La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay In Puerto Rico (2022) – All You Need To Know

La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay is one of three bio bays in Puerto Rico.

It’s also the only bio bay that you are allowed to swim in.

I swam in La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay, and I can tell you, it was a surreal experience.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about La Parguera  Bioluminescent Bay:

  – What is bioluminescence?
  – What is La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay?
  – Where is La Parguera Bio Bay located?
  – How to get to La Parguera Bio Bay from San Juan?
  – Can you swim in La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay?
  – Which is better: kayaking or boat tour?
  – Can you go to La Parguera without a tour?

 

What is bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is when living organisms emit light due to a chemical reaction. 

Fireflies are a common example of bioluminescence.

It happens often in marine animals, fungi, bacteria, and land arthropods.

This chemical reaction varies in color, but blues and greens are some of the most common in the animal kingdom. Some species can even glow red!

The purpose of bioluminescence can be for camouflage, mating, repelling predators or attracting prey.

image of bioluminescent jellyfish
Bioluminescent jellyfish.

The glow in the water of a bioluminescent bay is produced by millions of single-celled plankton called dinoflagellates.

They emit light when stimulated as a defense mechanism. 

Dinoflagellates can be found throughout the ocean. But, only when they concentrate in large quantities and the environmental conditions are ideal, the glow will be visible to the human eye. 

Below is a video that shows bioluminescent water and ocean animals:

Puerto Rico has three different bioluminescent bays. Learn more about them in our guide to Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays.

 

What is La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay?

La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay is a bio bay located on the south coast of Puerto Rico, in the town of Lajas. 

La Parguera is one of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, but it’s the only one where visitors are allowed to swim in the water. 

image of woman swimming with bioluminescence
Woman swimming with bioluminescence.

The small entrance to the La Parguera bio bay traps millions of dinoflagellate plankton inside it. These plankton then start to multiply since they can’t escape the bay. The high concentration of plankton in the bay is what allows humans to see the bioluminescent light when moving the water.

On average, around 30,000 dinoflagellate plankton are concentrated in a liter of water.

The calm current, water temperature, mangroves, shallowness of the bay and narrow entrance make it possible for the bioluminescence to occur year-long.

I recommend that you read our article about when is the best time to see the bioluminescence in Puerto Rico as the visibility of the bioluminescence is better during certain months. 

Below is a video that shows La Parguera Bio Bay:

 

Where is La Parguera Bio Bay located?

La Parguera Bio Bay is located on the coast of Lajas, a southern town in Puerto Rico.

See La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay’s location on Google Maps below:

 

How to get to La Parguera Bio Bay from San Juan?

There are multiple ways to get to La Parguera Bio Bay from San Juan. 

The most common way is by renting a car and driving to the southern town of Lajas. 

The drive from San Juan to La Parguera takes about 2 hours without traffic.

Below is a Google Map that shows the fastest route to La Parguera:

The second way to get to Lajas is by taking a taxi/shuttle. Not many shuttles do the route from San Juan to Lajas, as it’s time-consuming. Those that do, charge a pretty hefty sum for the ride. 

You might be wondering, when is the best time to see bioluminescence in Puerto Rico? Check out our guide before booking your trip.

 

Can you swim in La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay?

Visitors can swim in La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico.

In fact, it’s the only bioluminescent bay out of the three bio bays in Puerto Rico where visitors can swim in the water.

But, to do so, you have to book a tour that includes swimming as part of the experience. 

Image of a man swimming with bioluminescence.
Person swimming with bioluminescence.

 

Which is better: kayaking or boat tour?

The best way to see the bioluminescence is by boat.

The visibility of the bioluminescence is 10x better in the water with a snorkel and mask.

You can only enter the water with a snorkel and mask when you are doing a boat tour. If you kayak to the bio bay, then you can’t enter the water.

Using a mask in the water allows you to see thousands of bright sparkles directly in front of your face. This is an experience that can’t be shown in a video or image; you have to experience it in person to understand.

If you kayak to the bio bay, then you will still see the bioluminescence, but the experience is not the same as when snorkeling.

image of two people in a kayak in the water with bioluminescence glowing around them
Kayaking in the bio bay.

Make sure to ask the tour company if they provide snorkels and masks before making your reservation.

Also, make sure that the tour company provides wet suits or skin suits, dive gloves and dive shoes to protect yourself from small jellyfish that can sometimes be in the bio bay. 

 

Can you go to La Parguera without a tour?

La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay is managed by Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources (DRNA). 

Officially, you should have a permit to visit the bay. 

image of two people kayaking
Kayaking in the bio bay.

That being said, no one is actually gatekeeping the entrance to the bay. 

So, in theory, you can visit La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay without a tour if you have a boat or kayak to get into the bay. 

Is it recommended? No. 

You need to book a tour with a licensed operator to visit this bio bay.

 

Is La Parguera Bio Bay worth it?

Yes! Even if it’s said to be less bright than other bio bays, in the right conditions, La Parguera still mesmerizes with its bioluminescence.

What is special about La Parguera bay?

Out of the three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, travelers are only allowed to swim in the plankton-filled water in La Parguera.

 

Final thoughts

If you’re visiting Puerto Rico, then swimming in La Parguera bioluminescent bay should be part of your bucket list.

La Parguera Bio Bay is one of only a few bio bays in the world that you can swim in. 

It might be a long drive from San Juan, but it’s well worth a visit. You can check out the nearby Cabo Rojo Lighthouse to watch the sunset before your tour.

Read our guide on Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays to learn more about the island’s other bays, including the brightest bio bay in the world.

To plan your trip at the perfect time, read our article When Is The Best Time To See Bioluminescence In Puerto Rico.

Article by

Vanessa Ramos

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I’m an avid traveler and freelance writer from Puerto Rico. I love the outdoors, coffee, hiking, and letters. When I’m not inside typing letters on my laptop, I’m out exploring the hidden treasures that Puerto Rico has to offer!

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