high tide when the waves are glowing due to the sea-sparkling species in action. And during low tide, you can see them only if you step on them as the planktons get stuck on the sand at the beach. So with each step that you take, the sand illuminates and makes the floor look surreal. You get to see this effect generally during the spring season and the onset of the summer season.

I like this specific location as firstly, it looks otherworldly and fantastically beautiful. It’s like Norway‘s Northern Lights but underwater. Secondly, the plankton doesn’t hurt or harm you if you get in touch with it. Do include the place in your Europe itinerary if you get a chance. You won’t regret it!

Contributed by Vaibhav Mehta from The Wandering Vegetable

Planning a trip?

Check out these useful websites and resources I use to plan my own adventures.

Wanderlust edited

Have you ever seen Bioluminescence?

Seeing bioluminescence with one’s own eyes is a unique experience. It is something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime as this natural magic allows us to connect with nature. Have you already had the chance to see it? And if so where?

Amazing Natural Phenomena

If you love bioluminescent beaches, you will also love seeing
Glow Worms in Caves
or these
amazing Pink Lakes

have you already visited a Bioluminescence Location?

Share your own experience of visiting a bioluminescent beach in the comments!

Feel free to share your own tips about the best places to see bioluminescence and your favorite bioluminescent beach so this list can continue to grow.

Want to see Bioluminescence around the World?
Pin the list of Bioluminescent Beaches!

Where to Find Bioluminescence around the World with photos of the natural phenomena
Best Places in the World to See Bioluminescence
Bioluminescent Plankton Bioluminescence around the World

I am the founder of A Nomad's Passport and a semi-nomadic photographer and writer. Originally from Germany, I have lived in several countries including Australia, Mexico, and Malta.

As an outdoor lover and culture enthusiast, I love writing about all forms of adventure travel ranging from outdoor activities like scuba diving and hiking to cultural experiences, alongside road trips and itineraries that combine these elements.

A Nomad's Passport is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

28 thoughts on “The Best Places to See Bioluminescence”

  1. Wow, I had no idea there were so many places in the world where you can see bioluminescence! I’ve always been fascinated by the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence, and now I have some new destinations to add to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow, I had no idea there were so many places to see bioluminescence around the world! I’m definitely adding some of these to my bucket list. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

  3. Wow, I had no idea there were so many places in the world where you can see bioluminescence! This post has definitely added some new destinations to my bucket list. I’m particularly intrigued by the Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives – the thought of walking on a beach and seeing a glowing trail behind me is just amazing. Thanks for sharing this incredible list!

  4. In Florida by Titusville there is great bioluminescence. Schools of Mullet are amazing to see in the water. We also saw a manatee. They say at that location bioluminescence can be seen May through November and the Comb Jellyfish, which also flow can be seen in the winter months. We just got back from seeing them (September 2021). The moon was 3/4 full so they could still be seen.

  5. Saw the bioluminescent phenomenon in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t optimal-condition as far as time of month… it should always be no moon, or very little moon… but luckily, the tour guides had a canopy (tarp) that we all pulled over our heads. All over our row boats got pulled together and we held the tarp together. You could swish your paddle through the water and it would activate the dinoflagellates (phytoplankton?) and it was pretty cool. It was almost like sparkly fireflies in the water. But my understanding is that we weren’t there at the best time, as they are more active at times…. not to mention the moon phases having some bearing on the visibility. Nonetheless, I thought it was VERY cool. My husband was not nearly as impressed as I was.

  6. Add Tasmania to the list. Bioluminescence is very common around the southern parts of the island, near Hobart and its surroundings. It’s a very cool phenomenon to witness.

  7. I can’t believe I lived in Southern CA and missed the luminescence in San Diego! I’ve never seen anything like it in person, but I’m determined to one day – hopefully in one of these lovely places you’ve listed!

  8. Oh wow! I’m gutted I missed out on seeing bioluminescence when I was on Cat Ba! Even more reason to go back now!

    Very excited to see a couple locations in Europe though, I had no idea I could see it so close to home! Will definitely need to visit Ireland and Belgium again soon because it sounds magical.

  9. Its crazy since I lived in Puerto Rico for years and never went to Vieques! Was hoping to visit this summer but covid happened, so guess I need to add a few more trips to my list though, these all look amazing!

  10. Love this post so much! I’ve never seen bioluminescence in real-life before but oh how I’d love to. So magical! My husband and I hope to go to New Zealand within the next few years and the glow worm caves are definitely on the list, but I didn’t realise how many other places were worth going to to see something similar!

  11. Who knew there were so many places to see bioluminescence? That’s so cool! I’ve only heard of Waitomo Caves in New Zealand but glad to hear there are so many others to check out too.

  12. I feel silly by saying this but I don’t think I have ever heard the term, or seen these. Now you have me intrigued to witness one, and try and photograph one. Have you really seen all of these?

  13. Such an interesting phenomena. It’s like the Northern Lights in the ocean. I’ve never seen it but this is a great guide for where I might have a chance of seeing bioluminescence. Keeping my fingers crossed

  14. Oh wow, it really looks magical! I’ve only seen it before on some YouTube videos but I had no idea there were so many places around the world where you can see bioluminescence. And I definitely didn’t think you would be able to experience it in Europe! I thought it was only a tropical phenomenon! Hopefully I get to experience it one day.

  15. What a cool thing to do while on vacation! Great post and thanks for sharing. Loved the photos!

  16. I have seen glow worms all over New Zealand including a waterfall 15 minutes from my front door. Also, I have seen it off boats both on the water and in a nearby marina. It’s pretty amazing when you can see a trail of where you’ve sailed on a new moon night.

  17. Wooo this is AMAZING. I am so gutted I skipped the Waitamo caves in NZ! I’ve only seen bioluminescence once but it was only very lightly in Indonesia. However I’ve seen videos of it in extreme and it looks so magical! Pinning this to come back to!!

  18. This is fascinating! I have seen bioluminescence a couple of times (I was sooo excited when I first saw it in Japan…and I LOVED visiting the glow-worm caves in NZ…) I had no idea just how varied the types were. It’s such an amazing phenomenon to study!

    p.s. Did you see the BBC documentary on bioluminescence a couple of years ago? It was really cool!

  19. wow!! I had never heard of bioluminescence before, but now I need to see it!! I love that there are so many places around the world where it’s visible. I would love to see it in Puerto Rico!

  20. I didn’t know there are so many pretty places to see bioluminescence including San Diego!! Loved it!

  21. This is the list I’ve needed for a while now! Definitely something I want to see some day.

  22. What a cool blog! I have seen bioluminescence in a few places, but none of the places mentioned in this blog, so I’ll have to save it for the bucket list.

  23. This is such an amazing phenomenon! I have never seen such thing before and I would love that! Thanks for sharing all the location in the world!

  24. Great list! I was lucky enough to see some bio luminescence in Thailand, and the glow worms in New Zealand, but did not know you could see it in Europe! I will be hunting it down as soon as we are free to do so. Like nature’s magic.


Leave a Comment